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Advice on on-line gaming for a complete novice

dbm

Adventurer
A headset of some kind is essential in my opinion. When you are using your laptop mic and speakers (or just about any ‘speaker phone’ setup) then it cuts the mic when other people are speaking (or if there is lots of ambient noise coming through) and this greatly stymies fluid conversation.
 

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That is how I did it. I made a mock campaign and system that I never ran, but simply used to understand the interface. Its a great way to get into VTT.
I like that idea. I've been toying with finding an Online group, but have stalled out at the thought of the new (to me) technology.

Admittedly, another time commitment is big, too. With my family game, it might be irritating when we have a month between sessions, but being flexible around schedules is nice.
 

Hussar

Legend
I've been playing online for a long time, and working online for quite a while too, so, here's my 2 cents.

1. Headset/mic/sound - I have a Logitech C920 webcam, which is a bit expensive for a webcam, but the sound is excellent. I used to have a Microsoft HD 3000 Lifecam which, for 15 bucks, really can't be beat. Great sound. Mine was a bit old, so, I upgraded to full HD, that's why I have the Logitech one, but, for sound and if you do actually want video conferencing, you really can't beat that Microsoft one. Top notch.

2. Chat program - okay, here you're spoiled for choices. There's so many options. I personally switched over to Discord some years ago and have never looked back. Discord can do a lot. Doubles as our between game chat board, easy to upload and share images, and, from my perspective as the DM, adding in ambience music was a snap. I'm so looking forward to running a Candlekeep Mysteries adventure Shemshine with a little girl singing the song for real creepout factor. :D

3. VTT - again, the field has really changed over the years and, well, it's pretty much whatever you want to spend. You say that you've used maptools for your live games, so, presuming that you can port forward on your router, you can simply continue to use maptools. I like Maptools, it does what it advertises. And, for something like Pathfinder or D&D, it's pretty much got all the functionality of a pay table. The advantage of something like Fantasy Grounds or Roll 20 is that the modules come built in. Which can be a major time saver. But, if you're a Maptool user, switching over to something like Fantasy Grounds or Roll 20 probably isn't a huge hurdle.
 

Interesting information. Would I need a headset, or a microphone, or any other hardware, and if so, a suggestion of make & model would be appreciated.
For discord or skype, I find my cellphone's mic to be well more than adequate for voice, plus the added benefit of reducing typing noise vs built in on the computer.
If using a desktop, you'll want a decent mic.
Any time you're using full duplex voice mode, you really should have a comfortable set of headphones; whether or not the mic is is part of them, they prevent feedback.

I've found that 4 players +GM, each on speaker with voice-activated mic means losing half the session to feedback.
I use my motorolla G series as my mic, and a $10 set of plug-in headphones. Been doing it that way since I got an android smartphone, and used my android tablet before that, for a decade or so.
 

Hussar

Legend
I forgot about that, thank you @aramis erak. A number of my players and myself too for a while, have used a cellphone to handle the voice stuff. It is pretty easy. I have to admit though, since I use my webcam mic, I have never had any problems with feedback. I know a few of my players are on the same sort of setup, so, I wonder if webcams have just gotten a lot better in recent years.

I do know that the market on webcams has absolutely exploded in the last couple of years. Used to be, you'd see a couple of webcams for choices. Now, good grief, there's hundreds of the darn things.
 

payn

Hero
I like that idea. I've been toying with finding an Online group, but have stalled out at the thought of the new (to me) technology.

Admittedly, another time commitment is big, too. With my family game, it might be irritating when we have a month between sessions, but being flexible around schedules is nice.
Yeap, there are tons of helpful youtube vids on learning various VTTs, but I learn best by diving in and doing!
 

Randomthoughts

Adventurer
Anyone have advice or input?
A lot of good advice so far. A few other comments:

- Plan on having a session to work on tech to make sure everyone has updated the VTT, has good connections and audio, etc. I wanted to start gaming right away for my first foray into online gaming, and half the session was focused just on tech issues.

- I use FG unity myself. But I would try the big ones and see what works for you and your group. One thing I’d look for is the level of support for the game systems you want to play.

- I tend to host smaller groups online. 4 has been the sweet spot for me (for something like D&D).

- online sessions also tend to be shorter. No more than 3 hours for me. OTOH, I play more often than live. Again, YMMV
 

Most other people have suggested anything I would (I'm a Maptool and either Discord or Skype GM), but one thing I'd mention is that it also matters how much heavy lifting you expect your VTT to do for you. All I want it for is to be able to display maps and push tokens around (and as a backup chat function if Discord or Skype takes a dump), so Maptool does fine for me. If you want something that's going to handle more of the mechanics you'd have to do more work with it, or find a pay VTT that's already got some of the functionality for the system you're using built it.
 

payn

Hero
A lot of good advice so far. A few other comments:

- Plan on having a session to work on tech to make sure everyone has updated the VTT, has good connections and audio, etc. I wanted to start gaming right away for my first foray into online gaming, and half the session was focused just on tech issues.
Thats a good one. My advice is to start with one of two options.

Option 1 Session zero and/or chargen
Everybody meets up and discusses the campaign and characters. Folks can putz around on the VTT and you can gauge everybody's familiarity with the system.

