For understandable reasons, there’s been much commentary on “tabletop” roleplaying games run online, and huge amounts of advice.
I’m not going to offer much in the way of advice. One thing I will say is that there are many ways of arranging online play, from Google Hangouts or similar video link, and reporting dice rolls by trust, to platforms such as Roll20 with integrated maps and character sheets and Discord for voice chat as Roll20 can be unreliable there.
My only suggestion is to use what you’re comfortable with, let the platform serve the needs of the game, and don’t feel obliged to use things you find too complicated. I’ve had fun playing over Roll20, but for my needs when I run something, I tend to just use Hangouts without other software, basically playing as normal only with a video link rather than face to face.
This doesn’t have to be the right way for you. It favours simpler systems. It’s hard to teach a complex game over a Hangout. The tools can be useful. Use what tools work for you.
Like I said, not much in the way of useful advice. But what I hope I have to offer is encouragement. It takes an hour or two to get used to, but I have had some of my best experiences in RPGs when online, especially when it comes to playing campaigns. There are indeed quite a few advantages.
For one thing, one isn’t constrained by geography. People from a fair way off in the same country, people in different countries, it’s all one for remote play. In terms of gathering people together, there’s automatically a far larger pool to draw upon. And friends you only know online, or know face to face from the occasional convention – it’s just as easy to play with them as anyone local.
One common complaint I’ve seen, and this is not to judge Dungeons and Dragons, is that it’s only possible to locally find Dungeons and Dragons players for RPGs. Well, the bigger pool means that’s no problem. Sometimes one can lead with a game one wants to run, and then look for players, meaning things being outside the norm (whatever that is) is absolutely no problem.
Oh, and no need to travel to game. No need to leave the comfort of one’s own home. That’s a big one at the moment, but there are advantages at other times, especially if going to a “local” game involves a fair journey.
I said that some of my best RPG campaign experiences have been online. So I’ll finish this with a few examples.
- The Darkening of Mirkwood for the One Ring. I ran this, and it was moving and epic. Indeed, my last post in this very blog talks about it.
- Burning Wheel. I simply posted online that I was interested in playing, and a friend offered to run it for me, one to one. It’s an intricate system and one that really strongly supports a character-based story.
- Esoterrorists. Way back, when I wanted to try out GUMSHOE, a friend offered to run a game. I’m still with GUMSHOE, and I’ve played in two complete and satisfying campaigns – Albion’s Ransom and Worldbreaker.
- The Final Revelation. Beautifully bleak “purist” Cthulhu which inevitably ends in despair, and barely a hint of pulp. I knew I wanted to run it. And online I found players who relished the tone, and it was as promised profoundly bleak, which was just what I wanted from the experience. I wouldn’t have found local players. No chance.
- Unknown Armies. Again I was a player, and we had fun seeing our characters’ strange pursuits ruin their ordinary lives, and those of others, in small town England. With the overriding question as to whether the magic was worth it?
- Age of Arthur. The Age of Arthur game I ran online really turned into something terrific, with individual character stories neatly intersecting the overall arc and coming together in neat, if not particularly happy, ways in the finale.
- Age of Anarchy. My playtesting for this game was all online. And by design it’s a game I find ridiculously easy to run, with the shared creation elements. I’ll have to do it again at some point now it’s settled.
Right now I’m playing in fun games of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition, D&D Curse of Strahd, and Ashen Stars. Each of these deserves its own post. I’m excited for the Ashen Stars finale next week.
So…who wants to play a game?