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 Improving the online D&D battles

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PostSubject: Improving the online D&D battles   Sun Oct 04, 2015 5:28 pm

Long time no posts from me...

Well, Bookman told me about the D&D RP you guys were doing and that the battles take around a week to complete. It picked my interest so I thought I could ask you guys for some insight.

So - Bookman showed me Roll20, and its an interesting approach for tackling battles online. It gets to show people have been showing more and more interest in online D&D RPGs. Even so, the time zone constraints seem to bust the kneecaps of the RP since it slows down a lot.

I was wondering if there is a way to speed up the battle process in particular while maintaining the fun factor. Obviously the main meat of the game - which is Role play - is working fine. Forums are a great medium for it since you write down your part and wait for others. The battle process though was not created for such update methods though...

Well, that said - I was wondering if I could step in here and perhaps fix the problem. I have a few ideas how to tackle the issue but I would VERY GREATLY APPRECIATE if you could give me some of your insight into this problem. Mainly answer a few of my questions so I can present a solution to the actual problems instead of just offering a ready solution that solves nothing.

My questions:
1) What is the most annoying/problematic aspect of the current D&D battle system "when you play on a slow update speed" (cross time-zones with friends)? Assuming that you make around a few posts per day and then have to wait for others to update their moves and actions "once they are up"?
2) What is the most enjoyable aspect of the current D&D battle system? (Assuming both online play and when sitting at the same table. Everybody being online at the same time? Posting once per day due to time-zones?)
3) When playing with people online but everybody is present and can post immediately - what is problematic in the current D&D combat system? Is there something that creates a problem when you are not at a table together yet you post in real-time via online means?
4) Would you be willing to use an external application (like a game app)to handle battles? (counting that it would solve the problem and it doesn't cost much/costs nothing at all)
5) Would you be willing to let an AI handle battles if the pre-battle phase was highly enriched? (Like, instead of having pre-battle preparation take 5% of the battle time, while 95% is battle time you switch the ratios? Or is full constant control of your character too important to give up? If it is - why is it?)
6) Would you be willing to accept new battle mechanics or a complete battle system overhaul IF it would work in both table gameplay and online gameplay and would fix the "different time-zones" problem?

Of course I also welcome any input besides these six questions. If you have any comments or knowledge of how this problem was tackled so far - I would love to read it.

All that said - I acknowledge that this might be a problem that is too hard to solve. Nevertheless I'd love to tackle it since I do have some means to fix it. Thank you for your time and input!
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Xellious Noon
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PostSubject: Re: Improving the online D&D battles   Mon Oct 05, 2015 8:14 am

Hmm, if nobody else responds here, then I will. I wanted to write down these thoughts anyway.

While it's true the battle system has been created with live sessions in mind, there has been RP groups that RPed by email before live chat and/or forum boards were a thing. Keeping that in mind, I don't really see our current posting method as an inconvenience, although it could perhaps go faster. There's always room for imrprovements.

Now let's answer the questions you put forward:
1) The most problematic part is probably having to synchronize your actions. Like, if we all focused down one enemy, we run the risk of overkilling it and wasting attacks and/or having to post extra to choose another enemy instead. But if some of our attacks don't connect, that enemy stays alive to return fire. Kevin has been good with giving us immediate feedback whether the target is dead or alive after each attack, and since the DM controls all the enemies (and substitutes for the computer's mechanics in a pen and paper game) that's as far as instant feedback can go, probably.
2) If I had to name just one thing, then figuring out the best course of action to take in any given situation is the most enjoyable. A battle in D&D is like solving a puzzle, or playing chess with multiple players each controlling one powerful piece. The map layout, terrain and obstacles, temporary field conditions and all that stuff makes for an obstacle course so you have places to hide and positions to occupy for attacking at an advantage, and figuring out how to pierce a target's defenses and what attacks to expect and avoid, to spread out from AoEs but not get surrounded or separated by crowds of minions, it's really not that easy. But I would say that 'playing with power' comes as a close second, the combat part of roleplaying a powerful spellcaster or veteran fighter or what-have-you, so the flavor matters too, but the mechanics of solving this puzzle is what I enjoy the most, personally.
3) I guess the live sessions at a table are only slowed down by 'busywork' and doing the math, because you have to write down how much hit points got lost due to damage and all that, otherwise it works. Posting in real time but online instead of at a table can be a problem with visualizing the scene, but roll20's map helps cover that nicely.
4) Maybe. If it did all the math automatically and had the dice-rolling function integrated, then I don't see why not. That's one reason why we currently use roll20 already.
5) No. Not really. Not unless I was roleplaying someone like a summoner, or a Pokemon Trainer, and giving orders without being in direct control was a part of the experience.
It's taking away from the puzzle-solving experience and optimizing every move to be the best that I can. I also can't see forward in time to predict what's going to happen, there might be reinforcements coming in that I didn't account for, the enemy might have shifting elemental weaknesses or a move that relies on countering your spells. You can't foresee this but you can react to it in real time, unless you leave everything to pre-planning. You can do away with all of these things but then this changes the experience to the pre-planning of battles and that's like turning Rockman EXE into Rockman BCC. I enjoyed them both but they're fundamentally different and you can't replace one for the other.
6) I'm willing to try all kinds of things, but at this point, I think it'd be simply easier to start from a brand new system made to suit the experience you're planning to create, instead of overhauling D&D to be something it's not. I would give it a try, of course, but I don't think the current system needs 'fixing' to begin with. It runs as fast as our players can keep up with it, if it ran any faster we'd have to drop people. It's about striking a balance between patience and impatience.

That's pretty much it for the six questions. I think there was something extra but I can't remember now, oh well, if I do I'll just tell you later. Hope you find this useful.
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