Adventures in Cyberspace

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Yes, “Adventures in Cyberspace” really is the title of this blog — even though it is awkwardly holding on to the nineties. The title is actually the subject of a mail I sent to my players in the Ilfreann campaign. In this mail I notified them that the campaign was moving to online voice chat for the time being.

I have been running campaigns for over a decade now. But despite, or maybe because of, my tech-heavy background and occupation I am very much a tabletop player — I have never in all those years hosted (or even played) in a single online voice chat.

However, the current state of the world has forced my hand. The Ilfreann campaign has gone online! In this post I look back at my first online session, highlight what worked for me, what didn’t work, and what I’ll be doing differently in the next one.

Setup & Gear Due to the short notice and the lack of cams for several players, we opted for a voice-only session. Being privacy aware, we self-host Mumble, instead of having a third party involved.

We decided to maintain the normal times we play at, and as usual people started arriving some time before the session officially started. Some to fiddle with their mumble settings, other just for the pre-game banter.

During play With everyone settled and set up we started our session. Having practically zero experience I suggested we simply proceed as normal. Any dice rolls were simply to be rolled by whomever would normally roll them at the table — we did not feel that a dice roller would be necessary, it isn’t as if we are looking closely at each other’s rolls when we are playing at the table.

I am happy to say that the session went off without major problems. We had a small hickup due to unfortunate timing from my side (me being the dungeon master): the party ended up on the Astral Plane, and this lead to the players having to visualize a rather convoluted three-dimensional situation.

The hickup occured because they had to do that visualization without seeing me energetically waving my hands about to help describe it. I’ll admit it right now: I was actually waving my arms about sitting alone at my computer. It didn’t help… Eventually, I caught on to the fact that my cough superb description cough wasn’t working, and we did a short rewind of some actions after a clarifying redescription.

What worked Because we normally bake and share pizza’s during our game session some people were still on “dungeons and dragons food time” and actually had to interrupt the game to grab and slice a pizza. This really gave the online session that “normal session” vibe!

The pizza-grabbing and toilet-visiting did lead to a new table-rule being instated: “People that left the ‘table’ had to move themselves from the [Ilfreann Session] channel to the [Be Right Back Bathroom] channel.” Since we couldn’t actually see someone walk away due to the lack of visuals, this was the next best thing we could do. It worked well.

What did not work Because we did not have video feeds we were missing a lot of non-verbal clues. So much so that we had several moments in the session were everyone was waiting for everyone else to say something — letting the silence stretching out until someone felt compelled to jump in.

The second thing that some of us noted is that it is more difficult to keep track of what was going on. I am not sure if this has to do with the lack of visual information, or simply the overall lack of something to focus on while playing. I myself experienced a few moments that I zoned out, where normally I would focus on the player currently taking action.

Adjustments & Finishing up For the next session, I will be trying to see if I can come up with something that offers a little more presence to the voice chat — maybe something that players can put on their screen. Since I plan on extending the online play to the other campaigns I run, I have just made the Ilfreann players my “online voice chat guinea pigs.”

As usual, this week’s changelog is available for you to look through. It is a little shorter due to us working on the Chat feature, and an interesting bit of polish for the World of Darkness system.