Sunday, May 06, 2007

Roleplaying stuff

Instead of posting something original to me (and I can just hear the sound of the fans going wild!), I'm going to post a couple of links to stuff that crossed my inbox this week.

Item: Darrel Plant writes, on his blog, about an episode 25 years ago when he was asked by a local library to do a presentation about Dungeons and Dragons, only to find himself in a debate with a local church group. This was all the rage back then. Sometime in 1985 or '86, a bunch of us were hanging out at my parents' place late in the morning when a religious program came on to "discuss" D&D. It turned out that there was no discussion, it was a lecture. My friend called in to disagree with the moderator, and apparently only got online because the preface to his story, "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't do drugs..." had the moderator believing he was a Lutheran divinity student!

At any rate, of all the things to worry about these days D&D doesn't even register in the top 100. It was a different story in 1982. In fact, my disdain for organized religion began in 1985 while reading a tract in church about D&D's "evils". That so disgusted me that I never went back.

Here's Darrel's story of his experiences in trying to explain the lack of evil in roleplaying, back in 1982. (For the record, I had all the RPGs he mentions, except Bushido, which I'd always wanted to get.)

Item: My friend, Lorna, sent me this link to an article in The Onion. I used to read the online version religiously, and the paper version when I visited Milwaukee and could actually buy it. I haven't read it in a bit, so I missed this article.

If anyone ever asks me what playing Call of Cthulhu is like, I think I'll send them this link:

Item: In response to Lorna's message, Do-Ming — another friend, and fellow intrepid American Civil War battlefield explorer — sent this link. It's to a cartoon that pretty much explains the roleplaying mindset in general:

Item: Skype roleplaying is accelerating in popularity. Roleplaying is a social hobby. Sure you can play computer and console game RPGs, but they basically only follow the bare mechanics of RPGs (and D&D/D20 in particular), and they distill down to "kill things and take their stuff". Roleplaying is different, and far better, with other people. Unfortunately it's still somewhat of a fringe hobby, particularly if you live in an area with a small population and you don't want to play D&D or White Wolf's World of Darkness games. In response, Skype gaming has taken off.

Skype is an online voice over IP (VoIP) system that allows you to talk to others via your computer. Skype charges you if you use their service to call someone's land line or cell phone, but computer-to-computer use is free. This allows voice communication over the Internet. Skype allows conference calls of up to about 9 people, so all but the largest groups can be accomodated.

But what about the physical mechanics of playing the game, like rolling dice or drawing pictures to show everyone where their characters are located?

As it turns out, I'll be playing a Skype game Real Soon Now. One of the players, Tom, has a license to Klooge.Werks. I'll have to talk to him about this in more depth, but it's a Java tool for running online roleplaying games. It's full featured, but it's also a bit pricey, running up to US$60 for a six license pack.

Doing some digging, though, I found a thread on talking about Skype gaming. Someone pointed out several freeware products that are useful.

The products are:

  • An online dice roller: These aren't necessary, as a number of folks simply trust each other and use real dice.

  • Thinkature, an online white board: Great for sharing quick drawings.

  • ScreenMonkey:
    . ScreenMonkey is a map program, but with a difference. You can place icons on the map representing players and bad guys/monsters/etc. The icons can be moved or removed. This is an online version of a map sheet and metal miniatures. There's a free, "lite" version that looks like it might have everything we need.

  • Shoutcast: Shoutcast is an internet radio site. It allows you to upload music and let others listen to it. Since I tend to use mood music, I can post the music to the site and let the players listen, if they are so inclined.

  • Sometimes you just want to play a recording or a noise effect, not an actual piece of music. This is where Pamela comes in: Pamela is essentially a Skype voice mail package, but apparently it allows you to play sound clips over Skype. One of the versions is free.

I will, of course, post here about how well our Skype gaming session turns out.


darrelplant said...


I had Cthulu as well as Metamorphosis: Alpha and a host of other titles. As a matter of fact, I still have all of them, since I've been carting them about for the past quarter-century. I even have my original white boxed copy of the D&D books.

Jeff said...

I am putting together an online role playing experience coming up shortly and I thought you might be interested in some stuff that I found.

1) RPTools publishes a free set of Java based tools that can take care of a lot of the mechanics of game play. I am interested in MapTool in particular because it includes dice rolling, a whiteboard/map feature, and simple chat. It's lightweight and "gets out of the way" of the rest of role playing. (

2) This was a bit more work but Skype under Ubuntu can be reconfigured to accept as input any sound source from the system. I am using Amarok to pipe music direct into the Skype conversation. I am also using Ardour to record the Skype conversation for later editing and outtakes. For me this requires a separate box and a dedicated Skype account for the recorder. I understand this can also be done under Windows but after spending a huge amount of time on Ubuntu, I just didn't feel up to it ;)

If you're interested in stuff about my game, you can check it out at

tobukemi at gmail

im2hotn4n said...

I have been gaming for several years now using Skype and RP Tools. We use skype for basic chat functions, and RP tools only to display tokens, maps and die rolls. Any games works, DD, GURPS etc.. I have 2 groups which game regularly and do lots of solo RPG on the fly with interested peoeple. If you are interested in Skype RPGs GURPS, Star Wars, WOD - please feel free to contact me via Skype R Sinha,