Playing DnD online

GlassJaw

Adventurer
Been using Slack for chat sessions and between session discussions. Slack is awesome. I'm currently running a mystery/investigation-heavy sandbox adventure and I love that I can upload files and save posts so the player's can have for reference. The chat features are great too. Also great to be able to message players directly with secret information.

We've also been just using FaceTime and recently tried Zoom. Zoom looks cool, especially for the DM, since you can share your screen and mark it up in real-time.

However, with all these different options, I'm starting to consider investing the money - and more importantly, time - to learn a VTT app like Roll20.

However, the biggest problem right now is webcams are out of stock everywhere! Players in my group have a mix of phones, tablets, and laptops/PCs with webcams but it seems like you really need everyone on a webcam for the best experience.

I know for me, as the DM, it's tricky for me to run a session because I don't have a webcam so I need to have my iPad running with FaceTime or Zoom.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Last night I started doing a deep dive with d20pro and I'm liking it. In particular, I am looking for a program where I can have a large number of large maps that I can quickly pull from with fog of war, that I can progressively review as the party explores, and drop tokens on for tactical combat. Also, I want to be able to open a second players instance that I can share with players for those who can't/don't want to install software and so it can also be used for in-person play.

So far, d20pro has made this the easiest. The only thing keeping me from dropping the $50 is that it is limited content, so I would need to data enter more content than I would for Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds if I want to make full use of combat management. I need to test fog or war and dynamic lighting more. It may still be worht the $50 just for easy map and token management, even if I don't use the combat automation.

I also really have been liking Fantasy Ground Unity. I'm currently subscribing at the $10/month level to test it out. I like how powerful it is and am willing to spend the time on the learning curve and pay the steep up-front cost for the software and content, but a couple things are holding me back.

(1) I can't share the player window with Google Meet. I know that this isn't the use case FGU is designed for but it is perplexing that I can open a second player instance but can't share it. The only way I could use it is if I convince all my players to download and install it.

(2) I've been underwhelmed with the FOG of war controls. Having spent many hours over the past few weeks playing with Map Tools, Roll20, Astral, and The Forge, FGU has been the worst experience. I've only been able to remove Fog of War by rectangle selection so using FGU for manual reveal on the fly seems unworkable. I'm going to spend a few hours this weekend prepping maps for line of sight and dynamic lighting and will look for resources outside of the FGU tutorial wiki, which lacks depth or use cases that match what I'm looking for. I feel like I'm just missing things. Which is FGU's biggest problem. It is easy to miss things and the documentation is not immediately helpful.

I'm tempted to just go with d20pro and be done with it. I know it meets my basic needs and am already comfortable that I can run a game with it with only a few hours of practice. But I feel that FGU would have a longer pay off given the amount of content available and the rich feature set.

As for Roll20, I really like it as a player and a DM but it just can't handle the amount of maps I want to through at it and its reliance on a very good internet connection is problematic for me.

@GlassJaw Start playing without a web cam. You can always incorporate video into your games when you are able to acquire one. Personally, I do not play with video on as I have poor bandwidth and it kills voice quality and makes the map/screen sharing laggy to have video running as well. While it would be nice to include video, it is by no means necessary.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
For my group the social aspect is a good chunk of why they're there. To som extent that means that the side chatter, the jokes and stories we swap, are part of the fun. Doing a group chat doean't do a good job of handling it.

We've used plain old Skype for a couple of our players who live in the middle of nowhere. (We often joke that they're actually on the far side of nowhere.) I roll their dice at the physical table, and it works.

Not sure that would scale up very well though. I was hopingthere was a dice-roller ap that worked with/through Skype, but there isn't.

Anyone know an app that can just run in parallel with it?

Now I'd like to be able to just set up the regular miniatures, set my webcam so it sees the table from the same height as the eyes of a person sitting at the table, and give it a go. Not sure my home bandwidth can handle the load though, for a table with a DM and seven players.

While it's nice to see my friends' faces, I can do without if it lets them see the game board and keeps the quality of the link workable.

Anyone know a simple video chat that can support eight people without eating bandwidth, and maybe allows a shared dice roller?

I mean, I'm in computers and it isn't at all clear to me why my bandwidth need increases just because more people are looking at the screen(s). It's the same image, outgoing, whether it gets picked up by one chat partner or a dozen.
 

pogre

Hero
I have used Zoom for the last few sessions. It has a very low learning curve and allows me to DM mostly as I do face-to-face. I use the camera and sound from my computer. I have my phone on a tripod to show the miniatures and scenery. My sons move miniatures for people who are online. Has worked for us and we are playing more D&D than ever.
 

ardoughter

Adventurer
@MNblockhead, I do not think that FantasyGrounds Unity is ready for primetime just yet. If you can use FG Classic you can freehand remove fog of war be holding down the shift key when pressing left click on them mouse and free hand drawing the area you want to remove fog of war from. This does not appear to be enabled in FGU at the moment.
 
Ran my first online D&D game this weekend. Discord, audio/video (all but one of us had a webcam), diceparser bot for rolls, and text chat for spelling out my weird names and the odd GIF to liven things up.

The dice bot was optional, but most of the players used it. As the DM, I decided not to, because I felt like if they saw that, say, a monster had a +7 to hit, they would assess its threat level differently than if they were not privy to that information.

Video was not necessary, but I feel like actually seeing my friends was very cheering in this time of isolation. As a DM, it also helped me visually track who was speaking or trying to speak. I tried to minimize crosstalk by somewhat adhering by sticking to initiative outside of combat, but didn't outright tell people to only speak on their turn.
 

