The D&D virtual tools and LFR (and RPGA)

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Hi,

I think I never saw the answer to this:
As everyone of us knows, the coming 4E is bringing us a bunch of
computer tools which will help us to play over the net.
But will the RPGA use these tools to let us play the(ir) adventures?

For example : I can imagine that in the future a visitor of a con
can find a pool - a room with networked computers - to which the RPGA
members have access to and play the RPGA adventures over the net
with the locally present players and also with the remote players over the net.

What will be possible, what can we look for?
I'm not sure about conventions using the tools, but Chris Tulach has already said that almost all LFR adventures will be available for online play, if I recall correctly.

His statement also said that access to the WotC gametable won't be required: lots of people already play Living Greyhawk, Xen'drik Expeditions, and other non-RPGA organised play campaigns online, mainly using a free program called 'OpenRPG'. Many games are organised via the Yahoo Groups http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/OnlineGameDay/ and http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/LG_Europe_Online/ - I imagine that these groups will also allow the organising of LFR tables once the campaign launches.

Running D&D Adventurers League events in Sheffield, UK from August. Contact me for more details.

I think I never saw the answer to this:
As everyone of us knows, the coming 4E is bringing us a bunch of computer tools which will help us to play over the net. But will the RPGA use these tools to let us play the(ir) adventures?

Let me answer this way: to the best of my knowledge the RPGA will not use the tools, but the players will. In other words, the tools were certainly be used, and the players of RPGA events will certainly be free to use them, and as the full extent of the features of the virtual tools are realized, the RPGA might even be able to find ways to leverage them to make RPGA play more fun and accessible. But to the best of my knowledge and for the foreseeable future, the RPGA will handle play in the same way it has in the past few years.

For example : I can imagine that in the future a visitor of a con can find a pool - a room with networked computers - to which the RPGA members have access to and play the RPGA adventures over the net with the locally present players and also with the remote players over the net. What will be possible, what can we look for?

This is a good example of what I mean. If a convention wishes to offer a computer pool to play RPGA events, they can. But the RPGA would most likely not be hosting the event: the entity hosting the convention would. The online game table, at least at this point, is just that: a virtual table top. For RPGA play, you still need a DM, you still need someone ordering adventures, and still need other players, etc.

Shawn
LFR Global Admin
Thank you Shawn and "pedr" for your answers.


Now after getting my questions (so far ) cleared it is time that I try to become a member (I have to first discover how ;) ) ...
For this I have a tip to the RPGA "leaders" : Please, make it more clear on the web pages. Really, it is very, very hard to understand where and what to do to get a member. It is very hard to understand how to get the adventures just for reading. It is very hard to understand how to become a GM and so on.



regards
sunmaster
Hi,

I think I never saw the answer to this:
As everyone of us knows, the coming 4E is bringing us a bunch of
computer tools which will help us to play over the net.
But will the RPGA use these tools to let us play the(ir) adventures?

For example : I can imagine that in the future a visitor of a con
can find a pool - a room with networked computers - to which the RPGA
members have access to and play the RPGA adventures over the net
with the locally present players and also with the remote players over the net.

What will be possible, what can we look for?

Such a thing would be a nice offering for a player not attending cons, especially if allowed special con offerings over the net but, without charging for it, it would seem sort of counter productive for the conventions to do so. They generally want to promote people coming to the cons to help pay the costs and enhance the play of those attending. I'd imagine many organizers would view it as an unecessary technical and logistical headache.

Maybe but, we'll see
Lee
For this I have a tip to the RPGA "leaders" : Please, make it more clear on the web pages. Really, it is very, very hard to understand where and what to do to get a member. It is very hard to understand how to get the adventures just for reading. It is very hard to understand how to become a GM and so on.

Just FYI...the RPGA adventure library isn't "just for reading". If you order an RPGA module, it's expected that you're ordering it to actually run as an official RPGA event, and that you'll report the play of it after the event.
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
Something that I would like to see is the coordination of slot 0's using the virtual tool. This could really cut down on the number of mods that people have to "eat" in order to run them. I'm sure this could be coordinated in a yahoo group or similar, but it would be nice if the RPGA could assist and promote this.

Allen.
We do this right now in the Living Greyhawk campaign, using OpenRPG, etc. I see no reason why that would end with LFR.
Ya ... sure. I remember the time I had to run a GenConSoCal LG zero for some judges (at the last minute) on OpenRPG. It is an experience I will never repeat.

Steve Kendall
RPGA asst coordinator
Kublacon

www.kublacon.com
Playing on-line isn't for everybody.

