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Has online play changed your DM style?

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I realise this is a bit of a tangent to the thread topic, but would you care to elaborate on this.
Sure thing, especially as that DM has already posted in this thread!

@iserith posted transcripts of his Summer at the Lake play by post campaign on the old WotC forums (may they rest in peace).

I quickly noticed that when he would present a scenario he would ask one player "What do you do?" after resolving that players approach he would sum up the consequences, re-frame the scenario, and ask another player "What do you do?"

I immediately noticed the difference to my gaming style which was present the scenario then look around hoping player 1 would get of their phone and players 2 and 3 would quick having a side conversation and player 4 would stop just waiting for combat to interact, etc.

The pbp campaign just seemed so smooth by comparison.

So I decided to give it a shot. Within just a couple sessions player engagement shot through the roof. Everyone knew I was going to ask them individually "What do you do?" so they started to spend the other character's turns (and I don't mean combat turns, just their turn in the spotlight) coming up with something to do.

In addition spotlight was now being evenly spread across all players, no longer could the one with the biggest personality hog most of the time. I didn't even know that would happen, so bonus.

I've kept it up ever since then.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sure thing, especially as that DM has already posted in this thread!

@iserith posted transcripts of his Summer at the Lake play by post campaign on the old WotC forums (may they rest in peace).

I quickly noticed that when he would present a scenario he would ask one player "What do you do?" after resolving that players approach he would sum up the consequences, re-frame the scenario, and ask another player "What do you do?"

I immediately noticed the difference to my gaming style which was present the scenario then look around hoping player 1 would get of their phone and players 2 and 3 would quick having a side conversation and player 4 would stop just waiting for combat to interact, etc.

The pbp campaign just seemed so smooth by comparison.

So I decided to give it a shot. Within just a couple sessions player engagement shot through the roof. Everyone knew I was going to ask them individually "What do you do?" so they started to spend the other character's turns (and I don't mean combat turns, just their turn in the spotlight) coming up with something to do.

In addition spotlight was now being evenly spread across all players, no longer could the one with the biggest personality hog most of the time. I didn't even know that would happen, so bonus.

I've kept it up ever since then.
Cool!

Small point of clarification as it pertains to this topic: Summer at the Lake was actually a live game on Roll20 that we did by text instead of voice (so I could make D&D 5e actual play examples). When I hear "play by post" I generally think that means playing by way of forum or perhaps email which may take longer and require different approaches than a text-based live game or a regular voice game online.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Cool!

Small point of clarification as it pertains to this topic: Summer at the Lake was actually a live game on Roll20 that we did by text instead of voice (so I could make D&D 5e actual play examples). When I hear "play by post" I generally think that means playing by way of forum or perhaps email which may take longer and require different approaches than a text-based live game or a regular voice game online.
A gotcha a live play by text campaign then.
 

Hussar

Legend
@Hussar just out of curiosity - as I understand it you're a Canadian living and rpging online in Japan with I'm guessing people back home and perhaps other parts of the world. How big is the rpging community in Japan? Is the language barrier an issue for forming an in-person game there?
To be honest, I wouldn't know. I do know that in my podunk end of Japan, there isn't an RPG community outside of the English teachers. There are no books for sale and any hobby shop I've ever been in do not carry any RPG material at all. Maybe Tokyo is different, it usually is. I've canvassed students from time to time, and no one has even heard of D&D, let alone played it. Here, RPG has a very firm J in the front and is played on a console or smart phone. So, no, it's not really language that's the barrier, it's that D&D and TTRPG's in general are totally not a thing here.
 

vpuigdoller

Explorer
Online play has made me desire maps and grid, sometimes it conveys better the scenes at least to my current groups of players. Also coloured maps. Idk if is a younger ppl thing or not but they do make a difference over online play.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
To be honest, I wouldn't know. I do know that in my podunk end of Japan, there isn't an RPG community outside of the English teachers. There are no books for sale and any hobby shop I've ever been in do not carry any RPG material at all. Maybe Tokyo is different, it usually is. I've canvassed students from time to time, and no one has even heard of D&D, let alone played it. Here, RPG has a very firm J in the front and is played on a console or smart phone. So, no, it's not really language that's the barrier, it's that D&D and TTRPG's in general are totally not a thing here.
We need to get some Japanese celebrities on Critical Role then.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
Until about a year after 5e launched, all my RPG experience was at real life tables. After that point, I played almost exclusively on Roll20. I've been reflecting a lot lately, and I recognize my approach to DMing has changed in that time. This thread isn't specific to Roll20 or 5e, but answers relating to those systems are of greatest interest to me.

The question is per the title. Please remark on ANY aspect of the game. I'll revisit with personal examples later, just want to put the question out real quick, but I'll offer this for now. I've become very selective about who I let into my groups. I have an enormous pool of players to choose from, and the luxury to choose who I play with.
My group uses google hang outs so we don’t have the advantage of rolld20. We used it once but I’m a lazy dm so it’s all TOTM with us. We get a few complications in some combats but we have got to level ten and to Gauntlgrym in OOTA.

