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Show HN: Find people to play tabletop roleplaying games with (roleplayful.com)
133 points by dyeje 6 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments

Just made a little page for my campaign! Thanks for this! This reminds me of Obsidian Portal that a DM I briefly followed used: https://www.obsidianportal.com/

Some thoughts:

-Looking at Obsidian Portal for the first time in years, I found a bunch of campaigns near me... last updated 5+ years ago. "Undead" games will probably be an issue for your service as well. Perhaps you could add an additional filter field for recently active/updated games.

-Following the last point, some groups might be "passively open": meeting regularly IRL, but not active on Roleplayful if there's nothing to update.

-I live in Chicago. It might be useful to have something that'd allow people to put in location tags for, say, the north side and nearby suburbs. Somebody in the city using public transit could take an hour or more to go to the other side of the city.

-It might also be cool if I could list more than one system if you're open to different options, but I can think of some arguments against this.

Thanks again! The best group I ever had (spanning ~4 years) was started with a notecard thumbtacked to a bulletin board in the back of the game shop. I try to keep an eye out for newer digital options!

Yes, all great points that I've been thinking about. Thanks for checking it out and the link to Obsidian Portal (I hadn't heard of it before and it looks really cool).

For a more modern take on Obsidian Portal I strongly recommend LegendKeeper (https://www.legendkeeper.com/). I use it for the campaign I DM for both for my own notes and for making some of the lore / locations / characters easily accessible for the players.

Any other Chicago area players up for AD&D or Cthulhu campaigns?

Added AD&D, make some campaigns!

Hi everyone, I’ve been working on this project on and off for quite a while. In my experience, it can be tedious to find a game of Dungeons & Dragons if you don’t have an existing network of friends who play it. You have to trawl various LFG forums which is time consuming and tedious. So I built Roleplayful to help automate that away. Users are able to do a detailed search (location, game, play style, and more), save the search, and then receive automatic email notifications when new matches appear for their search. Feedback welcomed and appreciated.

Awesome project!

Why limit it to just role-playing games? I know that RPG players have to struggle quite a bit to find other players, but as a board-game player, I'd like to see some other dense games on here like Gloomhaven or maybe some trading card games like Magic: The Gathering.

Oh yes, if you're going to expand on this, it would be great to include basically the range of games you typically see played at a local game store. This would span card games, board games, RPGs, and tabletop miniatures games. There's good resources out there for finding what titles are in demand. Boardgamegeek is a good one for board games, then for card games and miniatures games, any employee at a game store not called Games Workshop could give you the short list of titles to include!

I think board games are different from RPGs, though. Like, "Ticket to Ride" is a popular board game, but there isn't really a TtR community that's specifically looking for recurring sessions with other TtR players. It's more like there are board-game meetups that rotate through different games each time. (At least, that's been my experience at my FLGS.)

Games like Gloomhaven, which another poster mentioned, are a different ball game -- more like RPGs in that respect.

Diplomacy does have a large community

Great question. I chose to focus on tabletop RPGs because I wanted to focus on a niche I was personally familiar with. I'm bullish on the future of the space and would love to build tooling for game masters if the site catches on. That said, if those games are something you're interested in using Roleplayful for, I would be happy to add them.

How do folks contribute to the list of game types? I went in looking for a blades in the dark campaign, and found it wasn’t a valid search term. I know it’s not as mainstream as d&d, but...

When you create a campaign, there is some help text letting you know that you can choose "Other" and email info@roleplayful.com to add the game. I will try to make it easier and more obvious. That said, I've gone ahead and added Blades in the Dark for you. I encourage you to add a campaign so the next person looking for Blades in the Dark can find you!

it's been a few years since I don't roleplay but (of course after covid) I think events like comicons work as great catalysts to get people together in this space, and maybe you can explore this. there's also platforms like d20 and tabletop nowadays, which may represent a market to you. good luck and have the resilience because in a niche like this even going viral takes sometimes much more time than people expect

Definitely! I'm looking into sponsoring content creators and events like Gen Con.

That's a cool idea, though why limit it to US cities? Wouldn't cost much to just allow creating/searching in the whole world. Could also be nice to have "language" selection, so that I can know if it's fine for other players to include a non native speaker.

US limitation for In Person campaigns is just an MVP scope decision. International support is definitely on the roadmap.

I'd love to be able to sign up for a single email when international support happens. Seems like a great way to instantly get a bunch of people internationally when that launches.

Sure, send an email to info@roleplayful.com and I'll reach out when it's available.

This can be simplified.

