Questions about Online Campaigns


Advice


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Hi,

I'm toying with the idea to start an online campaign with a couple of friends. At the moment it is really only an idea, but I like to think things through, so I wondered, what we would need...
Nobody of us has ever played in an online P&P RPG group, so I wanted to ask those of you, which has this done (or maybe is still playing):

- which virtual tabletop system would you suggest? As there are so many out there, if you don't know any of them, you should listen to people which have already used one (or maybe a couple for finding the one which they think is the best)
- what other tools would we need (beside something like Skype or TeamSpeak)?
- anything else, you have to think about (either as a GM or as a player) what differs from a "normal" RPG group?

I hope that you can help me with these questions...


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

I've mostly played with Hotline Server (very obsolete) or IRC and a dice bot, with a friend's home-grown combat mapping system.

Most recently, I've started trying roll20.net. They seem pretty solid, especially on the mapping, though some definite work on setup is required per-session (you pretty much have to pre-upload your NPCs, including monsters).

My biggest issues there:
1. You really need two windows if you're going to have decent amounts of space to read the chat (this is doable easily enough, and hopefully they'll allow popping out the chat).
2. Dice rolling takes up a ton of chat space. I've found some workarounds but they're slightly less natural.
3. Lack of convenience commands; we're used to a !try command that works like so:
!try 12;arcana 10;religion
results:
Dicebot rolls for PhelanArcetus 1d20+12 (1d20 = 7) + 12 = 19 (arcana)
Dicebot rolls for PhelanArcetus 1d20+10 (1d20 = 11) + 10 = 21 (religion)

I probably got the exact formatting wrong from memory, but the gist is there; it does a bunch of d20 rolls, adding distinct modifiers, and with labels.

I've done some looking and the roll20 API can definitely address this, but it's not free, unlike the base service.

Historically, we haven't used a voice or video chat system, just text chat.

Think through protocols for talking in & out of character; this might be a different window for out-of-character talk, even.

As a GM, pre-type as much description as possible if you're using text instead of voice. It gets really frustrating as a player to sit and wait for 5 minutes as the GM slowly types out a room description - especially when you start asking questions about the first part of the description and they get lost because the GM is paying attention to typing.

If you're using video/voice, make sure everyone has a robust internet connection; last time we tried using voice we had to also use chat as a supplement because one player was losing connection every few minutes.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Fantasy Grounds is by far the best VTT for the GM. Just about everything your characters do can be handled by the program. There's prep work in filling out character sheets (although there's a good statblock parser and monsters straight out of Bestiaries 1-3 are already done for you), but the more time you want to put into it, the more you can get out of it, such as linking text, images, and encounters to rooms on a map. Once you're done, actually running the game goes pretty smoothly, with the program doing all the math for you.

It also can take into account most effects that change rolls with simple programming. For example, a greatsword-wielding ranger fighting a human wizard can turn on charging, power attack, and favored enemy effects, while the wizard has up mage armor and blur. You roll your attack and the program will check your adjusted total vs. the wizard's adjusted AC and roll the miss chance and critical confirmation automatically, telling you if you hit or not. Then you roll the damage and it adds the adjusted total, including critical hit damage, to the wizard's damage in the combat tracker. Then the wizard can target the ranger and have the program roll the ranger's saving throw, then drop damage or an effect on him. Etc.

It costs money and there's a learning curve, but it's easily worth it.

As far as voice tools, Teamspeak is great, if you've already got access to a server. Skype works, but I'm not a fan of the bandwidth usage and lack of control. You probably won't need anything else with Fantasy Grounds.

The usual caveats of dealing with people online vs. face-to-face apply. You won't be able to tell how well you're keeping people's interest or how they're reacting to something if they don't say anything. It's harder for a quiet person to get a word in because only one person can talk at a time, etc. Less group bonding overall.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Thanks... that is actually quiet helpful!
I think, I will have a look at Fantasy Grounds. It looks quiet good and as far as I have seen, they have a demo on their site. Maybe I will try that first to see, if I like it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Roll20 is by far the best one if you ask me... the benefits is that it's browser based and easy to send links to your players, and you won't have to bother with sorting out routers and firewalls or vpn or anything like that.

Other than that I'd use dropbox or google drive or some such to share the sheets and other important files with your group.

And ofcorse any sort of voip like Skype or such, but you already mentioned that.

