Around since 1958, July 30th marks ‘International Friendship Day’ and at Dicebox; we’re celebrating all things platonic. We think Seth McFarlane may have said it best in 2012’s Ted, with the eponymous stuffed hero saying of his relationship with Mark Wahlberg’s character, John Bennett – Friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s about being separated and knowing nothing will change.
Certainly, in recent months, that sentiment has become one that we can all relate to in some degree. The way in which we socialise has changed dramatically since the start of the year. Get-togethers have gone from often being impulsive, last-minute affairs to being meticulously planned military-style operations. FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom have replaced much of our IRL interaction, and, while some parts of the world seem to be slowly returning to some sort of state of normalcy, it will be a while yet before this becomes an option for everyone.
For this reason, amongst many others, we’re incredibly fortunate to live in a world that is better connected now than ever before. Human interaction is a pivotal part of daily life and is especially important for our mental well being. When those interactions are taken away, the effects can be very damaging. So the fact that we can hop online and connect to friends who may be on the other side of the world is a modern privilege that up until recently, many of us took for granted.
Of course, maintaining friendships online isn’t a new thing. The internet is a playground, wherein millions of people can connect over shared interests or hobbies. Hanging out with childhood friends or whiling away a few hours saving the world with someone you just got chatting to, our ability to connect and spend time with people during what has been a dark few months has become, for many, a lifeline in uncertain times.
Interesting side fact: A 2015 survey to determine whether or not internet use had a positive or detrimental effect on socialisation in young people showed that 57% of people had found at least one long term friend online, with 29% making multiple friends via the internet.
A prime example of how online interaction has changed in recent years is with the rise in popularity of TTRPG series such as Critical Role and The Adventure Zone. Since streaming began in 2015, the Twitch web series Critical Role, in particular, has introduced a whole new demographic to the world of role-playing games, as well as making the idea of playing board games (as opposed to video games) over the internet a far more popular option. While we can’t guarantee fame and fortune as a streaming star, or that you’ll get over one hundred million views on YouTube, we can certainly recommend taking your gaming sessions online as a good way of having fun, avoiding stress, and staying connected.
There are a host of platforms available that will allow you to bring your tabletop sessions online, and whether you choose to play via video, voice chat, streaming to an audience, or just between friends, set up is simpler than you may imagine. Virtual desktop Roll20 is a great place to start, with a vast amount of campaign management tools, as well as it being an extremely easy platform to navigate.
If you’re looking for a traditional style RPG that has both real scope and substance to world-building and storyline, but that works with a simplified set of mechanics to make online play a little less daunting, 13th Age is a great place to start. ‘Shadows of Eldolan’ ($16.00) is a solid, introductory adventure that provides a good jumping-off point for less experienced players (1st level heroes). Another option for further play at a slightly higher level (1-7) is ‘Shards of the Broken Sky’ ($33.00), a sandbox adventure that allows your party to get more creative with their interactions and works well for building player confidence.
For those who want the option of short campaigns or one-shots; Modern Age Basic Rule Book ($50.00) and Modern Age RPG Threefold ($59.00) give GMs a wealth of world choices, from alternate histories to ‘otherworlds’ in which to set sessions. The relative simplicity of the rules make Modern Age a prime alternative to more complex RPGs, however, due to the sheer vastness of the world-building, we would highly recommend GMs run an introductory session or pre-game one to ones with players in order to familiarise them with the setting ahead of playing.
Of course, not all games played in a virtual setting have to be RPG. Think pub and party style games like bingo, quizzes, and escape rooms and you’ll open up a plethora of possibilities for your next Zoom video catch up. Pub Quiz ($15.00) is a budget-friendly way of getting your friends together online for a bit of competitive fun, while with a little pre-game planning Beat That ($42.00) challenges players to a series of challenges using fairly easy to find household items (cups, balls, dice). Tip: hosts might want to send out a list of required equipment before game time.
Here at Dicebox HQ, we’ll be treating the resident nerds and web wizards to an extra bit of game time (they have earned it after all) and maybe a fancy barista brewed coffee or two. After all, as The Beatles once sang, ‘We get by with a little help from our friends.’