Category Archives: Software

Software – Update Post

I originally wrote about the software I use here, way back in July, 2009. While linking another article, I realized that I need to update where things are now with the software I use.

My old dual boot PC was replaced by a dual boot laptop, but the screen went out, not completely, but very hard to read. I could never get Linux to recognize the other screen, so I was mostly using it in Windows. I replaced it with the computer I have now. It started as Windows 7, and is now Windows 10. I intended to set it up to dual boot and use Linux, but I didn’t do it right away, so now I’m leery of messing it up. I just need a new PC dedicated to Linux.

I thought Windows 7 was a good step up from Windows XP. I avoided Vista like the plague after seeing what clients who used it had to go through. I tried the pre-release trial of Windows 8 in a VM and I could immediately tell it was not meant for desktop use. I had to google how to shut it down.

Once, I even had an encounter, at an airport fast food place, with a Microsoft developer. Before I knew who he was, he asked my opinion about Windows 8. I was honest, it was not built for people who needed to get work done on the desktop. I didn’t know of any of our clients that used a touchscreen monitor for their desktop, or who had the patience for such a radical change. I didn’t understand why Microsoft had to rename and hide everything in each new OS. I also complained about a change in office. It used to be really easy to do mail merge, and they moved it, so I looked like an idiot in front of a client because I couldn’t figure it out with them watching. I couldn’t find it in help either. I don’t like the ribbon. It is only because I know the shortcuts for things that I can do some of what I used to do. [The latest version of MS Office broke the shortcuts I use for some things. I only have to use it every day at work….] He then explained that he worked for Microsoft on Windows 8. He appreciated what I had to say. I think things like that lead to Windows 8.1.

I still use NoteTab, that I mentioned here yesterday.

Firefox was just too slow, so I switched to Chrome.  Since Chrome is by Google, it integrates with all the Google apps well. With the recent changes that are coming with G+, I’m not sure what changes I’ll see in the near future.

G+ was new and has become a place where I consume most of my game material. It allows for quick and easy interaction with others in the hobby. Losing events will be a challenge to be solved. It is very important to my online gaming.

Microsoft now has a print to PDF option, so even though I have CutePDF installed, I rarely use that option.

I switched from Open Office to LibreOffice for the same reasons many others did. Both are free and are a good replacement for MS-Office.

I re-read the entire article and more than just software and computers have changed. I mentioned my now ex-wife. It doesn’t matter what she thinks. I introduced the boys to AD&D after she moved out and we had a blast. We were playing almost every week for several months. I keep hoping things will work out to play more, but they never seem to.

I also mentioned playing table top RPG’s over the internet as something I didn’t think I could do. Now I am in a regular Wednesday night AD&D game on Roll20 that just has session 120 and is well into its third year. I have also ran my own Metamorphosis Alpha campaign, that I thought I would have gotten back to long ago.

I have been to six conventions since then, ran my first convention game and several others, met new friends in real life and online. I have two conventions planned for November, GameHole and UCon, and have my gold ticket for March’s GaryCon. I’m running four different games at UCon in November, and need to get the focus on them and get them done. In a couple of hours, I will finalize my registration for GameHole Con, my first time to check it out.

I got to meet a lot of the old guard from the early days at GaryCon 8 and I got a lot of autographs.

I also found a local group focused on DCC, but we are on a long hiatus.

Kickstarter’s aplenty have been backed. Which reminds me, again, that I have updates on those to post.

I jumped back into this blog with the 40th anniversary of D&D, and posted every day for several months and actually have people who ready my blog. That lead to my current involvement with Multiverse.

I even jumped into NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, and got most of the novel idea  that I had way back in college into a first draft.  Sigh…. I still have 5 or 6 chapters to go to actually have a complete first draft. Too many things to fix around the house and not enough cash to pay someone to do it.




GameFindr Plea For FLGS Information

I saw this YouTube video about the GameFindr app beta and a request for feedback and going to thei FLGS page and adding all the local game stores you know about.

