Tips on playing TTRPG in Roll20

Etäpelaaminen Roll20 vinkit

Now let’s talk about online tabletop gaming for a moment! 👋

Traditionally, tabletop roleplaying games are played together in a group around a table, but as technology has advanced, the remote play has slowly become more common. Virtual gaming table, or VTT, allows players from all over Finland (or the world) to participate in the same game.

Minimum gaming equipment needed is a voice connection or a place to write a text-based RPG. Those are not enough for my gaming people so let’s talk about some bigger setups. A convenient combination has been voice communication between participants on Discord and playing through Roll20. Roll20 is a website with tools specifically for table-top role-playing. It includes character sheets for the most common table role-playing games and handy dice rolls. There are also some other online gaming platforms that work quite nicely instead of Roll20.

Starting with roll 20

Let’s say that you got a game in roll20, someone made it for you or you learned to do it yourself and you managed to create a character there as well. Maybe using the Roll20 guides or talking to your friends. What you need next is a way to get to the next level of gaming. 👇

Roleplay in the Roll20

Role-playing games involve not only moving characters and rolling dice, but also role-playing. It’s more about what the characters are like and what happens behind their actions. Role-playing allows characters to interact with each other and create a common dynamic. 💬

Playing as a character

What is great with roll20 + voice chat is that you can have your character’s name and picture show to everyone all the time! You just need to do some little adjustments before the game.

If you have a picture of your character, add it to your character sheet. Then go to the chat window and all the way to the bottom below the text window you see this ”As” and dropdown selection. When you select your character or their animal companion/drone you can see that name as your player icon and that is the name writing in the chat (picture below)

Others will love to see your name during the game and we’ve noticed that it’s a great help to write down also your character’s AC in the name so that GM can easily see if baddies hit you. When playing with strangers it’s also nice to include your name or nick at the end of the name. Change the name from the settings tab and remember to save!

Roleplaying in the chat

In Roll20 you can add funny comments and get to know the character by chatting without affecting the voice narrative – I even encourage it! Through chat, you can write what the character says and what they do. To express what you are doing, type /em first and then what the character is doing in the chat text input. For example: /em rolls his eyes behind Ben’s back.

You can also whisper /w and the character’s name to another player or /w gm to the gamemaster so that it is only visible to that person. Note: If there are spaces in the character’s name, enter the character’s name in the apostrophe ” ”. For example for my character whispering to a character named Mister Person, I would type in the chat: /w ”Mister Person”

Roll20 käytössä. Kartta, jolle on aseteltuna hahmojen tokenit sekä chat-ikkuna
Screenshot from a game in the Roll20. Text on the orange part is done with ”/em” in the front.

Extra flavor for your text

You can press shift + enter while typing in the chat to change lines, and Roll20 will handle each line separately. This way, you can have several styles in one text without it being split up by other players’ messages.

/em says unkind things to the owner of the tavern
/w ”Mister Person” I give our secret handshake to throw the pint in the owners lap
/w gm my character deliberately left a gold coin on the table

Italics: *one star on each side*
Bold text: **two stars on both sides**
Bold and italic text: ***three stars on both sides***

Technical tips for roll20

There is a lot of things happening in the Roll20 at the same time – the map, character sheet, initiative tracker, character pictures et cetera. That’s why the best tip is to minimize the things on the screens.

Minimize chat avatars from the setting-tab down at the bottom ”Player avatar size:” dropdown selection.

Minimize character sheet, initiative tracker, and other pop-ups by double-clicking the title of the element.

Kuvaohje, kuinka hahmolomake pienennetään Roll20 järjestelmässä
Douple click to mimimize the window.

Character’s token/image on the map and information displayed

To get your token on the map, open the Journal tab and drag your mouse from your character’s name onto the map. Once your token is on the map, you can move it around freely. When you click on your character’s token, it will be surrounded by menus where you can enter character information, such as hit points.


To track characters’ initiative the GM will open an initiative tracker. To get your character’s initiative roll on the tracker you need to first select your character on the map by clicking it and then go to their character sheet and click the initiative button.

Measure distances

Measure distances from the ruler-like icon on the toolbar on the left of the map. Press the right mouse button while doing the measurement to angle it. Note that after this measurement, you will need to switch back to the arrow-like selection to move your own token again.

Measurement tool (left) and clicking your icon on the map (right)

You can also directly measure your character’s movements when moving the token. Drag the token with your mouse and press the Q key (or right-click) to see the distance the token has traveled. When you let go of the drag, other participants will see the distance your character has traveled between the points. When you do this, you can also see your character’s previous journey by selecting the token and pressing the X button.

A screenshot of the Roll20 movement measurement. The marker was moved while the Q key was held down, and the turning of the movement was obtained by right-clicking the mouse. When the marker is released, it moves to the left in the end box and the path disappears.

Rolling dice on Roll20

There are several ways to roll the dice in Roll20. When you fill out a character form, you can roll dice for a particular skill or attack by directly clicking on it in the form. Some features, such as an attack, records hits and damage separately, so Roll20 allows you to click on the name of the attack, allowing the program to roll the hit and damage directly. Or you can click the attack or damage part separately and it rolls only that.

In the Roll20 view, there is a menu on the left, through which you can also roll the dice. You can simply click on the dice you want to roll or use the advanced roll, where you can enter the specs of the roll in more detail.

rolling dice in roll20 ttrpg
Alternatives to dice throwing; throwing menu and display of throws in chat

Rolling dice in the feature texts and chat

/roll 1d4+5 or /r 1d4 + 5 ➡ show dice roll separately
[[1d4+5]] ➡ shows only the result of the roll and by placing the mouse over it you can see what the result consists of

Secret roll, visible only to the game master

You can also make multiple rolls in a chat in the same message by typing the rolls on different lines using shift+enter:
/roll 1d20 against a giant
/roll 2d10 damage
/roll 1d6 fire damage from a plasma torch

or using [[ ]] characters in the text: attack [[1d20+7]] and damage done if hit [[2d12]]

Within text, such as in the description of a skill or special strike, you can ”roll the dice” using [[ ]] characters. For example, in Starfinder, an operative’s trick attack can be recorded as follows in the additional information for a normal attack: ’Deceive opponent [[1d20+12]], if successful the target is surprised and takes [[2d8]] additional damage’.

Naturally, the dice and bonuses will depend on your character’s skill and only examples of numbers have been used here.

Nice online playing

Remember to keep a good game spirit also in remote games! It’s important especially without a video link when others can’t see your smile. Make it known when it’s you or your character talking and make sure everyone has a chance to play.

Have a great game!