Thursday, 19 March 2020

Social distancing and playing RPGs online

So in these bizarre times of Coronavirus and social distancing, self isolation and even quarantine, I thought it might be pertinent to share how I run my online games. Just in case it helps someone who either has a regular face to face group they no longer attend because of the virus or is just interested in playing RPGs while their usual social activities are on hiatus.
Step one: Google hangouts. This is a video conference calling app. Get it. Arrange with your players what time the call starts and then get on it together. Now you’re sat around a virtual table. It’s a bit different from a face to face game because you need to get disciplined around only one person talking at a time, however there is text chat that you can use simultaneously in addition to the video call if required. Use some sort of headset. I run my games off the hangouts app on my iPad with some headphones plugged in or connected via Bluetooth. That just stops echo from the speakers being picked up by the mic. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t use headphones , just a bit annoying. Many of the people I play with have proper headsets with built in microphones plugged into their computers, which is cool if you’ve got it but I don’t need it.
Just some super cool Pete Mullen art, because why not?

Step two: Dice. I use the honour system. You roll your dice and you tell me what you got. I trust you not to cheat, because if you’re a grown adult who needs to cheat at dungeons and dragons to maintain your self esteem, then ultimately I’m ok with that unless it ruins things for everyone else. However there is an online dice roller in hangouts chat that you can use and everyone sees the result.

Step three: You’re on your own now. Play your game the way you would play it face to face. Hold stuff up to the camera if necessary, pull faces, do voices, or don’t. It’s your game, play it how you think it should be played. Have fun. Stay safe. Wash your hands.

 p.s. I know lots of people who go deep into this stuff and no doubt provide a great online experience with the likes of roll20 or fantasy grounds. They give loads of great options around displaying maps and character sheets and positioning for battles etc. It’s good stuff but it’s also work. I’m too lazy for all that so I go with the most basic option. Whatever floats your boat is good.

Enjoy your gaming.

Also for some bizarre reason I can’t reply to comments on this blog at the moment but I’m on Twitter @domjnicrpg if you have questions.


  1. In which I attempt to post a test comment

  2. Successfully - well done Dom!

  3. Seriously though - I think the way you run games works well. Hangouts is stable, trust on dice works, mapping can be a challenge, but with jamboard it’s not insurmountable