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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