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D&D 5E Best VTT for automating 5e combat

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
After nearly half a year of heavily testing most of the major VTTs available (Roll20, d20pro, Fantasy Ground Class & Unity, Astral, MapTool, and Foundry), I settled on Foundry. I don't regret it, as it is a great VTT with an active moding community that let's you add all kinds of cool features not in the base product.

But the one area where I would like better functionality is with combat automation, especially applying area of effect saves and damage to a group of combatants.

The 5e system for Foundry is actively being developed and constantly improving and there are a number of third-party mods you can apply to the base came to help with combat, so I hope that it won't be long before the combat features for 5e are as impressive as the rest of the product.

But I'm interested in what other DMs running games in VTTs feel about the combat automations in other systems? I know that some VTTs have cool graphic effects for spells and such (I think Foundry with some mods is the best in this area). But I'm more interest in 5e RAW compliant automations for group saves, applying damage, tracking conditions, tracking spell times, etc.

My thoughts, focusing on 5e RAW:

Fantasy Ground Classic - If you get all the rules material, and invest the time to get over the learning curve, and run an adventure prepped for FGC, I think it wins hands down. I don't know how difficult it is to home brew monsters, etc., but I suspect it is about the same as most VTTs.

d20pro: by far my favorite experience for running combat in a VTT. It is intuitive and fun. But seems best for one on one. Also it doesn't have all the published WotC material, so there would be more data entry involved, even if you only use WotC monsters or only ran WotC adventures.

Roll20: I don't have much experience with Roll20 as a DM. I don't recall there being much automation in the game I've joined as a player, but am not sure if that is a limitation of the tool or because the DM didn't use them.

MapTool. You can automate almost anything but it requires a lot of customization and time to create macros, enter data, etc. I've used MapTool heavily but never bothered with automations.

I don't have enough experience with other VTTs to discuss their automation abilities.
 

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GuardianLurker

Explorer
Fantasy Ground Classic - If you get all the rules material, and invest the time to get over the learning curve, and run an adventure prepped for FGC, I think it wins hands down. I don't know how difficult it is to home brew monsters, etc., but I suspect it is about the same as most VTTs.

Pretty much. It's actually fairly easy to home brew monsters. The only real negative is the fact that you have to be very specific in your language to get the automation to kick in. And there are some effects that are just un-automatable. And some of those "only-manual" effects are pretty basic and common, unhappily. Though Smiteworks has been reducing that number slowly.
 

tsodge

Villager
I've used roll20 (complex and expensive if you want automation IMO) and I'm now using foundry, mostly so that when I'm working on my game I'm also learning JavaScript. Plus it was a 1 off purchase (I'm hosting it on a free AWS instance, I've run it from a low spec laptop on poor internet at home too, it works perfectly, just slow to load a new map as it has to load from the DM computer to each persons browser.

It can feel like lot of work to go through all the foundry community modules to find your setup, but I've got everything working now: you target an enemy and roll an attack, AC determines hit/miss, DMG applies. Or roll an aoe and it makes you place a template on the map, then targets the tokens in the template for a saving throw, calculates pass or fail. damage applies either after DM/player prompt or auto, can also be applied afterwards with a right click (double DMG half or normal). Most of those bits are optional settings, lots of configuration available.

I have about 50 modules installed totally so I'd have to go through and check which ones are doing what, but I think the combat automation is just 2/3 of them (erm... Let me Roll That For You and Enhanced Combat if I was to guess). You can do really fancy things with Triggerly if full automation is your goal (mine is, I'm currently working on some procedural map building tools for foundry 😁)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I don't find tracking combat attacks and damage all that difficult. I have to do it in a tabletop game, is it really much different for an online game? In other words, how much time and effort are you taking to get it all to work when I've always just kept track on a whiteboard?

I use Roll20 with Beyond20, Roll20 is just for maps. My players and monsters can use DndBeyond to make all of their attacks or roll manually if they want, I just have to manually track HP. So if you want something that tracks everything, cool. I just don't see that much of an advantage.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've used roll20 (complex and expensive if you want automation IMO) and I'm now using foundry, mostly so that when I'm working on my game I'm also learning JavaScript. Plus it was a 1 off purchase (I'm hosting it on a free AWS instance, I've run it from a low spec laptop on poor internet at home too, it works perfectly, just slow to load a new map as it has to load from the DM computer to each persons browser.

