Tavern - June '15: the State of Rolz


June '15: the State of Rolz

udo · May 19th 10:20 by udo · 29

Development Push

A few days ago I realized that I'm not sure how old actually is, because the site started way before I got around to registering a domain name. At first, it was little more than one rudimentary page with an input field where you could roll dice for yourself. Over time, people requested features, and I built them. Slowly. This year I made a conscious decision to really drive development forward to see what Rolz can be if properly taken care of.

Anonymous vs. Authenticated Users

Rolz is fundamentally different from many play-by-wire roleplaying tools sites in that it offers a lot of functionality for anonymous users. You don't have to sign up for anything in order to play here, and I believe this has been a huge factor in our growth. Signups introduce friction. It's easier than ever before to just proclaim "let's play something on rolz!" to a couple of friends and just get started within seconds. However, two big new features, namely the Tavern and the Wiki can only be posted to with authenticated user accounts. I hope this is OK with my users so far, and I made sure the signup procedure is the easiest one you'll ever encounter on the internet. You don't even need an email address or anything. Just choose a nickname and a password - you're done.

Under Construction

Rolz is and remains a work in progress. I'm pushing updates live as soon as I think they have a chance of working, with only minimal testing. While there has been some occasional breakage, I recognize the most jarring aspect for users is the ever-changing terrain and distrust of new features. In fact, my basic analytics suggest that only new users are really using new features. I want to change that dynamic in the future. I would like to encourage everybody to test things, and if they don't work, maybe let me know and check back later.

Virtual Tabletop?

The Rolz Dice Rooms were designed to be used by circles of friends playing pen&paper roleplaying games together, to give them a tool for coordination and communication. However, the reality is only about 30% of Rolz users fit that profile from what I can tell, with over 50% being forum players. I introduced some features to make life easier for forum play, such as the bookmarklet (in lieu of cooking up forum plugins and begging admins to install them). As such, I expect our forum audience to grow.

But I want to try another run at making pen&paper roleplayers more at home here, too. Since we now have per-dice-room forums and wiki pages, I hope that groups will discover they can use Rolz to document their campaign as well, and GMs can use these features for handouts, too.

Press and blogs call this use case the "virtual tabletop", and historically Rolz wasn't in that category since we never had, well, an actual virtual tabletop. This is going to change soon, as I'm working on a tactical map module for Dice Rooms. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this will be the killer feature that convinces tabletop players to stay here.

Road Ahead

When Rolz started as a simple dice roller, even before it had an actual name, the abysmal WotC dice roller site was the apex of the competition. Over the years, this has changed dramatically. The space has become crowded. There are lots of sites and apps doing what we do now, and some of them are obviously pretty good. There is no way a hobby site like Rolz could compete feature-wise with a fully funded startup that has an actual team of programmers, and a marketing department. Nevertheless, I'll continue my push to make it as useful a tool as I can, without losing sight of what made the site special and different.

If You Like Rolz: Help Out

There are many things you can do to help Rolz. First, go out and advertise, tell your friends. If you find something that isn't working correctly, or if you have ideas on how to make Rolz better, let me know - either privately via email or publicly on this forum. If you have a dollar or more money to spare, donate something to offset the site's server costs. If you are a website or forum admin, consider adding Rolz to your link list. But the most important thing you can do is: use Rolz and engage. Let me know when I'm screwing up, or when you see things are going alright for that matter. Engage with the public forum. This site has been anonymous and compartmentalized for so long, and now we have lots of users and no overall community. Help me change that.

Alright, that's it for now :) Happy rolling!

1 · by Blimey · 01. Jun 2015 11:35

Looking forward to that map!

1 · by RR · 01. Jun 2015 19:43 · changed: 01. Jun 2015 19:51

gonna have to be honest here: i don't think anyone cares anymore. you have changed so fucking much about this place it's hardly recognizable anymore.

the fact that i found this forum article buried deep within the site is pretty much a miracle.

and the features that do stand out are, frankly, not very useful. i know this may be hard to here with all the work you guys put in and all, but since you started "upgrading" rolz pretty much sucks. i tried to play here with my group a few days ago and after a few minutes we were all like 'screw this, let's go to roll20'. stop making "improvements", please. in fact, just roll everything back to where it was a few months ago. sorry.

1 · by udo · 01. Jun 2015 23:45

Well, thank you for your feedback, but unfortunately your post contains little actionable information. If you just want to vent a bit that's fine, and I knew some friction was to be expected when I started this. However, if you want me to change things I need more info than "XYZ sucks", I need to know why you think it sucks.

