How to best run a game online?

It has been a long time coming, but now that we have this talkgroup up and running, we ought to start discussing how to best run a “tabletop” RPG here.

Discourse has really killer email response functionality, so can be used as a play-by-email engine, and that may be all there is to it. But I’d like to know what experiences folks have with that, and where they see this site building on.

For things like character sheets or other notes, there are always the wiki page functionality, though I am also interested in building special custom post types for easily creating and listing those kinds of things, and using the embedding feature here to pull over that data.

One big question I have is how to resolve dice rolling. I am inclined to skip that as a technical requirement all together, and either use trust or consolidated rolling (one person rolls everything). Thoughts?

Eventually I will have time to investigate all the great and interesting online gaming tools out there, but for now I just want to get some basic storytelling done.

This is exciting! This kind of thing is precisely what I have time for in my life right now.

I feel like there should be some kind of random success device, though I am perfectly at ease with letting the player handle that on their end, via physical dice or online dice roller.

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Yeah, the thing about the online dice tools is that none of them are great, and if we are going to use them, it is like using two websites, rather than one, to see results. So I think trust may be in order, until we get to games where those numbers are more important (like a d20 system, which I don’t plan to run anytime soon).

Any idea for a genre or system you’d like to play? I have a whole bunch in my backlog, but I will happily defer to an existing wish. :slight_smile:

My favorite online tabletop site is – I’ve played in a a dozen or so games over the years (back when it was as well as the modern iteration) as well as running my first ongoing campaign using the 13th Age ruleset. Their tools, and their community, is stellar if you want to go over what they have put together. Of course, playing RPGs with people you cannot trust to not fudge dice (although I suppose the GM doesn’t count there necessarily) might not be the best idea anyway! I can see getting away without dice rolling integration.

Can you screenshot a character sheet there? I wonder what they look like, and how they work.

Discourse (the software that runs this site) can turn a message into a wiki page, which makes for an interesting option. I am also interested in doing some of the math programatically in WordPress with custom post types, so we have some options.

Certainly - I couldn’t get a single screen shot to capture all of the content on the D&D 5th Edition sheet, so I took three. But I’m a new user, and cannot submit more than one image in a post. So I’ve shown what we do there for self-formatted character sheets, which can be shown in a single image. One really great feature is the hover-text ability… mouse over a string of text, and show an image and/or text explaining something. For instance, a magic item description is shown in the last image, using that feature (Sacred Tattoo opening Sign of the Priestess).

Huh, that is interesting. I see that those are kind of a custom post in the forum software. Are there shortcodes or anything that pull in that info into a thread, or is it just there for reference?

That character sheet is all just done with internal formatting to a regualr forum thread, there is no template in use there that is pulling information. Here’s an example of the code…

[SPOILERBUTTON=“Mechanics”]Level 2 Gnome Cleric

[TABLE][B]Str[/B]|10|+0||[B]HP[/B]|[TT="40"]3rd incremental advancement, +8 HP[/TT]
[B]Con[/B]|12|+1||[B]Recoveries[/B]|8; 2d8+1
[B]Dex[/B]|16|+3||[B]AC[/B]|21 w/shield

And the mouse-over bit is using the “tt” tag:

A [b][tt="Sacred Tattoo"][IMG][/IMG][/tt][/b]

Also, here’s the first part of the official D&D 5th Edition sheet from

Part of me is a little tired of the standard fantasy RPG fare, and something more sci-fi sounds really cool. That said, I am starving for any sort of game like this so I’d play anything. :smile:

I have no mechanic system preferences, but the simpler the better I think.

What would be fun / neat is if any OOC talk was tagged differently or something, so at the end of the adventure, we would have all these posts that read like a story. A crazy, multivoiced story. :smiley:

I have a bunch of the Fate Worlds that use FAE (that is Fate Accelerated Edition, a slightly lighter version of Fate Core), and they may be easy to run online. I will make a note to go through them and list them out. My weekend project is to get up my geeky blog site thing up. :slight_smile:

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This has been the goal for a long time, ne? But I’ve never seen it implemented in a natural way, outside of a video game, and even then it is only slash commands in a chat window. Asynchronous media like forums may only have the benefit of shortcodes, which don’t really work for me; it seems like as much work to get those right as it would to just go through and edit/compile the dialog in the end.

I’d like to see something like two conversations side by side, or maybe a checkbox to mark a message sent as IC/OOC…

Oh, I could probably do that…


This has been on my mind, so I wanted to follow up and say I am probably not ready to run a game any time soon. To be realistic, here are a few reasons for me:

  • Work is kinda crazy; I have a lot to do, and we are about to hit the holiday season, and that will be a defining moment for us
  • I am not convinced by the current tools used to play games right now (I will expand in this below)
  • I am not familiar enough with a game system that I want to play. I’d like to try Fate/FAE or Dungeon World, or some indie game, but I don’t have a lot of experience, and I’d like to play in a game some more before running on.

As for the tools, I am quite fond of Trello and Slack, which I use extensively in my work, but I can’t stand using for my hobbies. There is Libreboard/Wekan and Mattermost (and some other Slack-alternatives, including the jabber server I run, but Mattermost is the most interest for my purposes), and they are always getting better, so this could change for us soon.

I agree with @tim’s thoughts on fantasy, though I still have some ideas that I think would make a campaign pretty fun. I am just not in a place to drive this right now.

That said, if someone else wants to run a game, and use these forums for it, I will give them as much support as I can (we can have sub-categories and such, and blog hosting is my jam). I am currently restructuring how I structure my goals in every day life, and I want to keep it up so I can become more effective (and not just efficient, but that is a blog post, ne?).

But the ultimate goal is to have one or more games running at a time, consistently, and with the support of our combined technical skills. :slight_smile:

I hope your work holiday season crunch goes well!

Is it the lack of openness of the platforms that keep you from using them?

I am going to look at some campaign stuff this week; I would be open to running a really loose game through the forums; no stats, character sheet or anything, just something that is almost interactive fiction we all work on together. I’ll make a new post outlining how I think it can work.

It will most likely end in flames, but whatever. :slight_smile:

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Fire Attunement ready! :slight_smile: