As I have previously stated, there are many pros to online GMing. But as some of you have pointed out, there are limitations as well. I don’t call them “cons” for two reasons: (1) limitations can be overcome with some compensation, while (2) true cons are inherent and unavoidable. In today’s article, I want to discuss the limitations placed upon communication when GMing 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.
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…
Do you know how many new games I want to be playing right now? Let me name a few.
Star Wars: Destiny releases this Friday.
I’m reading the 2nd Edition Mouse Guard RPG book right now (it’s awesome).
D&D 5th Edition is calling my name, even though I’m absolutely mesmerized by AD&D 1e.
And let’s not even bring up the board games, like Betrayal at the House on the Hill or Star Wars: Imperial Assault!
Here’s the problem with all these cool games out there: what if I invest time, attention, and energy into a game that I end up disliking? Is it just going to sit up there on my shelf unplayed? Am I going to wish I hadn’t bothered in the first place? In the end, it seems like finding games that fit me should be easier!
But hear me clearly: it doesn’t have to be this hard to find a new game to enjoy! Here’s how you can pick a new game that will not only deepen and diversify your fun, but possibly even strengthen your local gaming community:
It appears that I struck a real chord with Tuesday’s article on player character death. Why did so many GMs and players respond so passionately to my post? Because players sometimes get mad at GMs when their characters die.
Not all players and not always. But it does happen and it creates tension at the tabletop, when players are angry over their characters’ deaths.
One particular response (from @theTinyGM on Twitter) took exception to my use of the word “threat” in relation to PC death. Her concern was that the language of a threat might set up a confrontational relationship between GM and player. Of course, nothing could be further from my intention.
But it raises the question: can GMs create conflict and challenges for PCs–can they “threaten” the livelihood of adventurers–without creating a confrontational atmosphere? I’m convinced you can! If I can pull it off, you can too!
Here are the three steps you can take to create a challenging situation that will end in nothing but fun and mutual respect at your gaming table:
What was the last movie that you saw?
I’m ashamed to say it was Ted. Yes, the Mark Wahlberg movie with Peter Griffin talking for a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear. I was getting over a stomach virus. I needed a laugh. So sue me!
Twenty bucks says you had a pretty good idea how the movie would end well before it ended! Stop and think about it. Most movies forecast the end, so that we anticipate the ending in advance. And until that expected ending comes, we’re on the edge of our seats.
But what does that have to do with gaming? A LOT. Game Masters have a lot on their plate. And one of those responsibilities is keeping their players engaged. How can we utilize this same technique used in most movies to keep our players on the edge of their seats?
D&D 5th Edition is finally coming of age. If you’re a DM just getting into the game (like myself), you have a short time before you hit option overload. The number of quality modules and campaigns being published by WotC and through the DM’s Guild is quickly getting to a saturation point, if you haven’t been working through them already.
As a DM, though, you really want to present the best gaming experience that your players can have. So where and how should you start? With the Starter Kit? With the sweet new Storm King’s Thunder campaign? Or perhaps with something new, original, and creative?
Rather than recommending a resource to you, I want to do you one better. I to help you, Dungeon Masters and Game Masters, to find your own personal game style and to choose accordingly. Here’s how:
“Fantasy as a cultural phenomenon felt vaguely unsettling to me. I wondered if pervasive escapism had infantilized an entire generation.”
So began a quest for Ethan Gilsdorf, journalist and geek par excellence. The quest: to explore every form of fantasy roleplaying games, in order to discern whether they are healthy entertainment for responsible, balanced, functional adults. He raises the same question that I’ve posed before: does growing up mean giving up gaming?
The result of his search is the fascinating book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. I devoured the book very quickly and I commend it to you.
In the end, Gilsdorf names a number of reasons that tabletop RPGs in particular are healthy activities for adults–they encourage problem-solving, team-building, and creative thinking, for starters. That said, I have a followup question:
If playing tabletop RPGs is so healthy for adults, why is it so hard to find a group to play in?
I’m blessed to live in an area with an active gaming community. But I know that for many of you, that’s not the case. What’s to be done for those who lack that resource nearby?