Mini-Review: Role vs. Roll
Hello everyone, this week I am taking some more time to review a physical product for the table. This time, though, it isn’t just for Game Masters but for the table as a whole. It is one meant to be used by everyone, can be used in any game, and hopefully adds some fun to your sessions! The product is a deck of cards known as Role vs. Roll and it made by Jack Monkey Games who you might recognize as the name behind the Starfall podcast. Let’s take a quick look at how this tool turned out!
A Tool To Build From
Role vs. Roll features a deck of cards that contain various prompts that you can use at the table. These are largely role-playing aids, things to get you to act within character or to challenge the character you have developed. Cards range from ideas to help build your backstory, bad habits your character might be taking on, or scenarios for downtime. Each one has a statement and request of you, as a player, to act within character in a way that might not directly influence what is going on with the overall story. In fact, some specifically want you to take on something unrelated to the task at hand. Each card comes with a title to help drive the scenario and a picture to help set you up, but the important part is what it asks you to do.
The Role vs. Roll deck is intended to be used for any game, with scenarios that don’t require specific settings or any actual rules. It is truly system agnostic, and it accomplishes this by being a framework to build from. I can see this tool being very useful in many of the ways the box claims it will. A lot of the cards add unpredictability to the game by drawing players into thoughts that they might not normally and asking them to break their own clichés a little bit. This certainly can help develop the characters and get the players to expand upon them. By asking the player to address other characters in many of these scenarios it also adds a layer of character interaction that might be hard to draw out of some people, and it gives them a basis from which to do it. In terms of prompting, development, and potential this product as a lot of heart.
The only downside I see to the product is that there is a certain onus put on the GM and the table as a whole. They must agree to utilize the cards and the hope is that everyone will try to use them. There is nothing, however, keeping the quiet kid from being quiet and pretending like the card isn’t there. You can’t really blame the tool for that, but it is worth noting because that is what this is: a tool, an aid. It is meant to help you, but like a hammer that takes energy to swing, this tool requires a little effort to be put in. For GMs there is a casual language of “bonus points” for doing something exceptionally fun or unexpected, for really committing to the prompt. Take care though, for this is just an idiom and there are no real bonus points, not mechanically anyways.
Like last week’s review, this one comes from the Game Crafter and the product itself is of good quality. My only qualms about this is that there isn’t a full deck of cards and they fit loosely into the box and I worry the box will get crushed. Other than that my cards may have a printing error but it is hard to tell. Some are slightly cut off on the top or bottom, as if the image used was larger than the card itself, or shifted out of the cut line of the card. Regardless, this doesn’t even come close to making them un-usable. All in all I really love this deck and what it is meant to do. There is a lot to draw from and virtually all the cards have a good amount of vagueness to them. Exceptions include a pet-based card and one that asks you to gamble, but even those could take a myriad of forms. My favorites are ones that ask you to do vague things in specific ways. One asks you to role-play out all of your actions and wait for the GM to tell you success, fail, or roll. That card is a great tool for practicing being descriptive about what you want to do instead of looking to see if you have a rule or roll that you can apply. Such prompts are a great way to further immerse yourself into the game and diversify your RPG skill-set.
So we talk about all this stuff of prompts and ideas, but how do we use the deck?? There is one card that is made to explain to you, and it maintains that framework concept. Each player is dealt a hand of cards and aloud to pick one. They keep this card, in secret, and act upon it during the session. I love this because it gives the player some agency in the randomly assigned tasks, allowing them to stretch their role-playing legs in a way they find comfortable. That is perhaps the most important part about this tool and how it gets used. There are some other suggestions for use and arbitrary points are awarded to those who succeed. For me this is something the GM has a great opportunity to build on, awarding XP, inspiration, or whatever fits your system. Have fun with it and reward your players for helping develop some story!
Role vs. Roll is a simple tool that acts as a wonderful framework for encouraging or enhancing the role playing that happens at a table. The rules and instructions are simple, because there virtually are none. This is not made for any one game or any one group. It is made to act along side dice to develop and expand the adventures you have. It is definitely worth the buy for new and old adventuring groups alike!