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Webcam Pathfinder

Whereas many people stay close with their college friends, I’ve stayed close with my high school friends.  This may be due to the fact that many of us didn’t go the traditional 4 year college route, but the people I played D&D with in high school and I still talk today, even if I’m on the other side of the country from them.

A couple of years ago, we decided to try to use all of the fancy technology we have access to now to try me remoting in for role playing again.  It failed miserably, but not because of the setup.  Recently, a smaller group of friends and I have started a Pathfinder game with me joining via webcam.  Are we doomed to the same fate?

As I said, none of us really think that the previous attempt failed because of the technology or the situation, we had other factors do us in.

Let’s go over our initial setup.  I had a webcam so they could see me.  They had a laptop that sat at the table and displayed me and showed me the table.  We used Skype to chat.  We also used OpenRPG to do my rolling.

This group hadn’t roleplayed together in a while so when the band started getting back together, everyone was invited.  Our core group was 5-6 people.  We each had other RPG friends and all those groups mixed a lot, so there were maybe 15 people in our relatively close circle.  As we played, more and more people started getting invited.  By the time there were 10+ people it got out of hand.  That number is hard enough in a normal situation, but when you can’t control where you look or what you hear or how loud you are, it’s impossible.  People couldn’t hear me and things got off track quickly.

Also, some of the disparate acquaintances didn’t get along very well, which did not help anything.

We also were trying out the then new, D&D 4th edition.  One might think that this is a problem because of all the combat, but when I was pointed at the battle mat, it wasn’t too hard to tell people what I wanted to do.  The real problem was people hating the system.  I actually really like it because it doesn’t stop you from role playing and it gives you more interesting things to do in combat.  I always try to make 4th ed references in any game I play because it gets some good fake rage going, like trying to use my second wind, asking if something uses up a healing surge or “using” my utility powers.  Not loving the system and the constant bickering about it made things get off track even more.  When they get off track, it’s hard for the remote person.

Eventually I stopped attending and the game died anyway.

But now, everything’s different.  At lease it seems that way.

We kept the group down to a proper size, DM and 5 players.  I didn’t know one of the guys, but the rest of us are all from our old core group.  People are conscious of my handicap and try to help.

Instead of being on a laptop, I’m on a tv screen.  Half the screen is me, the other half is whatever the DM is showing, usually a map.  If I have to see something, he’ll send me the file, tell me where to look and trust that I’m not cheating, because why cheat in an RPG?  The guys say that I’m basically life size, which helps and I’m loud enough and with the speakers, people can hear me from anywhere, not just right next to me.

I no longer bother with rolling on OpenRPG, I just tell them.  With the amount of crappy rolls I make, everyone trusts me.

We are also playing Pathfinder, which people seem to like.  I don’t really care one way or the other.  I’m still trying to figure out if all the discussion we keep having is because it’s overly complicated or we’re just getting used to it.  It does seem excessive to me.  But it seems to be going well.

As an odd note, we decided to try using a hex battle mat and altering spells and things to use that just to see how it works.  It’s not bad.  Flanking seems harder as a rogue but otherwise just different.

When we are in combat, they move my webcam to “combat view”, pointed at the mat and I just tell people where I want to go.  It’s pretty easy.  They put colored washers on the bases of the miniatures we use for our characters so I can pick them out.  Otherwise they’re hard to distinguish.

Speaking of the camera, they keep it on a tripod.  We try to keep it near the TV so that when people talk at the TV, they’re looking at me.  A couple of times, we had to have it somewhere else, and it was a little confusing for me.

All in all, it’s going really well.

I backed the Realm Works Kickstarter, so it’ll be interesting to see if that will be of any use to us.

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    • Jim Hansen
    • July 11th, 2013

    Sounds like you have a good system worked out. I think the key is for everyone to be able to see and clearly hear everyone else without lag.

    Have you ever had a successful campaign where everyone is at a different location? I tried twice and it just never clicked, although we were using Ventrillo without any webcams. There is a lot of good software available, but it’s hard to get the same interaction and camaraderie online. It’s especially bad if you have any delay in the audio.

    Also, we’re in agreement about 4th edition. I think it’s very well balanced and allows for plenty of role playing, but most other people seem to trash it. I actually played a campaign from level 1 to 30 (over the course of almost 4 years). I thought it still played amazingly well at high levels. In past editions, once you got into the double digits the game started to explode.

      • EclecticGamer
      • July 11th, 2013

      We’ve never tried with multiple people remotely, though I would suggest everyone with webcams and using something like Google Hangouts, where it auto focuses on the people who are talking. Using something like OpenRPG would be a must for that as well I would think.

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