I dunno if I do anything differently than face to face. I try to keep things simple and fast moving for which 5e seems perfect for.
 

Nevvur

Explorer
Yes, absolutely. I no longer spend huge amounts of time drawing shoddy imitations of maps on dry-erase boards. I now have beautiful maps that are revealed as I need and each player can only see what their character would see.

Other than that, all my changes in style are related to becoming a better DM generally and now using pre-written modules rather than homebrew. Sadly, I think the pre-written modules are much better than my homebrew.
That's a big one for me, and touches on two examples I wanted to share. The first is that I now communicate a lot more information about a scene through visual cues than I used to. Lots less "block text" type narration which I think makes the storytelling more efficient. I found myself a little frustrated at my last live game staring down at the bland vinyl battle mat.

I like dynamic lighting, but it can be tedious to manage. Over time, managing both dynamic lighting and fog of war have changed my opinion about the importance of lighting as an obstacle in combat and exploration. I've been eagerly distributing nightvision to PCs who didn't have it before, whether through magic goggles, a boon, etc. It just simplifies things on my end, in terms of both preparation and running the game.

A third, unrelated item. I request (not require) my players allow me to make their full character sheets viewable to other players. I'm not going to ask PnP players to fill 5 character sheets each and give one to every other player!

Nope. Not at all.
...
I'd much rather sit at a table of like minded individuals. So much more fun.
The trajectory of my experience to date has been almost identical, specifics aside. I'm not uncomfortable with the conclusions you and I reached. There's only one of me and a million prospecting players, so I think it serves the hobby better that I run exactly the game I want, because the players I recruit will also (hopefully) be playing exactly the game they want.

Shared visions is a good starting relationship, preferable IMO to compromises straight out the gate. Still, it leaves me wandering about all the cool people I almost played with. <shrug>
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That's a big one for me, and touches on two examples I wanted to share. The first is that I now communicate a lot more information about a scene through visual cues than I used to. Lots less "block text" type narration which I think makes the storytelling more efficient. I found myself a little frustrated at my last live game staring down at the bland vinyl battle mat.
Yes, one thing I have to remind players (generally people who aren't my regulars) about sometimes is "You see what you see..." in response to a question or statement related to whether something is in the area. Because it really is right there on the detailed map (or isn't, as the case may be). Plus I can't stand questions like "Do I see any X, Y, or Z?" I don't know - can you?

That said, I still make sure to give an adequate description of the environment that lays out the basic scope of options and telegraphs any threats.

I like dynamic lighting, but it can be tedious to manage. Over time, managing both dynamic lighting and fog of war have changed my opinion about the importance of lighting as an obstacle in combat and exploration. I've been eagerly distributing nightvision to PCs who didn't have it before, whether through magic goggles, a boon, etc. It just simplifies things on my end, in terms of both preparation and running the game.
I am a fan of dynamic lighting. Fog of war I don't really use very much, though I have turned on Advanced Fog of War and Dynamic Lighting for an upcoming dungeon one-shot that I'm working on. I've never really tried Advanced Fog of War but I think it will really work well for the theme of this adventure.

I set up an illumination assets folder which contains lanterns, torches, light spells, dancing lights, etc. which the players can all access. They just drag and drop it off the sheet onto the map and it lights up the appropriate amount of area with bright and dim light.

I sometimes create situations and challenges that rely heavily on lighting effects and dealing with them. I find that to be a lot of fun.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
Sure thing, especially as that DM has already posted in this thread!

@iserith posted transcripts of his Summer at the Lake play by post campaign on the old WotC forums (may they rest in peace).

I quickly noticed that when he would present a scenario he would ask one player "What do you do?" after resolving that players approach he would sum up the consequences, re-frame the scenario, and ask another player "What do you do?"

I immediately noticed the difference to my gaming style which was present the scenario then look around hoping player 1 would get of their phone and players 2 and 3 would quick having a side conversation and player 4 would stop just waiting for combat to interact, etc.

The pbp campaign just seemed so smooth by comparison.

So I decided to give it a shot. Within just a couple sessions player engagement shot through the roof. Everyone knew I was going to ask them individually "What do you do?" so they started to spend the other character's turns (and I don't mean combat turns, just their turn in the spotlight) coming up with something to do.

In addition spotlight was now being evenly spread across all players, no longer could the one with the biggest personality hog most of the time. I didn't even know that would happen, so bonus.

