Roll20 Crash Course

New to playing tabletop roleplaying games online? Roll20 is a virtual tabletop platform that unites gamers across any distance with easy-to-use tools that run straight from your web browser for free! Roll20 aims to make learning easy so you can start playing quickly.

Think of this article as a jumping off point. We will show you our best resources for learning the basics, and links will be included in each section if you want to dive deeper into a particular area.

Whether you are playing Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, Cyberpunk RED, Monster of the Week, Alice is Missing, or one of our many indie or homebrewed systems, Roll20 is flexible enough to handle your TTRPG needs. Don't let our product name fool you - Roll20 can run a lot more than just d20 game systems!

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Your Virtual Tabletop

Roll20 has many features to make your online gaming easy and immersive. You can use all or none of these - whatever suits you and your table best. 

In the following sections, we include video tutorials relevant to the topic at hand along with a text breakdown of what the video covers. Each section also includes supplemental links for further exploration.

Click any of the headers in the table of contents to the right to move to a specific section.


Create Your Game

You created a free account on Roll20 - excellent! Now what? You probably want to create a game to play with current (or future) friends, family, and even clients if you are a professional GM.

Using a Module

In this tutorial, Carlos walks through creating a game using a module purchased from the Roll20 Marketplace. Modules are premade adventures or settings that have been professionally converted to our virtual tabletop. They come with much of the game’s preparation done for you! Carlos also breaks down where the different parts of the module (adventure text, art, maps, etc.) can be found in your game.

Using an Addon

In this tutorial, Carlos walks through adding free or purchased Addons to your games. Addons are smaller forms of content that are meant to enhance games. This video covers where to find your Addons and the different types you can find on Roll20.

From Scratch

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Logging into your account will take you to the Roll20 Homepage where you can make a new game by clicking the Create New Game button. Doing so will bring you to the Start New Game page. From here you can set your game’s name and pick a character sheet from the dropdown menu. 

Once you have filled out the fields, click the I’m ready, Create Game! button.

This will bring you to the Game Details Page. From here, you can invite players, schedule a session, post on your game’s private forum, install addons, and access your Game Settings Page to customize your campaign including sharing your purchased compendium content. Once you are ready to start prepping your first session, click the Launch Game button from here or from your Roll20 homepage.

Prepare Your Game

You have just launched a brand new game on Roll20 - how do you prepare it for your players? You probably want to set up maps, make handouts and character sheets, and add tokens to represent your creatures and NPCs before you gather your party to play.

Maps

In this video, Carlos walks through how to set up maps for your players to explore. Topics include creating a new page for your map, changing the page settings, navigating the different Roll20 tabletop layers, uploading images, and aligning your map to the Roll20 grid.

This is an area that can be as simple or complex as you desire, so we have included several resources to continue your exploration after the Crash Course is complete!

Maps

Page Settings

Layers

Upgrade Your Game with Dynamic Lighting

To take your game to the next level, consider becoming a Plus or Pro subscriber for access to features like dynamic lighting, additional storage space for your uploads, and more! Dynamic Lighting is a lighting system that updates players’ lines of sight in real-time, as you play.

Character Sheets, Handouts, and Folders

Most TTRPGs involve characters and character sheets. In the above tutorial, Carlos walks through the different ways to set up character sheets in Roll20. He also demonstrates how to create and share handouts with your players and how to create and organize folders to make your prep work easy.

Once your players join the game (see Gather Your Party below), you will likely want them to create characters the first time you meet. If you are playing Dungeons & Dragons 5e, Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder 1e, or Burn Bryte, the Roll20 Charactermancer can save you a ton of time!

Tokens

In this tutorial, Carlos walks through the different art objects you can add to your Roll20 game. This section highlights Tokens. Tokens are small pictures with borders used to represent player characters, NPCs, and monsters). They come in all shapes, sizes, and styles! This video also covers how to use free and purchased maps, token markers, and even animated weather overlays.

Did you know you can link tokens to character sheets for a more streamlined experience? Check it out!

TIP: If you want your players to see the tokens, make sure the tokens are on the Token Layer. If you want tokens to be hidden, place them on the GM Info Layer.

Gather Your Party

It’s time to gather your party! Use the Looking For Group tool to find and invite players to your virtual table. In the above tutorial, Carlos walks through how to list your game to the Roll20 community.

Maybe you already know the players you want to invite! In the above video, Carlos demonstrates the easiest way to get them into your game.

TIP: Remember that once your players join, you will need to adjust the permissions of the character sheets to include the name of the player using that sheet!

Play Your Game

Game on! The remaining essentials for a great Roll20 experience include rolling dice, using the chat, communicating with your players, and setting your group up for easy encounters with the turn tracker.

Roll Dice

In the above tutorial, Carlos walks through all the different ways to roll dice on the virtual tabletop. Advanced topics include how to roll so only the GM sees, when and how to use exploding dice, and more!

Chat

This tutorial is all about the Roll20 Chat! You can send secret messages, speak as a character, roll dice, share images, and more. Carlos walks through Chat's basic features and advanced tips and tricks.

Voice and Video

If you want to experience the reactions of your players as you reveal that big plot twist, use Roll20’s Voice and Video! The above tutorial excerpt is for Roll20’s original WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication).

However, we have a brand new (and in our opinion, improved) option you can read about below!

Turn Tracker

As a GM you already have so much to keep track of - let Roll20 keep track of turn order for you! In this tutorial, Carlos walks through the basics and more advanced features of the Turn Tracker.

Customize Your Game

Now that you know the basics of Roll20, you are ready to play. But perhaps you want to customize your group’s experience using the in-game settings or features like macros, rollable tables, custom token markers, card decks, and music. All of these features are available to users for free!

Game Settings

In this video, Carlos walks through the in-game settings you can adjust once you launch your game. Topics include changing your display name, audio and video settings, accessing advanced hotkeys, controlling the master volume, a full breakdown of all those checkboxes, and more!

NOTE: In the audio and video settings in game, you can now select Integrated Voice & Video (formerly New Voice & Video Beta) from the first dropdown menu. We highly recommend you try it!

Macros

Macros are simply shortcuts for actions that you perform regularly on the virtual tabletop, like rolling for attacks or damage. Macros eliminate steps by combining everything needed into the push of a button. In this tutorial, Carlos demonstrates how to quickly create macros and connect them to character sheets.

Rollable Tables and Tokens

Rollable tables are  useful when you want to leave something to (curated) chance. You can even make rollable tokens for an easy reveal of a disguised or transformed NPC! In this tutorial, Carlos walks through common uses of rollable tables and how to integrate macros into them.

Token Markers

In the above tutorial, Carlos talks all things Token Markers. Token Markers are the little icons that are available in the radial menu when you select a token. Roll20 provides these icons to help you track conditions on your tokens. You can even add custom ones to your game!

Card Decks

In this tutorial, Carlos walks through using Cards and Decks on Roll20. Learn how to customize your decks and play with them on the virtual tabletop.

The Jukebox

The Roll20 Jukebox allows you to upload your own audio tracks and add music and sound effects from the libraries of Tabletop Audio, Incompetech, and BattleBards to your games!

If you really love this feature and want to add more assets, whether audio or visual, consider upgrading your account to the Plus or Pro level to receive additional storage space!

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