The Online GM: Part 2

So, after the delay with my lack of Net access and the news, I’m back on track for the second part of my look at Online GMing. Last time, I was looking at logistics and differences in gameplay itself, this week it’s the actual tools that are used for running the game.

Now, I know there are quite a number of tools that I haven’t mentioned, feel free to give them a heads up in the comments but I’m going from my own experiences.

Setting the Scene

Both Star Wars Saga and Dungeons & Dragons 4E rely heavily on the use of miniatures and maps to get the full experience and rewards out of the combat system, and this is because so much relies on positioning and relationships with others compared to yourself. No wonder I confused the miniatures and maps for board games in the early days.

This is doubly true online, as it serves to put everyone on the same page. At the table you can answer quick questions about the terrain and any features that the players want to know about that you wish to tell them at that particular time. The best way to deal with that online is either from detailed description, or a detailed map. And the latter can clear up any confusion.

A great map can also give a level of detail and atmosphere to a game that can’t really be gotten with tiles unless you are willing to print your map or use with a projector, for instance. This is another reason for my delays, actually, because I’ve just been having so much fun with Maptool. Alternately, a detailed map can give the atmosphere that is so easy to convey at the table, and given that online games are drawn out over a much longer period, this is rather important.

Though I wish it had not taken so long for me to work out how to do basic things.

Maptool, of course, can be integrated into token tool though there are other ways of marking players and NPCs.

On Dice

The mechanics of the game and the clear understood rules exterior to the GM’s whims are what make Play by Post games different from freeform roleplaying. And this means you either need an independent dice roller, or trust the GM to roll for you.

I prefer the former rather than the latter as it means everything is on the table, so to speak. For example, in my own game I am running right now, I make all rolls in the open thanks to the Giant in the Playground Forum dice roller. Though this means that I have to make as many as five forum posts in a row to get aorund the anti-cheating mechanism, and heaven help me if the forums are down for maintenance which usually happens to be right when I want to update encounters.

In other forums, like on Enworld, we were reliant on Invisible Castle, which is not always reliable. I can recall quite a few times during the game I was in when I had to ask the DM to roll for me, sometimes it was because I could not get online but most of the time it was because Invisible Castle was down. I understand that Enworld has it’s own diceroller now, but it started after I stopped playing there.

On the whole, I rather enjoy online roleplaying and aside from a few issues with the tools my main frustrations have been from an entirely player perspective. Since this post was drafted, I have now lost 50% of the gaming group and have had to go into recruiting mode again.

Such is life.


~ by katanageldar on November 16, 2010.

One Response to “The Online GM: Part 2”

  1. Hi,

    I’ve been DM’ing 4th Ed with D20Pro ( for 6 sessions now and having a blast!
    We have a “nice man cave” at my friend’s house with projector
    Photos here 😦

    I set up maps for my encounters, but also for regional maps and NPC/Rumors/Handout “maps” (images copy/pasted on a blank image) which helps alot when multiple elements are presented

    The software has “fog of war” on the maps, which i reveal as needed (encounter, regional and npc’s/rumors/handouts)

    Players play the old-fashion way with pen/paper for powers and hp. But i use everything in the software for the foes.

    My players roll their attacks/skills, and the software show me the defense much better than trying to look them up on the monster sheet. Then i can choose if the attack hits or not even if the internal roller shows a different score. For the foes, i use the internal roller for faster turns, since i usually have more monsters than players and this would bog down the combat when i had to calculate attacks/damages for each one. Now i just click and choose the attack, the recipient of the attack and go! Then i decide if it hits or not and dmg is already calculated and i can modify if need be.

    We even track DPS (damage done during the session) for our Strikers and attacks/damage/heals for our Defender/Leaders with the Log feature.

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