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RPG Superstar 2015

Tips for using roll20.net


Technology


Some friends and I started playing online sessions of Pathfinder. We recently ran Crypt of the Everburning Flame to test out roll20.net. I've also started prepping a few scenarios for upcoming weeks.

I really liked this virtual tabletop for the following reasons:
- FREE
- web-based, no software to download
- simple interface with only a few buttons. Easy is better.
- allowed to upload your own content (maps, tokens)
- everything build into one design, no need to run chat on a separate service.

So, here are a few tips I've figured out so far. Overall, I think the online game takes about the same amount of time to play as a "real" face-to-face game. However, it does take a bit of prep work.

Preparation:
- I used Adobe Acrobat to open the PDF copy of the module, I frequently used the snapshot tool to extract items from the module. I then used the paint program to clean it up. Saved the image as a JPG then dragged and dropped into roll20. A little bit of resizing on the grid and I was good to go!
- I created a "page one" with a small image of the module cover. I then added "the story so far" and other background fluff I wanted revealed to the players at the onset of the adventure. Players could then log in any time through the week and get the general setup for the adventure. That allowed us to get right to the action once the session started.
- MAPS. I had one person on this message board ask about how to line up maps correctly. It is a little tricky. Snapshot the image out of the PDF then past into paint. Then "trim" the image so the edges line up as perfect as you can get with the grid lines. Then, when you import the image, grab the corner handle and stretch it until it lines up with the grid. This takes a little practice. You sometimes need to expand the size of the tabletop in the page settings menu. 45x45 is the biggest I've needed so far. (I'm sure a digital photo guru would laugh at my caveman instructions.)
- MAPS pt 2. Make sure you are on the "maps" layer of the table and not the token/object layer. Also, if you have a light-colored map (snow terrain) you can change the color of you grid map in the page options.
- Tokens: roll20 has a token library, put you can also drop and drag in your own images into the token layer and they become instant tokens. Try to keep your images mostly square, because it will be fitted into a grid square. I like to snapshot the NPC images from the module, use the eraser tool in paint to remove the surrounding text, then use it as a token. Then in game, you can grab the token, stretch it out so the players can see the image, then shrink it back down to 1x1 and game on. For instance, I did this in Everburning Flame with Asar.

This sounds like a lot, but I just prepped "The Frostfur Captive" a one-session scenario and it took about 30 minutes to extract, edit and upload a few maps, a few named NPC tokens, add some non-special enemy tokens from the built in image library and I'm done. You could of course do way more, but this is bare minimum for running a scenario/module. As many of us rapid fire these rounds, I'm trying to avoid getting bogged down in details.

Running the Game
- You need Google Chrome or Firefox to run roll20. It's been glitchy on Chrome lately, but I tried Firefox today with no problems.
- The video capability is honestly a novelty. It's fun, but after a couple sessions we all turned off our video so save on bandwidth (and no doubt to play in our underwear...)
- Jukebox is also a novelty. I've found a few very ambient sounding tracks and I just let them loop. There is usually too much going on to also play DJ.
- I use my laptop microphone with some headphones to avoid feedback echoes. Don't really need any high-end headset.
- Etiquette: We've set up some guidelines to help keep things moving, such as keeping table talk off the voice channel. Most of the "chatter" occurs on the chat screen or through whispers.
- Fog of War is great, especially when doing a dungeon crawl. I use it on almost every map.

Got to cut this short for now. But post if you have any questions or made any discoveries of your own.


Note that you can use one of the advanced tools in the right-click menu on the map layer to "Align to Grid". All you have to do is select a 3x3 grid area and it resizes the map image very nearly exactly. I still have to do a little cleanup, usually, but that first step saves a lot of time.

If you're using a Mac and have a pro version of acrobat or even Reader v8, you can simply copy and paste images out of paizo PDFs with transparent backgrounds. Since the map text is on a different layer, this obviates the need to "clean up" any map image.

Also note that if you are a paying supported of roll20, you get access to some awesome additional features. Dynamic Lighting is especially impressive. They have a special supporter podcast too, and they really do weigh your feature requests more heavily if you're a supporter.


Evil Lincoln wrote:

Note that you can use one of the advanced tools in the right-click menu on the map layer to "Align to Grid". All you have to do is select a 3x3 grid area and it resizes the map image very nearly exactly. I still have to do a little cleanup, usually, but that first step saves a lot of time.

If you're using a Mac and have a pro version of acrobat or even Reader v8, you can simply copy and paste images out of paizo PDFs with transparent backgrounds. Since the map text is on a different layer, this obviates the need to "clean up" any map image.

Also note that if you are a paying supported of roll20, you get access to some awesome additional features. Dynamic Lighting is especially impressive. They have a special supporter podcast too, and they really do weigh your feature requests more heavily if you're a supporter.

