What is the best system for online play?

paradisebunny

Explorer
I am curious about your opinions, what system do you think is best suited for online play?
There is a few ways to answer this question, for instance you might want to say pathfinder 2e on foundry is one of the contenders given the full availability of options and monsters etc and a very solid integration of all of it in a great VTT.
I would however argue for something else. I dislike staring at a tabletop, I like looking at my fellow players faces, that is what I am mostly looking at when playing in person and I feel it is an often unnoticed aspect of making roleplay in particular enjoyable. Ever played games with cameras off? There is a reason why it feels like something is missing in those games and why for many people online play is the inferior experience.
With the right choice of system (and people as with all things obviously) you can mitigate this loss to some extent. In my experience games that rely more on Theater of the mind paired with maybe only discord provide a great experience. Call of Cthulhu stands out for me as does ICRPG. Both systems run well with minimal to no visual support: the first relies more on players taking notes than specific room layouts and handouts can be posted to text channels, while ICRPG simplifies movements, rolls and information complexity to a level that you can mentally grasp with only your character sheet in front of you. What do you think? Any other contenders or other reasonings?
 

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innerdude

Legend
Ironsworn was by far the best system I've run online. It's the only system where playing remotely had even close to the same energy and engagement of a live session.

A lot of that has to do with how the mechanics feed into scene resolution in easy-to-digest ways, and the mechanics point directly to the fiction. It allowed for a very natural, free-flowing collaborative style, with everyone participating. There's just enough additional mechanical "crunch" above Dungeon World to give more decision points and meaning to player actions. The dice resolution mechanic is also incredibly easy to use in any virtual tabletop dice roller (2d10, 1d6).

Savage Worlds also has good Foundry VTT support, but it suffered greatly from the lack of tangible / fungible "stuff" happening at that table. You miss out on the tactile sensation of dealing the cards for initiative, tossing bennies around, picking up and re-rolling dice on an explosion. The tactical and roleplaying elements are mostly . . . there, but there's just so much more overhead trying to keep everything organized digitally, and you basically HAVE to have a multitude of digital battle maps planned out in advance. I love SW, but playing online was really unsatisfying.

Pathfinder 1e was . . . okay, but for online play is really only enjoyable for basic beer-and-pretzels dungeon crawling / combat. Like, VERY casual, "throw some PCs and a few enemies on a battle mat, slug it out, rinse, repeat."
 


jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
It's an older game, but Code of Unaris was specifically designed for IRC play, achieved this design goal well, and has a very interesting setting that melds a fantasy world with our own via the Internet.
 

paradisebunny

Explorer
It's an older game, but Code of Unaris was specifically designed for IRC play, achieved this design goal well, and has a very interesting setting that melds a fantasy world with our own via the Internet.
oh wow, that sounds cool and takes me right back. I'd like to read it! From what I can find online it vibes of playing shadowrun in the 90s? Is that right or am I mistaken?
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
oh wow, that sounds cool and takes me right back. I'd like to read it! From what I can find online it vibes of playing shadowrun in the 90s? Is that right or am I mistaken?

Not really. There's a classic high fantasy world that exists in two different ages, all within a computer construct (that players themselves interface with via IRC chat). It's a very original setting and system.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I actually like Traveller better online than in person. As GM I can pull up the map, game notes, move between scenes without missing a beat. I find the sci fi genre benefits more from the tech than my fantasy games do.
 

My experience is that many games can work well for online play, but teaching a game that some of the players don't know is harder online than face-to-face. So the best system is one that all the players already know.
 


Distracted DM

Distracted DM
A5E for FoundryVTT is streets ahead of regular DnD 5e- but it's still DnD. And being Foundry, the main focus is the map, with players cameras off to the side.
I always run with my webcam on, and I enjoy it when I can see my players, but I also understand that one of the pros of playing online is not having to worry about your appearance- few of my games have players that regularly use webcams.

There are a couple VTTs out there that cater to theater of the mind and "face to face" play, though I can't recall the names. I imagine PbtA stuff would be great on those.

I've heard of Ironsworn over the years but know nothing about it.
 

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