I have much more fun playing face-to-face. I like sitting with people, talking to people, sharing food with people, interactive with people. But because I have a wife and kids and jobs and other parts of my busy life, it's often more convenient to play on-line.

Many of the people who play on-line don't have a local gaming group, or are the only DM for their local group, and this is the only way they can play the games.

Some people who play on-line have speech impediments (thick accents, disease, whatever) that make it difficult or impossible to speak English face-to-face. Some people have a better command of written English than of the spoken word. The on-line tools support these folks pretty well, but the voice-over-IP tools (like Ventrilo and Skype) simultaneously support voice communication for those who can participate.

And there's a learning curve for the on-line gaming systems. Your first experience will probably not be your best experience. So I won't minimize Steve's experience.

But I will say that on-line play does help some people who can't otherwise play the game. I'm glad that the LFR campaign will support it.
Let me answer this way: to the best of my knowledge the RPGA will not use the tools, but the players will. In other words, the tools were certainly be used, and the players of RPGA events will certainly be free to use them, and as the full extent of the features of the virtual tools are realized, the RPGA might even be able to find ways to leverage them to make RPGA play more fun and accessible. But to the best of my knowledge and for the foreseeable future, the RPGA will handle play in the same way it has in the past few years.



This is a good example of what I mean. If a convention wishes to offer a computer pool to play RPGA events, they can. But the RPGA would most likely not be hosting the event: the entity hosting the convention would. The online game table, at least at this point, is just that: a virtual table top. For RPGA play, you still need a DM, you still need someone ordering adventures, and still need other players, etc.

Shawn
LFR Global Admin

Shawn,

There were some rumors floating around that future modules for the RPGA will be designed using the DDI mapping tool. Can you comment if that's valid or not?

I was thinking that that level of integration would be great, because it would make it easy to pick physical dungeon tiles for running a mod face-to-face (yes, I know digital tiles ans phhysical tiles aren't the same), and it should also make re-creating the maps in the Game Table very simple as well. (Then, if the RPGA took the "extra step" of providing the digital map for the Game Table life gets REALLY peachy).

Any thoughts, opinions, or comments on any of the above?
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Shawn,

There were some rumors floating around that future modules for the RPGA will be designed using the DDI mapping tool. Can you comment if that's valid or not?

I was thinking that that level of integration would be great, because it would make it easy to pick physical dungeon tiles for running a mod face-to-face (yes, I know digital tiles ans phhysical tiles aren't the same), and it should also make re-creating the maps in the Game Table very simple as well. (Then, if the RPGA took the "extra step" of providing the digital map for the Game Table life gets REALLY peachy).

Any thoughts, opinions, or comments on any of the above?

You know what they say about opinions and business.

I can say that we have been encouraged, in existing campaigns, to use the Dungeon Tiles as much as possible. I love them for their utility in creating maps quickly, as I usually let my six-year-old draw my maps for me because she does a better job than I would.

I think it would be awesome if people signed up to judge RPGA games using the DDI tools, and they could just grab the maps from a pre-existing source. We want to do anything we can (within reason) to make it easier for people to DM. I don't know what sort of mandates will be made in LFR or anywhere else about map creation for adventures.

Shawn
LFR Global Admin
If DDI-ready versions are not provided, I suspect that some GMs will be willing to make their own DDI conversions of modules (maps, box text, unique opponents, etc.) and happily share their work with others. If the LFR admins can set up some kind of structure for these efforts to be submitted / stored / retrieved, so much the better. Perhaps a password or weblink can be included within each module's PDF; permitting access to a specific Gleemax folder for that module's aides?
I am not sure what all we in LFR may be asked to do, but having watched some of the demo of the DDI Game Table at DDXP, I speculate that WotC would like the RPGA to eventually offer its adventures to directly import into those applications.

Assuming the technology all works, I could see a future where the GM and players are ready, the GM has brought up the Game Table and load the adventure with a simple click, it has not only a map with some terrain features, but the monsters/npcs and imports the visualization of the PCs. It might involve a subscription cost for that, but it could really change the on-line play experience from the chat-room type of information exchange. Add some voice over IP, with side bar text messaging, and it would rock..

When does it happen? What do we need to do to make it happen? Don't know. Right now, I am just focused on writing good LFR adventures.

Keith
Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep
Hopefully if it becomes required that each module be incorporated into this server for electronic play, they do not put firm specifications on the details of the implementation for the writer.

It is one thing to have a writer's template, quite another, based on my observations of the gameboard, to have an online-adventure version with all the information preloaded for the DM. It would be a lot of extra, and probably extraneous, work for the writer to need to implement all the possible die rolls for all the possible monsters for all the encounters (as was described in the demo, I think they mentioned that it is designed for storage of 100 preset commands for the DM, where the DM was encouraged to use all of them to have as much ready for the players as possible). Then, the dungeon, the lighting, square-by-square depictions of the terrain, the map-change triggers, monster locations etc are also designed to be preset as well.

