What will you miss about playing TTRPGs online?

Gamer Life General Discussion

It's been about a year and a half since the pandemic hit in earnest, and most TTRPGers switched to playing online exclusively.

Now that the pandemic appears to be on the wane (thank you vaccinations!!) many of us will be returning to in-person play.

What are you going to miss about online play?

Here are a few things I'll miss when we return to in-person play...

1) Online Character Keepers

Not sure how many of you are using these, but it's a technique that's evolved from several online TTRPG communities and was developed years before the pandemic. Character Keepers are a shared document (usually a Google Sheet) where all of the character stats are kept, viewable by all players and the GM. As a player, I've found it very valuable to my play-style to know what the other PCs' tricks and techniques are, so that I can more easily play off of them. And as a GM, seeing the capabilities of all of the PCs in one place makes it easier to know their status. I know that I'm going to find that not having a Character Keeper to refer to is going to be a big adjustment when I return to in-person play.

2) No Commute time

One very nice thing about playing online is that you don't have to go anywhere. Back when I was playing in-person, I regularly had to drive 20-45 minutes to get to the host's house. With online gaming, there's no commute, so I don't have to factor in travel-time. This means we can generally have an extra hour or so per-session for a normal-length game. It also makes it viable to schedule short play sessions of two hours or less.

3) No Post-game cleanup

When I host a game, there is invariably a fair amount of cleanup I need to do after my guests leave: Collecting the empty beverage cans; putting away the books, dice, minis and battle-mat; sweeping up the chip crumbs that got dropped under the table; washing the glassware; etc. There's none of that in an online game!

4) Secret messaging is a LOT easier

Rather than passing notes, it's so much easier to send secret messages between the GM and a player, or between players, via direct the direct chat function of whatever online tool you're using to play (Zoom, Discord, Roll20, etc).

Liberty's Edge

Being able to use my own bathroom, drink/smoke during the game, the ability to order takeout for myself without feeling guilty, and my most comfortable chair.

That feels like a fairly substantial list but I am MORE than pleased that I'm able to play in person safely again and socialize like a real flesh and blood mammal again. The commute isn't so bad as we are all quite local to one another but I could see that being a HUGE pain in the neck for lots of people and if I had to spend more than an hour in the car to get to and from a game I'd probably stay home so I feel #2 big time.

My in-person group has adopted a LOT of the things we learned over the last year and a half at the table such as discord usage, shared chat space, and character management online.

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I've been running a Traveller campaign with co-workers and using maps and illustrations has aided theater of the mind play a lot. Our corp also just got rid of one if its office buildings so we are not sure we will be able to meet in person still anyways.

My long time rotating game (probably PF 50% of the time) tried online and everybody but me hated it. These guys got kids and wives and I think they like getting away. Having a beer online isnt the same as in person either. This could work because I recently got a ton of Battle tech stuff that I can finally use. (Never been able to find good VTT stuff for BattleTech.)

My commute's only about a half hour, but we play weeknights and that makes it a later night than I like. The regular game is already late for my schedule and the commute really hurts. We've been playing twice a week, which is doable online, but I wouldn't be able to keep that up if we go back to in person.

We've got a somewhat tech-illiterate crowd, so we haven't been taking full advantage of the online tools or I'd likely miss those more.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I've got an AV installation and design background, and my table reacquired some of our old members who live on the opposite coast while we were all playing online.

I'm not battling the idea of how to design the system to allow us locals to gather and still pull in our remote players.

I have different price points of systems in my head, and I need to value engineer it a bit.

Playing remotely opened our table up dramatically, and I don't want to limit who can remain in the group moving forward by not having the right webconferencing/telepresence solution in place.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Sorry. The point of that post was to say that, for many of us I suspect, a relaxing of pandemic restrictions won't lead to a 1:1 switch back to standard table play.

Not everyone is going to go to the length of finding a way to run a game that is both face to face and synchronous online, but I think many of the advantages that became apparent through online play - like character sheet management applications and dice rollers - will find ways into standard play.

The things people have become accustomed to, I doubt will be abandoned just because we're back at the physical table.

One thing I have missed about in-person play is physical dice.

In February 2020, I had bought two very cool d6 dice sets from Chessex... one light set and one dark set for use in the Trophy family of games... and I still haven't gotten a chance to use them in an actual game!

That said... when I GM an online game, I'm absolutely fine with it if players want to roll physical dice instead of using an online roller.

We still use physical dice in online Traveller, but its only 2D6 for any given roll. Pathfinder gets the auto roller.

I've been able to do occasional in-person gaming with friends within our bubble, so I've never been *completely* cut off from it, but getting out to game with other people now and then will be a nice change.

