2021-02-16 Still thinking about a new campaign

Yeah, I really need to think about a new campaign. I think it’s the pandemic blues.

So, what’s on the table? I’m writing things down mostly as a way to think it through. Writing as learning, as I’m fond of saying.

What rules?

I like Halberds and Helmets but I’ve run it a lot, and I’m willing to try Traveller and Burning Wheel again.

What I like about Halberds and Helmets is that it’s my favourite set of house rules, and I with the Alpine mini-setting generator I have the perfect starting point. Implied pantheon, monsters, treasures, temples, settlements, wilderness, factions, spells. A rich tapestry to start with!

What I like about Classic Traveller is the free wheeling skill-based setup where combat is harsh and there’s no advancement. I’ve read the blog posts in the Classic Traveller: Out of the Box series and they’ve rekindled that fascination with the retro-future that is Traveller. And I’ve started working on a rich Traveller subsector generator which I hope to one day get up to the same level as the one for Halberds and Helmets.

What I like about Burning Wheel is that it provides opportunity for a slow, maybe emotional development. I’m listening to the one-to-one episodes by Judd Karlman and Sean Nittner in the Actual Play podcast starting with the Shoeless Peasant and I’m loving them.

How many?

The last point also makes me think that perhaps I’d like to run a game for fewer people. Instead of aiming for six people so that most of the time we have four or five players at the table, I’d aim much lower: one, two, or three players. Perhaps that is also better for online play?

How long?

In a similar vein, perhaps I need to play shorter games. These days the games I’m in start at 19:30 and got til 22:00, or they start at 20:15 and go to 23:00 or later: 2½h and more. It’s tiring largely because it feels like work, and because I’m not looking at people but at tiny screens. Like, 1h game, break, 1h game?

And since I’m also doing this to overcome the pandemic blues, perhaps I need to make time for socialising. So I don’t want to just game. I want to talk with people about their lives, their jobs, their projects, their hobbies, just a few words, but all in all perhaps we can spend a few minutes before the game and after game on social stuff? I used to be very much against this: “I came to play, not to talk about our latest shopping.” Not any more. Perhaps I do need to hear about the things people bought, cooked, ate, and so on.

How often?

I’m unsure. Perhaps we can get a weekly table going? I think I’d like that. I used to have a weekly table a few years ago. Right now one of the campaigns I’m is ever second Wednesday, which is cool, regular, dependable, plannable. The other one is “whenever” and we use a Dudle to pick dates (a Doodle alternative). Perhaps people prefer that flexibility? I’d be ok with either solution.

I work Monday to Thursday, so I’d prefer Thursday or Friday evenings, or the weekends. Specially now, in winter, while the pandemic is on. I’m also ready to play Fridays during the day since I don’t work. But I think I’m flexible. I’m in the Central European Timezone (CET), UTC+1.

What language?

German or English. If we’re picking German, my wife might also join. I might mail some old RPG friends that moved away, back to Basel, back to Germany.

If we’re picking English, we might have a larger pool of unknown people willing to join. I got mail from B. in Sweden, but I don’t speak Swedish and he doesn’t speak German so it’d have to be English.

On Mastodon, P. said he’d be interested and he’s OK with either one.

What platform?

Yes, it’s tricky! The great fragmentation is ongoing. I have Zoom and Skype installed on the iPad and I hate them for all the spying the great powers are all involved in; and I hate them for the surveillance capitalism paying for so much of this. But I have to confess, they work. I also hear that Discord works well. But again, it all looks so shady. I’d prefer free software.

For one of the games I’m in we’ve been using Jitsi. We picked a Jitsi server that’s run by a local Internet service provider an RPG friend of mine is using (Jitsi by Cyon). My ISP runs a different one, so that would be an alternative (Jitsi by Init7). There’s plenty of others, I’m sure. It works well enough. We often all reduce video quality to the minimum. There’s also the option of switching off video completely.

Another option I’d be willing to try is Signal. Apparently there’s a limit of five people for video, but I don’t think we need more than five. The screen is tiny, but if all you want to do is have a look at the faces of people you’re talking with, then perhaps that’s good enough? Also, it doesn’t look like work!

All in all I’d say simpler is better. I’m willing to try Signal, and I’m willing to try Jitsi. And if we’re running out of options, we can always fall back to Skype and Zoom.


In one of the games I’m in we’re using Roll 20. It looks nice. It also encourages people to set up a ton of macros. I know I have. And it encourages referees to prepare maps, and once you have maps people like to place their tokens, and soon the theatre of the mind is replaced with the battlemap. I’d like to keep the dice roller, though. It’s nice.

In the other game I’m in we just roll our own dice and that’s it. It’s not as nerve rattling as watching other pepole roll their dice, but you can wail and howl all you want after hearing the result, so my feeling is that it doesn’t really matter.

Again, simpler is better. We’d roll our own dice at first, for sure. Or just log into Roll 20 for the dice rolling.


How did Just Halberds turn out for you, by the way? Since you mentioned liking Classic Traveller’s freeform nature and your fantasy mini-setting generator, which seems super compatible with Just Halberds. Could be an interesting middleground between the two.

Malcolm 2021-02-17 06:24 UTC

Yeah, good question. I ran a handful of sessions for a friend and some kids, in German. It might have worked somehow. Combat and taking “damage” was still weird. Do we roll endlessly against that Ettin? Do we establish stakes before we roll and just roll once? For the moment I’m not all that interested in picking it up again.

– 2021-02-17 12:32 UTC

This was made by a CS Student! It works well with audio/ video and I like the sounds. https://magicalscrolls.com/roll/

There is also Dice With Friends

– Oliver 2021-02-17 14:21 UTC

I like the simple magic scroll site! Thanks.

– Alex 2021-02-17 15:34 UTC

When you say you like the Roll 20 dice rolling, are you talking about the fancy 3D dice that (I presume, haven’t seen them in action) roll around so you can get excited about them as they roll, or just the text/chat dice? I find the chat dice pretty bland and a bit fiddly. I think I prefer rolling my own dice, but I guess there is something to be said for everyone seeing the results simultaneously so that we can all groan together. 🙂

In the best “non-compromise” I’ve seen people had two cameras, one for their face and one for their dice tray. 🙂 This one adds some complexity/cost in the setup of course and may not be for everyone.

– Björn Buckwalter 2021-02-18 17:46 UTC

Haha, exactly. But as you say, the benefit is small and rolling your own dice is still the simplest solution. We can collectively groan after the roll instead of as we roll – not much of a difference, perhaps. 😄

Perhaps using phones instead of laptops would add an interesting option: pointing the camera at things like dice. As the home office drags into its second year I’m noticing that the actual videos are rare and that the sound of a voice is much more important after the exchange of some smiles and hand waving.

– Alex 2021-02-19 08:49 UTC

I like the face video in online games to be able to read when people are eager to cut in. Or have left to go to the bathroom. Or are distracted, programming. 😉

The main thing is that I find it easier to know when it is OK to cut in without interrupting someone else or stepping on toes. Those ongoing visual cues we get in a face-to-face group conversation. More important the more people involved. It isn’t perfect due to lag, but better than audio-only in my experience.

I’m thinking laptop camera for face and phone camera for dice could work for most of us nowadays, or just delegate all rolls to the person who has a good setup for the benefit of simultaneous despair!

– Björn Buckwalter 2021-02-19 21:27 UTC

Good points!

– Alex 2021-02-21 11:41 UTC

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