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Resuming Face-to-Face Gaming

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
My entire gaming group is now vaccinated, and by the time our next regularly scheduled game comes up, will be fully immunized. According to CDC guidelines, it's safe for us to resume gaming in person at my house, even if one couple brings their school-aged child (who doesn't game with us and usually watches cartoons in an adjacent room, except for popping in for snacks and to bring me Lego robots he wants me to attack the PCs with). One of my players is adamant about not resuming face-to-face yet because of their elderly father's risk factors (though, he is also fully immunized at this point).

Rather than try to convince them it's safe apart from providing the CDC guidelines, we're considering suggesting that they join remotely. So, we'll have 4 players around the table, plus me, and 1 remote player.

Has anyone played with this sort of set up? What challenges did you have? What solutions did you use? Any advice/suggestions?
 

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TheSword

Legend
Supporter
I have done that. I was the remote person.

I used my laptop and at the game they had a different laptop with the webcam pointed towards the GM. They then shared their laptop screen to the TV so that from their point of view it was like I was in the room. At that point we all used to sit around the living room rather than at a table.

I had to use theatre of the mind but that was ok. If you were very combat grid heavy you may need to change camera positions to see that and have a player move your stuff for you. Back then this wasn’t such an issue but it probably would be for me now.

You probably want to take 10 mins to practice your microphone levels so it’s comfortable but that’s no great shakes.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Way back when the pandemic was still a dystopian nightmare we might see in a film but not imagine actually living through, we had a player move out to Texas, as we wanted to at least wrap up the last adventure involving their character. So we just got him on google chat video or whatever and pointed the laptop camera at the mat. He could see it (though we'd have to move it around some and sometimes describe details) and even though he could not see the other players and only saw the DM when the camera was pointed at him during expository bits, he could HEAR all of us. It wasn't ideal, but for three or four sessions or whatever it was it worked. Maybe that will help for however long it takes for your friend to realized he is probably being overcautious.
 

I did mixed in-person/remote sessions back in 2010 or so and it was a hassle. Somehow, there was always a new technological hurdle that delayed session start time. For the 1-2 people playing remotely, the webcam generally only caught me, the DM, visually, and when lots of people were talking at once in the room, the remote player(s) couldn't understand anyone.

Granted, this was over a decade ago and technology has advanced greatly since then. Were I doing this again now, I'd invest in a unidirectional webcam and/or mic. Or even multiple mics, depending on how far spread out everyone is. And I'd want the one remote person to "show up" early so that any issues can be resolved before everyone else gets there.
 
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pogre

Legend
I have done it. I use/d Zoom. I have a computer that basically served as a GM screen and ran all of the audio through there. Then we used two phones to capture the miniatures and scenery action at the table. When one of the remote players rejoined us at the table he commented that he did not realize how much we were doing to make the game work for him and that it slowed the game down. My current WFRP campaign has two in-person players and three remote - same set-up - works fine for us.

The biggest issue for us is audio - I sometimes have to repeat what is being said by a player at the table to players who are remote.
 

Merifluous

Explorer
We have done mixed mode for years, even before the pandemic. DM and 3-4 players in person, 2 players remote over zoom. Usually have a surface with zoom up, and an external webcam and speaker/mic mostly pointed at the battlemap. Its not perfect, and we have 15+ years of gaming together, but it was definately worth the hassle for the people who dont live nearby anymore. It will slow your game down some, but nothing awful. It does take some time and experimentation to get it working well.
 

AnotherGuy

Explorer
Like others have said audio will be your primary concern - which I found was the issue when playing online via discord or other. The table just has to engage more respectfully with one another as opposed to in-person. It is an adjustment and will slow the game down in parts.

Combat visual is easy enough to get around with cams via tv, laptops or phones.
 

ART!

Hero
We've been gaming for a few months now with 3-4 players physically together, and the DM and 1-4 other players elsewhere. Roll20 for virtual tabletop-ing and images, and Zoom for audio and video. It's worked just fine.

The only hiccups are the audio lag, which results in people talking over each other or not being able to get a word in sometimes.

I really like being able to mute things, and the "whisper" text options in roll20 (where you can message just one person in the game's chat thread.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
T-Minus One hour and 10 minutes. . .
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Nytmare

David Jose
Maybe that will help for however long it takes for your friend to realized he is probably being overcautious.
Sorry if this opens up a can of worms, but the world needs more overcautious people right now. Getting vaccinated makes you less likely to catch and transmit, it doesn't make you immune. Hanging out with other vaccinated people is safer, not safe.

