I had my first go at GMing a game using Roll20, a browser based virtual tabletop. Currently I’m kicking off an initiative to get Pathfinder Society going in Japan, starting with the English speaking community of teachers from the USA, South Africa and other parts of the world. Because the community is quite spread out, I turned to Roll20 to connect easily with players and allow for more game time. We’ll see how that works out, but so far so good.
We had done a test run of the system some months ago, so we were able to get going pretty quickly. I ran the “In Service to Lore” adventure module, which didn’t take much time to set up, considering I had done my prep for a conventional game, not a digital one. Our session lasted two and a half hours, with about half an hour use for finding our feet, some technical hitches and setting up character tokens. Players got through the first 45% or so of the written adventure and we’ll be finishing up soon. The general consensus was that it was easy enough to use Roll20 and a great way to meet up, especially since it can normally take about 2 hours total travel to meet up for some players.
Some Tech Notes
Google Chrome is the best browser for the app, and you’ll want the latest version to be able to use video and sound. We ended up using Skype for chat and had to do without video, which we didn’t seem to miss too much. We’ve experienced a couple of computer crashes using the system, but most newer systems shouldn’t have a problem.
I would have liked to meet my players in person, especially to help with some character stat issues we had, but otherwise, as I said, the trade off saved us a load of time. It’s a different way to play and that takes some getting used to, but was much easier than I anticipated.
I suggest getting e-books where you can, since it’s easy to take a screen shot if you need to share something, and the PRD is also helpful. My biggest hassle with Roll20 is their map editor, so I pull in maps from Photoshop, which not everyone is going to be able to do. That said, the system is great and worth supporting, and I’m sure many of the issues we had will get ironed out over time, since Roll20 is still relatively new.
My favourite feature has to be the Journal, which made it easy to create notes on all the NPC’s and keep all the player handouts ready for quick distribution.
I highly recommend Roll20, even if it’s just so you can get in a short game now and then on a week night. Give it a try.