AetherCon 2012

With the rapid advancement of technology the ability to play RPGs online has steadily improved. Improved voice and video chat tools, higher bandwidth at people’s homes and the growing choice of Virtual Tabletops have presented players and GMs with many options to play online. Ways that no longer require a high level of technical expertise to participate in online gaming sessions.

With this increase in available tools the idea of an online gaming convention has really taken off. Online gaming conventions seek to bring a large number of people together for gaming, seminars and more over the course of several days, much like a convention with a physical location.

The Iron Tavern has an avid interest in online conventions as they fit my busy schedule better than many in-person conventions. With that in mind, The Iron Tavern has agreed to help get the word out about AetherCon coming in the Fall of 2012.

So grab your virtual dice bags and mark down November 16-18, 2012 on your calendar, as the AetherCon Online RPG Convention is coming to your computer! Best of all, it’s FREE!

They will be featuring tabletop RPGs of all types throughout the weekend, highlighted by four three-day tournaments of Pathfinder Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, and Shadowrun. Game tables will be run on the powerful, yet easy to use, Roll20 browser-based virtual tabletop. Learn more with the Roll20 tutorials and the Roll20 Live Stream.

Additionally vendors, industry guests, and artists are also in our plans. They will be releasing free downloadable wallpapers throughout the months leading up to the con.

Currently Members of the Artists Enclave include Paul Abrams (TSR, Shadowrun); Alex E. Alonso Bravo (DC Comics, Pixar, AEG); Brent Chumley (AEG); John L Kaufmann (Shadowrun); Eric Lofgren; (Paizo, White Wolf, Mongoose Publishing), Chris Malidore (Fantasy Flight Games, PEG), Patrick McAvoy (WotC, AEG, Fantasy Flight Games), Brad McDevitt (Chaosium, CGL, Battlefield Press), Jesse Mead (Fantasy Flight Games), Aaron B. Miller (WotC, AEG, Open Design), and Stanley Morrison (AEG) among other up and comers in the field.

Additionally, to date game publishers confirmed as taking part in AetherCon either through prize support, supplying guests, or taking a vendors booth include:

Battlefield Press, Catalyst Game Labs, Chaosium, Chronicles of the Void, Flying Buffalo Inc., Immersion Studios, Imperfekt Gammes, Kenzer and Company, Paizo, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Scrying Eye Games, Skirmisher Publishing LLC, Stardust Publications, Sundered Epoch, The Design Mechanism, Third Eye Games, and Vigilance Press.

Confirmed guests to date are Wedge Smith and Doug Bush (Chronicles of the Void), Steven ‘Bull’ Ratkovich (CGL), James Sutter (Paizo), and Lawrence Whittaker and Pete Nash (The Design Mechanism).

Confirmed games to date include:

  • All Flesh Must Be Eaten
  • A Thousand and One Nights
  • Atomic Highway
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Castles & Crusades
  • Dark Heresy
  • Eclipse Phase
  • Fantasy Craft
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • Legend of the Five Rings
  • Leverage
  • Mouse Guard
  • Mutants & Masterminds
  • Paranoia
  • Pathfinder
  • Pathfinder Society
  • RIFTs
  • Savage Worlds
  • Serenity
  • Shadowrun
  • Time Lord
  • Star Wars WEG D6
  • Swords and Wizardry

with more to come.

If you’d like to play in a game use our Player Pre-Registration Tool.

If you’d like to run a game use our GM Pre-Registration Tool.

If you don’t see your game in our lineup, would like to lend a hand, or need to inquire for any other reason, feel free to use our Contact Us page to do so.

Be sure to visit our websites and show your support for AetherCon via Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Website: http://www.aethercon.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AetherConRPG
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/AetherCon
Google+: http://www.gplus.to/aethercon

The Iron Tavern will post the occasional update as information is released. Also keep checking back to see what we will be running at AetherCon!

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A Look At Roll20

A couple of weeks ago I took a look at Tabletop Forge, a VTT for use in a Google+ Hangout. I used it to run a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG one-shot game. One of the comments on that post asked about Roll20, another VTT that has the ability to be used within a Google+ Hangout. I had glanced at the Roll20 VTT prior to that comment but that spurred me to take a closer look.

This week I ran another Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG game over Google+ Hangouts using the Roll20 application. Roll20 is in open beta and has a good sized features list. Roll20 can be accessed via a web browser and includes its own voice and video system. It can also be integrated into a Google+ Hangout as an application. The testing I did with it was as a Google+ Hangout application, so this commentary will not cover the integrated voice and video chat of Roll20.

Roll20 has several other features including a searchable art library to allow easily dragging tokens and such to the map, a jukebox to play background music to the players, built in text chat, dice rolling, macros, fog of war, turn tracker, drawing tools, health bars and more. Roll20 also allows you to prep a campaign file prior to the game and it will be there when you connect for your actual session.

