Last friday night was our fourth session in a row with my Skype campaign. It was the best so far, mostly because I didn't drop out once (replaced a cable on my computer that was crimped, I believe that was the culprit) and the party reached a conclusion of sorts to their first real "dungeon" adventure on the jungle isle of Delos. They managed to defeat a far superior foe under tough circumstances, basically destroying a minor demon with the party only in the 2-3rd level range, with only one slight casualty (the npc fighter was hurled against a wall and knocked unconcious during the climatic battle, going to negative HP before being aided). Good show!
The party is really coming together, and it's always a magical moment for the DM when the players seem to "click" and everyone realizes their roles in the party...the thief/mage started hiding behind the burly fighter types to cast spells and shoot arrows, the cleric held his holy symbol and turned all the undead in sight, the druid began exploring the uses of his many spells when underground and battling mostly undead instead of outdoors battling living creatures, and the fighters, well they did what they do best. A lot less of "Everyone grabs a weapn and rushes up to whack the enemy" we saw in the first few sessions. I'm having a blast and the players seem to be having fun also.
While simplistic, Gametable has done just fine with the basics online (graph paper, drawing walls, pogs for representations of characters, monsters, trees, etc, dice rolling macros). I wish it had a few more features but right now it's performed admirably. Now that I replaced my cable, I had my first "drop free" session which helped quite a bit with the flow of the game....and might have hurt the players a little, they are used to having extra time to discuss strategy when I dropped out every 10 minutes or so for sixty secords or more!
I do miss some aspects of fact to face gaming...the minis, drawing out the rooms on the battle board, using my Dwarven Forge walls, being able to see the player's faces and react to that when I spring something on them, being able to easily show them visual representations, etc. However, Skype still remains IMO the best vehicle for gaming when everyone is scattered across the world, and has allowed us to have a 3-4 hour session four weeks in a row. For comparison, we haven't gamed in my face to face campaign since May, and even though it's been going for almost three years, have only managed back to back weeks one time (we are lucky to get once a month in at the best of times!)
My favorite part of the recent campaign (set on a steamy tropical jungle isle, and very reminiscent of pulp "Lost civilization" type adventures) was the last session when the party, who had successfully managed to deal with undead shadows, ghouls, zombies; poisonous snakes (the druid reasoned with the giant bushmaster snake and got him to leave!), tigers, and bloodthirsty native warriors....were almost wasted by....giant rats!
After clearing a room out of a bunch of ghouls, the party forced open a door that led a to a previously unexplored area. After entering, hordes of rabid giant rats began pouring out of a small pit it in the room. Two blown throws of oil vials later, the rats were swarming the party as I rolled 19's and 20's and covered the characters with bite after bite from the menaces. Finally, someone was able to get a pool of oil lit in front of the door and cut off reinforcements, just in time for the "king rat" (I described him as a rat as big as a potbelly pig, shades of Stephen King's short story "Night Shift") to show up and squeak a challenge. Just as they finished him off, a pair of ghouls returned from behind (whoops) with a Ghast leader, and the ghast quickly downed the two party fighters with paralyzing bites!
Suddenly, with the party's two fighters down to paralyzation, and still wounded from the attacking giant rats, (not to mention a rat as big as a pig gnawing on them), it looked reeeealy touch and go for a few minutes. I was down to deciding which character the ghast would choose as a "snack" after everyone went down, when the three remaining party members managed to hold off the undead just long enough for the paralyzed fighters to recover and rejoin the combat. That was a hard won battle, and in some ways was closer to a TPK than the later battle with a Shadow Fiend in the heart of the temple. Every campaign it seems has a moment early on when things are touch and go but the party pulls it out, and this gives them confidence for what lies ahead; this was definitely that moment!
Anyone wanting to keep track of the Isle of Delos Skype campaign (be warned, there's not much dialogue and it's more a "Just the facts, ma'am" type blog), the link is below:
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