I thought that I would help out with this, but there is not way to verify if my FLGS is in their database, at least from their website,

I read further and at the bottom of the page where you enter FLGS information is states: “By submititng your information, you agree that GameFindr may use your data and showcase it in the offical GameFindr app. Additionally, you agree that GameFindr may contact you if deemed necessary to validate any information provided regarding your LGS locator application. Please allow 4-6 weeks for the approval process and for your store data to appear on the app. Thank you.”

Sorry, but I will not provide information that encumbers someone else for which I do not have the authority.

I shared the following comment on the YouTube video I mentioned above.

Interesting idea for an app.

However, I have the following issues:

1.) There is no search for LGS. It shows me stuff from Chicago about 200 miles away, in a different state. I have to scroll down the list. I realized that zooming in on the map let me look and my icon is the same color as other icons, are those gamers or LGS? I think they should be a different color. I also don’t like that it shows exactly where I live. It should be over the center of town. If I am the only one who can see my location until I accept a friend request, it is not obvious.
2.) I suggest that once you sign in that it take you to fill in your profile. It took me a couple minutes to find it.
3.) After watching the video, I was going to be helpful and go to your website and input my LGS, but I read at the bottom of the page that the person inputting the information gives your company rights to use the name and more of the LGS. I don’t have the legal authority to bind my LGS to those terms, so I will not make a headache for them.
4.) You have D&D as a game choice, but it defaults to ANY for version and won’t let me change it.

You asked [in the video] what it would take to give it five stars, this is my answer.

I think the idea of the app is a good one. It is still in beta, so I will check and see if anyone in the Kalamazoo area is on and interested in OSR games, esp. AD&D, Metamorphosis Alpha, or White Star.

I read through other comments on the YouTube video, and this app was funded by Kickstarter. It looks like they are on track for their project. Other than questions from backers wanting to not have ads, and the growing pains of what is consider proper development of a program now days, the Kickstarter portion seems to be well in hand.

I did have a few issues with the app itself. It took me a minute to figure out how to put in my information. I only get one match, and since they haven’t filled in their information, I don’t know what games they play.

A few days ago, they released this video explaining how to configure your Gamefindr profile, so people will click on you. As for me, I now have two matches, one is 8 miles away and the other 43 miles, but there is no picture and more importantly, no listing of what games they play. I won’t be friending anyone in this app without knowing what games they play.

I like that you can add games, but you have to use the website, etc. or it won’t let you submit them.

At Free RPG Day on Saturday at Fanfare, I mentioned Gamefindr and that the closest stores I noticed were in northern Indiana, and none in all of Michigan. Today, for some reason the two stores in Indiana are no longer showing. One of them was close enough I was planning to visit, but I did not make a note of its name or location. So now what? I have to google game stores in Indiana and hope I find it.

I know there are or were two game stores in Kalamazoo, at least one in Battle Creek, and several in Grand Rapids. It is free advertising, so unless there is some drawback I don’t understand, I think it’s a good thing.

Gamefindr has had 4 or 5 updates since I first installed it last week. They are making a big push to boost the number of users. Having more users only helps if people fill out their profile. If you haven’t managed to hook up with a local group of gamers, this might be one way to do it. But without more users in areas of less dense population, it won’t do much good. Chicago looks like they are packed. Detroit and Indianapolis don’t have much.

It’s a free app, if you can put up with the ads. I’ll do my part to help out and let others know about it. If you are looking for players or games for in-person gaming, this app could cut past all the limitations of online sites. The biggest limitation is remembering to check it every day. But no new area gamers, or no replies to inquiries is frustrating. However, just like the online sites, if no one knows about it, or those who use it don’t fill out their profiles, it is next to useless.


Background Music

Way back in the day we made mix tapes of Science Fiction and Fantasy movies and TV shows themes. Usually the “benign” songs were at the front of the tape, and the more energetic would come on at a tense moment in the game, or when we were in a fight.

