Friday, February 18, 2011

AD&D + VoIP: The adventure begins...

VoIP may forever change the way I play D&D.

A good friend and I got together this evening to play a quick OSRIC session using Skype. He already uses video and voice for gaming regularly, but for me, this was a first-time experience. It practically couldn't have gone more smoothly.

The main purpose of the adventure was to acclimate Tracy's new character, a paladin named Jendrick Tannerson (son of a tanner - fitting) to the campaign in place of Greenleaf the druid (now officially retired). Though we only ended up playing for about an hour and a half, much was accomplished. We're planning to reconvene Sunday evening, and I could see it taking three to four of these brief, online sessions to wrap up Jendrick's inaugural adventure, which should have him ready to join the rest of the tabletop cast in Hommlet, the next time we play.

The module we're using for our online foray is Fighter's Challenge, modified to fit within the ongoing campaign. Jendrick, traveling the countryside in search of personal enlightenment and general do-gooding, made his way to Sturnheim and befriended a lovely young lady named Rosamund, who instantly became enamored with the budding knight. Jendrick, naive in the ways of romance, graced her with awkward conversation in the Sign of the Three Crowns (the local inn), and also parleyed with Tregar, a young dwarven hunter newly returned from guard duty for a local caravan.

Jendrick offered his services freely to Tregar on his next hunt (for which Tregar intends to depart in two days' time) and was quickly obliged. Later in the evening, Jendrick and Rosamund happened within earshot of a scuffle in a dark alley while walking the streets of the village, with Jendrick rushing to the aid of an old man who seemingly was being attacked by three others. The assailants fled and Jendrick pursued, weighted down by his mail and only able to keep pace with the slowest of the bandits, that one lugging along a heavy greatsword that appeared to be made of stone. Jendrick managed to catch and pin the man, and Rosamund summoned a trio of the town's militia.

By the time help arrived, the victim of the attack, a frail old man that the militia referred to as "Poot," had succumbed to his wounds and died in the alley. Two of the militia escorted the captured bandit away to their captain whilst Jendrick assisted the third soldier in carrying Poot's body, along with the stone sword, to the church of St. Cuthbert. Jendrick and Rosamund headed back to the inn (the latter's romantic mood quite shattered), though en route the girl revealed that Poot had uttered some strange phrases before he died:

"My house... parchment... sword is the key. Forsaken Road through hills... south at dragon."
That's where we left it. The session was a blast, brief though it was. AD&D/OSRIC continues to impress me in all its nostalgic elegance. When chasing down the bandit, Jendrick's initiative bested the pursuant by four segments, allowing Jendrick to close the thirty-foot distance between them and make an attack roll to trip the bandit with his shield. A minor Strength test to pin the man; a Strength check to maintain the hold until the guards arrived.

Even better was being able to play via Skype, using both video and voice. Tracy has amazingly good attendance for our tabletop sessions despite living more than an hour and a half away; that said, making the drive up for an hour or two of solo gaming isn't a reasonable expectation for anyone. Aside from a few audio glitches that forced us to reconnect (took all of 30 seconds), it was just like having him in the room. We used the honor system for die-rolling, but even if I'd wanted validation we could easily have used an online roller.

Also nice was having my laptop - and all my notes and resources - right at my fingertips. I intentionally don't use a computer when gaming in person, but as it's nearly unavoidable for remote play, I was happy to have it. Dropbox and Skype file transfer make sharing character sheets instantaneous and trivial. As we were wrapping up, we also took a few minutes to check out Dabbleboard, a potential all-in-one solution for online D&D: it provides a fast and easy-to-use whiteboard for diagrams and maps, along with free audio, video, and chat for up to 20 people via tokbox.

My only regret is that I didn't try this sooner. VoIP will enable me to play D&D with my closest friends across the country, people that I grew up on this game with but that I haven't actually been able to play with in years. For now, the next session is just two moons away...

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