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Tabletop Gaming Over the 'Net?

Cliff posted about 8 years ago | from the better-than-an-MMORPG dept.


kebes asks: "I'm the GM for a group that has been gaming together for about 12 years. We're starting to move away from each other, and want to switch to playing our tabletop RPG online. So far, we've been using a combination of TeamSpeak and IRC. It works, but is not ideal. What protocol/chat service and applications would make for a great online gaming solution? The voice and text chat abilities are crucial, but having a collaborative white-board would greatly help. Ideally, the solution would be integrated (one app), allow logging of the session, run on multiple platforms (Mac OS X, Linux, Windows), work with web-cams, and permit file-transfers. What service or app (or combination thereof) would work best for our needs? Anyone else have stories of success or failure?"

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A variety of tools. . . (5, Informative)

WolfStar76 (708609) | about 8 years ago | (#15839161)

My friends and I are all D&D fans (looking forward to GenCon [] next week! Woot!) and all live in separate states, so we were looking for a similar solution as well.

There are several ways to go, but for my money, the best product is FantasyGrounds [] .

Fantasy Grounds is a "virtual tabletop" complete with d20 rules, character sheets, dice, a chat window, the ability to share images with your players, and to mask/unmask maps as your party progresses.

The current version is 1.05, but a major revamp has been in the works all year, with a version 2.0 due out "soon". Speaking of GenCon - the SmiteWorks guys (who make FantasyGrounds) will be sharing a booth with the guys from Code Monkey Publishing [] (makers of the E-Tools software for character creation).

Other tools to look at include OpenRPG [] and Klooge [] .

I'm not, personally, a fan of those, but everyone has their preferences.

Also, to aid in communication, I strongly suggest running a TeamSpeak [] server, so you can actually talk to your fellow players, instead of typing everything manually.

Re:A variety of tools. . . (0, Troll)

chills42 (750137) | about 8 years ago | (#15839201)

did you RTFA? he already uses TeamSpeak and IRC

Re:A variety of tools. . . (1)

WolfStar76 (708609) | about 8 years ago | (#15839221)

Heh, sadly, I did read that, but got so excited about telling people what to use to play over the 'net that I forgot, and tossed TeamSpeak in as part of my standard spiel. ~shrug~

Re:A variety of tools. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839234)

Honestly I think a better question is "did you miss the bit about Mac and Linux?"...

Re:A variety of tools. . . (1)

WolfStar76 (708609) | about 8 years ago | (#15839252)

No, but I don't know of tools that do, or don't, exist for those platforms.

Sorry, I limited my answer to fields I have experience with. :-P

Re:A variety of tools. . . (4, Informative)

Raleel (30913) | about 8 years ago | (#15839250)

I can agree with just about everything the above poster wrote. I have not run with FantasyGrounds, but I keep hearing good things. I don't have quite enough of a reason to invest in it yet. The documentation seemed a little light, but when I demoed it, I didn't look really hard.

I've used OpenRPG for a few years now and have been pretty happy with it. It has a solid whiteboard, and it runs on my mac and on another player's linux machine, as well as windows boxes. It also has a dice rolling mechanic that is nice for other game systems. In particular, it's shadowrun support is solid. While I personally don't play much SR, I have players who do.

I strongly second the teamspeak, ventrilo, or whatever application to do voice. If you are all familiar with each other, you won't get any wierd feelings talking to strangers, and you'll be able to verbally abuse each other much more easily :)

Re:A variety of tools. . . (1)

kebes (861706) | about 8 years ago | (#15839490)

and it runs on my mac

As I mention in another comment [] , so far Mac OS X has been a showstopper. I tried OpenRPG last night (on Linux and Windows) and it seems quite useful... however I couldn't get the client to run on OS X (granted I haven't had a chance to try everything).

OpenRPG uses Python and wxPython, so you need to install the dev. tools and the X11 environment (which I've done). But that wasn't enough. Was there any other "special trick" required to get it to run on your Mac? The machine I was experimenting on is a Macbook Pro, although in the end it will also have to run on a friend's PPC iMac. Any advice?

Something in beta : Battleground (1)

Hugo.Lynch (856395) | about 8 years ago | (#15839590)

Hi everyone, I am in the same situation, left my old group to make my life with the wife and baby to be near to her workplace and distance is now a problem for gaming session. I am planing to start joining them by teleconference.. so it will only be me being the online ressource so i think we will stick to skype and webcam to reduce the workload on the DM since I am the only one who will be with a computer. Someting nice i found while browsing is [] This is still in beta but sound real nice. it just miss the webcam/voice chat feature.. so this with skype or teamspeak seem to be the perfect solution for a full online session.

Re:A variety of tools. . . (1)

higzilla (993042) | about 8 years ago | (#15841099)

Yep a variety of tools... Fantasy grounds $$$ is good, but not the best and definitely not for the money.... Liscences will kill you... Good ones... D20pro $$ good but still a work in progress....and not altogether intuitive on the interface. Battlegrounds $$ Not quite released but looks good.. Code monkey had a cheap 1 I think $ Freebies OpenRpg gametable heck you can use an Aim chat room to play. (no game table,but a die roller) As a DM (with a job) The cost really isn't an issue. but interface is the killer. I work hard on my campaigns, If I have to spend hours figuring out how to get it all moved over. Its a dud, in my book. I don't mind a little data entry but It better be intuitive or I rapidly lose interest.

