Finding a good local RPG group can be a daunting task. Organizing a time and a good meeting location can be even more difficult. If you’re like me, all my favorite RPG buddies are spread across the west coast making it impossible for a good table top adventure. But that hasn’t prevented us from meeting every week for an awesome Pathfinder adventure!
Playing tabletop RPG games over the internet has come a long, long way in the past few years. With virtual tabletop programs like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, it’s easier than ever to organize an online game with friends. Here’s how the crew at DGC gets their Pathfinder and DND fix every week.
You really need nothing more than your computer and a comfy chair to play online but I recommend a few other expenses to enhance your experience. Although all virtual tabletop systems have a text based chat system, voice communication allows greater interaction amongst the players and brings your adventure to life. With that being said, I highly recommend all the players in your group invest in a decent microphone. Although its not necessary, players should also use headphones to prevent ruining the chat with feedback from your speakers. Further down this article, I have a few recommendations for communication software.
Although that’s really all you need to get started, our group likes to take the experience one step further. Each member of our group has invested in a webcam and utilize video conferencing software to virtually put everyone in the same room. This may be totally unnecessary but we’ve found this is as close as we can get to a true tabletop gaming experience. Plus its fun seeing everyone’s reactions and facial expressions as that Gelatinous Cube absorbs their character. You can find a decent HD webcam for under $50 these days too!
First, you need a virtual table top program (VTT) to display your game and provide basic game mechanics like dice rolls and character movement. There are several VTT programs available online but I’m going to discuss the two that I consider to be the best option for your game.
In my opinion, Fantasy Grounds is hands down the best VTT program available right now for Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons and several other RPG game systems. Unfortunately, FG is not entirely free and will require either a straight $39.00 purchase, or players can purchase a monthly subscription for $3.99 a month. You can pick up a 30 day demo at the Fantasy Grounds Website before purchasing, so you can try it out before committing your precious dinero!
Fantasy Grounds has a robust system that automates most game features that tend to grind your game to a halt. DM’s can drag & drop encounters directly onto the map. Battles are easily resolved with the turn manager and damage is automatically applied to PC’s and monsters, simply by rolling the dice. There are a million other features that I could prattle on about but you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
I was at first intimidated about learning the Fantasy Grounds system after using the Roll20 VTT. However, after watching one YouTube tutorial and playing my first game, I found FG to be even simpler to use than Roll20. And most importantly, as a DM I found that FG allows me to easily cut/paste directly from my Pathfinder module, making setup a breeze.
Oh, and did I mention Fantasy Grounds is available on Steam?
Our group originally began playing on the browser based Roll20 VTT system at http://roll20.net. Although there is a subcription feature for some advanced features, everything you need to run your RPG is completely free! Roll20 has a large, friendly community and a huge variety of player made scripts to automate many actions of your game. Although Roll20 may not be as pretty, it does have some very cool features that Fantasy Grounds does not.
Our favorite feature is voice and video conferencing. Players can enable a function that replaces their avatar with their webcam feed as well as a voice activated communication system. We love this feature so much that our group still logs into Roll20 to use the video feature while we play on the Fantasy Grounds system. You hear that Fantasy Grounds?!!! Roll20 also allows us to broadcast custom background music to the players!
There are many options out there for voice communications and some are absolutely free! Many groups use Skype or Google Hangouts, the latter of which has the ability to display video of the entire group. TeamSpeak and Ventrilo are great commercial voice servers, but come at a hefty price. Our group has recently switched to Discord, a new voice server that is completely FREE! What we love about Discord is that players can drag/drop pictures onto the interface as well as text chat.
Whatever you choose for voice communication is completely up to your groups tastes. Although we recommend Discord, one of the other options may better suit your group. Try them all out and see what works!
There you have it. Now its time to round up your old DnD buddies and organize some good old RPG adventures from the comfort of your own living room! If you need help finding a group, both Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds have decent LFG threads in their forums. Also, be sure to check back in our RPG forums. I will be posting links to our favorite RPG resources!