Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Roll20 Tips and Tricks for GMs

If you haven't already, go ahead and read my post of Roll20 Tips and Tricks for Players. Much of that post also applies for game masters either directly or as good advice to pass onto your players. The rest of this post focuses on Roll20 from the perspective of a GM organizing and running a game.

  • Stay on top of prep/have backup options
    • Remember that if you’re using digital maps and tokens, you need to try and prep those just as you would using miniatures and a erasable grid mat. It’s handy to make sure you have a selection of tokens “just in case” when you need a random fight with goblins and a blank Roll20 page ready to go.
  • Have back up audio
    • As nice as many other things in Roll20 are, I’ve never been able to get roll20 audio to work for more than three people at a time. For a long time we used Google voice chat, but lately I’ve used Discord for both of my ongoing online games. In any case, it’s worth having a back-up plan for audio in case a certain service isn’t functioning at game time.
  • Have an attendance policy
    • I learned this the hard way, but it’s good to have an attendance policy up front that covers how many players are needed for a game “quorum” and the expectation for players missing games and notifying the GM beforehand. 
    • It’s also worth considering a policy that covers when a player is considered to have “abandoned” the game, so that the GM can look for a replacement player.
    • Here is the attendance policy that I’ve come up with for my games.
      • With the episodic nature of the campaign, players can miss the occasional session without issue. If possible provide the DM notice, preferably 24 hour notice. PCs not at a session will not receive XP
      • Abandoning the game - If a player misses two sessions without notifying the DM beforehand or if they miss three of any four sessions on a rolling four session basis, they will be considered as having abandoned the game.
      • Quorum -The DM will consider any three players a quorum to determine if there are enough PCs to play a session.
  • Google documents
    • Yes, I already talked about google documents for players, but I want to second this for GMs. While I use the handouts available in Roll20, they are difficult to utilize for longer text or for things you want available to refer to when not in game.
    • There are four main documents I have for my online game in google documents, a Player Information Packet, a shared notes document, a group inventory and XP chart.
      • The XP chart is fairly self-explanatory, but handy for games where PCs aren’t levelling at the same time.
      • The group inventory is likewise fairly straight-forward, though other games might have a player maintaining it instead of the GM.
      • The shared notes document has the high-level info on each PC, proficiencies, spells, etc, so that players can easily see what the other PCs have before they put slots towards a particular proficiency. I also have the upcoming sessions listed and its where the players have put notes about NPCs and session notes.
      • Finally, the Player Information Packet is locked so that I can edit it, but players can comment. This is the document were I include all the house rules, character creation rules, attendance policy and information I want to make sure is available for players to reference.
  • Map hints
    • Cover up room numbers, traps and random spots with white squares, or another color that blends into the map well. 
    • If you're using Fog of War, consider making your lines a medium-dark grey, rather than black. It makes it easier for players to see the difference.
    • Remember color blind players when you're choosing colors and avoid using just red and green as you prep your maps.
    • Be careful about what layer you're on. There are three layers: map & background, tokens and objects and GM overlay. While it's incredibly useful to have all three layers, I've found myself forgetting to switch back to the token lair and accidentally dragging my map over a half an inch, revealing all my carefully hidden room numbers and secret doors. 
  • Consider a published scenario with map and token pack.
    • When I had a player move away temporarily I tried to run an online Curse of Strahd using the module pack from Roll20. While the game unfortunately fell apart due to scheduling conflicts the module pack made running the game incredibly easy. It was fantastic to have all the maps, handouts, tokens, monster/NPC stats and adventure notes at my fingers in Roll20 itself.
    • If someone wanted to try GMing for the first time I would highly recommend this as it lets you concentrate on running the game instead of doing lots of uploading of tokens, maps and such. It also makes it easy to improvise as you can utilize what's built into the module to prepare random encounters.
Has anyone else found any other great Roll20 Tricks?

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