Nightfall is far away and the glaring autumn sun rules the country side. I should be outside, running in the sunshine, but here I am, typing in front of a laughable little square of tiny glowing dots. This is insane, I tell myself. But then I keep typing.
Jeremy Friesen wrote a blog post about playing face to face, and about playing online, and about the things he started to like about it. This part in particular resonates with me:
At least three of us have often been GMs. There’s something fulfilling in finding fellow GMs who burn with that same intensity about games and systems. And I know for myself, there’s always that slight bit of separation between a traditional GM and the players. It’s been so rewarding finding a small cohort of fellow GMs who have played and ran games for three decades. – Do I Now Favor Online over Face to Face?
So true. So true…
Like Jeremy, I struggled with accepting online gaming. It looked so much like work in the home office. Yikes! And I hated Skype, and then Zoom, and Jitsi didn’t like Firefox at first and it still spins up the fans like crazy. But then Jitsi on the phone or tablet, using an app, started working just fine. And the one day when it didn’t, we did a group call using Signal, and it worked just fine. The longer I think about it, the more I start agreeing with Jeremy: perhaps video is overrated. Just use audio and some microphone discipline.
There are some things that don’t quite work as well. If the group is large, it’s hard to joke with your table neighbour while somebody else is taking their turn. I’m easily bored and seeing human faces nearby keeps my monkey brain busy. But the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to just play with fewer people and use rules that don’t have long fights, or don’t have a level up system that results in combat slowing down the longer we play.
Our Classic Traveller firefights are short: after the first round, half the participants are already lying on the floor, unconscious. And our characters never gain levels. It’s perfect.
Plus, we’re one referee and three players at most. That’s cool, too.
There are benefits I also enjoy: no more commuting to the game! I had it easy when I ran my games. People came to our place. I didn’t have to go anywhere. Now that I’m a player, I like the fact that I still don’t have to go anywhere because we’re playing online.
What about the excitement of dice rolling? It depends. In the games were a lot of dice get rolled, having Roll 20 with it’s silly animations is cool. For my own mid-level Halberds & Helmets games, I remember dice rolling being much less important. In my Classic Traveller game, dice rolling is extremely unimportant. A handful of skill checks or reaction rolls per session, no more.
In our Classic Traveller game, we just roll our own dice and moan and shout depending on the results. It works. 😆
Plus, even when vaccinated we’re supposed to maintain social distancing, wear masks, wash hands… This is not compatible with five or six people in a room, for hours, laughing and shouting.