My virtual play hasn't involved battlemaps for over a decade, but when it did, I had two cameras set up, one wide shot that showed the people at the table, and one that showed a birds eye view of only the battlemap. The player could bounce between those two views as they wanted. This was pre VTT, but I cobbled together a player's eyes only web page that had our character sheet and power cards on it, along with a synced duplicate of the map I fed to my at-table player monitor that the remote player could move pieces around on to match the video feed. It wasn't perfect but it worked. Malik's Virtual Character Sheet

As others have said, the audio lag is probably the most annoying thing, we ended up resorting to one person at a time and hand raises so that we weren't always talking over the remote player. The suggestion that the remote player show up ahead of time to iron out any/all of the bugs that are going to pop up is by far the best advice I could give.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Yes, we've been playing that way for over a year (two cameras, battlemat, I am not down with VTTs). Now we're following CDC guidelines and feel fine about it.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
My entire gaming group is now vaccinated, and by the time our next regularly scheduled game comes up, will be fully immunized.
Vaccinated people are still coming up positive. (Mentioning that in case you're the cautious type.)

. So we just got him on google chat video or whatever and pointed the laptop camera at the mat.
Aw! When I had a remote player, I pointed the camera at all of our smiling faces. Those are important these days. The main thing that I did was make occasional checks to see if the remote player was unable to contribute. Think of the remote p!ayer as a really shy in-person player (quiet, easy to overlook). Everyone gets spotlight (if they want it)!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Vaccinated people are still coming up positive. (Mentioning that in case you're the cautious type.)

Generally because they were exposed to the disease before they reached full efficacy.

But, yes - the vaccines are not strictly 100% effective at keeping you from getting covid. This is why current advice suggests small groups of fully vaccinated people are appropriate, not "go out to bars and concerts like you did before."
 


JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
I'm just going by current CDC guidelines:
  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
I'm fairly confident we've all been very good about following the guidelines so far, masking in public, etc. We're not going to bars, we're not going to restaurants, we've all barely left our houses except to get groceries for over a year now. Two of my players are retired and don't work. Two of them have been working from home (three, counting me), and only one player actually has to go to another location to work and he doesn't have close contact with many people most of the day (he does some sort of computer inventory system management work in a warehouse). As far as risky behavior goes, I think us getting together for a game every other week now that we're all fully immunized is pretty low risk.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
My entire gaming group is now vaccinated, and by the time our next regularly scheduled game comes up, will be fully immunized. According to CDC guidelines, it's safe for us to resume gaming in person at my house, even if one couple brings their school-aged child (who doesn't game with us and usually watches cartoons in an adjacent room, except for popping in for snacks and to bring me Lego robots he wants me to attack the PCs with). One of my players is adamant about not resuming face-to-face yet because of their elderly father's risk factors (though, he is also fully immunized at this point).

Rather than try to convince them it's safe apart from providing the CDC guidelines, we're considering suggesting that they join remotely. So, we'll have 4 players around the table, plus me, and 1 remote player.

Has anyone played with this sort of set up? What challenges did you have? What solutions did you use? Any advice/suggestions?

Its kind of how my group has been for over a year as I don't think two of the members have left their house in that time. So since last March we have 5 at the table, with two remote. Its...not ideal IME. Of course we run a more casual game so the players are cracking jokes about what is happening that round, having drinks, and talking among themselves a lot which makes it difficult for the remote players to hear what is going on or feel like they are "part of the group". At first I tried to cut down on the table talk but that honestly wasn't a productive approach as they enjoy that part of the game as much as the game itself.

It gets annoying when you keep having to repeat yourself to a player who is remote since his connection is acting up, can't hear over the Fighter and Cleric players laughing about what happened last round, or you have a player after that fact claim they didn't hear something and wouldn't have done action X... And I understand however at a certain point I stopped making the two remote players the focus of the game and just ran the game as I would normally. If they miss something that is unfortunate but the idea of a quiet table with everyone 100% focused on what is going on isn't realistic.

I run a mini heavy game so having to keep doing "No, move me there..no not there, not there, not there..." Or have to troubleshoot someone's tech issues is a drag.

So to be totally honest all that makes me not enjoy running my game as much. The two players I think have got their second shots but based on how they have been I expect them to talk about variants and how they better hole up for a few more months. Its possible after this current arc of the campaign ends, hopefully Wed, I'll put my game on hiatus until we are all onsite and maybe run something on off nights for those who don't mind showing up or just playing skirmish mini games.
 
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