# Playing on IRC, getting started

I live where no tabletop has ever been played, thus I had to search elsewhere for some games, namely the Internet. I've spent a lot of time browsing the web but the best communities I could find where filled with young, Anime-obsessed fellows.

I am looking for a serious, immersive game, but I know nobody and I don't know where to find players. Do you know any good IRC networks/channels for roleplayers? I am totally clueless as to where I should get started, my experience with RPGs is extremely limited and the sea of web pages I've visited aren't helping. I refuse to believe that the Internet isn't some kind of gateway for RPG players from all over the world so please, can someone help me out?

Additionally, if you know some good play by post communities, you might as well tell me. I've read other answers (like How can I find PBP games?) but I'd like to hear from someone with some experience on those sites rather than just a list of names.

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Welcome to the site, mate. Thanks for researching your question. I hope someone else has IRC experience. (As a note, if you're less picky, I'm running a game on our equivalent of IRC. Drop by The Back Room) – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 14 '11 at 11:59
I'm not aware of any IRC channels for RP. I think people who would use IRC would likely prefer to use some sort of RP specific real time software. – migo Apr 14 '11 at 18:46
I'll have a look around, many channels are still listed for IRC but are actually dead. I'll get back to you on this, if someone doesn't beat me to the punch. – xanatos chimera Apr 14 '11 at 20:47
It's not IRC, but Google+ Hangouts offer a fantastic experience and community for online RPG play. – Daenyth Sep 24 '12 at 15:56
Is it not on-topic for this site if dice aren't involved? Because almost all the answers assume dice and miniatures are involved. – Yamikuronue Sep 24 '12 at 17:22

The best experience of playing over the internet is done through the combination of a voice chat program and a virtual tabletop. A virtual tabletop program is a specialized whiteboard software that allows the sharing of images, text chatting, and dice rolling. Typically they allows smaller images, known as tokens, to be placed on a shared image, and many support placing a grid or scale on the shared image.

Many virtual tabletop software have paid or free ruleset that adapt the software for a particular game. This is done by providing a fillable character sheet, rule references, and support for that game's dice mechanics.

You can find an general overview of virtual tabletop software at the RPG Virtual Tabletop wiki.

There are several out there including one in beta that is made by Wizards for use with D&D 4e. I use Fantasy Grounds in conjunction with Skype voice chat. I consider it the most polished of the current generation of software. Many are happy with Battlegrounds while other are attracted to OpenRPG and MapTool which are free. The dominant voice tool is currently Skype using it's conferencing feature.

Each of these software have forums of users where you can seek out games to play. I currently run a Swords & Wizardry campaign using Fantasy Grounds and Skype almost every week for over the past year. Prior to that I have run or participated in several other campaigns involving GURPS and other rule system.

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+1 Thanks for the link to Fantasy Grounds - I think I'll be buying that one soon! – Sherm Pendley Apr 18 '11 at 20:05
Instead of Skype, my friends use google hangouts. There's even a roll20.com applet to incorporate a grid into the hangout. – Zachiel Oct 7 '12 at 0:01

I've tried to run a campaign via IRC, but it didn't work well.

Players can be easily distracted and you don't even know until you notice they are lagging. They are also more prone not to take it seriously, not showing up at all. Finally, they can experience technical difficulties.

I wouldn't ever consider it again unless I've really got no other option. Since, as you say, you have got no other option, I'd say go for it. It's quite easy actually, since you can create and lock a channel on pretty much any server, and clients exist for any relevant platform. You just have to find the players, but since the Internet is very large you should have no problem finding them... the problem is more finding good, reliable players; I can't help you there, but I have some more advice I hope will help you.

1) This is vital: build an atmosphere, something really cool, which players really care about, that will hook them to the story. Since it's much easier to lose them on the way, it is much more important to give them reasons to pay attention.

2) Keep it simple: if players start not understanding you, you'll lose them.

3) Use the moderation when you describe something, removing it only when you are done with the description and players are allowed to talk.