Skype: Push to talk I would recommend using this if you have more than 3-4 people in your group.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Gwaihir Scout wrote:
Fantasy Grounds is by far the best VTT for the GM. Just about everything your characters do can be handled by the program. There's prep work in filling out character sheets (although there's a good statblock parser and monsters straight out of Bestiaries 1-3 are already done for you), but the more time you want to put into it, the more you can get out of it, such as linking text, images, and encounters to rooms on a map. Once you're done, actually running the game goes pretty smoothly, with the program doing all the math for you.

I had a look at the demo for Fantasy Grounds and I must say, I'm quiet impressed!

Only thing I'm wondering at the moment is how far the Pathfinder rules are implemented regarding character classes, items, spells etc.

I think, most items can be put in yourself (if I got the system in FG right) and maybe also the same with spells, but what about the character classes?


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I don't quite understand the question. If you're asking if there's a way to drop class levels on a character the same way you add items or spells to them, then no, you've got to add all that manually to each character. You'd be better off asking this question on the FG forums; there's people more familiar with how things work there.


dot

Silver Crusade

Our group typically speaks over Mumble (lower latency issues) and utilizes Maptool (it provides a map, dice software, and there's dozens of macros out there so players can run their stuff right off of their tokens). it also has light and field of view checkers, a fog of war option and some other stuff.

You'll need to make your own tokens using another program though (like tokentool).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Before my group broke up in September, we were using MapTool as a VTT, Skype to communicate (mostly audio-only to save bandwidth), Google Drive to share files (like character sheets), and Obsidian Portal for the players guide, adventure logs, NPC lists, custom item descriptions, campaign wiki, etc.

I haven't done much with VTT scripting with MapTool-- honestly, the scripting language is arcane and there isn't a user guide that's particularly helpful. MapTool is a Java app, which has its own quirks, and the GUI is kind of wonky-- there is a bit of a learning curve.

On the plus side, it's free, cross-platform, and very powerful.

On the minus side, it doesn't work on tablets (iPad, Android, or Windows RT). It does install OK on a Surface Pro 2 Windows 8.1 tablet, although manipulating objects is difficult unless you plug in a mouse. (Which kind of defeats the point of using a tablet.)

I will be investigating Roll20 for my next online campaign... and am hopeful that Paizo GameSpace will be up and running by then as well.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Gwaihir Scout wrote:
I don't quite understand the question. If you're asking if there's a way to drop class levels on a character the same way you add items or spells to them, then no, you've got to add all that manually to each character. You'd be better off asking this question on the FG forums; there's people more familiar with how things work there.

Sorry, what I meant was the following: FG calculates all character specific rules and active spells into combat roll's (as you wrote yourself in the example with the wizard and the ranger).

That means, it has to have the rules for e.g. favourite enemy and the spells the wizard casts.

So, I wondered if FG also has the rules for character classes like the witch (with her Hexes) or the Magus (with his Arcane Pool and the Spellstrike ability) or if you have to design them yourself (if this is possible).

But maybe you are right. I will go over to the FG forums and the question there. Nevertheless: Thanks for the help!
Also to all the others which gave me tips for tools. I will look into a couple of them before I finally decide which one I will try.


I will second a reccomendation for app.roll20.net ; it's convenient, browser-based, and mostly free (unless you want fancy stuff).


I've run roll20 extensively, very good program with a lot of tools. I personally do suggest dropping the 5 dollars a month for dynamic lighting. It's a little bit more work, but if your players are exploring a dungeon, the changes in lighting is a big help.

Try to make good use of your handouts as well if you use roll20, as well as the music and ambiance.

I will admit, prepping for roll20 is a bit time consuming, though I guess not really any more than just making maps and stating out NPCs elsewhere. Still though.

I personally do suggest running with skype, otherwise things just get bogged down and go pretty slow.

Don't have any experience with FG, all I know is that it costs money for me and my players.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

1) I personally prefer MapTool over Roll20 and any paid service. I found the interface more initiative, and the program measures your token movement distance as you're moving it. I also find it easier to prepare by laying down hidden tokens that relay information to me and I can put monster stat blocks directly into tokens. My group found it easier to learn how to use, and we frequently have problems where players lose their permissions to use their tokens. You can also easily add material from your local machine without having to worry about DMCA. You can also run maptool on anything that supports java whereas roll20 doesn't work for mobile devices unless you pay a subscription.

2) Skype is sufficient. Combat Manager is an amazing resource. You will also want a way to store character sheets so they're available to everyone in the group. Google Docs and Mythweavers are good ones.

3) A big difference is that you can easily hide information from other players. For example, if a player rolls a successful knowledge check, the GM can tell the player the resulting information in a private message. Online play is also easier to look up information. There's many extra ways you can enhance the game, like using a voice morpher or streaming music.