Battle of the Mutara Nebula from Wrath of Khan, the “planet eater” theme from Star Trek TOS (That same theme was used in many episodes, I am not sure what its correct name is.), Aliens, Star Wars, classical music such as Mars by Holst. I am not a fan of metal music, so a lot of other players I have read about online, feel that metal is the right kind of mood music. That is true for them, for me, my tastes lies in classical style music. As always, Rule (-1): “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”

Recently I ran across Tabletop Audio, he also has a Google Plus page. He has free downloadable audio background sounds and music, that can also be played directly on his site. These would be great for an online game, if you had the bandwidth, or for an in-person game if you had a decent sound system. He also has a Patreon and a PayPal donate button. He also has something called Flattr, that I had never heard of, but is another way to make donations to content creators.

The way I keep buying new dice, books, and so forth, I am not able to add a donation at this time, but soon. I am going to be working from home soon, as they decided to close our office of three employees. Once I start seeing the savings in gasoline, I can afford a bit here and there for content creators I admire and more importantly, for whom I use their stuff.

My Wednesday Game

I have been part of a weekly Wednesday night AD&D First Edition game via Roll20 and Google Hangouts since March, 2014. With the exception of the DM taking a two week vacation in the summer and two weeks off over Christmas and New Year’s we have met every week. I was late to one session because I was travelling for work and another session because I had to take something to my son at the hospital the day after my granddaughter was born. There are two other players that have been with the campaign since it started. Weather was a factor a few times with thunderstorms causing delays. A few times either Roll20 or Google Hangouts had technical issues, but we have kept at it.

Our session last week was the first time that one original player missed and only two of the current six players showed up. Several important decisions for group action were needed, so we decided not to play. That is an impressive track record for a weekly session to only have one session flop, and it was session 44.

The DM, John, just started a blog, Dwarven Automata, about his design process. He also wrote up one of the hexes in Tenkar’s Landing, featuring dwarven automata.

It is a true sandbox where the players can go and do whatever they want. There will be consequences and repercussions of actions that we can’t know. We just make what seems to be the best decision we can based on the limited information we have. A few times we have surprised John with some of our decisions, but he rolled with it. The party set off to go explore some ancient dwarven ruins, and keep getting ourselves sidetracked with other things. We keep getting involved in politics and being heroes, so we are our own worst enemies to getting to our main goal. We can’t do it all, but we sure try to do most of it. Actions taken in the first few sessions have had an impact on sessions numbered into the 30’s and 40’s. It is interesting to see it play out as the players get the information they need to tie it all together.

For example, my character, Thorfus Ironhand, a dwarven fighter, thought one NPC was behind some men hired to kill the party. It turned out to be a different NPC that the party did some work for, and was involved in a major plot in the city. Because of that misunderstanding, I had the party focused on the wrong person, when we should have been focused on something else. This is much like things are in real life. We see something and make assumptions based on what is before us. This has made the campaign that much more believable and immersive.

John uses theater of the mind, so the only maps are quick sketches using the Roll20 drawing tools. As with most AD&D DMs, John makes certain rolls like moving silently or checking for traps and secret doors. These rolls occur with the sound of dice rolling on his desk with our fate unknown. This is an ominous sound. The results are only revealed when a trap springs or surprise was not gained.

We also disable video so that we have the maximum bandwidth possible.

The ages of players range from a high school senior to me, and old grognard of 50, with various ages in between. We have been mostly male, with one female player for a few sessions who played a male character, making all the characters, so far, male. One player lives in England, so our 8:00 PM to Midnight EST sessions make it in the very wee hours for him. He is one of the three original players still going strong.

John gives us XP for session write-ups. These help him to know what happened, and gets the players more involved. We also get XP for writing up descriptions of NPCs and places. This helps expand our known universe and makes it easier for new players to come in and get up to speed.