4) Remember you can easily have private chats. This is the biggest (and only?) pro of using IRC vs. doing it IRL: since it allows you to interact privately with players without other players knowing, you can develop cool stuff with it if you are a bit creative.

5) Know intimately the setting, and be prepared to react instantly to the players' actions. IRL if you "lag" players may chat and as soon as you are ready you can immediately get their attention, while on IRC if you lag... they open a new browser tab and start reading other stuff somewhere.

6) Give the players a strong and believable reason to be together, and if they somehow split up, keep all the non-important-private stuff public: even if you just have two groups that would mean that every player would get 50% time wasted, and that would instantly lead to distraction.

I know some of these rules contradict the others, but, well, I've never said that would be easy.

Good luck!

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Interesting, do you find this problem is specific to IRC, or any online tabletop environment? – michaelmichael Apr 17 '11 at 19:14
@michael: I've not tried other real-time online environments. I've tried forum-rpg instead and that can go pretty well if you took good care into designing it, though it calls for a very different approach to the game. – o0'. Apr 17 '11 at 19:28
I had a fairly effective real-time game over Wave, but I've also experienced the same problems over IRC. The inability to see people typing changes the medium significantly. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 18 '11 at 1:02

Whoo, boy. I need to give a disclaimer first off: this is definitely self-advertising, although I swear I'm just trying to be helpful. :)

I love IRC roleplaying, specifically because it (with the right group) allows you to create much more vibrant, detailed stories than you can in-person. You can write at your own pace, and the game is only as immediate as you feel comfortable with. An IRC channel, maybe a dicebot and a wiki to do rolls and character sheet/setting information storage, and you're well on your way to hours of fun.

I'm in the process of building an online tabletop system. The major difference between me and Fantasy Grounds, etc. is that my site is driven entirely via AJAX, with an IRC backend to facilitate chat (and so that people who aren't site users can still take part.) Right now it handles character sheets, chat, dice, and private & shared notes. Battlegrid should be functional in the near term. If this sounds like something that interests you, I'd be happy to send you an invite.

My experiences with Fantasy Grounds/OpenRPG/Maptool were pretty negative. The tools are nice, but unless you're extremely lucky getting your entire group to use the tools will prove highly difficult. Maptool's Java-based distribution refused to work on the machine of one player's girlfriend, another guy had a nonstandard Java runtime that caused problems, and getting it all set up was a chore. A lot of the tools available aren't multiplatform, or cost money - and that's a problem if you need everyone who plays to own the software.

This is what led me to rolling my own solution, which inevitably led me to packaging it for public use.

I'll post a link if people want, but as it is I really don't want to anger the gods of self-promotion.

http://www.phyre.im

And if anyone is so inclined, here is an invite code - it ought to have unlimited uses, though I'll probably revoke it in a couple days. I should note that if you create an account and wish to invite your whole group, you can generate additional invitations from your account.

http://www.phyre.im/accept.php?invite=26c2cfb84a4b62ab026bc9093a9389131955c942

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Useful expertise is useful. Ajax based virtual gaming sounds fascinating. Link away, mate. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 19 '11 at 4:34
@Brian, it is done. – Kerin Apr 19 '11 at 4:48

There's a fairly stable, medium-sized IRC network called Darkmyst that caters to roleplaying. I'm assuming there are others, but that's one I've been with for about eleven years now, and they've certainly got a lot of interesting games going on, as well as a service tailored specifically to help find games called RPGServ, a service providing basic dicerolls GameServ, and a channel meant precisely for recruitment / finding-the-RPG-that-suits-your-needs, #rpg-hub.

Is that about what you're looking for?

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IRC is great for a lot of kinds of RP, but you need to keep in mind the kinds of things it's not good for. Here is a quick list of the pros and cons that spring to mind based on my experience:

### IRC is slow

This is great to get people to give you really detailed actions. Here's a randomly-chosen line from a IRC-like game:

His expression returns to its former non-expression, and he inclines his head slightly in acknowledgement of your words. "I see," he responds in unruffled tones, "perhaps you and available Hand should put an end to any known Camarilla seen in the Den in the future. They may not be much of a threat, but if they are becoming that bold, it is time to remove some of these pawns that call themselves vampires."

