One of the hardest things about roleplaying games can be scheduling a time for everyone to play or finding a group that wants to play the particular style or system of game you’re most interested in. RoleGate is a relatively new play-by-chat platform designed to give players a space to play anytime, anywhere. With its asynchronous mode of play, users can log in from their computer or mobile device, type out what their character is saying or doing, and roll dice virtually to see whether they’re able to succeed.
GMs can run campaigns using different game systems, from Dungeons & Dragons to Dungeon World, Call of Cthulhu to Shadowrun, and more. To find out more about this platform and its purpose, I reached out to Ryan Pergent, founder of RoleGate and previously a designer for CDProjekt RED.
Note: This interview was edited for grammar and clarity.
Katrina: Tell us a little bit about your work in the AAA gaming industry, as well as your background in pen-and-paper RPGs.
Ryan: I have been passionate about games and design since I was kid. I remember discovering Dungeons & Dragons on the internet as a teenager and having no one to play with. I tried to run sessions for myself, as both the DM and player… but that did not go well.
Yet, the seed was planted. A few years later, I joined a game design school, full of people with the same interests as me, and reconnected with D&D and tabletop RPGs in general.
After attending the school, I landed a position as a game designer at Ubisoft and then CDProjekt RED, working on The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077. There, I got to study the tabletop roleplaying game Cyberpunk 2020 and RPG design in a professional setting. What’s more, I got to dissect the experience of playing them, which would eventually lead me to building RoleGate. I now have a partner in crime, Dan, another former CDProjekt employee.
K: What was the inspiration to create a play-by-chat platform like RoleGate? How did the project come about, and where did the name come from?
R: Even though I love tabletop RPGs, I rarely got the chance to play. You need to find a motivated group of players and make sure they are all available for several hours straight on a regular basis. I started to investigate virtual tabletop platforms like Roll20. Unfortunately, that did not really solve the issue of time commitment.
That’s when I tried to look into play-by-post platforms. The format seemed ideal, but the execution was not. All the platforms I found seemed to require a long selection process similar to a job interview. And once in-game, every single post seemed like it had to be a paragraph worthy of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel.
I wanted something way more laid back, more welcoming. That’s the philosophy behind everything on RoleGate, which can even be found in its name: it’s an entry gate to the world of tabletop RPGs.
K: What did you feel like was missing from other platforms, or what did you want RoleGate to do better?
R: My main focus with RoleGate was to make it easy to jump into a game and play casually. You only have ten minutes a day to play during your commute? That’s perfectly fine. You are a total beginner, wanting to play for the first time? Just press “Join” on one of the games tagged as “Beginner Friendly,” and you are set. Everything about RoleGate is built to help you get into and simply enjoy a good game. That’s what I was clearly missing from all the other platforms, which have quite discouraging barriers to entry. On top of that, we have a whole set of unique features such as tones, out-of-character chat, party splitting, interactive helpers, avatars, and more than I could list here.
K: The subscription model is unique—the platform is free, but players who pay at different subscription tiers get to vote on the new features that are developed. Why take this approach?
R: Having users vote on features creates amazing synergy. We get to know what users want the most, and they have some visibility on where the platform is going. You can both support the development and dictate where it is going. We have several subscription tiers available, having been inspired by Patreon (we actually started there). If you want more from the platform, there are several different options.
K: What’s one of the toughest challenges you’ve faced in developing RoleGate?
R: Keeping up with all the ideas that we want to implement and that players request. The community is very active on our Discord server and they want more from the platform, and we want to provide more. Right now, it’s just Dan and me—him on the visuals and me on the tech. It can be frustrating to have such a clear vision of what you want to achieve, but to have only one brain and one pair of hands each to make it all happen!
K: What are you most excited to bring to RoleGate in the future?
R: The RoleGate of today is widely different from the one that was launched six months ago, and even more different from what it will be six months from now. I am excited about so many things that it is hard to pick a single one… The things that are the most interesting to work on are issues that are not software-related, but that are inherent to the format of tabletop RPGs.
We are currently working on ways to make it easier to see a campaign to the end and keep players on their toes, even on long-running games. I am definitely looking forward to implementing those tools!
You can check out RoleGate for yourself at RoleGate.com.
What platforms have you used to play tabletop roleplaying games online? Tell us in the comments!
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Image Credits: RoleGate, Ryan Pergent