But the system held up great with just the narrative to go on. Actually, one of only a couple of rpg sessions I have done without any props of any kind when I think about it. Only four of the six players could turn out for the first session, but this was OK as everyone was having to get their head around the dice system, although the two missing were the two who knew the system. Swings and round-a-bouts I suppose.
The episode we were working through is outlined elsewhere on the blog; what I'm waffling on about here is how the session went over skype. First thing I think the narrative style of dice are really going to help as players and the GM are forced to 'explain' the results in a way that fits rather than just, "You missed, next character..." There were lots of failed shots with advantages or disadvantages shown on the dice which had to be 'explained'.
"Blaster shots whizzed all around the thug, as he dodged from side to side he came into plain view of the rest of the group, making it easier to target him - the next blaster shot on him gets a boost die."
As a GM after the first few sessions of guidance I expect the players to come up with a suitable narrative explanation for how the 'advantage' is going to pan out for them... To use a rugby ref comment it will be a case of, "Use it or lose it." Obviously most groups will need a lot of supportive guidance for this to happen well. That's probably the major difference I have noticed between EotE and other d20 based systems I have played where as a player the only time one really embellishes the action is when you manage a critical hit and cleave someone in two! This is where playing over skype also helped - as there was no physical board/map to move figures around on so many hexes or squares, players were beginning to narrate their movement. Instead of reaching out and moving the 28mm character 3 hexes and then saying, "I'll hit him." players were looking at the map they had on screen and saying,
"I'll activate my vibro-axe take a run and leap over the crates in front of the thugs and try slice them up as they are reeling back from Freoo's blaster fire."
The previous attack had given a boost dice as Freoo had missed but explained the advantage as saying the crate that had been giving them cover was blasted and the thugs were reeling back from the shrapnel hurling towards them. There is something wildly compelling for players in a game where one can effectively 'miss' with a shot but because of rolling two net advantages and a triumph mean you can suggest that your target dives to his right to avoid being hit but stumbles and drops his weapon out of the crane cage he is using to snipe at the gang! Certainly keeps everyone's attention on the game a lot more. As does the non assigning of initiative spots to characters. One can't have a go and then wander off for 20 minutes while everyone else does theirs. As the narrative is added to by all the players and you may well get to act in a couple of initiative spots apart the players have to listen and add to. Again this was enhanced, I felt, by playing over Skype as there was no way of wandering off and coming back to look at the map/table and where the figures were to 'see' what had been going on - one had to listen.
So was it better than playing 'face to face' - well of course not, so much information is given by us non-verbally that there was obviously something missing, not being able to see peoples reactions to the dice rolls for a start which often prompts a lot of chatter/banter. With new people it often got a bit confusing as to who was talking when the action got hectic. People couldn't hand snacks or beers around etc etc.
BUT... it was a lot lot closer to the 'normal' enjoyment than I ever thought it would be, I think the way it forces the verbal description of the action to be more narrative is a HUGE plus. Couple this with the fact I was playing with two strangers who I never would have played with otherwise and two mates, who live at opposite sides of the country which means we NEVER get to play together normally, and it all added up to the supposition that if playing in a living room with a group of mates is 'sliced bread' then playing EotE on Skype is the proverbial,
"Best thing since sliced bread!"
Roll on the next session because I know it is only going to get even better...