My gaming group have been looking at ways to play online using options like Skype or Discord. I'm even tempted to do some play-by-mail. Why? Well, if you've been in the Negative Zone for the last few months, this will help explain it.
What do you do about dice-rolling in a virtual setting? Becky Annison had a good thread on Twitter about online gaming and her view on that was: "Trust your players not to cheat on dice rolls - it doesn't matter if you can't see their roll. What on earth are you doing playing with people you don't trust?"
Fair enough, although I'm sorry to say that in the past we had such trouble with one player cheating that I had to institute "the shield of truth", a ghastly blue plastic tray in which all dice had to be rolled. Thankfully that's a thing of the past, but if you're unsure then take a look at Rolz.I don't know if it helps anyone - but I role-play a lot and mostly online because I have small kids. I role-playing between 1-3 nights a week and I have done for years. This is what I know works to make an online game smooth and fun (1/8)— Becky Annison (she/her) (@BeckyAnnison) March 13, 2020
Playing online will probably reduce the amount of dice-rolling in your game anyway, which in my book is no bad thing, but if you really want the full rules-heavy dungeon-bash experience there's always Roll20, of which one of our group says:
"Roll20 does seem quite good for creating a virtual space in which we can visualize our characters. It would be enough, I think, for us to hear one another, see the rolls, and pass secret notes to the GM. We could add tactical map battles fairly easily when a particular situation calls for it. Roll20 doesn't have full integration to other systems like GURPS or Dragon Warriors so it would be simplest if we keep the rules in our heads and use the platform mainly as a communication device. We might even use Roll20 for the map and dice, while using Discord for the voice communication. The advice on GURPS forums suggests that most people use Roll20 that way, as a lite service for rolls and maps, keeping the rules, characters, and so forth offline."Other options worth considering include: Astral Tabletop, Fantasy Grounds, Dungeonfog, and Streamyard. (And for board games try Vassal.) Some of those are full-on VTTs that include maps and dice rolling, others are just for chat. Have a look around to find the best fit for you. After all, you've got plenty of time for research.
But you could be missing a trick if you're simply looking for a way to replicate your usual tabletop experience online. Maybe there are benefits here that are unique to virtual play. For example, our group meets every other Thursday and that means at least half a dozen people travelling across London in order to grab about three and a half hours of gaming. (It'd be longer, but I can't get them to follow the Earl of Sandwich's advice and forgo a cooked meal beforehand.) Because we have such limited time for gaming, we've drifted towards a planned adventure-of-the-week style of play that's really not a patch on proper seat-of-the-pants roleplaying. The improv style of gaming is a luxury it's hard to make time for when everybody has jobs and family. It's a far cry from playing at school or college or in your early 20s, when it's possible to set up side sessions with one or two players on the spur of the moment, and the events in those sessions feed into the main weekly game.
If you're gaming online, though, it's pretty easy to recapture the sandbox, open-world approach. Each player is only a phone call away, and it's no problem finding a half hour for a Skype session involving just one or two players. That opens up a much more freewheeling kind of campaign, where one player might, for example, be sent as ambassador to a foreign court, and he or she plays that out separately, creating world events that will impact on the events of the main weekly game -- if "the main game" even means anything any more.
There is no substitute for hanging out with friends in person, but while the Sword of Damocles hangs over us, let's look for the ways that playing online could provide something different and just as entertaining.