1 · by WizHat · 02. Jun 2015 00:55

Navigating the changes can be tough. The worst part for me is you never know if you can rely on a given feature. And things are hard to find because you keep moving them around. Rolz used to be a very simple site, now I feel like Im staring at a mountain of features that I don't know how to use. But I'd say: keep at it, because there is no question about the site improving in general. It certainly looks more professional now. There is the danger of improving it to death though.

1 · by RR · 02. Jun 2015 01:39

first of all nobody cares about a fucking dice roller but at least rollz was simple and easy to use then the next thing i don't know what the fck happened your changing everything so it's all crappy now seriously you guys should just give back what remains of your funding to the investors who were stupid enough to fund you and call it a day its a bloody disaster nothing works anymore and you keep screwing with it like inept children

3 · by udo · 02. Jun 2015 12:55 · changed: 02. Jun 2015 13:04

Thanks for you feedback WizHat, I don't think we're at a critical point yet though.

As for RR, while I do appreciate you're upset, you have crossed into straight-up trolling now which isn't a very productive use of your time or mine. And by the way, this isn't a company. There are no investors or anything like that. It's just me doing it for fun.

1 · by Supermegaultradarknessdracolich · 02. Jun 2015 23:13

I think a map would be great. My group uses a completely different system for a map, and it's kind of a pain to go back and forth between them.

1 · by EtchedSteel · 02. Jun 2015 23:27 · changed: 02. Jun 2015 23:52

What I like of the new dice room is the fact it acts like a Skype with an implemented dice mod (this is a compliment, by the way). Changes are always hard to adjust, but eventually one learns to make things work. Worst come to worst, and until one learns using the new functions, the legacy rooms are always there.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to the tactical map module, by the by. In the other hand, udo, is there a difference between posting a note and posting a private thread on a diceroom's library? Glad to know you keep improving the site, and hope what's coming will draw more people to rolz.

1 · by Sobekan · 02. Jun 2015 23:48 · changed: 03. Jun 2015 00:21

I may be fairly new to this site and I don't know what it was like before but this is still by far one of the easiest and most useful sites that I have stumbled across. Roll20 is way more confusing to use and has features that can be difficult to understand. Not only this but it limits users unless they pay.

Udo is working on this alone and you aren't helping to make things right. Instead you are spouting useless s that is likely to stop Rolz altogether. I personally love the new wiki feature, as new as it is. I find everything easy to understand and hope to utilise this site in future to its maximum capacity. Granted, navigation around the site isn't the best; but instead of saying 'it's all crappy now' let Udo know what's wrong!

2 · by udo · 04. Jun 2015 17:53

Thanks everybody for your input, I really appreciate all your opinions.

@EtchedSteel: the notes are private to your account, nobody else can see them (I made this feature before the wikis, it would probably have been better to do a private notes section as a wiki) - whereas the diceroom libraries are visible to everyone within the dice room.

@Sobekan: I know, navigation needs to improve in a big way. What do you think is particularly hard to find? Or is it just getting around in general?

1 · by Fadedlikethelilac · 06. Jun 2015 07:41

I only just found this site, and not sure if it means much, but I just wanted to say that it looks awesome.

1 · by Sobekan · 15. Jun 2015 19:33

Just getting around in general.

1 · by Zooboss · 17. Jun 2015 02:14

Hey Udo, do you think you could add the supported colors to the Help Text where you mention the /color code or the text formatting section?

Or is it somewhere else I just can't find? I'm currently using the News update to get the list of supported colors, but a list in the help section would help a lot.


1 · by udo · 17. Jun 2015 02:15

Woops, you're right, at one point they were in the help text but now they're not. I'm making a help wiki entry on it right now!

1 · by paroikos · 24. Jun 2015 04:54 · changed: 24. Jun 2015 05:16

I prefer the ease of access, simple layout, and pure utility of this site so much that I'd rather use it and play mapless than use an online map program. If you were to implement even a rudimentary mapping program into it then that would be the stuff. Just knowing you're working on it, I will probably donate soon.

EDIT: An option in the forums to set up an automated response to your email whenever someone responds to a post or in a topic you start would be excellent.

1 · by adam80027 · 20. Jul 2015 21:18

I started using this site a few days ago, and it's been working great for my purposes. My players are mostly new to tabletop roleplaying in general, live in disparate locations, and don't have a whole lot of time to dedicate to playing. The fact that there is so LITTLE overhead in getting a session started is fantastic. I love having easy commands in chat. I love using the wiki to keep track of character sheets, game data, and the ongoing story of the campaign. Some rudimentary mapping might be fun and useful to us, but it isn't a priority. We do fine without explicit spatial information during play. I understand that isn't the case for all players, GMs, or campaigns though, so I think developing the mapping tools is still a good idea. Character pages which are local to, say, a registered username + a particular dice room would be pretty helpful, but it's nothing that can't be done by hand in the current wiki.

