Four brand new sets on the Marketplace so far this week!

Klaus Giesler, Andy Gerding, William McAvoy, and Paul Ooshun are the responsible artists… go check out their sets.

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Data Delve Dev Blog #2: Introducing Character Sheets

Character Sheets have long been one of the most-requested features for us to add to Roll20. Until now we’ve hesitated to add them simply because we didn’t have a vision for how to do them “right.” However, with the new Data Delve update, we went back to the drawing board to see if we could find a way to create a character sheet feature that was easy to use, easy to customize, and truly enhanced the online playing experience, rather than slowing down gameplay more than a paper sheet. Today we’re pleased to show a preview of our work so far. 

Using a Character Sheet

Roll20 has had “character” entries in the journal for quite a while. About a year ago we added functionality for Attributes and Abilities. The intent behind that feature was to allow you to store some of the information about your characters that you frequently use in-game for rolls and the like. However, there were several flaws to this method: there was no way to have a “template” that every character in your game started with; the attributes listing didn’t look like the game’s sheet, which could confuse new players who were used to the paper sheet; and the steps required for editing the attributes to add or remove them wasn’t very straightforward.

The new Roll20 Character Sheets system addresses all of those points. Here’s a preview of it in action (Savage Worlds is just used as an example):

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When creating your campaign, you select a character sheet template to use.  Once you’re in the game, all of the characters in your game automatically have that template set up and ready to go when they are created in your Journal. Sheets look exactly like a paper sheet, including images, different types of fields (checkbox, text, number, drop-down selection, etc.), and a familiar layout. Advanced functionality allows you have repeatable sections (such as a skills list) and attributes that can auto-calculate their values based on other attributes (for example, a Bluff Check mod based on your underlying stat).

In addition to the familiar bevy of attributes that you can include on a sheet, Roll20 Character Sheets can also include built-in rolls. You can put the button for the roll anywhere you want on the sheet, providing a quick-and-easy way to roll a bluff check or an attack directly from the sheet. You can also name these rolls and they are available just like Abilities (so you can use them in your own Macros, Abilities, etc.). This is a powerful system which will allow sheet designers to include everything you need to play a game even if you don’t know anything about how Roll20 Macros or Attributes work. Just open the sheet, fill in the values, and then click the buttons to perform your rolls.

We’ve also gone back and re-thought the UI interaction surrounding sheets. We know that you might frequently want to have several sheets “open” at once for quick access. Now you can double-click the top of the sheet to minimize it. Move it out of the way along the bottom or top of the screen, then when you double-click it again it will re-open exactly where you had it before. You can use this feature to keep several sheets open at once and quickly switch between them, great for fast-paced combat scenarios.

Community Sheet Library

There will be two options for Character Sheets: you can choose from a pre-made community-created library of sheets, or if you can create your own sheet from scratch.

Our guess is that the vast majority of users will just want to use a community sheet, as they will be high-quality, match the “official” sheet for each game system, and allow a level of standardization on the site (if you know how to use the standard Roll20 Pathfinder sheet, you can easily join any Pathfinder game and start playing right away). Our intent is to allow anyone to submit a sheet they’ve created to be used as the community sheet a game system — we hope to have sheets for games ranging from Pathfinder to Lady Blackbird! Once a sheet is accepted into the community library, any Roll20 user can use that sheet in their games. It will also then be open-sourced on Github so that others in the community can contribute toward maintaining and improving it in the future.

If you are a more advanced user who really wants to dig in and customize things, you can do so by using HTML and CSS to build your own sheet from scratch. (Note: Creating a custom sheet from scratch will only be available to Mentor subscribers at launch).

Building a Sheet

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Character sheets in Roll20 are simply HTML and CSS. HTML is used to define the layout of the sheet, including adding fields, setting default values for attributes, and laying out the structure of the sheet. CSS is used to style the sheet, allowing you to match the look of the sheet to that of the game’s motif

There’s a built-in editor that allows you to switch between editing the HTML and CSS of a sheet, as well as providing a preview of what the sheet will look like in-game which is updated in real-time. You can also, of course, edit your sheets in external programs and then paste in the HTML/CSS if that’s your preference.

