View Full Version : Tabletop Gaming w/friends who've moved.

2007-05-11, 03:31 PM
Hey all,

This post is aimed at the tabletop AD&D crowd.

A while ago a group of my old friends got together and started to reminisce on our old gaming days in college (yes we played AD&D in college – I’m a bit of a geek, what can I say, really).

These days though, most of us have spread out across the country, have jobs, got married etc but clearly still greatly miss playing with our particular gaming group. Pretty quickly the conversation changed into “Ok, we all have Cable or DSL connectivity at home, so what can we use application wise to start up an online version of a tabletop game”? The general idea was to mimic the tabletop aspects as much as possible even though we'd all be separated by thousands of miles once we all went back to our homes.

Here’s what we’ve been using with a decent amount of success:

- For In Character (IC) talking, posing, and die rolling we use a Mushclient – by luck one of the group happened to be running a server. I suspect any chat application would be ok, but you’d still require some tool for rolling dice that everyone can see. Alternatively you could also just give the GM full control of dice – which is kind of sucky in my opinion.

- For OOC talking/joking around etc, we use Ventrillo (or Teamspeak, etc) in addition to the chat application. Now we can chat, pose, roll dice, and bull**** in a way very similarly to as if we were all in person at a table. This of course requires a microphone (usually not a problem though, most of us had headsets used for other gaming)

- Next up you need a decent “board” tool, or a place where the GM can display an encounter room or scene. This isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s certainly convenient. In our old tabletop games we used a simple whiteboard and some miniatures. In our online version we’ve used two approaches, neither to be honest are that great though.

(1) Use a Webcam pointed at a whiteboard w/minatures (lol). The advantage is it’s most similar to tabletop, because well it’s just a webcam between the players and the table. What not so hot about it is the picture quality is just not good, which so far we’ve never been able to improve. Even zoomed in close a group of minatures looks blurry and it can be hard to tell who is who.

(2) Use a drawing tool (photoshop, etc) to draw up the encounter map and just post it on a web page. This is the method we usually use, as it gives us a very clear picture of the encounter (including a nice grid) and the DM can usually generate the map in advance. The problem is that it’s annoyingly slow to update. In a tabletop game you’d just move a miniature as actions take place, but this method doesn’t really allow for easy real time changes. We often see 10 minutes of delay between combat rounds (for example) for the DM to make simple changes to update the map.

Anyway, sorry if this has gone a bit long but that’s the background and we’ve been running with that setup for a while (we game 1 night a week roughly, with occasional cancellations). It's worked pretty well, but I have a feeling there's some improvements that could be made in mapping, etc that we just haven't explored properly.

My question: What would you do differently? If you have any comments or recommendations I would love to hear them.


2007-05-11, 03:37 PM
You could turn to your MUD-server running friend and see if he could rig up an ASCII 'board' and set of movement commands.

(Come to think of it, that'd be very... Nethackish...)

Emperor Tippy
2007-05-11, 03:41 PM
I to use Vent for OOC chat.
AIM is what we use for IC chat.

Rolling is done with a custom dice roller that one of the players coded and uploaded on his site for us to use. It logs all rolls in the game and the DM can see them all. Players can only see their own rolls unless the DM or player makes that roll public.

We are talking about writing a mapping program but no one has wanted to code it yet.

EDIT: We currently use a web cam for the map. With a good enough webcam it can get a fairly decent picture.

Mr Croup
2007-05-11, 03:51 PM
You know, a friend of mine was talking about a program that he's been experimenting with at work that he thought would be a perfect solution for online gaming, and would be exactly the thing you're looking for.

It's one of Adobe's products, and is called Acrobat Connect. There are two version of it, the normal version and the pro, but they both cost s decent amount, it seems. The basic version of the program loses a number of the features that would make it a great online gaming tool, and still costs $39 a month to use, while the pro version is chock full of awesome features and is set up on a licensing basis. Here are a couple links to the product information pages:
Acrobat Connect (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobatconnect/compare/)
Product Features (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobatconnectpro/productinfo/features/#item-27)

If you had the cash to spend (which would be $75 per person for a group of five for the professional version, or $39 per person for the basic version, it sounds like the perfect solution. Sadly, I think that price tag is a little bit much for it to see use as a gaming tool.

Emperor Tippy
2007-05-11, 04:06 PM
Hmm. That would be perfect but no one in my group will pay for it.

Coding something that would be perfect for gaming isn't that complicated. It just takes time and no one has invested it yet.

