ColumnsDM's Tips & Tricks

Tips to survive the COVID-19 with TTRPGs

Thumbnail art shared by user Syluxrox in Reddit

With all the negative things going on right now around the world, one needs time to relax a bit and transport to a different world. Life can be difficult, and your daily RPG sessions may have been canceled in order for everyone to remain safe at home. Worry not, there are some great alternatives to pass the time, have fun with your loved ones, and forget what’s going on outside.

Most of these options have been said in numerous platforms, but I’ll try to add some new ones to the mix. Some of them things that you wouldn’t normally take into account. This way, even if you aren’t playing, you can find ways to improve your next games!

Run/play online

There are some platforms that can be used in order to continue gaming. These are extremely simple and depending on how good of a computer or device you have at your disposal, you may want some of the other options I am to list. Use it to play with your usual group, or start a new game with some random internet people! After all, we are all in this together to have fun.

  • Fantasy Grounds: Fantasy Grounds is an application that can be downloaded for Windows PCs, MACs, and Linux computers. You need to download the necessary books and you are pretty much ready to play. It doesn’t offer a built-in voice chat and/or camera option. It is really intuitive and offers everything you need to game.
  • Roll20An extremely similar approach to online TTRPGs. Just like Fantasy Grounds, it offers both a battle map and a compendium to search stuff. While it may offer only a little bit less content than Fantasy Grounds, this one has the advantage of being completely free (you can buy extra content, such as books and modules as well) and that it is browser-based, meaning you don’t need to download anything and can play from any device that has a browser. Roll20 uses Google Hangouts as an incorporated voice and video service, so you don’t need to download anything else. There are several sites that can list the main differences between these two services better than I can.
  • Discord: With the recent addition of the Avrae bot to Discord, one can create a server and play without the need for any other app. Discord works as a voice chat application and can have one of the people in the chat share its computer screen. This can be excellent for DMs that want to show Handouts and/or battle maps. It is highly limited compared to both of the other applications listed above, but if you want to play in Theatre of the Mind, it may be one of the best options out there.
  • Other voice chat applications: There is no need to have a battle map, place for people to show what they roll, etc. These are just great tools that you have at your disposal. However, if you all roll with your own dice or dice roller apps in your own homes, while having your own character sheet with you, it is extremely easy to play using Theatre of the Mind. As an extra option, you can play and roleplay via text. I would explain all the benefits of playing this way, but I believe I won’t be able to do so better than Matt Colvile did in this tweet. Give it a read if you can, as he explains very valid reasons for giving it a try.

Try new games

If you’ve only been playing D&D this far, what is holding you to try out other games? Being quarantined makes it the best time to learn how to play one of these new games coming out, as you will probably have much more time on your plate than usual. If you still have no idea what to play, why not check out my articles in which I try to convince you to try out Call of Cthulhu, Dread, or City of Mist? There are some other great options, such as the free to download Ironsworn, Dungeon World (you can find a free version of the rules in Roll20), or one of the Powered by the Apocalypse Games.

Just in case you still need more information to know what to try out, take a look at Adam Koebel’s First Look videos, in which he gives out his opinion on the games from his game designer’s perspective. TTRPGs are extremely cheap for the amount of use one can get from them. Don’t be scared to get one of these games’ PDF from DrivethruRPG, try it out, and then get a physical copy from your local game store if you like it enough (or don’t if you are ok with just having the PDF version).

Teach your family or those who are doing quarantine with you

Another great thing one can do while staying at home is teaching your family how to play RPGs, or play with them if they already know how to. I’ve already made an article on how to teach young kids how to play that you can check out here. TTRPGs are a great outlet to unite families and friends. They leave long-lasting memories as if they were real ones, that will stay with you all your life. Ask them what they would like to play as and the context of the world they want their characters to be in. Then search for the right RPG to fit the need.

Take some time to read old books

Take some time to do all those things you procrastinated. Be it painting minis, watching some movies/series, or maybe reading the Curse of Strahd book you have in your bookcase and never found the time to read. Reading these kinds of books can really open your mind as a DM. If you are running a homebrew game, you can steal some encounters and/or story hooks. You may even start to understand how Perkins’ brilliant mind works and replicate all you learned on how to run a game from it.

If you’ve still got some extra time, why not read other game rules, such as Blades in the Dark, to get some new ideas or game mechanics you can add to your games? Maybe you feel inspired enough to run that game instead of your usual D&D one. Additionally, I recommend taking a look at great adventures from past editions, or even from other games. There are several things to steal and re-use that you wouldn’t ever see otherwise. You can find many of these on the DMs Guild

Watch/Read for inspiration

Plan ahead for your campaign by reading or watching things you wouldn’t otherwise. There is no better time to do this than now when you’ve got an excuse to stay home. Learning of other cultures from documentaries, watching movies whose plots are similar to what you have in mind, or reading some historical fiction, or sci-fi book can give you a great amount of inspiration. This is also a great tip for when you encounter the classic “writer’s block“.

Take into account that you don’t need to read/watch specifically things on the same sort of setting/genre. A soap opera can inspire some great scene for when the player characters need to face a lord. Even if the Guardians of the Galaxy is set in space, you may be able to steal some traps from the beginning of the movie to place in your dungeons, for example.

Worldbuild

Many people, myself included, like to world build when they have some free time. Be it for the world your players are actually playing in, or some future one you want to use for the next campaign, you can gain inspiration from the things mentioned above and add some for your new world. Reading settings, just as the just-released Seas of Vodari one can offer some extra things to implement to your games.

When you’ve got some things thought out, open your Google Docs, Microsoft OneNote, or WorldAnvil to start listing new things. Even if you don’t already have something entirely thought out, you can write it there, and leave for a later polish. Worldbuilding can consume a great amount of time and it ends up being of great use for future games. You are being productive!

Try 1 on 1 D&D

If it’s just you and your partner or one only other person, why not give 1 on 1 D&D a try? The Essentials’ Kit provides great rules for this kind of play. We at Tribality even did a review from one adventure that works this way based on Matthew Mercer’s Blood Hunter class. Try this style of play as a new thing to spend some time! Even if it doesn’t fit your style, you will find out there are many other RPGs such as Ironsworn thought out to be played like this.


Conclusion

While being recluded is not a great thing, we are doing it for the best of society. Remember to wash your hands frequently, take care of your loved ones, and make use of this article to distract from all horrible things going on right now.