You can also create attributes which reference other attributes (for example, a “Str Mod” attribute that is “Str / 2”), create roll buttons which provide built-in rolls on the sheet itself, add repeating sections which allow the user to create multiple entries of a section, and more!

There’s even more coming for sheets, including a Sheet Vault which allows you to have a Character attached to your Roll20 account which you can use in multiple games, so stay tuned for future blog posts.

The new Character Sheets are available today on the Dev Server for our Mentor subscribers (not a Mentor? Consider upgrading to support us). Sheets will launch for everyone when the Data Delve update goes live in May.

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While not our best singular day of use, yesterday’s gaming holiday was a great time on Roll20.  

Fun to note: just less than half our gamers were from the United States, with significant numbers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Span, France, Russia, Brazil, South Korea, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland, Belgium, Romania, New Zeland, Japan, and Ireland.  Each one of those countries had more than fifty players on yesterday.

The range of games was also impressive— beyond juggernauts like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, we’re aware of Savage Worlds, Numenera, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Pendragon, and Maid RPG games being available to watch via Twitch streams of Roll20!

All-in-all, even with a small server hiccup midday, it was a fun day for us, and we hope it was for you as well. Hope you’ll swing back by our blog later in the week for new information on Character Sheets as they’ll appear in the impending Data Delve update!

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Today we’ll be the largest gamer gathering on the April 5th celebration known as “Tabletop Day.”  
It’s not yet noon (Central Time), and we already have over 2000 players logged in, playing over 370 different campaigns!
Thanks for choosing to play with us, and expanding the gaming hobby!

Today we’ll be the largest gamer gathering on the April 5th celebration known as “Tabletop Day.”  

It’s not yet noon (Central Time), and we already have over 2000 players logged in, playing over 370 different campaigns!

Thanks for choosing to play with us, and expanding the gaming hobby!

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Roll20 character sheets are coming along nicely… hope you’re getting excited for the Data Delve update!

Roll20 character sheets are coming along nicely… hope you’re getting excited for the Data Delve update!

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Data Delve Dev Blog #1: Introducing QuantumRoll

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In case you missed our announcement email, we’ve named our upcoming Spring Update “Data Delve.” Data Delve will launch in early May and will introduce improved dice rolls, character sheets, and more. We’re previewing the new features on the blog in the weeks leading up to release. Here’s the first post!

Nearly every game that’s played on Roll20 relies heavily on some form of chance. Chance is what allows games to be exciting, non-determined, and different every time they’re played. It also introduces an aspect of “luck” that many players love to take advantage of (or curse, depending on the night).

The element which introduces that chance are dice rolls. Whether you’re rolling a single twenty-sided dice or a whole handful of d6’s, dice allow you to quickly make a decision, determine an outcome, or even create a whole character. One of the largest advantages of a digital tabletop like Roll20 is that it can drastically speed up these rolls. Through saved macros, attributes used as variables, and the quick-adding capability of your computer, you can roll large numbers of dice quickly and easily, instantly seeing the result. 

One of the largest disadvantages, however, and one of the toughest challenges faced by program designers, is making sure that the results of those dice rolls are as random as possible. We’re held to a higher bar than physical dice by far. Nearly all dice will have physical imperfections which cause them to not be perfectly random. However, the physical feeling of holding a dice in your hands and knowing that it’s “your roll,” although probably making rolls *less* random in reality, give players a feeling of ownership and fairness that is hard to replicate in the digital realm.

We’ve tackled this issue before in Roll20, even going so far as to roll trillions of dice through our existing random-number generator to make sure that it was fair and as random as possible. However, at the end of the day we were still using a “pseudo-random number generator” (or PRNG for short), which is what nearly all computer programs use. You can scientifically prove that it appears random, but at the end of the day it’s still just fancy math faking unpredictable results.

