Playing Vampire: The Requiem Online

in games •  10 months ago

My first experience with the World of Darkness was back around 2001. I played a character who was a very green new addition to the S.A.D. -- and, unknowingly, a dampyr -- in a Project Twilight game.

Not long before, I'd played in a AD&D 2nd edition game that was later converted to the newer D&D 3rd edition. Since then, I've participated in a Dragon Age-themed Fantasy Age game for a few years.

More recently, I found myself with a nostalgia appealing me to play in another Vampire game. However, I didn't want to stop playing in the Dragon Age game, and already had a number of demands on my time and energy besides. Finding an interested group of players who could meet at a regularly scheduled time would be a difficult, if not infeasible, propostion.

So, I had an idea: why not play the game online?

The Crazy Idea

Playing online has a few inherent benefits.

First, there's no need to travel to a central location to meet and play. Players don't need to be in the same city or country, or even on the same continent.

Second, it becomes possible to play the game asynchronously, meaning we don't all have to be available at the same time in order to play; we can play as we find the time to do so. As such, players don't even necessarily need to be in the same timezone.

As Storyteller, I love being able to take my time in playing out my next move in the game. This allows me to take the time to research or discuss rules, draw up sheets for NPCs, or otherwise ensure that the actions I take in the game are sound before I take them.

Slack

What we needed at this point was a communication medium that would enable us to play the game while taking advantage of the benefits of playing online.

I'd used Slack on several prior occasions, mainly for work-related stuff. However, I had also seen it used as a means of communication for groups of a more recreational nature, and that suggested that it could work for the purposes of this game.

Slack is freely available and works on both desktop and mobile devices, so players can participate using a computer or a phone.

It supports multiple channels and direct messages, allowing for easy separation of in-character and out-of-character interactions as well as public and private interactions between players.

It also supports searching past messages, which is great for going back to previous scenes and conversations to verify information that's needed for continuity or consistency in gameplay.

As an added bonus, it supports easy exchange of files, which is handy for sharing things like rulebooks, setting supplements, and character sheets.

Channels

Thus far, I've created three channels in our Slack instance: #story, #out-of-character, and #rules.

The #story channel is where all in-character interactions that compromise our chronicle happen. Focusing the channel on this purpose alone makes the story flow in a very readable and expositional way.

If we need to make a dice roll using Dicebot -- the only Slack app we've needed to date -- or if we need to have out-of-character or meta-game discussions, or the occasional bit of amusing banter, we go to the #out-of-character channel.

In practice, a lot of what happens in this channel is me prompting users to make rolls and the players making them. One suboptimal aspect of this that I've noticed is it makes rolls difficult to associate with corresponding in-character messages. An alternative approach to this might be to start a message thread on the related message in the #story channel to conduct the roll.

Lastly, while it doesn't tend to get as much traffic and could potentially be combined with the #out-of-character channel, the #rules channel is where we have discussions regarding the rules of the Vampire: The Requiem and World of Darkness systems.

The nice thing about having a separate channel for this purpose is that it preserves these discussions for posterity and makes them easy to locate and search, as well as providing a central place to share files related to the game, which often relate to the rules.

Practices

I've set up a player rotation so that each player gets a chance to play out a scene. It's early in the game, so we haven't had any player characters interact yet. When we do, it may affect this rotation scheme, but otherwise, it's worked well thus far.

In cases where a player is unable to participate for an extended period of time, we simply remove them from the rotation, then place them back in when they're available again.

I've taken to using Slack's star feature to mark messages that begin a new scene in the #story channel. This makes it easy to navigate to previous scenes when needed.

I've also used Slack's support for sending direct messages to myself and editing messages to maintain a list of scenes with player attributions and links to the messages that start them for easy navigation and skimming, as well as to track player achievements such as earning beats.

OneNote

After I started the game, I realized that I needed something to supplement Slack in keeping myself organized.

One of the other players from the aforementioned Dragon Age game took to using OneNote to store information about her character. I followed suit, found that I really liked OneNote, and decided to use it for the Vampire game.

Currently, I have a single notebook for the game that is divided into four sections: Player Characters, Non-Player Characters, Plot, and Resources.

Player Characters

In this section, I have one page per character. Each of these pages has a title that includes the full name of the character and the first name of the corresponding player.

On each character's page, I keep high-level information about the character: clan, covenant, haven, job, aspirations, and so on. This includes any information I like to have access to without having to locate it on the character sheet.

Additionally, I keep a PDF file containing the current character sheet on each character's page so that, if I do need to view it, I can do so easily.

Non-Player Characters

As with the Player Characters section, this section has one page per character. Each page is titled with the character's name and a short description indicating their relation to the game. Here are some examples of the latter.

  • custom: A custom character that I have created for the purposes of the story.
  • established: A canon character established by the setting supplement.
  • X's Y: A character created by or with some direct relation to one of the player characters, such as "James' touchstone" or "Jessica's sire."

Each character's page includes a brief description of the character, their relationships to other characters in the game, and details of their involvement in the story's plot.

If it's warranted for me to draw up a character sheet for a given character, such as when they engage a player in combat, I include a current copy of that on their page as well.

Plot

At the moment, this section includes a page for any major plot point I've come up with.

Each page title contains a brief but recognizable description of the plot point. The page content goes into more detail about the nature of the plot point, if and how it's played out in the story thus far, and ideas for its future involvement and development.

I haven't done so yet, but I also plan to begin adding chapter summaries to make the history of the game easier to recount. I suspect this will become increasingly important as the game length increases.

Resources

This section is mostly a catch-all area for information that doesn't fit into the other sections.

One of its pages that I use often contains a table of PDF files for rule books, character sheets, etc. that I want to have available locally and don't necessarily want to share with the players.

Another page lists out major established non-player characters by clan and covenant. Where I would use the Non-Player Characters section to look up information about an individual character, this page provides a handy at-a-glance overview of all of them and highlights potential connections.

I also have an index page, which lists topics that may be of relevance to the game, such as established non-player characters and various titles and other jargon from Kindred society. Next to each topic, I include references to supplements containing information about that topic and corresponding page numbers within those supplements.

Lastly, though I don't reference it often, I also keep a page containing a DOT file and an image rendered from it by the Graphviz dot utility. This outlines relationships of major characters with their clans, covenants, and other characters.

Fin

The Vampire game has been running with a fair amount of success for just over three months as of this writing. Overall, I'm pleased with how well Slack and OneNote have served the purpose of running the game.

I hope this post has given you food for thought about how you might run your own storytelling-focused roleplaying games, online or otherwise. I've found roleplaying games to be a very fun, satisfying, and rewarding activity, and I'd love to see more people playing them.

Feel free to post questions or suggestions in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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