Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Year 2011I’m guilty as all hell.

Guilty of working on the Obsidian Portal wiki for the game rather than posting here. It’s my own fault and I make no apologies. You see, we started the new game last night. Ad Astra Per Arcana has kicked off the latest campaign in the Planejammer series as it enters it’s thirty-first year!

Before I go on about the new game and our experiments with video conferencing I’d like to thank everyone who voted for us. Our Spelljoined campaign, affectionately referred to as the Cincinnati game, won Obsidian Portal’s Campaign of the Year for 2011. I’ll be sharing photos of the trophy full of dice as soon as it arrives in the mail!

With the new game we decided to bring in one of the players from The Spelljoined via video. With modern technology four state lines should be as nothing to a bunch of determined gamers. First we tried the Hangouts function on Google+ which held up reasonably well for a while. Unfortunately as time wore on and we had been using it for an hour or so the video and audio artifacts began to multiply like orcs in an adventurer free zone.

Since we had Mac devices on each end we decided to try Facetime from the Mac desktop here in New Orleans. Without an available external mic we were limited to the factory offering. This was still not cutting it.

Then I had an inspiration – what about my iPhone? It’s got Facetime and relatively decent volume when in speaker mode.

At first it was clunky, but I think it turns out to be the best bet when only bringing one player into the came virtually like we were. I ran an audio-out to my stereo system and we adjusted her volume to the average conversational level of the room and it worked out perfectly.

We used a small stand for the iPhone so we could rotate her view, which took a bit of work. One terrific aspect of this approach, despite the extra work of playing camera-man as well as DM, came when doing combat. Unlike a stationary webcam I could easily rotate her view of the battle mat and miniatures, even setting the iPhone down on the battle mat itself. This afforded an on the ground view most players never see, one that garnered quite a look of surprise from Emily when we tried it.

While we have not looked into Skype yet, a service I use a lot but that was not available on the other end, I don’t thing we will need to. Despite the trailing audio cable using the iPhone in the way seems to offer the easiest way to really bring a single player to the table over long distance.

Between that and Obsidian Portal for managing character sheets and game data we have the makings of a great tool set for bringing in guest stars and other long distance gamers. In the future we will be trying to reboot the Spelljoined as a purely online game. Whether Hangouts, Oovoo, or Skype end up being our best bet for a game where everybody is on webcam remains to be seen, but I’ll make sure to report on our experiments as they evolve.

One last quick announcement. If you’re looking for a new fantasy novel to read on your Kindle? Check out Eria by Andrew Sanderson with the cover done by Planejammer artist, Emily Vitori, as it’s free for the next two days!

If you’ve been gaming over video I’d love to hear about what has and has not worked for your group, let us know in the comments or circle the Planejammer page on Google+ and interact!