Roll 20 is Bringing the Spirit of D&D to the Silicon Screen
Although this isn't necessarily my regular fare (if indeed I can be said to have anything of the sort), I'd argue that it's close enough to video games that it qualifies for this blog. After all, a great many video games could very well be said to owe their roots to table-top roleplaying; D&D is considered the grandfather of all RPGs by many. But we're getting a touch off track, dear readers.
For those of you who don't know, Dungeons & Dragons is what's known as a Table Top Role Playing Game, where each player takes on the role of a single 'character' - almost as though they're all playing through a fantasy novel. One player - the Dungeon Master - runs things behind the scenes, creating and managing the world and designing the experience for the other players. Dice rolls are used to simulate everything from combat to performances to the flow of conversation.
One of the best - and simultaneously worst- aspects of any D&D game is that it's a completely social game. On the one hand, that's awesome: you get to hang out with a bunch of your closest friends, roll dice, slay dragons, and pretend to save the world. On the other hand, it can be a bit hellish if you're the DM who has to co-ordinate these get-togethers. Trust me when I say that when people in your group start nailing down lives, jobs, and families - as always happens- getting everyone in the same place at the same time can be an exercise in futility.
What's worse is when one of the members is inevitably forced to move away, leaving their character - and all the events surrounding them - in limbo. What if that separation didn't have to be the end? What if you could keep the game going after everybody moved away?
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce all of you to a lovely application called Roll 20. It's a virtual tabletop platform which is built with storytelling, community, and communication in mind. The concept should probably sound familiar to you - it's hardly the first application of its kind, after all.
So...why am I profiling this platform over all the others then? Well, for one, because the interface of Roll 20 blows every other virtual tabletop I've ever used straight out of the water, both thorugh its simple, innovative approach and its full toolkit of features.
Everything's laid out in an extremely easy-to-understand fashion. Maps are completely customizable: you can either create your own, or import one from either the Roll 20 library, the Marketplace, or somewhere on the Internet. Same deal with Tokens, character portraits, items...you get the idea. The game also features a surprisingly robust chat system (complete with voice chat and text chat logs), dice rolling is simple and easy to do, and everything honestly flows together just as though you were sitting at a real table.
Even better, the DM can set up a "jukebox" for atmospheric music and sounds, and campaigns, modules, and maps can be saved for later use. The interface is, all told, incredibly slick, and it works extremely well.
There have been many attempts to bring the experience of D&D to the virtual world- most of them either failed outright, or met with extremely mixed results. Roll 20 is one of the few that I feel entirely confident saying has, without a doubt, succeeded. I, for one, can't wait to try it out in a game.
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