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D&D on your tablet and in your browser, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master

Bring your party together and play, wherever they are

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Roll20, one of the most popular virtual tabletop solutions, will now offer officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons content from Wizards of the Coast. The browser-based software includes both video and voice chat, and even integrates with Google Hangouts. A version will also be available for iOS and Android tablets.

"While Roll20 was designed to play nearly any tabletop game, the spark that pushed us to start the product was Dungeons & Dragons," said Roll20 co-founder Riley Dutton, "Our very name, ‘Roll20’ comes from the concept of a ‘critical hit’ as popularized by D&D. For us, D&D represents an evergreen part of our gaming lives, and to be officially working with its creators and caretakers certainly feels like we’ve made a winning roll."

Originally funded through Kickstarter, Roll20 has experienced incredible growth over the past few years and recently ticked over 1.6 million users. The secret is the ease with which people can join a game. Game masters just send out a web link, and one click later players are looking at a map and ready to roll for initiative.

"This is the simplest way to bring an online group together," the website reads. "You spend more time playing, and less time swearing at firewalls."

The first D&D module available on Roll20 will be Lost Mine of Phandelver, the same module that launched the fifth edition of D&D with the most recent Starter Set. For $19.99 it will include all of the content needed to run the game, including pre-generated character sheets, maps and player tokens. Roll20 says that other licensed content will follow, including the latest D&D adventure module Storm King’s Thunder in September.

"We’re always looking to broaden access to Dungeons & Dragons, and Roll20 already plays a significant part of that expansion," said Greg Tito, communications manager at Wizards of the Coast. "We are excited to see what the future brings."

We spent some time reacquainting ourselves with the Roll20 platform over the last few days. It’s grown so much from its launch a few years ago, both in terms of features and stability. With the addition of these pre-made, officially licensed D&D modules it’s hard to think of a better solution for getting people together and playing traditional RPGs online.

Access to the system is free, with memberships for enhanced features starting at $4.99 a month. There will be a fee for licensed D&D content.

Roll20 is a surprisingly modern solution with plenty of bells and whistles. For instance, video and voice chat are standard. They’re also fully integrated into the system. It’s not a bolted-on solution, or a series of programs requiring multiple screens to make sense of. You, your virtual miniatures on the table and the real-time video feed of the people you’re playing with are all contained inside the browser window.

Parties even have the choice of Roll20’s own integrated video solution or Google Hangouts.

This isn’t the first time that Wizards of the Coast has licensed its content to a virtual tabletop. Just last year it made a splash when it brought D&D to the Steam storefront with the venerable Fantasy Grounds system. But in our opinion the Roll20 solution is a few steps ahead.

One of the latest additions to the platform is a lighter version of the client designed for in-person play on a tablet. Available for free on the iOS and Android app stores, they give game masters powerful tools for organizing their campaign and taking it on the road.

D&D is currently experiencing a growth spurt of its own thanks in no small part to the proliferation of Twitch and YouTube streaming. It’s something we’ll be chatting with their team about at this year’s Gen Con in Indianapolis. Polygon’s coverage begins next week.

For more on tabletop games, see our dedicated section here.

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