We have finished our fourth round so far. Every "game" has taken (as planned) between 2-3 hours. So during that time we have played as much time as we usual would have on a single evening.
Some lessons learned from my side:
- Preparing an online session takes more preparation than an usual round. It is much harder to improvise, so you have to prepare better and keep the adventurers more "on track".
- This in turn leads to covering more ground during the session. We have less delays and less banter (which is fun, but sidetracks from the game).
- We generate a larger paper trail. An evening usually results in one page of scribbled notes covering the events of 12 hours real time. In our online session we produced about 16 pages of digital text and maps for 10 hours.
- The online tools are an enormous help. My primary helpers are MOAM and Roll20. I learned a lot about the later tool by playing with a different game master during an Online CON. The tools are such a help that I will try to get them adopted by all my players in the offline games as well.
- The main advantage of the tools is the enhanced situational awareness of the players. An image really can say more than 1.000 words (though it uses 100.000 times the disk space).
- You can also invest enormous amounts of time into perfecting your online setup. Maps with dynamic lighting and calculated line of sight are really very labor intensive. The real secret is finding the right balance. I guess my next step will be integrating basic gameplay mechanics into Roll20. Unluckily our system (Midgard M5) is not supported by Roll20 itself.
- I have no idea how I could do it without Google image search. Just drawing the most simple giant bat would take me 100 times than picking a result from Google. But that also prevents me from making my material public as there would be dozens of copyright issues. If I ever plan on that, I have to find an artist first who could re-do those assets for me.
Overall summary: It works better than expected. But the experience differs and I will gladly switch back to the offline games at some point in the future. Nevertheless I will try to hang onto some things I consider improvements.