7 Things the Roll20 Tutorial Won’t Teach You
Believe me, I know the struggle: you find a solid group of adventurers, you establish tragic backstories, you begin the journey of a lifetime… and then someone moves away. Or someone graduates. Or a deadly pandemic shuts the world down for months.
These changes may feel like the end of the road for your Dungeons & Dragons campaign, but they don’t need to be. In this guide, I’ll teach Dungeon Masters to shift their campaigns online with technical tips for managing Roll20. This tutorial is geared towards setting up a Dungeons & Dragons 5e game, but the techniques are applicable to any system.
What is Roll20?
Roll20 is an online platform for roleplaying games! Through Roll20, you can wage grid-based battles, compile a glossary of important NPCs, items and places, and play music to set a fantastical mood.
It’s recommended that you play through the Roll20 Tutorial before reading this guide. To access the tutorial, simply make a Roll20 account and create your first Roll20 game. This guide assumes that you have a basic knowledge of Roll20 and are ready for more advanced pointers.
Tip #1: Outside Audio and Video
As much as I love Roll20, its video and voice chat capabilities are… not great. You’ll likely want to use an outside resource for communicating with your adventuring party. I recommend Discord, which has a robust voice chat system designed for gaming.
In order to avoid horrible feedback through Roll20, you’ll want every member of your party to configure their audio settings. After launching the game, they should open their settings (the gear in the top right of their game). They need to set I want to broadcast to others to Nothing (disable), and then press the Reconnect button. This will ensure that Roll20 does not attempt to connect them to a video chat.
Tip #2: Player Avatar Size
If you’re running any sort of battle in Roll20, you may notice that players’ profile images take up a significant amount of the screen. To fix this, open your settings (the gear in the top right), and change Player video/avatar size to Names only.
This will ensure that your players’ lovely faces don’t obscure the bloody action. You will likely want your players to change this setting as well.
Tip #3: Setting Up Monster and NPC Tokens
When preparing for a pulse-pounding encounter, you’ll want to prepare the tokens for monsters in advance. Once you’ve placed a token in the battle map, follow these steps to get it ready for the fight!
- Click on the token, then click on the gear that appears to access its Edit page.
- Name the token under Name, and click Show nameplate so you can see the token’s name on the battlemap.
- Write the token’s current and total hit points under Bar 3.
Then, click the Advanced tab.
In the Advanced tab, check See under Player Permissions: Name. This will allow your players to see the name of this token.
Finally, don’t forget to click Save Changes.
Tip #4: Setting up Player Character Tokens
To set up similar tokens for your player characters, you’ll need to perform a few additional steps.
First, make sure that you’ve created a Character in the Journal for the player character you’re making, and that you’ve set it up so it can be Edited & Controlled by its player. The Roll20 Tutorial explains how to do this, but note that you won’t be able to assign a character to a player until the player has joined the game at least once.
Once you’ve set up the character and put a token on the battle map, click on the token and then click on the gear that appears.
The first thing you’ll want to do is change Represents Character to the player character you want this token to embody. This will automatically set the Name of the token, but you can change or shorten the name if necessary. It will also automatically give control of the token to the player who controls the character. You’ll also probably want to check Show Nameplate so that you can see the token’s name on the battlemap.
Next, under Bar 3, change None to hp. This will link the token’s health bar to the character’s hit point total and maximum on their character sheet. This assumes you’re using the standard D&D 5e character sheet; if you’re not, you may need to choose a different variable than hp.
Then, click the Advanced tab.
Under the Advanced tab, check the See box under Player Permisson: Name. If you want players to be able to see each other’s health bar (but not its exact value), check the See box under Player Permission: Bar 3. If you want them to see each other’s exact hit point value, change Player Permission: Bar 3: Text Overlay to Visible to Everyone.
And of course, Save Changes.
Tip #5: Default Tokens
Establishing default tokens for your player characters will make setting up encounters a breeze.
To do this, open a character’s entry in the Journal and click Edit. Then select their token in the battle map and click Use Selected Token under Default Token (optional). This will save the selected token as the default token of that character. Don’t forget to Save Changes!
Once you’ve saved a default token, you’ll be able to simply drag that character’s entry from the journal onto the battle map, and the character’s default token will appear!
Tip #6: Auras for Spell Effects
To easily display the area of effect of spells, you can use token auras. Simply place an appropriate token on the map and add an aura via the following steps:
Click on the token, then click on the gear that appears.
If desired, give the token a Name and click Show Nameplate.
Write the radius of the spell effect you’re representing in the the Aura 1 box, then click Square if required. Click the little square of color and set the color of the effect to one that fits the spell.
Note that Roll20 begins measuring the radius of an aura at the edge of a token, not at the center of a token. This means that the area of an aura will be slightly greater than expected. You can solve this problem by subtracting the radius of the token from the radius of the aura. For instance, if we wanted to more accurately represent the 20' radius of a Fireball, we could create a 17.5' aura, compensating for the 2.5' radius of this token.
Then, click the Advanced tab.
Under this tab, click See under Player Permissions: Name and Player Permissions: Aura 1. This will allow your players to view the spell’s name and aura.
Don’t forget to Save Changes!
Also, note that, when moving a token, you can hold Shift to ignore grid placement. This can be helpful for positioning areas of effect.
You can even set up journal entries for spells and assign them Default Tokens, as demonstrated above, to make dropping these areas of effect into a battlefield quick and easy!
Tip #7: Rolling Initiative
If you have the turn tracker open and a player has their token selected when they click the Initiative button on their character sheet, their initiative result will automatically be added to the turn tracker, which reduces the setup time for encounters.
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped prospective Dungeon Masters shift their games online. Happy adventuring!