Imagine sitting down in a coffee shop, nervous but excited, with a group of strangers that are all new to the concept of tabletop role-playing games. You’ll learn, laugh and even love together as you embark on a thrilling experience, fighting make-believe trolls and righting wrongs in a world that desperately needs adventurers.
This the whole concept of Roll+Heart, and it is utterly captivating.
I’ve written before how tabletop games, particularly Dungeons and Dragons, helps enable marginalized individuals to find more about themselves, and share that connection with other people. It was a twist of fate that Roll+Heart released a month after, but the chance of playing a character, whose gender and sexuality isn’t questioned who plays alongside people who are both familiar and different from them, was a feature I just couldn’t pass on.
In creating a character, you’ll get the best of both worlds: creating who you are in real life (IRL), as well as creating who your character is, right down to their name and class. So far, so good. As for yourself, you could go one step further by picking your body type.
As someone who’s a big gal, the inclusion of body types that could be my own was comforting, especially with how little body diversity is thought of when designing game protagonists. And it isn’t just you who has a body that’s different, all of your love interests comes in different shapes and sizes, making Roll+Heart one of the more diverse dating sims that I’ve ever played.
It’s also one that is just full of surprises. When I was given the code, I was told it would be a visual novel dating sim that had tabletop features but didn’t have high hopes. I was proven wrong immediately as, after gathering up my new buddies Judah, Edith, Aislynn and Maria, the DM, Garreth, threw us into battle.
And that battle came alive right on my very computer screen.
As someone heavy into tabletop games, particularly 5E D&D, I can’t even begin to express my excitement at watching a game combine two of my favorite things: being gay as hell and playing tabletop games.
Of course, it’s not perfect. If you’re going in expecting intense fights and excellent role-playing then you may leave disappointed. But the inclusion of the little things – including incredibly bad dice rolls – will make any tabletop enthusiast unable to stop grinning.
After each session, you can go home and talk to your fellow players to get to know them better: either through friendship or through doing the horizontal tango, whatever floats your boat. The group is fun, and all have their hobbies and secrets, some that they might even share with you if you choose the right options.
But Roll+Heart is far from being a finished piece of work. Despite the inclusion of memorable characters such as Edith, the cryptid hunter, and Maria, the mechanic who doesn’t believe in herself, the game wouldn’t allow me to enjoy them due to the numerous amount of bugs and grammar errors littered inside.
Sometimes my characters, both in real life and in-game, would suddenly change. I chose a dwarven fighter, but during the next session I had somehow transformed into an elven druid. My stats would also revert back to if I was level one too, which made fights more difficult and not half as rewarding.
There was also a major, near game-breaking bug that absolutely ruined the atmosphere for me. This was after session 2 and after spending time with both Edith and Maria, because I like to keep my options open, of course, I went into the next session…
Only to find that, for some reason or other, the session I’d just completed was where we’d start once more. The battles that’d I’d already done, the story I’d already witnessed, was once more something I’d have to go through in order to progress the game. Even when I tried to reload, the game kept taking me back to session 2 over and over again as though I was experiencing something akin to Groundhog Day.
Even worse, when I finally managed to get past this session, everyone acted as though we’d finished session 3 and spoiled the ending of the campaign for me. While the campaign itself was already quite predictable, to be robbed of finding out the ending in such an inorganic way was disappointing.
Ultimately, Roll+Heart has, you guessed it, a lot of heart. It allows you to understand the importance tabletop can have on another person’s life, and the depth of the reasons on why you might start it up in the first place.
Some are looking for an escape, some are looking to achieve a goal and others just like to be someone else for a little while for the fun of it. Despite its numerous faults, Roll+Heart tells the story of how individuals come together for a game that means something different for each of them.
And that’s more than beautiful: it’s downright special.
Interested in Roll+Heart? You can purchase the game on Steam right now!