Monday, October 10, 2011

Tabletop Gaming over the Internet: Getting Started

Note: This is the second part in a 4 part series about RPGing over the internet. You can read part 1 here.

I'm assume that since you're still here reading that you've decided to give RPing over the internet a try. Or you're looking for ideas to improve your online RPing. Or you're just here for the posters. If you're in the third group you can stop reading right now. I'm not going to make any comments about the poster. If you're going to RP online you need a place to start. The first thing you need to start is a group. No group, no game. In today's post I'm going to cover finding, building, and then keeping a group on the internet. So where does one find a group on the internet? Well I'm glad you asked.

1. RPG related Forums
There are a whole host of RPG related forums out on the internet. Many of them have places where you can find other players who want to play the same RPGs that you do. These places make it easy to jump in feet first to games with people on the internet. Here's a short list of RPG related forums along with my recommendations about their suitability for finding players and a group. Homepage for Dungeons and Dragons. I'm only including this one because I know people will ask. It's not a good place to find players for online games. There are no forums specific to finding players and the only locator option directs you to playing D&D Encounters. EN World Forums. A robust, highly populated forum for RPGs. The forum includes play-by-post subforums along with a gamers seeking gamers subforum where you can recruit or be recruited for a variety of online gaming mediums. Large forum, but not focused on online play. Mythweaver forums. A friendly community specifically aimed at connecting people to play RPGs over the internet. You can browse the recruitment forum or search for games based off system and/or medium of play. Smaller than others, but entirely game focused which makes up for the smaller numbers Forums for the Order of the Stick comic. Also home to a fairly lively community of people who play RPGs online. The forum includes play-by-post subforums along with a player recruitment subforum where you can recruit or be recruited for a variety of online gaming mediums. Forum for Maptools (a tool I'll cover in the next installment). They have a looking for group forum specifically for people looking to play RPGs using Maptools. Good if you're looking for a maptools game. Forum for OpenRPG (a tool I'll cover in the next installment). They have a looking for group forum specifically for people looking to play RPGs using OpenRPG.

2. Chatrooms
Many of the previously mentioned forums have chat rooms. Most of them exist on IRC (internet chat rely) though some use other mediums. I'm not going to delve into the mechanics of IRC here as there are lots of better written guides on the internet that you can find with a simple search for "IRC". Chatrooms differ slightly from forums in their pace and their lack of enforcement about off topic discussions.

Let's talk about building a group now that you know where the RPers are on the internet. This part is specifically aimed at DMs and GMs, but you can be a group builder and organizer even if you aren't the one DMing or GMing every week.

1. Building the Core
I have a set of 2-4 players in each of my online groups that I consider to be the "core". These are the people that reliably show up session after session(obviously no one has perfect attendance). These are the people who let me know in advance when they can't make a session (provided they have warning themselves). These are the people that play well together and with others. These are the people that follow you when you switch campaigns. Note that your "core" can change over time. So how do you get your core? Become a member of the community. Pick a forum or chatroom and become a member. I don't mean just signing up for an account. I mean post in threads other than recruitment and the games you're in. Ask to watch games you're not in to get a feel for how the community plays. The more you participate the more you will be able to identify the other members of the community who would be a good fit for your "core" and the more they can identify you. It also lets you look for non-"core" players to fill out the ranks. When I run a RPG online I try to recruit the maximum number of players I can handle (around 7 or 8 depending on system) so when someone inevitably has to miss a session the game doesn't have to be cancelled(I run if at least 3 players show up).

2. Retaining the Core
So you have your "core" and you want to keep playing with these people for years. How do you keep them coming back? Several ways. Be consistent, don't change your session day or time mid-campaign or at campaign switch unless there is a significant consensus among your "core". Find a groove. Your "core" should all enjoy a similar playstyle. You need to find that and provide it. You can experiment, but make incremental changes and watch the reaction from your "core". Uninvite players who don't fit, especially if they're not part of the "core". It may sound rough but it's better to have a great group of 4 players than a group of 5 with 1 player whose playstyle conflicts heavily with the rest of the group. Give them options. When I end a campaign I take a week or two off and put together 3-5 campaign proposals for what I'd like to run, then have my "core" rank their choices.

I've gone over where to find players willing to participate in tabletop gaming over the internet, how to assemble a "core" group of players, and how to retain that same "core" of players. Hopefully this gives you a good start into the world of tabletop gaming over the internet. Next time I'll be talking about the tools you can use to facilitate tabletop gaming over the internet.

Art from here
LooneyDM out

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