Re:A variety of tools. . . (2, Informative)

sckeener (137243) | about 8 years ago | (#15842156)

Bandwidth (4, Funny)

HugePedlar (900427) | about 8 years ago | (#15839208)

Just make sure your 12-sided dice don't clog up the tubes...

Re:Bandwidth (2, Funny)

XenoPhage (242134) | about 8 years ago | (#15839328)

It's worse when you miss the saving throw and the magic missle you intended to clear the tube instead ruptures it. This, in turn, may cause the need for additional saving throws as your tube is suddenly overwhelmed with internets from other tubes.

Re:Bandwidth (2, Funny)

Palshife (60519) | about 8 years ago | (#15840103)

If only the Internet were some kind of truck...

Re:Bandwidth (1)

PMuse (320639) | about 8 years ago | (#15840526)

Just make sure your 12-sided dice don't clog up the tubes...

Oh, be nice [] to the uninitiated.

Re:Bandwidth (1)

Malgas (901411) | about 8 years ago | (#15840814)

d12s are approximately round. It's the d10s that are likely to clog things.

Geekiest comment ever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15840860)

I think you win!

The fact that given only a second of thought I'd agree makes this one a close second.

Re:Geekiest comment ever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15841016)

Nah, the d4s have more of a chance. Plus they are handy to have around and use as caltrops in an emergency.

Try OpenRPG (3, Informative)

castle (6163) | about 8 years ago | (#15839237) [] - wx?Python based online virtual tabletop.

Re:Try OpenRPG (2, Informative)

kebes (861706) | about 8 years ago | (#15839439)

We experimented with OpenRPG last night... the good news is that it integrates a bunch of useful things (chat, whiteboard, and automated dice rolling). It's a little rough around the edges, but overall a great concept. However it's been a real effort to get it running on OS X, which some in the play group use.

I would have thought that the combination of chat+voice+whiteboard would be so generic that it would be easy to find a bunch of applications (especially OSS ones) to do exactly that... however it's been hard to find a stable app that runs on all platforms.

WebHuddle (1)

LeninZhiv (464864) | about 8 years ago | (#15839970)

I haven't tried it but have heard good things about WebHuddle [] , which is actually aimed for business meetings (you can even show slides, although for a whiteboard just leave a blank slide and scribble on that). Being aimed at a non-geek audience, setup is intended to be a no-brainer.

Re:WebHuddle (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 8 years ago | (#15846177)

Yeah, I was wondering if something like GoToMeeting or LiveMeeting wouldn't be a pretty workable solution. Of course, it isn't a free option.


Re:Try OpenRPG (1)

advocate_one (662832) | about 8 years ago | (#15840468)

oh boy... do they ever need to cull the comment spam from that page...

Simple, yet effective. (2, Interesting)

aetherspoon (72997) | about 8 years ago | (#15839311)

Although I've glanced at OpenRPG before, personally I just use an old fashioned IRC chat room and a dice bot.

Slightly off-topic VIRC, Re:Simple, yet effective. (1)

Finkbug (789750) | about 8 years ago | (#15896541)

Been years since I used an IRC client [pauses while his geek card is reclaimed] but VIRC had a whiteboard. That client died; did others pick up the functionality? Never used it for RPG play but combined with voice it'd be a quick & dirty & free (& dated & maybe Windows only) option.

Re:Slightly off-topic VIRC, Re:Simple, yet effecti (1)

aetherspoon (72997) | about 8 years ago | (#15899166)

Actually, I still used VIRC for awhile until I swapped my IRC machine to Linux relatively recently. :P

None that I've seen at least, sadly.

Been there, done that. (2, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about 8 years ago | (#15839451)

Did it with BattleTech years ago.

What would normally be a 3-4 hour game became a 7 hour game.

The problem is making certain everybody's on the same page (and not cheating).

Now tabletop simulations like Megamek [] outstrip tabletop over IRC by orders of magnitude.

Re:Been there, done that. (0, Offtopic)

tayloryork (988920) | about 8 years ago | (#15839883)


Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Invidious (106932) | about 8 years ago | (#15840149)

Megamek's excellent; I just wish they'd solve some of the stablity and connectivity problems when you're running larger games. I've run through five-player, 15000-BP-each games with a couple of laptops and a desktop, in -much- less time that it'd've taken if we'd set up the boards and minis ourselves.

Stick to IRC (2, Interesting)

thebdj (768618) | about 8 years ago | (#15839482)

Seriously, it works just fine. Setup your standard OOC and IC channels and in some cases a separate dice channel and let it go. I personally would ditch the team speak, the vocal communication is not needed and in many cases most people I know are better at explaining themselves in type because they can actually work it out before sending it.

