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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Fate of the B/X Online Game

With me being AWOL for a while the fate of the online B/X game is a bit up in the air. What does the future hold? I don't know.

I have a few observations from the skype game.

1. I was either too polite in inviting/accepting people into the game or I needed to structure it differently.
Now, I want to make sure this is not misconstrued! I really enjoyed gaming with everyone that played and I am glad to have met everyone that participated but I think the game would be better with either a fixed group (making scheduling more difficult) or a setup similar to the Northern Marches campaign.

The Northern Marches campaign was an open campaign which accommodated the busy schedule of adults. It was structured so that whoever was in attendance could participate. This was partially accomplished through having everyone return to the one site of civilization in the setting or face Jeff Rient's Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom. By having everyone return to the starting point, it allowed for a full roster of characters for the next session. One thing I found about the skype game is that the pace was slower than a face-to-face game so not as much was accomplished each session. This would make the Northern Marches structure a little more problematic.

2. The DM/Player interaction required to pull off a sandbox-style game is more difficult using an online medium.
A sandbox requires players with the ability to provide goals and this is amplified using something like skype. I find that in a face-to-face game a lot of this information is exchanged either when the group is just BS-ing or talking about the session just completed. This BS-ing is just not as natural with 4 or 5 people on skype. There are other ways of generating this communication such as a group email or blog for the campaign but they just don't work as well as when you can sitdown with the person.

3. I haven't gotten past the lack of visible feedback during play.
I mentioned this a while ago but it still bothers me.

I would definitely run more games using skype but I would likely do a few things differently and place more constraints on it.
Maybe by running a specific adventure module.


  1. I think Skype gaming definitely supports "module" type adventing rather than "sandbox" style. When I first ran a Skype game, it was B1 and had a great reception. Leading into B2, I thought I would make the game much more sandbox like, having the Keep as a base and letting characters choose where they would explore and what missions they might take. It devolved intoa session of players wandering around doing nothing. I later think I pinned it down to not having the proper "visual" stimulation of a large scale map, but I quickly got control back by instituting a series of missions for the characters, and it was game back on and everything went smoothly again. So apparantly our games took the same sort of path but I'm still not totally sure why.

    I like having a set night to game Skype, I think it works out well, and whoever shows up plays. Also a trick I learned long ago was to have the same player have two different characters, not active at the same time, so he/she can pick and choose which to take on an adventure (depending on who else shows up and what kind of theme they want to pursue that night).

  2. I would love to play thru pretty much any module. I agree that at least that would put some limits on the session, which in the skype way of life, seems to be a good thing, not a bad one.

    I was one of the late-comers, with Sully the (often bare-chested) Dwarf. I totally understand if you want to limit the group down to a smaller size and if you need to boot me to accomplish that, I have no squabble with that.

    On the flip-side, I really enjoyed the game and would like to keep playing, so if there's room, count me in. The only issue for me is that the weeknight thing (the later the better, and I'm EST), works the best. I just can't seem to find free nights on the weekends. The Thursday night thing (seems like it was 10 pm EST - 8 mountain?) was perfect for me, if you're taking a poll.

    I get the issues with the lack of face-to-face too, but I've chalked it up as just something to deal with, so that I can game B/X at all. I'll take that.

    Anyway, good discussion. I'll be checkin in to see if we're going at it again, and if so, who and when. Thanks bro.

  3. I'm with you on the face to face. The main thing tabletop does for me vs say MMORPG / comptuer game / writting fiction by myself is the social, friends around a table. Friendships that build up over a campaign.

    The "one shot" module might be the answer to how someone like me can use / enjoy the electronic tabletop.

  4. Face-to-face is always preferred, but when you have the situation like our group and have friends in other states Skype is a great substitute. We run sandbox campaigns over the internet using skype and fantasy grounds and it works pretty good (after we tweak all the glitches of DLing content). But our group has been playing together for years so that familiarity is definately a bonus when playing over the internet.

  5. Another thing about skype games that I have mentioned before and still lurks in the back of my mind is that I think T&T would work great.

  6. Oh yeah. T&T would work great. I had the same thought once or twice during the Skype games. Only problem which variant of which version of T&T do you use?

  7. I would likely go with 5 or 5.5. Then the free download from RPGnow could be used if someone didn't own the rules.