Gaming over great distances

2 minute read

I just played my first game of role-playing over the internet today. I’ve played IRC-based role-playing games before, but these have centered on the text; this time we used mainly voice chat. I shouldn’t be surprised in this age of technology, but I am: it was easy.

We wanted to use voice chat for communication and chose Teamspeak, mostly because all of us had experience with it. Apart from some hardware problems, voice chat worked like a charm. Video chat would probably have been even better, but voice chat seems easily sufficient.

In addition to Teamspeak, we used MapTool of RPTools for handling things like die-rolling. We first tried OpenRPG, but it seemed very confusing and none of us wanted to learn the occult skills needed to make it work. Before settling for MapTool, we tested a d20Pro, a commercial program with a trial license, but it seemed awfully slow to respond to commands - at least on my computer. Maptool seemed a bit complex, with a lot of addons and user made material, but it seemed to meet our needs (which included creating few dragon tokens and moving them menacingly around the map for several minutes. “Raarr, here come the dragon!”).

If you look at all the programs we used and tried there is a quality that connects them all: they can all be used on my Linux-computer. There may be programs that are suitable for gaming only available for Windows, but to my pleasant surprise, all of the ones we tried had support for Linux. The support wasn’t always excellent, but I managed to get all of them working without blood and tears, although sweat was needed (but I blame my 30°C apartment of that).

One of the reasons we used a software capable of handling maps was that we played Pathfinder. As a traditional rules-heavy fantasy role-playing it is probably much easier with combat grids and such, especially with people that can’t see each other. I experimented a bit with the user-created Pathfinder-tools for MapTools, but they seem a bit mechanically heavy for my liking - but then again, this is a D&D-clone we are talking about, so it is probably to be expected.

I’ve been wanting to try gaming over the net for some time, partly just to see how easy it is to accomplish and how it changes the gaming experience. Todays session was sadly quite short, but we’ll continue tomorrow. I’ll get a better sense then, but my first impression is quite positive.