30 November 2012

Mechanik's Heaven: An Online IKRPG Campaign

When it comes to my 'lifeblood' it's the IKRPG side of things, rather than the wargame. (though I'll post later on my thoughts on starting a Trollblood army, something I'm getting ready to do.) I also used to enjoy a very regular gaming session with friends before my move south. I've been missing that and the friend of mine that got me into IKRPG and I have been talking about doing a game online. Play By Posts just don't have the social aspect and the speed which we wanted. It all finally crystalized together after my wife complained about not being able to get her gaming/social fix in either. When the wife comments I know I need to do something.

And so was born the Mechanika Campaign. Played weekly I will give you a sense of where this campaign is going and how we do it. This will be an ongoing series on the Mechanika Campaign.

But first the tools of an online game. Two key features, one is voice and video. You need that around the table feeling where you can laugh at each other, etc. For that we've used a variety of tools. For small numbers of people we've used Oovoo, a great free video chat that we still use to chat with family with the kids all the time. We've found it to be great for providing the chat component, especially when it's hosted on a TV in the living room with the videos hanging out to one side. You can do your main view in the rest of it and have a quick 'table' view of who else is playing. Worked out great.

At one point though we migrated to Google's Hangout. At the time we started using it we wanted to take advantage of hangout apps but none quite exist, that I am aware of, that really satisfy the RPG needs. I'm sure that will change, and we still find it a great tool for the video conferencing abilities and it forms the core 'social' tool of our gaming. We all have it up leave it generally in the background.

The other piece of this is the 'map' or 'core rpg' tool. Here there are a couple of options. One popular one is Vassal, a great open source product which has multiple modules for all kinds of wargaming, including one for Warmachine/Hordes. There isn't one specifically for IKRPG, and that is really where I feel that Vassal falls short. This tool is great for GM's to set up the maps and even use the different models from all the different factions but it is limited to the models and types that exist in the core wargame, whether it be Warmachine or Hordes. And Role Players always have a vision for their character and many of them just don't fit into the WM/H models. And for this I rolled back to a tool that I loved when we played 4th Edition D&D online. Maptool. The tool, which we use version 1.3.b77, is actually quite good, even though it hasn't seen any major updates in a long time(b77 is from 2010 I believe). But here you get all of the tools to create your own tokens(token tool allows you to take any picture, drop it in and create a token from it!), code your own macros(or libraries of macros) and set up not just one but many maps all within the framework of a 'campaign' which is saved off, and served out by the GM. It has all the 'classic' needs of wargamers. It does take a little getting used to, and you will need to change the 'default' settings which change things to D&D style 'sizing', grids and movement(both 3.5 and 4.0) but it actually can be done. The one annoyance I have is not having native support for the 'light warjack/warbeast' base size which is actually halfway between 'medium' and 'large' D&D sizes, but I found I can get around that by turning the token into an object then custom sizing it, and then turning it back into a token.(If this doesn't make sense, it will once you play with map tools a little bit).

In short, maptools gave me and my friends the flexibility to have our own vision of ourselves, easy map making and macros/easy dice rolling that will speed up playing the game. It was the final major piece. Added to this the use of google drive to store our collective character sheets and other elements and we have a collaborative/shared environment.

On to the campaign! Next time, what is the theme of the Mechanika Campaign and the Cast of Characters.


  1. for Google Hangout stuff, try

  2. Also look at Roll20.net, can be launched in a Google+ Hangout.