I have roleplayed on IRC for over 10 years. Some of my best friends play on there and I haven't even met all of them in person. You will have a plethora of players at your disposal (recommended finding sane networks, isn't bad for RPG). Most people in the channel I play in still do TT games on occassion, but they are more grown up then me (but not that much so) and have established groups of friends.

To be honest, I still think the IRC path works better for WoD games. Honestly, I never recall coming across many, if any, D&D games. If you are a D&D crowd with decent PCs, may I suggest attempting running campaigns using NWN. I have not had the opportunity to try it, but since the game with two expansions and Kingmaker can be had for $30 (the Diamond Edition), it isn't too insane and has good single player campaigns as well.

Otherwise, you can try openRPG, but I really do not think it is that necessary. It sometimes takes a bit of getting used to not having everyone sitting five feet from each other, but you can definitely have enjoyable experiences with RPGs on IRC.

All-Women's Gaming uses IRC (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | about 8 years ago | (#15839483)

And it actually works, unless you're a real stick about being able to see the board...

GhostOrb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839491)

I've not used it much, but it might have potential. []

Skype (1)

Ossadagowah (452169) | about 8 years ago | (#15839517)

Skype would work pretty well for this, as it is cross-platform, supports file xfers, and has voice and text chat capabilities.

Re:Skype (1)

gravy.jones (969410) | about 8 years ago | (#15839950)

For the free version, skype won't support more than 4 player connections. Teamspeak will and will let you scale down or up your audio codec to maximize your user to bandwidth ratio. I use Teamspeak and I believe it to be the superior "party" line chatter out there. It does not do IM well at all but it is not supposed to either. Teamspeak has a public server search in which you can find vacant teamspeak servers out there and create and password protect your channels. You wouldn't believe how many of those give you admin rights of the bat. This is ideal for guys who don't want to manage or configure a teamspeak server. Others use Ventrilo voice server or RogerWilco. I started out on RogerWilco but I noticed that people hack your channels and become stand up comics. Some people swear by Ventrilo but I didn't care for it. It feels clandestine and does not feel as polished as Teamspeak.

Re:Skype (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15841933)

Ventrillo is much better than Teamspeak. Teamspeak is fuzzy, does not work well and really has some big problems.

Re:Skype (1)

PixelThis (690303) | about 8 years ago | (#15840137)

Friends and I have done this on numerous occasions when our one or more of the folks in our group have been out of town during a game session. We set up a webcam on a 30sec refresh and then have the missing folks Skype in.
Works out really well.

Re:Skype (1)

BigCheese (47608) | about 8 years ago | (#15863229)

Gizmo [] works pretty well too and allows more people in a conference call.

It's also free and works on Linux, OS X, and Windows.

Oh, and it speaks Jabber and SIP too.

Neverwinter Nights? (2, Informative)

fragbait (209346) | about 8 years ago | (#15839547)

I don't have experiences doing this, but trying out Neverwinter Nights GM functionality is the first thing that comes to mind.

Have you tried that?


Re:Neverwinter Nights? (1)

KerberosKing (801657) | about 8 years ago | (#15840677)

This works pretty well if everyone has a copy of the game. I have done this a lot and had great fun. Since it was made in 2002, the graphics are a bit dated, but that means you can actually run it on some older machines. Luckily it is very affordable [] now and you can get it to run under Linux and Mac OS X. The Linux version requires having the PC version, then downloading the Linux client here [] . The mac version is here [] , but you need to buy both [] expansions [] seperately so it's more expensive than the PC version.

Be sure everyone updates to the latest game patches [] . The new Community Expansion Pack v2 [] is coming out soon with neat stuff like ridable horses, hundreds of new items, a thousand new monsters, and a couple of thousand placable objects. You can build your own modules in the toolset, or just download some great ones from Neverwinter Vault [] . Then just serve it from your broadband connected machine either with the stand-alone server or the dm client.

With all that for running table-top like games, plus a good single player game and lots of multi-player persistent world modules it's like three games in one, and the best part is no monthly fees.

iVisit (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839562)

Our group uses iVisit Pro ( [] ). It works alright, low bandwidth requirement for video and audio. File transfer works great. No whiteboard though. You can also record your sessions from within the program as well, nice if you want to put together a comedy/blackmail reel. Split video. My face on a TV, and the text chat window goes on the GM's screen for our ability to chat privately or for rolls or whatever.

We use a Creative wide angle camera, and that seems to work well too.

We use mic's from Pheonix ( [] ), and have two strung together ( [] ). We haven't tried it with more than one person remote from the group.

Sound has been the one potential issue, we like it be as clear as possible on both ends. I used a creative labs headset for myslef. The "base group" uses a stero.

Nothing beats being there, but it's better than trying to find a new group after you've been together for a long time... All in all, it has cost around 600.00 for what we have done, but you could do it with cameras on both ends, and a mic on both ends for a lot less. We just keep upgrading things to make it better and better.