It can feel like lot of work to go through all the foundry community modules to find your setup, but I've got everything working now: you target an enemy and roll an attack, AC determines hit/miss, DMG applies. Or roll an aoe and it makes you place a template on the map, then targets the tokens in the template for a saving throw, calculates pass or fail. damage applies either after DM/player prompt or auto, can also be applied afterwards with a right click (double DMG half or normal). Most of those bits are optional settings, lots of configuration available.

I have about 50 modules installed totally so I'd have to go through and check which ones are doing what, but I think the combat automation is just 2/3 of them (erm... Let me Roll That For You and Enhanced Combat if I was to guess). You can do really fancy things with Triggerly if full automation is your goal (mine is, I'm currently working on some procedural map building tools for foundry 😁)

I'd be interested in learning more about which modules you use for combat. The first time I ran a game in Foundry I had to switch to MapTool for a large combat because Foundry became unresponsive. So I disabled most modules and have have just re-enabled the most useful to me and it has been stable since. I have Let Me Roll That For You active, but not Enhance Combat. I need to play more with modules to find the right balance of functionality and performance. Would rather not have to deal with it. If there were a stable Foundry module or system for D&D 5e that I could just buy and have work, I'll do it in a heartbeat. For example, I pay for patreon subscription for Virtual Tabletop Assets so that I get the awesome D&D Beyond integration it supports, which means that anything I have in DDB can be used in Foundry.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I don't find tracking combat attacks and damage all that difficult. I have to do it in a tabletop game, is it really much different for an online game? In other words, how much time and effort are you taking to get it all to work when I've always just kept track on a whiteboard?

I use Roll20 with Beyond20, Roll20 is just for maps. My players and monsters can use DndBeyond to make all of their attacks or roll manually if they want, I just have to manually track HP. So if you want something that tracks everything, cool. I just don't see that much of an advantage.

I get where you are coming from. I pretty much only use VTTs for maps, FOW, and line of sight. I also like the template tools for measure cones, radius, etc. for spell effects.

But when you have a large number of combatants, it takes a significant amount of time to calculate areas of effect.

Currently, stats, HP, and initiative are tracked in the VTT because it saves time setting up for combat. It is also nice for tracking conditions, which is so/so in the VTT. Paper is actually easier for tracking conditions TBH, though it is nice to at least have a graphic marker for the condition applied to tokens.

But where a VTT SHOULD be a massive help is rolling saves and damage for multiple creatures, e.g., resolving fireball saves and damage. I should be able to just draw the template and have the saves rolled and the damage rolled and applied automatically. It would make a real different to the combat experience and I would happily pay for any stable module that did it correctly and easily.
 

Fantasy Ground Classic - If you get all the rules material, and invest the time to get over the learning curve, and run an adventure prepped for FGC, I think it wins hands down. I don't know how difficult it is to home brew monsters, etc., but I suspect it is about the same as most VTTs.
Yea, creating custom NPCs is easy in FG. Yes you need to get the automation verbiage correct, but usually all you need to do is copy and existing NPC and change what you want. Don't imagine that is much different than any other VTT.
I'm now using foundry, mostly so that when I'm working on my game I'm also learning JavaScript. Plus it was a 1 off purchase (I'm hosting it on a free AWS instance
See, I don't get that. How many folks actually want to have to run an AWS server to run their VTT? And if you don't, then you got to worry about port forwarding and everything else. I just don't see how Foundry is a VTT for the masses.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I don't particularly want automation at the point of play. Having things be automated means both I and my players lose a feel for how things are going or to exclaim over a big (or small) roll or to interject with a special ability at an opportune moment. I do like automation in the sense of macros to make rolls, because that makes it about as easy to roll on the VTT as it does IRL, instead of making a player type out a roll command or fiddle with a menu selection to roll the right dice. But, at that point, it's about it.

Of course, I started running online back in the late aughts on Gametable, a now defunct VTT that had, as you might expect, very limited tools. Still, you could draw more easily on that than you can on Roll20, so it did do some things better. So, I had my expectations and approach formed in an environment where a dice macro was the top end of available automation.

EDIT: huh, not as defunct as I believed. It's apparently been recently renamed and had a webpage sprucing by one of the community leaders in the old forums. Neat. GamenianTabele
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
See, I don't get that. How many folks actually want to have to run an AWS server to run their VTT? And if you don't, then you got to worry about port forwarding and everything else. I just don't see how Foundry is a VTT for the masses.

You don't have to. There are a couple of companies that provide Foundry hosting. I use The Forge, which I'm very happy with.

