The Alphastream Game Design Blog
The folks at Roll20 provided me with a complimentary copy of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, the latest release by Wizards of the Coast. This was an opportunity for me to look closely at how Roll20 integrates books. As you may know, Roll20 is a Virtual Table Top (VTT), allowing you to play games online on its platform. It is likely the most popular VTT – certainly so for DMs of the Virtual Tabletop Weekends organized by WotC and Baldman Games. Roll20 also integrates books, so that you can look up the rules either in their compendium or while you play. Let’s take a look!
First, I was impressed by how the product ($49.95) is organized. It is broken up into the compendium, the adventure in the book (and all of the parts needed for the adventure), and the art assets (actual art and items like tokens and handouts). When you buy the product it is explained thoroughly, letting you know in multiple ways what you have and how to go about using it.
I found the information provided by Roll20 helpful at all stages of using this product. There are numerous links to additional information, and even if this is your very first purchase on Roll20, it should be relatively easy to use. You can follow this link if you want an example of their help documentation. Roll20 does a nice job of using all kinds of RPGs in its examples, not just D&D, which I appreciate. Play all the games!
Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft includes an adventure, The House of Lament, which is meant to introduce us to the various Domains of Dread. Roll20 provides everything we need to play that adventure, and this actually is a great purchase to run your own Ravenloft adventures.
To see what we get, we start a new game. We see it as one of the module options over to the right, so we select it. This uses the “module” as we first create the game.
Once we name our game and launch it, we see a landing page with the cover art. Roll20 has a page menu, and if we bring that down it looks like the image below, showing us all the pages. Pages can be shared with your players and can accept tokens. You can also display handouts over them. As you can see, we get a variety here.
We have a page collecting all of our tokens, which is handy so we can see all our monster options. We have the “Seance” board, the maps for the adventure, and then a map page for each of the Domains.
Looking at the Token page shows that this comes with a ton of tokens. If you are new to Roll20, this is a nice amount of tokens to start with (though, of course, leaning heavily towards undead/horror). There are also PC/NPC tokens.
The above is just a fraction of all the monsters. There are a ton of tokens. And, yes, you can unleash the Kraken!
The Seance page is really cool. It features the Spirit Board, the Ravenloft version of a ouija board. You and your players can move the planchette around!
We have the maps for the adventure, which come fully prepared and ready to run. The art is the same one included in the book (which is the black-and-white style map), but we also have the layers utilized so as DM we see the monster but our players don’t see it until we move it up to the token layer that players can see. It’s really cool to have all the monsters ready to go! So as to not spoil anything, I’m just showing a tiny example of a hidden monster on the DM layer.
We also get maps of the various Domains, as they appear in the book! This is a terrific resource for any Ravenloft DMs. The quality is excellent and you can zoom in nicely.
As part of the adventure, we get all the tokens and assets for it, set up on our DM menu. This includes all of the adventure text.
There are great explanations throughout. For example, there are rollable tokens. These are double-sided tokens that can represent an NPC on one side, but then we can flip it over to reveal the werewolf side. This is explained very well so we know how to use it.
Finally, we get all of the book accessible both in the VTT and through the Compendium interface, which lets us read the book digitally. Everything is searchable and linked. If the text refers to an NPC or monster, it’s hyperlinked. If it mentions a rule, that’s hyperlinked too.
I found it all very legible and useful. The compendium did what I wanted to do, and the art looked fantastic.
I was really impressed. Especially for a book that includes an adventure, this is an excellent product. The many tokens, Domain maps, art handouts, adventure setup… this is a really good offering. Recommended.