What's Your Experience With Virtual Tabletop Applications?

wormmonda

#TwitterIsTransphobic
Banned
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I'm aware that there are several virtual tabletop applications out there, from free online sites like Roll20 to paid software like Fantasy Ground; since I've recently dropped out of my RL gaming group (long story), I was wondering if they would be a good way to game with my online friends instead. Does anyone have any experience or insight on any such software or service that you wouldn't mind sharing? Thanks!
 

bottg

Registered User
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I have been using Fantasy Grounds now for about 10 years i think. We play a weekly game of 4-5 hours a time and have even run full weekend games.

For something like D&D5e, Savage Worlds etc where you have a fully automated ruleset, it is much faster than face to face. Once you are all OK with how it works, an attack is rolled and all modifiers are included. If you hit, appropriate damage is applied taking into account spells etc. And if you buy a pre-loaded adventure, all maps are there, encounters etc.

It does cost money (although you can subscribe to the base application on a monthly basis) and i have spent several hundred pounds over that time, but given that we have played several thousand hours of gaming for that, it is a bargain.

If there is not a commercial (or fan made) ruleset, Morecore allows you to do most things, although this requires a little more time to set it up.

Overall though, it has allowed me to game whilst living a long way from my group and probably any rpg group.
 

John Out West

Registered User
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Roll20.net is solid and free. It was better when it had in-game music, tho.

I play card-based RPGs exclusively now, so I use PlayingCards.io now, which fulfills most of my card needs.
 

Tyrnis

Registered User
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I've been using roll20 for quite some time now and like it -- my game group had broken up after people moved away, but VTT meant that we could get back together and continue playing. With roll20, it does have audio and video capabilities, but I've found that using Discord for voice works best (we tried to use their audio early on, but it was pretty spotty.) It's free or subscription-based, but fully playable at the free level. There's a bit of a learning curve with setting up maps and such (if your games of choice use them) but good documentation, each game includes its own forum, lots of pre-built character sheets you can draw from, a fair number of free map assets (plus the ability to import your own assets) and a store if you want to buy someone else's product. There is an active development team for roll20, but don't expect changes to get implemented particularly quickly even if they're popular.

Definitely a good way to meet and play with your friends if they're long-distance.
 

Eudaimic

Gray Fur
Validated User
I've played extensively on roll20 (I wrote a guide on how to set up The One Ring and have a number of things for it on my Github). There's a lot of good to be said about it, and we've enjoyed a long One Ring and another long Cthulhu campaign on it. That said I also have plenty of gripes about it, but they're probably more my own nitpicks (the UI is terrible and looks terrible, the underlying HTML is a complete mess which makes theming it hard, the API has changed several times breaking things which previously worked, the devs are kind of rude, making a basic character sheet is much harder than what you might think).

But hey, it works.

Fantasy Grounds is just really, really, really old and archaic 😄 — I love it in its own way, but man. Awesome dice though.
 

Reynard

Registered User
Validated User
I have been using Fantasy Grounds now for about 10 years i think. We play a weekly game of 4-5 hours a time and have even run full weekend games.

For something like D&D5e, Savage Worlds etc where you have a fully automated ruleset, it is much faster than face to face. Once you are all OK with how it works, an attack is rolled and all modifiers are included. If you hit, appropriate damage is applied taking into account spells etc. And if you buy a pre-loaded adventure, all maps are there, encounters etc.

It does cost money (although you can subscribe to the base application on a monthly basis) and i have spent several hundred pounds over that time, but given that we have played several thousand hours of gaming for that, it is a bargain.

If there is not a commercial (or fan made) ruleset, Morecore allows you to do most things, although this requires a little more time to set it up.

Overall though, it has allowed me to game whilst living a long way from my group and probably any rpg group.
I have been using Fantasy grounds for a few years now and relly like it, especially for 5E and Savage Worlds where the automation is helpful rather than half baked (looking at you, M&M).

The one complaint I have is that it does not have much in the way of a drawing utility so you have to rely on maps you find elsewhere. Since I tend to be an improvisational GM this can be a bit of a pain. I think FG is generally better suited toward more "prepared" games.

I have messed with Roll20 a little but have not really dug into to find out whether it works better on the fly than FG.
 

Gaglug

Registered User
Validated User
I used to use roll20, but a combination of poor implementation/limitations of the site as well as poor actions from the Powers That Be that own/run the site caused me to switch over fully to Fantasy Grounds. FG is fantastic and does everything I need it to do.

It's great out of the box for official rulesets like 5e, Pathfinder, Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, etc. There's minimal work you have to do to run those games. While it works fine for theater of the mind games, where it really shines is the integration of everything from the characters to the maps to the monsters...it knows and computes things on the fly so you don't have to worry about getting bogged down in details. As a player you don't have to remember all the different modifiers, stats, etc. For instance, the game knows what status effects you have on you and will automatically modify your rolls. You can just click your dice and go without having to get slowed down in counting pips. So for crunchy games like Pathfinder, I'd never want to run a game without FG.

After I got comfortable with the software I started using other rulesets and doing my own extensions/customizations for things which is actually pretty easy and straightforward. There's a couple 'vanilla' rulesets that can run just about any game you want to even if you don't want to customize anything yourself. And if you do want to customize a ruleset, you can make your own character sheets, put in your own rules for stuff, create your own custom dice mechanics, do all different graphics/looks within the client, etc. And once you make a custom ruleset, you can share it with others...and you can also grab free rulesets that other players have made available for folks to use.

I use FG for everything now. It's great for online games and I'm currently running three online campaigns with it. For face to face games I still use it and have it running on my laptop as a DM aid for all my notes, maps, tracking of initiative/hits/etc.
 

yalborap

Well, that’s just Prime.
Validated User
One thing I’ve noticed is that, broadly, most virtual tabletop services are really bad at supporting mobile use, either not doing it at all or barely functioning.

It’s one of the reasons why I switched to just using Discord, and a shared Google Docs file for any changing info to track. Which, itself, works a lot better for light-medium systems than anything super crunchy, but.

If all of your players are strictly coming in on desktop computers, this might not matter as much, of course. Just something to keep in mind.
 

BigJackBrass

Two Separate Gorillas
Validated User
My weekly roleplaying sessions moved online a few years ago and we tried a number of alternatives. In the end Google Hangouts won out.

Roll20 added an extra layer or ten of complications and distractions we really didn't need. It, and other services like it, may be necessary if you use RPGs based around cards, tokens and heavy map and mini use, but for games which primarily use dice (we're playing Call of Cthulhu at the moment) it's a lot simpler to use Hangouts.

Everyone rolls their own dice (we trust the results: if we didn't trust each other then we'd not be gaming together) and if a map or other handout is needed then the GM drops a Drive or Dropbox link to it in the chat window. Audio and video quality is decent and pretty reliable. We've been using it for years now without serious issues or reason to change.
 

Reynard

Registered User
Validated User
For games that don't need grids and such we generally use Discord. Between voice chat, text chat and dice bots it works pretty well.

The only thing I don't like about online gaming is the lack of a sense of presence. I guess webcams can help with that but I have never owned one and don't want to.
 
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