Friday, 10 April 2020

Coping with COVID-19: Online Gaming - How Low (Fi) Can I Go?

Some people call it a "Shelter in Place" others " Self Isolation" but we all know it as "Lockdown".

Whilst many might accuse us roleplayers as being sad loners, nothing could be further from the truth.  The vast majority of games need to be played with at least 2 people and most RPGs don't function without 3 or more.  That puts us roleplayers in a dangerous position.

Alternatives to Illegal Assemby

So you want to continue your normal (insert day of the week) roleplay session and still want to stay safe and legal?  What are your options?

You could sign up to the usual suspects, the Benicio del Toro of Roll20 or the Gabriel Byrne that is Fantasy Grounds.  Playing D&D? Then you probably already use D&D Beyond.  There are other smaller players such as Astral Tabletop, Beyond Tabletop, Tabletopia or Tabletop Simulator.  All of these services are more than up to the task, but the question is are you?

In my experience these offerings don't replicate the sitting around the table experience and come with an Everest of a learning curve.  Pre-game setup is also arduous just for simple encounters and the nice things typically sit behind a subscription paywall.

Do it for Free

The thing is most of us, thanks to corporate homeworking,  already have the necessary kit at our fingertips.  Video calling software such as Whattsapp, Google Hangouts, Facetime and Skype can all manage group video calls. The chat and game streaming services such as Discord and Twitch are probably two of the easiest services to use and are available across the spectrum of devices from iphone to laptop.

You will need to do some initial trials to see what works best for you in your situation but the last three weeks has seen my group using a combination of Twitch / Discord for the video & chat and a second service such as skype for the audio.

Virtual Game Setup for Games Masters

The setup for a GM is trivial.  You already have all the maps, minis, rulebooks and handouts that you use in your regular game all you need is:

low-fi online GM setup

  1. A mobile device (or preferably 2) - capable of being used as a video camera and don't forget the charger(s), you are going to be on a video call for a couple of hours.  If you are using a second device make sure that you mute the microphone on this one so it is only capturing the video.

  2. Wi-fi - don't blame me if you rack up a huge data bill hosting your game.  Make sure that you connect your device(s) to your wi-fi.

  3. A tripod or selfie stick - to get that high level over head view of the battlemap.  If your location allows position it on a hig shelf with a good view of the map.

  4. A headset on a second device - a headset is essential to cut down on any unwanted noise from appliances and feedback from speakers.  Using a second device logged into a different account or a different service to handle the audio is ideal.
  5. An arms length indication device - AKA a stick!! The more tech obsessed (and cat lovers) will no doubt possess a laser pointer which is a suitable alternative.

Set Up For Players 

The setup for players is even more trivial and just requires you to have a mobile device and a headset.

Add-Ons and Resources

Here is a list of services which you might find useful to enhance your sessions.
  • Dice Logger - free dice roller service which creates a read only log of every roll you can share with your DM or vice versa.
  • Sketchup - you can quickly create 3d illustrations of rooms in your scenario using the warehouse of free 3d objects.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Plastichunter - Adventures in the 3D Printing Zone

Every GM should have one.  They are cheap to buy and run, they are readily available, don't take up a lot of space but can literally add an extra dimension to your games.

What am I talking about?  3D Printers of course.  I've owned one for a couple of years and found a limitless amount of things to print and here are just a few ways they can help to bring that extra something to your games.

From large to small there are plenty of great models which can be downloaded for free from 3D warehouses such as Thingiverse, Pinshape, MyMiniFactory etc.

Scenery Items

For those of us who still like to meet in meatspace every week, dressing your dungeon with scenic accessories is a great way to enhance your game and helps the players immerse themselves in your story.  It's much more satisfying for a player when they hide their mini behind a plastic pillar rather than a circle drawn on some lino.  Some items are functional in combat, other are just there for dramatic effect but they all make a huge difference to your game.

