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Getting Started GMs(2013)

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Video Guide(2013)

GM Overview


Welcome to Roll20! We’re very excited that you’re here. To help you get started, we’ve created this quick overview of how to create a campaign. We go over most of the functionality in Roll20 briefly, but for more detailed instructions on any particular part, be sure to check out the rest of the Community Wiki as well as the Official Help Center. So, let’s get started.

You’re looking at the main Roll20 interface. You’re currently logged in as the Game Master, or “GM”, and you’re editing a campaign. In the middle is the core piece of the interface, the virtual tabletop. Right now it’s pretty empty and boring, so let’s add a token!

You can use the P Art Library to quickly find tokens, maps, tiles, and portraits to use in your campaign. Let’s do a search for “goblin.” You’ll see that it’s pulling results from the Roll20 Marketplace, which has free and premium content that you can use in your campaigns. If you scroll down further you’ll see that it’s also searching popular RPG forums and sites on the web. If you find one you really like, you can even star it, and the next time you search for “goblin” it will show up at the top of your list. That’s a great way to be consistent with your art style. This looks like a good one, so I’ll drag and drop to add it to the tabletop. I can resize it and move it around as needed. That’s it, our first token!

You can add as many tokens as you want to your tabletop. And you can also highlight a token and use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste it if you need to make several of the same kind. When I click on the token, notice the radial menu that pops open. I’m going to click the settings button to open up the token and change some advanced settings. Here’s where you can let a specific player control the token, or I can let "All Players" control it. You can also use up to three bars and two auras to show specific information about the token. By default only the GM and controlling players will see that information, but you can also give other players permission to view or edit it in the Player Permissions section. Now when you open up the radial menu, you can quickly change the values of the bars by clicking and typing. You can type +5 to increase by 5, or -10 to decrease by 10. Or just 18 to set the value. You can also use the markers tray down here to quickly add markers to the token that both you and the players can see, perfect for keeping track of things like status effects.

We probably need something for the tokens to play on, so let’s add a background map. Notice on the toolbar over here there is a button that lets you switch b Layers. There’s the tokens layer which is what we’re on now; there’s a GM info layer which only the GM sees; and there’s a map layer which is always behind everything else. So let’s switch to that layer. I could use the Art Library to find a map, but instead I’m going to drag and drop one off of my computer right here into the tabletop. It uploads to Roll20, and I’m in business. You can adjust the map however you need, and then switch back to your tokens layer and adjust your tokens. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Roll20 also features a i Drawing Tools. You can select the freehand and draw on the tabletop, just like a whiteboard. You can draw on any of the layers, as well. You can also use the shape tool to draw rectangles, or hold down the Alt key to draw circles. Be sure to use the toolbar here if you want to adjust the stroke color or fill color of your drawing. And if you want to clear the drawings on the current layer, just click the Clear button. There’s also a text tool if you need to type a quick note on the map.

If you need to get your player’s attention, you can click and hold the mouse button on the map to generate a quick “ping” that everyone can see. And if you hold down the Shift button while you ping, your players will all scroll their windows automatically to see what you’re pinging at.

Chances are you’re going to need more than one scene in your campaign. You can click this button to open the Page Toolbar. Like a storybook, each campaign is comprised of multiple pages. The pages can be anything you want, but usually they’ll be either an image, like a map or a portrait of a major NPC; or, the page will represent an encounter, with a map and tokens, just like a real tabletop. As the GM, you can switch between pages at any time. The page that the players are on is represented by the player bookmark. Just move it to any page, and the players in the game automatically switch to that page. So a typical play session starts on a page, you do the encounter or talk to the NPC, then move the players to the next page, and so on. You can also drag and drop a player onto a specific page if you want to split up your party. Just drag the player back to the bookmark and they’ll rejoin the group.

Notice that each page has its own settings, which I can get to by clicking on this gear icon in the page toolbar. You can adjust the size, background color, and grid type of the page from here. You can also turn on C Fog of War, which hides the whole map from the players. Then, you can use the reveal tool and just highlight the area you want to reveal. It’s that simple. If you make a mistake, use the cover tool to re-hide the area. There are also some advanced features like Dynamic Lighting that are available to subscribers, be sure to check the wiki for more information on those.

Okay, so we’ve got a good campaign going here, let’s invite a player to join. Notice the player link that shows up here when you first log in. To invite players to your game, you simply send them this link. If you were wondering where the video chat feature is, it will automatically start up whenever a player joins your game. You’ll need to click the Allow button to broadcast. You can also click the camera icon to change your camera or microphone settings.

By default, players won’t be able to edit or move any of the pieces in your campaign. But you can open up the settings of a token (I double-clicked as a shortcut) and give them control over it if you want.