With the Foundry, I pay a one-time $50 fee for the license. I can run it from my computer, I can chose to host it in on rented server/VM, or I can use a specialized hosting provider. And I can move my license if I'm no longer happy with my hosting provider or want to save money and run it from my own computer. If you are one of the non-technical "masses" you can use a third-party hosting provider like The Forge. If you are more technical, you have the option to host it yourself and have full control over the power and configuration of the system hosting your instance.

I agree that it is not as user-friendly as Roll20, but I don't find it any more complicated than Fantasy Grounds, d20pro, or TableTool and it is much easier to extend the feature set with modules than with any other VTT I've tried.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I get where you are coming from. I pretty much only use VTTs for maps, FOW, and line of sight. I also like the template tools for measure cones, radius, etc. for spell effects.

But when you have a large number of combatants, it takes a significant amount of time to calculate areas of effect.

Currently, stats, HP, and initiative are tracked in the VTT because it saves time setting up for combat. It is also nice for tracking conditions, which is so/so in the VTT. Paper is actually easier for tracking conditions TBH, though it is nice to at least have a graphic marker for the condition applied to tokens.

But where a VTT SHOULD be a massive help is rolling saves and damage for multiple creatures, e.g., resolving fireball saves and damage. I should be able to just draw the template and have the saves rolled and the damage rolled and applied automatically. It would make a real different to the combat experience and I would happily pay for any stable module that did it correctly and easily.

Well, in my super-awesome-yet-to-be-released VTT everything would be linked and simple because I agree. If I'm not making a bunch of house rules, I should just be able to plug in monsters, have my players maintain their PCs and off we go*. Some animation would be awesome as well.

In the meantime I do use templates in Roll20 now and then, and it has markers you can put on icons. I'm just glad I figured out how to set up maps, vision and line of sight. With the link to DndBeyond saves and what-not are just a click away.

But a guy can dream, I suspect we may have a complete package that actually works in a couple of years.

*as long as I can override anything at any time if I want because I don't want to always put in custom logic for special situations.
 

Reynard

Legend
I GM primarily on Fantasy Grounds and the robust automation is really nice. You might have to do some coding or pay for modules where someone has already done it, but it works great.

The place where FG breaks down a little for me is it sits in this place between tabletop and video game, and certain players seem to "forget" there are other people around the "table." They move and attack as if controlling a turn based CRPG. I feel that is the big danger with a lot of good automation. The problem seems to go away when using FG for something without so much support.
 

SkidAce

Legend
The place where FG breaks down a little for me is it sits in this place between tabletop and video game, and certain players seem to "forget" there are other people around the "table." They move and attack as if controlling a turn based CRPG. I feel that is the big danger with a lot of good automation. The problem seems to go away when using FG for something without so much support.
Our group feels this way about any VTT that does to much automation. It becomes, in our opinion, a video game to a certain extent. It may even limit the DM/game, as in they may not want to go left and downward into the goblin lair, because they don't have goblins coded or a lair mapped.

So using it to move tokens on a map, and letting the players roll macros for attack and damage is about all we need. I even still tell them whether a "15" hits or not.

Also great for maintaining the character sheet.
 

Zabalorf

Villager
VTT SHOULD be a massive help is rolling saves and damage for multiple creatures, e.g., resolving fireball saves and damage. I should be able to just draw the template and have the saves rolled and the damage rolled and applied automatically. It would make a real different to the combat experience.

Automated combat experience would be way less fun, especially in role-play light groups that just enjoy engaging in combat.

Well, in my super-awesome-yet-to-be-released VTT everything would be linked and simple because I agree. If I'm not making a bunch of house rules, I should just be able to plug in monsters, have my players maintain their PCs and off we go*. Some animation would be awesome as well.

All this is starting to sound more like a strippedown MMO than D&D, but one that takes away all the fun parts of being a player and automates it.

This is also coming from a mid 20s DM who games on all three consoles and pc. If I’m Not playing in person I just run the DnDBeyond Chrome extension through roll20, and make maps in Inkarnate. I also throw in a nice mix of theatre of the mind for exploration and puzzles/ light combat situations.

Every game is different though, and all that matters is you and your table having fun!
 

Coroc

Hero
using roll20 but only the free version so i am quite limited i guess. Disadvantage of it is you.need discord as well, because of vc quality issues.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Automated combat experience would be way less fun, especially in role-play light groups that just enjoy engaging in combat.

