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. These are Kila’s impressions, who has experience playing tabletop RPGs.
As a DM myself, used to playing games either in person or on Roll20, I was super intrigued to try Role, the new TTRPG platform in its beta phase. For me I like a platform that is easy and intuitive to use for both player and game master – often there’s so much going on in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, I don’t have time to argue with technology also! I like the process to be smooth and simple – a tool to help the game work at its best rather than hinder it further. In recent times, playing online has been the only way available to keep playing with our friends and for me especially it’s been a lifeline in these pandemic times.
My first impressions of Role were extremely positive – the interface is sleek and attractive, easy to navigate, and smooth. Character sheets are nicely displayed to the side of the screen and easily fillable. Whilst in our experience we used the fairly small sheets of the Mothership RPG, a more complicated sheet such as Call of Cthulhu and Dungeons & Dragons is something of a trial to create and not as intuitive to use in gameplay. A nice touch though is that every player’s sheet is colour coded and both the game master and other players can easily swap between all the other player’s sheets. Perhaps not the best idea for when you want to keep some player’s details secret so in a future patch it might be better to allow this only for the game master, but it was a nice way to easily keep track of everyone. They’re also very easy to edit on the go, ensuring that updating sheets during the heat of gameplay was a simple process. The dice rolling function too is a lot smoother than in Roll20, and the addition of private rolls is a nice touch. I feel like it could benefit from having some kind of chat log however as the dice rolls only appear on the screen briefly, before being replaced by other people’s and it can be hard to keep track of if you have a larger party.
There are definitely still things to improve, however, which will hopefully be ironed out during the beta process. The video and chat worked reasonably well but was prone to being rather glitchy, with the audio also going in and out at times. A separate volume button for each player such as seen in discord voice channels would be of use here as sometimes one player sounded super loud whilst others were barely audible. The mute button too was broken at the time of play here and didn’t work properly without some circumventing. It would also be very useful for the game master to have the option to mute or kick players from the game – especially important for these online games where people may be playing with total strangers. Whilst a rare occurrence, the fact that no one can be removed from the game once they have entered means that the only way to ensure any offensive participants are not allowed is to create a whole new gaming room.
In addition, especially if playing without the camera to see who is speaking, there is easily some confusion as to who is speaking at any given time as there is no visual indicator on the platform. It would be very useful to have this addition to ensure ease of communication between players. The same thing would be useful for player tokens on the map screen. A written chat function is also sadly missing which is a shame as sometimes it’s useful to be able to have the option to write down important names or spellings or impart information in this format rather than just via speech. From an accessibility perspective too, the lack of a written chat function effectively bars any people who are unable to use voice chat from the games. Whilst the maps section to show players is good and is easy to edit thanks to the use of drawing tools, the fact that everyone in the game can edit and delete anything from it is a bit of a concern.
So far, Role is a great foundation for playing games on but requires some more fine-tuning and additional functions before it can act as a real contender to the big platforms out there such as Foll20 and FantasyGrounds. It’s off to a great start however with its a user-friendly interface and has some great ideas.