A member of our group has moved to Dallas and we're involving them in the game using Skype. The rest of us are sitting around a table. We have one laptop being used to show the player, and usually one or two other guys have a laptop and/or smartphone they're using to take notes. We use a battlemat from time to time and a whiteboard for names, initiatives, and diagrams. What can we do to make this work better (not step on the remote player and have that player able to see/understand/etc what's going on)? Tools, techniques, best practices?
There is a previous question, What tools or strategies have you found useful when not all players can be in the same physical space?, that is largely useless to me because the majority of the tips there require everyone to be online (or for you to have some big projector setup). I am not interested in virtual tabletops, because the whole group is there in person and most don't have computers. I want ways to plug the one remote guy into our real game, not plug us all into a computer game.
We're not likely to spend thousands of dollars on projectors or whatnot, but small buys like "a second webcam" or "a remote mike" are a possibility. Heck, we have skype on one or two of the phones, we could plug them into the same call I reckon. Anyway, what have people done successfully for this use case?
Our solution we've been using for years now is Skype on a dedicated laptop with integral webcam at the end of the table with a high quality standalone mike (Blue Snowball). We take pictures of the GM's whiteboard with cellphone cameras and send those along to the remote member; we also sometimes use a corkboard.me to share detailed text/pics. We have a Dropbox where everyone keeps their character sheets, the session summaries, and a spreadsheet where we enter treasure found - the remote guy actually does the summary and can refer to the other stuff quickly. Not painless but works OK. We added on an external webcam to point at the battle mat, but we couldn't show both it and the normal table cam at the same time - that and the continued quality issues with Skype caused us to think about Google Hangouts. We moved to Hangouts and now it works great, except for the off day where hardware or network or whatnot causes audio or video glitches. So Hangouts + laptop + Snowball + flatscreen + second laptop with a cam on the battlemat + sometimes sending mobile phone pics has been a sustainable solution. (The host runs the inital cam and I run the laptop cam, the GM doesn't have to interact with the tech at all.)