I will definitely be donating in the near future to fund this project. I hope it doesn't go away any time soon, because I will be using it a lot.

2 · by udo · 20. Jul 2015 21:39

Character pages which are local to, say, a registered username + a particular dice room would be pretty helpful, but it's nothing that can't be done by hand in the current wiki.

You mean such that they are private to that user? Yeah, I can see how that might be useful. Until we have that, you could use the "My Notes" section in the private forum.

I will definitely be donating in the near future to fund this project.

Thank you very much, it's appreciated!

I hope it doesn't go away any time soon, because I will be using it a lot.

It's been here for about a decade or so, it's probably not going anywhere ;)

2 · by Idalgos · 22. Jul 2015 19:57

Tactical map would be amazing, then I could use only rolz in my d&d games without jumping on other sites (currently I am using twiddle for maps)

2 · by SteveS · 04. Aug 2015 01:22

The Empire In Arms group I play with have been using your site for several months off and on. I find your site easy to use and complete with sufficient features to meet our needs. Of specific value is the notion of an individual room that our group can use without bumping into others using the site. Good job, keep up the good work. Thanks!

1 · by CowFlare · 13. Aug 2015 10:49

I can't in any memory recall myself bothering to add my feedback - in an area that can be heard by a developer - to a project or game of any kind; however, I just discovered this website a few days ago, and since that time with myself exploring the site's features, immediately jumping into a fun ongoing session with friends I invited to check it out, and finally reading this post, my opinion - for whatever you or anyone considers it's worth - is this:

I've seen a lot of projects that emulate what you're going for, and although what you - Udo - mentioned that other projects may indeed have more features for various reasons (the greatest of which no doubt being manpower), I've yet to get such as great feeling of simplicity mixed with such practicality.

Your website is organized and presented in a very excellent fashion. Is it perfect? Who the heck can say? But it's damn well done. I've no idea what the site was like in earlier versions, but frankly your openness to ask for people's ideas to fuel the site's growth - although still useful - seems more an act of humbleness to me, then any degree of practicality, because I've no doubt - based on your structuring and subsequent wording used to explain the features of the sight - that what you come up with yourself will be more than enough to give this website promise and a great future.

Ahem, well, that's enough of that. I've no actual constructive comments to add, just praise. Good luck!

1 · by TellerianHawke · 25. Aug 2015 20:53

One thing that confused me when I first got here was the difference between authenticated dice rooms and non-authenticated ones. I thought the authenticated ones needed a password supplied by the DM/GM, so I made one without authentication. Then when I discovered my error, I found that although my un-authenticated room still existed, there was no easy way to copy the log over to the authenticated dice room. Could you add a "copy log" feature for that purpose?

1 · by udo · 25. Aug 2015 20:55 · changed: 25. Aug 2015 20:58

There is no such thing as an authenticated dice room. All rooms are un-authenticated. There is an option for room owners to disallow unnamed users from joining, but you can turn that on and off.

To put it another way: The room name is also the password.

1 · by kiefferm · 27. Aug 2015 23:01

I would really really like to suggest some type of video support. Or if there could be a ROLZ plugin for Google Hangouts. That would be absolutely incredible.

1 · by udo · 27. Aug 2015 23:47 · changed: 28. Aug 2015 00:02

Rolz will never have a built-in audio or video chat for the simple reason that I can't afford the data volume on top of what the server already costs, plus there are whole companies whose only product is a video chat, I can't compete with that feature-wise. So we're really only talking about Hangouts integration, realistically.

The question is what you're trying to achieve.

  1. If it's just about having audio and video, you could open hangouts in another window and be done.
  2. If you're looking to supplant the rolz chat with the Hangouts chat, this is going to be very tricky - potentially this would mean having a third (incompatible) kind of dice room that only works for hangout users.
  3. Rolz could have a Hangouts "plugin" where you basically see the website in the middle of your Hangouts screen, but I'm not sure this would be what you want... or is it really that simple? I can already imagine the support calls coming in because people are confused whether to chat with rolz or hangouts..
  4. A rolz dice roller bot that people can invite to hangouts. It would have nothing to do with "Rolz the Site", its only job would be to parse dice codes. Is that what you're looking for?
1 · by steinkel · 08. Jan 2016 09:07

Just wanted to say thank you for your hard work, as a developer and rpg'er I understand a nice work done with love and lots of free time invested in it. Udo I went to your profile but seems like your personal page is down (just checking if we could hire you actually :)

And this is for the ones who don't like changes: praise work done, donate, suggest specific features.

