Sustainable Online Playgroups

edited February 2014 in Play Advice
Hey gang!

I'm looking for advice about creating and maintaining a playgroup online. I used to play RPGs online in my teens (WFRP, I recall) but now the communication technologies available far outstrip my ability to choose between them. So I'm wondering what you've found successful in terms of tech (text, voice, video? A combination? Who's reliable?) and general gaming practices that help foster solid play online? I remember that a few general table-top things didn't really translate online and ended up being time consuming to replicate. I'm keen to hear any wisdom to help keep a geographically diverse together and playing in the long-term. Any success stories?

My aim is to found a playgroup for "primordial" OSR D&D play and I'd like to give it the best chance in life. Looking for more players!

Cheers,
Mike.

Comments

  • edited February 2014
    I think using a video chat (like google hangout) is the best way. Textbased chat is IMHO to slow (but can maybe used to play asynchronously), voice chat is good but seeing your fellows really adds a quality to the communication.

    A shared dice roller and shared documents (eg a hangout plugin and google drive, but also external stuff like catchyourhare.com/diceroller/‎) help a lot.

    If your game requires tactical movement supporting it with a fullgrown virtual table top (like maptool, rolll20, etc) is really benefitial. If your game is especially fiddly rules wise a VTT with a good macro support make things run really smoothly.

    I have some experience in playing online but havent had success running a campaign with more like 5-6 sessions. Those sessions went fine and were fun - that was not the problem.

    I guess my players lack commitment for online gaming. You have to take it as serious as playing face to face. Its impolite to the same degree when you appear one hour late or dont show up at all - but some people think its more okay to do so since its online. *shrug*

    Anyway I do know of a lot of success stories (since I am a frequent user in the maptool forums and also active in g+ communities around online play).
  • Roll20 or the like with Skype/Voice chat seems to be most stable.
  • I guess my players lack commitment for online gaming. You have to take it as serious as playing face to face. Its impolite to the same degree when you appear one hour late or dont show up at all - but some people think its more okay to do so since its online. *shrug*
    I've seen this happen, and the best way to combat this is to join a community with some form of passive live communication, like an irc channel or chat.

    If your rpg group is part of a group of people who talk daily, I've found that people will generally be more accountable, as you'll 'see' them again tomorrow.

    Infrno is a good place for this. Their general chat is full of friendly people.

  • We've been playing for 5.5 years. On-line only. Once a week.
    Nowadays we use Google Hangouts for Audio
    We use Roll20 or
    http://catchyourhare.com/diceroller/
    For a die roller.
    We usually use Google Docs for char sheets.

    I think the key to sustaining it is to get a core of 2 or 3 gamers that are reliable and want the same things (our core group all want to try new games so we change games often so we can keep the newness flowing). Then you just add one or 2 more gamers and if they flake, you can switch them out.

    I think it is better to do weekly, if at all possible. When you do once or twice a month, it really drags the group when you miss a session (and you are going to miss sessions).

    Also, I work hard to be the social coordinator. Sending reminders on game day and making people explain why they can't make it or are being late. Also, we have change the day of the week we meet like 3 or 4 times. We have to be flexible and work with people's schedules.

    Hope that helps,
    Dave M
  • Thanks Dave M, great advice. And thanks to everyone else, too. :)

    My feeling is that I'd like to have video and some kind of shared draw-document (MSpaint-simple would work) as most of my DM communication needs are usually sketching out little diagrams and tick-boxes. Is there anything like that around? I feel like there might have been a drawing application on google but my memory's hazy. I'd roll dice physically (trust, yo) and don't feel like a dedicated miniature simulator type deal would really gel with my DM style.
  • I am playing online regulary with my original playgroup I started playing wit when we were 10 years old. College and work divided us but we decided to try out playing online and it turned out to be a good idea. We have a little tool one of the group members wrote for sharing images and rolling the dice the system we play needs. We meet about weekly and it has been going well for a few years now. But we knew each other well before so the chemistry was there. Still Skype and a dice rolling tool are doing the job for us.
  • My feeling is that I'd like to have video and some kind of shared draw-document (MSpaint-simple would work) as most of my DM communication needs are usually sketching out little diagrams and tick-boxes. Is there anything like that around? I feel like there might have been a drawing application on google but my memory's hazy. I'd roll dice physically (trust, yo) and don't feel like a dedicated miniature simulator type deal would really gel with my DM style.
    I've used Google Docs to run D&D myself. Spreadsheets for character and party sheets, the drawing software for maps, perhaps a text document for player notes. The drawing implementation works well enough for mapping.
  • Get young people who are always texting each other rather than old people like me who can't work their dang webcam.
  • I've given up on the bother of face-to-face gaming for a couple years now. I won't say I'll never try to have a face-to-face gaming group again, but with a young son and work, it's so much easier to carve out a couple hours for gaming than make it a whole day affair.

    I'm currently playing in five play-by-forum games that are frequently updating and the players all ping each other through chat (using Google Hangout). Chat serves as our table chatter. It's very fun, because the game is effectively on all workday long.

    I'm also involved in a weekly Friday night group, the Crossroads Crew. We've been playing for months and have worked through two seasons of Monsterhearts and just completed a "season" of Apocalypse World. We record the sessions to a YouTube channel and even have some viewers who comment, it's quite neat. This group was built with a personal friend, a guy she met at a Games on Demand who craved some indie games, an old buddy of mine and a friend I met through play-by-post. I'm lucky we all live in different cities, or we'd find ways to be at each other's houses all the time.
  • I've heard a lot of good technical advice, so let me toss out a couple of bits of advice for groups (I'm in two groups that have been continuous for several years now.)

    1. Give players time to BS. These are (or will be) your friends and they have funny and interesting things to say or suggest.
    2. Life happens, sometimes it happens for months on end. Don't expect the whole group there every single time. Either have a good sock puppet policy, or always have a plan B and a plan C. In the Sunday Skypers group that I am in, we have 'inbetweeners' that sometimes take on a life of their own. Having a one shot or two on the back burner either gives the GM a break or allows everyone to play when you're short a person or two.
    3. Have a communication back channel like e-mail or a forum so you can handle off line game stuff and notify people if you're going to be late or absent.

    I'm a proponent of the rules lite games, that's not to say an OSR game can't be done via G+ or Skype, just recognize that you need to find a tool that works for everyone. I'll toss out a quick mention to Taebl (www.taebl.com), I like using this for online board games, card games, and RPGs that have a visual component. It might not be the perfect solution for a dungeon crawl, but it is a very flexible tool to have.
    --
    TAZ
  • I made a G+ community in January with friends. We opened with a manifesto on the Hungarian rpg sites, but since that we're only spreading thru word of mouth. In two months we are over 50 events. It works great because it's niche (in Hungarian) and because it's intentionally specific (quick pick up games) and small (around 20 actually active member) and normative (based on reciprocity to achieve innovative roleplaying). It feels like a real online community.
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