The Analog Gamer: Distance Decapitation
A few weeks back I wrote a piece detailing the Neverwinter Nights games as a desktop RPG replacement. I’d come to realize that there were a lot of things that had changed in my life since I’d regularly played pen-and-paper RPGs with my buddies in high school and the military. Most of us live far apart now but still fondly recall those tales of heroism and combat whenever we chance to catch up.
I’m luckier than many of my friends and I still have a group of players locally to enjoy this hobby with, but many of them are in areas where they have no gathering point like a local game store or the local hangout is not filled with people they would trust inviting into their homes.
This realization led me to thinking about the convergence of technology that we are seeing on a regular basis. Thanks to Voice over IP technology, widely available fast Internet service and the ubiquitous nature of the PC or Mac in most households as a work tool if not a gaming one, I wondered just what options there were to reconnect players and their games and gaming friends, regardless of geography.
I’ve heard of players using the old AOL chatrooms to play games for years. I participated in a few IRC games or play-by-post games on bulletin boards but there was always something missing. The feel of gaming got lost for me among the chat windows and dice bots. It didn’t take me long however to find someone proclaiming the wonders of Skype gaming or to claim that OpenRPG was the ultimate gaming platform. Now I’m not one to take others opinions as gospel, I prefer to make my own judgments and evaluate tools, games, heck even life on my own terms so I decided to create this series of articles.
The series itself concerns taking a look at the various custom tools out there for virtual tabletop play. To that end I’ve asked a few friends, who I will refer to in the series by only their characters names and actions. Together we are going to test some of the tools (mostly free tools to boot due to Gaming Todays huge budget for software) and report on how they enabled or interfered with the business of storytelling and the fun of playing an RPG.
Keeping things simple is important so I’ve chosen to use standard 3.5 Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules and to utilized the freely available adventures posted on the Wizards of the Coast website. We’re getting the group together this weekend to create these new characters using only the SRD and core rules of the system in the first tool on the list: Tri-Axe’s Dungeons & Dragons Chat program.
In the coming weeks we’ll also be using OpenRPG, Glittercomm, iTabletop and possibly a few others ending the series with a review of the Dungeons and Dragons Digital Initiative’s tools once the 4th edition system launches. I know not everyone out there is interested in D&D as a setting or a system so along the way I’ll be sure to mention things like integrated rules and support for other gaming systems. Hopefully this series of articles will help lapsed gamers out there who’ve lamented for the classic days of pizza and dice to return and hunt down their adventuring company for new adventures in a digital age.