Our FLGS is trying to work out when to start hosting PFS & SFS in person again, and how much to keep offering online. (My wife is one of the VO's, and trying to negotiate that transition is driving her a little nuts right now.)

I'm part of a PFS group that has been playing a couple APs online (alternating between books), and now we've finished those and will be playing out the last couple levels through 20th with other modules. We started the campaign in person, but only got a couple sessions in before the pandemic drove all games online. I'm pretty sure we'll be completing that campaign online, if for no other reason than our high-level characters roll a &#!+-ton of dice each round, and adding that up in-person would slow things WAY down. (As just two examples. my wife's zen archer can shoot up to 7-8x a round, and my Greater Vital Striking PC rolls 12d6 per hit, or 18d6 on a crit.)

I imagine that I will continue to do both online and in-person gaming for quite a while yet. Once I finally got comfortable with online gaming (which took a while, and even longer for GMing), I have greatly appreciated the ease of finding and scheduling games that way. And there are some folks that I've greatly enjoyed gaming online with regularly that I might otherwise only see once or twice a year, at a con, if at all.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I've been running PF2 throughout the pandemic and haven't once touched a dice roller, nor required my players to. I know some people prefer it, but I need a physical object in my hand.

I really like that for PF2, I hit one click it gives me an attack roll, damage and crit damage. This happens on a number of things and its really nice.

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I know I've said I've been missing physical dice, but I have NOT been missing the mental math that rolling physical dice requires.

I've been playing PF1 on Roll20, using the official PFRPG character sheets. I've liked being able to set up macros fairly easily and then just clicking for spell effects, weapon damage, buffs/debuffs, etc.

Everyone using those macros for their characters really speeds up combat... which is fine by me because I don't particularly enjoy protracted combat scenes in RPGs much anymore.

When we return to in-person play, I'm really going to be missing the online dice rollers for math-intensive games like PF: I've never been particularly quick with mental math, and getting caught counting on one's fingertips when you're in your 50s is somewhat embarrassing.

That may be one reason that I now mostly play games with very simple dice mechanics, like PbtA [roll 2d6+stat], Fate [roll 4dF+skill-opposition], or various dice-pool games like FitD, Trophy, or Cortex [Assemble a dice pool, roll, and look at the highest individual die (or two) rolled.]

The Exchange

I never really stopped playing in person. Online is ok for what it is but will never replace in person gaming for me. I will not GM online as I don't want to learn another system/software program just to play other systems I already know. Glad this is all coming to an end and we can meet around actual tables again!

For me, online gaming is a permanent part of my RPG life: I'd been playing TTRPGs online with several online-only RPG communities since 2018. So, for me, the transition to gaming online exclusively was pretty painless.

Heck: Way back in 2011, I had two remote players for my in-person Pathfinder group, so we used a hybrid online solution for people in the room and on the other coast! (And online TTRPG tools have come a LONG way since then!)

However, I certainly do miss getting together with friends to toss dice and tell stories, and am very much looking forward to doing that again.

Im a hybrid. I dont have a strong push one way or the other. Both have pros and cons and most are subjective. I do appreciate online expanding my ability to try less popular games and specific campaigns that my traditional group wouldnt go for.

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My dad sent me this link earlier. Kind of touches on the topic, and thought it was interesting!


The whole reason I game anymore is to get together with a group. We play 5e Eberron - perhaps the least favorite combination of TTRPG options I can think of for myself - and it's the in-person aspect that keeps me coming back. We've had the occasional player need to attend virtually and it doesn't go as well IMO. Given a choice between virtual and real, I'll stop playing.

BF, COD, and (once upon a time) WOW are my preferred methods of online play.

ericthecleric wrote:

My dad sent me this link earlier. Kind of touches on the topic, and thought it was interesting!


"My 97-year-old nan plays too"!

I should dare to dream I'll still be playing RPGs so far into the future, if only as a spectator like nan.

Notice though that all the gamers already knew each other outside the online environment.

Thanks for looking at the link, QB!

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I dont plan to stop playing online because two of my players are out of state and it's HARD finding good players who are also decent people? The one thing about TTRPG's that I hate is finding people to play with so once you have that I'm loathe to let it go.

That being said to answer the question,

I would miss the speed at which combat happens because of auto dice rolling/macros.

I would miss how secret messages are handled. I like the idea that when 4 players make a knowledge check and only two of them succeed it I can just give both of those players the info and then let THEM as players relate the info (if they decide to at all) to the other players.

And I know text messaging is a thing, but having something handy that I can cut and paste quickly in the chat directly to the PCs is a godsend.

Maps and tactical combat is way better and CHEAPER via tabletop. Party fighting 5 Orcs? No problem! cut + Paste 5 orcs. Label them Orc 1-5. As opposed to having to have 5 orc mini's or pawns handy. If i want to let the players know how badly they are hurt I can make that visible to them on the token.

