Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Moving Your Game Online

Considering the world situation right now with the Novel Covid19 Virus Pandemic, it's a good idea to reduce your contact with other people. Unfortunately that means for your gaming sessions too. Fortunately, if you're in an area with decent internet, you don't have to completely lose out on your games. You can move them online.

Roll20, Table Top Simulator, Fantasy Grounds, Etc
There are a number of dedicated services for running games online. Some have costs for getting in. Others have free and pay for options. Roll20 is fairly popular, but Table Top Simulator and Fantasy Grounds also have their strengths.

These are going to have more features you want for an online RPG experience with built in character sheets, module support, and dice rolling. They each have some learning curve to using their system, but there are also lots of guides and tips out there to get you going. If you play an RPG with major released adventures, odds are you can buy the module for the service. I know with Roll20 and 5e the modules come with encounters pre-built so you just have to run them on pre-made maps which is good. But there's also room for doing your own custom maps if that is what you prefer to do.

Discord, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, Etc
If you do combats more theater of the mind you can also just use the voice program of your choice. Discord, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, WebEx, and many other programs have the ability to do voice with and without video. You can share images for things you are bringing up in the game and go from there.

Discord in particular has a number of free bots you can invite to your channel to do dice rolling - both public and private - in the chat room while you're talking. Alternatively, if you trust players to report rolls honestly, just have people roll dice at home and call out what they got.

Strengths of Online Play
Online play has some strengths over other games. For one, I find you get less cross talk online because it becomes more obvious when someone is talking which means people are more quiet while the GM is relaying information. The ability to easily share images and videos of relevant things is also a big boon if you use those in your game. I'm also a big fan of private messages to pass notes to players, and letting people RP in text in a chat room, adding flavor and color to what they're doing while we use voice for the meat and potatoes of the game.

Some Challenges to Overcome
The largest challenge to overcome with online play in my experience is the double shot that people may get distracted at home - it's not unheard of for family members or housemates to need/want to have conversations with people not respecting they're doing a thing with actual people in the moment. You also miss out on a lot of the body language and facial expressions that can add to roleplay.

The other challenge is that some aspects go slower online because with people more cautious about talking over each other, they pause longer before talking or just lose track of what is going on easier without the game being a real physical thing to keep them grounded in it.

Still, considering the possible alternatives during a global pandemic you're better safe than sorry. I'm moving both my 5e games to Roll20 for the foreseeable future just because half my players are already on Roll20.

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