Running Tabletop RPGs Online

Running Tabletop RPGs Online

So, you’ve read our article called Don’t Cancel the Game and decided to take the plunge to maintain and perhaps build your store’s community through online gaming. Venturing into this digital environment may seem a bit daunting, but we are going to give you a quick overview to help you get started.

Get What You Need

If you are running, you will need a computer capable of running the session (Windows or Mac). It is preferable to use a webcam, but you should have a microphone, at the very least, to communicate effectively with your players. There are several different programs you can use. Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, D20Pro, and Astral Tabletop are all viable options. You’ll need to choose which one suits your group best. For the purposes of providing some examples, we will use Roll 20 and Fantasy Grounds to demonstrate examples.

Instead of continuing your existing in-store games online, we recommend starting fresh games for your online play. In fact, gamemasters may want to consider running a series of one-shots to allow players to jump in and out between sessions as needed. Choose what to offer players based on the games that you currently carry, or can carry, so you can assure your players that product will be available after the crisis has passed.

Learning the Ropes

Once you have decided what you are running, schedule these virtual events on your social media a couple weeks out so you have time to work our some of the kinks. Each of these programs will require that you sign up for an account. All of them have a cost associated with their use, though Astral Tabletop is offering their full service for free through the end of April 2020. If running games this way is new to you, you’ll want to team up with a friend to work with you while playtesting the software.


Below we are going to provide a brief overview on getting started with Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds since those are ones your players are most likely to be familiar with. Let’s take a look.


To get started, go the Roll20 homepage, log in, and click on the “Create New Game” button. Once there, you’ll want to name your campaign and put any appropriate tags to help identify the resources used from your library. Choose a character sheet template. There is a form-fillable sheet available for a multitude of different RPGs that you can use for your game. After choosing your sheet, click the confirm button and you are ready to move on.

From the next page, you can add a description, invite players, and set a start time for your first session. After that, you will want to begin by using the Roll20 interface. Click on the “Launch Game” button to take you there.

From this very humble starting point, you can do so much to start shaping your game. You can import graphics (as I did above), and maps, plus character and monster tokens. The quick access buttons on the left allow you to draw on the fly, create spell effects, roll dice, and even institute a fog of war feature. The bar on the top right allows you to access ambiance audio tracks, play sound effects, and chat with players. To learn more, click on the button below.

Fantasy Grounds

Start by going to the Fantasy Grounds homepage and downloading the necessary software. You can start with FG Classic if some of your players already have this or the brand new FG Unity if everyone is starting from scratch. If you are just experimenting, choose “Create Demo Campaign” to learn the features.

Then create a campaign name, a user name (“GM” will suffice), and a password to log into the campaign. Then, choose a ruleset and any extensions you may have purchased. Click on the “Enable Alias” button to generate passwords that your players will use to join your game. Then click the start button to get begin.

From there, you will proceed to the main interface where you will run your session. On the left side, you have a resizable chat box, your dice, and stat modifiers buttons you will use in play.

On the right side task bar, you will find the most prominent buttons that you will use in your game. The very last button, labeled “Library”, will allow you to choose what type of information you will view and what modules (source material) to use. To learn more, click on the button below.

Lastly, keep in mind that both of these options require you to purchase expansions to unlock certain source materials, though there are subscription levels that will allow you to access some materials as part of the package. Try them all and see what works best for you and your players.

Make sure that they know that your store is sponsoring each and every event. In the end, keeping your players active in the community is your primary goal for this endeavor. To encourage sales, consider offering a discount on any related gamebooks purchased by players via curbside service/delivery or once you reopen.