Thank you!

1 · by ismilealot · 13. Jan 2016 16:23 · changed: 13. Jan 2016 16:38

My 2 c.p. Keep up the truly outstanding work Udo. The fact that the core function of die roller is still allowed by anonymous users speaks to your commitment of doing this as a labor of love for the fans. It's far to easy to force people to give a bit of personal info and use it for advertising and sell it for advertising. Having people sign up to post in the forums and edit in the dice rooms is pure practicality as it helps limit a bit of trolling by anonymous users. Yes, I've used the site several years now. Yes, I'm having to learn new features and layout fairly regularly now. (Still haven't quite got the hang of posting a Dropbox link in the wiki, but, I'm working on it.) But, far more functionality has been gained for the low price of looking around and learning how to use it.

I'm about to start running a PbP using the Dice Rooms. In my opinion this is a fairly decent medium for PbP. The wiki means I can make notes regarding the storyline without having to go to a second site, or store them in a document and then file share. The chat means players can discuss options with each other easily prior to a post. The chat log means we can leave a message that the other players can see when they come online, and all of this can be done within the site. I already run a PbP on an official RPG forum and I have to use three different sites to do that, of which Rolz is the die roller.

Yes, we do need the ability to make secret notes and we need the ability to leave PM's for other players once they come on. Yes, I would love the ability to drag & drop images to use as maps. But, having played on a VTT for over four years now I know just how much I abuse that feature and I can tell you to charge for it. If I have tiles I build large, complex, hundred plus tile maps and then expect to be able to have 20+ of those beasts on a single table. (Please don't let me do that. Make it a drag and drop image function. It'll help me stay sane by not having to make maps lol.) (Talk to Megaton Games. He makes maps for use on VTT's. And like yourself he's an individual programmer that just loves the game. More than that, he makes maps cheaply!)

Yes, as you add features you are at some point going to have to charge for this as the servers will just get to be much to expensive to maintain. And quite frankly you shouldn't have to maintain any of the costs, it's why I donate, because a good tool is worth paying for. And this is a good tool. And yes, I expect to pay for mapping features. I belong to four other VTT's and I've subbed or bought all four of them for features that are so complex that I have to watch the tutorials and aside from mapping they don't add any more core functionality than this site does far more simply.

Hmmmm, I didn't add anything that was any more useful than RR's post. :/ So, in the interests of genuine helpfulness I'll volunteer to give feedback and make a video tutorial of how to use the features RR finds to complex. My friends can tell you I don't use VTT's, I break VTT's. But, I'm willing to tell you it's broken and give you the info you need to try and figure out how to fix it, instead of stomping off mad. (But, you will have to walk me through the process of giving you what you need as I really am fairly computer illiterate and have no clue how to use a /cmd function. Fair warning.)

1 · by ismilealot · 14. Jan 2016 19:05 · changed: 14. Jan 2016 19:08

And I find how to make private notes! Do please make the sections you currently have titled Well Met and DIce Rooms side-by-side. (Just so that I don't have to scroll down. My bifocals tend to make me seasick when I'm playing PC games and so I don't wear them, and that means I have the print on normal pages set so large I need to scroll down.)

1 · by DavidStar · May 17th 22:40 · changed: May 17th 22:42

Hey udo,

I have used your site for almost a year and based the entire game that my friends and I are making around this sites rolling features. I use google sheets to make maps.

Set row and column height to 30

Make a cooler code

Play. Something simple.

I personally think that this site has great potential and is almost perfect as is. I always believe in making improvements and saving the code of the previous Version in case something is a flunk.


Search bar - People are right it's hard to find things, You have to dig. I mean one that is on the header or under it at least.

The more section - The tavern and Dice room links are in two places.

Shortcuts - Can we have nine in total, That would be nice.

Description Pages - Ah so the description that people write isn't covering the entire box. and tends to flow off the page.

How I use Rolz:

My friends and I use this site to roll for loot and Damage.

We also use it for Running, Dodging, Cooking and everything else.

This site is the best because of the variety of codes. I have a setup with all the rules of dice codes and witch ways to use them in a game. All of our roles are based off of a 1d1000.

I am be willing to help with anything you may ever need. EVER. I love rolz it's made dice rolling so much easier than any other site.

Also, HI ismilealot. Nice to hear from you again. lol

1 · by udo · May 19th 10:20

Hey everybody, sorry I was so busy at work that I didn't show up here for a while. Glad the site didn't explode ;)

I'm going to start adding features again soon, which is long overdue (again, sorry)

I love your suggestions - for now I've added them all to a big file and I'm going to revisit every single one as I plan what to do next.

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