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Role web-conference for gaming Early Access now open to everyone - impressions

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I am a Kickstarter backer of Role, a video-conferencing system that include dice rolling, card dealing, lightly automated character sheets, and light VTT features for TTRPGs.

Yesterday they released their character sheet editor and made the early access available to everyone.

Role

I've tested many VTTs (Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, d20pro, Astral VTT, Map Tool, Foundry) and have use a number of web-conferencing tools (Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Join.me, Discord).

Here are my initial impressions after a maybe 10 hours of trying it out, much of it last night playing around with the character editor:

  • Very clean, responsive, and intuitive interface.
  • Audio and video was good, but I haven't tested group audio/video since I've been out of the US for work, it'll be interesting how well it works with a less-than-ideal internet connection and outside of the US. Generally, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams work best for me outside the USA. Discord is pretty impressive, as much as I hate its interface. I'm skeptical that Role will perform as well, but will test and report back.
  • Dice rolling is simple and aesthetically pleasing but inadequately supports complicated dice math. But if you just want to roll 3d6, you click on the d6 icon three times and click roll. Simple.
  • Character sheets can been lightly automated. I'm still playing with the character-sheet creator, but my initial impressions that for really crunchy games, it'll be hard to get the automation you might want. But you can link field to have buffs applied etc. One thing that is missing is being able to subtract a die from a die pool. You can add a die to a die pool based on values in other fields but not subtract.
  • The character-sheet creator is pretty slick, even with some bugs to be ironed out. I built a character-sheet template for Mage the Ascension 20th Anniversary edition and it was a pleasure. I wouldn't even bother trying to create a custom character sheet for MAGE in World Anvil or Foundry (two other tools I use). But in Role, it was easy and fun. Some enhancements I would like to see:
    • The option to allow players to duplicate a block (e.g. for inventory management, etc.) has a bug that they expect to have fixed in a few days--I really am looking forward to that working.
    • I would like a bit more control over section header formatting. Sections are used to easily jump to different parts of the character sheet but they take up a lot of space. I would like subsections or the ability to change font and to remove hard rules from section headings.
    • I wish I could copy blocks. I've I'm creating an dice-pool input, selecting the die type, and locking the die type, I don't want to have to do all those clicks 20 times if I have twenty attributes. I would rather just copy the block and rename it.
    • I wish it were easier to move things around. Currently you have to go into advanced options and move up or down, one click at a time. For more complex character sheets, it is onerous.
    • I REALLY REALLY REALLY wish I could use negative modified for linked die pools so that I can SUBTRACT a die from a die pool based on another value. (E.g., in MAGE, various damage levels result in dice being removed from die pools).
  • The VTT options are in the goldilocks zone for people wanting to run TOTM or tactical-light games. Uploading and managing assets are easy. Loading a battlemap and dropping tokens are easy. BUT IT IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR A FULL-FEATURED VTT. If you need lighting, fog of war, line of sight, and automations for area of effect, auto application of damage, and all that, then you need a proper VTT like Foundry, Fantasy Grounds, etc. Role is not competing with those. It is focuses on less-tactical play experiences and it hits the right spot for that.
I'm really happy that I backed this Kickstarter. I was sceptical. But they are pulling it off and I Role is rounding out and completing my collection of on-line play tools. I'll still use Foundry for my D&D games, which are more tactical and where I'm using lots of bells and whistles for lighting, etc. But for most other TTRPGs, I think I will use Role. I'll be using it for my MAGE game. I'll also use it for my Cortex Prime game when I'm done planning it. One issue with Cortex Prime is that the Role character sheet doesn't really support automations for stepping up/down dice and selecting from multiple dice pools. But neither does any other VTT I've used. At least Role makes it easy to select a number of dice or different types and role them. Just like I would do in a pen & paper game.

Check it out and let me know what you think and please share any character sheet templates you build. I'll share my MAGE character sheet template once I've ironed out the wrinkles.
 

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