I’m still dming my campaign over discord video calls and that has been going pretty well. I still very much prefer in person though as it is hard to bring up the same energy for the digital game, so once that becomes an option again I will very much do so
I actually just finished a mini campaign (12 sessions) that happened 2/3 online (started before pandemic, finished a few weeks ago). Overall, I would say it worked really well!
We did almost all sessions via Zoom, with screen share to a battlemap in Photoshop for battles. We also tried Discord, but that’s just so unstable and of inferior quality compared to Zoom… We still use Discord for organization and journaling, though.
I might actually do more online play, even after the pandemic is past. It is not like in-person play, but some stuff actually gets easier (scheduling, prep).
When a friend of mine DMed online, he did mostly Zoom and some stuff in Roll20 (mostly battlemaps). It also works, but I wouldn’t use the system myself as DM, it feels a bit clunky to me.
I’m running my home game over Skype with Roll20 - just for maps and campaign docs. We had the great good fortune to do our Session Zero on the weekend before first lockdown so we went straight online. We played face to face a little over the summer when things were calm and are back online now - just finished session 36. We find face to face preferable but online is not causing any issues. This was supposed to be twice a month but has become weekly.
I also got into a monthly fully online game with people in Ireland/Austria/USA with an Irish DM running Out of the Abyss. That is fully Roll20 with Beyond20 and the DM knows all the fancy tricks for the digital battlemaps which a great experience. It is also a game that would never have started without lockdown as most of the players have local groups.
I ran an online game ~ 10 years ago through AIM chat and the tech and feel of online play is much better now.
I’ve run a battle gauntlet completely online and that worked great, but from feedback nobody in that particular group enjoyed the short roleplay parts that had to happen online before the gauntlet started. Also online play definitly requires more prep work by the DM (imho), especially as you can’t easily do improv maps if what you are doing requires a map (I think it’s easier to do that in person, but I’m willing to concede that point )
playing in multiple campaigns with discord as voicecom and roll20 or FGU for characters and battlemap…
online play makes some things smoother (as long as the DM knows how to use the tools of their choice, which can take quite some time) - mostly battles, or a turn based exploration sequence - while it does hamper roleplay in my experience, mostly because it is next to impossible to have more than 1 person talking and still understand anything, which happens at the table quite regularly without problems.
personally I prefer roll20 out of these options, but FGU is technically a bit better for people with weak internet (once all the ressources are loaded).
As for voice quality: I think discord is superior to zoom (especially if someone used nitro to boost the server you’re using, but even without simply because it allows users to actually adjust settings way more granulary),
As for video quality: Zoom is a bit better here, but pretty much all groups I’m in don’t use video.
My conclusion: online play is better than no play, but in person is the superior roleplay experience
I’m playing and DMing with a setup of Roll20 / D&DBeyond / Beyond20 Browser plugin because the amount of what you have to learn is quite low.
As DM it took me some time to handle roll20 (and it still feels some time a bit clunky). For the battle part I see also advantages with the VTTs it allow much easier to handle bigger group of monsters.
I used already different communications tools (Zoom, Discord and MS Teams). I must say I prefer using them with video a lot over audio only. At the end for social interaction they have all the same problem - you can hear just one person at the time so social interaction happens much more on a table than online.
Discord is nice because it is completely free at least I got most issues with this (when using audio and video) but best connection I got via Zoom, MS Teams has good connections too but is not so good for multi window setups.
Online playing is also fun and good for staying in contact and going forward in campaigns but also I’m looking forward to meet in person again - its just even more fun for me. Knowing how to use the online tools is also nice because later I will maybe use it to play with friends living a bit further away.
On a bit serious note, continuing on @PatrickD’s thinking: we’ve a great friend who left the country, but we still want to play with him, so we consider to meet with the rest of the group here in person and try to join him via Zoom/Skype/Discord. We shall see, how that goes.
