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I'm looking at running an online game soon. I've used Roll20 in the past and it had some nice features, tough we'd usually end up using Discord for audio, I'm not too keen on multiple solutions. Lately Astral Table Top looks interesting, with some immersive options. My main beef with VTT is that it's challenging to get players engaged with each other - too much solo play and not enough teamwork (I've actually encountered adversarial play, which is perhaps it's a hangover from playing online FPS??).

I really enjoy the collaborative element you get with a bunch of people actually sitting around the same table. So, does Astral bring anything to the virtual table that would help? And, from those with more VTT experience, what tips would you have for promoting supportive play?

PS: I'm not looking to go Pro with any options yet, so FG is off the table.

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Are you playing with an established group, or finding new people to play with? I've been using just Discord, with a dicebot, and then snipping images or sketching then scanning to give people an idea what areas look like. Miss my hexgrid & minis, but I've found going pure theater-of-the-mind is serviceable.

I suspect we don't have too much trouble playing over audio-only because we've been playing together for a while. I can imagine it being more difficult with a new game group.

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58 minutes ago, Crel said:

I've been using just Discord, with a dicebot, and then snipping images or sketching then scanning to give people an idea what areas look like.

My son is doing the same way. For those who can't or don't like to use the dicebot, the webcam (seen only by the GM) looks on the dice rolls.

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Well, cooperative or adversarial is a matter of the group, not the tool :)

Going voice only will not help. A map of a good ol' dungeon is a good idea to keep people engaged: you are here, you see that monster there, I will start to count SR, what do you do? Nothing is more engaging than a Dark Troll attempting to make first contact between his maul and your skull.

NB : MapTool has all the mapping options of Roll20 pro (lights etc.) and it is free. I do not know whether there is a FW for the current version of RQ though.

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I recommend Roll20 plus some video chat platform (Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, whatever you fancy).

Make it a priority to have good webcams, with everybody having them turned on -- it's important to keep track of who's engaged and who seems bored. At a table game, the GM generally spends their time talking to/starting at the players, and not staring at the battlemat or at the inside of their GM screen. It shouldn't be any different with an online game: the main attraction here is to play with friends.

Put the Roll20 window on a secondary screen if you have the luxury of having 2 computer monitors, or just switch back and forth as necessary. Roll20 (or some other VTT) makes it primarily easy to share the character sheets, handouts, and dice rolls. Showing a piece of paper to the camera is never good enough to read, while having the character sheet plainly visible in Roll20 is super helpful (not even counting the nice features like one-click rolls). Again, at the table the GM or players frequently have to check someone's character sheet to help them with this or that roll or spell or whatever.

I absolutely don't understand people who just use voice-chat only, it's not like anybody ever ran RPG adventures over the phone before. The couple times I tried it (as a player) I was noticeably less focused and engaged, and it didn't seem like I was the only one.

Edited by lordabdul
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22 hours ago, Kloster said:

My son is doing the same way. For those who can't or don't like to use the dicebot, the webcam (seen only by the GM) looks on the dice rolls.

I never ask to see rolls at my table so never seen the need for dicebots (unless people dont have dice to hand). I mean we're playing for fun not money right?

All the games I play in currently just use a voice/video chat program and some form of file share for sketches and handouts. 

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I use roll20 for maps, handouts, character sheets, combats etc.

I use Discord for voice, and lately also video.

I use Kanka for lore and background, but my players aren't too interested in logging in there and read. They do keep a game journal on google docs though.

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On 6/6/2020 at 1:32 PM, Thaz said:

I never ask to see rolls at my table so never seen the need for dicebots (unless people dont have dice to hand). I mean we're playing for fun not money right?

All the games I play in currently just use a voice/video chat program and some form of file share for sketches and handouts. 

So do I, but my son 'discovered' that some of his players had strange dice results.

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Thanks guys, some food for thought. I signed up for Astral but my old pc wasn't too happy with the WebGL so I'll stick with Roll20. Also wasn't aware of MapTools so thanks Rosen for the tip!

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1 hour ago, Kloster said:

So do I, but my son 'discovered' that some of his players had strange dice results.

As GM I end up rolling a lot of dice hidden from players, but I try to also even it out by making big important rolls using the same dicebot as them. Things like the struck location on a special or crit, rolling to dodge a crit, divine intervention, etc.

Also I freaking love styling on my players when my monsters crit a dodge and avoid a near-certain decapitation. It's hilarious and they get so mad. (I roll that die publicly when we play in person, too. It's kind of become a tradition in our group.)

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50 minutes ago, JustAnotherVingan said:

Its a pity that there isn't any adventures for Runequest on Roll20.

Even a published adventure takes quite a while to prepare for use there

What makes it longer to prepare there?

When we run face-to-face games, I just hastily draw shitty maps with a marker on a battlemat (if we even use a battlemat -- otherwise I draw it on a small whiteboard). I just do the same in roll20, where I use the freeform pen tool to draw equally shitty maps on the virtual battlemat. In the real world I might show them the map from the book (if it's a published adventure), so in roll20 I snap the map from the PDF and either share it as a handout, or set it as the background...

Once I tried my hand at assembling a "proper" map for roll20 (using 2minutetabletop's wonderful asset library), and yeah that takes some time... but to me that's the virtual equivalent of having an entire stack of Dwarven Forge models, painfully assembling, gluing, and painting the environment... (like a Matt Mercer/Critical Role kind of map). I don't have the time or inclination to do that, but I'm pretty sure it's actually a lot quicker to do on roll20 than in the physical world.

