In a recent article, we discussed how you could keep in contact with your customers through social media and still generate sales during this challenging time. Now, we want to address the mastodon in the antechamber…keeping your games alive.
Your in-store roleplaying and board gaming events have probably already been greatly disrupted and for some of you, maybe completely cancelled. So, the challenge becomes, how do you keep your store “front of mind” with your customers while everything around shutting down? With your customers’ health and safety as a priority, remote gaming makes perfect sense. But where do you start?
Before we discuss these, keep in mind that it will more than likely be you who will need to mobilize and motivate your players to temporarily change the dynamics of how you play. Even if you are not personally running the event, you will want to check in with whoever is. Some may not be able to play due to the challenges they are dealing with, but many would welcome the opportunity to enjoy the “normalcy” of their weekly escape at your place.
Roleplayers have been separated by miles for many years and the passion for the hobby has led to several technological innovations. The good news is that if you have weekly RPG events in store, there are already options in place for you to utilize. Not all of these suggestions are free, so you may wish to reach out to your community to see if anyone currently has a subscription to a service and get their feedback before taking the plunge.
This free Microsoft app, and its ubiquitous use, makes it a strong candidate for hosting your games. Skype may not have the immersiveness that subscription sites offer, but there is a good chance some of your players may already have it on their laptop or phone. As a bonus, if you decide to expand your game to include a pay service, Skype still makes an excellent voice chat client. Remember that players that are sequestered away from their gaming materials may need to access a dice rolling app (or access to this ancient WOTC Dice Roller page) and a digital character sheet.
Discord‘s popularity has skyrocketed over the last few years, making a popular way for friends to stay in touch. It has also become an option for gamers using other virtual tabletop programs, or for those who enjoy “theater of the mind” roleplaying. Again, this app is everywhere and may represent an easier transition for younger gamers. Plus with its new streaming options, it creates more exciting opportunities for gamers.
The folks at Astral Tabletop have decided to wave all fees and make their virtual gaming service available for the remainder of March and the entire month of April. With luck, it may help you long enough to get through the current crisis. On a very positive note, this service seems to have a lot of the popular tools available at a reasonable price, should you decide to maintain it. Attached is a brief video describing it’s features.
Roll20 is extremely popular with online roleplayers due to the extensiveness of it’s in-game options and the number of RPGs that it offers support for (everything from D&D to Kids on Bikes). Purchasing official support for in-game play is an option as well.
Fantasy Grounds is a service has the distinction of being available on Steam and features many bells and whistles. On the other hand, its expansiveness has a price that may be more than you wish to spend at this time. D&D Beyond is the official WOTC digital platform for D&D 5E and provides access to basic gaming information for free. D20Pro is a great free resource for D&D 3.5 and 4E games, plus support is available for newer games with prices similar to other platforms. As a side note, if you haven’t already, consider trying Syrinscape. It is an immersive sound effects and ambience software that is currently offering a free 30 day trial subscription.
Tabletop Simulator offers you the ability to host several tabletop board games (including Wingspan, Scythe, and Mistfall) through the interface with a total of ten players. You can download supported content, create your own original games, and import custom assets–all with an easy to use system integrated with Steam Workshop.
The team at Tabletopia has created a unique platform that allows friends to play games online (including Dice Throne, Roll Player, and hundreds of others). Here is a quick video on how the platform works.
The goal of using these platforms is to help maintain an active gaming community during this crisis. By keeping the lines of communication open, and by maintaining a presence in their lives, you will help to create fond memories in your customers’ minds. Once things return to normal, you may want to wean your on-line players off the format by hosting an in-store event complete with more tangible items, such as pizza, soda, dice sets, and similar items they will need to come in to claim. No matter what you decide, make it a celebration and welcome them back as your guests.