With COVID-19 sweeping the world and everyone wondering where all the damn toilet paper went, there is a mass migration from playing D&D in person to online. My group and I have been playing online now for 18 years. I doubt we are the longest lived online game in existence, but we were certainly pioneers in playing RPG's online. We have certainly had our ups and downs, players have come and gone and we have certainly almost broken up at least once, but somehow we just keep traipsing along, year in and year out.
In 2002, I had not played in a regular game since I was in the Army in 1995, we played D&D for about 6 months before before we deployed to Bosnia, which pretty much killed the game. Prior to that, I played 2 or 3 games of GURPS in 1992 and before that was 1990. So the 90's were pretty much an RPG wasteland for me, I wanted to play, but I just never found a group of people I was comfortable enough with to actually get down to playing.
I discovered two things in 2001 that changed all of this for me. First I discovered HackMaster, I came across the players handbook in Barns and Noble, the cover was designed after the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition cover, I was suddenly washed away by the nostalgia of it, I sat down on the floor and started reading it right then, right there. The wife found me an hour later still sitting there wondering what the hell I was doing. I bought the book and all the follow up books for the RPG and I WANTED to play again, I missed my old group from Montana. Sometime later, I discovered OpenRPG, a program for playing RPG's online. OpenRPG was definitely ahead of its time, providing the capability no one else was. It had built in chat, a drawing board, dice rollers, interactive character sheets, the whole nine yards. The big problem of course was, OpenRPG was not a very good program, but it was better than just about everything else out there, and for a long time, it was the only thing out there.
In early 2002, I decided I was going to run a game using HackMaster and OpenRPG. I started contacting all my old friends in the various groups I played with in the 8o's. I sent letters, I emailed and I called them. One by one over 2 or 3 months, I finally got 4 people to agree to try it. In April of 2002 on a Sunday afternoon, we all successfully installed the program and logged into the server and started rolling up characters. We played our final HackMaster game in December of 2015, when we switched over to playing D&D 5th Edition, around the same time, OpenRPG stopped being developed and we needed to switch to a new platform. We experimented with a couple of others Like Battle Grounds and Fantasy Grounds, before finally settling on Roll20, which we have been using ever since.
So to all of you new comers out there, just now starting to play your games online, welcome, pull up a chair, grab some dice, we have been waiting for you.