Thursday, March 19, 2020

Virtual Table Top Gaming - the Cure for Social Distancing and RPGs

As of this week, in my corner of the US in New Mexico the Governor has shut down all recreational businesses, which means the gaming center where we meet has had to close up, and that is where we've been meeting for regular gaming since roughly 2008.

There are some possibilities, but members of my group are closer to the high-risk side of the population when it comes to COVID-19 exposure, and so we've been discussing the idea of using one of the online meetup tools or virtual tabletops. So far we've been floating ideas on things such as Roll20, Discord, Fantasy Grounds (I used a version of this once about 15 years ago), and Astralworks. Zoom, Line and other more generic services are also under consideration.

So far, it seems like Fantasy Grounds and Astralworks could require a bit of time and effort to properly set up or prep, and both might have hefty potential buy-in depending on what you are doing with it (the level of elaboration you aim for). Roll20 seems on the surface to be more intuitive, to a degree, and the map-making seems to be "not too bad" but I am sure it has a measure of buy-in as well. Ultimately cost may not be much of an issue, so long as one doesn't have to add a lot of supplemental content and get nickel-and-dimed to death, but for me it's a question of "will this support my game style?" That means something which supports lots of open-ended, hexcrawly, unscripted play....and the ability to do maps on the fly. So for the moment Roll20 seems to be in the lead, but I admit, I've got a soft spot for Zoom's ease of use and need to poke it a bit to see if there are things I can do easily like share graphics quickly (I know its very easy to share my desktop at least).

I also know we need voice chat; I don't think anyone in the group would be excited at typing a lot of text. It seems like Roll20 might need a support service for that, such as Discord.

So...what are other people doing to fill this roll? Any reccomendations or tips in this arena are welcome! I've gamed online as a GM only once 15 years ago, and as a player maybe twice in the last twelve years that I can recall, and each time as a player was underwhelming. Still, my group of long time regulars will be Jonesing for games soon if we don't find a good solution!

By the way! Check out Campaign Mastery for a great post on dispelling COVID-19 Myths.

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