Well friends, we’re in this physical distancing for the long haul, aren’t we? We’ve talked about the basics of taking your game online (https://gnomestew.com/social-distancing-and-getting-to-game/, or http://misdirectedmark.com/2020/03/23/ptg197-going-the-social-distance-transitioning-to-online-play/, or http://misdirectedmark.com/2020/01/27/ptg189-online-gaming and many more), but what do you play? Given that you have access to sufficient internet and are willing to adjust for distance play, you can make a lot of games that we play face to face work perfectly well online. Even so, this is a unique opportunity for us to maintain social connections with games that specifically take advantage of some of the facts of online play, instead of finding ways to work around it. I started a hunt for games that sound interesting to play online, either synchronously via video, VOIP, text, or asynchronous (usually epistolary in nature). There are many, many more games that could (and maybe should!) be on this list, but this is my current list of have played/can recommend and to play games for distance play.
What I’ve played so far:
Long Time Listener, Last Time Caller (Video chat or VOIP, 4-10 players)
This game was a delight to play with a group of about 8. A tone discussion about how dark you’re up for is very important — we kept it at dark humor and did not go in too deep because the pandemic is making it a little too real right now, and it was a great romp. In lighter times, this would be a really good game to sink your teeth into emotionally. This game takes advantage of internet video/VOIP, excelling best when only 1-2 people are talking, and gives the DJ the power of the mute button in a very call-in-to-the-show way.
Dear Elizabeth (Letter Writing – 2 players)
You are a heroine in a regency or Victorian novel. So is your best friend. Though apart, you write letters to each other. https://200wordrpg.github.io/2018/rpg/winner/2018/05/28/DearElizabeth.html
The card prompts for this particular epistolary game are delightful, as well as the comedy of manner style voice of the letters themselves. You can listen to my playthrough of this game on She’s a Super Geek here: http://sasgeek.com/podcasts/125-dear-elizabeth/
By The General’s Hand (Letter Writing – 2 players)
By The General’s Hand is a 2-player, letter-writing combat game in which the course of an ever-changing war plays out in the form of correspondence between two generals and their loved ones back home. With each letter, the generals dictate the course of the war and embed dice results detailing random changes of tide until one of the generals concedes defeat. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/246216/By-The-Generals-Hand
This game is neat because you play asynchronously but find out how the war is going as you do so. You can listen to me play on She’s a Super Geek here: http://sasgeek.com/podcasts/84-by-the-generals-hand/ )
Games that are on my “to play” list:
Sincerely (Letter Writing – 2 players)
Sincerely is an epistolary larp about love that is new, confusing, and inconvenient. Two players write and mail letters to one another as the characters of two women living in 1850s London and Philadelphia in a long-distance romantic relationship. After five weeks, the players will have created a work of historical fiction telling a dramatic story of romance, anticipation, love, anxiety, and possibly grief and tragedy. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/206314/Sincerely
Scribbled Ink, Cracked Screens, and Inkblots (Letter Writing – 3 players)
Scribbled Ink, Cracked Screens, and Inkblots tells the story of two romantic Admirers trying to express their feelings towards one another through lyric poetry.
However, they are constantly thwarted by their inability to properly communicate, represented by the Scribble – the unspoken, unseen force that complicates their lives. https://babblegumsam.itch.io/scribbled-lead-cracked-screens-and-inkblots
Spring Online With Me! (Play by text)
Spring Online With Me! is a prompt-based rpg about messy online relationships, identity, and playing together. It is a deep reimagining of Spring On Me, a game about messy, awkward dates. https://swords-and-flowers.itch.io/spring-online-with-me
Let Me Take a Selfie (Play by Selfies)
Let Me Take A Selfie is a collection of games using selfies to tell stories and explore emotions alone and with others. Selfies are a way we present ourselves to the world as we want to be seen. LMTAS explores relationships, crises, and fiction. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/229540/Let-Me-Take-a-Selfie
De Profundis (Letter Writing)
The Diana Jones 2002 Award Nominated game of psychological horror returns in an all new, and expanded, 2nd Edition. Blending the imagination of H. P. Lovecraft and other contemporary horror and conspiracy writers and themes, De Profundis is a correspondence-based story-telling game that can be played from the point of view of participants from a variety of eras. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/84298/De-Profundis-Second-Edition
Over the Moon (Play by text)
Each of you plays a moon cultist, witch, or other dark creature who loves the moon a little too much, and whose comrades decided to ‘fix’ this by online dating with ‘normal’ people… but you’ve just been matched with each other instead, and it’s up to you to see if you can make this work. Is the moon your one true love, a third wheel in the sky, or the ultimate wingmoon? Play to find out! https://speak-the-sky.itch.io/over-the-moon
A to B (Play by text)
A to B is a roleplaying game in which one player plays the Courier, a character chosen to deliver a package from one place to another, and every other player in the game forms the obstacles in their path. Its play-by-post structure is best suited to Discord or IRC, but could easily be modified for forum play, or even to play on Twitter. https://marns.itch.io/a-to-b
Couldn’t Stand Still If You Tried (Play by text)
You are in a tin can hurtling through space on a route that few have survived. You are terribly alone on board, but you still find company in the correspondence of your friends, who are on their own perilous journeys. https://22to22.itch.io/couldnt-stand-still-if-you-tried
Together We Write Private Cathedrals (Letter Writing – 2 players)
