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I'm a player in a group that meets weekly. We use FantasyGround+Teamspeak combo and it seems to work for the most part. Or, should I say, it's better than not meeting at all. ;-)

One consistent problem I've noticed is that we frequently talk over top of each other and end up stopping and waiting for the other person to continue. Then two of us will talk at the same time again and the process repeats. If anyone knows anything about communication protocols (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrier_sense_multiple_access_with_collision_detection), our back off timer is not sufficiently random. ;-)

Another problem is that my GM will describe a scene and I get anxious to ask a question. He stops talking for a few seconds, I think he's done, but often he's not. I just can't predict when he's finished and we start bumping into each other again.

Has anyone set up a protocol to follow to avoid problems like this? I thought of suggesting a virtual 'talking stick' to pass around, but it seemed silly...

In case anyone is suggesting my group meet in person, we can't as we live in different timezones and/or have small children.

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This question had a bounty worth +500 reputation from wax eagle that ended 16 hours ago. Grace period ends in 7 hours

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This is a great question with an OK answer already, would be great to get more top flight answers here.

    
If I remember correctly, Ventrillo had a setting that could force a lockout on others when one person was using PTT. (If I'm right, then mod's can auto-lock others regardless who is using PTT, so that's good for a DM.) Not posting as an answer because I'm not 100% sure. –  Aviose Nov 20 at 22:48

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I have used various forms of group chat software over the years, both for gaming and for work. Here's some things I've seen implemented, some that have to be built into the software (but you can find software that will do it) and some that are etiquette-based.

  1. PTT (Push to Talk) — As long as you hold a key, you can keep speaking. First on the button gets to talk. You can emulate this with a text-chat system that works in parallel with the voice chat, like Skype or Google+. Send a message to say you want to talk next, and join the queue. Send a message to say you're done. Perhaps a different message for a brief interruption.

  2. "Over" — Like the above, have a sound, message, or gesture (if using video) to indicate that you're done. No interruptions until that happens, although you can request a quick interjection. First to start speaking gets to go next though, there's no queue.

  3. "Over to you" — Let the speaker indicate who should speak next (or open it up if nobody's requested). Controls the "who goes next" part a little better.

  4. Chairman — Let one person decide who speaks and when. This could be the GM, or if there isn't one (character creation or just social get-togethers between your RPG group) then try using someone who doesn't talk much. Each speaker says when they're done, and the chair says who speaks next. If someone's going on a bit long, or has a lot of people waiting, the chair (and only the chair) can cut them off.

  5. "Raise a hand" — at least metaphorically. Let the GM (or other speaker) know you want to speak next, or have a brief question or clarification, ideally with two different gestures.

Some of these work together too.

When we have used software-imposed versions of these, we often find that we only use them for a small percentage of the total time we are chatting, and they often become embedded in our natural protocol for conversation, so we use them less and less over time.

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WRT raising hands: It doesn't need to be metaphorically! Voice chat is certainly an option, although not with TeamSpeak. Google+ Hangouts has free video conferencing ability. OP is using Fantasy Grounds, but for other readers, the Roll20.net VTT also has built-in video conferencing. –  Brian S Mar 11 at 13:45
    
Though if you do actually have video chat, there are then probably enough visual cues that raising hands is no longer necessary. –  ltab Nov 20 at 19:39
    
@ltab: Or... you could literally raise your hand. –  Ellesedil Nov 21 at 19:03

I used Google Plus and Skype since 2008 or so for VTTs. I notice that their ability to handle two more people speaking at once has gotten better. In my opinion the biggest issue now is lag on a individual's connection. The problem is not the software ability to handle two people talking at once is that the one or more individual are so far behind that the conversion is disjointed or interrupted.

I found the following test to be useful to handle this situation.

I will say one. The other person says two Then I will say three

This will quickly show how bad the lag is for the individuals. When it gets bad for one of our players we will use one of the techniques that Ryno mentions to help the other individual. You use a count of three so you and the effected individual can both hear the lag. On my end the lag will show on the response between one and two, and for the affected individual it will show up on the response between two and three.

Ironically it at its most frustrating with the lage is between 1/2 to 1 seconds. Just long enough for there to be a delayed response but not so long to be obvious until you do one.. two.. three.

I haven't used Teamspeak much but I know they also have come out with multiple improvements over the years. I would do the one, two, three, test to see if that the sources of your problem.

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