Tag Archives: #WardenCrew

I Ran My First Game Online

Friday night, from 8:00 to Midnight, EDT, I ran my first online game using Roll20 and Google Hangouts.

I have played over 330 hours using Roll20 and Hangouts. I have also run games of AD&D 1st Edition, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, and others. As with anything, the first time you encounter all the things you don’t know and try to make sense of it based on what you already know.

I am very much a visual learner. What is easy to pick up on with body language in a face to face game is lost online. While I used a Google Hangout, it was audio only. This was to minimize the number of windows on which I had to focus. This led to my biggest shortcoming as a GM online, missing the visual queues for player involvement. I realized after one player dropped out that I really need a player turn tracker that is implemented fairly and consistently so that each player has an equal share of time.

Two of my players in this session of six players were new to both RPG’s and online play of RPG’s. I was not as sensitive as I should be to their newness to the hobby and this method of play.

This session was a play test of a scenario that I developed for convention play for Metamorphosis Alpha at UCon in November, as I mentioned a few days ago. While I have pre-gens for the scenario, I did not enter them into Roll20. Instead, I let my players generate their characters to give them a sense of ownership. I had a short session with each player to generate their character, and make sure that the technical aspect of using Roll20 and Google Hangouts were worked out before the game. I think this helped with player buy-in, as well as helped us get a head start on building that initial acquaintance ahead of the session.

I learned from play that I crammed too much into the beginning of my scenario, and need to streamline things for the fast style of play that occurs in a convention game. I took a lot of short notes about different things to keep track of what worked or did not and what needs polish, revision, or removal.

At the end of the game, I solicited feedback, and there is interest in continuing the scenario.  In addition to Roll20, I created a private G+ Community for my Metamorphosis Alpha campaign. After the game, I created a poll, based on initial post game comments, to get an idea of when the group would like to play again. Most said that they would love to play next week. That is a great mood booster!

I had a blast! The players had buy-in to the scenario right away, and were engaged. I had a lot of hooks to get everyone involved from the start, with random rolls to mix things up, so that no two players would have the same story. I won’t go into detail, as I am running a second group through the scenario Saturday night. The second group are part of the gang from the Wednesday night AD&D Roll20 game I play in. It will be fun to interact with them in a different way and to see how our DM is as a player.

I was disappointed in myself for letting a couple of players sit quiet for a long time. It is the DM’s job to make sure each player is engaged. With an online game, it is especially important, since it is all too easy for one player to talk over other’s. It is the limit of the technology. I could set up one computer to display the hangout and watch which icons indicate who is speaking, but I find that I focus so much on the rolls, and my notes and maps, that I can’t even keep up with the chat comments players made.

I don’t feel too bad about missing side chats the players had going in chat right in front of me. It is that way in in-person games, but those more easily grab one’s attention. The solution is a system that allows each player a chance to speak. So whether I go by dexterity order, name order, order they show up on the screen, etc. It needs to be done fairly and consistently.

In addition to the poll for when to play again, I also put up a post on the campaign’s G+ community soliciting constructive criticism of my GMing of the session. I pointed out what I knew I needed to do better and what I felt I did well. I invited each player to contact me privately, if they so desired.

One player wrote publicly in response to my solicitation of feedback, “Well said! I can already tell that you are a GM/DM that I would recommend to anyone looking for a good old-school type of game. :)”

That comment alone is wonderful! I have a feeling of accomplishment.  I can’t help but compare myself to other DM.s/GM’s. There are some that I feel are so good that I feel I can never be that good. But when I actually get to play and get into a zone where things are happening in a good way, I know that I am at least a decent DM. I think I will dare to say I am a good one.

I stress too much on needing to be prepared. It does not take much to have enough for four hours of play. Once players are put in the middle of a situation, they go off in directions one could never anticipate.

I think I set the expectations clearly up front. I pointed out that this was my first time running an RPG online, and that this was the first game of Metamorphosis Alpha that I had ran in over 30 years. I did not mean it as an excuse, just to let them know I had a lot of new going on. In the end, other than the time allotment issues for each player, I think I did very well.

I used the theater of the mind style. I had a map of an area and players placed their tokens to indicate who was where. We also used it for marching order. There was another map I had to show them a big picture of the situation, but I did not use all the bells and whistles of working with maps and tokens that Roll20 has to offer. I am a free user, but if I end up with a regular game, I will definitely come up with the money for a subscription.

Some of my players run games on Roll20 and were able to help me get settings right. That was most appreciated!

I learned a lot about the online tools I chose, my scenario and where it needs improvement, myself and my abilities as a GM, and where I need to focus my energies to improve. I can’t wait for next week when the players and I tune in to see what happens next!

Goodies Received

I recently placed orders at Amazon, Lulu and DriveThruRPG, I got the last of the Amazon order on Friday and the others on Saturday.

I’m not doing an in-depth review, just touching on what I got.