We started off using weapon speeds and individual initiative rolls, but over time we dropped weapon speed and went to one roll for each side in initiative. John does it differently in that each “side” rolls for the other. That is, players roll for the monsters, and the DM rolls for the players. This is an interesting way to do it.

Other rules have changed or been clarified as we go involving a decision by John as the DM, or by discussion and mutual consensus. These changes tend towards streamlining of play.

Our two dwarven fighters are both fourth level and at the halfway point to reaching fifth level. We had one big treasure haul, but as per AD&D, we can’t go past the halfway point of the next level. We have managed to not find the big treasures that will give us more experience quickly, but are always just around the corner from a big haul, when we do something or miss something that will give us the prize and watch is fall through our fingers. The hook has been set and we are thoroughly enjoying our adventures and learning about this world. I look forward to many more sessions of play.

Here are the main points from a comment I posted to his blog:

I enjoy seeing a bit behind the curtain to explain how you reached your design decisions. I have enjoyed playing in this weekly campaign since it started.
We have narrowly avoided several TPKs and only had one character die. Your level of preparation shows as you make it all seem very seamless and manage to have things planned out for us when we take the bait for something that wasn’t bait.
I can’t wait to see more of your ideas.
Your random generators intrigue me. You explained a bit about the level of detail you have allowed yourself in one of our recent sessions. I had the impression you had these cities mapped out and NPCs detailed down to the last beggar, but you fooled us all. Well done!

My Sunday Game

Sundays had been reserved for running my AD&D campaign with my oldest son and his girlfriend. We were playing almost every Sunday for over six months. It was a lot of fun and they both kept coming back for more.

At the end of September, they moved in with me to pay off some bills and save up for a nicer apartment because they had a baby on the way. One of the selling points my son made of their moving in with me, is that we would get to play more. We haven’t had one session since they moved in. I am OK with that, Now that my granddaughter is here, they would rather spend the time my son isn’t at work figuring out how to be a family and enjoying Nikola while she is at the tiny stage of life. This past Friday she was one month old. I don’t mind. I should have done more to flesh out my campaign.

I have thoughts of perhaps getting things ready where I can run my campaign on Roll20 with Google Hangouts. Perhaps someday I will.

Last weekend I played DCC for the first time and two of the players were Roy Snyder and Jared Randall. We had a blast playing together in Adam Muszkiewicz’s first session, and Roy and I were in Adam’s second session. Roy has a group that gets together every other Sunday, and he invited me. Since I am not gaming, I decided to join in. We meet this afternoon, so perhaps I will post a play report for tomorrow. It will be DCC, so their will be character generation. I don’t know if we are doing a funnel, or if we are starting at first level. It will definitely be interesting.

I have the DCC PDF that I got for free or low price in April of last year. I was proactive and put it on my tablet and put the Purple Sorcerer Crawler’s app on my tablet too. I also downloaded and printed the blank character sheet PDF, that has four character sheets on one page. I packed up my game bag and have it ready to walk out the door.

The only thing I don’t have are all the funky dice: d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, and D24. The d6, d10, d16, and d24 are easy to emulate with existing dice. D6/2 = d3, d10/2 = d5, d8 & d6 to emulate d16, and d12 & d6 to emulate d24. For example emulate a d16, roll a d6 and a d8. If the d6 is 1-3 add 0, if the d6 is 3-6 add 8. If I had either a d7 or a d14, I could easily emulate the other. I read online that one can use a d8 and ignore rolls of d8, but that leads to extra rolling that slows things down. I guess I can use my tablet, or borrow dice until I can snag some of my own.

Software Changes – RANT!


I hadn’t created new filters in Gmail for awhile, a couple years at least. I don’t know when it changed, but it took me a minute to figure out that when you test it it puts it in the Gmail search box and you have to click the drop-down there to bring back the screen so that you can finish the filter and apply the conditions of the filter. Not difficult but frustrating when my filter showed me what I wanted to filter and the filter building screens disappeared.

