Tabletop Gaming, RPG, and You! Your one stop guide to TTG's
Virtual Tabletop Gaming
Table of Contents 1.) What is Tabletop Gaming
2.) GM-ing, Players, and YOU!
3.) Where do I go next!?
4.) What are some good online resources?
1.) What is Tabletop Gaming?
Tabletop Gaming is very similar to the roleplays you are used too, in fact roleplaying the most important part of TTGaming! You still create a character, build his backstory and craft a story with your friends, but on top of that there are a set of rules that you follow to make the RP more entertaining and random. There's also a GM, but we'll get into that later. It adds rules and pre-established lore that you simply couldn't get in a normal RP, there are books that you can read, and it's mostly up to you what you guys will play. Are you going to be the Powerful Wizard in the world of DND? The Shady cyber-augmented detective in Shadowrun? The Mech pilot with a heart of gold in Battletech? Or the scared little boy in Call of Cthulu? It's all up to you, tabletop gaming is taking a pre-established world with pre-established rules and allowing you all to run amok in it.
Also, there is a ton of these
Tabletop Games normally has 5 participants, one DM ( The person who rolls for the enemies, and the overall referee of the game,) and 4 players, (the story tellers and main protagonists.) Now, this doesn't mean you're forced to have the 5, only that this is normally the way these things work out, now if you think you can handle more GREAT! If you don't think you can handle 4 people, that's ok too! Simply state it in your OP! Remember Tabletop Gaming is very similar to a regular RP, and the rules are only so that there is more interesting things happening in the game.
It's a good idea to post an interest check / general scheduling thread. The accepted place for this is Spam/Forum Games in the off-topic section, there is a Tabletop Subforum in the works, but until it's finished place all IC's for your games there!
2.) GMing, Players, and YOU!
Now when you start a thread for a VTTG (Virtual TableTop Game, look at you, learning the Lingo!) you should really have a game in mind, and make sure there is a way for your players to access the rules to whatever game you want to play. Now this doesn't mean your players have to have extensive knowledge on the game, (hell you don't even have to have extensive knowledge.) Just make sure you know enough to help people make characters, and the basic rules. All TTG's generally have campaigns they released for people to run through, which will help early GM's with their first games. Maybe later you can create your own game! Sending them through a story in that world that YOU made.
As a player, it's up to you to make your own character who represents the person you want to be in that world. In general if you have a question about something, you want to ask your GM to clarify, or make a ruling. (Remember! GM's are the referee's of the game, and generally have reasons for their choices. If something a GM says goes against the rules in a book, it's probably for a good reason. Don't be a rule-lawyer, no-one likes that and it tends to bog down a game fast.) You should also familiarize yourself with the rules of the game, as it will help you make a good character, and help you learn your limits in that world. As long as you're having fun though, don't worry yourself too much. Most games I've run only one or two people actually knew the rules, and that never stopped anyone from enjoying the game.
As a GM, you want to be fluid in your decision, it's your job to GENTLY guide them down the story you're creating, and be willing to change if it's moving in a new direction. Sometimes, your plot is going to be derailed, and this can be okay, the trick is to know how to either roll with the punches and create a new plot when things get off track and seem they won't go where you wanted at first, or to somehow make the people want to go where you wanted them without forcing it via railroading.
But sometimes, you get a Henderson. Named after an internet famous Call of Cthulhu character, The Henderson Scale of Plot Derailment is used to describe things that just go off the charts in random directions, and there will be players who either their concerted effort, or just by doing things willy nilly, will bring about events that not only derail the plot you had in mind, but make the plot only a pipe dream that can now never come about. Depending on how things are done, this can be in a way that the general player population loves ( which is either indicative of the Henderson'd plot being fun and amazing on its own, or a red flag that you as a DM have done something wrong ), or it can be done in a way that pisses off the players. While in either case, you as the person calling the shots may get so pissed off you treat painkillers as skittles, if the players are still having a good time any retribution you have against the Henderson will only serve to blow up in your face.
