I played my first session of a game via the wonders of modern technology Wednesday night. It was a 4e Living Forgotten Realms gave, 1st level, run/hosted by Bryant. We made our characters on the Character Builder and emailed them to Bryant ahead of time. He then set up the adventure’s encounter areas in MapTool and set up tokens for all of us with our stats and such built right in. We all to more or less degrees set up macros in MapTool for our powers (e.g., I had one for a Close Burst 1 attack that generated a bunch of attack rolls – 1d20+ my to hit mod for the power – and then one damage roll at the end which applied to everybody I hit. When I used that power I hit one button and bam, all the results we needed were there on the screen) but Bryant had set things up so that skills, saving throws etc already had macros built with our modifiers already loaded in. Very little prep work, pretty easy learning curve.
We used Skype for talking. I was glad for that because I’m a slow and lousy typist and if we’d had to use the chat box for all in-character chat it would have gone poorly. The sound quality over Skype was fine most of the time. Of course, knowing this group and being able to recognize all the voices made a big difference for me – I don’t know how well I’d have enjoyed it with strangers.
There were 6 of us total and it went nice and smooth. Ran about as fast, maybe a bit faster, than when we sit around face-to-face to play. Threeish hours, 4 encounters.
My only complaint is that I found it psychologically difficult to get into actual role-playing over Skype. Not sure what it is about being able to see the faces of the other players, but I never did much RP in MUDs or online games before so for the nonce I’ll chalk it up to a learning curve and see how it goes from here.
Here’s the thing that rocked my brain about it though – between the character creation, the virtual tabletop, the existence of pdf copies of the rulebooks, I had absolutely zero need for any paper at all. I’d printed out a copy of my character but honestly? Didn’t need it. Hit points, Action Points and Healing surges were all tracked by MapTool. Okay, maybe to keep track of some odd feats or racial abilities that don’t lend themselves to macros but I’d wager there’s a way to track that as well but I just hadn’t found it yet. Also even though all 6 of us were in the greater Boston area we could very well have been on opposite sides of the planet. Heck, I was able to game on a night when I had to be home with the kiddo.
I also don’t see anything about Maptool that limits it to 4e. Most of the demo videos seem to use the Hero System. I think you could reskin it for just about anything that requires a map in any way. Including Descent. Okay, that last thought just got me a little too excited. My West Coast peeps should expect an incoming missive shortly.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is living in the future.
On another 4e related note, I was playing a Halfling Monk using the playtest rules put up by WotC. My earlier concerns about not being able to dish out sufficient damage were for naught. Plenty of single target and AoE burst damage to go around. Heck, I’d probably even scale back the Encounter I had (“Open the Gates of Battle” to 1[W] with an added W for hitting an undamaged foe. 2W right out the gate seems like a lot for a lvl 1 Encounter. My attack bonus was solid for 1st lvl (+8 on Weapon attacks, +5 for Implement) and I hit often enough. I didn’t end up using the special move techniques of most of the powers as often as I thought I would (and one of them – “Crane’s Wings” – just plain sucks). Defenses were good but not great – I got tagged a lot but fortunately usually only for a couple points. Not sure what’s to be done about that. My Basic Melee attack for opportunity attacks was terrible but I’ll grab a feat that lets me use Dex instead of Str at lvl 2 (pretty sure there is such a thing but I don’t have my books or pdfs with me) and that should clear up that problem nicely. Overall it doesn’t seem broken at 1st lvl and was fun to play. I look forward to seeing the full class and what other options I can throw in the mix.
(program note: hoping to get back on the Wheel tonight, maybe with making a character)