ART!

Explorer
My face-to-face group decided to go virtual for the time being, so we rigged things up in Roll20, I paid for the Plus membership, and I bought the Tomb of Annihilation module.

We played Friday night, and it went...fine, considering? We used Hangouts for video and audio.

Observations:
  • I'm going to need more screen real estate, to have room for the Roll20 map, The Hangouts video, pop-ups in Roll20 like Handouts, and my DMing Google docs.
  • Privately messaging players in Roll20 is annoying. I kept forgetting to address it to just the one player, not everyone. Grr. I'll see if it's easier in Hangouts or something...
  • I discovered too late that to use the ToA content I purchased, I have to start a new game from that purchase's "homepage". Jesus, Mary, and Joseph...
  • My DMing mojo is at it's lowest when I'm at a "figuring things out" stage, so I felt very awkward the whole time. No complaints, though.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
After our recent session on Saturday, we don't have the option now to place face-to-face due to the government stepping in... :(

So, I've been looking into options and most of it is way more than we need. All our group needs is a multi-video chat and white-board feature (to draw basic maps) since we do a lot of theater of mind anyway. If anyone has good suggestions for something that basic, let me know and thanks.
 

Nebulous

Hero
I have used Zoom for the last few sessions. It has a very low learning curve and allows me to DM mostly as I do face-to-face. I use the camera and sound from my computer. I have my phone on a tripod to show the miniatures and scenery. My sons move miniatures for people who are online. Has worked for us and we are playing more D&D than ever.
I thought about that too, setting up so cameras and having the players all use their own sheet and dice and I move the miniatures around the terrain.
 

pogre

Hero
I thought about that too, setting up so cameras and having the players all use their own sheet and dice and I move the miniatures around the terrain.
Yep, exactly what I do. If you already have zoom or another videoconferencing suite it works well.
 

Nebulous

Hero
Yep, exactly what I do. If you already have zoom or another videoconferencing suite it works well.
No I don't, I would have to invest in the stuff. My players are also exceptionally poor too and have bad internet connections and one has a 16 year old laptop.

Edit: They have no idea how lucky they were for me buying all the minis and props their poor assess have enjoyed for so long now. They play D&D for free.
 

Baumi

Explorer
D&D Beyond had a great Article about it: New Player's Guide: How to Play D&D Online

I personally use Roll20 in combination with Discord (Video if possible).

But I actually prefer the free maptool ( MapTool ) to Roll20 .. it's not only free (open source) but has much more features (good Scripting, dynamic Lightning,..) and is faster since it is not a browser-app. The downside is that the learning curve can be higher, but only if you want to use all the features.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
I just started trying to run one online with a Portal. We all connect and can be onscreen and online at the same time talking to each other.

I am trying to run Dungeon of the Mad Mage. It's not as fun thus far as doing it in person, or so I feel.

But, it's gaming.
 

Nebulous

Hero
I've been having a lot of fun tweaking Roll20, but it wasn't intuitive and really just required sitting my ass down and fiddling with settings for hours and hours and hours. But I got it set up so that a generic Party Token can now navigate across city maps and unveil terrain as it advances, and all the players can manipulate the token. I have to mess with all the dynamic light and shadows to get it to work but it looks great.

 

vpuigdoller

Explorer
So, with social distancing becoming the new norm for a bit, I thought I'd ask about playing DnD online. I'm learning Roll20 with the goal of starting up some games shortly, but I have some questions to those that have done this before:

What programs do people use?
How does it differ from in-person play?
Any advice on running/playing games specifically online?
I use Roll20 for the maps, char sheets, handouts and rolls. (I disable audio and voice there since i find it not to my standards)
Then I use roll20 for sound. (We don't use video)

When we started we used skype only then added roll20 and then switched to discord, on the long run discord proven to be way more stable. Roll20, Astral and Fantasy grounds all have a learning curve. Whichever you choose to play with first on your on to familiarize with it and start only using simple stuff and slowly start adding more functions as you feel more comfortable using them.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
I'm not exactly certain how it's done, but with the Portal you don't actually have to have a Portal to phone into the game. I had a Player I think who was using their cell phone. One has to have a facebook account and sign in, but I don't think a Portal itself is actually necessary.
 

Nebulous

Hero
I use Roll20 for the maps, char sheets, handouts and rolls. (I disable audio and voice there since i find it not to my standards)
Then I use roll20 for sound. (We don't use video)

When we started we used skype only then added roll20 and then switched to discord, on the long run discord proven to be way more stable. Roll20, Astral and Fantasy grounds all have a learning curve. Whichever you choose to play with first on your on to familiarize with it and start only using simple stuff and slowly start adding more functions as you feel more comfortable using them.
We use Discord voice only and it works well. I agree, they all have a learning curve, and the best way is to start simple and slowly add. I doubt I can ever do Roll20 scripting but it looks fantastic.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, with social distancing becoming the new norm for a bit, I thought I'd ask about playing DnD online. I'm learning Roll20 with the goal of starting up some games shortly, but I have some questions to those that have done this before:

What programs do people use?
How does it differ from in-person play?
Any advice on running/playing games specifically online?
I think I prefer ToTM over video conference call to roll20, tbh. I wanna see people’s faces, but we don’t need a map, and roll20...isn’t very good, IMO. None of the vtts are. I liked the beta one for 4e that never got finished. It was easy as hell and intuitive.
 

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