Prepare in Advance
With so many of us moving our games to online, we wanted to cover some advice and ideas for players as well as for their DMs for moving games online. While the transition will likely be more labor-intensive for DMs than players, there’s still a lot that those of us in front of the screen can do to make the DM’s job easier!
In this post, I’ll cover some important considerations for you to work through before your online session starts so you’ll be prepared for full immersion in your online game.
Two key steps
There are going to be some differences in level of prep for one-on-one games and group games, but when playing online, especially if it’s going to be voice only, make sure you’ve
- reviewed your notes from the previous session and
- go into the game with an idea of the things your character wants to accomplish going forward.
In addition to notes from the session before, make sure you’re keeping up with some of the longer reveals and important NPCs. This will help you recognize moments your DM has been building toward, set you up well for important social encounters with NPCs, and give you ideas as to leads and direction.
I was frustrated going back over some of my earlier notes from our Waterdeep: Dragon Heist game. I found a list of NPCs who I knew were leads, but I hadn’t recorded where I’d learned their names, who I’d learned them from, or what I was meant to do with them as a next step.
I’ve also found that it’s more difficult (for me at least) to take notes during online sessions. This can already be harder to manage during one-on-one play, so I’m adopting writing summaries after online sessions like I do in our home duet game. You can read more about note-taking strategies here!
Taking notes in-game, especially during a duet and especially online, is a balancing act, but try to stay conscious of how you’ll be using the information in the future as you jot things down during gameplay.
Know where you’re going
Characters should have short- and long-term motivations as well as short- and long-term goals.
In this instance, goals are more overt and tend to be driven by external conflict. A few questions to consider:
- What is the player trying to accomplish in the context of the wider world?
- What is the party working to achieve right now?
- What is the party trying to achieve across their adventures, or their overarching goal?
You’ll likely have short-term goals that relate to the current quest or arc as well as long-term goals that correspond to the PC/party’s fight against the BBEG.
RP Tip: Make these overarching goals as personal as you can. What about this villain (smaller-scale or BBEG) goes against your PC’s worldview and values? These should be different for every member of the party, and, very likely, some smaller-scale villains will be more personal to one party member than they are to another. (A great setup for internal conflict within each character and within the party!)
If goals are external, then motivations are internal drivers that reflect a character’s values and fears. Let your character’s self-reflection (or lack thereof) guide their awareness of these motivations. Characters who understand themselves well will be more aware of their subconscious motivations than characters who are still figuring themselves out.
Motivations can also be short- and long-term, and they will likely be related to the character’s/party’s goals. These are the more personal reasons undergirding why the conflicts the party is facing matter to them. Ask yourself: Why is your character risking their life every single day to achieve these goals?
If we look at the Enneagram personality typing system, we’ll see that each of the nine personalities has been affected by a “wound.” This wound often occurs in childhood and tends to be either a form of rejection or an absence. Some examples include abandonment (type 4), broken trust or lack of safety (type 6), and a lack of affection and meaningful interaction (type 5).
As children, we experience all nine of the wounds, but one affects us more strongly than the others, scoring a critical hit, as it were. For developing your character’s motivations, you don’t need to figure out a specific moment in their childhood where a traumatic experience occurred. They may have even had a very happy childhood.
Instead, think of the wound as the inspiration of a core lack that the character is seeking. How can they fix or make up for what it seems like they’re inherently missing? How can they repair this break in their conception of self?
Jonathan and I hope that this post finds you well and safe during the pandemic, and we hope that this and other resources about online play help you to continue playing D&D or help you get started if you’re new to the game.
Related Resources for online play
Related Resources for Character Development
As always, please leave any questions you may have in the comments below!
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