Dungeons & Dragons Via Web – This Is How We Roll

Yesterday evening I played Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. Now for those who know me that might not come as a surprise or even be mildly unusual. I DO role playing games since I am 13 years old, I DO consider Dungeons & Dragons a very enjoyable rule system and I DO like 3.5 over 4th and 5th edition so no big thing, right? But it was. For the first time I didn’t play in with everybody being in a cozy room with lots of coffee, chocolate and some booze. We played on the internet.

The group consists of friends from Jena, Gera, Nordhausen, Würzburg, Stuttgart and myself in Berlin. Most of the guys know each other since they were kids with me being the occasional intruder that is only knowing them for a decade. 😉 We decided to play Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and to give Roll20.net a try as a platform.

Why Dungeons & Dragons

Everyone in the group played The Dark Eye earlier. I switched to Dungeons & Dragons later and suggested to use this. I did this because I feel D&D 3.5 is everything that (at least former editions of) The Dark Eye is not. D&D is painless to pick up, the fights play very smooth and it’s easily adjustable to the needs of your group. Also there are campaign settings available if you like to play in a pre-defined world but you can choose to create you own campaign. Which we did. The one thing that is a problem about this choice is that most of the wonderful rule books (basically everything that is not the three core rule books) are out of print and it can be a bit pricey to pick them up used. We may later have to venture into D&D 5th or Pathfinder for that reason alone.

The Platform

Registration at Roll20.net is free and so are all the basic features and some space to save your own graphics and stuff. Subscribing to one of the packages that support the site is not necessary to get your group playing as even with the basic feature set Roll20.net seems to support a plethora of different systems. So you are perfectly fine to start out without having to pay anything.
It’s easy to draw maps of your surroundings on the screen and visualize the story. The players also join in to a video conference on the main screen. The video conference feature uses Google Hangout and the site supports putting the players in different „rooms“ if the party decides to split up or somebody wants to talk in private. On the main screen All skill checks, attack rolls, etc. can be rolled with a single click after filling out your character sheet and the all-mighty Dungeon Master can even do so for every player without them noticing what skill he rolled on or what the result is. As a DM this is a very comfy setting as you can concentrate on the story and don’t has to think about technicalities too much.

Roll20.Net Interface playing Dungeons & Dragons

The Experience

First of all for most of the group playing the game was a blast from the past. The guys played in the same RPG group long ago then scattered all over the country and stopped playing altogether. Bringing back the fun that is role playing with your friends was a beautiful experience in itself. From the technical side it wasn’t too much of a hassle too. Of course Germany can feel like a third world country when it comes to internet connections and one of the players suffers from such terrible internet connection. He faced some problems with the video getting stuck and his voice not getting transmitted but there is no one to blame but his awful 2 Mbit connection.
Over the course of the evening the play screen stopped syncing for two or three times but was always back in sync after something like a minute. What I would love would be to put the video conference on one screen and the maps on one of the other screens. All told the experience was very enjoyable and we will for sure continue to use Roll20.

Vin Diesel – Because Reasons

Last and certainly not least for all those of you who think Dungeons & Dragons is not a cool thing to do for a bunch of grown up men: Well this charming chap begs to differ.

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