Most of this information in the current system is provided only when essential (really, when was the last time a mod had the locations of individual lit torches in a dungeon?!?), and I think it would be a terrible waste of time to require authors to use all these tools, which could very well happen if a template was put in place for adapting RPGA mods to the game table.

Brayden Glad
Dealing with WotC customer service is like milking an emu... You might get scratched, bitten or kicked, or might simply be ignored, but you won't be successful... and people will think you odd for trying.
Hopefully if it becomes required that each module be incorporated into this server for electronic play, they do not put firm specifications on the details of the implementation for the writer.

It is one thing to have a writer's template, quite another, based on my observations of the gameboard, to have an online-adventure version with all the information preloaded for the DM. It would be a lot of extra, and probably extraneous, work for the writer to need to implement all the possible die rolls for all the possible monsters for all the encounters (as was described in the demo, I think they mentioned that it is designed for storage of 100 preset commands for the DM, where the DM was encouraged to use all of them to have as much ready for the players as possible). Then, the dungeon, the lighting, square-by-square depictions of the terrain, the map-change triggers, monster locations etc are also designed to be preset as well.

Most of this information in the current system is provided only when essential (really, when was the last time a mod had the locations of individual lit torches in a dungeon?!?), and I think it would be a terrible waste of time to require authors to use all these tools, which could very well happen if a template was put in place for adapting RPGA mods to the game table.

Brayden Glad

While I'd love the idea of a pre-packaged Game-Table Ready RPGA module system - I'd actualy prefer that the "hotkeys" not be pre-defined for me.

Okay, we're talking about major hypotheticals here, but since there hasn't been any "crunch" lately, I've got nothing better to ramble about.

Based on how other VTTs work (Fantasy Grounds?) it's usually very quick and easy to setup a hotkey. Personally, I'd likely just keep a few hotkey "buttons" open as a "floating" template, dump the die rolls for the next fight configured, and keep replacing one set.

Having the 100 or so slots configured by someone else (with likely variances module-by-module) would drive me up a tree.

All I'd want would be the map, and the module text (for starters). If that were eventually broken down to include pre-made monster stats tied to monster tokens/figures that'd be awesome. Splitting the module text into keyed sections and adding the "voices" (copy/paste text that appears to come from an NPC) would go from awesome to stellar - as that would, for me, fully realize the option to insta-sanction an event, and play it right away.

Again, these are all hypothetical pipe dreams, but if it were to happen. . . well, to quote the Internet "ZOMG!"
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Keith,

I agree that it’s early to make definitive plans. But you might want to start discussing with RPGA and WotC people what they want to get out of LFR-DDI and what they can offer you in support.

My idea is that within a couple months of release, most modules will have some DDI ‘enhancement’ files. Box text is easy if you have access to the unprotected or pre-PDF module. DDI maps will be created by volunteer-GMs if they weren’t already made by the author (i.e. mapping using DDI dungeon tiles). The issues would be: Where do the files get stored? How do we limit access to GMs that ordered the module? What if HQ already has other plans?

My recommendation is for LFR Admins to start discussing internally and with your corporate stakeholders as early as possible. RPGA-HQ, Marketing / Promotions, DDI, and Gleemax all could have suggestions or restrictions. Perhaps they want all LFR-DDI work done by volunteer DMs (perhaps earning RPGA Rewards). Or maybe they want it done professionally by DDI staff or the module authors. Maybe the storage location of these LFR enhancements is a point of contention due to copywrite or spoiler concerns. Maybe they wish to block non-DDI enhancement files (made to be run other programs such as OpenRPG). Or maybe they’re happy letting you run your own campaign – hopefully making some additional resources available.

But in case someone starts looking for a new revenue stream from this, I hope that the RPGA & LFR admins declare that this is intended to be a low-cost, volunteer-run campaign to promote the D&D. Of course synergies between your campaign and online play will promote 4e, LFR, RPGA, DDI, and FR – so doing it right (and promptly) should interest a few WotC departments. If you encourage volunteers, I suspect that many modules will receive a web enhancement treatment within a few months of release – earlier if authors do the work themselves. They may not be in time for slot zeros, but after the first year there would be a fair selection for groups looking to play online.

IMHO.
I just finished reading Ampersand (discussing D&D-I) on the main boards and I had a concern about the RPGA campaigns and online play.