We went back to the drawing board and asked ourselves — what can we do to put this issue to rest on Roll20 forever? And we think we’ve found the answer.

Today we’re pleased to introduce QuantumRoll, our new dice engine designed to address any lingering doubts you might have about Roll20’s dice rolls, with a better source of entropy and a real-time look into community-wide roll results.

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A Better Source of Entropy

Computer RNGs all require a source of entropy. The entropy is the lynchpin of the whole system — if it’s really random, then you get random results. If it can be predicted or it’s not really random, then the results you get aren’t really random, either. 

QuantumRoll uses entropy generated by fluctuations in the power of a split beam of light. More details from the scientists who invented this process:

Researchers at the ANU are generating true random numbers from a physical quantum source. We do this by splitting a beam of light into two beams and then measuring the power in each beam.  Because light is quantised, the light intensity in each beam fluctuates about the mean.  Those fluctuations, due ultimately to the quantum vacuum, can be converted into a source of random numbers.

https://photonics.anu.edu.au/qoptics/Research/qrng.php

Suffice it to say, this is as random of a source of information as we know how to make. There is no known way to predict the data generated by this entropy source, which makes it perfect for generating random numbers.

So, we take random data generated by these researchers in real-time, and then we use that to power the RNG which produces the results of our dice rolls on Roll20. This is overkill, to say the least, but you can now rest assured that Roll20 rolls are as random as humanly possible.

See It In Action

In addition to using this new source of randomness, we also wanted to give the community better insight into how the random number generator is actually performing in real-time. So you can see, for example, that when you’re having a bad night, it doesn’t mean the system is broken, because there are other folks who are rolling all those 20’s you wish you were getting. 

Here’s a preview of what this status page will look like:

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It shows you the last 2 hours worth of rolls, plotted. How often each number has been rolled, what the average roll is (should be close to 10.5), and even a little listing of people’s rolls in real-time (although it won’t show you the rolls of anyone you play with to prevent you from seeing a roll you shouldn’t see in-game). 

We’ve rolled out the new QuantumRoll engine on the Dev Server today, so our Mentor subscribers can start testing it with their macros right away and help us spot any issues we might have overlooked. QuantumRoll will be available to everyone when the Data Delve update goes live in May.

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What’s coming next: Roll20 Spring Update

Rugged Reroll, our massive update which was released at the end of 2013, brought Roll20 a whole host of new and improved features. Now that the dust has settled and all most of the bugs have been worked out from all those shiny new things, we’re beginning to ask ourselves: what’s next?

Today we’re pleased to start introducing you to the Roll20 Spring Update (doesn’t have a catchy name just yet). While many of these features are still in the early planning stages and as such we don’t have any fun screenshots to share just yet, we did want to let the community know what we’re working on behind the scenes so you can start getting excited about the first major update for Roll20 in 2014.

Character Sheets

Ah, Character Sheets. If you go back to the very beginning of Roll20, you’ll find the Dev Team saying things like, “We are never going to do Character Sheets.” (Seriously, go listen to an early podcast by us from 2012 — we actually said ridiculous things like this on a regular basis).

Later, we relented and added Character Attributes and Abilities, which we felt were a good compromise between adding quick-reference values to Roll20 (such as hit points and AC), while at the same time not having full-blown character sheets with every piece of info on a character. And while that works well for some games like Dungeon World that don’t have a lot of traits to track, other games like Pathfinder require lots of stats to be used on a regular basis — leading many GMs to put 100’s of Attributes in their Characters, which the system doesn’t really handle so well from an organizational standpoint.

