Getting started with tabletop role-playing games online

World of Darkness: Silent Striders
Think you’ve got a lot of dice? Think again

Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playingIf you’re like me, by now you’re familiar with playing tabletop role-playing games online. Gamers have been playing Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs online since the birth of the Internet, though the last few years has seen significant growth in this area. This is old hat to me, to us. We’ve got our favorite sites, our favorite YouTube channels, maybe even favorite online gaming groups and software, etc.

So, it might come as a surprise when you talk with a fellow tabletop RPGer who has never played online. They might even seem antiquated to you, like a character from an earlier time. For those who might be thinking I’m writing about only older players, the grognards, you would be wrong as I fairly frequently run into younger gamers, in their teens or 20s, who have never rolled digital dice, never put on a set of headphones, never stared into a Google Hangouts window full of fellow players, etc.

They are out there, those who have yet to play online. They have their reasons. Some are skittish of the technology. Some simply don’t understand how the experience can transfer from the actual tabletop to a computer screen. Some just don’t have the time. Again, they’ve got their reasons.

However, from time to time I run across such a gamer who shows interest in learning the ropes of online tabletop RPGs. Maybe you’ve even met a few such individuals. It’s not that difficult to introduce them to this new gaming world, though to them it might seem daunting at first. How do you help them become involved? Which sites do you send them to? Below are my suggestions.

FireShot-Screen-Capture-232-Nerdarchy-YouTube-www_youtube_com_channel_UCHLzgnQu3OWn31g2PebQV5Q.jpgSince you’re reading this on the Nerdarchy site, most likely you are already familiar with online RPGing, but perhaps you came here through a Google search or some such. If that’s the case, I’d like to point out that the Nerdarchy website, the Nerdarchy Facebook page, and the Nerdarchy YouTube channel (as well as the Nerdarchy forum) provide plenty of information about gaming online, though you might have to look around a bit since there is so much information to be found.

One of the fastest and easiest ways to discover online gaming, in my opinion, is through the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group on Facebook. There are games just about every day, though often they fill up quickly. This is also a place to ask questions and find answers, as the administrators and group members are always willing to chat. Dipping one’s toes into online gaming can be scary the first time or two, but the OSG (as it’s called) can help ease these tensions by providing games and helping one become familiar with playing with strangers. This is also a great place for finding new gaming friends.

On the other hand, if you are completely unfamiliar with online tabletop gaming and are not even sure how it is done and what it looks like, I would suggest trotting off to YouTube to check out videos from a number of RPG enthusiasts and videos of actual gameplay. As mentioned, there’s always the Nerdarchy YouTube channel, but plenty of others offer gaming-related videos, such as DawnforgedCast, sr2joker, aFistfulofDice, WASD20, and Tabletop Gaming with Juce. If you still haven’t found what you want, try a YouTube search, because there are plenty more channels out there.

If you are interested in looking at the technical end of things, a good basic start is to become familiar with Google Hangouts, because many games are played through there. For a more interesting (and complex) interface, head on over to Roll20 where you can learn to use maps online, store character sheets, find games, and more. If you seek a 3-D environment, you might check out the Revolution: Virtual Playspace software. Other sites and software abound, such as Skype, but those should be enough to get you started.

One thing to keep in mind is that online gaming doesn’t have to be complicated, though it can be if one utilizes all the available options. Don’t let all this be daunting. Take your time and learn at your own pace. If you can’t get your own group of friends together and are leery of playing with strangers, try to make friends through various online venues before plopping into a game; that way you will at least know a few people with whom you are rolling dice.

Other than that, my best advice would be to jump in with both feet and discover the fun.

And, as always, Stay Nerdy!

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A former newspaper editor for two decades in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, Ty now earns his lunch money as a fiction writer, mostly in the fantasy and horror genres. He is vice president of Rogue Blades Foundation, a non-profit focused upon publishing heroic literature. In his free time he enjoys tabletop and video gaming, long swording, target shooting, reading, and bourbon. Find City of Rogues and other books and e-books by Ty Johnston at Amazon.

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