Jim Johnson, Star Trek Adventures Line Editor, asked me how I GM my game using WhatsApp. Great question. I thought I would explain how simple, quick, and fun playing with WhatsApp can be by providing easy instructions on how it goes down with my amazing group of players, the crew of the U.S.S. Pioneer.
Why would I want to use WhatsApp to play Star Trek Adventures?
Do you find it hard to match schedules with your players who are scattered across different states, countries, and time zones? Do you play video gaming sessions only to find time constraints make it hard to end at the right spot in a story? Do spotty RPG sessions prevent truly rich character development? Do you and your friends have to actually make a living (hence, no more weekend-long RPG binge sessions)?
How often do you text message in a day? If you are a frequent user of texting, then RPG via WhatsApp is just for you.
Playing in my online campaign is as easy as text messaging, thanks to WhatsApp.
How to use WhatsApp to play an online Star Trek Adventures game?
Playing in my online campaign is as easy as text messaging, thanks to WhatsApp. Just like texting, you can post your play, chat out of character, or post links and art from your home, local coffee shop, or even toilet. (Don’t lie. We all do it. Text on the toilet. Reminder: Wash your hands and wash your phones.)
Though WhatsApp allows voice and video calls from your PC or smartphone, we only use the text option. With WhatsApp, you get fast, simple, secure messaging available on phones all over the world. And the app is free!
What do I need to get started?
Here is what you need to have to manage a Star Trek Adventures game using WhatsApp:
- Download Star Trek Adventures core rulebook and any supplements you need to run your game.
- The printable PDF edition is not too large and is searchable from smartphones. This is essential for the GM but optional for players, though I do suggest that the GM has players review the free Quickstart Guide.
- Download an online dice rolling app like the ones found here or here.
- Download WhatsApp onto your Android, iPhone, Mac or Windows PC, or Windows Phone.
- Set up two different forums in WhatsApp.
- One is the main play forum where people are role-playing. This should read like an ongoing story detailing what the PCs and NPCs are doing.
- The second should be an out-of-character (OOC) forum. This is where players can chat, ask questions, strategize, and joke around. Dice rolls, momentum spends, threats, and complications are all tracked here. The GM will use it the OOC to post important mission statistics.
- Prepare a word editing document like MSWord or Google Docs.
- You will use this to keep track of the story, cutting and pasting finished sections into final form. This usually needs some editing if you want readable stories post-campaign like I do with mine.
I personally use a program called Articulate Rise to provide easy-access to game rules and post my story. I originally designed it to help my players access information about character and starship options. It evolved to contain the story of the current campaign we are playing. It also has links to completed campaigns. You can preview my Living App for the Living Campaign here.
So, how do I play online using WhatsApp?
If you can text message, you can play Star Trek Adventures using WhatsApp.
It all starts with the Gamemaster. Here is what they need to do:
- Post current story or a link to the story in main play forum of WhatsApp.
- Post current mission stats (the technical gameplay stuff) in OOC forum of WhatsApp.
- Direct players to make rolls, decide on adding die, determine momentum spends, or decide on creating/eliminating advantages and complications.
- Explain rules. You can cut/paste from core rulebook or take screenshots. I even put page number references from the Core Rulebook in case the players want to research themselves.
- Resolve action. The GM should explain the outcome in game terms to moves. For example, “Your roll generated 0 momentum (p. 85) for your difficulty 1 task (p.79). You also rolled a 20, a complication (p 76-77) that I will use to add 2 threat to my pool (p.86).” (I don’t always cite page numbers, only when something might be up for dispute.)
Players have it way easier. Here is what they need to do:
- Post plays in main play forum of WhatsApp. This is where players can let out their drama and storytellings skills. Make sure to only write what your character is doing. The rest of the universe is up to the other Players and the GM.
- Use OOC to chat, ask questions about your surroundings, strategize, and joke around (if you must).
- This is also the place to explain to the GM what momentum you want to spend (or threat you want to buy).
- I like it when my players cut/paste or screenshot a rule to me that they are employing.
So, now what?
Now get to playing Star Trek Adventures using WhatsApp. Let me know how it goes. Please share tips and tricks. And keep tuning into Continuing Missions as we push Star Trek Adventures where no game has gone before!