As most of our experience comes from playing in person, we asked Thom to give us some tips for playing a duet, or any type of RPG, online. His amazing advice is tech-focused, which will set you up for success on Fantasy Grounds and will give you some great ideas and options for running your games online!
1. Session Zero
Plan to spend most of Session 0 getting the tech sorted out before you get into actually playing. Setting that expectation ahead of Session 0 will help put your player(s) at ease and will make Session 1 more productive and enjoyable. I chose to stand up my own TeamSpeak server, but I’m a tech dude. Most people use Discord, but the rest of this and the next tip apply equally.
Note: Session Zero is a low-key session that allows a DM/GM to get to know the game’s PCs. It’s also a great opportunity to introduce a player to their character’s world and the narrative situation that will unfold during the game.
- Everyone needs earbuds or a headset. At the very least, earbuds—this will cut down on the echo and feedback. The increased quality of sound will help with immersion and may also cut down on distractions. If you choose to use background music (I’ll cover my use of Syrinscape below), the headphones add to the immersion as well. If you’re using Fantasy Grounds, you don’t need video, so a camera isn’t important, though it is very nice to be able to read people’s faces
- Consider Push-to-Talk (PTT). PTT somewhat cuts down on spontaneity, which can be both a pro and a con, so you have to decide for yourself whether or not to use it.
- If you’re the DM, do some research on VoiceMeeter. It’ll let you pick what sounds you want to send to TeamSpeak/Discord. Using VoiceMeeter Potato (the current top of the line version of VoiceMeeter), I can screen out my PCs alert sounds, send my voice to TeamSpeak at one volume, and also send Syrinscape at a different volume. I’ve even set up macros that reduce the Syrinscape volume when I key up my PTT button. For added nerdiness, I even created macros to send my voice to left and right channels so that I can enhance conversations between NPCs by placing them aurally in different locations.
As a Duet, the GM’s [Game Master] carrying more of the creative environment load on their shoulders. Professional background music and sounds help fill the quiet moments when you’re frantically looking something up and keep your player engaged. The free sets that come with Syrinscape are a decent start—I’ve purchased the Fantasy Pack, and one other bundle. The flexibility Syrinscape offers is astonishing. My players all love it. It integrates w/Fantasy Grounds via a community extension from a guy called Dulux Oz.
Quick note: We’ve recently started using Syrinscape in our one-on-one game, and we love it so far! My favorite part about it is the iterations in the soundscapes, so you’re not just listening to the same track on loop! We’re hoping to have a more in-depth review of Syrinscape for you soon! For now, we discuss it in our Autumn Gifts post!
3. Non-Game Chat Solution
Discord will work for most people, though my team uses Mattermost. The benefit of using Mattermost/Discord is that the conversations are persistent, and I can post tech details in a channel that’s easy to refer to. If a new person joins the crew, they can scroll up and see all of the conversations if they wish, or they can jump right in. Email and group chats aren’t great for that.
For More Tips
Thom also recommended a new podcast, DM Gives Inspiration, that covers D&D and Virtual Tabletops (VTT). The episode is First Games and Playing Digitally.
We’re so excited about the new possibilities for one-on-one play, and we are incredibly honored and grateful by Thom’s generosity in creating the modules and sharing them with us along with his wonderful advice!
But now we’re wondering, what questions do you have? Or, if you’re already playing online, is there anything else you would add?
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