Hello wonderful duet friends! First, we hope this finds you and your loved ones well and safe in a difficult time.
One change you may have had to make, or might be considering, is transitioning your D&D games from face-to-face to online. We know that many of you play in one-on-one games with someone who doesn’t live with you, and that there are still others, us included, who play in group games in addition to duets.
There are a few different online platforms that you can use for tabletop gaming, but the one we’ll be discussing is Roll20. You can check out our previous post of tips for playing a duet online, especially for Fantasy Grounds.
Why Roll 20
One of the advantages of Roll20, and part of why we’ll be looking at it today, is that it’s free to get started and use! If you want to check out some of their paid plans, you can do so here.
In case you’re not familiar, Roll20 allows you to create a virtual tabletop, where the DM can share maps, pictures, and documents with the players. You can also conduct combat with the virtual character tokens, share character sheets, and use virtual dice for rolls. Roll 20 has online hosting for video, audio, and chat, though you might find that outsourcing those elements to something like Google Hangouts works better for you.
We’ve compiled a list of three tips for moving your face-to-face games to Roll20.
1. Give Yourself Time to Adjust
Learning a new format is going to take a little patience and a lot of playing around.
You and your player(s) need time to get comfortable with the virtual tabletop. Set aside some extra time to prep before launching your new online game.
Also, anticipate that it may take a while for the players to adjust as well. That means your lead-in as you start will probably be slower. Which brings us to…
2. Set Expectations at the Beginning
It is good practice for the DM to set guidelines and expectations at the beginning of any game, but it becomes even more important when switching to a different format, playing with a new group, or picking back up after a longer break.
In an online game, we have the ever-present temptation of a new tab and an internet rabbit-hole sitting right there. Especially when their character isn’t in the spotlight or the party has split up, it could be easy to lose a player or two. For that reason, try to set the expectation that if your group is going to spend the time together, everyone understands that means being present, aware, and engaged.
3. Play with People you Trust
Roll 20 has tools for importing character sheets and making rolls public or private. These features are great for some scenarios but take time to set up.
Especially if you are moving from a face-to-face game to an online format, your players probably have a physical sheet and dice. Allow them to keep using what they already have and simply report to you the checks and other die rolls that you call for. Don’t play with people you can’t count on to self-report failure.
Ideas for Adaptation
When we played with our friends this past weekend, we had trouble with the audio and video, especially for Jonathan and me being in the same house, and it seems that others have had similar issues.
I spoke with Patrick of The Rambling GM, who’s been running online games for years with various RPGs, and he recommended using Google Hangouts for the audio and video and strictly using Roll20 for the tabletop platform.
From a Player’s Perspective
Jonathan put together the DM tips listed above, but I thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts from a player’s perspective as well. I was hesitant about playing online for the first time; I enjoy the in-person intensity of D&D, and I didn’t see how that would translate to online play.
I was extremely surprised to find that we had one of our very best sessions in our group game this past weekend! The RP was incredibly natural and more in-depth than I think we’ve seen before! And this was all without video! So, if you’re on the fence, definitely give online play a chance.
I will second the advice above about taking extra time to set up. I think it took us about 30 minutes to get everything set up and working. And I would add too that we couldn’t play for as long as we normally would, but I don’t know yet how much of that was the particular day versus the change in platform.
What about you?
Have you transitioned your face-to-face game to an online format? Or are you considering it? What other questions do you have?
For those who have been playing online for longer, any tips, tricks, or resources you think would be helpful for others? Which platform do you use?
If you like what you’re reading, please consider supporting the blog by purchasing our adventures and supplements in our shop or on DMsGuild or sponsoring us on Patreon. We’d also love for you to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We appreciate you so much! Thank you for reading. – Beth and Jonathan