Sunday, 31 May 2020

Simple Online Fantasy Role Playing Game Guide

Welcome back to the Vault my fellow Venturers! One of the joys of the smart phone age is the Group Chat, and like a lot of gamers/hobbyists I belong to a number of such groups dedicated to various gaming and modelling topics.

One of the smaller 40k group chats was lamenting the lack of face to face gaming due to lock down and social distancing, and the suggestion of running an online role playing game came up.  Most of the players are relative novices to RPGs so I volunteered to organise a very simple introductory game using easily accessibly materials.

First up was the choice of rule set; this was an easy decision to make as I've had Swords and Wizardry Light (S&WL) in mind to try out for a while.  S&WL is a free product (well technically Pay What You Want), and provides a stripped back D&D-like system over  an easy to digest 4 pages. For me the rules have a very Basic D&D vibe to them, and preparing the adventure was something of a nostalgia trip for me.

S&WL is great for new players since it uses simplified rules like a single Saving Throw regardless of the type of harm befalling the character and single break point for high stat bonuses.

So that's the rules sorted; what else do the players need?

  • Pencil and Paper: check, everyone has that
  • Polyhedral Dice (i.e. D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20): uh oh, not everyone has these, particularly those who haven't played RPGs before.
Luckily the internet provides a free resource to solve this problem as well!  There are various free  Dice Roller programmes online, but I'm quite partial to the roller built into Google (literally just google "dice roller").

Yes I had to click roll a few times to get the 20
The Google roller is very intuitive to use (click on a dice type to add it to the pool, click on the dice in the pool to remove it).  It can also handle multiple dice on a single roll; like the trusty "roll 3d6 and add them to determine your Strength.

In the spirit of keeping things simple we are using a "trust" system for dice (i.e. player roll and verbally communicate the results).

The final *tool* required is an online means of communication; there are lots of free options for video conferencing and we have decided to use Face Book Messenger (as that is where our group chat is based).

Again following the "simple is best" paradigm we are using the "theatre of the mind" approach to role playing with verbal descriptions as opposed to trying to use a virtual table top; if people don't enjoy the game then we haven't invested a lot of effort into the set up, and we can always try something more complex later.

The last piece of the puzzle to add to the mix is the adventure itself.  I've chosen to run my go to home-written introductory D&D adventure entitled "Sir Sweep's First Quest".  This fun little romp involving a group of naughty goblins and a somewhat chaotic Wizards Tower was originally written for 3rd edition but converting it to S&WL was a piece of cake.

There are free adventures available online; Drive Thru RPG has some free and PWYW modules for example.

The group has completed the first session where we've created characters and started on the adventure proper; we had a lot of fun introducing characters (Hagar the Hermit Priest (human cleric), Ethelred the Warrior (human fighter) and Kazam (elf thief), who are filling their stomachs with liquid courage at the Pig and Whistle before going to tackle the group of thieving goblins currently ransacking the abode of Koldan the Wizard, in the company of the mage's hapless apprentice "Sir Sweep". 

Session two is already scheduled and I'm looking forward to seeing how our heroes fare!


  1. Sounds great!
    You’re right Theatre of the mind is easier, but I’ve found running a complex battle without a battlemap gets... well ...complex.
    Perhaps more accurately it made me appreciate how useful it is to have one!

  2. This is baby steps Bongo. If it gets more serious I'll loot at battle map tools.