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I've read quite a few questions and answers on here about having one or two remote members as well as a few about having the entire game remote. I have a related, but slightly different question.

We have a group of 7 people who have never played D&D (or any other tabletop RPGs) before and who would like to start playing D&D 5e. I'm planning on being DM, and I'm really looking forward to it (as are the rest of the members in the group), but we have a slight location problem: I'm going to be in a different state for the next couple of months, and we wanted to start now instead of waiting a few months to start. (A quick note: after I return, two of our other members will be remote (one full-time and one about every other session), so waiting won't entirely fix the issue anyway.)

I understand that people who are experienced and have played together in the past are having success with one or two remote players, and that it is possible to play the entire game online. We do want the social feeling of a physical, in-person tabletop RPG, so we're not looking for an all-online answer, but I'm essentially wondering two separate things:

First, how possible is it to run a partially-remote game when none of us have played D&D before? Are there any tips you'd recommend above and beyond those that experienced players would use to play partially-remote games?

Second, how well does a partially-remote game work when the DM is the one remote, rather than the players? Does anyone have experience with this? How did you deal with it and how well did it work out?

Any recommendations are appreciated. Thanks in advance for any answers, advice, or tips!

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    \$\begingroup\$ None of the replies so far seem to address the situation of a game that is partially remote; one suggests that partially remote is worse than fully remote due to crosstalk between the collocated players' microphones. And none of the answers thus far addresses the specific concern of playing partially-remote when none of the players have every played before. I'd encourage folks to focus their answers one the specific questions the poster is posing. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont May 1 '15 at 12:29
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My group uses a private Google+ community to organise the games, and G+ alongside Roll20 to play the games. We play entirely online on a weekly basis, mainly because we're all about the same age and have small children and families, so it's difficult to get together for a face to face game.

For D&D 5th Ed you're pretty spoiled for choice, but when it all boils down the best two options are this:

Roll20, either in conjunction with G+ or on it's own. You can create an account and run your campaign through it for free, and the biggest pro (in my opinion) was the ease of use when it integrates with G+. Most everyone has a google account these days, so they also have a G+ account whether they know it or not. Once you've created your game in Roll20, you can choose to launch it in a g+ hangout.

Once you've done that for the first time, whenever you launch a G+ hangout the Roll20 app will be present, and you can launch it and select your campaign from within the hangout. Running the game each week becomes as simple as scheduling a G+ hangout event and showing up - the players don't even need Roll20 accounts, they just click the hangout invite link and game on. The D&D 5e character sheet for Roll20 seems pretty excellent too, with some dice rolling automation built into it. We're taking it for a test run soon hopefully.

The other main option right now, though it can get pricy, is Fantasy Grounds. It's not as simple for the players as Roll20 (which is, as i've said, just a link click), but if they're willing to install the program (available on Steam now as well), Fantasy Grounds is now the official online tool for D&D 5th, in partnership with Wizards of the Coast. It has excellent integration with the rules system and character sheets, as well as supporting hero lab. Some friends of mine swear by it, though it is a bit more complicated to get set up and running.

Both solutions support full voice, and I know Roll20 supports full video both in the app itself and through hangouts, as well as an online tabletop for maps, images, handouts and whatever else you like. This made it a lot easier for us to retain that "social tabletop" feeling, despite playing entirely remote. Using a large enough screen and a good set of speakers and microphone, you could play partial remote (with only a few players remote) or even with everyone in the room and disabling the voice and video altogether if you wanted.

Either way, if you do plan on getting in to running your games online through virtual tabletops, Google+ is your friend! There is a massive community of people there who will be more than happy to lend any assistance required.

Personally, I run a community geared at assisting people to set up, run or find games in the asia-pacific time zones. You can find it here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/100566740249118526694

For other timezones, such as the American zones, a great place to start is here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/107422815813208456454 It's an excellent community filled with friendly people.

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I am currently playing a 5th edition game as DM but with only 2 players - a long-time D&D associate and my 12 year old son who is new to the hobby. Even though he lives in the same house as me, he remotes in from a different room because the remote participant kept getting cross-talk from our mikes if we were in the same room.

We are using roll20.net for character sheets (they are excellent), tactical situations and dice rolling, Skype for communications and evernote to record the campaign progress.

I would make the following recommendations:

  1. Use something like roll20.net - it has its own built in comms system but we use Skype because one of us uses an iPad and the roll20 comms doesn't work on that platform.
  2. Store what the PCs know in a commonly accessible space: google docs, evernote whatever and make the players responsible for updating it!
  3. Ditto character sheets
  4. Don't check rules while you are playing, make an off-the-cuff ruling and check it later. See my answer here and note that it is highly controversial (+5/-6 voting so far)
  5. Keep the sessions short and structured, something like 10 min intro/recap, 40 min play, 15 min break/rules check, 40 min play, 15 min recap/rules check.
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I once had a game for DnD 3.5 that was entirely remote - it was run in Facebook comments.

Several things the DM did to manage the situation:

Each situation was a new post. When a new situation arose (new area, meeting a new NPC, start/end of a conflict) a new post was posted.

The DM managed all the rolls. To avoid player cheating, the DM was the one that managed all the rolls. All the rolls. Rolling for character stats, checks, initiative, damage - everything. The players still had full control over their actions, just how well they did was rolled by the DM.

Being text driven, the roleplay was much easier to act out. For example, the Half-Orc player would say something like:

"Hurr hurr hurr! 'Is 'ead squished like jelly! Hurr Hurr... Jelly."

or the Human raised by new-age gay Dwarves (long story) might say:

"Aye lad. A good fight it was indeed! Now to the pub to celebrate!"

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