The Virtual Tabletop – Making the Horizon Event

I have been playing tabletop role-playing games for more than three decades.

From my earliest memory of playing Dungeons & Dragons (I was a halfling who was killed by an air elemental) to running my first Marvel Super-Heroes campaign; from Cyberpunk (the original) to Paranoia (2nd Edition) to GURPS to Champions to Dungeons & Dragons, my tabletop gaming life has always been an important means to escape to other worlds and tell stories with friends.

As the years have passed, this has gotten harder and harder. Adulthood eats up a lot of one’s dice-rolling time and those friends that enjoy the hobby alongside me might pack their things and move to a place that isn’t the frozen tundra of Western New York State. Getting together becomes harder and harder as one’s priorities shift from trying to get laid to trying to avoid putting on real pants.

The option of gaming online has been available for many years, but there have always been inconsistencies that prevented me from being involved with it or really wanting to give it a shot. Besides, I would say in my analogue brain, sitting down with friends and being social is better than looking at a computer screen.

I then, however, met Resnik.

Resnik and I were introduced by a mutual friend on social media. We hit it off because we are basically the exact same person with remarkably different experiences. As it turned out, he had played some tabletop, over the years. This, plus the aforementioned ‘adult stuff’ prompted me to investigate options for taking the tabletop to the desktop (or the laptop, in my case).

What I discovered was a site called Roll20, where players can log in and map out intricate adventures in any gaming system. While there are a number of options for specific games, including Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition, which is… limited) and Pathfinder (which is sometimes called the 3.75 edition of D&D) and a handful of games for gamers whose tastes are less specific than mine. However, Roll20 was the most advanced platform I was able to locate that had a minimal set up cost (free for most, $10 for Pro, which gives a handful of storage advantages).

I investigated Roll20 for some time, but I didn’t actually look into playing in any games. I sort of wanted to run one of my own before I tried out someone else’s. I played around with some of the tools, but, for the most part, I figured I would be better-served to learn on the fly. And so, I prepared my game.

It’s a simple concept for a complex RPG — an event has occurred that has caused the development of superhumans in this world. The players are then, ultimately, the first superheroes to show up as a team (although, I must add, not the first superheroes to show up, altogether). In this way, the players will be responsible for determining the future of a developing superhero universe.

I opted to use the Mutants & Masterminds, 3rd Edition system; the same system used for the most recent version of the DC Universe role-playing game. There are many, many superhero gaming systems available to those that enjoy that sort of thing (which I am), but M&M has the distinct advantages of being relatively simple, remarkably adaptive, and having a wide array of pre-generated characters available, for last minute additions to a story. This would allow me to improvise with much greater ease and enable players to have a much wider range of options (which means that I can avoid ‘railroading,’ or forcing them along a specific story progress because that’s all I have planned for).

The player group is made up of two gamers that I have played with for decades, two I’ve only started gaming with over the last few years, Resnik, and our very own Jordan R. T. Spencer, whose never before played a tabletop RPG. Each of them was very carefully hand-picked as I was confident they would all have a great deal to offer the group, as a whole, and the narrative of this superhero world.

I also added a wiki aspect. There are a lot of new concepts, ideas, and characters that are part of this universe, to I decided that having a repository in which players could reference various non-player characters, locations, and events would be beneficial. After the first game, I had created a wikia, but it was noted by one of the players (Sean — credit where credit’s due) that I should try out Obsidian Portal, which is built, specifically, for RPG campaign wiki purposes.

And so it is that the Horizon Event is up and running.

Six amazing players, extensive virtual resources, and an adaptive rules system. I am confident that this game will go for some time.

And I’m excited to talk more about it.

You can check out the Horizon Event Obsidian Portal page, here!