A Word in Edgewise… with Rob Eisenberg of RPGWithMe

with Rob Eisenberg of RPGWithMe
By Aaron T. Huss

The following interview originally took place at Gen Con 2012 and is being transcribed here for publication. Roleplayers Chronicle editor-in-chief Aaron T. Huss, shown below with the prefix RPC, is speaking with Rob Eisenberg of RPGWithMe, shown below with the prefix RE. (At one point one of Rob’s assistants jumps in while he takes care of other matters noted by the prefix RWM.)

RPC: Tell me a little bit about [RPGWithMe].
RE: [RPGWithMe] is a web-based product for managing your character or managing a play-by-post game, or even a live game on the Internet with a virtual tabletop. One of the first things I’m going to show you is our character sheet. You could have a tablet [PC] sitting down at a game in front of people, at a table, and rather than managing your character with dry erase or a piece of paper, you can manage your character right here with a tablet [PC]. You can click on your spells and powers, you can use them or un-use them to mark them, update your hit points, all of that with just a touch on your tablet screen. If you are not all sitting down together at a table and want to play-by-post, that is also integrated with your player sheet. So you can actually come right in here to your player sheet and pick off, say, a ranged basic attack, roll it, and touch it off and that will insert my roll into the post window. It inserts [the roll] right into the post window and I’ll post that and then you see the activity updated and everybody in the game would see that. If we were all sitting down on the Internet simultaneously, and I move my character over here and posted that, everybody’s screen would instantly update with my move on the virtual tabletop.

As a game manager you can use some of our thirteen hundred images to create your maps, tiles…
RPC: Can you import?
RE: You can import an image as PNG, JPEG, or GIF out of your computer. You can overlay a grid on it, you can change the “fog of war,” and there are other management tools for the game manager such as maybe hiding certain tokens from certain players. Manage all your non-player characters, cause you can just pull-up each character sheet here and integrate it into the game then roll attacks straight from you non-player character’s sheet as a game manager.

RPC: So you can do “fog of war?”
RE: Yes and it’s all updated live if you’re playing together or if you’re playing-by-post it’s whenever each person can come in. There are other things here such as it has a very strong tag language, you don’t actually have to know the language to tag as it just uses these little hot keys for: “I’m speaking there,” “I want to think something,” “I want to post something out-of-character,” and you just type something in there, hit post, and everybody sees it. The other thing about that is that the entire game history is available from an activity window. You can go back through the entire game and see “What did I roll here?” When you use a basic strike [RPGWithMe] actually posts the spell card or the power card in the post so you can see what he played in that particular moved.

RPC: What’s the online engine that’s driving this? Do you have to log into a website, are you logging into the computer…?
RE: It’s all web-based [from a] live Internet server.

RPC: I’m guessing you have to create an account. The GM creates the account and the player logs into whatever game they’re running?
RE: Right. On your home screen you have all your games and all your campaigns. These are either games that you’re playing in or games that you’re GM’ing. You can jump right into the virtual table or activity feed, or you can go to the campaign’s homepage. You have a homepage and a wiki and it’s integrated together. And 5G of space to store your own images. It’s free for players, character sheets and character journals, it’s all free. For GMs it’s a 30-day free subscription and then $5 a month.
RPC: Whoa, that’s pretty cheap.
RWM: You can create unlimited campaigns either with the virtual table, play-by-posts, wiki, all kinds of stuff… You can go search through campaigns, a game master can designate that the game is looking for players. So you can find a campaign you’re interested in and request to join. You can then chat back-and-forth with the GM, select a character and submit it, and you’re in basically. Or as the GM, you can make your campaign by-invitation-only.

RPC: You can make it private?
RWM: There’s another concept we have which is public versus private. By default, your campaigns are sort of visible to the world for people to check-out what you’re doing, but you can also hide that if you don’t want that to be visible. Any logged in user can pop into your virtual tabletop and watch the game as it’s happening, if you want to let them do that.

RPC: What’s currently supported?
RWM: Right now we have 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Savage Worlds. We’re working on supporting more games and our key component to doing that is through our Kickstarter [that was running in August]. The Kickstarter is to help us build a very basic character creation tool on the site. Now what you do is create a character by importing a character sheet from either the Wizards of the Coast builder tool or from Hero Lab. We’re going to have the basic data entry mechanism where you go through a wizard and put in different things and set-up your character sheet however you’d like it. That’s going to enable us to open up lots of other game systems, and those game systems will be able to access all the features of the site. You can just play your [character] sheet on the tablet [PC] in person, or if you’re doing a virtual tabletop sort of thing.

RPC: Could a GM attach a PDF of the rules for reference?
RWM: I think it would be copyright infringement there. They have 5G of storage space which they could, in theory, upload something like that to and then write a wiki article that references that as a file for download. But we don’t support that specifically. We do support linking in to external sites… What you can do, online, is reference System Reference Documents and things like that.

RPC: What is the Kickstarter for right now [back in August]?
RWM: The Kickstarter is primarily focused around helping us to build the character creation piece so that you don’t need a third-party tool to create a character and so that we can support many more game systems… That’s kind of the missing piece of our puzzle that’s really going to let us do things like provide a really awesome technology system for indy games, for example, that don’t have a lot of stuff right now. With this character creation tool we’ll be able to help game designers that have not released their game yet. Get their stuff into our system and have a way to playtest it online with the virtual tabletop and with a richer experience than they would otherwise have.

RPC: What game systems are you looking at, in the short-term?
RE: Part of the Kickstarter is, if you back a certain level, we’re going to let you vote. I’m just going to gauge the community on that, and we’re going to have as many as we can. The voting is really to prioritize what we do first in the event we need to extend some of our core mechanics to support those different systems.

RPC: Your monthly fee, does that cover all [game] systems available or do you pay for each different one?
RE: No, the fee covers everything. So if you want to be running three Pathfinder campaigns and a Savage Worlds campaign, online, all simultaneously, and then some 4E campaign that you’re using to just run in-person, you can do all that and it’s still just $5. It’s unlimited campaigns.

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