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5 hours ago, lordabdul said:

When we run face-to-face games, I just hastily draw shitty maps with a marker on a battlemat (if we even use a battlemat -- otherwise I draw it on a small whiteboard). I just do the same in roll20, where I use the freeform pen tool to draw equally shitty maps on the virtual battlemat. In the real world I might show them the map from the book (if it's a published adventure), so in roll20 I snap the map from the PDF and either share it as a handout, or set it as the background...

This is pretty much what I do as well.

I'm not sure how to export stuff from Roll 20, but if somebody does know then I have a few maps from River of Cradles and Borderlands I would be more than happy to share.

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On 6/5/2020 at 3:30 PM, lordabdul said:

I absolutely don't understand people who just use voice-chat only, it's not like anybody ever ran RPG adventures over the phone before. The couple times I tried it (as a player) I was noticeably less focused and engaged, and it didn't seem like I was the only one.

Some of us live in the middle of freaking nowhere, and have crap internet.  Video is no good if you don't have the bandwidth for it.

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1 hour ago, Marc said:

Some of us live in the middle of freaking nowhere, and have crap internet.  Video is no good if you don't have the bandwidth for it.

That I can understand -- sorry if I generalized too much. I've seen (well.. not seen :) ) people who live in the same city as me, and with proper internet access AFAICT, just use voice chat and a map.

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15 hours ago, Kloster said:

So do I, but my son 'discovered' that some of his players had strange dice results.

That just results in their luck getting a bit suspect and bad guys getting harder and "luckier" I rarely have that problem for long

 

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16 hours ago, lordabdul said:

What makes it longer to prepare there?

When we run face-to-face games, I just hastily draw shitty maps with a marker on a battlemat (if we even use a battlemat -- otherwise I draw it on a small whiteboard). I just do the same in roll20, where I use the freeform pen tool to draw equally shitty maps on the virtual battlemat. In the real world I might show them the map from the book (if it's a published adventure), so in roll20 I snap the map from the PDF and either share it as a handout, or set it as the background...

Once I tried my hand at assembling a "proper" map for roll20 (using 2minutetabletop's wonderful asset library), and yeah that takes some time... but to me that's the virtual equivalent of having an entire stack of Dwarven Forge models, painfully assembling, gluing, and painting the environment... (like a Matt Mercer/Critical Role kind of map). I don't have the time or inclination to do that, but I'm pretty sure it's actually a lot quicker to do on roll20 than in the physical world.

Converting the PDF into a Word document

Extracting the maps and putting them into the roll20 system

Extracting artwork and other stuff you want to be available to players as handouts

Taking  NPC/creature stats and putting them into the NPC character sheets

When I'm refereeing in the real world we don't use figures and battle maps are drawn on scraps of paper

It doesn't take as long as writing my own scenarios does but it takes a lot longer than using something published

 

edit: I suppose the real problem is unlike writing scenarios its all boring stuff, formatting, copy pasting, inputting stats etc.

Edited by JustAnotherVingan
A thought occurred to me
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6 hours ago, JustAnotherVingan said:

I suppose the real problem is unlike writing scenarios its all boring stuff, formatting, copy pasting, inputting stats etc.

Ah right.

FWIW, I use the screen sharing feature of the video chat we use (Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype, depending on the group), and temporarily share my screen, showing the PDF open in my PDF reader, zoomed on whatever thing I want to show them (which is kind of the equivalent of showing them the book directly when I'm at the table... only it's easier to hide the parts of the page I don't want them to see :) ).

If I need them to have access to a page individually (for instance some character advancement table while they're all spending their XP), I might quickly do a screen capture of the PDF and upload that in the handouts of Roll20. Again, I just do it "live on air", as needed, since it takes only a couple clicks.

This means there's no need to convert the PDF to a Word document... and actually even if you wanted to extract the artwork and maps directly instead of screenshot'ing them (so you have them at their max resolution and without writing over them), you should be able to, in 98% of cases, just right-click on the image in the PDF viewer and copy/save the image directly. That might save you a few steps.

Stat'ing up the NPCs and creatures does take a lot of time yeah, so I don't have any tips here except.... don't do it? :D  At the table, I would look at the stats on the book's page and just roll, right? So I do the same in roll20: I roll "basic" ("naked") rolls, i.e. just "/roll d100" in the chat window, or whatever dice roll it is, and do the work myself (as opposed to copying the stats in a proper roll20 character sheet and using the character sheet's rolling features). If I'm feeling cheeky, or if it's the kind of game where I don't roll openly in front of the players, I might not even use roll20 at all and roll my real dice on my real table (which I consider would be the equivalent of rolling behind the GM screen). I still need the tokens to place on the map, but I just create a bunch of "placeholder" tokens that don't have any character sheet, and the only thing to differentiate them are their name and/or colour (just a few clicks to change), which would be the equivalent of using dice or poker chips on the battlemap as mooks/thugs/etc. If I'm brave, I might have prepared a picture for a few major NPCs, so they get a proper image on their token (but still no character sheet in roll20... only in the real world for me).

I hope this helps!

Edited by lordabdul
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Only 1 of our group (not me) has a camera atm (heck, I didn't even have a headset before Covid-19) but the other tips look useful to my specific situation :)

We're still experimenting whilst our Pathfinder referee runs a campaign he purchased on Roll20.

1 useful thing about being in a group where everyone referees is theres no pressure to rush getting things ready, 1 of us always has something to run.

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