All these replies are amazing! Thanks so much. Yeah. The forum software speaks the truth @S_journ I tried roll20 years ago with a couple of people and it was a good experience but it didn’t really take off at the time. With the current state of things it looks like it may be a necessity for a (short?) while longer.
The one feature of playing via zoom or whatever that I’ve enjoyed the most is the whisper function.
We had a character turn to the dark side, as it were, in a recent mini-campaign, and communicating this way was just so much easier than via obvious notes or pre-arranged hand signals or whatever. Passing on information secretly in games that require you to do so has always been a bit of a weakness in RPGs, and this solves the problem nicely.
Last year I started out with Roll20 but I found it very clunky and it added a lot of screentime to the DM prep as well.
During the 2nd lockdown I switch to a much simpler set up with any video call platform (we use Google Hangouts or Zoom) and a second webcam or speparate camera for the battle map if needed.
To me that has been a lot nicer to play and felt a lot more like being around the same table.
We are just starting a campaign with new and old players around and we organized a Session 0.
It turned to be a Session -1, because instead of discussing the campaign setting, we’ve spent most of the time with server setup, loading modules, character creation (even if most of us already prepared it beforehand, but no direct import is possible).
Also (maybe it is software related) some of us already “knew” to handle the system, but for new players, they had to face with a steep learning curve. An other player had setup issues with the microphone. Then with the headphones. And so on…
In person, these experiences might have been more fluid - but on the other side, I agree with @H on this one:
Yeah.Seems like there’s a rule that in every one of these meetings, whether gaming or otherwise, there always has to be one person whose mic intermittently goes mute, one whose cam is on strike, and one who qfdjg xrfur brgl random tech issue pgucn.
Besides blaming technology, I must admit, it has also some advantages as well.
I usually tend to mishear things, but the online solutions massively amplify this and generate some hilarious situations. For example:
Instead a fellow spell-caster throwing Acid Balls, I’ve misheard it as Acid Boars
(which is now her official spell and another player even made some nice drawings about corrosive boars popping out from the caster’s hand)
Just yesterday, instead of a pack of Cranium Rats attacking us, I heard Cranium Racks are approaching (and was confused, how skullcaps could have racks and why are they attacking us)
After playing a campaign for 3 years (or so) I just realized, the Duregar city in Underdark is called as Gracklstugh, not Craig’s Skull (and I’m disappointed, I will never learn, who was Craig and what was the story about his skull)
Late to the party, but I am also running an online campaign for nearly one year now.
It started as a reaction to the lockdown and with one player being abroad it seemed as a no-brainer to turn to Roll20 & Discord.
As I am running an official module I went the easy way and just bought the contents right in the marketplace. They do come with some neat extras (like Dynamic Lighting, once you have figured it out), but the biggest advantage to me is that I actually have hardly any real prep work to do - if I stick to the original module, that is.
That being said, I personally struggle with keeping focus and concentration in the game. Playing in person is by far superior in these terms, as the more communal feeling allows for a much more intertwined experience. I am very much looking forward to having sessions in person again once this whole situation has gone over…
In one of our groups (playing D&D 5E) we faced with some difficulties regarding choosing the right system, so we landed with a hybrid solution:
The DM uses FantasyGrounds for herself: as @Johnson mentioned with roll20, you can just load an official modules with all the pre-generated stuff, you can manage NPC/Monster stats, generate loot.
The players use their own character sheet and roll with their own dice (or use a dice bot in Discord)
Thus we don’t have to bother about limitations of FantasyGround (like we can use homebrew content or materials from official materials, which are not imported into the system yet) plus managing your own character sheet has a certain nostalgia
As for battle maps, we use Owlbear Rodeo, which is a simple, but fluent (and free!) table-top solution, which can be accessed from any device
Finally, communications happen in Discord (and Whatsapp)
Sure, these all could be solved by one (or maximum 2) services, but a.) this is cheap b.) intuitive for new players c.) more flexible than any of the “off-the-shelf” products I’ve tried.