Maybe I'll do that as a summer project.

Lets see, it should be embeddable in a site like chat boxes are. Needs a dice roller that logs rolls, chat capabilities (multiple channels and savable), and mapping capabilities.

2007-05-11, 04:17 PM
I have actually been coding an online markerboard for the past few months and am getting close to having a stable release with everything I want in it. I have the client code HERE (http://lemonlimegames.googlepages.com) with a server running on my home machine. so check it out if yah have a chance. I plan on making a post once the entire thing in a form i consider worthy of an official release.

2007-05-11, 04:19 PM
One option I've used, and bare with me its a little clunky, is to open MS Excel, resize all the cells so they are square (same number of pixels for both height and width) and then I use the border drawing tool to draw the features, heavy lines for walls, dotted lines for doors, etc, and apply a Milton Bradley "Battleship" style grid to it. Then I copy the excel sheets one room at a time into a powerpoint that I send by e-mail to all the players.

So when we're playing and the Barbarian kicks in the door we can have an exchange like this:

DM: Ok Doob the Barbarian gives the door a mighty kick sending it reeling on its hinges until it slams into the wall on the other side. The room before you is largely featureless save for a glyph painted on the wall at the far end and a second door in the east wall. (please go to slide 14, the party has entered through the south door. At first glance the room appears empty, please tell me where on the grid your characters begin and describe your actions)
Player 1: Doob moves forward through the door (starting in square B9) and moves to listen at the eastern door (ending in square F4, listen check: 18)
Player 2: Kelzak the wise wishes the inspect the symbol more closely, is he at all familar with it (enter through the door in B9, and approach the symbol ending in square D1, Knowledge Arcana check: 21)

So on and so forth.

Using this method the maps aren't all that pretty, but the get they point across effectively.

2007-05-11, 04:33 PM
If you've got Ventrillo for OOC chatter and need a good way to do everything else, one effective and more importantly free solution is to use OpenRPG. (http://www.openrpg.com/) It has a bit of a learning curve if you've never used that sort of thing, but combines a chat window, battlemap (controllable by all players as well as DM), dice roller, and even a primitive character organizer as well. I've been playing in an OpenRPG game for a few months now, and I'm very happy with the program. Finding the right files to download when I did it, however, was a rather unpleasant and painstaking bit of trial and error, but they seem to have worked out that problem.

2007-05-11, 04:39 PM

This is what my friends and I use (along with Team Speak) to do exactly what you are talking about. It is free, simple to use, and designed by folks that are using it for the same reason as well.

2007-05-13, 12:04 AM
Thanks all - I appreciate the leads.

OpenRPG and GameTable came up in another conversation I was having recently. I'll check 'em out.

2007-05-13, 12:44 AM
Do real-time (as opposed to play-by-post) internet games run slower then they would/do irl?

I'm just imagining it like conversations over aim as opposed to real life, where some people sit and think about everything.

2007-05-13, 12:51 AM
They're a tad slower, but the player stupidity quotient is slightly decreased and the ability to log them can lead to all sorts of awesomeness.

2007-05-13, 12:53 AM
Do real-time (as opposed to play-by-post) internet games run slower then they would/do irl?

I'm just imagining it like conversations over aim as opposed to real life, where some people sit and think about everything.

I'm DMing one game IRL and another over internet via OpenRPG.
Chat games have a slightly different dynamic. They move a bit more slowly, because typing is slower than speaking, and because you can't see as easily when someone is done speaking, or who is not going to contribute to the dialogue this round, or who is thinking really hard at the moment (this can be convenient, because it gives the DM more time to look stuff up). Also, "passing messages" is much simpler, because the others don't notice what is going on. At the same time, the game is generally more focussed, because the speed does not alter so much between fast-paced and slow as in the IRL game, where the temporary slow-downs (because someone just went to the bathroom) can become triggers for OOC discussions.

Oh, and to have a log for the DM to remember all the on-the-spot creativity is priceless.

2007-05-13, 04:49 AM
I've actually been working on something like this for my own personal amusement, and nostalgia about webrpg. I'm not very far along (Just finished up basic chat/pm functionality, and working on the xml definitions for character sheets), and it's written in vb.net 2.0 (blech, i wish i still had at least net 1.0, ::Sighs::)

I haven't the skill to do the really fancy things like voice, but I'm fairly decent. Anyway, If i ever do get it to a useable level i'll post about it on these boards.