DM's Deep Dive with James Introcaso on Roll20

by Mike Shea on 2 October 2017

In another episode of the DM's Deep Dive, I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to my friend and co-creator of the Don't Split the Podcast network, James Introcaso about running games on Roll20.

James has over 2,100 hours logged into Roll20 and has written and developed numerous modules for the platform including Storm King's Thunder.

Like other episodes of the DM's Deep Dive, you can listen to the podcast or watch it in Youtube. The video is also embedded below.

Here is a summary of the questions and answers we discussed during the show.

James's top three (four) tips for running great games on Roll20.

How can we keep peoples' attention on the game?

It's hard. Ramp up your engagement of the players. Make sure players have the gameplay types and scenes that interest them. Take the time to know what drives them and ensure you're engaging them as often as you can. Combat scenes will often give people time to get distracted so ensure there are important scenes.

Give players jobs like notetaking so they have something in-game to do even when its not their turn.

Make something big needs to happen every fifteen minutes.

What is the ideal number of players for VTTs?

Four to five is good.

How can a lazy dungeon master make the most out of Roll20?

One can do theater of the mind on a VTT. We don't need to use the fancy battle maps or other features just because they're there.

Each time you play, try to imcorporate one new thing.

Look at Phandelver for a model of how to run an adventure.

Where do people get stuck when running Roll20 games?

Trying to do too much. Getting bogged down in the technology. For the record, the random seed for Roll20 is well studied. It's probably more accurate than physical dice.

The technology can be hard at first. Take the time to figure it out.

People sign up for games and don't show up. That's a tough problem. Keep going and you'll be ok.

Will Jones doesn't use the grid. He runs fully theater of the mind.

How can somebody use D&D Beyond with Roll20?

If monsters are part of the SRD, people will have the monsters in Roll20 for free. Otherwise, a DM can look things up in D&D Beyond and describe them in Roll20. There might be some integration in the future.

It might be worth buying the Monster Manual in Roll20 just to have all of the monsters, stat blocks, and tokens to use in Roll20.

What are your thoughts on pay to play?

Nice work if you can get it! Nothing wrong with it if people are willing to pay. It's a lot of work to prep a game. It might help ensure people actually show up. We already pay for games at game conventions.

How necessary are good quality mics and cameras?

Any decent mic and camera are fine. Built-in cameras are fine. Anything good enough to play games with your friends.

What is the most diverse party location-wise we've seen in Roll20?

Roll20con had people all over the world.

What's more important: setting the scene with details or running NPCs?

I argue NPCs because, according to 158 responses to a Facebook poll on the three pillars, 60% of respondents preferred NPC interaction to the other two pillars. James agreed.

Do you feel like you have less control over people in a VTT? People throwing dice or moving tokens or drawing dicks on the table.

There has to be shared respect between DMs and players. "Don't be a dick and don't draw dicks."

You can move players to their own screen where they can draw dicks all by themselves.

Thanks to James Introcaso and Alex Basso for their help with the show.

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