Together We Write Private Cathedrals is a letter (and other things) writing game for two players. In it you take on the roles of two lovers at some point in history. You are asked to tell the story of your love through bits of writing and despite the fact that you cannot always be open or explicit. https://roswellian.itch.io/together-we-write-private-cathedrals
Orchestrion (5 players and one listener, played separately and then merged)
An orchestrion is an automatic orchestra, a self-playing instrument, a zero-man-band-in-a-box. A machine that makes music of its own accord. Today, you are the cogs in such a machine. With no conductor and no score, unable to hear the whole ensemble, play your part and trust the machine to do its work. Only afterward may you listen to what you’ve created. https://abemendes.itch.io/orchestrion
Seven Minutes – A Discord Party Game (Play by text and voice)
Seven Minutes is a party game for Discord, played across 2 voice channels and one text channel. It’s a game about private conversations–intimate, awkward, or funny– between people stuck somewhere together. It’s also based on classic party games like Seven Minutes In Heaven, Spin the Bottle, & Hotseat. Play as yourselves, or take on the fictional roles of teenagers at a house-party. https://abemendes.itch.io/sevenminutes
Reverie Cycle (Play by poetry)
Reverie Cycle is about a group of isolated individuals, each shunning their own troubles and trials. They record their waking thoughts in their journals, reflecting on the world around them. But at night, their dreams — poetic, sensory, abstract — blur and blend with each other, creating a shifting, liminal state of overlapping worlds. The poetry of these dreams cascades and reappears, and eventually tumbles into their waking world as well… https://seaexcursion.itch.io/reverie-cycle
Eccentric Millionaire (Play by text)
Eccentric Millionaire is an online game of logical deduction and social deception. One player acts as the host and organizer of the game. They will also play the role of the Eccentric Millionaire. The other players take on the role of treasure hunters. The game is played online, through chat systems like Discord or Slack, and via online map tools like Google Maps. Gameplay takes place over days or weeks, as the treasure hunters uncover more clues and zero in on the location of the treasure. Eventually, one player will find the treasure and win the game. https://nickwedig.itch.io/eccentric-millionaire
💖💀Erothing💀💖 (Play by text)
💖💀Erothing💀💖 is a dating site that caters to both monsters and mortals. You might find your soulmate — or you might end up as food. Be careful when people might not be who they say they are. Or they might be that and a whole lot more.
💖💀Erothing💀💖is a diceless RPG meant to be played through Discord for as long as you like, with as many players as you like. https://rufflejax.itch.io/erothing
Godspeak (Play by text + Discord bot)
History is full of people that have claimed they were being spoken to by God.
What if some or all of them were telling the truth?
This is a game about what it would be like to have God legitimately talk to you, and how you would deal with it. https://tenbaker.itch.io/godspeak
Thin Black Gulf (Letter Writing – 3 players)
Thin Black Gulf is a short, setting-agnostic epistolary rpg for two players, created for #CorrespondenceJam. You play as two characters communicating over a long distance whose messages are subject to external censorship. For each letter you’ll roll on a table to determine what parts of it will be excised.
Will you be able to get through to the other party, or will you be forever separated by a thin black gulf? https://tamsinbloom.itch.io/thin-black-gulf
Intersecting Orbits (Letter Writing – 3 players)
For as long as there have been Orbiters, two have been sent out. They stay in separate capsules and they take separate measurements, each alone. It’s said to be a precaution against data contamination. If two separate readouts say the same thing, it’s not a fluke.
But it’s not about that. It’s about redundancy.
For as long as there have been Orbiters, there has been the Interference. Spikes in data that have no business being there, garbled words, ghosts in the machinery. Few people believe truly in the existence of the Interference as an entity.
The Interference does not care what they believe. https://occasionalell.itch.io/intersecting-orbits
What’s a Vaporwave (Play by text – 2 players)
A two-player, 200 word RPG about explaining vaporwave to your grandpa. Based on a true story.
One player is Casey, who kinda knows what vaporwave is. Another is Grandpa, who loves Casey and wants to understand their life. Played via text message. https://sublimemarch.itch.io/whats-a-vaporwave
A Response to the Esteemed Dr. Crackpot (Play by post – 2+ players)
A game of academic squabbles for two or more players. Fight for your hypothesis in a series of responses published by one of the journals in your field. Defend your academic integrity at all costs. Everyone needs to know your rival is wrong. https://ejankowski.itch.io/a-response-to-the-esteemed-dr-crackpot
There Was A Murder (Letter Writing)
Take on the roles of witnesses and detectives in this letter writing game. Tell the story of what happened through different statements, work together to find out who and why. https://sweetcyanide.itch.io/there-was-a-murder
Per My Last Email (Letter Writing – 3-6 players)
Per My Last Email is an epistolary game for 3-6 players, played by sending emails in a group email chain. You play as office workers as they discover that Something strange is attempting to come into our world from another dimension through a portal that has opened up in the break room. https://nyessa.itch.io/per-my-last-email
Other helpful links:
The Correspondence Jam: https://itch.io/jam/correspondence-jam/entries
The Discord RPG Jam: https://itch.io/jam/discord-rpg-jam/entries
Games that work well remotely but weren’t necessarily written that way:
Twilight Song: https://speak-the-sky.itch.io/twilight-song
The Cromlech Archives: https://speak-the-sky.itch.io/the-cromlech-archives
For the Queen: https://www.evilhat.com/home/for-the-queen/ (there is a very good Roll20 set that can help facilitate if you prefer to one person having a deck)
Journal of Exaggerated Reality: https://22to22.itch.io/journal-of-exaggerated-reality
Knowing You: https://justasummerjob.itch.io/knowing-you
And, when no one has the energy to figure out a game but you’d all still like to be social, there’s always Scattergories! https://scattergoriesonline.net
What are you playing during physical distancing requirements? Are there others that are favorites of yours that I didn’t spot?