So we’ve finally decided to tackle this problem head-on. In the Spring Update, you can expect to see full-blown character sheets in Roll20. Sheets can have hundreds of fields of data if needed, different types of fields (text boxes, check boxes, radio buttons, etc.), can be styled to change how they look to match the game, and there will be a library of community-created templates to choose from so you can get up and running quickly. We’re also examining the possibility of adding a “Character Vault” which allows you to store characters on your Roll20 account and bring them to multiple games, perfect for those quick pickup games or ongoing society-style gameplay.

We’re still working out all the various nuts-and-bolts to make this function, and as with everything Roll20 we want it to be as easy to use as possible. But we’re well enough underway that we can say for sure “this is coming,” and we’re excited to share more details with you as development continues.

A “More” Random Dice Engine

One of the things that we constantly get asked about is the state of the random-number generator included in Roll20. Folks really, really want to make sure that the dice they roll in their games are fair and accurate. While we’ve done extensive testing on our current RNG, and have proven using “math” that it’s very random, the fact remains that it is still only a PRNG (pseudo-random number generator) — as are the RNGs used in every virtual tabletop, and indeed most computer applications.

We asked ourselves, what can we do to finally put this question to rest? And we think we’ve found the answer. Suffice it to say that it involves light beams and quantum vacuums, and it is a way to generate your dice rolls using a “true” random number generator. 

We’ll have more info on this in a future blog post, and we think you’ll be excited to see the lengths to which we’ve gone to show once and for all that Roll20 dice rolls are as random as they come.

Server Upgrades

Roll20’s growth has been amazing. More than 30,000 new players are joining us every month, and the number of players who play at least one game each month has been growing substantially as well. We’ve been continually working to optimize our software to handle the increased load, but the fact of the matter is that we need to get some better hardware to run the site and handle today’s influx of players — and the future’s as well!

We’re working behind-the-scenes right now to get brand-new server hardware built to specifically handle the needs of the site, and anticipate having that new hardware in place when this new update launches. You’ll experience faster load times and quicker access to the site, especially during peak times such as Friday and Saturday nights.

This is an investment for us as a company that we know will pay dividends for years to come, and we thank our community of subscribers for their support which allows us to provide you with the best experience possible.

Plus More!

These are just a few of the things we’re working on, and there will likely be more. As with Rugged Reroll, we’ll be doing weekly blog posts to highlight the new things we’re building as we build them; in addition, our Mentor subscribers will have the opportunity to use and give feedback on these features on the Dev Server prior to their public release.

More to come next week!

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nolantjones:

Five brand new pages up!

You’re reading our ongoing webcomic, aren’t you?

If you haven’t, start at the beginning!

You can also follow updates on Twitter and Facebook.

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New Update: 02/24/2014 Enriched Mobile Support, Forum Changes, and More…

We’ve pushed a new update live today, with several important adjustments:

There is now improved support for mobile tablets. Two-finger panning, pinging, and other features have been fixed on Android devices. You can also now you can use Chrome on iOS in addition to Mobile Safari.

We’ve also implemented a change to better support large campaigns, allowing Roll20 to be “smarter” about only loading assets when you actually need to see them. This should greatly speed up initial load times the first time a player joins a game.

Additionally there are a few improvements to the rich-text editor used for editing the bio, notes, and other text fields. 

The Community Forums now have a “Flagging” feature, which will help us to faster tackle issues. Previously users were contacting individual moderators, making for a delay if the moderator in question wasn’t actively watching the forums, but this new feature should allow all the moderator team to address problematic posts quickly.

We’ve also archived several boards, including the Off-Topic discussion area. With the rapid growth of Roll20, we find ourselves wanting to focus our time on bettering the program, and this was a simple way to help. There has been an update to the Code of Conduct reflecting this and other related changes— please read it carefully. That said, we wanted the community to be able to have some focused conversation on issues that aren’t directly Roll20 related, so we’ll be having a single weekly discussion topic… check out our first one here!

We’re excited about all of these changes, and excited about our next big feature update since the Rugged Reroll; stay tuned for more soon…

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Recent additions to the Roll20 Marketplace.  Really awesome the diversity we’re seeing from creators!

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