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Old 07-03-2011, 02:53 AM   #1
gpf
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: California, USA
Default Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

Hi everyone,

I want to share an idea I had for playing RPG online: use an in-browser shared whiteboard application instead of a virtual table top application. It's like having a shared piece of paper where everyone can draw. Of course, this is just a start: these whiteboard applications usually support text chat. Sometimes voice, or even video chat. And you can upload images... So here is the recipe: collaborative whiteboard site + (hex or squre) grid overlay + free tokens + online dice roller. No need to download any programs, all you need is a web browser. And you can start simple (just chat and whiteboard) and add only the features you want. To try it out, do this:

1. Download a PNG image of an hex grid of appropriate size, and transparent background. See "Sources of Hex Grids" below.

2. Download some tokens. See "Sources of Tokens" below.

3. Go to the collaborative whiteboard site and start a new meeting (you don't even need to create an account, but then the room is public and anyone can join and mess up with your game). See "Whiteboard Websites" below.

4. (Optional: some people don't always use hex grids; no grids or square grids are "built-in") Upload the hex grid and the tokens to your whiteboard meeting. I am almost sure all such sites also allow you to upload other documents, so you can upload Characgter sheets, and other game aids.

5. (Optional: this can be done by the GM if the group agrees) Go to a dice-roller website, and create a meeting room. See "Dice-Rolling Websites" below.

6. (Optional: the whiteboard websites have text chat widgets) Setup some voice or video conferencing with whichever software you prefer (some whiteboard sites have this built-in; see Twiddla and DabblerBoard below)

7. Play!

An alternative to the above: the GM could have a webcam pointing to a table with an hex grid, miniatures and dice... Could be as simple as creating a second Skype account and having your smartphone pointing at it!

Below, a few places where you can find/download the stuff mentioned above. The list is not exhaustive, but it works for me!


Sources of Hex Grids
====================

mkhexgrid
Little program you can install to generate hex grids. Very nice, but you have to install it, it doesn't run online. Produces PNGs. http://www.nomic.net/~uckelman/mkhexgrid/

SVG Hex Grid Generator:
If you don't want to install anything, just use this page. But it only produces SVGs, and you will probably need a PNG for the hex grid overlay to work with the whiteboard site. If you have some program that converts from SVG to PNG (like Inkscape, which is free), you are done. http://axiscity.hexamon.net/users/is...sc/svg-hex.cgi

Note: both tools above can produce hex maps with coordinates.

Sources of Tokens
=================

Devin's Token's Site
Nice collection, and many free packs. http://www.immortalnights.com/tokensite/tokenpacks.html

Other
http://rpgvirtualtabletop.wikidot.com/tokens

Whiteboard Websites
===================

Twiddla
It's the only one I really played with. The interface seems the best of the ones I toyed a little bit with. Very intuitive, I did not have to read any manuals or spend time figuring out stuff. Big drawback though: I could not find a way to rotate images, so you have to figure out a way to indicate which hex you are facing (like putting another symbol in the face of the hex you are facing). It even has voice-based conferencing! No video though. http://www.twiddla.com

Other
http://www.scribblar.com/, http://www.dabbleboard.com/. Both are Flash-based (I'm not sure what Twiddla is based on...), but Dabbleboard seems to have a better interface. Might be better than Twiddla, but I haven't tried it.


Dice-Rolling Websites
=====================

rolz.org
Create or join a "Dice Room" (top right corner). Simple, and easy. You can also chat here. http://rolz.org


Final Comments
==============

Like many others here, I would like to play RPG with people that live far away from me. I tried MapTool, Battlegrounds and VASSAL for 20min to a couple of hours. It didn't work very well for me or for my friends. The solution I am poiting out above felt *a lot* simpler/lighter to me and my friends. Of course, this may or may not be true in your case. Of course, virtual table top programs do a lot more than my solution proposes... but hey, me or my group feels like the above functionality is more than enough.

Last edited by gpf; 07-03-2011 at 03:36 AM. Reason: Adding punchline to first paragraph.
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Old 07-03-2011, 04:55 AM   #2
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

Maybe just me, but I'd make a chat with good gaming commands my #1 priority. Since I don't use miniatures, a whiteboard with hex grids is way down on my wish list for an online campaign.

(or to put it another way, it's easier to play with a poor map client than a poor chat client)
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Old 07-03-2011, 05:01 AM   #3
Blind Mapmaker
 
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

I have tried using a whiteboard, but with RPTools being free, having a GURPS rules base available and being reasonably easy to install (basically only the host has to have minimal knowledge of forwarding ports) I no longer see a point in using a lot of extra programmes to make it work.

RPTools + Skype or some other voice chat is an excellent way of running a combat-heavy online campaign. If your machine is pretty old or your connection very slow your method would probably make more sense (RPTools campaign files with maps can get a bit big), but I don't quite see how it is easier than using just one free and very stable application (two for voice chat, if you care for it).
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Old 07-03-2011, 01:09 PM   #4
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

Quote:
Originally Posted by copeab View Post
Maybe just me, but I'd make a chat with good gaming commands my #1 priority. Since I don't use miniatures, a whiteboard with hex grids is way down on my wish list for an online campaign.

