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Whenever our party cannot meet in person, our DM will schedule an online session to fit our schedules.

We use a web based software, with less than stellar voice chat built in. Sometimes you cannot hear a person, and other times you cannot make out what they're saying. For example, we're having our first online session three weeks ago, and our DM is clearly preparing for an encounter. over the mic we hear "$%&@, %&^%( $$#!# Roll %$#@ @#$ Check $%!@. #@$!#$#) Saving throw $%#@* $(!@^ *(%$" where the symobls are not grawlixes, but static. The DM had to repeat himself three times, which frustrated himself very much.

We constantly offer to switch to a VOIP client which we all know very well, even before the session began. The DM will always refuse to switch, claiming it's unnecessary, even when there is clear evidence that it is necessary, and that most of the six players are not being understood with this client. He claims there's no problem.

How can I convince my DM that he is being too stubborn to see the better option?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As I understand your situation, have all of the players tried to get the DM to switch, or just one or two of the group? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 15 '17 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast all except one whose rather quiet. \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi May 15 '17 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not posting small or incomplete answers. Please use answer posts to submit answers instead. Prior comments containing answers have been removed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 15 '17 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you considered that this could be a mic problem and not a platform problem? If so, changing platforms will not fix it. \$\endgroup\$ – Theraot May 16 '17 at 7:38
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I've done the online thing. Getting the right blend of hardware and software to make everybody happy (or, more importantly functional) is a task in and of itself.

This isn't a rules situation, so the DM doesn't have any special authority. Unless there's a compelling reason for a particular platform (screen sharing capabilities, hardware compatibility, etc) then your DM is being difficult for no good reason. He should not expect to be treated differently from any other member of the group. If he does think he's special like that, then you may have deeper seated group social contract issues.

If your DM refuses to bow to group consensus of software to use, it's sadly time for a little social engineering. As a group, simply refuse to play these online sessions if he doesn't switch to something that actually works for the group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the DM not having any extra authority outside of the actual game, and pointing out potential deeper social issues. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS May 16 '17 at 7:53
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Offer solutions, not suggestions

I’ve played and DM’d online enough to be on either side of this issue. Please don’t assume your DM suddenly becomes a stubborn jerk when you mention VOIP.

When you “constantly offer to switch to a VOIP client,” your DM may be hearing it as complaints, as requests for an (immediate) fix.

It’s easy enough for players to log into VOIP, and then the web system, and control their single PC.

Your DM is already juggling a fair deal of technology when you play online, controlling the monsters/ NPC’s, tracking Hit Points, communicating with all the players, switching maps. That can occupy a DM’s full attention, espcially for a table like yours, where you only play online occasionally.

Also, realize chunk of your DM’s free time gets spent preparing your next adventure (especially for online gaming) and not getting comfortable with your favorite VOIP technology. (If he’s less familiar with it, he will probably be less confident it will really improve things.)

Congratulations, you are promoted to Communications Officer

Since this issue is bothering you, take personal ownership of the communications issues and solve the problem for the table.

The next time you are playing in-person, show up early and make sure your DM has everything set up on their system to use your favorite VOIP tool easily. Let your DM know you want to take charge of troubleshooting any communications issues for the group, so he can focus on running the game.

You could DM a one-off evening yourself as a dry-run, but that’s not necessary. Just having a time set aside to for everyone to log into both systems and get everyone connected.

The key here is that this is done at a time when the DM is not expected to run the game. Nor is he expected to help get anyone else’s system set up.

Then, the next time you play, get everyone logged into VOIP before play begins. You provide any necessary troubleshooting for anyone having trouble.

Let me know if your DM still refuses.

Heck yes, the DM deserves to be treated differently

Comments on this question that the DM deserves no special consideration here because it’s not a rule issue are misguided. DM’s spends their free time preparing adventures, effectively providing free entertainment to their players. You can always find a new player; sometimes you have to hire a DM.

Handling an issue like this for your DM is a great way to give back a little.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, that last paragraph is keeping me from giving this a +1, and I don't really think it's part of the answer anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 16 '17 at 6:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tim, are you aware that on Roll20 there are pay to play games? You may want to further clarify that the non player ought to host/establish the server (like in Discord or Ventrilo or what have you) or be the call initiator for Skype. (FWIW, I've found Skype to be a bit tempermental, though the others I play with have fewer problems). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 16 '17 at 12:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I concur strongly with this answer as I think it's cutting directly to the real issue from the DM's point of view and also I'm a big fan of the sentiment that if you're going to bring problems then you should also offer solutions. My only recommendations for improvement are recommending programs as well as pointing to reputable guides for getting them set up. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical May 16 '17 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical they're not "bringing problems" -- the problem is already there and even the DM has acknowledged it in his frustration at having to repeat himself 5-6 times. Surely though, there's some other VoIP solution that the DM is familiar with and that won't take a "chunk of [his] free time" to "get comfortable with". \$\endgroup\$ – Doktor J May 16 '17 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical and korvinstormast, thanks for the suggestions. I won't be able to incorporate those things until tomorrow -- volunteering at the polls all day today. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant May 16 '17 at 14:39
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One reason the DM may not be willing to switch platforms is because he doesn't realize just how bad the problem is. After all, he doesn't hear the static -- all he knows is that the players are constantly asking him to repeat things. Which annoys him, but he doesn't realize why you're asking him to repeat things. He may know it in his head, but he doesn't really know it deep down in his gut the way you know it (because you've experienced the problem, and he hasn't).

