With the lockdown in the UK, my D&D group had to move online. There are a few tools available for this but Roll20 was the most popular at my club. It’s been an interesting experience getting into digital D&D but the game doesn’t need to stop just because the world is having a wobble.
As with all workarounds, you have to work differently. In this case, the preparation required of the DM is much higher. Some of the official D&D 5e modules are available (for a price) with maps, tokens and all that gubbins ready and waiting for you. At the time of posting, Wizards made the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign free on Roll20 so this is a great place to start. If you’re not running a campaign with all these fancy assets provided, your workload increases further as you need to set up maps and character tokens yourself.
Even when in lockdown, I don’t have hours on end to prepare for a session so I’ve taken to saving a blank map with grid lines, just like the laminated map and marker combo my group uses in person. I’ll then draw a basic outline onto this to serve as a map when theatre of the mind isn’t doing the job for combat encounters.
The good news is that it gets quicker and easier. There are loads of tutorials which cover the basics and go right the way through to advanced stuff like lighting effects. My group’s initial session was a little slow but after all the characters and tokens were set up, and we’d got used to how it all works, it’s now not much slower than our games in person. Also, for players, there’s very little extra you need to do when your game moves to Roll20 beyond transferring to an online character sheet.
Some issues you might encounter are internet connections, dodgy microphones and lag. The platform is actually pretty good once you have everything set up. Using Roll20 to manage the game and Discord for voice comms seems to be a common approach, and that’s what my group has been using. We haven’t bothered with webcams. I’d highly recommend everyone in the group using headphones, otherwise you get a nasty echo when someone still has their mic switched on and others are speaking.
We’re all having to adapt in these unprecedented times, and the escapism of fantasy gaming and keeping contact with friends is more important than ever.
Have you tried out Roll20 or another platform? Let me know how your game is going.