Two of the topics I suspect will be flying around concerning Change in RPGs will be 1) the rise of the “social justice” crowd in RPG publishing, and 2) gaming via the internet. I’m focusing on the second, because I like my politics separate from my fun.

For the last six months, people have been effectively under house arrest around the world, so how do you get together to play? A lot of folks don’t like change or technology, and while I’m not one of them, I will admit I found online gaming annoying, but that’s another reason we’ll leave out here.  In our case, a small number of the group just continued to meet as usual, others joined virtually. The change in feel was palpable for me. There’s a real separation that the screen creates, but it’s better than the distance gaming via speakerphone we used to do in the late nineties/early aughties. (And may have contributed to my distaste for distance gaming.) You lose some of the non-verbal queues, and you don’t have folks sitting about having food and drink together. (Although the amount of drinking going on via distance gaming was spectacular…well, not driving home, so why not?)

What changes with gaming via screen? What platforms are you going to use? How do you ensure honesty? There are plenty of online services specifically for gaming. There’s Roll20, there’s DriveThru’s Astral, there was a new Kickstarter for Roll, which was promising to integrate the video conferencing better — just to name a few. so what to use? Right off the bat, we had issues with Roll20’s video interface, and specifically audio not working, so we bailed on it, even though it was pretty slick. We’re working adults…we don’t want to troubleshoot our fun. Astral was very slick, but the lack of video conferencing was a turn off — I want to see the players. That’s half the fun.

We wound up using a combo of Zoom — because my wife has a corporate acciount so we weren’t limited to 45 minutes a session, and the audio/video was very stable. Okay…now we can see each other. We tend to “theater of the mind” when gaming, so the need for maps was minimal, but being able to share the laptop screen was useful for pics and maps that needed to be seen. So far, so good. There’s no dice support, unlike other video conferencing like Skype and Meet, but the others were just too buggy when it came to video stability. (I’m sure it’s improved over the last half year…I hope so, because I’m teach through Google Meets starting next week.)

Now to dice: We chose Roll Dice with friends because you could set up your own rooms and see the other players’ rolls. It was mostly good, but we did have nights were it was just a kludged mess.

We played this way for a month or two, before finally deciding to just get together as usual. It was an interesting experiment, but ultimately, it lost the main thing for me about gaming — not telling stories, or being creative, but being social. Getting together with friends to be 13 year old rolling bones and forgetting all the adult shit for a few hours. If anything, the coerced nature of our Zoom sojourn — at least for me — was a major reason I wanted to get away from it. Would it be good for playing with long-lost friends scattered over the globe? Absolutely. Are there some that will want to continue playing this way instead of getting together? Sure.

But it’s not for me.

What did you use? are using? to get around the kung flu madness…or just to connect with other players around the world. What works? What doesn’t? Comment, peoples!