Had another Dungeons & Dragons session over Roll20 which went fairly well; we tried our hand at running an abstract combat without the use of maps or tokens to see how that worked and it seemed to be quite viable, and the party got a chance to talk to some NPCs and plan their next move. However, something did occur to me in the course of play which seems to be a major disadvantage of the Roll20 setup.
We don’t use webcams in our game; Vent, so far as I know, doesn’t support them, and using the built-in chat software provided in Roll20 (which does have webcam support) proved unstable. As far as I can tell, everyone prefers it this way anyway. However, that does mean I lack an important bit of feedback – body language. When, as a GM, I’m talking a lot – as happened this session – and the players are listening silently that usually means one of two things: either everyone is really into the game and hanging on my every word, or they’re bored out of their tiny skulls (usually the latter, because I’ve never known players who were excited and engaged with a game to stay silent for very long). I have no idea which (if either) of these is the case in the most recent session. Usually, you can tell from people’s body language, but of course that isn’t the case here.
It was pointed out that a disadvantage of push-to-talk is that you don’t get so much in the way of acknowledgement noises like “uh-huh” and “hmmm” and so on from the other people in the conversation, which is another important feedback route we are missing. That said, push-to-talk has proved so useful in minimising people talking over each other (and in generally not hearing people breathe or eat) that I’m loathe to dispense with it.
I would like to find a solution to this so I guess I have to look carefully at the Roll20 format and see where real-time feedback can occur instead (obviously post-session feedback does help, but it doesn’t help during the session itself). We’ve not been using Roll20’s integrated chat features very much except for rolling dice; perhaps I should suggest that the players use it to make any little comments or asides they want to make but which they don’t consider significant enough to merit going out over Vent?