Maybe you are reading too much into "automating". As someone playing with a group that greatly enjoys highly tactical combat, I think we would appreciate more automation of area-effect roles and other quality-of-life automations than more theater of mind types.

Because we are more tactical, we rarely hand wave. I have used average damage in the past, but would rather roll for damage because I think that extra randomness creates more tension and changes assumptions when planning your moves.

But if a PC casts an area of effect spell that effects, say 20 mobs, it just not fun for me to manually make, and the players to wait for me to make, the saving-throw and damage rolls. I makes what could be a cool event in a combat to an opportunity for a player to step away to grab a drink while I'm make rolls and manually applying the results to each NPC.

I'm more inclined to agree that animations and such can detract from the game. I like to keep things fairly abstract. I like beautiful and detailed battlemaps but still prefer the art to be abstracted. I think the animate spell effects with some of the Foundry mobs are cool the first few times you use them, but I would rather have the player or myself describe the effect rather than have the effects look the same every time it is cast, no matter who casts it.

I do like to use some sound effects but usually, I use area-based effects or background sounds and music to set mood rather than "realism." One thing I like about foundry is that you can set sound for a specific area that is muffled by walls and distance. But I treat that as a spice to be used sparingly. Partially because I don't want to detract from theater of the mind and partially because I would rather spend my prep time on the story and planning encounters and combats rather than trying to create a multi-media video game experience.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
using roll20 but only the free version so i am quite limited i guess. Disadvantage of it is you.need discord as well, because of vc quality issues.

That's a disadvantage with pretty much all VTTs. Actually, Roll20 seems to be the most promising of the platforms for combining video conferencing with a VTT.

Personally, I'm happy keeping the two separate and letting each do what it does best. I use Google Meet and have used it with MapTool, Fantasy Ground Unity, and Foundry. Few services work as well no matter where you are in the world than Google. The next best for international groups would be Microsoft Teams. I put Discord as third. I hate the interface of Discord, but it does a good job getting a quality connection even with poor internet and works pretty good internationally. But it doesn't have the global reach, nor the highly demanding corporate clientele, of Google or Microsoft.

EDIT: I've also found Zoom to be impressive in how easy it is to use and the quality of the video calls. But I've not used it much internationally as I've only used it in the US, post COVID. I've not been out of the country in a while.
 

tsodge

Villager
[QUOTE="LordEntrails, post: 8086539, member: 6804070"

See, I don't get that. How many folks actually want to have to run an AWS server to run their VTT? And if you don't, then you got to worry about port forwarding and everything else. I just don't see how Foundry is a VTT for the masses.
[/QUOTE]


I hadn't created a server in AWS before but I'm a database engineer by trade so I know how to use SSH/Bash. It took about 2 hours. YMMV, but honestly I'd rather let Amazon expose ports, it's easier (I have network engineers that deal with that for me at work too 😁).
 

tsodge

Villager
I'd be interested in learning more about which modules you use for combat. The first time I ran a game in Foundry I had to switch to MapTool for a large combat because Foundry became unresponsive. So I disabled most modules and have have just re-enabled the most useful to me and it has been stable since. I have Let Me Roll That For You active, but not Enhance Combat. I need to play more with modules to find the right balance of functionality and performance. Would rather not have to deal with it. If there were a stable Foundry module or system for D&D 5e that I could just buy and have work, I'll do it in a heartbeat. For example, I pay for patreon subscription for Virtual Tabletop Assets so that I get the awesome D&D Beyond integration it supports, which means that anything I have in DDB can be used in Foundry.


Sorry dude I don't check here often, PM me what hours are good (I'm GMT) we can jump on my game server, it's pretty smooth, happy to answer questions.

I'd been thinking about starting a patreon to help people get set up on a free AWS stable foundry setup, but I wanted to wait untill I've finished setting up docker in my AWS instance and see if it was worthwhile hosting for people in a BYOL style.
 

tsodge

Villager
I don't find tracking combat attacks and damage all that difficult. I have to do it in a tabletop game, is it really much different for an online game? In other words, how much time and effort are you taking to get it all to work when I've always just kept track on a whiteboard?

I use Roll20 with Beyond20, Roll20 is just for maps. My players and monsters can use DndBeyond to make all of their attacks or roll manually if they want, I just have to manually track HP. So if you want something that tracks everything, cool. I just don't see that much of an advantage.


Same reason I make all my D&decisions. Rule of cool.
 

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