Playing D&D Over Skype

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 15 June 2010

Thanks to some great guys including my friend Sam, I was able to play in my first 4th edition D&D Skype game. I had a really great time. Being able to play with a bunch of people I met on Twitter made me really happy, even if it meant staying up to 2:30 a.m. on a work night. Between this experience and the awesome OD&D skype game I'm in, I'm over my hesitations regarding online gaming and may even try DMing a game soon. While I don't have a ton of experience yet, here are a few tips I've picked up along the way.

  • Expect the first few sessions to be a little awkward, especially if no one really knows each other and they are new to the tools. Many of us tend towards the introverted and shy side, and without the visual cues to signify all is well, we take a little longer to get over those. We didn't suffer from this too much in my OD&D game because most of us had met at least one other player in real life. In fact, I'm probably the most shy and even I had a joke or two during my first session. The lack of visual cues also makes conversation a bit more difficult. However, even professional podcasters sitting in the same room with each other will talk over one another and you will too. Just relax and enjoy the game.
  • The tools are good, but they are not perfect. In both games, we use skype for audio and another program for the visuals. For the OD&D game, we use Gametable, in part because the most we really need is the ability to show an overland map and a whiteboard to draw a rough sketch of any important areas. For the 4e game, we used d20Pro. Generally, it's a good idea to have the DM run the visual utility and another player, preferably one with a wired Internet connection, host the skype call.
  • Try to minimize background noise. I'm really fortunate here in that we have a guest bedroom/former home office for me to disappear into, but not everyone has that luxury. Computer mics have a habit of picking up lots of background noise, everything from the television to typing to fans. You won't be able to hear the noise you make, but you can keep watch on the skype call list to see what sort of sound level your mic is picking up. Also, if you have an external stand mic and it is picking up a hum, it's possible that the table is vibrating the mic. Put something under the mic to absorb some of the vibration, like a washcloth or towel. Finally, try not to breathe directly into the mic. Save that for prank calls.

As for last night's session, my illusionist wizard, Madeline, kicked ass. I tend towards playing higher charisma characters so my shyness definitely hurt me at the beginning of the game. But once we got to combat, my tactical side took over and I was fine. Madeline let the big boys in her party take the brunt of the damage at the beginning of the combat, but worked her way through a fair number of the enemies. At the end, she used Guardian Blades to create a protective buffer and walked right up to the remaining zombie minion. She then used one of her ranged spells to attack the boss. The zombie jumped at the opportunity to go after the squishy target, missed, and was cut to pieces for his trouble. I might have left an impression with that move. She was my first controller character. Since I tend to play strikers or defenders, changing my mindset was a little frustrating but the tactical challenges offered more than made up for it. I hope I get to play a similar character sometime in the future.


Woot - Great post!

I had a great time too. Excellent tips for making the game smoother, and you are correct in saying that the tools aren't perfect. Luckily, I love the game enough to slog through the not-so-optimal parts and get to the really smooth, extremely entertaining bits. Thanks for joining my game!

DM Samuel

What did you think of d20Pro? It looks interesting...I run my games via MapTool and Vent, and I find MapTool to be a huge pain. $30 + a few $10 licenses is reasonable if the app is good enough.

Over Skype, eh? Hm...

First good you had a good time playing OD&D ^^ i hope to have that chance some time although ill probably have to DM one myself in order for that be possible XD

Im really interested in the tools you talk about because i was thinking into using remote skype powered short session in order to expand individual histories/backgrounds, but i am intrigued on how a 4ed combat (so miniature/movement dependent) would work in that scenario, do you have any input on that? :P

great post as usual ^^ hope you keep blasting stuff and having fun with Madeline :)

Welcome to wide world of Skype gaming (although you really don't qualify as a noob here, since you're in the OD&D game.

The 4e game my wife & I are in (and run by my brother-in-law's brother)is run on MapTool (with a special 4e plug in) and also done over Skype. We've had up to 8 people on that call. Call drops occasionally on my end (wireless being less than reliable sometimes), but it's easy enough to reconnect to the call.

Great post!

We use skype for one remote person in our group. We have two way audio and for the video we point a webcam at the battlemat (usually just a vinyl hex mat with dry-erase marker drawings, but this time we used Dwarven Forge pieces). He points his webcam at him, but we normally don't like to see him anyway. :)

Don't know about Skype but we've used Ventrilo for our VOIP for our online game (along with Maptools) and it has worked great. Handy feature where you hold down the ctrl key to talk that helps cut down on background noise. It's a nice tool.

Glad you had a good time on Monday night. I had a blast, especially when everyone thought Tagrath was insane wandering into that room. That was a great character to play, because his motivations were so simple. He liked to hit stuff and have fun, and let everyone else worry about the other stuff.

I may just have to break him out again sometime for some other game.

As far as Maptools vs. d20pro goes, I think they both have learning curves, but the big difference between the two is that d20pro places ALL the burden of work on the DM, while with Maptools players can be responsible for their own characters, at least.

I think combat runs a little faster in Maptools, but that is a side effect of the DM having to be a part of everything. d20pro has a big edge in the pretty factor. It is all a matter of what is more important to you.

And once again, I say screw you to the spam filter.

This is an interesting topic. On one hand, the best part of playing Dnd is getting together with friends. On the other hand, the biggest hassle of playing Dnd is finding time to get together with friends. I really thought WotC was headed in this direction when they announced the release of 4ed. Instead, the housing bubble burst and they laid-off a bunch of people. I guess that project got deep-sixed. I haven't heard of Gametable, d20Pro, or Vent until now. I am familiar with MapTools, MasterPlan, and inCombat (on the iplay4e website). It would be great if someone would compare & contrast these apps and even demo them on YouTube.

With respect to the you-tube video thing, D20Pro has a bunch of videos up on their site, already. I recommend watching those to get an idea of how things work as even the videos that are "tutorials" really give you an idea of the program's capabilities. Perhaps a compare and contrast video review would be good to put up?

There are a lot of good things and a lot of not-so-good things about gaming online. I am happy to game any time in any fashion, so I can overlook the more aggravating aspects, but it does take a bit of patience and an ability to deal with the learning curve the first few times you play.

One note on Vent vs Skype, I have played with both, and used both MapTools and D20Pro with of them. Unfortunately it seems that Vent and d20Pro have a conflict somewhere, which is why we use Skype now. Honestly, it could just be a setting, but I haven't been able to find and fix it if it is.


Hi all, I'm one of the designers of d20Pro. We've had quite a bit of traffic from this post and I just waned to pop in and say thank you for all the interest. Any feedback is appreciated and the comment about too much work being put on the GM's shoulders is something we're aware of and are working to change. I certainly don't want to take anybody away from this great site but if there are any specific questions about d20Pro please feel free to make use of our forums (not sure if its appropriate to put a link here but you can find them by visiting our web site linked above) or email me directly if you'd like.

Thanks again for all the interest and whether you use d20Pro or not, hope you have fun gaming!

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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