I was ecstatic when indie visual novel game studio Toadhouse Games announced that they were releasing Roll for Confidence, a vignette about a Chinese-American trans woman playing tabletop roleplaying games in an arcade she runs. I had always wanted to see TTRPGs explored through the medium of videogames. Specifically, I wanted to see the experience of roleplaying explored. Another of Toadhouse’s vignettes, Good Lookin Home Cookin, was really immersive and thought-provoking to play, and unpredictable. Toadhouse’s visual novels are wholesome, but not in the way that rounds all the sharp corners. They face issues of mental health and discrimination head on, but never in a way designed to disturb people, or distort the issues.
I waited with bated breath for Roll for Confidence as each countdown Twitter post rolled across my dashboard. On opening the game, information that’s characteristic of a Toadhouse game appeared on the screen, such as options to see content warnings, and advice on keeping yourself safe. By the time I reached the opening screen, featuring trans flag coloured TTRPG dice and a flamingo, I had completely forgotten that this was a small vignette belonging to the world of Call Me Cera, a full-length visual novel coming from Toadhouse in 2022. I was so ready for more of Roll For Confidence to play, but what I got was still a delightful visual novel that really made me think more about TTRPGs as both a liberating and difficult experience.
It’s testament to the genius of Alanna Linayre and the rest of the Toadhouse Games team that they can pack so much story and character development into such a short time. Sophia’s journey of trying to figure out what kind of woman she wants to be feels so real, and that’s because it is. I can imagine that so many trans people take comfort in TTRPGs to explore who they want to be, either before or after coming out to themselves and other people.
With the help of their playtesters and cultural consultants, Toadhouse does an awesome job of conveying trans experience in TTRPG. Sophia’s conflicting emotions over experiencing misogynistic harassment that isn’t specifically directed at her being trans is so well-handled. I can’t wait to see her again in Call Me Cera, hopefully back at the arcade. Since the vignette is so short, it’s difficult to keep this spoiler-free, but anyone who is interested in TTRPGs, wholesome friendship, and nuanced handling of transmisogyny is sure to love Roll For Confidence. Returns of favourite characters from Good Lookin Home Cookin abound, as do clever heart-stopping moments where the jumpy music changes to something dramatic, or cuts out entirely.
I’m really excited for the future of Toadhouse Games. Despite being disappointed seeing the credits rolls when I forgot the visual novel was a vignette, I loved seeing TTRPGs explored in so much depth. I loved the touching moments between Sophia and her family and friends, especially her older brother Wei, and (cis) women like Jessica and Bid who help her embrace her identity as a ‘proud Chinese-American trans woman.’ There should be more solidarity with trans women in visual novels. I hope Toadhouse Games continues to pave the way in this respect.
Roll For Confidence made me feel great about my relationship to TTRPGs, and I’m sure it’ll make others feel the same. I’ll be honest and say I squealed when safety tools were brought up. Not only does Roll For Confidence thoughtfully portray a trans woman, it also takes a great look at TTRPGs ‘going wrong.’ You never know which of the choices you make in Roll For Confidence will actually have impact. Some of the choices even have you micro-worldbuild characters in Fernweh, the town where all the Call Me Cera vignettes are set. I don’t know if this was intentional, but I love it.
Buy Roll For Confidence here.
Wishlist Call Me Cera here.