Sunday, August 2, 2020

RPGaDay Challenge 2020 - CHANGE

(Turn and face the strange)
(Just gonna have to be a different man)

Time may change me
But I can't trace time

The biggest change I've experienced in gaming of late is of course the same one many others are dealing with; gaming over the internet as in person sessions are not viable at this time of global pandemic. 

Now I, like a lot of you out there, have been gaming online for a good deal of time before the coming of Covid-19 made it the only way to safely play RPGs with friends but I have to say, it doesn't get any easier. 

More accurately and specifically, the more I game over the 'net the less I enjoy it. Instead of getting used to the change, it makes me miss meeting in person all the more. I have mentioned this before I believe but I have several issues that make gaming online less conducive to running a great game then I would like. 

First and foremost, not everyone has a camera or wants to show their face online. Even people I know in real-life, people I've gamed with in-person, just don't like looking at themselves on camera. I understand this as I don't really like seeing myself on video either. Unfortunately, much of my GMing style involves facial expressions, hand gestures, and 'acting' out what NPCs are doing. If you can't see me I often have to describe things I would never have thought to describe in the past. Also, I sometimes forget and make physical, visual references anyway and while three out of four people laugh, the last person is stuck going. "What happened? I can't see you", because they don't have their camera feature on. 

In addition, I base a lot of my reactions and responses on the vibe of the room and the look on my players' faces. If I can't see you and don't know if my last joke went over or you're sitting there with a confused look I can't see, I don't know what's working with my audience and what isn't. 

Lastly, I am notoriously bad at judging size and distance in the abstract. I can't visualize a twenty foot by twenty foot hallway. I always hated those descriptions in old D&D modules. 'The pillar with the statue is 9 feet high and it's 45 ft from the entry way to the pillar'. OK, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Seriously, I just can't exactly picture it. Instead, what I've always done is say something like:

It's about twice the length of my arm.
The creature is roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. 
The distance from the door to the pillar is the same as from where I'm sitting to the bathroom of the apartment we're in. 

If you can't see me and heck, sometimes even if you can, you can't easily judge some of those references over Discord or Zoom. For example, one of my players lives in an apartment that is about the same size as mine but looks huge on camera for some reason. Does mine look too large to him? Too small? Ugh. 

I have been working on this one gaming project for a good 35+ years now that I recently went back to in hopes of running it after I complete my ALIEN FRONTIER campaign. Thing is, I will only finish that campaign if I can do it in-person. I will only start the new one if I can do it in a room with people. 

For now, I have adapted to this change in gaming but I for one and very eager for it to change back. 

Barking Alien


  1. I hear you on this. I'm not a huge fan of it either as I prefer the in-person interaction for RPGs. Part of my group is trying it but I opted out. I'm at a point right now that if "online" is the best options let's just play an MMORPG. We can all play together and talk on Discord and no one is trying to manage the game itself.

    That said, I'm ready for the return of gathering in a room too.

    1. That I can't do. The older I get the more I realize I am not really a 'gamer'. I don't enjoy playing games as much as I do role playing, mystery solving, GMing, and telling stories.

      Boardgames, MMORPGs, platformers; they all do nothing for me. Once in a while it's fun to veg out on a computer game but for the most part it pales in comparison to a good RPG.

      If online is the only way to play RPGs, then online it is.

    2. I do agree - it's mainly a way to scracth the 'doing something with friends with some RPG trappings" itch - it's not a direct replacement.