Shall we start with an unofficial contest? Let’s shall. Ahem:

As you are no doubt aware, Ranger is something of a silent protagonist. However, this is not her first spoken line in the comic. There’s a bounty of 535 XP and bragging rights to the first adventurer who can find that comic! 

Now that the fun and games have been dispensed with, let’s talk about digital media! You almost have to in this day and age. The longer I play in the land of platonic solids, the more the phrase “pen and paper RPG” feels like an anachronism. It may not be ideal, but certain realities of digital gaming are practically inescapable. You’re looking at one of them in today’s comic.

If you’ve ever played an RPG on a VTT, I suspect that you can empathize with Ranger. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as giving this big, impassioned speech, only to have your buddies ignore you.

Well damn. I thought that was some pretty good RP. Nobody cares I guess. 

Cut to five minutes later when you realize your mic is off.

Now you’ve already heard my spiel on the woes of the technological tabletop. The lack of eye contact, the so-called “Zoom burnout” of COVID times, and the twin perils of dropped connections and wonky audio settings can make for frustration. But despite my luddite ways, I enjoyed a positive VTT experience recently. It’s one I wanted to share with you guys

The Zone is designed for new weird one-shots in the tradition of Annihilation, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of games, and Lovecraft’s “The Color Out Of Space.” I learned about it thanks to an academic conference (and if you’re morbidly curious you can still watch my panel with the designer). I got the chance to sit down and give it a whirl last week, and let me tall ya: there was enough body horror to make Abercrombie look benign. As a gamer, it’s always nice for me to get out of fantasy land and stretch my legs in new genres. We do that every once in a while here in Handbook-World after all. But the reason The Zone intrigued me was its dedication to the VTT format. From the seamless voting mechanic, to the visible presence of your buddies’ cursors, to the built-in tutorial, it was an experience designed to live on the screen. Rather than attempting to staple the wet-erase experience onto a computer monitor, it actually takes advantage of the move to digital.

And so, for today’s discussion, I’d like to give “VTT best practices” another pass. What is the best adaptation you’ve managed moving from an analog tabletop to a virtual one? Are there any game systems that seem especially suited to that change? Tell us all about your best (and worst) encounters with D&D&Digital down in the comments!


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