Roll20 Purchases Demiplane

More industry consolidation as VTT combines with tools platform!

demiplane-rpg-digital-toolkit-screenshot-panorama.png.webp

Following on from the news that Demiplane's Adam Bradford had been hired by Fantasy Grounds, it turns out that Demiplane itself has been purchased by Roll20! Demiplane is an online TTRPG tools suite and character builder which seeks to do for some game systems what D&D Beyond does for Dungeons & Dragons.

Roll20 is the most popular of the many virtual tabletops (VTTs), and merged with DriveThruRPG last year.

Ankit Lal, Roll20's CEO spoke to ComicBook.com about the deal, describing how the goal was to make a use experience where people both purchase games and then play them--mich like WotC's goals with D&D Beyond. Notably, Adam Bradford was also one of the founders of D&D Beyond, and left when it was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. Building tabletop gaming platforms and then selling them seems to be a lucrative business! Of course, Fantasy Grounds is a major competitor to Roll20.

Roll20, along with DTRPG and now Demiplane will have a marketplace, a virtual tabletop, and an online rules/tools suite for some games. Demiplane's Peter Romensko particularly called out Pathfinder and Daggerheart.

You can read more of what Ankit Lal said at ComicBook.com.
 

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Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I do wonder how much lock-in they'll really have. Obviously we're all very aware of tech lockin and see it everywhere but seeing Owlbear Rodeo come out with such an outstanding VTT made by two people during lockdown is pretty great.

There's a lot of content lock-in with these systems – once you buy a lot of stuff in them you probably want to stay with them – but I don't even think that is that bad. You might be willing to play another system or adventure or campaign on another platform once you're done with the one on the first platform.

So I don't know. My initial instinct is that consolidation of this type probably doesn't inhibit smaller companies or groups from also growing in this space.

Also, Demiplane and Roll20 are very different things. Demiplane spent a lot of time and energy on very slick character builders. Roll20 has spent decades on the VTT side. It isn't like Roll20 bought Fantasy Grounds or Foundry....
I know that I sometimes lament my deep lockin to Fantasy Grounds. I have so much money and time into it, I can't really justify the cost or mental load to truly explore Foundry for games I know are implemented better (or at all) on that platform.
 

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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
These moves by the established VTTs are also raising the bar for all but the best funded (WotC, in other words) future competitors.

All the tiny VTTs that get funded through Kickstarter every year -- more than you'd imagine -- will need to not just be better than Roll 20 and Fantasy Grounds were five years ago, which is the bar they mostly seem to be focused on clearing, but where they will be by the time the campaigns fulfill.

It's a smart move for the established VTTs, but it does probably mean we'll likely never see a lot of fully featured VTT choices, as the definition for "fully featured" becomes harder and harder to measure up to.

That said, if I were a Roll20 user, I would be pretty excited.
The main barrier for developers on the long tail of VTTs, Kickstarted or not, is content. Even focusing on only the 3 or 4 most widely used VTTs, it is not possible for most publishers to make their content available in them all. One big advantage that Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 have going for them is that they have teams that can prep and give some support for the game systems sold in their marketplaces. Foundry is great and there are some well-supported systems available in Foundry but the publishers have to make the mods and prep the content and provide the support. For some publishers (e.g. Cubicle 7) it is worth it. But most systems on Foundry depend on highly engaged fan community developers.

Consolidation in this environment favors publishers and also favors fans who want to run published adventures, who are not very technical, or just don't want their large amounts of their hobby time spent on data entry and light coding. I think three major VTTs is still providing healthy competition and I expect that much of what they will have to compete on is the amount of content available in them and the number of systems they support.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
It has some real advantages over its competition, despite is technical flaws. They are finally investing in real change, as far as I can tell, so we'll see. I personally moved to Foundry and it works well for us, but that has a different set of issues for most people.
Yeah, of the three major VTT platforms (FG, Roll20, and Foundry), Roll20 has the lowest barrier to entry, the lowest learning curve, and the best networking experience.

I've played in Roll20 games on bad connections in parts of the world where I regularly experience issues connecting to sites in the US and have never had major issues with Roll20. Its surprising solid and forgiving. Of course large, complicated battlemaps, with all the features turned on can slow things down or cause issues, but it is worse with FG and Foundry in my experience.