From Amazon, I got a good deal on a copy of Manual of the Planes for AD&D 1e. I never had the book, but I have the PDF and wanted a “complete” set of the AD&D manuals. By complete, I mean complete to me. That is, I now have all the AD&D manuals that I want. The only exception is if I find inexpensive Players Handbooks that are good for use at the table. I think that I’m up to three table copies, but would like to boost that a bit.

Manual of the Planes
Manual of the Planes

Earlier in the week, a separate shipment of my Amazon order came, with Playing at the World, by Jon Peterson. So far, I’ve gotten through the introduction, acknowledgements, and the fist few sections of chapter one. As I write this on a rainy Saturday, I’m leaning towards more reading, since I can’t do my yard work and don’t feel motivated to do inside chores.

Playing at the World
Playing at the World

I also got two copies of a board book, one for my granddaughter, and one for me: C is for Cthulhu. There was a Kickstarter for this. I didn’t learn of it until well after it. I think it is a neat idea. I also can’t wait to see the look on my son’s face tomorrow* when I give it to them. He has read some H. P. Lovecraft, he got a book several years ago from the local library’s annual sale.

C is for Cthulhu
C is for Cthulhu

Here’s a picture of my granddaughter with her new book. Her parents were geeked out about this book. She was taking a nap when I arrived, and their dog barked and woke her up just a few minutes into it, so she wasn’t as exited. However, I did read it to her several times and she enjoyed it.

Nikola with her new book.
Nikola with her new book.

The Lulu order contained Revised & Expanded Petty Gods and Metamorphosis Alpha. I did not contribute to Petty Gods, but I already have the PDF and with a 30% sale Lulu had, I jumped in.

Petty Gods
Petty Gods

Metamorphosis Alpha is the original rules, but with James Ward’s minor changes on the cover and title page indicating it is his. When I saw it and picked it up and started flipping through the pages, it brought me back to when I had my copy of the game. I can see myself sitting in my parent’s basement way back in high school, reading the rules and running one of the few games we had. This is just like so many of the rule books back then. It reminds me of all those other TSR games in the early 1980’s: Gamma World, Top Secret, Boot Hill, Gang Busters, Star Frontiers, etc. We played them all, but kept coming back to AD&D.

Metamorphosis Alpha
Metamorphosis Alpha

I did not back the Metamorphosis Alpha re-print Kickstarter. I did get the PDF from DriveThruRPG and print it out. I also backed the Epsilon City Kickstarter and plan to add the softcover MA re-print, but I didn’t want to wait for that to arrive in a few months.

I also bought this to help Jame Ward with his recent and ongoing hospital stay. This is on top of my boosted pledge to the Epsilon City Kickstarter and a donation to his GoFundMe. #WardenCrew

From DriveThruRPG I got the Portrait GM Screen, and the OSR Sci Fi GM Screen for White Star. I already had the PDF of the Sci fi GM Screen, but if I bought the Portrait GM Screen, they would just give me a copy of the Sci Fi GM Screen. I used up all of my credits and then some to get this, so if you want to buy something from my affiliate links, please do, so I can get more things to review!

The Portrait GM Screen is actually TWGS – The World’s Greatest Screen, by Hammerdog Games. Hammerdog has free inserts that you can download from their site. This screen has a bit of heft to it. It reminds me of a few executive style notebooks I have. The inset pockets are tight and it might be a challenge to switch things up and use inserts for another game. With binders we have at works with such insert pockets on the cover, the ink gets stuck to the plastic and it is a challenge to get the inserts out. I’m not sure if it is safe to leave fancy inserts in. Home printed inserts, or copy paper inserts, the ink will most likely stick to the pocket sleeve. Unless this plastic/vinyl is a different quality and ink does not stick to it, I wouldn’t leave inserts in there for an extended period of time, unless you planned to play only one game, or get a new screen for each game. The latter would get quite expensive.

I’ll have to look for long-term reviews about the issues of ink sticking to the sleeve pocket, etc. Hammerdog does have a page on caring for the screen. I’m curious to see if anyone who has followed their instructions has had any issues. I found this unboxing video of both the portrait and landscape sceens on YouTube.

TWGS
TWGS

The SciFi GM Screen is visually appealing and the card stock is about the same grade as that of the Metamorphosis Alpha GM Screen that I reviewed here. It has a couple pages of tables and a sector map and mini adventure for the GM and another one for the players. This is an interesting idea. I have the PDF of the GM Screen, but I have not thoroughly reviewed it. I’m used to seeing combat tables and other things on GM screens. I know with the Ascending Armor Class, one doesn’t need combat tables. Somehow, I feel a table or two that might be relevant to play is missing. I will have to review my PDF copy of White Star before I stick to a claim one way or the other.

Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen – All the Inserts
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen – Sector Map

 

* I wrote this on Saturday, will give it to them Sunday, and set this article to publish Monday.