Monday, April 16, 2018

Roll20 Tips and Tricks for Players

Thomas and I have been playing RPGs together since the middle 90's (92 or 93, probably) and so when he was in the Middle East working in November 2014, and our other longtime friend John was in Japan, we decided to try giving Roll20 a shot so we could get our gaming fix. The time differences meant I was getting up to play at 6am or 7am on a Sunday morning, but it was worth it. Thomas ran 13th Age for us and those early mornings exploring Boltstrike Pillar and the Crown of the Lich King are part of why I love 13th Age today.

Then in September of 2015 we started a 2nd Edition AD&D campaign set in the Ruined Kingdoms of al-Qadim, also with Thomas running, and have been playing that game almost every Sunday (now at the more reasonable time of 9am CST) since. I think the longest we've ever had a break has been three weeks.

The summer of 2017, one of my local players had to move to South Carolina for work temporarily, so I used Roll20 to let him telecommute in for our 13th Age Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign and grabbed the online Curse of Strahd module pack to try and run so he could play more. Unfortunately the Curse of Strahd game fizzled due to scheduling issues, but having him join the table via Roll20 worked great for 13th Age (and we even used that Roll20 game to have all the players telecommute in this last weekend when we got 15 inches of snow in April...)

Early this year, I re-read the Great Modron March and decided I wanted to run that, but with my two main groups in the middle of long-term campaigns and my local playgroup busy, I turned to Roll20, put up an ad and found a group online to run for. And since then, I've been looking at trying to add more online gaming to my schedule. With all this time playing and thinking about online games, I wanted to put together some of my tips and tricks. I will admit that I've only used Roll20, but some of this advice would probably apply just as well to other online tabletop platforms. And don't worry DMs and GMs, once you're done reading this post you can click over to my Roll20 Tips and Tricks for GMs post here.

Roll20 Tips and Tricks for Players

  • Google Docs
    • Or something similar. They’re helpful as you can share them easily and have access to them from most devices.
    • For spellcasters, consider having a document with the spells they know/have access to, this lets you quickly look up a spell, especially if you don’t have hardcopies of the books on hand.
    • Shared group inventory. It’s great to be able to quickly see how many heling potions the party has left or who is carrying that +1 scimitar or where that large, hard to move scrying bowl is being kept
    • Notes. I use a google document to keep a log of the game. I try to write a sentence for each room/location and then will add a sentence to cover what we encounter there. It can be kind of bare bones, but I find it helps me to remember what occurred and taking notes helps keep my attention on the game when my PC isn’t part of a scene. Here’s a sample entry for a day in game.
      • Day 102
        • Headed up the Kadan river to find statue
        • Got a fishing boat to bring us to where other boats had disappeared
        • Ambushed by 14 lizardmen, put two to sleep and found that they had not stolen the idol, it had just appeared.
        • Cats were sent to track the two sleeping Lizardmen as we released them.
        • Found two warriors from Tayaraan, they told us about a giant crocodile and where to find the narrows
        • Went to narrows and into swamp to get wood to make a raft and encountered a hydra
        • Lizardman tracks led away from where the hydra treasure should have been
  • Headset
    • I highly recommend using a gaming headset with a microphone. This not only makes it easier to hear, it also minimizes ambient noise for the group, especially for laptops where the microphone picks up the noise of things being set down next to the laptop. You don’t need a really pricey one, I got a $20 wireless set that works really well, but before that I had a cheap wired set that worked okay too.
  • Play around
    • Almost all GMs should be okay with you popping into the game outside of the scheduled session time to play around. This way you can make sure you know what is where on your character sheet, how the built in roll functions work and perhaps even build a macro or two..
  • Learn macros
    • Roll20 allows players to create their own macros, little bits of simple code that once written can be used to run the same instructions again and again. In roll20, this means you could set up a macro for a 2nd edition AD&D PC to fire a bow twice, with all the THAC0 calculations done for you or one that automates the same PC attacking with a Khopesh, that does differing damage depending on if the foe is human-sized or larger.
    • Test attacks with his short bow, hitting AC [[@{Test|ThAC0} - (d20)]] for [[1d6]] damage with the first shot and hitting AC [[@{Test|ThAC0} - (d20)]] for [[1d6]] damage for the second shot.
    • Test attacks with his Khopesh, hitting AC [[@{Test|Thac0} - (d20)]] for [[2d4]] damage to small/medium or [[1d6]] damage to a large foe.
  • Default Combat Actions
    • It’s worth thinking up one or two “default” combat actions to consider, this can help prevent analysis paralysis when combat starts if you know that you want to first use ranged attacks against enemies who aren’t in melee, and then switch to your mace for melee.
  • Check in with your GM regularly.
    • Let your GM know if you’ll be missing a session, just like you would for an in-person game, even if it’s just an hour before the game. There are few things as soul-crushing for a GM running an online game than having to deal with players repeatedly missing sessions without any notice before or apology after.
    • Help your GM by following up on things, if the party needs to make a decision between session, follow up with the other players instead of relying on the GM to do so. Help keep party notes or group inventory up to date. Offer to look up rules if a rules question comes up for a scene where your character is not as directly involved.
    • Let your GM know if there’s something that’s not working about the game as it can be harder to read those cues over a voice chat or even a tiny video display when you’re busy with the technical aspects of running a game online in addition to the normal work of game-mastering.
    • And especially let a GM know that you’re enjoying the game and what you’d like to see more of. 

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