Will there be issues when Players share their rules options with their GMs when playing online? In LG, GMs have the right to review any rules options used (class, spells, feat, etc.) from the original sourcebook - otherwise the PC may not use that rules option. With LFR increasing the use of online play (presumably), and with more official digital rules content - how are owners of the content expected to share with non-owners when both are online?

Will GMs:
- trust whatever the Player says / types
- be able to "borrow" / share online content from an online Player
- have enough information in the free online Rules Compendium to adjudicate rules options that they don't own
- receive scans / PDFs of content that they didn't purchase
- not need to worry about rules options that don't exist in hard copy (i.e. Dragon won't be official in LFR)

Hopefully the LFR policies for online play will consider the new sources of official rules.
Well, I believe that any GM running a game on the DDI tools will be a subscriber, so have access to the Rules Compendium, which should be enough to go on - and even if it isn't, the only actual problem would be printed books the GM does not own as a GM will have access to the Dragon articles.

It's more of a problem if you're playing on a different VTT, but the problem exists at the moment, of course, and plenty of people are playing online without it being too much of an issue.

Running D&D Adventurers League events in Sheffield, UK from August. Contact me for more details.

I just finished reading Ampersand (discussing D&D-I) on the main boards and I had a concern about the RPGA campaigns and online play.

Will there be issues when Players share their rules options with their GMs when playing online? In LG, GMs have the right to review any rules options used (class, spells, feat, etc.) from the original sourcebook - otherwise the PC may not use that rules option. With LFR increasing the use of online play (presumably), and with more official digital rules content - how are owners of the content expected to share with non-owners when both are online?

Will GMs:
- trust whatever the Player says / types
- be able to "borrow" / share online content from an online Player
- have enough information in the free online Rules Compendium to adjudicate rules options that they don't own
- receive scans / PDFs of content that they didn't purchase
- not need to worry about rules options that don't exist in hard copy (i.e. Dragon won't be official in LFR)

Hopefully the LFR policies for online play will consider the new sources of official rules.

To use the Game Table one would need to be logged into DDI - even if its only with a 24-hour "day pass".

As such, they'd be able to use the Rules Database. So if a player says he's about to use UberNuke - the GM could do a search in the Rules Database to get the full rules text for UberNuke in aa jiffy.

Since powers and the like are all allegedly down to 2-3 lines of text now, it should be really quick/easy to lookup rules on the fly.
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

First, I realize that there have been changes in what D&DI will deliver since it was first announced. I’m going by memory + some refresher reading through ENWorld, so I could easily be misremembering / out of date / unaware of product features. For this discussion, I’m assuming the use D&DI’s virtual Game Table (GT) with online access to the Rules Compendium (RC). We know that entering a code from a purchased book gives you full access to a digital (PDF) copy.

My concerns are:

1) They haven’t clarified all the payment options yet, but I don’t believe that GMing a GT game requires an ongoing subscription – I think you can do this with the ‘day pass’. Hence you might not have access to any Dragon magazine content. At any rate, magazines released before your subscription probably won’t be available to you.
2) I believe that the RC only gives a name / book / page reference unless you’re registered as an owner of the content. In that case, if the GM doesn’t own the book – RC wouldn’t give enough information to adjudicate spells / feats / etc.
3) I don’t think you are allowed to ‘share’ the PDF books with someone that is not at the computer you are using.

In summary: I don't think all GT GMs have access to all Dragon content. I don't think that RC will provide enough information to adjudicate with. If that's true, what is a LFR GM to do?
We know that entering a code from a purchased book gives you full access to a digital (PDF) copy.

This bit is one of the changes post-announcement that you talk about. This has been completely replaced by the Rules Database, which will contain all the rules from all D&D products, including Dragon and be accessible by all subscribers. Digital copies of books will be on sale, but it'll be in a similar way to the way they are on sale now and not be linked to purchase of the physical product in any way.

I'm not sure whether you can get pay-to-play/one-time access to the GM side of the gametable, and I'm not sure what else you'd have access to with that if it was possible, but if you have access to the Rules Database, you'll be able to see all the rules.

At least that's my understanding of the latest position, which might still be subject to change, of course.

Running D&D Adventurers League events in Sheffield, UK from August. Contact me for more details.

This bit is one of the changes post-announcement that you talk about. This has been completely replaced by the Rules Database, which will contain all the rules from all D&D products, including Dragon and be accessible by all subscribers. Digital copies of books will be on sale, but it'll be in a similar way to the way they are on sale now and not be linked to purchase of the physical product in any way.

I'm not sure whether you can get pay-to-play/one-time access to the GM side of the gametable, and I'm not sure what else you'd have access to with that if it was possible, but if you have access to the Rules Database, you'll be able to see all the rules.