The description of action I've seen in text-based RP is nearly always superior to what's spoken around the table. You feel less self-conscious and you can edit what you say.

On the other hand, when you run a combat, or talk about rules, this really slows things down. Imagine any time you're sitting around the gaming table coordinating something -- telling the players what is happening, getting their acknowledgements, asking Tom to look up a rule while you finish Steve's turn, and on. These things all take much longer. Because of this, I strongly encourage IRC and voice. Voice for out-of-character chat and IRC for the story. And dice.

### IRC doesn't support Funny Voices

How do you know when your players are in character or out of character? Typically, I think, "funny voices." This makes it easy to mix RP, banter, and requests for somebody to pass the pretzels. On IRC, everything looks the same. Some people provide various mechanisms for OOC ("out of character") chat, but these can slow things down more, and dilute the text channel's potential as "pure story." This is another reason I suggest voice and IRC. IRC actually serves as the funny voice -- again, eliminating self-consciousness on the part of players who would feel silly using an actual funny voice.

### On IRC, players vanish

Sometimes, the network fails. Other times, you can't tell when a player is distracted. Players will be taking phone calls, running to the kitchen for a slice of cake and, let's face it, chatting in other IRC channels. You must be prepared to deal with the guy who just doesn't respond when you address him.

### IRC has no battle map

For some games, this is a dealbreaker. You want to run 4E on IRC? Good luck. A number of alternatives were already mentioned. I've played with GameTable, and there's FantasyGrounds II, etc. In general, these systems will include their own chat clients, and sometimes built-in dice, referees, character sheets, and so on. If the game you want to play needs a battle map, you probably don't want to use IRC.

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Despite the above answers, there is, in fact, a thriving community for IRC roleplay out there, including both tabletop and freeform.

Darkmyst is one of the better servers, but I've seen games on Dynastynet, Quakenet, and Sorcerynet as well. However, you'll find that it's often a different experience than tabletop: instead of 4-6 players in a very focused single-plotline adventure where combat takes priority over interaction, you often get dozens of players creating a world full of multiple storylines and rich characters where many scenes don't progress any sort of plot at all and instead are focused on the interactions between characters. It's much more akin to forum RP than tabletop, despite often using the same rulesets. If that interests you, though, I highly reccommend it!

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I like using video conference calls with Skype, distributing campaign materials offline (i.e., outside the gaming session) for people to print out, with keyword-based character sheets that everyone can see and a list of player secrets that only the player and narrator knows, and using the lightweight paper-scissors-rock as a conflict resolution mechanism, which works surprisingly well given the dodgy time lags you get with Skype.

It works because I game remotely with people I have a long history of gaming with in several systems, and who have a similar feel for the game. We don't have detailed rules, but use our feel for "that's how it would work in Rune Quest" or "that should be an A crit" (Rolemaster term for a minor wound that is very unlikely to be disabling).

I don't know how this would work with players you don't know so well. If it does not, RS Conley's suggestion of a virtual tabletop might help. I do think that if you go this route then you need to keep a lid on game mechanics in a way that you don't with real table-top gaming.

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You can use Google Hangout to run an RPG which makes video-conferencing easy and there are a few applications out to show text/boards/or other visual elements such as character sheets.

You also asked about PBP boards. I've searched around for a couple of years and the best one I could find is DnD Online Games. They have a great community of avid, serious, and professional gamers. My second choice would be WOTC's forum boards.

That being said, forum based games are extremely slow moving. I've had single adventures take in the area of 6 months to a year. If you use video chat and instant messaging, the turn around is faster but it still requires you know of people to game with.

I personally find face to face gaming the best. Even if you're the only gamer in your area you can train others to play, recruit family and friends, and so forth. It may not sound as interesting as 'finding new players' but really, RPGs are a social game and the best social games are usually with the people you know and like. Of course, there's always the chance of meeting fantastic people through the internet as well.

Good luck in finding great gamers!

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You may find MUDs interesting. They're text-based multi-user environments, but not based on IRC chat.

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