B&C via net

Since my move to Taiwan, my monthly Blade & Crown group has continued pretty much unabated. Our group is now pretty widely scattered. Most of the players are in the Twin Cities, but one is in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m of course on the other side of the Pacific.

  • The quality of microphones and speakers, unfortunately, matters. We’ve had some sound issues for one player, and it seems largely to do with the sound equipment involved, on both ends. Moving to computer-moderated play can mean you have to sink a little money into a high-quality headset or speakerphone. It’s also Really Nice to have a nice, wide monitor, so I can see everyone clearly in one window while I keep the campaign wiki open in another window.
  • So, unfortunately, does bandwidth. Some of the players in our game have taken to joining up together at one player’s house, even though it means a lengthy commute, because the one player has a much more reliable, high-bandwidth internet connection.
  • However, some simple little tricks can also help. When we had some trouble getting everyone at a (pretty large) table heard through a speakerphone, messing with the technical settings didn’t help. But putting the speakerphone on top of a can, so that the device was elevated above most of the various objects on the table (bowls, dicebags, computers, etc.), worked brilliantly.
  • Scheduling can be tricky! I’m almost exactly on the other side of the planet from the other players, and most of us work 9-5, Monday-Friday-style jobs, so that means we can pretty much only play on weekends.
  • However, as the person who has historically been late most often to the game, having the game session happen right from my living room is very nice. No need for me to commute means it’s just a matter of plopping down and starting, so I’ve been much more on time recently.
  • Sharing visual information — maps, mostly — works quite well. Screensharing makes this possible. However, I’m always a little leery of letting Google or whoever else get their digital claws on my graphics.

Shiny Trait tokens: A pile of glass beads.Computer-moderated play has also gotten me thinking about the tangible aspects of gaming. The stuff you can touch. We all have our own dice, so that continues to work fine. But in B&C, another major tangible component is Trait tokens. Having shiny little baubles to trade back and forth has always been a part of the enjoyment. And having tokens makes it immediately apparent to all concerned how much Trait usage is still possible. How to handle that when trading each token back and forth would cost a hundred dollars and take three weeks?

So far, the only solution I’ve found is for me to keep a text file to track tokens. It works, but it utterly lacks the tangible benefits of physical tokens. Not only does it lack the tactile enjoyment and shininess of tokens, it also makes it difficult for anyone but me to know how many tokens someone currently has left. I haven’t found a better solution yet. Do you know any free online sites that allow tracking of this kind of thing? I can already envision a site like Doodle where you input characters’ names and then select how many tokens you have for each, and then the GM can activate or deactivate those tokens. Perhaps with a choice of different icons for each: little stars that either flash or glow dully as embers; storm clouds that quietly rumble or flash lightning; little characters who bounce with activity or slump; etc. Is there such a thing out there?

In my monthly group, we haven’t needed to do any minis combat yet. I’m wondering how that will work when or if we do. I actually have pretty much my full minis collection here with me, but the camera setup will certainly be a challenge. I’ve seen lots of mentions of mounting cameras on the ceiling or whatever, but that isn’t an option for me, for any variety of reasons.

In any case, as I said before, it’s very nice to live in the future.

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