I am certain that I am not alone when it comes to trouble with gaming. Where do you find the time? How are you going to find a group? When is it going to be? Where is it going to be? Who’s bringing the snacks? Sometimes, and this goes especially for those who have been away from the table for a while, it becomes really hard to get together and sling some dice. With the countless questions one can find themselves asking, it can become overwhelming and there are even times that life just gets in the way. Don’t you miss those days where you would meet up with college buddies in someone’s basement or dorm and crack open the books and go on an epic adventure to the likes of which no one has ever seen? Ok, I never really got to do any of that but I did cram all my friends into our tiny apartment every Saturday evening, playing Vampire: the Masquerade and Call of Cthulhu into the wee hours of the morning. Though since then there hasn’t been the time or enough willing participants. So how do you jump back into the adventure when life just won’t let up? So far, all I’ve come up with is online gaming.
Now I’m not talking about World of Warcraft or any of those MMOs. I’m talking about all the charm of a tabletop RPG from the comfort of your own home. You could play one of the many tabletop inspired video games, but once you hit the end then that’s it. I’ve hung about a particular website that offers a space for gamers to meet and game online. Macray’s Keep uses a message board style to allow its members to create and play games using a number of systems including any homebrew system that you may come up with. Though Macray’s has it’s fair share of down sides. While the site may be free to sign up, roughly half of the features are only available to their subscribed or “Inner Circle” members. Some of these features include in depth campaign customization, chat, message history, and even dice rolling. What kind of gaming site makes you pay to roll dice? Even though there are a number of ways to roll dice online, I think making members pay to use a very basic and essential feature of tabletop gaming is counterproductive to an online gaming site. Whatever pays your hosting, I guess.
Recently, I was pointed in the direction of Roll20.net which is another gaming site. Though in comparison with Macray’s, this one is much different. Offering up real-time play, maps, character assets, 3D dice roller, limited online character sheets, and a fully functioning chat, I feel that Roll20 gives players a better gaming experience that is like sitting around the table with your friends. Though, as all things, Roll20 isn’t without its faults. While the site has multiple visual assets that you can use for character models, maps, and other visual aids for your campaign, not all are free. There are a number of individual and packaged assets that you must purchase for use. Another premium feature is a dynamic lighting system that is offered to Game Masters who have paid a monthly fee to support the site. So while you can use a “fog of war” to hide your map to be revealed as the players advance, free members must manually reveal the map as needed which can slow down the game. Even with these few flaws, the site is rather user friendly and you can still run a fully functional campaign without paying for supporter status.
These are the only sites I’ve come across that facilitate online gaming so far. Yet, what seems like a small selection holds big opportunities for those gamers currently tied down by life. As for me, I’m finally running a new Shadowrun campaign on Roll20 and it has been a couple years since I’ve ran a game let alone played. So if you’ve been looking for a way to fit some gaming into a busy life like I have, maybe you should check these sites out and see what works best for you. While I know online gaming isn’t for everyone, sometimes it’s a great way to keep the story going.