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I tried switching a game from in person to online a few months back playing mainly via discord (due to poor internet connections, otherwise we would have used video) with Roll20 for visuals. I was running Star Wars Edge of the Empire which does not use grid-based combat, so battlemaps were less important. Long story short, the game fell apart when one of the players decided the game did not work with his schedule.

I talked with him recently about playing again and he said that he felt that a lot was lost when playing online vs playing in person. I asked a separate question about that a few days ago and that sparked the question:

What can I do in a session zero to let players know what to expect when roleplaying online?

Of particular concern are how to prepare

  1. people who are new to roleplaying

  2. experienced roleplayers who have never played online

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you specify (if it's known already) what platform(s) you'll be using to play online? Thinking about answering, and while some of what I'd say is platform-agnostic, some is platform-dependent. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 11 '18 at 2:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah some things (like connection quality, voice/video expectation, etc) could be similar, Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and other virtual tabletops will have significantly different concerns. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jul 11 '18 at 2:55
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One thing to help is move other things online as well, if you have that option.

Set up a private forum or another method like a slack chat where you can keep things about the game in one online place. Ask them to submit their character sheets online so you can inspect them readily to point out mistakes to the newbies, and get feedback from other players as well. More importantly, this engages the players with the characters and the "medium online", making them associate playing these characters with being at the PC, rather than at the table. Keep track of sessions with a small thread/online log (ideally have the players take turns writing it, if they can be so motivated) to increase engagement and help people remember the things the same way.

Another important aspect is that rolling dice online is not the same as physically flinging a piece of hard plastic with numbers on. Some people enjoy this aspect so much that it's hard to convince them that a /roll has the same effect. The amount of trust required to let players roll and tell you the result in discord, without video feed, is insane and in a critical situation, people might be tempted to lie about rolling that failure. But you can give it a try, of course.

With all said and done, your player is right - a lot is lost when playing online, with die rolling being just one aspect, the social aspects usually outweighing it easily. When recruiting players online, they usually expect this and are self-selected to accept it. Trying to move a face-to-face group online, you don't have that luxury, and I don't think every player will enjoy it enough to stay comitted & focused.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I make a brand new discord server for every campaign I DM, and invite all the players. We have three channels: Scheduling, Synopsis, and General. Its all pretty intuitive, but it allows us to put all of our info in one spot. I'll do small 2-3 paragraph write ups of what happened last section in "synopsis" so that everyone is refreshed for next game, and will even post pictures of the over world map with lines drawn to show the players where they've been traveling to and from. "Scheduling" allows everyone to post what days won't work as they find out. It works very well. \$\endgroup\$ – Not Revan Jul 23 '18 at 16:48
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  • You can't see body language so you can't see if people are offended, so make sure you know early on the answer to some common question, like if pvp is ok, campaign expectations, house rules

  • Work out early on whether players can stay focused. Often players online play on their phones or do other stuff which can lead them to be distracted. Talk to them about this.

  • Talk to players about their schedules. Often, they have stuff that may mean they need to leave or will be missing.
  • Clarify early on details about setting, how character creation should be handled. Roll20 for example has character sheets- are they expected to use a particular site for sheets?
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