Should you play RPGs online?

A month or so ago, I had a very good question from @yukitsuki7 on Twitter:

What are your experiences with [online gaming]? What are the common obstacles for online groups?

It’s a very good question, one that I intend to address on my infrequent podcast.  That said, a couple years back I addressed this over on The Mad Adventurers Society, a wonderful gaming site that will soon be coming to a close.  In response to her question, I thought I’d go back, revisit, and revise that series of articles on online GMing.  This is my first attempt to do so.

As many of you know, I started gaming in the summer of 2011 with D&D 4e.  Within months, I was running a table for D&D Encounters at my FLGS.  But I found myself wanting more very quickly.  I wanted a consistent, weekly game wherein I could explore new places and new stories.  Stories created by myself and other players!  I wanted something personal and open, not the railroaded ten-week stints that were provided for D&D Encounters.

No pants required.

But who in the world can actually pull such a thing off, especially every week?  I learned very quickly who could: the online gamer.  Online gaming is a potentially tricky task, but one that I found rewarding and successful.  My gaming group played weekly for two and a half years (of course, we took some weeks off here and there).  And in the end, we stopped playing because the story ended.  So in this, the first of five articles, I aim to share why you should consider being an online roleplayer.  So let us begin with the many benefits of online gaming…

PRO #1: Easy Scheduling
It’s immensely difficult to get 4-6 players to commit to meet around a table in one location week after week.  Even if you meet biweekly, this is a challenge.  But when you’re playing online, it’s not so hard!  Our group had six players and every week we played in the same three hour slot.  Inevitably, that might not work for one or two players occasionally, but we would just plug on through with 4-5 PCs.  Players played from home.  Players played on work trips.  We even had a player dial in from a commercial airliner one time.  His connection sucked, but it was pretty dang cool!  When you’re not limited to the small group of gamers in your hometown, open schedules are more readily available.  Which leads to…

PRO #2: Old Friends
Playing online is an excellent way to reconnect with old friends.  Remember that guy you gamed with in high school that now lives in California?  Yeah, you can invite him.  Remember your next door neighbor who moved away because of work?  Even she can play.  Online gaming became a way for me to reconnect with old classmates and even relatives.  And despite our campaign being over, those rekindled relationships have continued on (some through gaming, others not).  So one big pro to online gaming is getting reconnected with old friends.  But that’s not all!

PRO #3: New Friends
Not only do you connect with old friends when gaming online, but it’s also a great chance to connect with new and varied gamers with new and varied schedules.  I’ve played with friends met on Twitter, with Innroads Ministries, and with the Mad Adventurers.  In fact, it is an explicit desire that you find online groups through my FB page!  New friends and easier scheduling?  Those two pros really make online gaming very compelling to me.

PRO #4: Less Resources to Invest
This may not be everyone’s experience, but as the GM it seemed that I was often responsible to supply the gaming group with various resources: maps, miniatures, rulebooks, the list went on.  Somehow, my home is usually the one being used as well and I find folks rummaging through my fridge.  Frankly, I don’t mind.  I actually enjoy hosting folks.  But it does start to add up after awhile.  Using the online app, Roll20, I was able to cut down on needing many of those things. [I’ll be writing more about Roll20 in my next article] Plus, your fridge can only be raided by those actually in the house.  Plus, when players are playing in their own home, they have no excuse to neglect purchasing a rulebook.  Frankly, of all the pros, this is the least persuasive to me.  But it is something worth considering.

Pro #5: No Pants
Seriously, you can GM or play with no pants on.  I doubt I need to clarify why this is a strong benefit to online gaming.

In sum, being an online GM and player has many intrinsic benefits.  Maybe you’ve never considered it as an option.  I’d encourage you to rethink your stance.  Give it a shot.  In fact, you are just a click away from a wonderful opportunity to try it out.  Give it a chance and you may be surprised at how much you enjoy it.  Plus, that gives many of us (who are often the GM) a chance to play as well.

So what are you waiting for?!  Yes, there are some cons (which I’ll cover next week), but by and large the pros far outweigh them.  Start a group and get to gaming!

10 thoughts on “Should you play RPGs online?

  1. Tadd Mencer says:

    For years I wanted to play D&D. My first failed attempt was in my youth (vicious DM who just wanted to kill everyone, literally and figuratively). Around a table at my parent’s house. I’m sure my parents where in the other room praying for our souls or something.

    But with the glory of Roll20 I was able to pick up a group. Sadly, the GM (first time GM) ended up having a panic attack toward the end of our first session and quit. The second attempt, after three sessions, had the GM on heavy depression medications. So thus far, GMs are falling by the wayside.

    But I’d run a game with my sister, nephew, and a friend. It’s been a great way to play. My sister and her oldest are about 6 hours away. So being able to play a game of D&D with them has been a pretty awesome thing.

    Someday perhaps I’ll find a group and a GM who I can play and doesn’t end up with mental problems. haha

    • MadCleric says:

      Thanks for sharing! I’m glad online gaming helped you reconnect with your family! That said, hit up the folks over on the FB page if you’d like to join a group. The Tavern (a FB group of Innroads Ministries) often has pickup games as well. Hopefully in 2017, I’ll be running a few games online too!

  2. This.

    I hadn’t played regularly in years, having moved hours away from my long-time group, until we discovered the joy of Hangouts, and then of Roll20. And now I run a game including two players that live a 5-minute walk away, but it’s all online.

    Because we’re all dads, and it’s way easier to get the kids in bed and play than it is to get out of the house for a whole evening.

    And although I miss some aspects of in-person play, well…

    No pants.

    • MadCleric says:

      Oh man. Exactly! Having kids at home complicates things exponentially. Our third is on the way, so this is very familiar. Good insights. Thanks!

  3. I wrote a long comment, and lost it, but I’ve tried Roll20.net recently and find it brilliant and better than tabletop in some ways. With skype, you can have a social game, with hex maps and similar, and I’ve even seen an interactive puzzle you can work together on. The character sheets are also interactive and easier than having it on paper. I’ve found a few good groups (bigger pool of players, although UK is still limited, so not just looking local to you!) So, yes, it’s fun and I’m enjoying it. 🙂

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