I work in the software industry on the support side of things and am constantly amazed at how Microsoft and others, and sometimes the company I work for move and hide things that should be easy to find.
I don’t mind change, but when they change the way things look/work to the point it isn’t as obvious what to do to get the desired result is not good. The call tracking program we use is one that our IT department can add custom fields. At one time they were adding and moving fields and were not telling us. When you use a screen that is nothing but a form and you know how many times to hit TAB to get to the fields you need, suddenly adding or moving fields messes up your day. Not knowing about the new fields, it takes a few minutes to figure out why the form isn’t working. How hard is it to take five minutes to send out one email to all the users of our main tool? I know that they spent more than five minutes dealing with my complaint. I am sure others complained too.

Windows 8 is a major example, it is not suitable to a business environment because the majority of businesses do not have a touchscreen. I downloaded the trial version of Win8 when it came out and ran it in a virtual environment. I had to Google how to shut it down.

Windows 7 is a problem because they moved and re-named things that you need to use if you are an advanced user.

MS Office did that stupid ribbon thing. There are certain functions I can’t ever remember where they are. Thankfully I know the keyboard shortcuts I need. MS Word had menus back in the days of DOS. Certain ways of working with software should not be changed lightly.

Even Android does this. I got a new phone and a few features changed, and I had to google how to use them.
Many apps on Android keep changing and going to similar interfaces, but they all take away something the older versions did more obviously.
Thankfully with Android, most apps are not so complex and feature filled that you can’t figure it out by playing around with it, or googling to understand how to do something now.
For example, I use Evernote all the time to make notes, reminders, grocery lists and they changed how they do checkboxes. It took me awhile to figure out where they put them. Once I figured it out, it was easy to remember, but for features that I don’t use all the time, I would be hard pressed to remember the new way to do it.

I’m getting old and cranky, I guess.

I remember back in the days of DOS, to use a word processor, like WordStar, you used a boot disk (AKA floppy) with the minimum pieces of DOS to boot the computer with a autorunning batch file to start WordStar. You then waited for the light to go out, and popped out the disk and put in another disk with your document(s) on it and opened up your document and typed away and edited it. Sometimes you had to switch back to the WordStar disk so it could do something to your document in memory. As soon as that was done, you had to switch back to your document. Auto save was not a feature. WordStar worked a lot like HTML in the you wrapped words with commands for italics, bold, and underline. Back then programs were simple and elegant and once you got the hang of it, easy to use.

As the hardware got cheaper and Windows came out, programmers seemed to forget elegance and tight code and left it to the user to solve the issue with bigger hardware. Thus the old saw that when you buy a computer that uses M$ Windows, you have to get one with twice the CPU, RAM, and Disk Space as the minimum recommendations to have a reasonable experience with it. Now that hardware has gotten cheap enough that it not as big of a problem. I find it funny that the free OS, Gnu/Linux, can run faster and more efficiently on the identical hardware of Windows. I have had dual boot configurations and the Linux partition always boots up many times faster than Windows, and browsing the web never hangs, unless the internet connection itself is having issues.

I won’t make the world of software better by this, but I had to get that out of my system so I could get back to my novel for NaNoWriMo.


Biographical Outline

One of my many interests is genealogy. I find it interesting to see when and where my ancestors were in relation to history, another interest – I have a BA in History.

There are many free genealogy programs that make it easy to generate a family tree for printing. If you are interested in a family tree for the rulers of a kingdom, or how a tight-nit extended family in a village tie together, or a major NPCs family, or even for players to chart their characters and how they might be related.

One thing I just saw posted on FB was about a Biographical Outline. There is both a PDF for printing, and a Doc file for editing.

It may not be something you use as a GM for more than a few NPCs, but as a player, it might be helpful to chart the events and places your character was involved in.

Such tools can also be helpful if you want to write a novel with a lot of characters that are related, or a historical novel, or a nonfiction biography.



