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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Prepping for an online game.

I find prepping for an online game (I currently use roll 20) a bit of a pain.

I pine for the days of a big binder full of notes and sketches. Unfortunately that just doesn't cut it anymore.

In an online game there is another layer between the  players and the GM , a layer that in the best cases should contain something.

The play space in an online game is a screen that everyone is going to look at, a "shared information-scape." To leave it 100% blank is doing a disservice to the players, lets face it those folks have to look at that screen for the duration of the game. (or to be honest chances are they are googling something in the background.) Still while the players are playing the  environment of an online game requires a bit different style of  presentation than handouts at the table.

My usual style is to put game relevant charts and such on the  front page. Things that we may all need for quick reference, then build maps and such on secondary pages.
I was doing that last night  getting the  action and result charts from Blood of heroes pasted in it all still look pretty bleak, but at least it's functional.

Next I started adding some makers for NPC's.
What I am shooting for is the  front page will be a big relationship map for the characters and the  NPC's. Each NPC will get an icon and  have notes written into their journal.
All of this seems pretty straight forward, except that it involves a few steps I have never had problems with during table games.
I want something more evocative than just a box with a name on it to represent the NPC's. I settled on using Military silhouettes that I found via google image search.
Such as this one.

After I found a few of these I liked I added them in and attached NPC names.  It actually looks pretty good even if finding an acceptable female  silhouette was a pain.

Now I'm looking for a good background image.

But here's the  thing, I'm spending  more time finding images and  trying to get the  look right then I am writing Notes about these NPC's and their motivations.
Even though I am kind of  "turn them loose and see what happens" kind of GM, I also know very well that creating a believable and interesting world will  allow for much more interesting things to just happen.

I was never as concerned about such things as a table GM. Sure a nice hand out is, nice. I have come to feel that getting too fancy with hand outs and such  was just a symptom of the GM saying, "Hey look what I can do !" to a captive audience. I would rather have the players play in a world I took the time to actually work on than look at my latest art project. That's a digression for another time, perhaps even another blog. (Someone else's.) the  point is I feel like playing online is constantly putting the Gm in the position of wanting to make it  look better. I watch live plays on the internet and I see some of the things other people have done with roll 20 and I'm impressed. Not sure how the hell they do it, or how much  time it takes them but I'm impressed.

I think this disconnection is a symptom of me being bad with tech. I will never be as comfortable typing into a  "journal" especially a shared journal with party information, as I would be scribbling into a comp notebook. The idea that I can  write notes and then share them with the  players or only certain players is appealing to me, and yet uncomfortable. I'm dyslexic , a terrible typist. Depending on the day jotting off a quick note to someone on roll 20 can be a real chore, because I don't want to come off looking illiterate.

As a gm nothing is  worse than having a player bust your chops over a typo in an NPC description. Not that I have thin skin, but it means any interest or involvement with that NPC the  player has just hit one more speed bump , a totally avoidable speed bump.
A the table all the world details are verbally communicated, while I jot off notes to myself. A much more comfortable process for me. On an online game platform there is a bit of an expectation that  some things at least be available for easy reference.

It's a different sort of Prep.

Does anyone out there have any thoughts about prepping for Online games Vs. Preparing for games at the table games?
Any tips, tricks or pointers.
Would you like to hurl rocks at me?

Thank you for reading and leave your questions or comments between the turtle juice covered pages of  Nintendo Power issue 33 below.

-Mark