Monday, July 12, 2010

On Online Tabletop RPGs

There are things I really like about playing in tabletop RPGs online.  I'm not the kind of person who *needs* to roll physical dice, and so I like that added convenience of not having to waste time with digging around to find the third d10.  I also like that it's easier to separate roleplaying and table talk - in text, it's very easy to demarcate character speech and player speech (although, this reminds me that, the next time I have a reason to play a face-to-face campaign, I need to make up and use a different voice for my character other than my normal speaking voice, to accomplish the same thing).  I think people are also willing to take more risks, with typed text, and, as such, get more into character.  Acting a part is hard, but if you reduce the required input to text only, I think people are more willing to push the envelope.  And, of course, you have a clear record of what was said, what was done, and what happened, which is useful for a plethora of reasons.

That said, there are, of course, a number of problems inherent in online tabletop gaming that like to accompany all of its wonderful advantages and stab you in the back when you look away.  Imagine trying to play a sit-down tabletop RPG with every player in possession of a laptop, iPod, phone, or other electronic accessory.  All the time.  There is a reason that I greatly dislike it when players bring such items to face-to-face games, and try to discourage them from doing so.  The distractability factor for players is simply too high.  During whatever element of gameplay a player does not find interesting, he or she is likely to tune out - but this is very problematic later, when details from that period of time become important.

"NO! We were allied with those (hob)goblins!"*

(A completely out-of-context Order of the Stick panel!  Used for an unrelated joke!)

Access to electronics is an unavoidable part of gaming online, and though it isn't insurmountable, it certainly causes problems.  It also has a kind of sickening synergy with the reduced rate of conversation in online games - few people can type as quickly as they can speak - and so there may be (perfectly reasonable) pauses in an online game.  Added lulls combined with easy access distractions can mean trouble, even in a situation where the DM hasn't made any mistakes.

We're about to have a campaign run with both text and voice-chat, though.  I'm very curious to see how that will go.  The distraction factor is still present, but this might be mitigated by the slighlty faster clip of gameplay (ideally).


*He knows.  He just doesn't care.

1 comment:

  1. Here's hoping to the last part, anyway *clink*