Roll 20 in the Google Hangout

When I first played a Google + (G+) hangout game I was introduced to the world of roll20.net by +Christopher Hardy.  I was also told that there are a variety of tools that some people used like Dice Stream in the Hangout with a whiteboard type function.  But for me it was too late, I was very intrigued with the roll 20 setup and signed up for an account immediately.

The official logo!

I had discussed a few of the other options with people over the preceding fortnight and some options came up like Obsidian Portal, which to my mind was not a good G+ hangout friendly option and also a version of something called map tools.  I had investigated the map tools option but I could not find a download that would start after installation.  I had even considered writing a tool for G+ myself being a computer programmer by trade but the variety of options I would need would take me some time so that immediate gaming was out of the option.  So I went to the roll 20 website and signed up for my free account.

I watched the video (linked on this blog if you haven’t seen it) that explains the basics to a new signee and was impressed with what I saw!  I started playing with the system and creating a campaign for the Reign of Winter Pathfinder game adding maps and playing with tokens.  It is an easy to use system that allows you to import maps direct onto the web interface, any tokens you can make yourself can be added as well as the hundreds of tokens that are available for free on the site.

I then joined another campaign on G+ run by +Dan Hall for Dungeon World and I saw the dynamic lighting being used.  I didn’t actually realise that was what it was but I wanted to be able to do what he did so I went back and reviewed the video.  Within moments of seeing the dynamic lighting effect I was sold and signed up as a financial backer to the system.  I signed up as a “Mentor” that offers a range of options for a small fee whilst helping them be able to spend a little more time on the system because of the contribution.  This also happened to let me use the dynamic lighting system.

So, what else does the system offer?  It has support of its own dice roller, which can enable 3d rolling on screen.  The dice are the standard polyhedral dice used in a lot of RPG’s being the 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 20 sided dice.  I would like to see Fudge dice added to this interface and will make the comment in the forums but they are not yet supported.  Using these has a couple of different interfaces, a GUI or a command line driven roller in the chat box.  My style is to use the chat line roller but both are pretty quick and simple to use.  They offer the ability to openly roll the dice, roll privately so only you can see the result or even a roll so only you and the GM can see.  The chat box also serves as a neat record of the rolls so the GM doesn’t have to worry about everyone shouting out their initiative all in the same second.

This screenshot shows dynamic lighting via the grey areas.
On the players screens this actually appears solid black.
You can see the crit deck in the lower right of the screen and
they also supply a turn order system too shown here.

It has a neat card system so if your game uses cards, it has the functionality.  It comes with a set of the regular playing cards that you can use.   If you have a different deck of cards though you can add them.  This is a pretty painful process where you have to add a card at a time and they have to be individual PDF’s.  But once it is in it is really easy to use.  The deck can be made visible or invisible as required and the cards dealt out from the stack.  I use them for my critical hit deck and when I get around to it, the Critical Fumble deck will be added also.

There is a section for player handouts so they can be in the system prior to playing and then once it is time to use they can be quickly and easily shown to the group.  This can be things like character portraits, letters, notes, anything!  Also, along with the ability to put in your own maps and tokens, you can browse maps also online and a great range of music tracks that can be put on for effect.  The GM has the ability to alter the volume and tunes as they require for great effect.

On the map the player and the GM have the ability to move tokens (the GM assigns the tokens to the character’s player), use a ruler to measure distances (which is set based on many popular systems) and apply effects or draw on the map to highlight something.  The GM can create a fog of war effect which they can reveal as they need to.  If you are financially supporting the system you can use dynamic lighting which requires a little setup but will only show the player what they can actually see from where their character is positioned.  The GM can also set up the map to have a grid of squares or hexagons, or no grids at all.  One of the mild annoyances for me is some of the maps that I use have pre-made grids and it is basically impossible to set the grid to the size that is the same as in the module.  This is largely because of the preciseness of the roll 20 system and the imprecise nature of the grid in the map.

The character sheet of one of my Traveller players
character sheets.  These are set up for macros.

There is also a character section which allows the players to enter as much as they want about their character.  I use this extensively in the Traveller campaign I have as the characters are very simple but for a Pathfinder campaign I have left this more for the player to utilise if they want to.  The beauty of this system is the player can set up their skills and attacks etc. as macros and have those macros appear on screen so when asked to roll initiative they can just click on the macro button and it rolls the roll without having to look anything up!

I am really happy with this system as it stands.  In the short time (a couple of months) I have been using it they have implemented several upgrades (like rollable tables etc.) that are in place currently for backers only.  So the people behind this are working on it and improving it incrementally.  I like the level of the tool at the moment and would recommend this to anyone considering running games online.   I mentioned this tool in a post previously on this blog and there were many supporters of map tools vocal about their tool.  As I have said, I would have loved to try this tool but could not find a download that successfully worked when installed.  Roll 20 works in a G+ hangout or as a stand alone web based virtual table.

I hope this encourages some of you to give it a try.  If you have any specific questions regarding the tool let me know and I will answer them as best I can!

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