How Roll20 Can Overtake DnD Beyond

Roll20 logo on DnD background

With other online TTRPG services looking to take D&D Beyond’s place in light of the OGL controversy, Roll20 needs to improve to stay on top.

Online TTRPG platforms have seen huge growth in popularity over the last few years. Among the most popular of these platforms, Roll20 has been able to keep a dominant position in the market due to a lack of well-developed competition. However, with Wizards of the Coast pushing D&D Beyond as the best way to play Dungeons & Dragons over the internet, Roll20 is going to need to make some improvements to stay at the forefront of online tabletop gaming.

With the options for online TTRPG play expanding, Roll20 needs to work on a few key problems. The platform is lacking when it comes to ease of use, simple automation of in-game events, and support and exposure for non-D&D products. With Wizards of the Coast lending first-party support to D&D Beyond, players can expect a smooth integration of mainline products. The glitches and convoluted interfaces long associated with Roll20 need to be quickly addressed. Further, a better automation system should be in place, allowing players and GMs to simplify many in-game calculations. Lastly, Roll20 should aim to be the premier location for non-D&D games that Wizard’s platform currently has no support for.

Related: 5 RPG Systems to Try While Waiting for One D&D

Roll20 Needs To Improve Ease of Use

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Roll20 Screenshot of a dnd dungeon.

One of the biggest barriers to entry on Roll20 is its ease of use. The system basically provides the GM and party with a blank screen and several tools to interact with the map and game events. The documentation on how to use each of these tools is limited, and some of them (especially dynamic lighting) still do not seem to work as intended. Roll20 supports many different modules for players to import, but moving assets into the game that were not specifically designed for it is a hassle, and arranging maps the way the GM intends is more difficult than it should be after years of public use.

D&D Beyond is far more user-friendly and has very simple importing of D&D products. Obviously, Wizards controlling D&D Beyond gives it some benefits that other platforms will not be able to provide, but there are still many places for Roll20 to improve. While Roll20 may not be able to totally emulate the in-house features of D&D Beyond, it certainly can learn from the simple drop-downs and tables the system uses for many of its functions.

Automation Should Be Simpler

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>D&D Character Sheets Dice Figures DM

Another aspect of Roll20 that can improve is automation. For parties that are less tech-savvy, there should be a simplified system to have players and enemies gain or lose hit points, spell slots, items, etc. on use automatically. Although it is possible to program macros into Roll20, this process is too difficult for many players and should be an option for groups looking for more advanced options. Basic combat interactions should not require extra knowledge for the average GM or player to automate. The platform could easily have settings for what to turn on and off depending on how much players want the pure pen-and-paper experience and the ability to control every detail.

Related: How to Run a Dungeons & Dragons Campaign for Children

Roll20 Should Highlight Other Games

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Cover art for a book of 13th Age RPG

Finally, the place Roll20 can really excel over D&D Beyond is in support of other systems. Especially with fans being upset at Wizards of the Coast’s recent handling of the OGL, there is a lot of desire for non-D&D options. Roll20 has many other games available, but they should be pushed to the forefront, and the average player should be far more aware of their availability. Roll20 could really take a lesson from promotions like Steam sales and create a storefront packed with available modules and content.

Roll20 could become a great place for independent developers to push out smaller projects and major companies like Paizo to show off their latest games like Pathfinder or other products built on their licenses. D&D Beyond will probably stay as the premier place to play D&D campaigns online, but the plethora of other games on the market give Roll20 tons of content it can promote.

Roll20 has done some things right and has massively benefited from being the first “complete” online TTRPG tool to market. However, as competition heats up, the platform needs to adapt and not rest on its laurels going forward. Improvements to ease of use, automation, and availability of other game systems would go a long way to helping Roll20 remain the first choice of groups looking to bring their TTRPG experience online.


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