Not exactly what you had in mind, but (2, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | about 8 years ago | (#15839566)

Have you ever checked out Giant in the Playground [] ? They actually play by post in the forums over there. Besides which, the comic Order of the Stick [] is the funniest RPG comic I've ever read. It actually makes me want to get back into gaming and learn these newfangled 3.0 rules.

Plain Vanilla IRC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839627)

Just plain IRC, thank you, no teamspeak or any fancy stuff like that. Of course, the guy running these games is a narrative genius, and we run games with less dice-rolling than most do. Yeah, things do get a little hectic and confusing at times, but we can usually just stop for a moment and resolve things in a -ooc channel...

The text-only environment also makes it easier for people to play interesting and unusual characters (like the werebutterfly psychic) without players' lousy voice acting ruining the mood. :P

Maps, layouts, table-top-figurines? If you MUST, stuff a static image file online and give me a URL, but that's never been the real focus of our games. But then, not everyone running games can be a mad genius...

NetMeeting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839631)

Yay NetMeeting!! ... okay, just kidding

World of Warcraft (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839672)

Same thing happend to some buddies of mine. We all moved away from each other and the regular game we had once a week. We all use to play WoW at the time as well. So once a week, we would log on to WoW, sit all around in the Inn in Stormwind. We would join a private channel and play (a really nerdy version of) AD&D. We would use the games dice system to prevent cheating and etc... It worked pretty well til we all gave up on WoW.

Playing D&D in World of Warcraft is as about as nerdy and lame as you can get though, keep that in mind

Fantasy Grounds (3, Insightful)

mainframemouse (740958) | about 8 years ago | (#15839783)

I've been looking for this kind of software for a couple of years now. OpenRPG is as user frindly as open source software was 10 years ago. I'd given up until I stunmbled upon Fantasy Grounds [] . It is almost every thing I've been looking for. I've paid up and converting it now so I can run SLA industries. This along with Teamspeak and MorphVOX [] I'm looking forward to running some great games.

This is how we do it (4, Interesting)

grondak (80002) | about 8 years ago | (#15839793)

My weekly DnD 3.5 game has a local DM, me, and two internet-based out-of-towners. We use a Logitech webcam and Yahoo instant messenger's voice + video services. We have a great time playing, now that the technology discussions and problems are out of the way.

Our requirements:
1. The DM wants to be able to move the minis around the map and sit on the DM's side of the table, and wants me to run the tech side of things for him. He wants to be able to draw a quick map or a picture of what we're seeing and show either to the players. This means hands-free communication for the DM and me to the out-of-towners and a picture of what he's drawn, taken by some type of camera.
2. We need to be able to "talk over" each other-- or at least know when more than one person is trying to talk.
3. Quickly sharing a changing map environment is crucial-- and the DM can't get me to draw everything in a tool because of the time it takes to explain things, or have himself draw them on paper and have me re-draw them in a tool.
4. We need to have a way for the players to communicate without the DM overhearing (and without chasing the DM out of the room)
5. I have a nice iBook and an iSight camera-- we should use it!
6. It shouldn't cost us anything "per month" to play. I didn't want to turn our out-of-towners off the game due to service subscription fees "just for a game."
7. We need the tech "out of the gaming process" so we can focus on DnD.

How things worked out:
1. I looked for a lot of cross-platform voice + video solutions with "talk-over" capability. Wouldn't you know it, but a two years or so ago, when I did the research, cross-platform, integrated tools with all other requirements just wasn't happening. We looked at stand-alone video tools running simultaneously with stand-along voice tools. We looked at "camming software" and only joked about playing in the buff. Consider AIM, which Apple's iSight can talk to with iChat. That seemed to be my only cross-platform solution, but the out-of-town players didn't want to sign up for "yet another IM system." So, I removed the cross-platform requirement. Things got easier. Remember, I did this research 2 years ago, so specific details are lost to me. I play DnD now, and don't spend my days looking for tech solutions to a problem I've already adequately solved.
2. We settled on Yahoo IM on the PC only. Yahoo's voice system allows you to know if you are "talking over" someone else because it beeps at you when a voice collision happens. The video support is decent, too. When the players need to communicate without DM knowledge, we just type. The DM doesn't look at the computer screen often.
3. Our little camera can go anywhere. We reposition it according to need. I have a little test pattern placard I can put in front of the camera for when the GM and I are setting up. That's double-nerdly, in case you didn't notice. :) We have various-sized boxes upon which we place the video camera to allow the right viewpoint for the out-of-towners. Sometimes we need to move the camera to allow different out-of-towners to see different parts of the game, but mostly, the battles converge to a single area and the camera movement slows down until the "move to next battle area" part of DnD.
4. We use an external microphone, a little cheap one, and lay it on the gaming table between the DM and me. Sometimes the players hear mumbling, but that's mostly when we accidently talk away from the mic (say, past the table, down to the floor.)
5. Sometimes the tech fails: eg: Yahoo wants to upgrade the client. The DM's internet is out (again). The wireless router is dead. The reception is poor because of the running microwave. Yahoo booted us again. The wireless reception failed.
6. We did not get a tool that lets us draw on the screen. We just draw on a piece of paper and point the webcam at it. Much faster and much less prone to perfectionism.

