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Roll20 and OneBookShelf plan merger that will ease play of TRPG creations in popular virtual tabletop

Don’t make me point at the “consolidation is bad for the consumer” sign again.

The process of uploading a PDF from the desktop to a currently running game is about to get easier thanks to a merger of Roll20 and OneBookShelf.
Image credit: Roll20

It’s apparently big merger season in the tabletop industry because two of the biggest names in digital TRPGs have announced a joint venture. Roll20 and OneBookShelf - the company whose technology powers DriveThruRPG, Dungeon Masters Guild and many other storefronts - are “joining forces” to create a better purchase and play experience between their two services.

A press release sent out today details the “unprecedented alliance” and how exactly it will affect individuals who use both Roll20’s extremely popular VTT and the OneBookShelf’s digital file storefronts. New technology will be developed in the near future that will add PDF support to Roll20’s interface and allow users to add, share and use any supported digital file from inside an already-running game. Future integration and additional features are apparently in the works.

This is a pretty big deal, all told. Roll20’s user base has exploded over the last few years, buoyed by the pandemic but also the sustained popularity of tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons 5E - it rose from 2 million to over 10 million in 2022. DriveThruRPG, Dungeon Masters Guild and its sibling sites are also no slouch and provide a significant chunk of the online sales of digital rulebooks, adventures, supplements and other tools through their marketplaces. Joining their services feels like a no-brainer that will cut down on the amount of work put on individuals to create a seamless experience for their groups.

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“Joining forces with OneBookShelf creates the best place to purchase, peruse, and play TTRPGs online, period,” said Ankit Lal, Roll20 CEO. “Since 2012, Roll20 has been the industry leader in virtual tabletop gaming, hosting content from some of the biggest publishers in the space, including Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, and Chaosium. With this deal, we gain significant progress on several of our user promises that dramatically improve the VTT, and will work together to continue adding new and exciting features to our already industry-leading platform.”

Roll20 just announced a deal with Dungeon Masters Guild in late June that would allow the sale of user-created content from within Roll20’s interface. It now seems as if that news may have been the initial step in a larger negotiation between the two companies. While it won’t be immediately available, all OneBookShelf libraries will eventually be integrated within Roll20 in a similar manner to that explained in the DMs Guild agreement. This will apparently ensure the associated PDFs won’t count towards the storage quotas Roll20 allots individual accounts.

“Our mission from the get-go has always been to make it easier for publishers and creators to reach a wider audience of roleplaying fans,” said Steve Wieck, OneBookShelf CEO. “By combining forces with Roll20, we empower game makers to present content across a wider variety of formats, whether character creators, virtual tabletop, digital editions, or print. Customers will be able to support their favorite games, in any format they desire, with one economical purchase, and they will be able to use their content on roleplaying’s most trusted platform.”

A company spokesperson clarified in an email to Dicebreaker that Roll20 and OneBookShelf “will operate independently for a short while longer” but plan to “combine later this year into one joint venture led by Ankit Lal as CEO and Steve Wieck as President.” A timeline for this merger was not provided, and it’s not clear if both entities will keep their current branding going forward. Dicebreaker has reached out for more information.

In a short video provided to Dicebreaker (which can also be seen in this post), a user is shown dragging a PDF directly from their desktop and into a running Roll20 game. The file uploads, Roll20’s interface runs a virus scan on it, and it then populates within the game’s library as a usable asset. If all the processes will be just as seamless, users can expect a fair few of the rough edges that come with playing tabletop RPGs online to enjoy some smoothing out.

But it’s worth repeating a warning from the recent merger of CFB Group and TCGPlayer - consolidation is ultimately bad for the consumer. The virtual tabletop space has experienced rapid growth and diversification in the past two years, opening up different ways to tell collaborative stories beyond a table in the real world.

Roll20’s merger with OneBookShelf positions them as a clear forerunner in that space and should not be allowed to continue without users considering the price of such convenience. A lack of competitors means the company at the top has little incentive to fix fundamental issues or be held accountable for grievances within its own workforce. Dicebreaker will continue reporting on this and similar issues as more information becomes available.

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