Roll20, Descent, and Google Hangout

What do these three things have in common? Well, a lot actually. In this post, I am going to start my journey on posting geeky topics. Because I have a little secret for you – I’m a geek! Ok, well I guess it’s not a secret really. Not anymore anyhow.

Roll20 is a virtual tabletop designed to play tangible board games on a computer screen. It’s also free.

It features the options to:

  • lay out a map assigned to a grid
  • video and voice chat
  • text chat
  • dice rolling
  • character creation
  • token creation
  • deck of cards
  • custom graphics and an art library
  • jukebox
  • And much more!

Additionally, you can start up a Hangout in Google and run Roll20 inside it.

I recently started playing some fun geeky board game with a small group of friends – Mike from NJ, Nick from MD, and Dave from GA. Originally they were all from Jersey but you know how life sort of changes things like that. Nick discovered Roll20, and we have been attempting to start up some games on Sundays once a month or so. The real event – a gamer conference called PAX East – happens in March and we want to start some campaigns we can finish there. We have recently started to play the game Descent.


A “quest” map of Descent that is within a larger “Campaign”. Many quests make up an entire Campaign.

Nick has scanned every token, every map tile, every character and card for this game and we created a shared folder using Dropbox. After some photoshoping on my part, I put the maps together and made transparent backgrounds for all these plus the tokens needed. Everything can be uploaded to Roll20. It really is an amazing little web based program.

jain token1In Roll20, you can also use macros – a “rule or pattern that specifies how a certain input sequence should be mapped to a replacement input sequence according to a defined procedure” – as well as emotes in the text chat. Macros can be assigned to specific players as well. So an emote would be Jamie (me!) can /stab Nick with her sword. Which of course is pretty fun.

The possibilities of what you can do with this are a lot, but it all depends on what game you want to play and how much time you want to invest in setting things up. You can assign dice rolls to a macro like #attack and add emotes such as the above /stab Nick with her sword. You can also stack macros.

One thing to note is that Roll20 uses a GM – Game Master – who sets up a campaign. He has the most control over everything that happens on this virtual tabletop and decides what other players can see and have access to. There is also a layer in the game the GM can see but the players never see (assuming anything is put there). However, if more than one person needs access to everything or multiple people want to work on the campaign at once they can both log in under the GM’s username. This includes even having it open and editing things at the same time. Nick and I figured this out since we were both adding elements of the game into Roll20.

There really is so much more to it than that, but since I can’t really explain everything without taking up a thousand posts you should check out their help files which also include some more videos.

Tomorrow will be the first time we all play Descent together, so I may post more on that afterwards.



  1. Having all ventured off to different parts of the country, our group has been looking into roll20.

    We got a game of descent in at Christmas and thought of carrying on virtually! Would you be able to share some of your hard work (images etc) so we can recreate it in Roll20 as well?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure, I can do that. I can email them to you with your username’s email address, if that works? I’ll have to dig up where I saved them since I haven’t played in a while, but.


  2. Hi Countpie! Oh man, I almost forgot about this. I will look up the Dropbox folder right after I finish this reply! I have to ask my friends if it is OK to share the folder, otherwise you’ll have to email me in order to get the graphics. My email is .

    The dice rolls… hmm we haven’t played in a while, but one of our friends, Mike ( designed a dice roller for us. It’s been so long I’m going to have to ask about it, as I can’t really remember how it worked. Let me bug him and another friend for you.


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