Type of site
|Online virtual tabletop|
|Owner||The Orr Group, LLC|
|Created by||Riley Dutton, Nolan Jones, Richard Zayas|
|Users||5,000,000+ (as of February 2020)|
|Launched||September 17, 2012|
Roll20 is a website consisting of a set of tools for playing tabletop role-playing games, also referred to as a virtual tabletop, which can be used as an aid to playing in person or remotely online. The site was launched in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The platform's goal is to provide an authentic tabletop experience that does not try to turn the game into a video game, but instead aids the game master in providing immersive tools online. The blank slate nature of the platform makes integrating a multitude of tabletop role-playing games possible. During quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has allowed a variety of real life games to transition online, facilitating RPGs in an online space.
Roll20 is a browser-based suite of tools that allows users to create and play tabletop role playing games. It is organized into individual game sessions, which users can create or join. These game sessions include various features of typical tabletop RPGs, including dynamic character sheets, automated dice rolling, shared maps with basic character and enemy tokens, and triggered sound effects, as well as a character creation tool for certain licensed game systems. The interface also includes integrated text chat, voice chat, and video chat, as well as Google Hangouts integration.
Roll20 also contains a separate marketplace, where art assets and complete game modules are sold, and a reference compendium for several game systems. Compendiums and game modules published through the marketplace are only available to use on the Roll20 platform, while some art assets and art packs can be transferred to other sites or downloaded and used for physical tabletop sessions. In addition to the free content, Roll20 also has extra features available for paying subscriber accounts, including dynamic lighting and fog of war for maps.
Besides the main browser version of Roll20, there are also iPad and Android versions. These mobile versions are more focused on the player experience, containing fewer features than the full browser site. Roll20 is available in English, with moderate support for 17 other languages through community-contributed translations using Crowdin.
Roll20 supports many tabletop systems, including the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Dungeon World, Gamma World, Traveller, Numenera, 13th Age, and others. For many less known tabletop systems, Roll20 has an open source repository where the community can contribute character sheet templates.
Roll20 was originally conceived as a personal project by three college roommates, Riley Dutton, Nolan Jones, and Richard Zayas, to help them continue to play Dungeons & Dragons after graduating and moving to different cities. After realizing that their personal app could help others as well, they started a Kickstarter campaign in the spring of 2012 with an initial goal of $5000; the campaign managed to raise almost $40,000. After a short beta testing period following the end of the Kickstarter campaign, Roll20 was released to the public in September 2012.
In July 2016, Roll20 announced that they had acquired a license from Wizards of the Coast for official Dungeons & Dragons material. Along with the announcement, they released the first official module for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, The Lost Mine of Phandelver, on the Roll20 Marketplace, which was followed by other releases.
In February 2019, TechCrunch reported that Roll20's databases had been hacked along with those of 8 other companies, with the information of over 4 million users of the site posted for sale on a dark web marketplace.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, many groups who played Dungeons & Dragons in person turned to Roll20 to keep their gaming parties alive.
Roll20 has held an online gaming convention named Roll20CON every year since 2016, consisting of an organized series of online games hosted on Roll20 and streamed on Twitch, along with other events. Roll20 has partnered with charitable organizations to run Roll20CON: The Cybersmile Foundation, an organization providing support for victims of cyberbullying, in 2016; and Take This, an organization focused on mental health in the gaming community, in 2019.
In September 2018, one of the co-founders of Roll20, Nolan T. Jones, acting as head moderator of the Reddit Roll20 subreddit, banned Reddit user ApostleO, mistaking the account for another previously banned account whom Nolan believed to be circumventing the prior ban. After a failed attempt to get clarification and correction of the ban, ApostleO deleted his Roll20 account and posted a summary to Reddit of the hostile customer service. Many users criticized the ban, Jones’ response, and the inclusion of Roll20 staff as moderators of the subreddit, leading Roll20 to apologize and turn over moderation of the subreddit to the community.
In July 2020, Roll20 released their own Science fantasy role-playing game named Burn Bryte, with James Introcaso as lead designer. The game was first announced during Gen Con 2018, and was mentioned to be designed from the bottom up to be played on Roll20's virtual tabletop platform. Starting in August 2018, a playtest was launched for Roll20's Pro-subscribers,which was later expanded to their Plus-subscribers in November of the same year. With the games launch, multiple Actual Play campaigns were started on Twitch.
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