"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Online Gaming

Having returned to RPGs about two years ago I have seen references to play-by-email, play-by-post, and gaming using something like skype and some form of online visual aids be they virtual table tops or just shared online whiteboards.

I played in Scott Driver's short Thool Tunnels & Trolls play-by-post game. I enjoyed seeing how it worked and getting a chance to see Scott's world but I found the pace to be frustrating.

The forums at Troll Lord Games seems to have a community that is very active at using skype and I saw that Jim LotFP has ran a few sessions using skype as well. I have never participated in a skype game.

What are peoples' opinions? Have you used skype for gaming? Any issues? What are the good online aids? Are there any skype-like applications that use webcams?


  1. I haven’t got on Skype yet myself (my parents, brother, spouse, and in-laws are all lobbying for me to do so recently), but I have done some on-line gaming, both real-time (using AIM) at play-by-email. My opinion: there are few games that work well in the electronic format. But, hey, maybe Skype is different.

    The most satisfaction I got out of gaming was using rules light/story heavy games via PBE. The most frustrating was trying to play D20 with real-time (and anything with stat blocks…even 1E AD&D…is frustrating slow with PBE, or PBP).

  2. I've been using Skype for an online campaign for a few months now and am quie happy with it. I tried out some free wipe board sites to use in conjunction with it but never really used them much, so now its straight audio-only. For mapping, there are two players keeping paper maps for themselves while another is using Excel quite effectively (it has the big advantage of being easy to email during the game). For some things in the game, I've made handouts that I email to all the players (sketches and maps, mainly) when needed. One other nice feature is that individual players can secretly email the DM (me) about covert actions without alerting other players. There has been far less talking over one another than I'd feared, though the party did implement having standard initiative rollers, door openers and the like to make thigns flow smoother.

    All in all I am quite happy with playing over Skype. I prefer gaming face to face, but my players are literally scattered from coast to coast and this is an excellent substitute.

  3. Welleran,
    What ruleset are you playing?
    What do you use for a dice roller?

  4. I am using AD&D rules (with a few houserules, of course). Dice rolls are all on the honor system (I have known all my players for a long time so this is not an issue). There are some online dice rolling options but I have not explored them as I have not felt the need to do so.

    The campaign is an old school, megadungeon (as proven by the fact all the original PCs are dead!).

    The hardest part for my game is the time zone differences between players. A lot fo them have kids and all the sorts of activities that entails, so we tend to start late and end late Saturday nights. Still, I am very pleased with how things are working and the players seem to be enjoying themselves.

  5. I agree about the pace of PBP. I've never been able to catch lightning in a bottle for longer than a short time, even with a very good group of players.

    The one time I tried real-time online gaming was on IRC, and one of the players was such an epic weirdo, even by online gaming standards, that I couldn't stop laughing, and I nuked the entire campaign on the spot.

  6. Hi Scott,
    Hope things are going well.

  7. @P_Armstrong

    Thanks for asking the question that has been on my mind. I'll be interested to see the responses and what people recommend.

  8. When we playtested Talislanta 4th ed, we used IRC, and it worked fairly well. It was live and interactive, and since you could compose your posts a little bit more controlled than when you just open your mouth and blather, it had a literate quality i liked. The fact that our GM was very good at describing didn't hurt either.

    Since then I tried to start up a game with my old gaming group from my teenage years, and it failed miserably, since people were cooking, playing WoW and god knows what at the same time. I didn't even try to play more than the first session. That was using Microlite20 and rolling dice with a diceroller on IRC, where secret messages could be passed, and all public communication was using a "conference call" using TeamSpeak. The technical parts worked like a charm!

    The only time I've tried non-interactive online games it had been extremely slow. But, as long as everyone knows that it can work fairly well. I'd suggest having a campaign wiki or a yahoo group so you can have a photo album and a file area for character sheets, journals and handouts and maps.

    Sometimes it's the only thing that's available.

    Correction! I did play in a T&T game using e-mail, and it worked fairly well. The GM collected everyones postings and posted a summary and advanced time at regular intervals. It was fun.

  9. Skype is slick, easy and works well.

    maptool http://www.rptools.net

    openrpg http://www.rpgobjects.com/index.php?c=orpg&m=getorpg

    more http://www.rpgvirtualtabletop.com/vts.html

  10. I think online D&D is the future of the hobby. As we get older and find it harder and harder to locate fellow old school gamers nearby, online with skype is the way to go. You aren't just limited to any geographical location...my last online group had gamers from Ohio, Florida and Alabama (and me in Texas).

    About the only things I miss gaming online are minis, and mapping. Everything else works well...while not quite as fun as face to face, it's better than you would think!