Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bonus RPG Content: The Boring Technical Stuff

Since Monday's post was too long for another installment of the RPG stuff to be added, I thought I'd write up an entire post on the subject.  Also, big thanks to everyone who's been following along so far.

I was planning on going into the meat of the campaign - things like character creation and what we wanted to do in terms of balancing the narrative with hack n' slash with all the other stuff.  Unfortunately, I think it makes more sense to first talk about the boring techincal stuff that makes this RPG campaign work.

When UglyRaincoat first brought the idea up in gchat or somesuch g-contrivance, the whole idea of getting back into some RPG action it seemed more like it was born out of a simple urge to recreate good, old times and reconnect with friends.  I'll definitely touch on what the idea matured into at a later date, but at that point in the game the question of whether it was possible was more important than what it would look like.

So, getting the game back on.  A lot of the desire to play long distane, I think, stems from the fact that with the exception of VanMetal, most of the people involved in the close group of friends I usually game with don't tend to play outside of that group.  Sure we've all noodled around in other campaigns with 'new' people, but there's always been an 'in' with the new group.  In the relative gaming isolation that UglyRaincoat and I have fallen into, there's no no local group of pals we already know and no real desire to get to the FLGS and try and work our way in with strangers.

So, we have the desire to go long distance, but is it possible?  Luckily for the world, the answer is YES.  I had run some earlier, abortive experiments a few years ago with VanMetal and another buddy, MudMonster that turned out very well.  Using an online dice roller we had found (with the ability to operate in a chat-room like mode), a Ventrillo Server, a text message program and a virtual whiteboard, we were able to get a pretty close approximation of gaming in the same room.  The actual business of playing the game takes longer, but its completely workable.

This time around, we stuck with Ventrillo and then upgraded out other tools.  Gchat took over as our IM program and  VanMetal found a great dice roller.  We've found and used a number of white boards, and while they're super great for doing diagrams when you need them, they're also buggy and unstable.  At this point, we've largely abandoned it.  Oh, and we occasionally use Google Wave if the dice room is down.  Actually, the white board thing bring up a key point:

If you're going to attempt this, use stable software.  

Shit programs WILL ruin a nights fun.  Its the other edge of using all the technology.  On one side, the whole thing makes long distance hanging-out possible.  On the other, you're entirely dependent on it.  If part of it breaks, you're done.  We picked tools that we knew to be stable and we did a ton of testing before we even sat down for the first game.

At the same time we were working out the technical stuff, we were working out what game system to use.  Choosing a game system is important since most of them come part and parcel with the setting.  Its the kind of thing that will deeply affect the style of game you're playing as well as the session to session plots.  We have our preferences, but the big thing here was access to the books.  This is a key thing that tripped our plans up a bit - everyone needs access to the rules.  When you're gaming in person, you only need one set of rules.  You can share and pass things around.  I think the lack of a crushing financial burden on each player is one of the key things that makes role-playing so popular.

At this point it was time to choose a system.  The frontrunner was Shadowrun (3rd ed.) as it was the clear crowd favorite for a large number of reasons.  The big ones being that the setting is right up everyone's street and that we all know the rules/universe (which would make the game play smoother). Unfortunately, Dethtron and I were the only ones that had significant access to any of these books.  Which was the next hurdle.  As I stated, the players need access to the rules.  In this case, none of us were willing to spend a ton (or any) money to get this off the ground. Which meant that we needed to find cheap and easily accessible digital versions of the rules we needed.

We got lucky and found literally everything we needed for SR3 without spending a dime.  Good times.  Though it took some time.  And most of the guys had to be walked through the process if using a bit-torrent service. 

So with that last little wrinkle out of the way the process of building the campaign could begin. 

I think that's it for tonight.  Its a bit more stream of conscious and dry than I wanted, but I think it stands.  Keep an eye out for a discussion on game systems as well as some more info on our group's play-style.


  1. This is actually essential and valuable information, as I am trying to get a buddy who moved away connected back to his friends for gaming via Skype and/or something similar.

    The info on what you did use and did not was a big help.

    Thanks for the write up!

  2. I really like this Lauby, as a keen RPG player myself it really pisses me off that most of the guys I used to play with have moved away, so maybe this is a feezable way of getting our game on again.

  3. Oh SR3, the only RPG I ever really liked.

  4. And for the battlemat and pictures crowd, there are more and more options available nowadays to create virtual tabletops as well.

    More work that a whiteboard, but worth it in my opinion. and with it being a host/connection it kinda sorta maybe but technically not quite reminds of dialing up your buddies house to connect for a game of Doom.

    Good stuff laubs.

  5. My group uses:

    MapTools (just google it)

    You can write a small macro in MapTools to do dice rolls that you want and it acts as a virtual white board that you can throw all manner of pictures/tokens on.

    We get our stuff through DriveThru RPG for the most part. For those that can't afford we share a digital copy. Most have hard copies though.

    Oh, we play World of Darkness. Hunters, not the emo vampire version.

  6. I'm gonna have to look into maptools. that sounds pretty great.

    Another thing that I can't recommend enough is Google Docs. Its a fantastic way to keep track of character sheets, group inventory and even campaign notes. the big draws here are.

    1) its free
    2) you can share it and edit the stuff online