Friday, October 7, 2011

Tabletop Gaming over the Internet: Why and Why Not

Tabletop Gaming over the Internet: Why and Why Not

This is part I of a IV part series on the basics of tabletop gaming over the internet.

Since you're reading this I'm assuming you have an internet connection. Unless by some bizarre happenstance someone has printed out this blog and you're reading a dead tree edition. I'm also assuming you have some interest in roleplaying games. Perhaps you play RPGs over the internet. If so, you can get lost as this series isn't for you. Okay that's a lie. This blog series is meant to be a primer for people looking to start playing RPGs over the internet but it should provide some insight for long time internet roleplayers as well.

First off I want to address the whys and why nots of RPing over the internets. Starting with why nots because I like getting bad news first. That way the good news comes as a happy ending, assuming the bad news isn't just worse news in disguise. But enough dwadling, on to the why nots!

1. Gaming over the internet is unreliable
Unlike video gaming over the internet where you can engage in pickup games with total strangers over matchmaking services, you're relying on the same set of people to show up at the same set time each session. In my real life group we all have each other's phone numbers. We call if someone is late and didn't let us know they weren't showing tihs week. Not so on the internet. In many cases you'll be lucky to know the real names of the people you're playing with and maybe they'll give you an email address or chat id. Because of this anonymity it's much easier care less about missing a session. This goes extra for groups that are just starting. Real life happens and next thing you know you're several players short of a functional group.

2. RPing over the internet takes longer.
RPing over the internet takes longer for several reasons. Most people talk faster than they type and listen faster than they read. Live audio moves faster than typing in a chat window but is still slower than face to face converstation. People get up from their computers for any number of reasons. These reasons are usually more numerous than at a live game table. When they return they need to either read back in chat or be brought up to speed on the conversation. Each individual instance may only take a few moments longer than if you were playing in real life, but over the course of an entire session it adds up. The end result is less time spent RPing. As a rule of thumb I find that online sessions accomplish about 2/3rds the amount of their real life counterparts

At this point you're probably wondering why someone would even bother with tabletop RPing over the internet if there are big pitfalls. The good news is the pitfalls can be overcome. I'll cover those in part II. Which brings us to the inspiration to RP over the internet. The whys

1. Game group breaking up
Real life happens. People move out of city, out of state, out of country. Your long time or college or high school gaming buddies are scattering to the four winds for job, romance, or more schooling. Real life gaming is now out of the question. Enter the internet. You can keep your gaming group alive in a different medium as long as everyone's schedule can accomodate it. It will take work to get used to the new technology but it is absolutely worth it to keep those gaming connections.

2. Can't find a real life group
Perhaps RPing isn't big in your location. Perhaps your location isn't big enough to have a thriving game community. Perhaps you live in Alaska in a town of 30, counting the local pets. Internet to the rescue! The internet as a collective has a larger pool of RPers than even big cities. The larger pool means not only an easier time starting games but an easier time finding games. Finding people who can game when you can game is a huge advantage if you don't have time to set aside an entire weekend day every week. This also applies to the amount of gaming you can do. I run two games, one on wednesday evening, one on saturday evening, and play on another saturday morning. The evening games are on the internet and only run for ~3 hours a session. Without the internet I wouldn't be able to have this much gaming.

3. Adventurous/Niche RPers
RPers on the internet have a wealth of information available at their fingertips. Because of this they are more informed about systems that aren't D&D. This knowledege can make them more willing to try new systems. You can also find fans of niche systems or RP styles that don't exist in your local area. Tired of running D&D dungeon crawls but all the local RPers don't want to change? The internet has lots of RPers who share your desire! Found a new system and your group doesn't want to try it? There's people out there on the internet who do!

Good grief that got long winded. To explain, no there is to much. To sum up, you should join us crazy RPers on the internet. You can find the time! Tune in Monday for part II of this blog series


  1. Thanks for the post. I look forward to some sage advice for helping me get my fix over the internet. The cravings aren't as bad as they were now that I've started a gaming group, but 2 or 3 face to faces a month isn't enough.

  2. On the internet, the anonymity also allows you to try more experimental or wilder idea. You can also, if you play by text chat, have a more RP-heavy and literary game than you can by face to face. You won't feel weird narrating a long tolkien-esque speech or something.

  3. John: I'm glad this series is going to be a help to you. That was the whole point behind it. That and getting all my thoughts on the subject in one place.

    Dennis: That's a great point. Thanks for bringing it up. I had forgotten about the freeing aspect of anonymity. Though I was pretty much out of space for it by the time I was done.

  4. Yeah another advantage is that I can watch the Avs game and also play DnD at the same time! Hahaha.

    Oh and blast my awesome metal music without annoying all of you. I'm sure you appreciate that :P

  5. Yes, there are those bonuses as well. :P