Online Everyone Can Hear You Scream - How To Have An Epic Virtual Game Night
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Online Everyone Can Hear You Scream - How To Have An Epic Virtual Game Night

Anthony Karcz

We're over a year into the pandemic and, while some things are slowly creeping back to normal, game night is still virtual only. The risk involved in inviting a bunch of friends from different households to hang out in your dining room for three hours or more seems unnecessary when vaccines are finally rolling out to everyone. 

That's why I'm still holding digital game nights. The interesting thing is that this new team up from Free League Publishing and Foundry VTT is so good, I think I'll continue using it even after we can gather in person again. 

Foundry VTT

Foundry VTT (virtual tabletop) is a platform that creates an online space for a gamemaster and adventuring party to play any number of systems such as Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and, yes, the ALIEN RPG by Free League Publishing. Many of the systems are unofficial, fan-built modules but Free League has created official assets for several of their game systems. 

The app is impressive. Once the GM buys a license, they can host the rest of your game group. There's no individual subscriptions or logins. That does mean you're hosting the game on your PC, so you'll want to make sure you've got a solid internet connection. There are cloud hosting options as well but they all seem a little complex to set up. Easier just to have everyone directly connect to your PC.

The content available for Foundry VTT is a gamemaster's dream. There are maps, images, tokens, rollable tables, everything you need to roll up a campaign world and get playing. That's just the beginning though, the Foundry VTT site has hundreds of add-ons created by fans and developers. With them you can do things like add 3D dice to your game, import an ambient playlist, auto-generate NPCs, and more, with additional features being added constantly. 

Running a group through an ALIEN RPG campaign in Foundry VTT is a dream. Every map, every monster, every encounter, every page of the core guide is available at your fingertips. Panic tables, critical injury tables, and more are all available and, even better, interactive so that you just have to click to determine your players' and creatures' fates. 

Foundry VTT has dynamic lighting so you don't have to worry about setting fog of war and revealing too much on your maps. You do have to worry that your players will run ahead and get themselves in trouble before they're ready though. Make sure you have a house rule that if they go running around the map ahead of the party they have to deal with what they find. 

Rolls populate the chat bar so it's easy to keep track of who's done what (and easy for you to show your players that you're not fudging rolls behind the screen...though if you are you don't have to show your rolls). What's even better is that, if you're hosting the game locally on your computer, the session is persistent.

You can also integrate audio/video chat with Foundry VTT...but it's not the easiest thing to do. Looking over the instructions, it's probably easier to roll up a Discord server for your gaming group and use that instead. That said, Foundry VTT does support audio uploads, so you can have atmospheric music and sound effects ready to go. And you'll want to hit the atmosphere hard when you're playing ALIEN. 

ALIEN RPG

The ALIEN RPG from Free League Publishing is set three years after the events of the ALIENS movie (mostly, there is a scenario that runs you through the dwindling final hours of Hadley's Hope on LV-426). It's a dark science fiction universe populated with humans struggling to eke out a new life on the edge of known space, greedy corporations concerned with nothing but profit, and armored xenomorphs looking to destroy all they encounter. The digital assets that launch you into this universe are, in a word, incredible.

Immediately immersive, you have everything you need to start a session and dive right in. The Core Rulebook, Starter Set, and Destroyer of Worlds cinematic scenario all come with pre-generated characters that you can assign to players. There are also digital character sheets if you want to build a character for a traditional campaign. 

The rulebook is completely digitized, so it's a simple thing to look things up and share them with your players. You can also just make the rulebook available to them as an asset. 

With the dozens of Foundry VTT add-ons available, I appreciated that the setup instructions included a list of those that work best with the digital package. A few downloads later and I was rolling fully-rendered 3D ALIEN RPG dice across the screen (among other quality of life improvements). Much more satisfying than a simple dice rolling sound effect. 

In fact, for a game that stresses that rolling dice isn't necessarily a good thing (because, often, that's when bad things happen to you), the Foundry VTT implementation makes it achingly simple to roll. Click a weapon entry on your character sheet to attack. Click a talent to make a skill check. If you're a GM, you don't have to worry about rolling twice (once to see what your monster does, and then again for damage) - click a PC and attack, the system rolls everything for you. Did a player roll a failure on a stress die and panic? The system rolls it automatically, tallying the result. Speaking of stress, if a player pushes a roll, they automatically gain stress die. About the only thing the system doesn't do is automatically deduct damage or modify your skill scores (which happens for various reasons throughout the game). 

All of this combines to make a game that you and your players can just enjoy without having to get bogged down in tables and stat blocks. I mean, you still can. Every ounce of printed material for the game is available in digital format, including the intensely atmospheric artwork (perfect for dropping on your players at just the right moment). It makes it even easier for players to start playing since they don't even have to invest in a rulebook. 

GM setup is made simple as well. The included maps are fully compatible with Foundry VTT's dynamic lighting and it's extremely easy to drop creature tokens on the map, lying in wait. Setting up your players is similarly stress-free. Grab a character sheet, drop a token, and you're ready to go. Story handouts are available as shareable assets as well. 

Running a group through the scenario included in the starter guide is extremely fun (as long as your idea of fun comes with a healthy dose of watching players desperately try to survive). No one had used the system before so there were plenty of questions (easily answered by the virtual rulebook) and rolls that could have been forgotten or would have required digging in the rulebook to find tables and whatnot were easily handled without slowing down the action. 

It was so much fun that I plan on keeping a virtual RPG group even after the pandemic is over (or at least bringing laptops to game night). 

Want to get started? Head over to the Foundry VTT website, set up an account, and buy a license. Then purchase the official ALIEN RPG materials. You can also get the physical rulebooks (which are some of the nicest I've ever seen) directly from the Free League Publishing site

Thanks to Foundry VTT and Free League Publishing for providing materials for this piece. Opinions are my own.

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I’ve been writing about technology, gadgets, and pop culture back before Apple had even thought of the iPhone. I’ve seen the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple. I've

I’ve been writing about technology, gadgets, and pop culture back before Apple had even thought of the iPhone. I’ve seen the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple. I've watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate… In addition to Forbes.com, I am a contributor at TheRoarbots.com. As a technical writer, I specialize in deciphering the undecipherable, untangling the kraken-like documentation tangles that software companies find themselves in, and teaching users how to successfully navigate their products on the other side. I also enjoy playing in superheroic worlds of my own creation (you can find out more about my fiction endeavors at AnthonyKarcz.com). You can find me on Twitter (@sunstreaker84), Facebook, and Google . If there’s something you want to see me tackle, drop me an email at: anthonyATanthonykarczDOTcom.