Well, I did it. Not like I had much of a choice.
Due to the plague sweeping the world, I, like many other tabletop RPG’ers, had to take my game from the tabletop to one a little more virtual. Luckily I had started using Roll20 with our tabletop games to project maps. I had a television that I would set down on some foam blocks, put a piece of plexiglass over it, and use the game’s “Fog of War” to reveal the map while my players moved their physical miniatures across the gridscape.
But now everyone was in lockdown. And since my players were also family members of mine, I really didn’t want to drop the game. So, over the course of a couple of weeks, everyone made their own Roll20 accounts. Once they were set up, we would log in at various times and troubleshoot the sound aspect of the system. I had a decent Razer headset with a mic, so my setup was pretty solid. Everyone else would be using the built-in mics and speakers from their laptops.
As far as bare-bones went, this would be fine. We did our soundchecks and things worked well enough to try a session. Everyone would be able to attend and participate. Still, I wasn’t expecting miracles. I wasn’t even expecting good. I was expecting a rough session with bugs.
I was not disappointed.
- We had sound issues. When we did sound checks during the week, we never had them with everyone on at once. Three people played in the same room, and with everyone having their own mics and speakers on their laptops, we spent the first hour of the session with them trying to figure out a combination of who could have what on, or who could sit how far from the other, without causing screaming feedback.
- Mics were a bit of an issue as well. I had trouble making out what some players were saying because they were sitting at different distances from the mics on their laptops. RP moments were lost when I’d ask them to repeat that stellar line again.
- Awkwardness. This was not a technical issue, but a personal one on my end. All of my players were sitting together – two at one house, three at another. I was sitting alone in my basement, talking to a wall. To make matters worse, we started the session with the players discussing what they were going to do next. What they decided was completely out of left field and I had not prepped for at all. That just increased the amount of awkwardness I felt as I scrambled to come up with something while players mumbled over feedback loops. At least they couldn’t see how flustered I was.
- Dice. I had asked if people wanted to roll dice. One of my players said he wanted to use Roll20’s dice rolling. No one else said anything. So we went with virtual rolls. The player who suggested the dice rolling had macros set up so he was comfortable with it. At the end of our session, we all sat around and played with macros in hopes that we could come up with something that the experienced and the novice could get something out of.
However, in the end we had a successful session. There’s things to work on during downtime (including me fighting the urge to buy headsets for all of my players), but all in all, we were able to get together in the only way we could escape the real world for awhile.
And these days, that counts for alot.