In times like this, it is suggested that you calmly talk with the Henderson and party about how things could have been done different, in a way you and they would both enjoy. Your players are not your enemies, do not treat them as such, and do not punish the beloved Henderson.
If the players are not amused by the Henderson, feel free to kick him out of the game, and leave conditionals on them ever rejoining. Make them understand that they were out of line, and use the other players as an example of both the negative effects they had on the game, and as an example of how things should be done instead.
3.) Where do I go next?
At this point, it's time to schedule your game, and pick where you're gonna play, for time managing I prefer this http://www.worldtimebuddy.com/time-converter the greatest part is that you can plug in the other players times and simply pick one that works for everyone. In fact I have a game tomorrow where I managed to get someone from Texas, 3 people From California, One person from Italy, and One person on the same timezone as THAILAND all together in a game! This made it easy and I just found it recently. You can even generate a link to share with your players and bug them with it to remind them to play. It's an excellent tool!
So, you've got your players, you've got rules, you've got your GM, and you even found a time you're all available, but oh no! You don't know where to play, well don't worry, you actually have a few choices, all having a varying degree of Pro's and Con's. I will list them here, and you should choose what you think would work best for your group.
I love Roll20, it has it's downsides, but good god I love roll20. It has pretty much everything you need in a VTT, it doesn't require a download. It has Map uploading, Token uploading, a measuring tool, a drawing tool, a text tool, a dice roller, an OOC command for when you need to talk OOC, whispering, and a tool to track turns. This is the go to site for modern VTTGs though there are a few things to watch out for. It only works in chrome (though it does have a Google Hangout thing if you're into that,) it can load slowly if your internet is slow, and sometimes resizing your images can be a pain. Though it has a measuring tool, it only really works well when you turn on the grid, and of course being 2D you have to use a bit of imagination when one chara is "above" the other. These are all small gripes and it tends to work with 90% of my games, if my internet is being dodgy, or if my players aren't running on the best connection, I will avoid roll20 and use IRC.
rolz.org is a dicerolling site that has a chat feature. It's very much like joining a chatroom with a working dicebot, but I personally find it a bit slow, giving a bit of lag that I thought was grating. It's very good for dice rolls, but I don't really recommend using it for your whole game. Using Rolz.org with IRC is great though, as the lag is only for dicerolls, and the majority of your RP will not be slowed down. There is no whisper or message function as well, which can be mildly irritating when trying to give specific players info the others should not have.
IRC works very well for VTT games, but you need to do a little extra to get a Dicebot working, (while you can download them off the internet, you'll have to use a program like Mirc to get it functioning in your chat room. So a little bit of technical skill is required.) But if you can get the dice bot working, you can have a traditional DnD game. Sadly there is no live maps in IRC, so at most you can give your characters still pictures of the surroundings. Still very good for people who want to have a more traditional TTG. This does not require anyone to download a program besides possibly the GM, which is a plus. Use mibbit.org to generate a link for your room, and that's all you need! If you can't set up a dicebot, you can use this with rolz.org (as long as your players join both rooms)
The RPtools suite is an incredibly powerful and wonderful tool for GM's, but it really works better as a program for in person games, then VTT for multiple reasons. This suite will allow you to do everything you would need for a game, and it has user made modules for almost every tabletop game out there. I do not use it simply because it requires every person to have it on their computer, and the servers can be a pain to set up. While it's a good tool, I really don't recommend it for everyone. It has a graphical user interface, and will allow you to move your players on the map, giveing them a good idea of where they are in the game. Especially good if you tend to leave parts out when you GM.
Of course, you can always go the forum route, although this would probably require slight changes to the rules especially when it comes to combat, (which requires a lot of DM/Player interaction. 1 DM post for every Player that posts,) though if you do go this way I recommend using this for dicerolls http://orokos.com It will give you your own log-in along with a seed and a link that allows the GM to verify your rolls. Which is nice. There's not much to say here besides that, everyone should know how to use a forum, and every GM will want to handle the rule modifications seperately, as long as you're clear what you're changing you should be fine.
What Are Some Good Online Resources?
Here is a list of things you can find with a simple google search