D&D Idol Moloch Players Handbook

D&D Demon Idol - DownloadDestroyed Colums - Download

Monster Minis

We all have a bunch of the common or garden minion miniatures (I'm looking at you orcs, goblins and skeletons) but who wants to spend a ton of cash collecting those speciality foes.  A quick search online and you are printing off your mid level minions in minutes at a fraction of the price you would normally pay.  Only need it once? No problem you've not invested that much and you can always give it to someone as a Christmas or birthday gift if you don't have the storage space.

D&D Umber Hulk D&D Beholder 3D Printed
Umber Hulk - DownloadBeholder - Download


If you are playing a long dead unsupported game and you need minis, you can always make your own.  I touched on this in a previous article, when I ran a Judge Dredd game a few years ago.  I was using the 15mm scale because the Laserburn Lawmen from Alternative Armies are just about the best simulcrum out there.  Modeling and printing vehicles and scenery items for your game is easy using free software such as sketchup and tinkercad.  You are only limited by your imagination.

Judge Dredd Hover Wagon H-Wagon

H-Wagon Homemade Judge Dredd Spinner

Gadgets and Accessories

Probably one of the most useful objects whilst being entirely frivolous at the same time are the game accessories.  Who doesn't want a cool looking Castle Grayskull Dice Tower, a dice box or even some spell templates to enhance your enjoyment.

Castle Grayskull Dice Tower D&D Spell Templates 3D Printed
Castle Grayskull Dice Tower - DownloadD&D Spell Templates - Download

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Reaper Bones: Pirate Captain Thorin Stoneheart

I, like many around the world, am on lockdown thanks to the Coronavirus outbreak.  This means that I have a lot of free time on my hands which I could use constructively but instead have chosen to catch up on my painting pile.

Captain Stoneheart is a swashbuckler of advancing years who has given up the life of the ocean waves and settled down with his Dwarven wife Wilomena to run their Waterdeep tavern "The Rudderless Clipper".  However, this is merely a cover for his real passion in life.  By night Thorin roves the streets and back alleys of Waterdeep in search of the young waifs and strays exploited by the criminal elements.  He and his wife give them bed, board and protection in exchange for their help running the tavern.

Thorin is also a member of the Company of the Corgi, a strange band of misfits who delve into the undermountain in search of fortune and glory.  "So it is!"

Thorin Stoneheart

Bones Progress 

Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 37

Related Posts:

  • Reaper Bones: The Marathon Begins - Where I paint a dozen Giant Rat

  • Reaper Bones: Kobolds, Are They Dogs or Dragons? - Where I paint a dozen kobolds.

  • Reaper Bones: A Carcase of Skeletons - Where I paint a half dozen skeletons

  • Reaper Bones: A Shuffle of Zombies - Where I paint five zombies.

  • Reaper Bones: Introducing Shaina Coppervein, Dwarven Orc Hunter - First PC mini

  • Reaper Bones: Mimic, Treasure Chest and How I re-base my Bones - Where I paint furniture

  • Reaper Bones: Fire Elemental Meets Novelty Lamp - Where I hack a mini with LEDs

  • Reaper Bones: Flaming Sphere LED Tealight Hack - Another mini LED lighting project

  • Reaper Bones: Elliwyn Heatherlark, Gnome Bard - Another PC mini

  • Reaper Bones: Horace "Action" Jackson - A Baddass disco dancing Motherfucker
  • Friday, 3 January 2020

    2020 - the Dark Future is here

    A random post on twitter reminded me that we are now living in the year of one of the greatest genres roleplaying has ever known.  Cyberpunk 2020.

    I have been a fan of the genre since discovering it in the early 80s through the literary works of Gibson, Sterling, Williams and Effinger. Visual stimulation came in the forms of films such as Bladerunner, Akira, Bubblegum Crash, Black Magic M66 and Ghost in the Shell.

    It changed the way I looked at technology and society and changed my future career choices.  I was never much of a punk but I immersed myself deeply in the dark gritty disposable future of a new breed of heroes.

    The new 20s sees the cyberpunk alive and kicking in the form of the much anticipated video game Cyberpunk 2077 and a new version of the RPG from R.Talsorian.

    Salut my friend