Change the city dropdown to a language dropdown.

The filtering would still work as expected.

Let users figure out their travelling details until you're prepared to add that functionality.

I don't think you should be limiting your number of users so much right at the start.

FYI I don't know why but it doesn't seem to work on Firefox.

I can't look at it right now, but at first glance it looks like either the requests to "campaigns/search" fail / return empty or that they are discarded because you're not doing a preventDefault on form's submit.

It's weird because it does work on Chrome-based browsers.

Thanks for the heads up, I'll take a look. EDIT: Should be fixed now, thanks again.

Yes. Working fine now. Thanks.

Looks good, and useful!

Two notes:

- The list of systems is kind of limited, for example I was looking for Fate.

- When looking for an in-person group, it should be possible to leave the system dropdown blank (or have an 'Any' option). I'm not sure if that would also be useful for remote games.

There are a bunch of other constraints I have encountered over the years for f2f games (mostly health-related), but those can probably wait, since remote will likely be the main use for a while.

Thanks for the feedback!

I will add Fate to the list.

Great point about In Person, probably want to cast the widest net possible. I designed it this way so that there is at least 1 game to make sure it's hitting an index on the search, but I can definitely make it more ergonomic to search all systems.

Great site! Is the assumption that “remote” play occur on TableTop Simulator? (Or some other cool thing I don’t know about?) Perhaps you could add a field to identify which platform will be used?

Also, I can’t help but peruse the TOS & Privacy Policy of just about every site I visit. It looks like you used a policy generator (and I didn’t read your documents too closely) but I didn’t notice any language about user interactions that occur off-platform and I doubt that situation would be contemplated by most terms/policy generators.

Again, I didn’t read anything thoroughly so it might be addressed by your policy and I just missed it. (Obligatory, this isn’t legal advice and I’m not your lawyer.) As a website that facilitates in-person meetings you might consider including some language. If you take a look at the TOS for Tinder or MeetUp I would imagine they might have some helpful example language.

Yes, the assumption is that you play the game on another platform. I don't have any plans to go in the TableTop Simulator, Roll20, etc direction because I'm a solo dev, that's a huge project, and they already do a great job. I'm focusing on the discovery part of the problem and hoping to expand in other directions based on user feedback. You can identify the platform a campaign is played on by selecting one of the "Tools" tags.

Thanks for looking over the legal stuff, I did take care in making them. It's a combination of generated content / open source (shout out to Basecamp), edited by me, and then edited by my lawyers (shout out to Grellas Shah LLP). The in person aspect was something I was wary of, but I've been advised the language in there is sufficient. Looking at MeetUp and Tinder is a good call though, I hadn't thought of that.

I'd really like a map. Here in the Bay Area, for instance, I could pretty reasonably get to games in San Francisco, Daly City, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Millbrae, Colma, Brisbane, Pacifica, Burlingame, San Mateo, Hillsborough... all of these are with a 15-20 minute drive, but if I have to type each individual city name to check, I'm just going to give up.

Maps are also good because they help people judge more easily how difficult it is to get somewhere; a game in Berkeley may be the same distance away as one in San Mateo, but the game in Berkeley means crossing the Bay Bridge. Similarly, where I'm not likely to go more than 10-15 miles away as the crow flies due to the hassle of driving, rural users would likely be willing to drive 50 miles to a game because it's a lot faster to drive places in the country.

A map is a great idea, I'll add that to the roadmap. The In Person option does do a 20 mile radius (as the crow flies) around the city you've searched. Some others folks have mentioned wanting to adjust the radius, so I'll definitely add that in and hopefully that makes things more obvious.

I had the following pain points, which may mean I run the wrong sort of game for you.

I run a Vampire:The Masquerade Larp that pre covid generally played monthly in San Francisco.

We are part of an international network of games so we had done some completely online sessions to facilitate visitors from other games/new players, and for safety we went completely online for the pandemic on discord, but are likely to go back to being in person eventually. I can't say we are both online and location based with the current setup, though it does look like I can switch eventually. For now I'm saying online, but I'd really love to be able to show up. If that's not a change I can create a second campaign, but that's obviously not preferable.

We use official content (Laws of the Night Revised which is part of a MET system for Vampire published in the 90s and early 2000s) but supplement with some homebrewed/custom stuff. Our network of games has been in existence since the early 90s, so the storyline has diverged somewhat. I'm unclear what the distinction between official and homebrew is in this context.