There are so many good things about online play including eliminating a commute, and clean-up time and having a skeleton of a log of the actual game to review afterwards? Yeah, I'm not giving that up anytime soon.

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Initiative tracking
Monster HP tracking
The ability to use a picture to set the scene

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I'm going to miss playing in my underwear. That's the only thing. Sadly, with two players out of town permanently, it seems like it will be Discord and Roll20 for a long time yet.

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The only thing I'll miss is the convenience of online map tools. Upside, you've got saveable images and there's little time spent on setup with virtually no time on takedown. Downside, I use 3d terrain in my in person games and there's no real way (I've found anyway) to really give players a good representation of elevations, flying creatures, furnishings and such online.

I miss people. I miss being around them, with them. Plus with a few exceptions I've spent the majority of the last year and 3 months in my house, staring at screens. To say it's nice to get together in person again is an understatement.

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I should add there is one more thing I like about online gaming: the ability to log on for a quick session to do some stuff to prepare for the next session and end early without having to worry about trying to find something entertaining for a full evening.

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Zero travel time. That was the only thing I missed when the lockdown ended in NZ.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I still get nostalgic for 'in-person' gaming.

And then after an hour of two of work dealing with the festering illness that is apparently treated as 'freedom' for some in modern society, I find myself appreciating and accepting online play more and more.

"It's just allergies" my butt. Last three people who've pulled that at work got the whole store sick for weeks."

I'll miss the far easier prep and portability -- I'm a dinosaur that has a tiny Fire from 2016 and the laptop I used to bring for emergency convention support died two years ago. Trying to remember all the things I'm going to need (and not able to go home to get) is already giving me a headache.

It's only now that I've set up my own Discord server for online RPG play, but I expect I'll continue to use it for the foreseeable future: I'm a member of three exclusively-online RPG communities, all of which have an international audience.

(Those are: The Gauntlet Online RPG Community, Gehenna Gaming, and Magpie Games Community Play. I'm most active at The Gauntlet by far.)

It looks like one of my two home RPG groups are going to resume in-person play starting in August! I'm going to propose that we meet at a local game bar!

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I think it's going to be a long while before I return to face to face gaming as I expect things to get worse before they get better.

But whenever I do return to FTF gaming, what I will miss is the ability to easily look everything, with full errata, on Archives of Nethys. There's no convenient way to do that where I game.

Also, just playing some Civilization while my players try to work out what to do next... :-P

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My home group met in-person this week and last, and it was great to be in the same room together again!

But we've decided to return to online gaming as COVID-delta cases are on the rise in our area. This is particularly disturbing, as we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the US... although we're right next to counties that have low vaccination rates and viruses don't respect political borders (or political views).

Haladir wrote:

My home group met in-person this week and last, and it was great to be in the same room together again!

But we've decided to return to online gaming as COVID-delta cases are on the rise in our area. This is particularly disturbing, as we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the US... although we're right next to counties that have low vaccination rates and viruses don't respect political borders (or political views).

Cases are on the rise everywhere - though obviously some places have risen faster than others.

We were talking a few weeks ago about gaming in person again, though I was hesitant more due to the convenience of not having to drive home afterwards since we play fairly late on weeknights. Now, I'm back to full covid paranoia mode, so not happening soon.

I didnt VTT until the pandemic. I like it better than I thought I would. Though I'd love to get F2F again. Looks like thats still on the horizon. Oh well it helps me get better at making my game worlds!

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

FWIW, I do all my online gaming without a VTT. I find them fiddly and distracting. We just use Discord and Google Slides. It works awesomely well and takes up little mental energy.

Tarondor wrote:
FWIW, I do all my online gaming without a VTT. I find them fiddly and distracting. We just use Discord and Google Slides. It works awesomely well and takes up little mental energy.

For my Traveller game that works just fine. All rolls are 2D6 and almost all fights are theater of the mind.

I dont think id try and run PF1 or PF2 without a VTT though. Frees up so much mental space and allows the game to run smoother.

We've done it - Google slides and various conferencing apps.

It's easier to set up than most VTTs, but not so convenient to use in play. One of our GMs isn't very tech-savvy, so that works for him. The other uses Roll20, though doesn't take full advantage of it.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

We just use Zoom with the inclusion of its screen share and annotation abilities. We’ve done this for PF2, CoD Vampire and Genesys and it works great.

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I won't miss anything - my games have been exclusively over Discord voice calls for several years now, and we're all quite content with it. Having an international friend group makes in-person play a little tough.

It helps that we mostly play indie storygame stuff, so it's a fair bit lighter on what resources we actually need; everyone having their own character sheets and dice is pretty much it.

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