I want to take a quick moment to point out that anything you do: adding tokens, resizing, moving, or marking, shows up immediately in real-time to any connected players. So there’s really no difference between an “edit” mode and a “play” mode in Roll20. You can come in and prepare a whole campaign in advance, or you can start with a blank page and build it all right in front of your players, it’s whatever works best for your style of play.

Now that we have a player, we may want to talk with them and roll dice.

On the right-hand side is a chat system. To say something to everyone, just type your message and press Enter. There’s also full support for whispering to other players or the GM. And you can also emote to add flavor to the conversation. All of the chat is persistent between play sessions, so you can always review what’s happened previously.

There are also advanced chat commands for emoting as NPCs and describing scenes. See q Text Chat for the available commands.

And if you want to roll dice, just click the button here to open up the Dice Roller GUI. You can quickly make basic rolls, and even re-roll your previous rolls. Results from the rolls will show up for everyone in the text chat area. You can also roll directly in the text chat by typing /roll followed by a formula -- for example, /roll 1d20+5. We support a lot more than just basic rolls, so be sure to check out the reference on the wiki if your game system of choice uses more advanced rolling mechanics.

Roll20 also features 3D Dice which you can enable on the y My Settings tab. When enabled, you’ll see a real 3D physics simulation of dice rolling right in your browser anytime you perform a roll. Other players using 3D Dice will also see your dice rolls in real-time, so you can all share in the excitement of a dice rolling over to a crit.

The N Journal allows you to create characters and handouts that you and the players can refer to. For Characters, You can add in an avatar, and add notes that players see, as well as notes that only the GM sees. By default, only the GM sees the characters, but you can easily add them to the player’s journals as well by typing their name. You can also give a player control of a Character to allow them to edit it. Characters can also have attributes and abilities. Attributes allow you to store things like the stat scores. Abilities are Character-specific rolls, great for storing common attacks. You can open up a token and link it to a Character, and doing so allows you to specify that some of the bars of the token represent an attribute. In addition, whoever controls the Character will then have control over its tokens. You can also choose a token and make in the Character’s default token. Then you just drag the character onto the tabletop to quickly add the token for that character to the game. Great for oft-used tokens like PCs.

Handouts let you upload a large image or type a description, then put them into some or all of your player’s journals. Perfect for handing out secret notes or storing oft-used bits of plot-related info. You can also drag and drop a handout directly onto a player along the bottom -- this adds it to the player’s journal and opens it on their screen.

Roll20’s u Jukebox lets you easily add sound into your game. To start, just click the “Add” button. You can type any keyword, like “dungeon” into the box, and Roll20 will search the SoundCloud library for music to include. We’ve also set up some filtering in the background that tries to find music that’s appropriate for use as background music. You can preview the track. When you find one you like, just click “Add”, and it gets added to your Jukebox. Now when you can play the track, and all of the players will hear it playing as well. You can also control the volume to make it fade into the background or surge to be the focal point.

There’s also a t Turn Tracker. Click the button on the Toolbox to open it. Once it’s open, all players in the game will also see it. To add a turn to the tracker, right-click on a token and choose “Add Turn” from the menu. You can add multiple turns per token. Click on the numbers to edit them and keep track of stats like initiative. Then just use the next arrow to advance turns. You can also click the gear to quickly sort numerically or alphabetically, or to clear the list of turns.

Everyone in the game also has their own Settings tab, where they can control the master volume level of the Jukebox as they hear it, and also choose what type of video and voice chat they want to use.

l Collections-tab is where you can set up macros, which let you and your players store and re-use rolls and chat messages. For example, you can create a macro for your most-used attack roll. If it’s a roll you use very often, you can add it to your macro quick bar, which is always available on the bottom of the screen. Then just click the button below your avatar to quickly use that roll. You can also choose to allow other players to use the macro, or make the macro a Token Action, which causes it to show up whenever you select a token. There’s more to macros including nesting macros, including attributes and abilities, and even using information for selected tokens and targeted tokens, so be sure to consult the Help site for more advanced topics.

The Decks can also be found under l Collections. Decks are collections of cards that you and your players can draw from. By default you’ll start with a standard deck of playing cards. Show the deck, then just click at the top to draw the next card. You can also drag a card off the top of the deck to play it onto the tabletop. You can also Shuffle the deck. You can create as many decks as you want. You can change the settings, and add or change the individual cards inside it. Each card is just an image that you upload from your computer. There’s a lot more to decks including player hands, card trading and stealing, and infinite card decks -- check the help documentation for more info.

That’s the basics of Roll20. As long as this video is, there’s still a lot more to talk about, so be sure to check out the help wiki for more detailed information on each individual feature. And let us know if you have any trouble! Good luck!