[generic] RPG a day lockdown #89 - opinion of online gaming


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The better half has been doing a post on Facebook most days (although I’ve done a fair few of them the last month) as she’s gone on the lockdown journey. Yesterday was definitely one of the days when it all became a blur. I was glad in a lot of ways that the WHFRP4 game got postponed, because I would have been struggling.
I think one of the things which irritates me about online gaming is the phobia about being seen eating or drinking. I mean, WTF? My Tuesday gamers used to turn up in person with takeaways and a metric tonne of junk food, and I'd be making them cups of tea all evening.

I've seen and heard them eating and drinking! Many, many times.

But nooooo. Now I'd apparently fail a San roll if the horror of someone eating a sarnie or pasta bake was revealed over the interwebz. Instead we have to delay the start of the game and/or lose a player for 10 mins in the middle of it.
If, however, you're gaming with me and your cat decides to come and join you, make sure your mic is on. Getting to see and hear people's cats has been an unexpected highlight of online games.
I have come to accept online gaming as inevitable, though I can't shake that feeling of 'pretending to be having fun' I get sometimes. It's definitely more fatiguing than face-to-face gaming, but with my group dispersing to various parts of the globe I don't really have a choice. Maybe I'll get used to it eventually - I have a sneaking suspicion that all my online teaching has progressively soured me on the whole online thing, and retirement means that will no longer be a factor.
I've been online gaming, off and on, for nearly 15 years. I started with a truly horrible python program (OpenRPG, wasn't a good experience), and then moved on to MapTool, a much nicer Java program that has a lot of similarities with Roll20, but is (a) better and (b) free. The initial games were text-chat and VTT only, which is very slow. We then started using Teamspeak to give us voice chat, which was great for catching up but I didn't find it added much to gaming.

After a few years of hiatus, I started online gaming again about 3 years ago with Roll20, and then added Discord for A/V when Roll20 proved to be unreliable. I'm completely convinced that video is the magic bullet that puts online gaming roughly on a par with face-to-face. Has its downsides, of course, but also obvious upsides like not having to be physically together.

These last few months have been the first time I've played online with strangers, at conventions and the local indie meet-up. I really like it, but I've found that it is much harder physically than face-to-face gaming. I tried running 3 sessions a day at an online con, and it completely wiped me out. I've struggled to get the energy up to run games at Expo and AlbaCon, and decided not to try GenCon and some others.

The big problem with online games is all the physical bits we've become used to. Character sheets, handouts - these are fairly static and can normally be provided for. I'm amazed at how hard it is to reproduce dice rolling online. I guess it's because the VTTs are trying to add value by automating it all, but it means that if you have a dice rolling mechanism they haven't coded for, you're stuffed. And it seems I play a lot of games with unusual dice mechanics, so I struggle. And when it comes to non-dice objects (like cards or tokens), Roll20 is not a very happy bunny.

I will continue to play online even when face-to-face becomes an option again, but I will be more adventurous with it than I was before. Maybe try to find a VTT that will cope with my weird dice habits.
The big problem with online games is all the physical bits we've become used to.
That was particularly poignant for my current (actually, by now I can sadly say "my previous") group, as the referee had acquired an obscene amount of figures and terrain props. Literally tens of thousands of US$ worth. In a way, going online actually helps with that because there's no way I'll ever be able to replicate that. These are tiny samples, he built entire town quarters for some games:

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