Option 2 pre-generated one shot
GM makes up a number of pre-gens and has everything ready to go. Players jump in and learn as they go. Start campaign during the next session now that everybody is acquainted with the VTT.
 

I was planning on using my PC, but I can use a laptop if needed. The PC means no camera on my end, but I'm OK with that.

I had a new Ipad, and an old Android phone.

So if I am getting it all down,
1) use a headphone to avoid feedback,
2) use Discord instead of the game service audio,
3) expect the first session to be needed to sort things out.

Group size not an issue, Zweihander is not likely to produce big groups.
 


Mallus

Legend
It varies a lot and depends on what platform you're using and which specific tools, ie audio? video?

If you're using Roll20 without audio and video, the data usage is the mainly size of your campaign assets (maps, music, etc.). After that it's a glorified chat app. So roughly 100 MB per gaming session. Probably less(?). If you've got audio & video on, figure more like 100 MB/hour or more. Roll20 AV is low quality in tiny windows.

However, if your using videoconferencing software like Zoom you'll burn around 1GB/per hour for 720p video.
 

You do need to watch the size of map and asset data sometimes. Though they're excellent maps, Heroic Maps earlier work was designed for printing, so its large and if you just upload it into a VTT without resizing it can cause some bandwidth issues for some people.

(They do a VTT specific version of their maps now).
 

zach weaver1

Villager
I use FG Unity, along with Discord. I'm the GM, so I spent the $150 or whatever for the DM version of FG. Also I've spent a few hundred on books, so there are costs to consider with any VTT you decide to use. If you're wanting to fully utilize a VTT like FG or Roll20 or Foundry, you're going to want to get the books, or you're gonna be spending WAY too much time trying to write your own modules to convert the books you own. But if you're just a player, then you don't have to spend anything, it's all on the DM's account and players can just download the free client.

Edit (using images increases data usage): As for your limit of 100 gigs a month, an hour Zoom meeting uses about 1 GB of data. So a 4 hour gaming session would use up roughly 4 GB of your monthly data.
 
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For playing 5e, Roll 20 is fantastic. It allows players to simply click on parts of their charactersheet to immediately roll dice, and with another click, descriptions of spells and special abilities can easily be dropped into chat.

For DM's, Roll 20 makes it easy to manage line of sight, and toggle visibility of game elements on a hidden layer. It offers an asset library where you can upload all your maps, tokens, images, sounds and music.

For Call of Cthulhu, Roll20s handout feature makes it easy to show an inventory of plot items to your players. I've also used this feature to show puzzles.

For D&D 3.5, Roll20 can be a bit of a hassle as a player. The charactersheets are buggy, and due to the math involved, dice rolling is slow. It is either a lot of typing, or a lot of pop ups that you need to click.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
In the one I play in, we've been using Avrae through Discord linked up with DnD Beyond to manage the characters, Zoom for communicating, and the DM has just had the maps using some art program he's shared through zoom.
 

I have been invited to, and will start shortly, a group in D&D Beyond as a player. Although I said I was against theater of the mind, I think that this will give me some lower-end experience that will prove useful, and the group is very high-caliber people.

Looking over the VTT options (which resulted in my decision to start slower with the lower tech approach), I have ruled out Fantasy Grounds because it is very limited on the systems it supports (although otherwise, I was very impressed).

Foundry is very impressive in terms of system support, but a major issue I have with it is that I cannot seem to find a venue in which to seek out players.

Roll20 seems a little tougher to use (as compared to MapTools, which I customarily use FtF), but it supports Zweihander, and appears to have an active platform for gamers looking for games.
 

turnip_farmer

Adventurer
I use FG Unity, along with Discord. I'm the GM, so I spent the $150 or whatever for the DM version of FG. Also I've spent a few hundred on books, so there are costs to consider with any VTT you decide to use. If you're wanting to fully utilize a VTT like FG or Roll20 or Foundry, you're going to want to get the books, or you're gonna be spending WAY too much time trying to write your own modules to convert the books you own. But if you're just a player, then you don't have to spend anything, it's all on the DM's account and players can just download the free client.
To give a contrary opinion, I don't think you need any of the books as a DM in Roll20. It sounds like you're talking about running published modules, but if you're not there isn't so much you need from the books.

For DnD I did buy the PHB so that the players could use the automatic character generation options (and didn't need to manually add spells that aren't in the SRD), but that's all. Copying a monster from the Monster Manual or something only takes a minute once you're used to the format, and everything that's not from a published source you'd need to add manually regardless.

I do have a paid account so that I can design my own character sheets and play with the APIs, but none of that is necessary, especially if you're using a popular game system that's already supported and you don't have a billion house rules that require you to redraw the character sheets. You can easily run a game on Roll20 for free.
 

OK, first session playing on-line, Roll20 & Discord. Amazing; working with two monitors, very easy, fast, had a great time. Good group.

Will look for a wireless headset, though.
 
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TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
I think you are there, congratulations...but I will add for others that might look at the thread.

*The built in audio chat in Roll20 does actually work. I have used it successfully for a few sessions now.

*Roll20 and the other VTTs allow you to buy modules and other supplements. Totally not needed, but if you are pressed for time this can be very handy. One of the big 5e ones will have all sorts of stuff that you can use from it.

*Finding players through Roll20...lets say its a casual vibe. Reddit remains probably the best place to find players, but that can also be very interesting.
 

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