Online Conventions

Do you remember tabletop gaming online before VTT programs?

This past weekend was ALO Con (Adventurers League Online Convention) and I fought a huge bout of nostalgia as I signed up and played a few slots–gaining several levels of wife aggro in the process. I am very much out of the loop when it comes to convention or public play, especially after a few bad experiences–mostly bad people. This weekend reminded me of the days of Living Arcanis and when a small group of us ran Arcanis Online, promoted as a first of its kind online convention dedicated to the public campaign.

Back in the day–don’t you just hate that phrase–we would run Arcanis Online as a charitable game. Because we had players from all over the U.S., Canada, and a few other continents, our main concern was the event timing. What time could we hold events that would get the most exposure and convenience for the DMs? Even the difference between Pacific and Eastern time zones would cause scheduling problems. Let me remind you, this was back in 2005 or so, when none of the fancy online tools we have now existed–okay, that just made me sound really old, heh. Another issue was that there was no virtual tabletop (VTT) systems. I think the DMs would use a combination of Skype and an Excel spreadsheet to run the module and figure out combat. The last issue was two fold: accepting payment and sending certs.

Something the organizers of Arcanis Online decided early on was that we would charge a minimal fee for the online convention–I believe it was $2. There was the cost associated with mailing the magic item certificates to players, but even back then, we wanted to be gamers who gave back. I was in charge of the money. PayPal was available, but I would receive cheques and cash in different currencies in the mail–the days after a convention, I would feel like the most special snowflake in the world. It would also be a very stressful time as I was the one to mail the certificates as well. All-in-all, it was a fun experience and it always reminds me of Vince, who passed away in 2007.

Fast forward to last weekend. Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, even Google Hangouts and other video chats filled the bill for VTT, bringing together even more gamers in the public play space. I feel like I met a brand new generation of gamers–not in age, but in vigor–and it revitalized me quite a bit. I even spoke with a few Regional Coordinators about doing another online convention and going back to the certs as well. I feel like I reconnected with the D&D Adventurers League gamers at large, whereas I might have shunned or avoided it before. I have to admit that a small minority of gamers may have driven me to generalize as a whole.

Final word on ALO Con: I had fun and I would do it again.

So I hope that Wizards of the Coast throws more support for online conventions… but I also hope to meet some of these interesting individuals in person. Some day. Maybe we will go back to running an online convention… let me get through TableTop Day first.

But… what do I know…?

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3 thoughts on “Online Conventions

  1. The ALOnlineTools site had it’s origins at the Arcanis convention. I originally wrote a reporting tool for one of the cons, so DM’s could report their games and the coordinators could mail out certs and stuff. That morphed into a reporting site for LFR games, which morphed into ALOnlineTools. I may still have the original sourcecode some where. I remember most games were done in AOL’s chat app, because it had a dice roller. The coolest new thing to come out was a shared google spreadsheet.

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  2. Pingback: In One Week | Back to the Con – @Visionary

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