There's no ability to create tags, and that's a bit of an issue for us. I'd love the ability to define or submit new tags (maybe with approval by you to avoid spam/harassment/etc). That would be good IMHO. Things I'd like to be able to say with tags at minimum is that we are a larp, we play on discord, we are text based (we have Hard of Hearing players), and we are adult only.

There are no tags for adult content or adult only, for mature themes.

We have explicit consent rules around certain content (sexual in our game and for our network, but as a vampire game set in the World of Darkness (which is like the modern world but explicitly worse) we are still exploring adult themes, playing characters that are monstrous, and I don't want underage players.

Oh and we explicitly pass on head storyteller (we have head and assistant storytellers which is the DM title for white wolf games like vampire), and there's no way to transfer the game control to another account.

Thanks so much for the thoughtful post! I'll try to address each point, let me know if I've missed anything.

Yes, for the moment you have to choose between remote or in person. You can switch it back and forth as much as you'd like (this also refreshes the campaign to appear in saved searches). I don't see any reason why they can't be both though, I've added it to the roadmap.

Good point on the Homebrew / Official distinction. I've updated it so that you can choose both.

Yes, there is no ability to create tags. My hypothesis is that if there are too many options, searches with tags will be less likely to return results. I am open to adding user created tags later when there are enough campaigns to support that level of granularity. I also have some other ideas for more granular searches I'm experimenting with.

Mature themes is a great point, I've added that as an additional content tag. I've also added an Adults Only tag to the inclusivity category of tags.

Good callout on passing around game control. More advanced controls for membership didn't make the cut for MVP, but is already in development.

I like it! Looks great and seems to work great too (tho I didn't register so can't comment on all the things). I would like to suggest a few things:

It automatically detects your location, which is great except if you're on a VPN. A (pre-populated) Location field would be great. (Bonus points: add a "More..." button or something to expand the search radius.)

How about adding a Twitter account for us to reach you?

Not a fan of "View" opening a new window; how about expanding details in-line?

Good start on a list of game systems and tags but it would be really nice to give registered users the ability to contribute. And once this gets popular you'll want an 'admin' role that can approve these! Think Big! :)

Very good start.

Thanks for the kind words!

Definitely adding an explicit radius control (right now it's set to 20 miles).

I don't have any personal social media so I'm a bit hesitant to make some for Roleplayful, but I'm definitely considering making a Twitter, Discord, etc.

Definitely working on inline expansion of the campaign card.

Great point on content moderation and letting users contribute, haven't thought too much about that yet.

If you’re interested in the indie rpg crowd you may want to change how game selection works.

Sure, do you have any specific recommendations? I'm not sure I'm familiar with the indie rpg scene, I typically play D&D, Starfinder, and Fantasy Flight Star Wars.

Maybe do it as Roll20 does: use labels for known systems but allow field to be free if entry does not match any of the labels. It makes search a bit more complicated, but nothing crazy.

Agreed. Might want to show any/all games and use titles as filter instead.

This is awesome and I applaud you for working to bring this to life. More people in the hobby the better AFAIC.

Very cool. I played D&D when I was a teenager but never actually did a campaign, instead we sort of made characters then joked around and rolled some dice with no coherent story.

Back in November there was another Show HN for https://startplaying.games , did you create this at all in response to that being all premium, paid for games? I signed up for Start Playing, and have been doing an absolutely amazing campaign with a DM who is a published fantasy author and an all around great guy. It’s $30 a week but hey, good help is hard to find.

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about playing online tabletop with random people, do you think you could add some sort of review or rating system between players? It might cut down on some of the toxicity.

Actually my original concept was very close to startplaying.games! I ended up not pursuing it because:

1. I did a survey and it seemed like paid GMing was not ready for primetime yet, you can read about it in this blogpost [1].

2. I have been working on this by myself extremely slowly by myself since 2018. In the past year I've gotten more serious about trying to build micro-SaaS businesses. I decided to cut scope, focus on discovery, and just launch the darn thing to see where it goes.

I've been pretty lucky myself playing with strangers, but yes a rating system is definitely something I'm considering and was one of the topics in that survey I mentioned earlier.

[1] https://roleplayful.com/blog/origin-story-and-game-master-su...

In high school I created a crude but still effective online community that used a messageboard-like system to run tabletop RPG campaigns. Amassed a pretty decent sized community (for that time) too.

Threw it all away because I could no longer maintain it due to college, etc. In hindsight, I wish I had. Could have, might have, evolved into something big and marketable. This was way back before the whole tech startup craze was on most people's radar.

That's awesome. Never too later to give it another go, you already did it once!

This is great! I was looking around for an in-person D&D game a couple months ago, and wishing that there were a site like this.

