Monday, November 21, 2011

First Google+ Game

Subtitle -- In Which Delta Actually Plays D&D (And Not As DM)

So last weekend I queued up for my first old-school D&D game via the Google+ video chat facility. Very nice; technically it worked without a hitch for me, and was much smoother and easier to run than I expected. This was with my good friends from Boston, with whom I had my longest-running regular weekly D&D game from 2000-2005 or so.

Familiar Feelings:
  • D&D really is goddamned fun to play!
  • I think we all continue to become better D&D players, and it's really a pleasure to watch happen. Truly it has been said, "Superior play makes the game more enjoyable for all participants" (Gygax in the AD&D PHB, p. 109)
  • One of the key play tips that I'm reminded of: Don't keep any surprises from your fellow players. When we were first playing together about 10 years ago, many of us (including me) we fall prey to a "cinematic" desire where we'd pull some special tactic in a fight that no one else knew about, and get some spotlight moment where everyone was agog at our PC. Don't do that. Like any sporting group, the rest of your team needs to know about any special moves, feats, spells, secrets, equipment, or plans that might come into play: that way, they can plan and likely improve on your idea. We're so much better at this now than we were before.

New Observations:

  • I spent some time playing solo D&D in the last year, and I think that very much paid dividends in how I built and equipped my PC. If possible, I might recommend that anyone go through the old-school meat grinder in which they expect to lose a score of PCs or more, very quickly. I've got a whole folder-full of dead solo PCs that I used up -- and every time I did so, I picked up some new lesson that I should keep in mind while playing D&D, or the surprising effectiveness of some minor item on the OD&D equipment list.
  • Target 20 doesn't look any different to the players than 3E-style ascending armor class. I was somewhat surprised that I've been using "Target 20" for a few years now, and this never occurred to me until another DM ran it, with me as a player. In either case, the player rolls d20, adds attacks bonus, and tells that to the DM, who does the rest. The difference is really in whether the DM utilizes old-school, one-digit AC stats (adding & comparing to 20 on the fly), or new-school, double-digit AC stats (subtracting old AC from 20 and documenting that in advance).
  • Roles are not synonymous with classes. Of course, the new-new-school rage is to talk about WoW-style "roles" -- which aggravates me right off the bat, because it's yet another step away from concrete, in-world language and descriptions ("tank" and all that). But even if you accept that, what struck me in this game is how it's a misunderstanding to think that original D&D classes were locked into any particular party roles. In our game, we had two 2nd level dwarven fighters -- one a heavily-armored, slow, front line shield man; the second lightly-armored, quick, crossbow-focused, and highlighting dwarven scouting/ listening/ detection abilities. Exact same OD&D race and class; two totally different party roles.

Technical Items:

  • In setting up a webcam for the very first time ever, I was somewhat frustrated by my inability to find any way to technically test it before going online with others. After the fact, I found a very nice website that would do that: TestMyCam.
  • Knowing that Google now wants to force consolidation of all your accounts with them, I actually made a new email address just for use with Google+ to prevent that. Call me a privacy nut if you like; it's not paranoia if they're really out to get ya. :-)


A very nice game, and a very nice tool! Unfortunately, due to time constraints a computer setup issues in my apartment, it's unlikely that I'll be able to do this on a "constant" basis. But hopefully some more games will occur in the future.

Read the other guys' takes:


4 comments:

  1. Doesn't Target 20 lose it's benefit at high levels?

    When you are adding an attack bonus of +9, +2 strength, +2 magic sword, +1 from bless or similar bonuses, we are talking about bonuses in the teens. It's all simple math mind you but it's funy how intelligent gamers get bogged down by this stuff.

    Am I missing something about Target 20? Or is high level play not really a concern since so few of us ever get there? I am torn between it and ThacO which I prefer, but I think my players might prefer this.

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  2. Hi, bholmes -- I think I see what you're saying (larger terms making the addition hard). It doesn't feel that way to me; it's a pretty clear consensus that any additions are easier than subtraction. The other thing is that I tend be able go "yup, that's something over 20", and thus a hit, really fast even before I get the exact number (granted that I haven't yet gotten players onto that particular tip yet).

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  3. I've definitely had that happen in games using target 20:

    Player: I rolled a 19.
    Me: You hit.
    Player: Wait, I haven't added my bonuses yet.
    Me: Doesn't matter, it's a hit.

    I don't think larger or more numerous bonuses are so bad, as many players will just pre-calculate this into a single bonus. That is, they'll write down somewhere on their character sheet the total "plus" for their favorite weapon so they don't have to scour the sheet every time they roll. Even a roll of 17 plus a total bonus of +15 is still pretty easy to do in your head.

    What I suspect will be slightly onerous is negative ACs. I've only dealt with one so far, a -2 AC monster, and in that case I found myself just mentally thinking of it at Target 22.

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  4. ... and I certainly agree with Paul's point on consolidating to a single bonus there.

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