I've kept it up ever since then.
This is almost verbatim how Powered by the Apocalypse games (e.g., Dungeon World) approach GM scene framing for players. "X happens. What do you do?" This sets up a change in the fiction. The GM again says, "Okay because of X, Y happens. What do you do?"
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This is almost verbatim how Powered by the Apocalypse games (e.g., Dungeon World) approach GM scene framing for players. "X happens. What do you do?" This sets up a change in the fiction. The GM again says, "Okay because of X, Y happens. What do you do?"
D&D 5e is the same: DM describes the environment. The players describe what they want to do. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. Repeat.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
D&D 5e is the same: DM describes the environment. The players describe what they want to do. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. Repeat.
IMHO, you're downplaying the difference between the games. Have you played Dungeon World or any of the PBtA games before? Because I really don't want to get into yet another pissing contest of "anything X game can do, 5e can do better (or the same)."
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
IMHO, you're downplaying the difference between the games. Have you played Dungeon World or any of the PBtA games before? Because I really don't want to get into yet another pissing contest of "anything X game can do, 5e can do better (or the same)."
What I stated was a fact found right in the Introduction of the PHB, not an invitation to a contest of the sort you mention.

I'm very familiar with the PBtA games, particularly Apocalypse World and Dungeon World. (My name is even in the Dungeon World book.) The games are different. What BookBarbarian took away from my transcripts is right in the D&D 5e PHB though. It's in the part that a lot of people, particularly experienced DMs and players, in my experience don't read or don't take a seriously as, say, the combat rules. But it's very important in my view being the fundamental structure of the conversation of the game.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
What I stated was a fact found right in the Introduction of the PHB, not an invitation to a contest of the sort you mention.
Except it's not. BookBarbarian's big takeaway that he received from your posts, the intentional "what do you do?" framing by the GM is utterly absent in the introductory section of the 5e PHB that you speak about. Given your familiarity with PbtA and DW, it's probable then that you are eisegeting (or presuming) this assumption into the 5e framework. Either way, I would recommend taking a closer look.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Except it's not. BookBarbarian's big takeaway that he received from your posts, the intentional "what do you do?" framing by the GM is utterly absent in the introductory section of the 5e PHB that you speak about. Given your familiarity with PbtA and DW, it's probable then that you are eisegeting (or presuming) this assumption into the 5e framework. Either way, I would recommend taking a closer look.
What I stated in this post is right in the Introduction of the PHB. Please try to avoid making an argument where one does not exist.

As for "What do you do?" I would say that prompting the players to respond to a description of the environment is hardly an innovation of any game, but rather simple human communication, the part of the conversation where you ask for feedback. The part that I referenced above is the same in both games: DM says something, players respond, DM says something about how that goes, repeat.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
What I stated in this post is right in the Introduction of the PHB. Please try to avoid making an argument where one does not exist.
What I stated in my initial post was about the "what do you do?" framing and then you proclaimed in your response that it was the same in 5e, though it's not.

As for "What do you do?" I would say that prompting the players to respond to a description of the environment is hardly an innovation of any game, but rather simple human communication, the part of the conversation where you ask for feedback. The part that I referenced above is the same in both games: DM says something, players respond, DM says something about how that goes, repeat.
I am not proclaiming this an innovation. I am saying that it is a common feature and part of PbtA games in how they frame scenes. That said, this was apparently enough of an innovation that BookBarbarian had not considered using it before they saw your play posts.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Your responses are incongruous with someone who also says "I really don't want to get into yet another pissing contest." Or perhaps you do, just not about the specific contest you reference above?

What I stated in my initial post was about the "what do you do?" framing and then you proclaimed in your response that it was the same in 5e, though it's not.
Your post was about more than "What do you do?" as it included what the DM and players say and when. My observation in the subsequent post is that this "scene framing" is the same in D&D 5e. "What do you do?" is just letting the players know it's their turn to add input to the game. You are correct that those specific 4 words are absent the Introduction, but I didn't make that claim in the first place. My post is about what the DM and players say and when.

I am not proclaiming this an innovation. I am saying that it is a common feature and part of PbtA games in how they frame scenes. That said, this was apparently enough of an innovation that BookBarbarian had not considered using it before they saw your play posts.
Yes, it's a common feature of many games that people use words to talk to each other and prompt responses.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
Your responses are incongruous with someone who also says "I really don't want to get into yet another pissing contest." Or perhaps you do, just not about the specific contest you reference above?
I have not tried to start anything, though that has not stopped you from insinuating bad faith on my part. I was initially telling BookBarbarian (or at least trying to do so) that the "what do you do?" framing he talked about is a major part for how PbtA games are run, because I found that an interesting point of comparison. So please let me know how that is me trying to start a pissing contest. Perhaps you should take a step away from this for awhile so you are less likely to construe hostility where there is none?

Your post was about more than "What do you do?" as it included what the DM and players say and when.
I suspect that I know what my post was about probably better than you do, and my post was about the "what do you do?" framing that BookBarbarian talked about in his post. ;)

Yes, it's a common feature of many games that people use words to talk to each other and prompt responses.
Come on, this glibness is being disingenuous. You know that this isn't the point I was making. It's sidestepping using "what do you do?" as an intentional part of GM framing rather than just a conversational happenstance. I'm not sure why this is something you would want to downplay since this is something that BookBarbarian found laudable about what you did.
 

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