Thanks for the tip about the grid alignment!


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I thought if you Right+Click on an image and select Copy Image in the popup window it selects the image without the text in Adobe Acrobat Reader?


Not in all versions of the reader, for some terrible reason.

But yes.

And for a bit more you can buy a PDF extractor which will rip all the images out and dump them in a folder. I used to do this when I had the modules line, since I was primarily interested in the art assets for MapTool.

Star Voter 2014

Evil Lincoln wrote:
And for a bit more you can buy a PDF extractor which will rip all the images out and dump them in a folder. I used to do this when I had the modules line, since I was primarily interested in the art assets for MapTool.

The full version of Acrobat does this too.


Bobson wrote:
Evil Lincoln wrote:
And for a bit more you can buy a PDF extractor which will rip all the images out and dump them in a folder. I used to do this when I had the modules line, since I was primarily interested in the art assets for MapTool.
The full version of Acrobat does this too.

Bobson, are you a Roll20 user too?

My mind races at the potential of PF-specific services in Roll20...


Also playing PF through roll20. Agree with OP that simpler is better. We were using d20pro and it was just too heavy. Too much stuff that you didn't use. Roll20 is more like a *real* tabletop because it doesn't try and take over game mechanics. All we want is a battlemat, tokens and some dice and we're good to go.

We use google hangouts for the chat but run the game separately in a browser. Hangouts much more resilient and higher call quality than skype.

Find maps easy(ish) to line up but will check out EL's advice. Sounds great.

Early indications are that Paizo's campaign content for Game Space will be non platform dependent. That would be a slice of fried gold right there.

Star Voter 2014

Evil Lincoln wrote:
Bobson wrote:
Evil Lincoln wrote:
And for a bit more you can buy a PDF extractor which will rip all the images out and dump them in a folder. I used to do this when I had the modules line, since I was primarily interested in the art assets for MapTool.
The full version of Acrobat does this too.

Bobson, are you a Roll20 user too?

My mind races at the potential of PF-specific services in Roll20...

I have an account, but all I've used it for was to map my player's kingdom so I could get an overall picture of it. They haven't used it yet.

If I ever need to use a VTT again, I'm definitely using it over MapTool, though.


Can Roll20 be used in a play by post style? That is, would the GM have to be connected at all times or can players log in and make their moves while the GM isn't in the session?


Kastarr Eunson wrote:
Can Roll20 be used in a play by post style? That is, would the GM have to be connected at all times or can players log in and make their moves while the GM isn't in the session?

Players can log in at any time.

Also, the chat is permanently logged, so you don't even need the "post" part if the players are organized.

A note of interest to people in the thread: roll20 hit its first paid supporter benchmark, which means it is now breaking even financially. Even more supporters will mean more development of new features... but it is really nice to know that roll20 will be around for the long haul!


Yeah, I will become a paid supporter if this works in the way I need it to.


Well, you get to try it for free first!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2014

Is there an easy way to remove markings on the pdf map? Having a square marked "TRAP" might dissuade my players. :P


Sure!

You have a couple of options. First, if the module you're running is from Paizo and is more recent, there should be an "interactive PDF" you can get that will let you toggle GM markings. I've never used that method so I don't know where to go from there.

The other method is to simply copy the image layer (the markings are on a separate layer) from the PDF using a program that can do that. I use Adobe Reader 8 on Mac OS; later versions don't allow it. There are others.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2014

Edit: Nevermind, issue resolved.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I am using roll 20 for a star wars campaign i am running. I happen to love this thing. Question, does anyone know where the juke box gets its music from? It seems a strange assortment of music and sounds. I'd love to be able to upload my own songs, but it doesnt seem to be an option.


I had a similar question about the tokens, Kolokotroni - I have several images I would love to use as tokens that I can't find any way to upload.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

tokens you can definately upload, you have a library though i cant remember off hand how to upload them, i am certain it is explained in the help video.


Kolokotroni wrote:
tokens you can definately upload, you have a library though i cant remember off hand how to upload them, i am certain it is explained in the help video.

Bless you! I just figured out how to add them to my library. Wonderful!

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Evil Lincoln wrote:
Kastarr Eunson wrote:
Can Roll20 be used in a play by post style? That is, would the GM have to be connected at all times or can players log in and make their moves while the GM isn't in the session?

Players can log in at any time.

Also, the chat is permanently logged, so you don't even need the "post" part if the players are organized.

This really just blew my mind.

My biggest problem with running PbPs is maps. Both creating them and keeping them updated. I like Roll20's use of maps and the grid, but I want a PbP experience instead of a VTT.

I never, ever thought about merging the two ideas together.

Do you have any good pointers how to make the two work cohesively? Because this might be the solution to all of my problems.

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