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. Also our GM's interaction with technology has an... inconsistent history, so the less it requires from him the better.
We're not likely to spend thousands of dollars on projectors or whatnot, but buys like "a second webcam" or "a remote mike" are fine. As for tech mix, a couple players bring laptops and a couple more will have a smartphone, but one or two players have nothing at the table. Anyway, what have people done successfully for this use case?
Our solution we've been using and evolving for years now is Google+ (we used Skype initially but had recurring call quality problems) on a player's laptop with a monitor, webcam, external speakers, and a high quality standalone mike (Blue Snowball) plugged into it and put in a player slot at the end of the table. The player still uses his laptop for other things, but we leave the remote player in G+ up on the second monitor.
We take pictures of the GM's whiteboard with cellphone cameras and send those along to the remote member. We also 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. We also drop more complicated handouts or pics into the Dropbox for him during the game. We have a blog where I post session summaries and whatnot between games we can also use for reference.
Not painless but works OK. We have also added on an external webcam from another player's laptop to point at the battle mat for combats, since Hangouts can have multiple participants that works well as long as we're careful to turn off mike and speakers on the second laptop, or 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.)