Some useful resources for setting up Roll20 games

I’m still doing preparation work for the new D&D campaign, but that’s more because I’m doing it in a rather piecemeal fashion than from it being particularly difficult. I’ve got a lot of sourcebooks and rulebook on various shelves in the flat that I’ve accumulated over the years. If anything, the challenge has been to choose how to limit the material available to me, having decided to use the Eberron campaign setting.

This is partly down to my having gone on a bit of a mad spree for various reasons when the 3rd Edition came out in an Open format known as D20. Suddenly there were rulebooks for shows and settings to make everything compatible, should I desire to use them. I’ve actually stopped myself from seriously considering using D20 versions of Call of Cthulhu and Judge Dredd in this current campaign – something that will no doubt be a relief for my players to read here.

Adding to the challenge of running a 3/3.5(ish) campaign for the first time, it’s also the first time I’ll be running a game using Roll20. Unlike a traditional tabletop environment, I don’t have quite the luxury of winging things so much, especially when it comes to maps for encounters. In days of yore I would grab a scrap of paper or lengths of printed card, dice, books and anything else of approximate size to denote features of an encountered area – especially if the party had gone off on a tangent and I needed to distract them with a fight while I worked out the best way to steer them back on course.

With Roll20, this can seem like a bit more complicated, given that you have to assemble maps from tiles, and populate various layers with tokens for objects, characters and opponents, along with the GM layer of information, let alone setting up dynamic lighting and line of sight markers. The Roll20 site helps by performing searches for tokens and maps that have already been submitted, or that are hosted on sites like or which can help immensely when you are first starting out, and offer software to help you along the way.

By way of an alternative though, I’ve just discovered, which has a free online floorplan creator that will, crucially, allow you to export your floorplans as a .jpg to your desktop so that you can upload them to Roll20 as a mapping layer. Any additional tokens or markers I want to add can then be slotted into place.It’s proving quick, simple and reliable – and did I mention free? – just what I need.

So far I’ve been focusing on creating the set piece maps – so when they’re done I’ll start assembling some template designs to allow me to rapidly piece together the more random encounters along the way. As my ultimate fall-back position, I’ll also be looking at how effective simply drawing on a blank template with my graphics tablet is if I need to do something rough and ready in real-time.

So, I’m getting there, as they say. In the meantime I’m using the forum features on the site to encourage the players to create their characters and do a bit of roleplay to introduce themselves. If nothing else I’m hoping it’ll give me a heads-up on their interactions and common themes before I dive straight in, and that’ll inspire some more encounters and plot twists.

About Tim Maidment

Writer, House Husband, Library Person, Raconteur, Poly, Queer and Bon Vivant. You were expecting something simple?
This entry was posted in Dungeons and Dragons, games, gaming, Geekery, Roll20, software, weblinks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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