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"Best Tool for Online Gaming?" Topic

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22 Jul 2020 3:18 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian22 Jul 2020 3:16 p.m. PST

Which software do you prefer to use for miniature gaming via the internet?

* Zoom
* Facebook Chat
* Skype

Sergeant Paper22 Jul 2020 3:37 p.m. PST

I prefer Skype and Vassal, Second choice discord and Roll20 if somebody else does all the work to put the game and pieces into it.

Syrinx022 Jul 2020 5:50 p.m. PST

It really depends on the game. There are different platforms for boardgames and rpg games. Rolld20 is generic but could be used with Zoom/skype/google to run any in person game.

Fantasy Grounds has a lot of built in support for D&D, pathfinder, Swords & spells etc. If you buy their ported modules it is fairly easy to run. Everyone has to buy a license or pay monthly. We have used FG with a discord server for audio since March to game.

John Armatys22 Jul 2020 6:15 p.m. PST

We've been using Skype, but VCOW was mainly on Zoom and it seemedmore reliable.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2020 6:47 a.m. PST


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2020 6:53 a.m. PST

I currently have two online games going, both RPGs (Pathfinder 2 and D&D 5e).
For one we use Slack, because a member of the group has a business account. I understand it has a small fee for the originator of the audio/video call. The GM uses a separate camera attached to his computer to provide an overhead shot of battle mat when combat occurs. We just roll physical dice and report the results, and track our own physical character sheets, As of yet we haven't mapped anything, though the GM has e-mailed scans of rough maps of the adventuring region.

For the other group, we use Discord for the audio/video call and to handle maps, character sheets, rules details, dice rolling, and combat maps. We haven't done much in the way of physical mapping ourselves. (This group is made up of teens and run by a teen DM; as I recall from observing them play over the last few years, they never seemed to do much mapping, so it may not come up.) Discord and Rollnet.20 are free.

My reviews:
Both work in a similar manner, at least as far as user experience. It's not always obvious what you need to do to get the call started and turn on the video and audio capabilities, but it's not hard to figure out, either.

Discord offers an iPad/iPhone app (and presumably Android and Chrome too) which is free, or it can operate on a browser. I use my iPad for the Discord, and for me it works great.
I use my desktop Mac computer to access I will note that some elements of Roll20 don't work well, but these are largely tertiary features that I don't need. The problem may be on my end, as I use Safari. Otherwise you have to click around a lot to call up the different features, and the browser window can get cluttered if you try to have several things open at once.

I run Slack on my desktop via a free desktop app. It works great, but as I said, some of the features and icons aren't intuitive as to what they do.

Both Slack and Discord allow you to turn on your device's camera for video calls. You can leave the camera off and just to audio. You can mute your microphone independently, too. As a default setting, Slack shows each participant as small square icons side by side (the icon is either live video or a selected avatar image, depending on the participant's camera setting). The system automatically zooms in on whoever is speaking the loudest (or makes the loudest sound, even if accidental). This can probably be set to different approaches, but I haven't tried that yet.
Discord splits the screen into rectangles based on the number of participants. Each rectangle shows either the participant's video feed (if turned on) or a unique color and round avatar icon in the center. If the latter, the icon will be surrounded by a thin green circle when the icon's participant is speaking.

Other than that, they're functionally identical.
Discord has some security issues, but they're largely cases where you have to agree to a request sent to you by another Discord member, who might actually be a bot or spammer out to spoof your account. As your mother taught you, if you don't know who it is, don't answer the door.
As far as I know, Slack is secure; it helps that it's not a popular gaming platform, so maybe has a little less gullibility and more maturity in the clientele, and no paths for uninvited guests to show up.

Since Discord is free, it's probably the better option, but otherwise both work.

Wargamer Blue25 Jul 2020 4:12 p.m. PST

Steam. Using Tabletop Simulator

CeruLucifus26 Jul 2020 11:54 a.m. PST

We're still finding the best system.

We're doing D&D not tabletop miniatures so bear that in mind.

In our group everyone accepts as given that the Roll20 A/V conference doesn't work well, so we use alternate conference software; we've tried Google Hangouts and Google Meet. At our last session the DM used Google Meet to share his desktop so he was the only one logged into Roll20's map.

My idea for my games was to have miniatures on the table and have my webcam on a tripod and pivot it to the game layout … but so far I've run 3 sessions and haven't gotten the table pre-prepped with the figures, tiles, terrain, so have resorted to displaying the map on paper with post-its for fog of war (had been doing this already for face to face games) and describing layout for combat. That has worked very well but I'd rather use miniatures.

I like this article by D&D game author Michael Shea on using Discord to run D&D. I haven't run a game with it yet myself. There is also video link in the article that is worth watching, and he shows how to use it by itself plus also adding the Avrae Discord Bot which allows connection to D&D Beyond for grabbing rules references and icons.

Sly Flourish: Playing D&D Over Discord: link
Sly Flourish: Text-based Combat Tracking for D&D on Discord: link

AGregory30 Jul 2020 3:25 p.m. PST


We have been using Skype, and among our crowd we run 4 or 5 remote miniatures games (historicals) a week. Zoom would be better, probably, but the host of the call needs a paid license.

In my experience, Skype has marginally better sound than Zoom. It also uses less bandwidth than Discord. We found that Discord is really good when it works, but if anyone has a low bandwidth situation (in rural New England that isn't uncommon) then the sound can just cut out completely.

What seems to make the most difference is if the players are familiar with the platform. For us, that really meant Zoom or Skype.


A. Gregory

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