7. Most of all-- this feels like real DnD. The tech, now that it works, is out of the way. We've been at this campaign for two years now. It's been a lot of fun. We've worked the characters up from 1st level to 15th. The encounters get tougher to the point where all we can do is run one battle a night. But for the most part, the tech isn't a factor any more.

What I'd change:
1. Ditch the wireless. Of all the problems we've had, wireless reception has been #1. You know the drill-- simply moving the laptop (+ antenna) around is sufficient to bring the reception back to life. Or the cat walking too close to the computer when you're looking at the map. It happens.
2. I'd research the available cross-platform voice+video options. I dislike carrying my Winders laptop around and want rid of it. (I'll wait for better casing options on the MacBook* computers, thanks.) If this discussion topic gives me better solutions, so be it and thank you. It might be time to try out Teamspeak, now that there's a Mac client. We just need cross-platform video. Teamspeak mixes simultaneous voice communications so you don't even hear a collision beep like Yahoo makes.
3. It would be nice to have better lighting on the minis to make them more distinguishable. More than once, the out-of-towners have been "driving" the wrong mini into battle. "Oh, that's not me? Oh. um. I'm taking a 5-foot step back. Yes, that way."
4. I'd scrape together some money to bring the out-of-towners to my town so I could meet them!!!

Oh, just in case you wondered: the webcam doesn't have a speaker, so the out-of-towners' audio comes out of the laptop. Perhaps you've seen that webcomic? :D

Having a great time playing,

Re:This is how we do it (1)

merlin_jim (302773) | about 8 years ago | (#15839962)

It seems like there should be a remote mini helping component

Maybe a little webcam image recognizer that can take multiple webcam views and make an overhead map out of it

Then the remote players can drag the pieces on the map and the DM just sees the move they want to make with which piece - system can even give exact directions, or detect when the mini is "close enough" to the target position

Gametable is good.. (2, Interesting)

Doppleganger (66109) | about 8 years ago | (#15839819)

Gametable [] , by the guy who does the "Casey and Andy [] " webcomic, is pretty good as a simplified whiteboard. It's a java app, and works cross-platform (I run one instance on a linux system as a server, and the players all use different Windows versions to run it). It's not as full-featured as something like OpenRPG, but it is also a lot easier to set up and learn. It covers the basics, and doesn't focus on particular systems other than choosing between square or hex grids.

No built-in web cam or file transferring, but it has a whiteboard, text chat, dice roller, and unit markers.

VASSAL Game Engine (1)

Nothorian (992987) | about 8 years ago | (#15839822)

While not specifically designed for tabletop RPGS, VASSAL [] is an open source game engine written in Java designed for creating internet ready board games and miniatures games. There is an extensive list of modules that have already been created and the program provides a relatively easy to use graphical interface for creating new modules that better suit your needs.

Tried PvP or GvG type games yet? (1)

Slackus (598508) | about 8 years ago | (#15839829)

This is not not meant as a flame or sarcastic post, but have you guys considered something like Guild Wars. I was/is a huge Magic the Gathering fan, but found that the PvP and Guild vs Guild play using something like Guild Wars is just so much better for this type of play on the net. Give it a go.

Gametable (1)

Sir Toby (660923) | about 8 years ago | (#15839873)

One option I have repeatedly heard about on a web comic I read is Gametable [] . However, I have never used it personally, so I can't really say anything about its effectiveness. It is written in Java, thus providing support for Windows, OSX, and Linux. From the site:

Gametable is a remote RPG whiteboarding client. It is designed to play RPGs online, providing an interface for all players to use a shared map. Anything any player does to the map, all players see. The map can be drawn on, have miniatures (we call them pogs) placed on it and moved around, have terrain underlays placed on it, and a host of other features. You can even point at the map and people will see where you're pointing.

One feature it does not have is voice chat, so you'll still need another application to handle that part.

Re:Gametable (1)

Robocoastie (777066) | about 8 years ago | (#15839988)

there's also playbypost which makes your game more of an interactive story such as available at and If you still wish to keep the advanced combat rules ie miniatures you'll need to combine it with a mapping or drawing program and post on a website screenshots of the action. I used autorealm for a game to do that with but have since found it much easier to simply use my miniatures on a hexgrid and my digital camera.

Dipolmacy (1)

j2crux (969051) | about 8 years ago | (#15840274)

Probably my favorite table top game of all time is Dipolmacy...but alas it was really hard to find people that would actually want to play. (i even asked my ex to play for my bday and she looked at me like i was a crackhead and followed it up with "I [her] better be drunk." Needless to say it didnt happen :-( )
But all isn't lost, places like [] was created for us loners out there to play this great game.

Re:Dipolmacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15840790)

I was introduced to this game when I was 13 or 14 (after much AH and SPI (RIP) madness). The other geek said "You only play it with your closest friends or total strangers." After many years of play, that is still the best description I've ever heard.

