Is this going to be more work? If you are considering running an online game for the first time you may be asking yourself this question. The purpose of this article is to try to answer it, and perhaps put your mind at ease. We’ll look at the work involved before, during, and between sessions. In the big picture, it’s not really more work, just different work. Let’s take a look.
BEFORE A SESSION
Most of the work for online games has to be done beforehand. It’s very difficult to just “wing it” or run a pickup game online. You’ll have to choose your Virtual Tabletop (VTT), recruit players, and help them get started with your game. You’ll also have to compile your maps, tokens, and character sheets. Then they have to be uploaded so you are ready to go at the start of the session. You have to be organized, but that’s true for face-to-face games as well.
However, you will save some time compared to traditional sessions. For example, there’s no need to size, print, glue or laminate maps. Simply draw and scan one, or find one online, and upload it. You don’t need to collect, paint, or rummage through your minis either. Use any paint program to make whatever you need. There is a free token maker, Token Tool which can also save you some time.
On the muggle side of things, you’ll eliminate your travel time altogether. You can play in your jammies, and there’s no need to straighten up the house. No snack runs needed except for yourself. Online gaming can be a big time-saver for busy adults.
DURING THE SESSION
Virtual Tabletops make some things easier during play. They often let you keep track of hit points and conditions right on the tokens. This really streamlines your work during combat. If you forgot a token, or need an unexpected NPC, you can usually find one in no time at all. (I needed a rowboat recently and had one within seconds). Unless you are videoconferencing, your players will never know if you are scrambling behind the scenes. Your reputation as a genius GM is secure.
To reduce bean counting, allow your players to edit their own character sheets and keep track of their own hit points and conditions. This takes some of the burden from your shoulders. That time will be better spent planning NPC tactics and characterizations.
Online games save you time between sessions as well. If you end in the middle of a battle, simply close your browser and go about your life. Everything will still be there next time. Try that on your dining room table. Also, you can even put notes right on the screen like “Players go first next time.”
If a player advances or levels up, simply adjust the online character sheet. There’s no need to print out a new copy or worry about whether you brought the right version of a particular character. You can also use the time between sessions to have players double check their character sheets or to deal with rules questions. That way you don’t have to take time to do that at the next session.
Most of the work for an online session needs to be done beforehand. Online GM’s need to be organized and prepared, otherwise they are in for a stressful session. However, the computer eases some of the workload throughout the rest of the process. If you are good about preparing for face-to-face sessions, the online process won’t be burdensome, just different.
How about you? How do you prepare for your online sessions? How do you manage the workload? Let us know below.
(And even though I said you don’t have to clean your house, well, try to avoid squalor. Just sayin’.)