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This Sick New Immersive TTRPG Platform Could Just Be My Roll20 Killer

Here's what you need to know about Alchemy RPG.

A person stands over a dock. For Alchemy RPG's Lore of Aetherra.

During the pandemic, some good friends and I synced up our schedules across time zones (not an easy feat thanks to daylight savings) and figured out a way to host a weekly Thirsty Sword Lesbians play session each Sunday. It’s one of my favorite tabletop RPG campaigns I’ve experienced yet, in part because we all just goof around as our alter-egos and flirt with every female character in sight.

I love our weekly sessions, although there’s one part of the whole experience I wish I could change: The online TTRPG platform Roll20. Yes, Roll20 has a great module for Thirsty Sword Lesbians, but the actual platform looks like a souped up version of Microsoft Excel made for Dungeons & Dragons fans. It’s really not an immersive experience, nor is the platform designed for players to lose themselves into its design. Roll20 is about utility first. And ever since I first started using it for Call of Cthulhu years ago, I’ve continued to find Roll20 a little stale on the storytelling experience.

Alchemy RPG, on the other hand, is a total 180 from everything Roll20 represents. The entire platform leans into immersion through its sleek appearance and sheer accessibility. I got to check out the platform on the PAX East expo hall floor, and I have to say, it could just replace Roll20 for me — if others are on board for the ride.

What is Alchemy?

Gameplay with Alchemy RPG, a brand new tabletop platform.
Image via Alchemy RPG

Alchemy RPG is a brand new Early Access virtual tabletop platform. The program, which is free to use and even accessible via a web browser, officially launched for public access on April 21, coinciding with PAX East 2022. The platform currently supports Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and includes its very own specialty campaign, Lore of Aetherra: The Lost Druid.

Alchemy does away with a focus on “increasingly complex virtualized tabletops,” instead offering player a UI that looks more like something out of a contemporary role-playing video game. DMs can apply ambient animated backgrounds for specific campaign locations, complete with pre-composed music, immersing players into their group’s tale. No need to outsource your campaign soundtrack from YouTube. And if you need to make a move, players can easily browse through their actions and abilities from a scroll menu, giving them an approachable and manageable way to know what moves they can take.

While Alchemy is free, there’s a special Early Access “Founder Box” players can purchase, which offers a physical card deck filled with redeemable Alchemy modules. Alongside Lore of Aetherra, this includes an additional adventure, an adventure generator, two campaign settings, and an animated map pack, among other offerings.

Tabletop fans who skip out on the Founder Box can grab of Lore of Aetherra and other Founder Box modules individually starting May 1.

So, why switch to Alchemy?

A comprehensive overview of the Alchemy UI.
Image via Alchemy RPG

Alchemy’s UX design is phenomenal. It’s relatively easy to understand for new TTRPG players, particularly those familiar with contemporary RPGs like Dragon Age and Pillars of Eternity. That’s a far cry from Roll20, which often forces players to double-check the rules, their character module, and, when the UI fails, bludgeon their DM with simple questions to learning the system. Starting new players off with Alchemy over Roll20 may be a wise idea for groups that can barely work their way through their system’s player’s handbook, let alone Roll20.

And yes, I don’t just mean Dungeons & Dragons. While Alchemy RPG only supports D&D 5th Edition for now, the platform will offer systemless support in the near future, as well as a marketplace of curated tabletop engine offerings. So yes, it won’t be too much longer until my Thirsty Sword Lesbians Alchemy dreams are realized (and if I really wanted to, I could go ahead and homebrew it right now).

I also suspect this system would work very well for streamers. The platform is already developing streaming capabilities, and Alchemy will support streaming options “without the need for additional software or overlays” by late 2022. That includes voice, video, and music. And the game’s spectator mode will allow stream viewersto respond to gameplay events as they happen. I could see this being a huge boon to TTRPG streamers who want something a little more content-creator-friendly than Roll20.

Of course, Alchemy faces the same uphill battle all new platforms do: Why switch to Alchemy if Roll20 works well enough? I’m convinced enough to give Alchemy a shot. Now I need to see if my fellow TSL players are on for the switch too.

(Featured image: Alchemy RPG)

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Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.