There are two kinds of tools for DMs/GMs and RPGs.

I started old school, so hand written notes and notebooks. They have the advantage of working without power, but are fragile where water and fire are concerned. I have the combat wheel from Dragon Magazine. I photocopied it and pasted it to some cardboard. DM screens, dice bags, book bags, milk crates, boxes, graph paper, hex paper (I still have several sheets of the hex paper TSR put out in the 80s.) battlemats, miniatures, pens, pencils, markers, dry/wet erase markers.

Electronic tools for note keeping, PDFs of rules, graphics programs, mapping tools, random generators, websites of others to glean ideas get maps, CampaignWiki, spreadsheet programs, word processors, genealogy programs, etc. Web-based tools for campaigns, social media for online games, rpg table software   – game table?

I wrote my own dice roller on a TI-99/4A in BASIC. I could specify the number of dice and how many sides. I rolled up 1,000 kobolds, 1,000 orcs, etc.

When I got back into building my campaign, I also used NoteTab to build outlines and clips to help stat NPCs, Kingdoms, cities, etc.


Electronic tools have the advantage of carrying more in a smaller package and if well organized, easier to search. downside – Requires power/long battery life, not easy to let a friend look at your PH while you are consulting the map, or DMG, etc. Not good for playing around a campfire.

I have a Galaxy Tab tablet and I like it for PDFs of my RPG books. I can also convert my notes and other information to PDF and use it. This is really useful for the RPG books I can easily get in PDF, but have not found locally, or turned to eBay. I did buy a second 1e Player’s Handbook on eBay, so my original will last longer.

I have used a GTD Wiki, Campaign Wiki to put together some information on my campaign. I have yet to move it to my Galaxy Tab and see if it will meet my needs.

I have found a dice roller that lets me specify the types of dice. It will be useful to use to roll up stuff over my lunch break at work, so I don’t need to haul along dice and all my manuals and notebooks to work on dungeons, etc.

I recently found three helpful apps, OS RPG Tables, OS Monsters, and OS Spells from Appbrewers. The RPG tables are mostly player related tables and combat tables. Monsters are from all the  books and some OGL creatures, and spells are all the 1e spells and cantrips and can generate random spellbooks or you can create your own spell book. I will do a more in-depth review of these in one or more posts.

There are lots of tables for different situations on blogs, some just on a page/blog article, or others in free PDFs. Some bloggers even have free compilations of all their stuff. One thing I have found, bloggers that might have good ideas, but no search box and no tags, make it hard to find all of their good stuff.

Then there is RPGNow and DriveThruRPG with tons of free and low cost PDFs. I will discuss some of the things I have acquired over the years, in addition to 1st Edition AD&D Manuals.

My First Session of Google+ Hangouts and Roll20

I had my first session of playing an RPG using Google+ Hangouts and Roll20.

Google+ Hangouts are a way to do group conference calls online. They can be just voice, or mix the use of video and voice.

Roll20 is a Virtual Table Top (VTT). It works in your web browser, so it can work on a computer, laptop, tablet, or even a phone. From my experience, I prefer a larger screen. The display has an area that is the “table-top”. It can hold fancy maps of terrain, buildings, dungeons, etc, or just a grid to keep track of marching order or positions of objects, players, and monsters. Roll20 has integration with Google+ Hangouts. You accept the invitation to the G+ Hangout and sign in when it starts. You also sign into Roll20 when it is time. I signed into Roll20 early, so I don’t know if joining the hangout would take me to Roll20 or not.

I have seen YouTube videos of past Google+ Hangouts, and have had invitations to them before, but never had the time to get involved in one. It does not require the use of video. That it only useful if you want to see the other players. If you don’t have a webcam or don’t want to be on video, you just need a microphone so others can hear you, and decent speakers so you can hear them. A headset with a microphone would work, as it appears some other players were using. The nice things about using G+ Hangouts is that it showed who was speaking, either by the video of the speaker going to the center of the screen, or showing the picture displayed by those not using video. Having the hangout window open covers part of the screen. It is not required for it to be open, but I found it helpful to have a window just big enough open to see who was speaking. That made it more like a face-to-face session. If you have two monitors, it would work better to have it on one screen and the VTT on the other.