With Foundry I've been able to run games without issues, but I'm paying for hosting with The Forge and when I was overseas, I had it set to use US servers so I wasn't pushing lots of data through through crappy connections with lots of hops. My setup is certainly more expensive than Roll20, even though the Foundry software itself is a one-time reasonable fee.

While you would think that this really is not an issue for most people, now that I'm back in the US with gigabit connection, the difference is even clearer to me. I play a lot of paid-DM one shots on Start Playing. I generally prefer people running games in Foundry because I'm most familiar with the platform. But I am getting really tired of DMs who self-host foundry, especially when they are in Europe. Every two or three sessions there are issues and the server has to be restarted. Voice quality sucks because they are running Discord and Foundry on the same computer with residential internet.

I can't remember EVER having an issue when joining for-pay games where the DM is using Roll20. As a customer, I'll take fewer bells and whistles in favor of stability any day.

While Roll20 should certainly continue to improve their interface and roll out new cool features, they need to continue to give top priority to performance. It is their biggest competitive advantage.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I do wonder how much lock-in they'll really have. Obviously we're all very aware of tech lockin and see it everywhere but seeing Owlbear Rodeo come out with such an outstanding VTT made by two people during lockdown is pretty great.

There's a lot of content lock-in with these systems – once you buy a lot of stuff in them you probably want to stay with them – but I don't even think that is that bad. You might be willing to play another system or adventure or campaign on another platform once you're done with the one on the first platform.

So I don't know. My initial instinct is that consolidation of this type probably doesn't inhibit smaller companies or groups from also growing in this space.

Also, Demiplane and Roll20 are very different things. Demiplane spent a lot of time and energy on very slick character builders. Roll20 has spent decades on the VTT side. It isn't like Roll20 bought Fantasy Grounds or Foundry....
Will Roll20, perhaps. I've not really looked into what their terms & conditions and tools for exporting data are.

For Foundry, it is easy to take your content local. Tokens, battlemaps, and other artwork assets are easy to migrate. Exporting text from journals will requires some technical know-how, so it is effectively "locked in" for most people.

Fantasy Ground is installed locally and all your art assets are just saved on your computer, so that's not locked in. I have no idea how difficult it is to get text content out in a readable formats or forms that can be imported into other systems.

For any VTT, I don't expect that we will see the ability to move battlemaps with all the settings for walls, lighting, fog of war, etc from one system to another. But I don't re-run a lot of content and I've I'm repurposing content, it isn't a heavy life for me to reapply walls, etc. in another system. Also, because I think of these tools as something that I'm using for specific adventures, and will switch from one platform to another based on which will provide the best experience for a campaign I'm going to be running for one or more years, I would rather VTT continue to focus on performance, user experience, and features rather than interoperability with other platforms. Instead I would rather put this on the publishers to offer discounts and incentives for those who may rebuy content on multiple platforms.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I know that I sometimes lament my deep lockin to Fantasy Grounds. I have so much money and time into it, I can't really justify the cost or mental load to truly explore Foundry for games I know are implemented better (or at all) on that platform.
If you are looking to play the same game system in a new VTT, sure. I get it. But if you decide to play a different game system that is better supported on another platform, you can always stop and FG subscription you have. You still have the software and the assets are still on your computer.

But if you are heavily invested in a homebrew world you've built out in FG, I feel your pain. I have my first 5e campaign world in RealmWorks on a virtual machine. If I wanted to run that game again on-line, it would be a lot of work and keeps me from even considering it for now. It would be great if there were a mod to integrate Foundry journals with Google Docs, etc.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
If you are looking to play the same game system in a new VTT, sure. I get it. But if you decide to play a different game system that is better supported on another platform, you can always stop and FG subscription you have. You still have the software and the assets are still on your computer.

But if you are heavily invested in a homebrew world you've built out in FG, I feel your pain. I have my first 5e campaign world in RealmWorks on a virtual machine. If I wanted to run that game again on-line, it would be a lota of work and keeps me from even considering it for now. It would be great if there were a mod to integrate Foundry journals with Google Docs, etc.
That isn't quite right. There is an effort cost in trying to comprehend a new platform/program at the same time as trying to understand a new ruleset.

An example is Pathfinder 2E. I really wanted to learn to run it, and although I knew it was generally considered better implemented on Foundry than FG, I chose to buy it on FG because at least I knew how the program worked.
 


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