So a week and a half ago, I responded to a random Tweet calling for a DM to run a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Game online for a bunch of folks that have never played before, but are interested in giving it a try. Now, we’ve already done Character Creation, had a quick encounter adventure to whet their appetites, and have the next (first official) adventure scheduled! I never expected to get a game up & running so quickly. The crew is on-board and excited in a way that I wasn’t quite ready for – Several of them have very detailed and thought-out backgrounds, they worked together to complete their first adventure, and generally did a fantastic job role-playing during the session!
As a new DM, I was so anxious in the lead up to even the initial Creation session I probably spent a good 10-15 hours in prep time getting ready (without expecting to run an adventure). Running a game online is a somewhat different beast from having a group of gamers sitting around a table, eyeing the DM expectantly.
First, there’s the extra prep required. Now, not only do I have to know the adventure and have NPCs, monsters, role-playing ideas, and story ideas ready – there’s an added element of mirroring that setup in an online tool! We’re currently using Roll20, a free online tabletop gaming engine that is game agnostic (but with templates and such set up for a myriad of tabletop / role-playing games). With Wizards of the Coast releasing the basic rules to OGL, we even get “official” Character Sheets with automated bonus and dice roll calculations. It’s pretty great, I highly recommend the app – Video and Voice chat built in, the ability to use Google Hangouts, and one of the better die-rolling systems I’ve ever seen makes it a must-have for online Tabletop Gaming!
Having said that, I’d like to point out the extensive amount of extra work running a game online can be. You have to manually set up or upload maps, copy your character sheets or stat blocks into the application… It can get pretty brutal, especially during the learning curve. I started preparing the online stuff for our first adventure, which will take places this Friday, as soon as I agreed to DM for the group. The bulk of my time thus far has been trying to get maps to align in the application. I already have many pre-generated maps that have to be scanned (if custom or not available online) uploaded to the application, then placed on the page, and finally sized & aligned properly if you want to be able to use the grid snapping that happens on the page. This is nearly impossible for the hex maps. The square map I was able to (mostly) align & size everything correctly, but it took way more time than I anticipated or wanted it to. The snap to grid options are really cool, and I feel like it’ll ultimately make running the games more smoothly, but getting used to the layout creation features is no small feat.
I’m slowly getting more skilled at it – and have gotten some good tips online. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears! Until then – happy gaming!