I've written here in the past about my ongoing experiments with online play via Google Hangouts. My first game relied heavily on the Roll20 engine, which handled all the rules so that I could run my Savage Worlds western game Blood Money. After that, I've been experimenting with running looser, rules light games that operate using GH itself and a dice-rolling app called Bones. Generally, I've been pleased with the results.
As a general rule, it's worked out better and better the less rules interface is involved. Online games in general tend to be slower -- not necessarily worse, but they amplify a lot of issues that you find at the table. I am moving toward lighter and lighter rules to support play as I continue, and the results have been better with this approach.
Today I thought I'd quickly show off some of the tools I've been using to run those games.
This is the "game board" I made up for the online Fiasco games I've run. Fiasco works really quite well online, I have to say -- probably because there are very few rules involved. The Screenshare app and occasional rolls using Bones are all that's required.
You can probably notice that I've included big, colourful "name cards" for each player (easy to see even on a small screen) and the most important rules from the rulebook are right there on the screen. There are also black and white dice tokens that can be moved to player "cards" as they are distributed during play.
I'm running a Cortex Plus hack of Ghostbusters as the sequel game to Blood Money. This board mostly tracks the plot point economy, who's the acting player (the little Slimer shows whose turn it is), and has a big green card for me to add any scene details in play.
Although Cortex Plus works the way I intended it too, for the most part, and the players enjoyed it, I think I miscalculated using such a dice-heavy game for this. I would have been better served using something lighter like Teenagers from Outer Space.
I'm about to run the second session of a Cthulhu Dark game tonight -- Graham Walmsley's rules-lighter Lovecraftian RPG which squeezes a lot of awesome into 1.5 pages. This is the "board" I made for that game, mostly to track Sanity points (which I'm using neat little Elder Signs for).
CD is probably the perfect expression of a ruleset for online play, short of simply playing freeform. We had a very good first experience with this one, and I can see it working well for tabletop play as well. Although Graham Walmsley says in the rules it was intended for play using pre-written adventures, and indeed it would be a great way to dive into an adventure quickly without needing to make up characters, I think it could work well for more shared-narrative experiences as well.
The game contains a brilliant mechanic where anyone at the table can "contest" a player roll, suggesting that the outcome of that roll could turn out badly for them and describing exactly what awful thing would happen if it does go pear-shaped. Then the person who suggested this alternative outcome gets to roll against the acting player (it could just be the GM, and indeed that's the way I've been running it, but I think it would also be fun if the players jumped in and added their own ghoulish glosses to the fun) and if they roll higher, the action comes out as they devilishly described.
Now that'sa spicy meat-a-ball!
I can imagine scenarios where there is no GM at all, only a group of like-minded players setting off together into to explore dark vistas.