Rolz Update (June 2015)
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!

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