Multiplayer D&D: My online utopia

One of the cool things about online console gaming is that when you want to play against a human opponent, you can. It rarely takes me more than a few minutes to find a Magic opponent on Xbox 360. (On the other hand, I was never able to find an opponent for the Bronze Online Cup on FIFA 10 Ultimate Team; that ship sailed long ago.)

This is in sharp contrast to D&D. I came up with a character concept the other day, and now I want to play him. So all I need to do is get a group together, right? Well, it’s not easy when you have a job and a wife and kid, and your players all have similar levels of commitment (one of them is getting married in a few months!)

I am hoping that will all change with the Virtual Table.

Imagine: A central hub where games are played, all hours of the day and night. A forum or bulletin board to manage it all. A DM can post that he’s going to run a game at 8 PT, it’s going to last about four hours, it’s for levels 6-7 and it takes place in Eberron. How long would it take him to find four to six players?

Organized play can take on a whole new dimension. Imagine Living Forgotten Realms being played online. The active player base would explode.

This is where the standardization of 4e will really shine. Casual play, with different DMs and players advancing their characters at different rates, could lend itself to people “cheating” — houseruling their characters into powerful combos, or giving themselves additional magic items. It’d be silly, but don’t think it won’t happen. Some sort of registry, with players using the Character Builder and DMs sticking to the treasure parcel model, could minimize that.

All this could already exist now, but with online play fragmented between different platforms (my group uses Gametable), no central hub has emerged. Wizards’ site will be the natural place for that, although side sites dedicated to specific communities could emerge, and important sites like Obsidian Portal might step in.

Imagine: DMs looking to run a 30-level campaign, or Revenge of the Giants, or their own one-night delve, could get players to sign up. Players could choose between roleplaying-heavy and hack-and-slash games, depending on their mood. Especially good DMs will get a reputation and a following.

Right now, I’m so busy that I haven’t updated this blog in months. I’m so busy that I have been invited to the Virtual Table beta and haven’t had time to play. But by next year, I expect, I hope, to be able to bring my dwarf arcanist to a virtual table whenever I have a few hours to spare.

It’s going to be awesome.

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