Webcam gaming (1)

tacroy (813477) | about 8 years ago | (#15840305)

I have a slightly different problem. In our game we have one player that just moved from ohio to california. So we have been trying to setup a webcam / mic thing for him to join in. We've been unable to find any decent (and free, or cheap) web cam conferencing tools. We have a group of about 6 that are a good 15 feet away so we need more resolution. We both have broadband and want to be able to push video around 640-480 most of the common tools (aim, yahoo) have rather crappy file size and everyone just looks like a blob. We moved to a two part system vid = DWYCO and audio = aim but it drops sync and is altogether annoying. So does anyone know of a good webconferencing tool? White board would be nice, but not vital. Mainly just want it to be able to push decent size, realtime and with sync'd audio. Thanks.

Re:Webcam gaming (1)

neonfrog (442362) | about 8 years ago | (#15841038)

Yes! I, too, want an answer to this question!

We can do audio through the phone, but good video is a problem.

BONUS QUESTION: I have a nice firewire capable digital video camera with a good lens or two (and nice audio, too). I would love to use THAT as the video source for the video client instead of a webcam. The video camera is just so much easier to use (PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom), etc.) and has good macro. The problem is finding a way to get that nice high res firewire video feed INTO a video-conference. Any thoughts?

Re:Webcam gaming (1)

tacroy (813477) | about 8 years ago | (#15844700)

THAT i can help you with. Google "trackercam" its part of the "trackerpod" series.....of which i have no idea what they are. HOWEVER, the trackercam software lets me use my firewire digital camera as a webcam.

The best way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15840410)

Isn't to use any software designed for the purpose at all. From my thorough experience, everyone enjoys it when you take your group and connect to some unrelated game and start using the chat/any other interface there to play out your campaign. Now, some of you might say, "but, Mr. AC, surely that must be the bottom of all experiences for everyone; your group, on one hand, being roundly fucked within the original game by those who are actually playing it, and on the other hand, said players for not having any competition within their game, in addition to any chat spam."

My reply would be that perhaps you are right, for I'd have to humor your words if you said that -- you'd be using my quote exactly, and naturally, it'd be quite an ego boost, for this is Slashdot, afterall: the online game where everyone stands alone, and reaching out to lend a hand to another player is always construed, within the game, to be a mouth, and always aimed for the lower extremities.

But beyond that, my rebuttal would have to be that using such an interface adds dimension to the game. You've never played both D&D and Quake until you've roleplayed that you're a group of Marines roleplaying being elves in a session of D&D in hell while guarding a supply depot. Or a bunch of soldiers in WW2 who decided to break out the dice when the going got tough, holed up in your base, occasionally tossing a grenade out of the room so you can continue to toss a die. And it also adds depth to the other players. Sometimes there's nothing that can make another player become a better specimen of humanity altogether than not giving him exactly what he wants. Which is to say, a real game of whatever it is you're playing.

Viack Via3 (2, Informative)

genedefect (845080) | about 8 years ago | (#15840539)

Another interesting option I found is a product called Via3 ( I use it for other work, but it has some nice features that could work quite well for remote tabletop sessions.

It has pretty solid Audio and Video, doesn't require you to host your own server, has built in Whiteboard and a feature called LiveView that you could use to show another applicatio (or battle map) to the players.

One other nice thing is it provides online storage tied to the app. You can use to store all your game note, maps, and such in so that everyone can view them when they want to outside the game. You can even set access rights on the files and folders to different players to view or edit. So one player might have rights to a secret letter from the king or the ransom note, while the others don't even know they exist.

in progress (2, Funny)

jrshabadoo (990216) | about 8 years ago | (#15840613)

i'm actually writing a DnD app for a friend of mine that will do just that: chat, file transfer, map design, rolls, etc. i'll probably release it eventually.

Tabletop Gaming and the Internet (2, Interesting)

grouchofan (921134) | about 8 years ago | (#15840683)

As I was attending Origins 2006 in late June/July, walking around looking in the exhibit hall at all the items available for sale, I wondered how in the world a game can keep up with all the developments in the industry... new games, new companies, expansions, etc. After it was over I decided to set up a site to make that a little easier. We now scan over 230 sites each day for news and information, have a mailbox where companies can send product announcements, etc., and post daily news updates about goings-on in the tabletop game industry.

If you're a gamer - and you probably are if you're reading this - you may want to check out the site: []

We even offer RSS feeds of the latest articles for those who prefer their news by RSS... something not too many game information sites do.

We'll be covering GenCon Indy next weekend.

Microsoft saves the day!...? (1)

Blibblob (868226) | about 8 years ago | (#15841019)

I recently downloaded the OneNote 2007 beta and was glancing around the features. If you're looking for a virtual whiteboard, it's perfect. Especially if you have a tablet. We haven't all left for seperate colleges quite yet so we haven't fiddled around with anything just yet, but onenote will certainly be on the list of things to try. Also, as a DM and a player, I know I could never go back to using that archaic "real" paper and "real" pencils after buying a tabletpc notebook. Things have become so much easier, I'm not kidding.

