Setting the mood


A recent twitter discussion motivated me to write about this. Nowadays I almost exclusively play RPGs online. I prefer Fantasy Grounds when it is available but most of the time it is Roll20 due to the simplicity of setting up a game with dice macros. I have written about both in 2011 and my comments still stand in many ways, the biggest change would be I find maps less important then I did then.

Regardless of the technology I use, I always find it important to set the mood for the players. To achieve this I usually create at least a landing page where the players “hang out” when we don`t need a map that also has a fitting music track.

The one I am most proud of is a Fallout setup I did a while ago. It was planned to have a hex-crawl experience in the Fallout universe, in a place not covered by the computer games yet. We settled on Colorado and would use Savage Worlds as the rule set. Sadly due to scheduling issues it died before it began. Nonetheless, the prep work was a useful lesson.

First I wanted to run the game in Fantasy grounds and began creating a custom extension. It was progressing OK but there where some quirks and I ran in roadblocks all the time. I had to completely start over once and time was running short until the game was supposed to start. And I could never have finished it in time. I am often a bit of a perfectionist so I had to scrap the idea of using Fantasy Grounds. I hope in the future they will work on this problem and make creating skins easier. This is how far I have got:

I am very proud of the Fallout look and feel this created and I am sure it would have added to the experience immensely. But as I had to use Roll20 for a quicker setup I started out with this:



A custom card deck for initiative and of course a stack of Bennies was the starting point to get the flavour right, and I reused the central piece from my FG skin. The difference between the two is very clear, isn’t it? I was very unhappy so created a totally new splash page that had a bunch of background info and style.



I deliberately left the brown space at the bottom of the Image so when properly scaled (Usually 50% at our screens) the Macro bar would not cover the Image. It is full of flavour of Fallout but also the setting. If you look closely there are interesting things find if you zoomed in on some of the things. Smart players could have gleaned information from this page to discover some cool secrets.  This is the landing page the players would log into every game. When it came time to play I would switch to the Hex map.



Again, what you see is roughly 50% scale in Roll20, so you could have zoomed in for much more detail on the map. The players could put notes on the map and I had also prepped some Icons to set down to mark discoveries. The Radioactive symbol is the group token, so we could track the exploration. I also had several ambient opening music tracks set for this page to get players into the spirit.

Was this a lot of work? Yes, 15-20 Hours of work in Gimp on the Roll20 stuff alone to get it just right. I am regularly putting in this amount of work, even for a one shot. The time I spent is worth it to me so the players can get immersed in the game even though we are sitting in front of a PC monitor. It is fun to do for me as well. And it just looks nicer then a blank window.

What are the things you do to make a game pop and get the players immersed into your games on Roll20 or FG? Comment below.

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