View Full Version : Online/PbP Games - Newbie thinking of GMing

07-29-2009, 11:24 PM
I've been playing RPGs for a long time but almost all of it has been face-face tabletop gaming. I've played in 2 PbP games but both fizzled out fairly quickly. While I enjoyed it, there were certainly challenges with regards to dialogue/role-playing and combat.

I've been checking out some of the online gaming tools available such as Maptool.

Bottom line, I'm looking to increase RPG game-time as my local game meets far less frequently than I'd like. I like, even prefer, to GM most of the time.

All that said, any insight or advice on the following:

1. PbP vs. Online - For a "virtual game" newbie, which is likely to be more successful in terms of time-spent-playing and potential for campaign longevity?

2. House Rules - Game of choice would be D&D 3.5 or OGL game. I'm planning to pick up Pathfinder next month. That said, I've got an extensive d20/OGL library of 3rd-party sources that I'll want to use. How have others approached identifying the house rules that'll be used? Handouts, email, forum posts?

3. Tips for Do's and Don'ts. What do you HAVE to change/handle differently than a tabletop session? How do you handle dialogue/interactions so that everyone isn't "talking" over one another?

In advance, your advice is appreciated. Thanks.

07-30-2009, 12:36 AM
I dipped into the online gaming just recently. The group has now done three adventures.

What I did was to get the email addresses of the players while they were generating characters initially. I walked them through the process explaining the differences at generation. I have a wiki on Obsidian portal which I also suggested that they check out. There were three things that I suggested that they look at.

I sent copies of the info to the email addresses to reinforce what I do often.

That being said, there were still questions before we started the game. We dealt with them during the first game and continue at times to deal with it.

Personally I wouldn't like pbp as it takes too long to accomplish anything.

Chat didnt have too much of a problem some digression but not too bad. When in combat rolled intitiative and they acted in order. I put up pm boxes to speak privately.

I have checked out gametable and it seems to work but it requires that all have the program.

hope this helps.

07-30-2009, 07:41 AM
As far as playing goes its nearly the same as being at the table top, you just use screen images instead of minis on a battle map. So from a purely mechanical perspective you won't have any problems. The DM's preparation time is about the same, you just do it all in the computer instead of on paper, replacing miniatures with graphics files and such.

One thing I've noticed is that its more difficult to read the players when online. Text only chat doesn't offer all of the conversation; facial expressions and voice tone are lost so figuring out the emotions based on what is typed doesn't always work. Sarcasm, anger, elation, all looks pretty much the same. In the live chat of an online game you don't take the extra time to describe how your character is saying it, like you might in a slower play by post game. Most people aren't that quick at typing so they'll take shortcuts by leaving out description.

I've had mixed success with players in online games. You can't tell how they feel about the game very easily, again since you can't see their expressions during game play. Its difficult to adapt to their desired play styles unless you're already familiar with them. You might find that you'll get a lot of interest in an online game, but it quickly putters out when players stop showing up for one reason or another.

As a DM you'll need to prepare for the game in a different way. You'll need a pretty big collection of images for the online map. I've taken to scanning in portions of battle maps and resizing them to fit the online tool. I've done the same for minis, take digital pictures of actual minis and resize them to fit.

One other thing to keep in mind is the copy/paste options. You can type up all the room descriptions or NPC dialog before the session, then copy/paste it into the chat to save some time.

My suggestion to you would be to give it a shot. Pick a short dungeon delve, maybe 2 encounters, that you can run in about 4 hours. Get some folks together in a virtual table top and see how it feels to you all.

My preference in the past has been for OpenRPG, which I still use for one of my campaigns. I'm starting to learn towards MapTool now that I've gotten to work with it a bit more. I'm not a certified instructor or anything, but if you have questions with either tool feel free to drop me a note and I'll try to help you out. I've also put up a few blog posts on P&PG that go over some of the tools and such used in the online games that may be helpful as well.