To Start Playing D&D Online, Just Use your Smart Phone
So, your weekly campaign was put on hiatus due to the Covid-19 outbreak. You've never played
online before, you don't have an account for an online gaming platform like Roll 20, or don't have the time to dedicate to learning it. You have physical maps and minis, and don't want to invest in digital assets. You still badly want to play, especially with all this free time on your hands. If any of these problems apply to you, don't worry--you can just hop on video chat and start playing with your friends.
Video chat apps are simple enough to use even for young children. So, why not use it to play with your gaming group like you normally do in person to get your game going? Let's go through some of the advantages of using video chat apps for playing role-playing games:
Anyone can use a video chat app
Most people have a Facebook account, or Skype, or Facetime, or WhatsApp, or Discord. If everyone in your gaming group can agree on an application to use, you can all download it, create a group and use your app of choice to run your games. I've used Discord in the past, but my friends and I decided recently that it was easier to run our game over Facebook messenger. There was little overhead, no need to learn a new interface, and we already all had it installed.
There's very little learning curve
Apps like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds are great, and offer an amazing experience. You should look into these tools if you plan on running a long-term campaign with people who are invested in using these tools. But not everyone finds them easy to use, or is willing to jump in and learn how to use an online gaming platform, so start small. If you can game over video chat, you can eventually move into a more sophisticated platform like Roll20.
You can play from your phone or laptop
Most people have smartphones these days. Most of those smartphones have video chat apps. You really can just pull out your phone and play D&D or other role-playing games. Having the 2 cameras is an added advantage, as well. It really helps to be able to flip the camera around from your face to show visual aids, maps, and other things that enhance the game. Sometimes as game master, however, it's easier to use my laptop. I'll often have 2 cameras so that I can switch between showing me and showing maps or minis--which brings us to our last topic...
You can use physical maps and minis
Do you have a bunch of beautifully painted minis sitting there gathering dust now that your game
is on hold? Did you spend a bunch of money on Dwarven Forge 3D terrain, or invest in a 3D printer to make terrain pieces or minis that you can't use in your tabletop games now? That's another reason to use a video chat app. If you're the game master, get a webcam for your computer and a rig that lets you point the camera down at your gaming table for an overhead view of your minis, maps, and terrain. I've been running games that way for over a year on a weekly basis, and it has been a huge success.
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