Roll20 Optimal Series – Scene setup

Second in a series.

Assuming you don’t want to use a tactical grid with 5′ squares or similar, you still likely want some graphical representation of your scenes. About two-thirds of the population consider themselves “visual learners”, and an even larger majority at least appreciate having visual media available. Of course, I recommend using this in conjunction with your own description and storytelling techniques to create a shared understanding of the space in which your narrative occurs.

I know of two basic ways to do this. The first and most obvious involves having a different page for each scene; the second is with multi-sided tokens. This post will cover both.

Page per scene

For each scene, you’ll need to create a new page. Click on the Page Toolbar in the upper right, near the toolbox.

Hit “Create New Page” in the upper left. A new page called “Untitled” will appear; you can then click on the word “Untitled” and rename it to something meaningful. I chose “Moorland” for this example. Then click on the gear next to that page and change the Background color to black.

Using the zoom slider in the upper left (right next to the icon for the Page Toolbar), zoom out until you can see the whole page. Now select the “Maps and Background” layer on the left of your screen, or hit “L-M” if you enabled advanced keyboard shortcuts in the game settings.

Find the image you want to represent your background, then drag & drop it onto the web browser. You can then resize it to give it a “theater-style” look.

Art: “Moorland Haunt” by James Paick. (c) 2011 Wizards of the Coast

If you’ll be using character tokens of any sort, be sure to drop them back on the “Objects & Tokens” layer, or maybe the “GM Info Overlay” if you want them to stay hidden until the time is right.

You can repeat this process with new pages for each scene. During the game, you just go to the Page Toolbar and drag the “Players” ribbon to whichever page you want to use at a given time.

They will see blackness for a moment while their browser renders, and they may need to zoom in or out again. Additionally, you’ll need to copy over any tokens you want to use in both scenes. But it’s simple and straightforward, for sure!

Scene token

This technique takes a little more fiddling; if you have a Pro subscription, you can simplify things a little bit with a script, but the basic concept is using multi-sided tokens to shift between scenes on a particular page.

Collect several background images to represent your various scenes. Try to get them at more or less the same aspect ratio, since they will take up the same space on the screen and you don’t want any of them to look skewed vertically or horizontally. Note, they don’t actually have to be the same size, since Roll20 will helpfully resize them for us.

Once you have them together, go to the Collection tool in the upper right toolbar. We will be using the Rollable Tables, so click on that “+ Add” button next to that heading. You will immediately see an entry called “new-table” and some buttons next to it. Click on the name of the table. It will pull up a dialog box where you can rename this to something more meaningful, like “Scenes”.

Within the Table Items, let’s add our first scene by clicking the “+ Add Item” button. Set the name and upload your image. (If you’ve already uploaded one, you can go to your Art Library in the upper right toolbar and drag it from there!) Save your changes on this item and repeat for your additional scenes.

When you’re done, you will have a table with each element corresponding to a scene. Be sure to save your changes at the bottom.

Now, back on the Page Settings for your page, make sure the background is set to black and you are on the Map Layer, just as in the prior method. In the Collections tool, next to your (renamed) table, click on the”Token” button.

This will put a small version of your scene token on the page. You can grab it, then move and resize as appropriate. But what about the other scenes? Right click on the token, then choose “Multi-Sided” and “Choose Side”.

You’ll see a slider you can move to choose from the options you included!

The token will flip to the new scene and do so in a flash for your players!

” Orzhov Basilica” by John Avon. (c) 2018 Wizards of the Coast

You can do this on the fly during the game as needed. As I said at the beginning, if you have a Pro subscription then you can have API scripts change this with buttons, but personally I find this sufficient for my needs so far.

Notice how I left some empty space below the scene? That wasn’t accidental. You can use this space during fights to provide at least a little bit of positioning even if we’re not using a grid. In the next tutorial, I’ll talk about token basics.

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