Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Zoomswoop Virtual Tabletop

I've been running more games than ever before during this pandemic. At the moment, I've got a usually-weekly 13th Age game and a more-or-less biweekly 13th Age Glorantha game. I realize that many people run games a lot more often than that; I can't claim to be a prolific GM!

Instead of using Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds or Astral VTT, I've been using what I call zoomswoop. For the talking and the non-combat roleplaying, I'm one of the talking heads on the group video call. When it's time to roll initiative, I swoop my camera down near a battlemap, set up the minis, and until the battle's over I play action-puppeteer with everyone's miniatures and my monsters, with occasional camera call-backs for hand gestures and body language cues.

I admit I kind of love it. When I'm responsible for moving all the miniatures, hypothetical moves and stutter-step fakes abound. The barbarians shake with rage, the necromancer cowardly turns his back as he runs away, and the dwarf ranger's loyal and ridiculously effective monitor lizard ends up leaning on its boss or climbing atop the enemies. Interpreting character actions with tiny adjustments is fun, and the players focus on their actions, their dialogue, and their smack-talk. Plus I get to pan the camera up every time the ridiculously large escalation die gains a pip. 

Two cameras would work. But using a single-camera swoop lets me keep my I'm-thinking-face off camera part of the game. People know that when I bring the camera back up to talk it's gonna be important. 

I suspect that lots of other people are doing the same thing w/o feeling the need to coin a term for it! But maybe not. My players expected to be using a virtual tabletop and some have been surprised that the zoomswoop works. 

[aftermath of the battle when the PCs caught up with the Crusader pipers who had taken the head of Inigo Sharpe into an ancient draconic battlefield; escalation die at left]


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