Have you tried monkeys? (2, Insightful)

chshrkt (246415) | about 8 years ago | (#15841062)

Seriously, I have been looking at ScreenMonkey [] which is a server program that the GM runs, and then the players connect via a webclient. They have two different web interfaces, an "Advenced" mode for IE6 and Firefox, and a "Generic" which will work on almost any browser, including my Treo650.
Pretty brilliant in my eyes.

Download the free ScreenMonkey Lite [] , with the encounter map on the same page.
The interface for the Lite version has chat, dice rolling, and is bascally recreating having a big tabletop map with minitures.

Yahoo Messenger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15841101)

It does everything on your feature list, including voice chat so you can ditch TS. However, I'm not sure that all the features are supported on all the platforms, and the whiteboard is a bit weak. (1)

deadhammer (576762) | about 8 years ago | (#15841228)

I play online at [] , which mainly runs Shadowrun 3rd edition plus a smattering of D&D. It's been running for close to ten years now and they've got all the basic functions you could need, runs as a seperate Java applet. Play by post, not real-time. I highly recommend it.

Been playing online for 6-9 months (1)

moon_wizard (648493) | about 8 years ago | (#15842345)

I had a similar event occur, where I ended up moving out of state and left a really good group of gamers and friends. I did my research on various tabletop, voice and video technology and came up with a lot of the same information as the others, but I chose a different route. For voice and video, it was absolutely necessary to keep a live communication solution. We originally started using Skype in 5-person conference mode, but we outgrew that limit plus we had some issues with talk-over limitations and bandwidth. Instead, I set up a Ventrilo server for voice. For video, I couldn't find anything at the time that did video-conferencing (vs. point-to-point) that wasn't some expensive B2B solution. For tabletop, I researched about a dozen different options out there, both paid and free. The 2 at the top of the heap were Fantasy Grounds and Klooge.Werks. In the end, I chose Klooge.Werks because it offered a ton of customizability, though Fantasy Grounds looked and felt more polished. Currently, I have heavily customized my game to implement as many rules as possible in the Klooge system, which helps tremendously in keeping the pace of the game going. In general, I have found that some things take a lot longer, and others are much quicker in online play. You just have to focus on the parts that end up taking the most time, and see what you can do to speed things up. Oftentimes, you can work with your players to work around problem areas to keep things moving and have fun. Cheers, JPG

Battlegrounds: RPG Edition (1)

heruca (993063) | about 8 years ago | (#15842408)

As the developer of Battlegrounds ( [] ), I'm a bit biased, but I suggest you give the free downloadable demo a try. It works on Windows and Mac OS X, is easy to learn and use, well-documented, and supports game play in any genre, with any RPG rules system.

One of the many nice features is the dynamic Fog of War, which automatically reveals the map to the players based on the light sources present (candles, torches, spells, etc.) and takes into account special vision types (like Dark Vision and Low Light Vision).

Battlegrounds isn't just for online games, either. You can use it with a projector or TV to replace the traditional plastic battlemat in a face-to-face game session, or even use it to illustrate battles in a play-by-post or play-by-email game.

Note, however, that Battlegrounds doesn't currently offer videocam support (although I suppose you could have a video chat app running simultaneously), and that audio chat is left to third-party programs like Skype or Ventrillo. This has the advantage that, should the virtual tabletop crash, it's easier to get the game going again because you've still got a means to communicate to your players. Inversely, if something interferes with the voice chat, you can use Battlegrounds' built-in text chat to troubleshoot the issue.

Lastly, even if Battlegrounds isn't for you, the "Links & Resources" page on my site ( [] ) lists all the online virtual tabletop applications, both commercial and free. It should prove invaluable for anyone that wants to compare the various programs available.

Re:Battlegrounds: RPG Edition (1)

BigCheese (47608) | about 8 years ago | (#15863262)

Battlegrounds looks great. Thanks for making a OS X client.

So many games, so little time.

Roll your own? (1)

Random Feature (84958) | about 8 years ago | (#15842601)

Really, that's what I did. When the GM needed something to reconnect with players far away, I built him an integrated chat system to go with the website that already managed characters, the world, etc...

I looked at some of the options out there, but everything was either a fat client (we didn't want that) or didn't have what we wanted. The GM has one set of screens that show him stats (AC, HP - current and max, init rolls, save/abil checks) and let him control combat. Chat and private messages are included, and we use a web cam so the remote guys can zoom in on any tacticals the GM needs to draw (he draws behind him on gridded dry erase panels you can get from Office Depot). The sessions are logged and can be searched from the world's online web site.

We use either Skype or TeamSpeak, depending on what the lag is on any given night. Some nights neither is optimal, but then we drop into chat mode and all is well. We've gamed all remote and of late combine some table-top players with remote players. Works just dandy for us.

We have noticed that online moves slower in general, but if that's your only option to include guys that don't get to game otherwise, well... you can move a little slower.

So if you can, roll your own... you'll be happier with the results.

OpenRPG (1)

Deternal (239896) | about 8 years ago | (#15842636)

I always wanted to try this, but never had a chance to.

