For 2020 my gaming plans went through hoops of fire as the pandemic changed how my game tables worked. The FLGs where we all met could no longer host (and still can't under current lockdown rules), and was shut down for lengthy periods. The gamers in my group ranged in age from 30 to 60+ and enough of us fit the "older, with complications" category to not want to risk casual exposure for gaming.
Early on, like the week my state (New Mexico) shut down everything back in March/April I researched online virtual tabletop (VTT) options and settled on Roll20 as a primary venue, with Astral as my backup.
For Astral I have so far only interfaced with it as a player. Onebookshelf graciously offered a one year premium subscription to publishers on Drivethrrpg.com I think to stimulate us all to produce content that was compatible with Astral, which has a fairly limited content set compared to Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds. So far my experience with Astral has been Call of Cthulhu-centric, and it handles the game just fine. Quirks include: lack of voice support, an odd way of delivering handouts to PCs, and a background music option that can be fun and annoying at the same time.
For Roll20 I have invested heavily, which means I'm pretty well committed, so good thing I enjoy using it for the most part. I feel it could handle "spontaneous" content a bit better (trying to type in or click to set up complicated dice rolls is annoying in all of these systems so far) but it's approach for me as a GM works well. The problem with Roll20 is that it handles games for which it has some level of support generally quite well, but if no one has bothered to build content in the Roll20 charactermancer or the publisher hasn't arranged to set up purchasable support in the shop for its ruleset then the only games you can run without that support are those for which you will find the rules/mechanics to handle adequately on the baseline support of Roll20. As an example, I ran Cypher System and Call of Cthulhu using just the available character sheet from their free Quickstart product and otherwise used my physical rulebooks for the campaign I ran just fine....and while even the free level of support is enough to run, say, D&D 5E easily in Roll20, I think I'm hesitant to run Savage Worlds without some compendium data, and I wouldn't even bother with Traveller right now, which appears to have no support for the modern edition of the game on Roll20 at all (that I can find).
I ruled out Fantasy Grounds for one reason: cost. Too much cost, unfortunately. After two years of paying for Roll20 I might have spent as much on it as I would just getting the foundation necessary on Fantasy Grounds, but I'm kinda hoping we're back to physical tabletops by 2022 you know? Gotta dream!
So this is a long way of saying: what I plan to run for 2021 is driven by what I can manage to run in either Roll20 or Astral Tabletop. Right now, that list is pretty tightly defined to:
Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Cypher System (even though no rulesets are available, the cards all are, and the charactermancer sheet works great)
Call of Cthulhu
I also have Scum & Villany RPG's setup on Roll20, may try to run that at some point.
I can readily run (thanks to available compendiums, when I am willing to buy them if I think they would be helpful):
Esper Genesis (the core rules just released as a compendium)
Zweihander (the core player rules are free!)
So yeah, that's essentially "what I can run" without taking precious free time to try and learn to code in the charactermancer. So...in a nutshell, these are the games I have on the table, so to speak, for Roll20 gaming this year.
Now for Astral Tabletop, aside from the ongoing games in which I am a player I might well use it this year as a GM to try one of these games that I am interested in: Cyberpunk Red, Sword Chronicles (more on that one in a future post!) and maybe GURPS. I have a campaign for GURPS set in ancient Egypt I've been working on for months now, and I really want to run more GURPS this year, it's a game system that fits my current mood for gaming well these days. All I need is a group of like-minded players who find an historically accurate campaign in the late bronze age to be tantalizing and I'm set!
So, for 2021 so far, my plans look like this:
Saturday Group: this is the "long haul" group that can remain focused and benefits from a GM who is not frayed from midweek work stress. As such, it tends to be better at long term campaign commitments.
1. Get the group through their current D&D 5E campaign. I am expecting they will like to grow it to a logical conclusion that ends around level 10-12, but we'll see.
2. Get the group back to a new Pathfinder 2E campaign as soon as possible and never look back at D&D again.
3. Alternatively, get at least a 10-20 session Cypher System campaign using Godforsaken to run Realms of Chirak going as soon as feasible.
4. Propose Esper Genesis at some point.
Wednesday Group: this is the group with more "stressors," including a GM who is harried and overworked midweek but liked having the midweek game because it sometimes helps me decompress (but sometimes work won't let me and sessions are missed). It has at least one player who can only attend every other week, but we've stopped trying to run alternating campaigns for my own sanity and he instead makes characters which can have an excuse for their lack of presence every other session. Because it is hard to focus on this week, I tend to prefer running shorter and sometimes more experimental campaigns on Wednesday nights. I frequently fantasize about someone else running on this night, but know I'd probably not want to play if it isn't GURPS or Call of Cthulhu (the only two systems I seem to enjoy as a player). For this night the plan is:
1. Run Starfinder's Fly Free or Die adventure path to its natural conclusion. This will last until at least June I predict. By running a programmed module series I have taken some of the burden off my shoulders.
2. Look at what I can run after that that fits the same "easy to prep" approach I've got right now. Probably will run a Call of Cthulhu campaign after the Starfinder adventure path concludes. Maybe the Alien RPG? A possibility!
My Wishlist....things I'd still like to do but don't know where they fit in, include:
GURPS Egypt campaign
A Numenera Campaign
A nostalgic revisitation of D&D 3rd edition (don't ask; I'll elaborate in a future blog post)
So...we'll see what time and the unique nature of VTT permit for 2021! Can't wait to revisit this post in twelve months.