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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Running Hangout Games as a "Roll20 Minimalist"

I was about to post this to the Southern Reaches of the Wilderlands - Sandbox community page, but I figured it might be interesting to share with all.

I really am a Roll20 Minimalist when I run games.

I don't use tokens, even though I have hundreds of virtual tokens ready to go and could have thousands more using the RPtools token creator app. I have used them in the past, and it usually results in party members' tokens being left 3 rooms behind as someone takes a bio break or just forgets to move their tokens.

I'm not saying there aren't uses for them in the games run by other GMs, nor am I saying that I'd never use them, but I feel they distract a bit from the "Theatre of the Mind" type of gameplay which is how I like to run a game. I want the gameplay to be bigger than the tokens on your screen or the minis on the table.

I do like importing maps from existing adventures and using "fog of war" to reveal to the party what they can see and where they have been. If I need to point out something or confirm a location, I just "ping" it with a click of the pointer. It's much easier and less time consuming than trying to draw the map out freehand based upon GM description or even having the GM sketch it out I've done both.

Handwaving - I do lots of it, especially with combat. It replaces tokens for me.

Handouts are awesome with Roll20 - I love them and enjoy using them. Once or twice a session on average, assuming I have something suitable.

As for character sheets and macros - that's up to the players. I don't think anyone in my regular group uses them, but they could always prove me wrong.

We most definitely do use the online dice feature, but we've never used the 3d Dice feature, which is strange in retrospect, as it's one of the features of Fantasy Grounds 2 that I really enjoyed. I guess the flashy dice really do take a backseat to gameplay.

We use Roll20 within Google+ as an app and have never had an issue, or at least no more issues than one normally has with G+ Hangout sessions.

I'm a huge supporter of Virtual Table Tops and have thrown money at nearly all of them. Roll20 via G+ Hangouts is the closest I've come to a Virtual Table feeling and playing like a dining room table.


  1. We're still using G+ Hangouts with Twiddla for our mapping and dice, but we've been thinking about taking the jump to Roll20.

  2. I use roll20, like it and would definitely recommend it too. I also use it without the bells and whistles oriented towards later editions. We used to use Twiddla, and I would use Twiddla if drawing maps during the game, I find drawing in roll20 to be distracting and difficult. The 3D dice are great!

  3. I also tend not to use all the bells and whistles for my games. That doesn't mean I don't occasionally have a world map or something on the screen but I rarely use it for tactical decisions. It helps I tend to play games like Dungeon World or FATE (and recently Numenera) where exact positioning doesn't really matter.

    Like Erik I tend to use Handouts a lot for information but also for pictures of NPCs and other things that can help invoke mood.

  4. I wanted to throw another shout out for Roll20. Not only is it a really great system it has easily the best customer service of any online, well, anything, that I've ever seen.

    I filed a bug report a couple hours ago (couldn't cut and paste on the developer server) and Riley already fixed it in response to my report.

    I honestly rarely use the subscriber features, such as dynamic lighting (I'm using the Dev server to take advantage of waypoints primarily), but I gladly pay my mentorship fee to support such a responsive and forward-thinking company.

    It's really something special. I highly recommend giving it a try.