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Cindy Crushes Programming: 10 Tips for Using Roll20, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Our resident programming expert Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts has recently started using Roll20 for her teen programming, and she has some tips and tricks to share with us today.

Now that we are running virtual D and D with Roll20 we have learned a few things about the interface. There are a lot of great things about Roll20 and some not so great things.

Roll20 Crash Course Available Here
  1. Practice using it before you have your patrons present. You are the librarian. You want to be prepared to answer the teens’ questions and be able to troubleshoot issues. We ran a practice session, before we had a session with the patrons.
  2. Make sure your audio works on the computer you will be using. This is so important because you are leading the game and if the players can not hear you that is an issue.
  3. Try to make it more accessible to players with disabilities: One thing we are doing I GM,  but the other teen librarian writes down what happens in the chat. This creates a record and helps teens, who have issues focusing keep track of what is going on. If we have a hearing impaired patron, it also allows them to play.
  4. Run the program in a place where you can not get interrupted: This happened to me last week.  I was running the session in my office with my door closed and someone tried to get in. It made it hard to stay GMing at the time.
  5. Check the email address of your patrons, before you send them an invite through Roll20. This can cause a lot of issues. You are going to be inviting the teens to your game and you want to make sure you have the correct information.
  6. Music: You can play music through Roll20. We found that we do not use music. It can slow the software down. If anything, we use music on our phones and play it in the background.
  7. Email your teens a lot of reminders: Teens will forget a lot. I try to email them the link to the game at least twice the week we play. Be ready to help troubleshoot the software.
  8. Always check to make sure the date of the next session is correct: This software is not great when using the calendar function. You have to double check to make sure it is correct.
  9. Be prepared to restart your screen. We have found that teens have disappeared randomly, even when they are still there. I have had to restart on my end a lot. This software is not perfect.
  10. Be ready for the unexpected. We like Roll20, because it is easy to have the map and players can move their own characters, but it is far from perfect. I know some librarians use discord to have the voice function. You will have to troubleshoot problems at the time they occur. Even though it has issues, we still really enjoy it.

How do you use Roll20? Do you have any tips?

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.


  1. Jessie Caldwell says

    We use Discord for voice chat while typing and running gameplay in Roll20. We’ve found that it just runs better when the software isn’t trying to do so many things at once, and often times folks with connection issues do better with the Discord voice than the Roll20 voice.

    It’s a lot of fun, though, and we’ve had several games with non-tabletop rpg elements, such as a Cards Against Humanity and an Among Us game run through Roll20! I do appreciate it’s versatility.

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