(or to put it another way, it's easier to play with a poor map client than a poor chat client)
What do you mean by "good gaming commands"? The only thing I *really* miss from the solution above is the ability to rotate the tokens, so I can know which hex they are facing.

Also, do you not use an hex grid at all? I asking this because you said you don't use miniatures (broadly defined... erasers, bottle caps, etc. count as miniatures!)
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Old 07-03-2011, 01:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blind Mapmaker View Post
If your machine is pretty old or your connection very slow your method would probably make more sense (RPTools campaign files with maps can get a bit big), but I don't quite see how it is easier than using just one free and very stable application (two for voice chat, if you care for it).
Here is how I think it is easier: I never had to read a single page of documentation/manual/instructions to use the whiteboard I pointed out. I didn't have to explain things to my friends. I also didn't even have to create an account for anything. I did not have to setup port forwarding. It worked without a single hitch, for everyone. Based on my experience, that is not the case with a virtual tabletop (VTT) like RPTools or Battlegrounds. You often see GMs saying "I can have a test session for everyone to get acquainted with the VTT". That means someone has to spend time learning the program, and then teach the others. With the whiteboard solution, I believe that is unnecessary.

I completely agree that VTTs provide *a lot* more functionality than what a whiteboard site offers. I just see VTTs as a much more complex solution, and not everyone (GMs and players alike) want to go through the process of learning it.

I also think that for a group that is starting to play online, it is very important to see how playing an RPG online is viable and easy. I don't want anyone to feel like "Ah, this online thing doesn't work" just because they had a frustrating experience with a VTT.

But yes, once you have paid the fixed cost of setting the VTT up, and learning how it works, I bet it "works better" (whatever that means). Even the group I am talking about, we might switch to a VTT at some point... or maybe we won't. For now, it seems that everyone is happy with the whiteboard solution, and it's easy, and I want them to feel good about playing online, and not frustrated with software getting in the way.
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Old 07-03-2011, 01:46 PM   #6
saithan
 
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

I use fantasy grounds VTT.
currently I been working on enhanced ext for the gurps ruleset while attempting to keep the feel of a face to face game.
http://www.fantasygrounds.com/home/

my site:
http://enhanced.vlexofree.com/
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

Quote:
Originally Posted by gpf View Post
What do you mean by "good gaming commands"? The only thing I *really* miss from the solution above is the ability to rotate the tokens, so I can know which hex they are facing.
I like a command to locally rename a player to a character during the session. I like dice rollers a bit more complex than '/roll 3d6'. Being able, as GM, to make private rolls is nice (although I could aways do this with physical dice on my desk, or use the dice roller on my PDA). The ability for the GM and players to send each other private messages is highly useful (and much less intrusive than note-passing at a table).

Quote:
Also, do you not use an hex grid at all? I asking this because you said you don't use miniatures (broadly defined... erasers, bottle caps, etc. count as miniatures!)
No, I don't use a hex grid. I create ungridded maps in Windows Paint and email them to the players. Starting positions of the PCs and NPCs, are marked with the first two letters of their name (for nameless NPCs, it's usually a letter and a number, so twelve assassins would be labeled A1 through A12).
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Old 07-03-2011, 05:33 PM   #8
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

Quote:
Originally Posted by gpf View Post
Here is how I think it is easier...
To be fair to the OP, I'm more than interested in alternatives to online RP'ing. While I'm not the most tech-savvy individual, I like to think that I'm not a complete nonce. Despite that, however, on my more recent computers I've never been able to get the main VTT's to work. I've followed instructions with port forwarding etc. but still no joy.

I only have a few options when it comes to gaming and most of them are online. With that said, a learning curve is not something that I have a problem with. Indeed, as a general rule if someone doesn't want to try and get used to the software that puts them in a category of "semi-interested."

YMMV.

So, yes. More information on other techniques would be welcome. Then again, better documentation and idiot-proofing the established VTT's would also be welcome.

Also, making the VTT's better would also e more than welcome. :D
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Old 07-03-2011, 07:12 PM   #9
gilbone
 
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

I was looking for this sort of thing this morning. I'm looking into this BigBlueButton. It's made for online classrooms, but it might do the trick. I was also getting a demo of MapTool this morning from a helpful fellow at PenandPaperGames.com that looks promising...

I just don't know about online gaming. I haven't been interested in text chat games before, and neither have any of my gaming buddies that are now 2.5 hours away. Just last week I joined a couple of sites to try to find GURPS players in my armpit of the woods.
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Old 07-03-2011, 07:44 PM   #10
gpf
 
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Default Re: Simple way to Play GURPS and other RPGs online

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Originally Posted by gilbone View Post
I just don't know about online gaming. I haven't been interested in text chat games before, and neither have any of my gaming buddies that are now 2.5 hours away. Just last week I joined a couple of sites to try to find GURPS players in my armpit of the woods.
Hey, send me a private message, let's get in touch! I'm always looking for someone to play with, and it would be great to start building a network of friends that like to play GURPS online.
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