I have a Roll20 account, it is free to use, but for a fee, you can get some more bells and whistles. Those are not necessary to run or join a game. I have the basic, free account. I have gone through the Roll20 tutorial about how to do things. You can display different maps, with a grid. You can use tokens for players, monsters, and items. There is a library of free tokens and maps, and you can upload your own. For a fee, you can get specialized tokens and maps that give you more options. It also features a dice roller that just says what dice was rolled, pus any modifiers and gives the result. It has an option to show 3-D dice that roll across the VTT, but it is slow and slows down the game. To roll, you either have to type a command in the chat window, or set up a macro with frequently used rolls. For example, “/r d20” rolls a d20. As a GM, you can have multiple Roll20 campaigns/games, and as a player, you can participate in multiple games. There are multiple layers that can be displayed and the GM can see things on the GM only layer

The game I participated was Vault of Time hosted by the founder of the Friday Night D&D: Next Google+ Community. As the name says, it is Friday night. The game was slated to start at 9:00 PM. To play, you roll up a 10th level character using the D&D Next beta play test rules. I had signed up to the D&D Next beta at Wizards of the Coast, so I had the latest rules. D&D Next is D&D 5.0 and is slated for release this summer. This was the more challenging part of the whole thing. I rolled up a character using real dice, then I had to read through a PDF on character creations, then classes, then races, then equipment. I started about 6:30 PM and was “done” with my character about 8:30. I am old school, so I know how to roll up a character and get started in short order. D&D Next can be played that way, but it has been influence by all version s of D&D. I have played D&D Basic and 1st Edition, and had minor exposure to 2nd edition. I have no exposure to D&D 3.0, 3.5, or 4.0. As I understand it, the later versions of D&D, i.e. 3.0 and later, have all the feats, skills, and abilities that are not part of D&D or AD&D. I did not have time to read and understand what choices to make for feats, etc. so I had as close to an AD&D dwarven fighter as imaginable.

Playing the game.

I signed in to Roll20 early and there were only two other players. One invited me to play poker. Roll20 can simulate a deck of cards for situations that require use of cards. The actual game session started about ten minutes late. The GM had been sick last week and cancelled last week’s session. For this week, he had not had time to get maps, etc. uploaded to Roll20, so we just used a grid over a graphic of a stone floor. We have tokens with the names of each player to show marching order, etc. The VTT has a whiteboard type feature, so the GM could draw the rooms and doors we encountered. This game is just a group of players who get together and play through the same dungeon, and my character was just there, no explanation, etc. (I don’t have a problem with this, as the idea was for me to learn and have fun.) The regulars in this game may have started at tenth level, but had over 100 hit points, I only had 71. They were like 20th level or something. The all male group of players were in the 30 to 50 age range, give or take. There were several wizards in the group, and they had all kinds of spells going all over the place. My understanding is that you can play D&D Next with a subset of the rules to be closer to D&D/AD&D, or have all the bells and whistles and make a first level character that is a demi-god. I definitely see why later versions of D&D have been described as emulating video games like WOW or LOTRO. As a basic fighter, my character was only good for taking up space, moving, and fighting. I ended up being the only character in the session to take a hit, and lost 16 hit points, but was healed at the end of the damage inducing encounter of 15 hit points.

I deferred to other players a lot as I was there to learn how this online role playing format worked. I found a group of guys that reminded me a lot of other groups of gamers I have played with over the years. There was a lot of non play related banter, and meta-gaming. The players spent a lot of time trying to decide what to do in some situations, sort of like my ex and I got into when we were trying to decide what restaurant to go to. I kept expecting the DM to have a random encounter come and give us trouble for dawdling. There were no random encounters. We could have done a lot more exploration of the dungeon/caverns we were in, but were caught up in lots of back and forth over what should have been quick decisions. There was no elected leader, and the DM did not enforce order or keep us focused on the game. There was very little role playing of people speaking as their characters. That’s ok, I can play either way. I did try to roll play my dwarf in a way to move things along.

