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April 23rd 2020 - As a result of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are currently staying home and practising safe social distancing to reduce the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, over the last few weeks, we have seen major event cancellations (No Comic-Con this year! 😭), some of our favourite TTRPG online content have gone on hiatus until lockdown restrictions are lifted and tabletop role-playing game nights have been put on hold.
While it might take some time before we can get together with friends IRL for our next table-top adventure, thanks to the internet, we can stay connected with our fellow adventurers and continue the quest in the virtual realm! In this blog, we will share some tips on how you can use online tools to keep your TTRPG campaign running while in quarantine.
Most TTRPGs require players to use facial expressions and body language throughout the game narrative and one of the best things about TTRPGs is seeing players reactions to those unexpected natural ones. While it might not feel the same as being physically at the table with your fellow players, communication apps with video and voice chat are a great tool to see the players excitement after defeating a dreaded beholder.
You don’t need some fancy high-tech equipment to play TTRPGs online, as long as you have a working internet connection, a decent webcam and microphone set up you are all good to go! Next, you will need to pick the best communications tool to stay in contact with other players.
Discord is a popular choice, not only among online gaming communities but also with TTRPG groups. You can download the software onto your desktop, use it in a web browser or download the app onto your smartphone and one of its best features is that it’s absolutely free! Discord has a range of features to help you run your online campaign, you can set up servers with multiple channels to share information and content with other players, text channels for conservations and a multitude of GIFs available to illustrate your reactions throughout the game.
To prevent any shifty dice rolling, Discord allows you to use bots that will roll dice into the group chat. Additionally, you can also set up secret text or voice channels with individual players where the GM can share those sneaky whispers without informing the other players.
Another app you can use for your TTRPG session is Zoom, a videoconferencing software that was originally aimed at organisations for team meetings. The app has boomed in popularity during the 2020 pandemic, as family have used the software to stay in contact with loved ones and clubbers hosting virtual rave nights while in lockdown.
One of the downsides of Zoom is that most of the features are behind a paywall. With the free version you can have up to 40 minutes and host up to 100 participants (really test out your GM skills!). However, if you’re willing to drop some coin, you can get some added features such as up to a 24-hour meeting limit and call recording.
One of the apps popular features is the custom background, where you can display any image or video behind you during video calls, a great way to hide those messy rooms! Users have been taking advantage of the virtual background feature with hilarious results.
One way you can take advantage of Zoom's custom background feature in your online tabletop campaign is by using a Dungeons and Dragons inspired backgrounds that will let you feel like you are right there in the tavern!
Now that you have your communication channels set up, next you will need something to help you visualize your campaign. Games like Dungeons and Dragon are designed with interactive storytelling in mind, where miniatures are used to illustrate the appearance and location of enemies and dice rolls to decide your player’s fate.
If you’re an avid miniature collector and don’t want your precious minis gathering dust during quarantine, you can still use your IRL battle map set up during your online campaign. All you need is to set up a camera on a tripod and live stream your battle map through the Discord screen sharing feature. During the session, the players can see the map set up and communicate with the GM about where to move their minis during battle sessions. This is a great way to keep a low tech set up and still get use out of your favourite minis!
If you don’t have extra equipment to utilise battle map screen sharing and want to show off your digital creation skills, then this is where virtual tabletops come in. Virtual tabletops simulate the tabletop gaming experience with character sheets that help you work out your ability scores, tools to create custom maps and keep track of combat initiative.
One of the most popular virtual tabletops on the market is Roll20, a free TTRPG software you can use right in your browser on your computer or on your smartphone. The award-winning virtual tabletop is incredibly user friendly and includes a wide range of features to enhance your virtual tabletop gaming experience, such as map building, lighting and a dice tool that roll 3D dice right onto the play mat.
Some of the toolsets are available for free on Roll20 which help you design your table-top campaign, however, if you sign up for a subscription you can get more added features such as custom character sheets and increased upload storage. With Roll20 you can upload your own custom model maps, character icons and music tracks to set the scene, allowing you to continue your homebrew campaign online.
If you are currently not part of a TTRPG group, but you would like to give games like D&D a try, Roll20 allows you to find groups and become part of random campaigns with other players.
If you are stuck for campaign ideas, Roll20 also has a wide range of compendiums available at a touch of a button. Some sourcebooks available on Roll20 include Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, Pathfinder 2nd edition and horror role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, all of which are chock full on information on how to play TTRPGs with game rules, items, spells and monster information!
If you would like more information on how to play D&D online and how to use Roll20 check out this awesome video from Hollow Tale on YouTube:
Have you been playing TTRPGs online during lockdown? What digital tools have you been using? Tell us in the comments and help out newbie players! We hope you are staying safe and looking after yourselves and your loved ones during these crazy times, we’ll check in again soon! 😊