Your know, in this discussion so far, I am seeing a distinct trend that people prefer Campaigns, but are generally time constrained by their own, and their fellow players, lives. They just don't have enough time for a campaign. I wonder if anyone has cracked this nut? Robbie's post seems to be successful - 30 game session this year! Yet, they're not running/playing in a campaign. So for lurkers and future FudgeRPG members reading this, you you've been successful running a campaign - perhaps as suggested/implied by BigJackBrass's post - by running multiple related short adventure, please post an let us knoe your Gamemastering Secrets.
paul wrote:When you say "online" I assume using Chat? Like IRC. Or do you use some other approach? Does the technology limit you? ....... .Do you online game use anything other than text? I assume dice roles are on the honor system.
When we are at full strength there are five of us, three with Windows OS and two with Apple OS X. Foremost was the need for cross-platform solutions. As mentioned in my above post, we each take turns at GMing and are at various levels of "technical ability" and disposable income, so things ideally needed to be simple and free!
Voice: We started with the conferencing feature of Skype, but we wanted to virtually simulate our old real world gaming environment more comfortably, so opted for Ventrilo. We've set up a lobby (where we meet up!), a lounge (for gaming), as well as a bedroom and a kitchen (for private chats GM <> player). Ventrilo comes in two components, a server (VERY easy to set up) and each participant uses a client.
Handouts: As GMs we've traditionally used battle maps and figures for combat visualisation, pictures and other handouts. To facilitate this we exclusively used MapTool. This is the premier battlemap application in my opinion, you move player and NPC tokens around a 'map', be it a cave, a castle or a sci-fi fortress etc. It has fog of war (to hide things until they are uncovered) and much more. However ... we found MapTool wanting when it comes to showing pictures swiftly. If you are a GM and on a very slow connection and want to send a 1MB image to four people (that's 4MB going out the door) and on a woefully slow UK ADSL connection ... that's not great.
I'm a web developer by day, so I created an online tool (which I grandiosely call the "Gaming Resource Server or GReS)" which allows GMs to upload maps, photographs and PDFs into virtual "Drawers" in advance of a game and make them available as required at the click of the mouse to individual players or all participants. Since then I've added a messaging system ... a Fudge dice roller ... a portraits gallery (for player character and NPC photographs) and other bits 'n' pieces. An alternative to this, might be the likes of Google's Picasa and / or Dropbox? There is (was?) a map sharing site for roleplayers out there, but I can't find it at the moment.
Sound FX: Two of us GMs favour sound effects, for Windows we use Voice Emotion and on the Mac I use Audio Hijack Pro. We found that you can easily overplay sound effects, but there's nothing like a distant scream to wake players up! The GM might introduce an effect in the middle of description thus: "You've made it to the floor of the cave, the only illumination your torch. As you are unhooking the rope <sound effect of a distant inhuman roar> echoes around the vast cavern."
Ventrilo (free). Server can be set up on someone's computer (maximum of 8 users) or, for a fee, you can 'rent' server hosting.
MapTool (free). Constantly updated and very well supported by the developers and fan community.
Voice Emotion (free for the basic version for Windows). The free version has some limitations, but is serviceable. Allows recording of game sessions if that's your thing?
Audio Hijack Pro ($32). For Mac OS X, this allows to record any sound source on your system, or redirect a sound to Ventrilo or Skype for example.
Paul: Does the technology limit you?
Yes. The ONE thing I really miss from tabletop play is the ability -- and this benefits both GM and players -- to embrace the full range of expressions and gestures or those around you. Online play virtually eliminates non-verbal communication and that can be a huge negative. You do learn to adapt though. To a point. Beyond this, it's pretty much more or less like being around the table. We've always liked handouts and used battlemaps and you can draw in real time on the MapTool 'board', which is cool. When sat around a table I'd be willing to use a map, hand drawn on a board using a dry erase marker, online I want something visually appealing -- this ironically adds to prep time!
Paul: I assume dice roles are on the honor system?
Yes. We've been playing for more than 2 decades, so trust goes with the territory. MapTool has a built-in dice roller if everyone wants to share.
What I've been shooting for with my games has been episodic-sandbox campaign with a strong focus on investigation. My gaming group has been in flux for the last year, so I've been trying to build a set of loosely linked one-shots that outline a larger story arc that develops based on what the players have chosen to bring into play (cf conversation on using FP. This is where those Facts come in). Someone drops out of the group, it's not difficult to say that portion of the story arc is over with and can be picked up by other characters if they choose to. Since we're talking about evidence in an investigation, it's possible to have multiple clues point to the same event or person and the dropped-out character can be a great NPC for the players to consult later.
One additional point about my, for want of a better term, episodic campaigns is that my group records our sessions for the RPGMP3.com site. Because of that I don't really want to have listeners following the adventure for months and then be let down by a campaign trailing off, so a run of, say, six sessions with some sort of conclusion but enough dangling threads to let the story continue is a decent compromise. Some of the campaigns on RPGMP3 are huge, by the standards of "actual play" recordings, with 40 sessions in the case of The World's Largest Dungeon and one game having more than double that! Alas, I doubt that I could run something for so long without a break.
The breaking of my campaigns into "seasons" had another useful effect, though: my initial tinkering with Fudge wasn't quite working, so when we restarted I was able to make some changes and improve the mechanical elements we were using without having to switch things in the middle of an adventure. Of course, I'm still tinkering...
‘If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone.
A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.’
- Samuel Johnson
When I ran face-to-face adventures back in the 90's, they tended to be campaigns with an occasional unrelated adventure somewhere else in the world. But nowadays I tend to (well used to, when I had time to run face to face) run the campaign as a series of loosely connected adventures which form a campaign. I built it that way since I had a pool of players of whom I wasn't sure who would be present each time. If a player did participate in most sessions it would become a campaign for them. But for the more busy players the adventures were more or less single shots, where they could reuse their favorite character or then simply roll up a new one. It worked quite nice really. I'm hoping to be able to re-do that once the dust settles and I have time to run a face to face game again.