If you’re one of the lucky Game Masters who get to sit around a table of your friends or some soon-to-be friends you picked up at the game shop, then I envy you. You get to play off your players’ facial expressions, communicate by gesture alone, and step away from the many distractions the internet provides. For the rest of us, there’s online play. Playing RPGs through the internet has always been a viable option thanks to e-mails, forums, and even chat rooms, but websites like Roll20 and Tavern Keeper have been making it a lot easier to do so.
The two tools that my online group gets the most mileage out of are Discord, for its voice chat and this dice rolling bot, and Google Drive, for its ability to share a document or a spreadsheet or even a drawing as it gets updated in real time. Of course, a virtual tabletop like Roll20 already possesses the bulk of these features, so it all comes down to preference. My GMing style coupled with the kinds of games I run for them tends toward not needing a grid for the majority of our gaming. It’s a text-heavy experience, and even when there are visuals involved those end up being big blocks of words, too. Look below to see what I mean.
This is a screenshot of my group’s latest Fiasco game by way of Google Drawings, using the Los Angeles 1936 playset. The leftmost box was used to list things that we had established before the game started. The rightmost box tracked important things that happened between scenes. These two boxes in particular were extremely helpful whenever one of us got stuck on what to do next in our scenes. The blue boxes contain character names and the Relationships between them. We also used these boxes to record our results for rolling for the Tilt and the Aftermath. The small grey boxes were used to vote whether a player received a white or black die without having to interrupt role-play. The red box in the middle was used to record the Tilt, and the black and peach-colored circles were stand-ins for the dice handed out after scenes. The silly title and the veto stamp are there because we are actual children.
Also because imagining a world where all movie titles are some variation of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo hasn’t gotten old yet.
Except for dice rolls, which only happen at the start, mid-point, and end of the game, our time was spent looking at this page slowly fill up with relevant game information. What I like most about this set-up is how bare-bones and non-intrusive it is. Everything we needed was right in front of us, without having to open up another browser window or a dedicated virtual tabletop application. Which is good for me, because I’m working with a mid-range laptop and I take any opportunity I get to keep things minimal.
For comparison’s sake, this is what the game board looked like before the game started:
The set-up can easily be modified for groups of four or five, at the cost of breathing room between the squares. Bigger games might also mean that your notes box and your plot box might prove to be too small, but like all of the boxes you see here, they are re-sizable. This is in addition to decreasing the font size or scrapping them entirely if your group decides you don’t need them.
You might be wondering if it’s worth your time to go through the trouble of creating a game board like this for your group if you play Fiasco, but what kind of resource blog would this be if I didn’t already put some together for you?
All you need to do to get them into your Drive is to go to “File,” “Make a copy…” and then choose which folder you want to put it in. I kept the veto stamp in there in case your group wants to make use of it. I don’t remember where we found it originally. If this works for you, or you found a better way to do it, I would love to hear back from you.
Discord, replacing TeamSpeak and Skype for your gaming needs (fully, once the Discord team implements video chat and screen sharing)
Sidekick, an easy-to-install dice roller for Discord (which I’m convinced hates my players)
Fiasco, making amateur screenwriters of us all since 2009