I exclusively play online. I use MapTool and Skype. For character sheets, I make it mandatory that all players store their character sheet in google docs where I can easily access it. Google docs also lets me make a folder and store links to each sheet so that they're easily available to me and the rest of the players. I prepare for a session by getting maps off of the Internet or a PDF module (via print screen) and import them into MapTool. There, I create the monster tokens in places where they exist, copy/pasting their stat blocks into a text block in the tokens that only the GM can see. Then, I use the fog of war feature so that players can only see areas I reveal.

Each player character gets a token. My players don't have to translate their entire character sheet into it, but are encouraged to store their hitpoints, AC, and any class resources like ki points and arcane pool points. For fun, I extracted the sprites from the Ultima-styled MMORPG Tibia and use them for tokens and environment items in the game. I also created little sprites for each player character.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Killer Power wrote:
Gwaihir Scout wrote:
I don't quite understand the question. If you're asking if there's a way to drop class levels on a character the same way you add items or spells to them, then no, you've got to add all that manually to each character. You'd be better off asking this question on the FG forums; there's people more familiar with how things work there.

Sorry, what I meant was the following: FG calculates all character specific rules and active spells into combat roll's (as you wrote yourself in the example with the wizard and the ranger).

That means, it has to have the rules for e.g. favourite enemy and the spells the wizard casts.

So, I wondered if FG also has the rules for character classes like the witch (with her Hexes) or the Magus (with his Arcane Pool and the Spellstrike ability) or if you have to design them yourself (if this is possible).

But maybe you are right. I will go over to the FG forums and the question there. Nevertheless: Thanks for the help!
Also to all the others which gave me tips for tools. I will look into a couple of them before I finally decide which one I will try.

There is a spell library that parses out simple damage/debuff spells for you, but hexes, pools, bardic performance, rage, favored enemy, etc. you do yourself. Players can create a library of effects or "spells" they use themselves. A witch can make a "spell" for the evil eye hex that triggers an opponents save, then click on the effect she wants to add to her target. A ranger can add the effect "ATK: 2; DMG: 2" to himself every time he attacks a favored enemy. A bard can set up bardic performance like it's a sorcerer's spell he can use so many times per day and select which effect he wants to use, and so on.

You can do just about anything by making a "spell" for any ability, but you do have to do it yourself. The only things the system doesn't handle easily off the top of my head are temporary adjustments to Max HP, mirror images, fortification, and size changes. I don't know if version 3.0 will change that.


I know this won't be the answer you want to hear, but I think the d20 system is not great for online play. There is a steep learning curve, both for GMs and players for any online platform.

If you really want to make online play work, I would take a hacksaw to the rules and come up with a very simplified version. I know most modern players are hyper-focused on the use of the battle map, but eliminating it will also eliminate a lot of headaches for you.

Lantern Lodge

roll20.net is the standard for online PFS games and very easy to use. Pair it with google hangout or Skype for voice chat since the built in voice chat is laggy.


I've been doing online gaming for over 3 years now. I've ran Pathfinder, B/X D&D, & AD&D and all of them using MapTools, the MapTool Token Tool and Ventrillo. I think Teamspeak is actually better than Vent, but it's more of a resource hog or seems to be at least. I have a few tools I use on my iPad to help run the game and we store our PC sheets in a shared folder on Google Docs. I keep track of the PC sheets via HeroLab which is a bit more work for me, but I can be sure that the characters are correct that way.

I have my own hosted phpBB board that we use throughout the week for IC convos and a couple of resource threads. I've looked at Obsidian Portal, but haven't pulled the trigger yet on the pay-to-play upgrade. It looks quite handy, just not sure yet.

I can't say enough good things about MapTools. It's free, runs on Java and has plenty of features to run a game. With a voip app of your choice, you're in business. Really, the only thing that seems problematic with our games is when The Walking Dead interferes with our regular sessions, but we simply move to another evening for a few weeks then drop back to Sundays. It's a fine way to RPG with friends who live in different parts of the country (or world even).


I like Roll20 so much I use it for GMing my IN-PERSON games. The maps are clear and I can manipulate them on the fly, not to mention cheaper than miniatures. Images, rules questions, quick calculation of dice rolls: all easier. I'd be using my laptop to hold all my game books anyhow; my players just use their iPads or notebook PCs along with me.


You can enable skype push to talk feature if you don't know bro.
Go to Skype push to talk.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I do not believe people from 4 years ago are still watching this thread.


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