At least that's my understanding of the latest position, which might still be subject to change, of course.

I haven't seen anything to indicate that *any* subscription to DDI (including a day pass) limits your access to any features - so I'd wager that even a day-pass gets you access to the GM side of the Game Table.

As for your concerns, chesspiece, the Rules Databse will give subscribers (again, presumably even on a 24-hour pass) FULL text of the rules being looked up. NON-subscribers will get the name/page number/etc.

It's also worth noting that it appeared (at the DDXP DDI Demo) that the Game Table has a tool for searching the Rules Databse built-in. The GM could do a quick rule lookup, then "share" that rule with the players at the table - popping it up on their screens so that everyone's on the same page.
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

As for your concerns, chesspiece, the Rules Databse will give subscribers (again, presumably even on a 24-hour pass) FULL text of the rules being looked up. NON-subscribers will get the name/page number/etc.

It's also worth noting that it appeared (at the DDXP DDI Demo) that the Game Table has a tool for searching the Rules Databse built-in.

Wow. That all sounds great.

At least that's my understanding of the latest position, which might still be subject to change, of course.

Let's hope that it isn't changed for the worse!
Most cons give them GM to use whatever tools they want or require.

While in home games I ban books from the table ( I dont like sporadic play) at cons you need to use the more for a variety of reasons.

I could see a situation where I bring my laptop and run the tools simply for my own refrence, notes, stat blocks ect...

Most these cons have wireless connections and I've got my eyes on a micro projector (its a small device I could clip onto the top of my laptop screen and project a game table with (very good at close range projection at acute angles). Or I could just stick to minis :P

So if all RPGA modules had a digital version this would mean lugging ZERO books to the convention. No page flipping and a faster game all round.
Ya ... sure. I remember the time I had to run a GenConSoCal LG zero for some judges (at the last minute) on OpenRPG. It is an experience I will never repeat.

Steve Kendall
RPGA asst coordinator
Kublacon

www.kublacon.com

I'd point out that OpenRPG is absolutely the LAST program you want to be learning how to use at the last minute for an emergency game session.

If you have the time to set up the adventure and character nodes and learn all the tools, it is very powerful and flexible.

One thing it is not is newbie friendly. If you are thrown into a game without ever having used it before you'll probably figure out the dice roller and chat and how to move your mini, and give up on messing with the rest til later.

Given the fact that it is largely an amateur, freeware effort, that's not surprising.


-karma
LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric
The biggest thing I hope they do is some how give us access to the boxed text that can be copied automatically. For me setting up an online game that is what takes the longest, if I could just cut and paste it I would be a happy camper.

Yes I know there are tools to "hack" pdfs out there, but that at minimum is illegal in the US under the DMCA, which seems to trump fair use. So a legal way to do this easily would be great, everything else I should be able to set up quickly.
Yes I know there are tools to "hack" pdfs out there, but that at minimum is illegal in the US under the DMCA, which seems to trump fair use. So a legal way to do this easily would be great, everything else I should be able to set up quickly.

This is tricky area, actually.

First off, there's two primary forms of DRM (digital rights management) that the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) recognizes - "Copy Protection" and "Access Control".

"Access Control" (DMCA 1201 Part A) represents "who can access a work". This includes protecting a PDF so you have to enter a password just to read it.

"Copy Protection" (DMCA 1201 Part B) prevents copying, naturally. Some PDFs, for example, are made so you cannot cut-and-paste text from them.

Under the DMCA, as far as manufacturers are concerned, it is illegal to make, sell, or otherwise distribute any device, program, or service that bypasses either form of DRM. Several software and hardware manufacturers of such products have been taken to court and shut down for violations related to this.

Note, however, that only the "access control" part of the DMCA applies to END USERS.

Meaning that, if you own a legally obtained PDF, you can remove copy protection as long as doing so does not also remove any access controls the PDF might possess.

If you have a legally obtained PDF that merely has cut-and-paste blocked, cracking it to remove the cut-and-paste block is arguably legal. You are not altering who has authorized access to the contents.

If you have a password-encrypted PDF, on the other hand, you can't do anything to it legally besides just read it. You can neither remove the password NOR remove the cut-and-paste block to make copies. This is because doing either can allow an unauthorized persons access to the contents.

Note that in either case distributing contents of the PDF in whole or in part without permission is still a violation of regular Copyright laws.

This bit isn't a problem for RPGA judges, however, because they have such permission, in that they can read or otherwise provide box text to their players, as allowed under standard RPGA rules for running games.

Note that I am not a lawyer, just someone with a lot of exposure to this stuff. Take anything I say with a grain of salt.


-karma
LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric