Sequential Planet got the opportunity to have a hands-on experience with Role, a new program for Tabletop RPGs. The program is currently in Early Access, so there are plenty of features still to come. We wanted to take a look at the current state of Role and give our impressions. The following impressions are from beginner tabletop players.
My experience with Role is also my first experience with tabletop roleplaying. I’ve always had an interest in the hobby, but simply never got the opportunity to find a DM or even a group. Role presented the opportunity for me to play with a group online.
As a service, Role makes the roleplaying experience remarkably easy. It features a sleek, visually appealing design that makes it easy on the eyes. The various features are easy to use, even for a beginner who isn’t familiar with all of the terms that one will find in the hobby. Players have access to many dice, coins, and other features. They can roll multiple dice at once and add the totals. They can tweak the stats on their character speeches. They can access any documents that the DM makes available to them, including character sheets, rules, and maps. Everything is in convenient locations that are easy to access.
Overall, the “room” that Role creates for players works well. The video quality and audio are all clean and easy to understand. There will be some discrepancies based on microphones, cameras, and internet connection. Half of our party had some issues, but the rest of the room was crystal clear. As of now, there isn’t a text chat feature, which is inconvenient, but not a deal-breaker for most groups.
As a newbie, it’s difficult for me to know what exactly is missing from the service. Despite this, our group enjoyed a great session with few interruptions or issues caused by the service. Our game was never interrupted by a crash. There were a few bugs here and there with audio (Specifically muting), but nothing that couldn’t be resolved in less than a minute. For a product in early access, Role runs better than expected. It’s a fully usable service as is that will likely only get better for players as it receives more updates.
I recently had the opportunity to test an early access version of Role. The new platform is designed to allow tabletop role-playing gamers to communicate and play games online. On the face of it, this is a very useful tool. Not everyone can consistently get their friends together to play, even at the best of times. Role has also come along at an opportune time from a business perspective. Co-Vid restrictions have made it harder for groups of people to gather for physical games. The new platform seeks to help these players continue enjoying their hobby without risking physical contact.
Despite my lack of role-playing experience, I could see a lot of potential in the platform. It took some getting used to but I found the system very easy to navigate. The ability to create your own digital character sheets was helpful. Role also lets you customise your character sheets too. You can use existing artwork or add your own to represent the character each sheet is for. I imagine being able to store these character sheets will be very useful for long-term campaigns.
Our review group played a simple game called “Mothership” in order to test the online functionality of the system. There’s every kind of dice you could potentially need for gameplay as well as a coin flip option. The online mode resembles a Zoom meeting. The DM is the host and invites other players to join the game. Files can be shared such as maps and rule sheets for players to view. You can also view each others character sheets which is useful for keeping track of everyone’s statistics and discourage cheating.
The system isn’t without its flaws though. I used a fairly high-end HP gaming laptop for the review. Role never caused any overhearing, despite this, my browser crashed at multiple points throughout our game. I used Opera and Microsoft Edge to open Role and rejoin but this issue persisted with both browsers. There were also camera issues while playing on each browser which may be an issue with Role itself. Outside of a few seconds of a multi-hour game, I could not get my camera to activate. I frequently use the same laptop for video chats on Zoom, Facebook, and Discord with no issue. I suspect this is down to Role as I tested the camera before and afterward. It was fine both times and most of the other gamers had no issue on this end. I can’t say whether it’s a compatibility issue with my model of laptop or simply a stroke of bad luck. Hopefully, if this is an issue on Role’s end they’ll have it fixed by its full launch.
The online experience was mostly fine aside from these issues. I could hear my fellow gamers fairly well and, silliness aside, the game went smoothly. There are some features I’d like to see added though. Firstly, there seemed to be no ability for the DM or any players to kick players out of a game or even mute them. This could become an issue if anyone starts causing issues during a game. Sometimes a player will get nasty and there needs to be a tool to punish such behaviour. There’s also no form of text chat or method of privately messaging another player. If a player is encountering audio issues then this is a vital tool that players will need.
Despite the issues, this was a great platform for role-playing games. Even with my inexperience, it was easy to understand the layout in online and offline modes. Hopefully, Role will add some of the features and investigate the issues mentioned by myself and my fellow reviewers. The platform isn’t perfect but with a little bit of polish then this could be a boon to role-players everywhere once it launches.
While Role offers a wide variety of tools, it does not come without a fair share of flaws and worries. Obviously, these are to be expected for an early release of a product, but some of them are quite concerning. For example, the quality of the video chat can often dip dramatically, and it seems to be more on Role’s part than the player’s part. There’s also no ability to look back at dice rolls and changes in character sheets. It’d be extremely useful to see, especially if somebody believes that they’ve made a mistake and needs to check this against previous dice rolls and stats.
However, the tools it offers are quite useful, especially for a newcomer. Role offers a wide variety of dice for almost any situation and a coin in case of split-second decisions. The greatest tool Role offers though is a built-in character sheet for players. This allows extremely easy access to the stats of yourself and other players, and even allows the DM to create their own versions of character sheets in case you’re playing a game that supports a different archetype. It’s an extremely useful system for both the players and the DM.
The room itself is presented extremely well, however, a few customization options would not go amiss. Perhaps the ability to change colours to make the page easier to look at for any players with vision issues, or the ability to change a page layout. The current layout is extremely easy on the eye and easy to navigate, with the ability to look at other players’ character sheets, but the ability to customize where everything is placed would be absolutely brilliant.
In the future, I’d love to see the video quality to be upped slightly and an inbuilt system for text chat for players. With the audio and video quality changing so dramatically throughout my use of it, a text chat would allow players to discuss things in case of emergency. Plus, a text chat would allow the DM and players to chat privately, in the case of them wanting to sneakily discuss things that they would rather keep from the other players for the time being. There’s something brilliant here, but it requires work to become the system it has the potential to be.