I ran my first game since Feb 2020 this past weekend. Did it online, just to try it on and see and how it felt and
I had some friends who’ve been at my table regularly over the years on, mostly because they’re used to me screwing stuff up at a rapid pace and have displayed an admirable amount of tolerance.
Going in I printed up little DM screen braces to set the DM screen over my monitors and a little brace to set my webcam on (my work laptop has a built-in camera, but my personal desktop; not so much).
I used Discord for voice, video, and screensharing and owlbear.rodeo* for maps.
As I’ve noted: I more than a little live in web conferences, and it’s funny how different teams rapidly developed different customs around video on them. Some teams: cameras are usually on. Some teams: cameras are always on. (I’ve got a specific person up the chain who insists on seeing people’s faces, so you even though you’re working from home you know there’s a baseline level of how you need to dress.**) My teams: cameras are always off. So, it was nice to have cameras on during the whole thing and see people’s faces.
Despite my love of minis and the fact that I cut my teeth on D&D 4E: I find I don’t prefer particularly tactical combat when running RPGs… but I needed some way to show the maps because I’d rather just show “Here’s the space” than try to dictate room directions and bungle it. Being able to just have the map on the screen and shave back fog of war seemed like the least-effort, lowest-risk way to communicate space. Owlbear.rodeo was perfect for this: I just uploaded the maps that came with the electronic version of the adventure, fog of war’d everything, and erased as we went. I don’t have experience with other VTTs, but the fact that there are purchases involved with them signals that they bring a larger breadth of features than I want to engage with. This bowl of porridge was just right.
I used Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy, and ran The Incandescent Grottoes. I cannot emphasize how much I love the Necrotic Gnome house style for laying out dungeons: it’s so incredibly clean and usable at the table. All modules should follow this approach (and all megadungeons should synthesize it with the approach of Stonehell and/or Maze of the Blue Medusa).
We were rolling at 7PM and it was past midnight before we knew it: I think that’s a great sign! Unfortunately, I’d been up at 6 that morning (and really tossing since 4:30 thanks to the dogs), so to say that was past my bedtime was an understatement… I spent the next day feeling like roadkill.
I think everyone had a good time, though there was some expectations friction: I can see getting a little whiplash going from a 5E-style game to an OSR one. That’s why I insist so much on 3D6-in-order: it feels like its one of the clearest indications available of how expectations should be calibrated.
They got through maybe about a third of the space. Lost a party member early when they didn’t check the ceilings before entering a space, and two more near the end when they decided to engage a Gibbering Mouther in melee (the surprise there was that it was only two!).
All in all – definitely a success. I had a great time (and it was wonderful seeing those friends again; it’s been a minute!), and will definitely be doing it again.
I’m noodling up a manifesto to make more clear what I’m trying to get out of it and what players should expect, but my hope is to kick off Stonehell run that can accommodate a larger set of folks with a more flexible quorum. It’ll also have to be a school night because my butt is too damn old to game until midnight.
* I used the free, 1.0(?) version; I think I’d be happy to pay for the 2.0 version if I could figure out how to find the grid alignment tools (specifically the Manual Alignment rulers) they describe in this video.
** I don’t normally dress down unless I’m going to be painting, so “work appropriate” for me is pretty much “don’t wear a 40K t-shirt, just in case someone gets The Wrong Idea about what’s going on that.”