We had the second session of our Roll20 AD&D game yesterday, this time turning off voice broadcasting in Roll20 and using Vent instead. After a false start in order to sort out technical issues (apparently you need to specifically tell Vent servers to be nice to Macs, which seems mildly faffy to me), I actually found it worked much more smoothly than Tokbox. Although some people did suffer crashes, on the whole it was still vastly more stable than Tokbox ever was, which allowed for play to continue mostly interrupted through the session. In addition, we were talking over each other somewhat less this time, which was perhaps just a side effect of the group being more used to each other but I think was also helped by the way Vent works – the little speaker icon by your name goes green when you hit your push-to-talk key, so you have a visual indication of when someone’s speaking.
We also were able to tackle another issue we had last time, where people were sometimes moving their tokens to indicate that their character had moved and sometimes moved them to show where they intend to move, which led to some ambiguity and people triggering combat when they perhaps hadn’t meant to. The solution we hit on entailed using Roll20’s ping function to indicate where characters intend to move, and then move the token only when they actually move, so the fighters get a chance to suggest they go ahead when the mage seems to be trying to take point. This is something which won’t necessarily come up all the time in the campaign, but I’m still glad we’re working these things out now – I’m running a map-and-counters dungeon adventure first primarily to give us this sort of test run of Roll20’s features.
As far as the actual session went, it consisted mostly of exploration with an outburst of combat at the end. I’m doing an experiment here where I’m presenting an old school dungeon (in that there are a lot of rooms which are just kind of abandoned) but trying to avoid letting it get too tedious by running what is essentially a chase through it – the characters are in pursuit of a gang of kobolds and are following their trail through the dungeon, so they usually know which way they need to go. That said, the different sectors of the dungeon level do have histories beyond being a backdrop for a chase, which adds flavour to spice up the process of exploration.
One thing I did notice about the game is how even mostly-empty dungeons can create tension – to the point where passing down a narrow corridor proved worrisome for the players because it looked like an ambush site. Likewise, despite the fact that the players had successfully stopped any of the kobolds they’d encountered so far from escaping, some of the kobolds’ traps weren’t activated, but they still managed to cause the players concern.
Next time, the players should – provided there’s no mishaps – be in a position to bring the chase to a close, at which point depending on how it resolves they’ll have several options for taking things further.