AD&D: Vent Validated

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.

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5 thoughts on “AD&D: Vent Validated

  1. It’s interesting to read a bit more about your thinking behind the dungeon, because I confess to being a bit confused by why – for example – you’d bothered to design this whole set of catacombs if we were only going to be exploring a tiny bit of it. If you’re treating it as something like an old-school Megadungeon then that makes a lot more sense.

    I think we might have been suffering from a bit of expectation clash in this regard, because I got the sense from both dungeon sessions that we felt a bit torn between wanting to do what we were *supposed* to be doing (chasing the kobolds) and wanting to just explore the dungeon for its own sake. Similarly I think a lot of us expected the old shrines to be a Clue ™ about what the kobolds were up to and who they were working for, rather than just a thing from the past that the kobolds happened to have moved through (I think some of us were semi-seriously worried about encountering werewolves).

    1. Oh, you’ll definitely get a chance to explore more of the dungeon if you wish later down the line, though as other PCs have noted it may not be a brilliant idea to dither about the immediate problem. I probably won’t expect you to go through a room-by-room exploration of the rest of this level though (unless you want to roll that way) but there are sights to see down there if examining the sites of past kings’ sins is what you hanker for.

      I’m not saying anything either way about whether or not the old shrines are a Clue but it would be legitimate for your PCs to wonder why the kobolds (or their hypothetical backers) know about this place when even people who work in the palace on a day to day basis don’t.

    2. I was working on the assumption that we’d probably get to poke around a bit later if we wanted, and also that the peripheral stuff was mostly flavour and backdrop (though I do start wondering about shortcuts or ambushes off to the sides sometimes). That might be partly because it’s the way I tend to design things myself, because I like making stuff and making it make sense if anyone does ever go poking around (which typically means half my stuff doesn’t get used, to be fair). I’m definitely tempted to go off and prod things, but to me the pursuit has always felt pretty clearly the way we should be going IC.

      For a while I was wondering if the giant weasel cage was going to contain a werewolf, I’ll admit. But that sounds like a feature to me.

      I do think it’s interesting that working out standard practices is about as significant as the mechanical side for successfully running VOIP games. I’ve finally worked out (I think) how to make Vent float so that should make life a bit easier next game.

      1. I’d actually say that working out standard practices is just as important in VOIP as it is in tabletop games – it’s just that we’re less conscious of them in tabletop games because they were worked out before we were born and are tightly worked into the system (for instance, initiative is at least in part a machinic to stop everyone yelling at once in combat).

      2. I’m definitely tempted to go off and prod things, but to me the pursuit has always felt pretty clearly the way we should be going IC.

        Oh it was definitely the thing to do *IC*, it’s just that I was then fighting nearly twenty years of dungeoneering instinct which says that you should open every door and look under every rock pile.

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