We shifted to LL from 4E because I and several of my players were dissatisfied with the railroading, encounter-based games that the system encourages. I took at look at all the retro-clones and went with a heavily house ruled version of LL.
I've been in Seoul on business for the last month, but we've been keeping our game going by playing over Google+. We took this as an opportunity to invite some of the friends I grew up playing 2nd Edition D&D with in Miami, and the results have been great so far. Some of them are really excited to be getting back to rolling dice and outsmarting my monsters.
I'm considering moving our regular biweekly face-to-face game to an online-only format, possibly hosting a weekly game over Google+, though I'm hesitant to make the full transition.
Here are the pros and cons of Google+ D&D, as I see them:
- Gas is expensive; no need for my players to drive two hours from LA to attend a game.
- No one ever starves during a Google+ game; your favorite food and drinks are always accessible.
- I can host players from across the country. I have former players living in Miami and Tennessee who have just joined the campaign. They're among my most enthusiastic participants.
- No overcrowded tables and I have all the room I need to lay out my prep work without needing to hide it all behind a screen. Access to all of my saved PDFs has also proven useful, as it's easier to bring something up quickly on my PC vs. the iPad.
- The players like being able to instant message me or each other during a game.
- Online mapping tools (we're currently using the Cacoo app and waiting eagerly for Tabletop Forge to become feature-complete) make it easy to save and resume your progress during a game.
- Online games are inherently more flexible. With live games, absenteeism is more problematic. I'd probably be able to comfortably run weekly or even twice-weekly sessions if we played online. More players will also be able to attend because we're cutting the commute out of the equation..
- You can play in your underwear.
- No one can smell your farts.
- I can mute my players when necessary. Useful whenever a crying baby or yapping spouse is interrupting our game.
- It's easier to tell when players are distracted at a table vs. a video conference game. I have to trust that my players are actually paying attention to what I'm saying and not just playing Facebook games or instant messaging each other. When I catch them randomly smiling and typing, I know that I've lost their attention. Engagement isn't quite there vs. a live game.
- The live experience is more than just a game, it's a social event. It's nice to see my players face to face, to eat a meal together, to catch up on what's going on in our lives, and my female players seem to love to play with my kids.
- My players often bring delicious snacks or home-cooked meals to our games. I'd miss that!
- My miniatures, battlemats, dungeon tiles, and other tabletop props all go to waste. It's easier to move minis on a battlemat than to move tokens on our map in Cacoo.
I'll be in Korea for another month, so I'll be able to get a better idea of which play method I prefer as I run more games. So far, I think the benefits of online play outweigh the drawbacks.