For the game I ran I did some pre-game prep. Roll20 let me prep multiple map pages before the game. So on the first map I just dropped the module cover into the map. As players assembled in my Google Hangout and launched Roll20, they saw the initial opening image.

On the second map I used a player copy of the map from the adventure I ran and applied the fog of war to it. Since DCC RPG is able to be played gridless, I dropped a single token on the map to indicate the party’s location, but did not represent each character. I tested the revealing of the fog and it seemed to work great during my prep.

Fog of War in Action.

I also took advantage of the macros and setup attack rolls and damage rolls for each of the encounters in the module. This was a nice feature as when combat occurred I could just call my macro and get the roll I needed. It was relatively simple to setup.

Come game time I went to the Roll20 website and chose launch the campaign in a Google+ Hangout. That launched the Hangout, I invited my circle of gamers for this game and the Hangout was live. As players connected I had them go to the apps tab in the Hangout and launch Roll20 from there. All save one connected with no issue. The player with problems launching the app did need to reboot, but quite likely not fault of Roll20.

Page Selection in Roll20

Once the players were connected I moved the player ribbon from the start page with the module cover to the map I had prepped. The fog of war feature worked great and we used the chat based dice roller for our rolls. All seemed to work well and a good time was had.

I followed up with my players this morning and asked them what they thought of the setup and had overwhelmingly positive reactions from them. The fog of war received good reviews. Some thought the dice rolling was a little complicated for doing some of the multiple dice rolls needed in DCC RPG. Some of these issues could be minimized with a little more time with the tool I think.

Overall as a GM I found the Roll20 app a really solid product offering. The application easily integrated with Google+ Hangouts which is nice as Google+ provided me with the tools to meet gamers, schedule the games and then a place to play. The fog of war worked well for me to show a map as the players moves along and the macros were quite useful as well for pre-prep. I could easily see myself running more games over the Roll20 application.

VTTs have come a long, long way in a few short years. With a lot of my online gaming happening over Google+ Hangouts it is great to have two very strong VTT contenders. At the moment I probably give Roll20 a bit of an edge. But with Tabletop Forge’s kickstarter complete I expect them to close the gap in very little time.

I will be keeping a close eye on both Tabletop Forge and Roll20 going forward.

A Look At Tabletop Forge

I have been following along with the development of Tabletop Forge since its early days when Joshuha Owen first started posting on Google+ about it. Tabletop Forge is a Google+ Hangout application that assists with playing tabletop RPGs via a Google+ Hangout. It includes mapping functions, whiteboard, dice rolling and integrated chat that allows aliasing and whispering.

I have played with several VTTs over the past few years. In the past I have tended to default to using MapTool and pairing with Skype for the voice end of things. MapTool is a fully featured VTT that when coupled with a framework for your system of choice is a pretty powerful VTT. Using a framework brings some complexity with the tool of course. Another possible con to MapTool is that one needs to host a server that the clients of the other players connect to over the Internet. For the technically inclined this is not a major issue, but for others it does cause troubles.

For those that are not aware, Google+ is haven of gamers. Do not buy the media headlines that Google+ is a ghost town, tap into the right circles and RPG gamers will find Google+ a wonderful home on the web for gamer discussion and meeting other gamers. Add in Google Hangouts for group communication and you start to have the makings of easy online gaming and an easy way to make connections with people that want to game online.

Then enters Tabletop Forge. As mentioned, it is an application that can be used from within a Google Hangout. There are not any servers to configure and setup and open holes in firewalls for. The application runs from within the Google Hangout and provides all the basics of a VTT application. It turns Google Hangouts into a one-stop shop for gaming online.

Tabletop Forge might not support all of the features that MapTool does, but it makes up for it in its simplicity and integration with Google Hangouts. The feature set for Tabletop Forge is growing and even in its current state provides everything to run games online.

I have toyed with Tabletop Forge a reasonable amount and found it easy to use and fully capable of running games via Google Hangouts. Most recently I played a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics over it. We primarily used it for display of images and for dice rolling. It handled the “funky” dice DCC RPG is famous for with ease. It did the job quite well and did not get in the way of the game.

I am prepping for a one-shot of DCC RPG which I am running via Google Hangouts which I will be using Tabletop Forge for. The game will primarily be Theater of the Mind, but I will also be using it for image display and dice rolling as well. The ability to draw up a few images if room descriptions are unclear will also be useful.

While I have talked about playing DCC RPG on Tabletop Forge, one of the things about Tabletop Forge is that it is system neutral. Choose your system and you have the basics to play a game on Google Hangouts with it.

Tabletop Forge currently has a Kickstarter running with about two weeks left to go. While Tabletop Forge is going to remain free, the Kickstarter will help enable the team to add some features and include some art packs with the tool. Plus it helps pay back the free time the current developers have put into it.

So swing on by Google+ and try out Tabletop Forge and see what it can do for your virtual gaming.