So next time, record the audio from one of the sessions. Clip out a 30-second clip that's typical of what you're hearing all the time, and another 30-second clip that shows just how bad it can sometimes get. Then play those clips back for the DM (or email them to him, or stick them on Google Drive and send him the link). Tell him, "This clip is what we're hearing all the time, and this other clip is what we're hearing when it gets really bad -- this is why we keep asking you to repeat things."

Once he's had first-hand experience with the problem, rather than second-hand reports, he'll probably be a lot more willing to pay the cost of switching. (Because for him, there is a cost in terms of learning to switch to a new platform -- if he perceived the cost of switching to be zero, he wouldn't be resisting your suggestion). Right now, he looks at the cost/benefit ratio of switching and finds the benefit to be lower than the cost. If you can get him to experience the problem first-hand, I bet his appraisal of the benefit will go up.

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Ok, so, one, the GM himself has gotten frustrated at having to repeat himself. It's already happened. If he has to do that at all, much less thirty times a session, there's a problem. Next time it happens point it out. "Hey GM, you're getting frustrated with the sound quality again. Acknowledge that there's a problem so we can work on fixing it. Let's try switching platforms."

Also, being a remote player myself these days (yeah, I'm Shawn from Full Frontal Nerdity now) I knew that success for being able to hear everyone at the table was going to come down to a good microphone. My group had tried it once before when someone moved away and a laptop builtin microphone won't cut it. I was only going to be gone for about 3 months, so being able to attend seasons was important, rather than having to poof unexpectedly and then show up again. So before I left, I bought a $240 web cam that had a quality microphone in it. Specifically this one but the thing to look for is any information on the microphone being listed; more than "has microphone" or "stereo microphone." There've been some minor issues, but still way better than someone's laptop.

So that might be another option: buy the GM a new microphone.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think suggesting to switch during a session is very helpful. You'd be talking to someone who is already frustrated, at a time where you can't actually do the switch. It's likely to just be MORE frustrating. (The hardware part is good advice though) \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 16 '17 at 6:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik You don't have to switch platforms mid-session. The point is to engage at the moment the GM himself is aware that there is a problem, point it out, and go "this. this is what we're trying to fix. just let us try something else." Could be after the game, could be next session. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s May 16 '17 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know you don't have to; the problem is that giving a comment (no matter how helpful) that doesn't help the current situation to a frustrated person isn't productive. It'll likely be taken as an "I told you so". \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 16 '17 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik If the GM refuses to remember the problem the following week (as the Asker has indicated) and cannot be engaged during the session when it's occurring (as you have suggested), and after the session doesn't work either, then you're left with one choice: non-participation. You've essentially met one of those rare people who cannot be reasoned with. If all the players recognize the problem and are struggling with it, collectively agree to no longer attend this GM's games and reform the group with a new GM. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s May 16 '17 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I once had a GM (online-only games that I enjoyed) who--for this one game--split the party, engaging with individuals via PM and ignored the main chat. When I confronted him later about this (two players had been waiting on responses from him in the main chat) he said it was my responsibility to go private with him (and then went abruptly AFK with no warning, and not for the first time). When I tried to confront him about his tendency to go suddenly AFK he blamed having to take his room mate to the hospital for food poisoning. On two separate occasions. Two days apart. So I left. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s May 16 '17 at 15:01
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I've been playing online quite a lot and that is indeed a frustrating experience all-around.

  • Ask the other players if they have a similar issue with the game/connection.
  • Propose an alternative software: Skype, Hangout or Discord are all options I've used in the past. Offer to "try this for one session" and help everyone set it up.
  • Withholding your participation should be a last resort.

Try to be proactive and focus on finding a solution that will work for all. There will always be some guys who hate such and such software/ tool but if it works for most... Need of the Many.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question says that they have already done 1 and 2. \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin May 15 '17 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Can we change to Skype" and "We're all ready to go on a skype call" is not the same \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau May 16 '17 at 14:54

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