Seems like an ideal solutions to your problem tho: []

Heres the short featurelist:
Miniature Map: Simulate combat with a layered, web base, miniature map. Load any image off the web! Map features include: hex or square adjustable overlay grid, background images, z-order, facing, labels, free hand drawing, tape measure, and more.

Game Tree: A highly customizable data organizer that allows for the creating of custom made characters sheets and GM aids. A plug in architecture that allows for openrpg add-ons!

Chat: A full featured chat system that allows embed HTML. Embed color, tables, images, and links!

Die Engine:A full feature die engine that contains many of the common die roll options and a plug in architecture that allows for the development of game specific rollers.

Game Servers: Run your own dedicated game server.

This doesnt help you with voice and video, but I'd suppose ekiga/netmeeting etc. could solve that.

Or you could roll your own.... (1)

avronius (689343) | about 8 years ago | (#15843007)

You know, if you have a little time on your hands, you could:

1. Throw together a database framework for characters, monsters, rules, etc.
      characters have blah characteristics
            (include a history for audit purposes)
      monsters have blah characteristics
            (include history of monster spawning / random encounters, etc.)
      rules are blah
      DOCUMENT how to add more characters, more monsters, or revise rules
2. Define a method of creating a map (to allow more than just the starter map) in the database framework
      random encounters
      DOCUMENT how to add more maps, so that future DM's will actually use the product
2. Write a web interface in to allow you to see a map (or portions of it) with a large "you are here", allow you to see some information about the other players, etc. It could include a history of the last 10 moves for each character. Allow for irc and irc history.
3. Recommend a voice chat app to go with it
4. Profit!

Re:Or you could roll your own.... (1)

avronius (689343) | about 8 years ago | (#15843022)

That should have read:

2. Write a web interface with [insert your favourite CGI programming utility here - I recommend perl] to allow you to see a map...

E-mail (1)

magisterx (865326) | about 8 years ago | (#15843227)

It does not sound like it is what you want, but I have been participating in and running games based on e-mail for over a decade. Combat tends to get bogged down, but our answer is normally to abbreviate combat to each player sending their general strategy and then the GM handling the fine details. For games that are driven more by storytelling then dice rolls, it works beautifully and does not require everyone to be on at the same time, though we have often supplemented with IRC.

Got Macs? iChat AV works great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15844582)

My GM and I have been gaming across a couple-hundred mile gulf for several years using iChat on OSX. The resolution, the lack of lag, etc have been great. We're generally doing 1 on 1 gaming, but now that I have the Macbook Pro, I can host a multiuser session -- although not as many as 12. We may have to look into something like battleground to run concurrently, but thusfar we've gotten by with the occasional emailed PDF handout (usually we'll email before the session, and then say "open handout #1" or whatever when we reach that point of the game. Sometimes, though, we've exchanged handouts in-game and it worked all right.

Anyway, we thought it most important to get that level of human interaction. For playing all the different roles and the nuances of character interaction and description, I wouldn't trade that for a text window beside a virtual whiteboard.

YumiChat (1)

jdubois79 (227349) | about 8 years ago | (#15844933)

I was in a similar prediciment a couple of years ago when I moved abroad. There were no English speaking gamers in my area, and so I resigned myself to gaming online with my friends.

After trying voice, we realized that getting everyone to talk in turn, and notice who was saying what was a major pain, and switched around through various chat/whiteboard systems.

I've tried OpenRPG (not very user friendly) ScreenMonkey (very nice, but the flashing screen refreshes drove my players batty) and FantasyGrounds (gorgeous system, but expensive and only does D20).

Eventually I just gave up and decided to write my own system. I wrote a 1 meg client with a PHP telnet server for the GM. It supported mapping, whiteboard drawing, player actions, customizable backgrounds, player colors, pre-prepared icons and character sheets.

As soon as I finished writing it, all my friends got too busy to game anymore.

I think I've used it once.

If you find a use for it, check it out at []
It doesn't even require an install.

Re:YumiChat (1)

heruca (993063) | about 8 years ago | (#15847617)

Cool! I've added your app to my list of virtual tabletop software.

Sorry to hear you only used it once.

More ideas on my webpage (1)

jiawen (693693) | about 8 years ago | (#15858012)

Most of the good apps have already been mentioned, and this thread is already days old, but you might still want to check out my webpage [] for other ideas.

RPTools (1)

tcroft (994421) | about 8 years ago | (#15880282)

You might also check out Role Playing Tools ( [] ), it has the following tools to aid in your gaming:

MapTool - virtual tabletop
DiceTool - powerfull dice rolling
InitiativeTool - Encounter management
TokenTool - easily create avatars from any image

All tools are written in Java and are completely free. Development is very active and new feature requests are always welcome.

Re:RPTools (1)

Captain Jack Taylor (976465) | about 8 years ago | (#15890660)

I second rptools, I know the developer and he's very receptive to ideas and to new devs. I recommend it to anyone - and it's system-independent, for the most part, so you don't have to bother with d20 if you don't want to. :)
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