The March 2014 Blog Carnival is being hosted by the Gaming Ballistic blog and has as topic : “Virtual Table Tops and Online RPGs“. The Blog Carnival is a monthly feature of the RPG Blog Alliance in which bloggers agree on a specific topic to blog about during that month. Check here for the Blog Carnival Archives. As I have no experience whatsoever with virtual table tops, I’ll talk about some online gaming I did a long time ago : MUD (Multi User Dungeon).
Multi User Dungeons
The MUD or Multi User Dungeon is pretty much the precursor to current MMORPGs. In a MUD you take on the role of a character and you can explore the world the makers have created by moving from room description to room description. A MUD is a text-based game and thus has no graphics although some of them feature mapping abilities. You can chat with other people, go on quests, kills monsters, or just explore the maps and interact with the environment. These interactions take the form of commands that are typed in a menubar, for example ‘examine chest’.
MUDs can be found for pretty much every theme from fantasy to science fiction, including well-known IPs such as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. MUDs can also be categorized by features such as full or restricted player vs player options, enforced, encouraged, or accepted roleplay of characters, and skill & level based or levelless training systems.
As MUDs are played through a telnet connection, you might want to download some software to make playing a bit more easy. Some great software that I used is Z-MUD. Z-MUD has great mapping abilities which really come in handy unless you want to draw everything by yourself on graph paper. It also has the ability to make shortcuts for certain commands. “Attack Grand Master Sorcerer” could become agm for example. The program also allows you to program certain triggers. In certain MUDs your character needs to eat and drink. You could thus create the command “eat apple” that triggers whenever “you are hungry” appears on the screen. Care needs to be taken though as not all MUDs allow the usage of these triggers.
If you want to give MUDs a try but have no clue where to start, The MUD Connector is a great website which lists a huge amount of MUDs.
Virtual table tops and online RPGs Blog Carnival questions
1) What has it meant for you, if anything?
The MUDs I played was pretty much just a passtime when I was still in school. When some of the classes were really boring, I would gather some friends at the university’s computer class rooms and we’d start playing Lost Wishes. We even did this a few times while actual classes would start in those rooms and we’d pretend to be students that needed to be there. After a while they started checking student ID cards and we had to give up playing at the university.
2) What do you think it means for the industry, if anything?
The more people play games, the better for the industry so I don’t see them complaining any time soon.
3) Will GenCon 2025 be an all-online virtual convention?
I don’t think so although there definately could be a virtual GenCon in addition to the regular one. For playing purposes, virtual cons are fine. I myself however, prefer strolling around at a Con, visiting booths, talking to the creators of games, perusing the second hand section and so on. What I mean to say is that there’s more to a convention that just the gaming in itself.
4) Online gaming a trivial flash in the pan?
Seeing the rise of virtual cons, play by mail, play by forum, and google hangout and skype sessions, I don’t think this is a trivial thing at all. It’s great that people who want to, are able to play games, regardless of location. Online there’s always someone willing to play a game.
5) More fun? Less fun?
When it comes to role playing games I prefer the actual game sitting around the table with friends. I’ve tried watching some actual play sessions through skype or google hangouts on youtube and it doesn’t really make me want to try it. When reading through the other blog posts for this carnival, there seems to be a common negative point which is distraction, meaning people can easily be checking facebook or other sites during play. As someone who’s used to a very story-driven group of players and dungeon masters that create games where atmosphere is very important, I can’t see myself playing many of these games. Even if it means I’ll be playing less games.
6) Best and Worst Online Experiences?
The best online experience was several skype sessions with Adam Scott Glancy. The Bumps in the night kickstarter offered a reward where you could get 8 hours of play with Pagan Publishing’s CEO. As a big Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green fan and a collector of all things Pagan Publishing, that was an awesome experience for our group.
7) Personal requirements for a VTT?
For me personally a VTT or any software for roleplaying games should take care of all the bookkeeping, rules, and dicerolling so I can concentrate fully on telling a story. Ideally it would have voice recognition so it understand if players say “I attack the hill giant” and then automatically takes care of the correct dice rolls and combat results.