Online DnD games are awesome. You can play with friends from far away. You don’t have to wear pants. And, with Corona Virus getting into full swing, a lot of us don’t feel like going out much. So online DnD games are more popular than ever! There’s a tonne of great apps, like Discord, Skype and Zoom (my personal preference) which are free to use and you can just hop on and chat with your friends. You don’t even need a VTT. (Of course, something like World Anvil, which helps you manage your characters, send messages and see your GM’s worldbuilding, can be pretty helpful!)
But if you’re new to online DnD games, it can be a pretty daunting thing. So here are my 5 best tips (from a streaming pro!) for a great streamed game experience. ONWARD TO ADVENTURE! 🙂
Online DnD games tip 1: Get there early
In a face to face session, you’ll be traveling, and you might arrive early! After all, you might want to run to the bathroom before you start (more on that later). Or make yourself that all-important cup of coffee! But with online DnD games it can be tempting to just sit down at the computer and think that you’re ready! No prep time, and no chat.
But just like in a face to face session, you need some time to reacquaint yourself with the group. Take the time to catch up with your fellow adventurers out of character. That’ll make the streamed game experience feel much easier. And you’ll feel a lot less awakward when your online DnD Game starts, and you’re acting out Grumpor the Barbarian in front of your computer. Which brings me nicely to tip number 2….
Online DnD games tip 2: Stay in the kill zone
No, I don’t mean the end of your sword! The kill zone is the square that your webcam shows. And one of the hardest things to get used to in online DnD games is playing within that little square. If you’re a very demonstrative player, you’ll end up throwing your arms or hands where no one can see them! And if you’re a more subtle character, that might not read well over the camera at all! Watch yourself carefully on the camera, and see where the boundaries are. See how well things read to others. That’ll help you gauge what’s going to work for you. You might even find that the change in medium changes your play style! That’s fine too! As long as you and the party are having fun, that’s all that matters!
The kill zone is not like the danger zone. Unless you play Chaotic Evil.
Oh, and turn the lights on! That’ll help you make the most of your facial expressions, and help people connect and understand your character more!
Online DnD Games Tip 3: Use your Heroes Profile!
Dice are loud and sheets rustle. A Heroes profile, on the other hand, is silent and deadly! 😉 Using an online character manager for a streamed game is a really good solution for online DnD games. World Anvil’s Heroes – the character manager – works beautifully on mobile as well as on a computer, so if you only have one screen it’s definitely a viable option!
You can roll dice with a single click, which means there won’t be that incessant clack clack busting open the mic every time you make a skill check. And you’ll be able to look at your GMs handouts too, using the hand out screen. That’s way easier than trying to download numerous images every time the GM sends something through – especially if your internet is already at its limit because of the streamed call! You can learn more about Heroes here and use it for free here. It works for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, Pathfinder One, Vampire the Masqurade and more, and soon we’ll have pathfinder 2 and Call of Cthulu sheets too!
Online DnD games 4: Kill background noise, or mute yourself
There’s nothing more annoying than being interrupted! And the way most video call software works, if there’s a lot of background noise from someone, that’s what happens! You’re in the middle of describing a cinematic death blow to the Great Baa’haa and suddenly your audio cuts off. Instead of your glorious description, everyone hears a dog barking, a child screaming, or the aggressive rustling of a too-soon-empty potato chip packet.
Video call software deals preferentially and tries to spotlight the person it thinks is the focus of the conversation, but loud background noise can confuse it. So for your online DnD game, try to be in a spot with as little background noise as possible. And if you can’t avoid it – and there’s always times when you can’t – then make sure that you mute yourself when you’re not speaking so everyone can enjoy the game!
Online DnD games 5: Everybody poops…
I have a tiny bladder. Yup, it’s true. I also drink a lot of water and coffee. This is a match made in biobreak heaven, but the number of times that I’ll be sat there, hopping up and down on my chair, is just brutal. I don’t always want to be the one asking for a bio break. It’s kinda embarassing. So make sure that you take regular bio breaks, not just for the bathroom, but to stay hydrated and fed! It’s easy to loose track of time on a streamed game and the last thing you want is to get a dehydration headache during your online DnD game! So look out for each other, or maybe even set an alarm! That means that every hour you can at least get up and move about – which is also healthy, and recommended by various health associations too!
I hope these tips have helped you, and made your first streamed game a bit less daunting! If you’re interested in playing online but can’t find a group, check out RPGtablefinder, a free service where you can find people from all over the world to play with! And make sure you check out World Anvil too – both online and offline, it’s a great way to streamline your game, and make sure you capture every amazing moment!
Have more tips for online DnD games? Share them in the comments below!
(I didn’t say anything about equipment because that’s a whole other post in itself! The TL:DR though, is that you should use whatever you like that works for you. An inbuilt webcam and mic is fine. Just for reference, here’s the deets for the equipment I use! I use this also for streaming and making youtube videos. (Just a note, the links below are amazon affiliate links. I might make, like, 1 penny commission from Amazon off your purchase, but it won’t cost you anything!)
This Logitech webcam is fab – creates a great picture! It just plugs into a USB port.
And this microphone is fantastic (also for USB). You can attach it to an arm too, but I just keep mine on the stand it comes with, and pop it under the desk when i don’t need it. It
And this is the green screen that I use. It’s literally a sheet, which I have hung up with bulldog clips, wool and nails. But it does the job!
And finally, I have three of these lights – they’re fab and you can vary their brightness! Light can make or break a stream or video (you don’t need something this fancy, though, unless you want to film or stream for public consumption!).