Our first obstacle was a slow moving underground stream about five feet deep and twenty feet wide. We spent 20 or so minutes trying to decide/figure out what to do. The next obstacle was a magic archway with an ominous inscription that could be interpreted as something good or bad. No one wanted to go through it, but we spent 20+ minutes with the wizards arguing about how to dispel a permanent magic item they had no clue what it did. Finally, we went the other way and the next ominous sign only delayed us for about five minutes. We went to a room with a brass door and opened it to find a room with two doors on the north, east, and west walls, total 6 doors. We started working out way around the room and two rooms had two wights we easily slew in two or three rounds, two more rooms had four juju zombies that took a little longer. The DM said that he levelled up the zombies so they would challenge us. I was hit in the second of those rooms. The next to last door had a passage. We decided to check out the other room and it had a wight. We slew the wight and ended the session about 1:30 PM. The DM said we each got 28,775 experience points. That is enough to put me to 11th level. The DM said he did not divide the XP. In earlier rooms we did find a +1 sword and a ring of levitation and one pair of wights was guarding a potion of flying. Not dripping with magic or treasure, but XP wise seemed pretty easy. What is odd is that I needed less than 28,000 XP to go from 10th level to 11th level. All classes use the same experience point advancement chart. The DM rolled actual dice and was on video, so we saw him look down to roll. It reminded me of DMs rolling their dice behind the screen.

My Take:

I had fun learning about the online role playing tools and playing and laughing with a group of gamers. D&D Next is not my thing, at least not all the feats, etc. The players tell the DM what they can or can’t do and what they need to roll to do things. I think the DM should set the parameters. There are so many options for a simple fighter, that it felt like I was playing a spellcaster in AD&D. A fighter should not be so difficult to create or play, but that’s because I learned how over 30 years ago.

As for the tools of online roleplaying I like what I see. Google+ is just the means of gathering together, and Roll20 is the table where we gather round. Roll20 is flexible enough to allow just a blank grid to show marching order, terrain/dungeon, objects, and monsters. You don’t need miniatures or a fancy map to play, but if you want fancy, you can do it. For the harried DM who is short of preparation time, I can see the value of using it to show basic positions and for rolling dice.

I have an AD&D/OSRIC game I plan to participate in on Wednesday to see how another DM does it.

I will do a few more sessions to get familiar with things before I dip my toes in the water to run my own game(s).

Here is a picture of what we saw when fighting the wight in the last room before play ceased.I forgot to mention that one of the wizards created a zombie from the remains of one of the juju zombies. No one seemed to have an issue with that, so alignment did not make a big difference in this game.


Friday Night D&D Next
Friday Night D&D Next

[EDIT] I forgot to mention sound. Roll20 has a feature to allow you to play background music and sounds. There is a collection of royalty free music, and you can upload your own. There are also other music/sounds available if you join their fee plan.

During our play another player was playing music. I don’t have a problem with music during play if it complements what is going on. I found that in the environment of a Google+ Hangout it was distracting from play. It was not my kind of music, I’m not sure what it was, and to me, did not fit. Also it was louder than it should have been at times. A way to put it in the background would have helped.

The other issue was on my end. I live across the street from the house next to the train tracks going through town. We have about five or six streets from one end of town to the other that cross the tracks. The Federal law requires the horn to be blown at each crossing. I am used to it and tune it out, so I was then conscious of it and muted the sound when there was a train. I will have to use a microphone that I can limit what it picks up so I don’t blast out the others and have to mute my microphone to avoid interfering with play. This is a drawback to running a game of my own.