Nice! Make sure to do a saved search so you'll get notified when one by you is added. My goal for April is to get over 100 campaigns in the system :)

Great idea, although it won’t be that useful for many people, I think, until it supports a wider variety of systems and editions. The current selection is quite small. I also think, as somebody has commented, that having boardgames and wargames in it would be great. But nice idea, it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves from here.

Which systems and editions would you like to see? Adding new ones is pretty trivial, the current list is based on my own (limited) market research of what is popular. I don't want to allow freeform text because I'm worried the search will become too fragmented.

Thanks for asking. :) The thing is, if I were to use it I would (personally) be interested in some that aren’t that popular, and in different editions of the same game. Like for example, Runequest 3rd edition - but also the new 7th edition. The Call of Cthulhu 3rd edition - but also the new edition (7th). I know some people that play Cyberpunk 2020, I think. So it’s more that from my perspective if I were a user I would want to create campaigns or games for systems that are old, fringe or very specific... not being able to do it kind of makes the site unusable if that’s what one wants. I was actually interested to see if there were people organising games for some of these, or wargames like Battletech, and others, and seeing that it wasn’t an option was a little bit of a disappointment. I understand what you say about not wanting users type the name of the same game in a myriad different ways, and I don’t know what would be the solution to it. Maybe boardgamegeek offers a service to get roleplaying games names data? I also don’t know how would I present the options to the user so users both get a reasonable list of defaults straight away and are also able to input more bizarre choices. Anyways - cool initiative, I’m sure these kind of issues will be solved somehow in future versions of the website.

But I think that there’s a lot of value in allowing less popular choices because when one goes to the internet to find players, perhaps it’s because the game is so niche that it’s hard to find them in real life.

Any games you'd like to see, I am happy to add. Perhaps I need to look at a better way of handling editions than totally separate games. In the meantime, you can also use the "Other" game option and mention what system it is in the description. I'll take a look around at BoardGameGeek and some other data sources to see if I can expand the catalog.

My thought is at the minimum you should be able to say "X RPG, any edition" and "X RPG, these editions only" - my thought is a lot of people would play AD&D 3rd and 5th editions but not 4th, or at least they say that online :)

Relatedly you can have campaign settings as well, AD&D certainly has several but the official/custom split potentially applies to any game with its own setting. Could just be handled by tags though.

Thanks! Runequest would be nice

Roll20 has done OK with freeform text, I think. I'm not a UX expert but... what if the pulldown menu displayed the top 20 systems for the previous month, with an Other submenu that displayed everything else?

In the unlikely chance any of you happen to be around Northampton(England) and need a group give me a poke :)

This is really cool!

I'm glad more people are breaking in to this space.

The founder of D&D Beyond is currently working on Demiplane.com, which has similar aims.

PlayRole.com is also doing some cool stuff that's similar.

Really glad to see more people trying to enable great gaming.

I am getting empty list of search results when looking for remote campaigns with D&D 5e, D&D 4e, D&D 3.5e, Pathfinder, Pathfinder 2e.

Is this expected behavior (because there aren't any campaigns listed yet)?

You should see at least 1 campaign for that search. Unfortunately, just starting out so the number of campaigns is low. I encourage you to add one though!

For anybody interested in Germany / DACH, we had this page for ages: https://www.spielerverzeichnis.org/

Needs an Old School Roleplaying (OSR) option for the grognards.

Wait, I thought OSR was for hipsters? Or is it for both?

It's both. As you might imagine, some in each group don't get along well with the other.

This was a fun google hole to go go down, thanks haha.

> thanks haha

What's the joke? Lots play OSR, and they are generally more serious and sophisticated gamers than other groups (IME).

If avatars - which, given the context, could be missed by users - were not added because of moderation/abuse concerns, you could utilize a service like gravatar.

I left out custom user avatars because of MVP scope and I kinda fell in love with the goofy generated unicorns. Will probably add them later. Maybe.

Does anyone know anything better than Fantasy Grounds for managing online pen and paper RPG games?

It's a very clunky and unpleasant UI from my experience with it.

I'm fond of FoundryVTT -- it allows for self-hosting if you don't want to pay a monthly subscription fee.


I really don't like FG either. I use Roll20[1], but if you are completely home-brew, Owlbear Rodeo[2] is very simple and great. Character sheets on D&D Beyond[3] and the Beyond20 Chrome extension to link DDB and Roll20.

[1] https://roll20.net [2] https://owlbear.rodeo [3] https://dndbeyond.com

I really like Roll20 + D&D Beyond.

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