D&D 5E How VTTs Can Enhance Monster Tactics

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Starting with a new job that required my working away from home often and continuing with COVID-related social distancing, I've been running my campaign remotely.

Also, I recently bought and read "The Monsters Know What They Are Doing" by Keith Ammann.

This has got me to thinking about how I can use VTT features to make more interesting and tactically challenging monster encounters.

Since I'm relatively new to the VTT world and am trying to up my game to make battles more interesting and challenging to mid to high tier parties, I would love to read tips and experiences from other GMs.

The first and perhaps most obvious way to use VTTs to bring life to and up the challenge of combat encounters is the taking advantage of "fog of war" and line-of-sight tools when monsters retreat. This is especially useful in my current campaign, set in Rappan Athuk, a megadungeon. You don't know what is through the next door, what traps are laid out, etc.

Another VTT feature I find very useful is the ability to take easy measurements. Smart and experienced monsters can space themselves out to minimize players' area of effect spells and maximize their own.

Resolving invisibility - invisible enemies are easier to make challenging and to track in a VTT. You can remove visibility to players but the DM can still see where the monster is. This was always an annoying thing to track when I ran in-person games. I had gotten to the point that I would just put an invisible (clear) mini from Litko games and players would have to avoid metagaming. It wasn't very satisfactory. Theater of the Mind play was also annoying because the "fair" war-gamer referee in me would try to track everything in my mind or by scribbling diagrams and my tactically minded players didn't like that style of play (for D&D at least).
 

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Oofta

Legend
I've also used literal fog, blindness and darkness. Limiting sight is much more effective when the players literally can't see things.

In my last game I had the bad guys cast darkness (they could see). Quite simple - pre-drew the area for darkness and had it on the GM layer and then just took away vision from all the icons. I've also used it to pre-draw cones, etc. I also find line of sight adds flavor.

Still prefer in-person gaming, but if I have to use VTT, might as well take advantage of it.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I play with dynamic lighting effects quite a bit which sets up some fun challenges with vision. It's easy to see if the PCs are in darkness or dim light which can affect their passive Perception scores.

I enjoy having monsters use traps in their part of the dungeon against the PCs, baiting the adventurers to go down a hallway with a pressure plate and knockout gas trap, for example. This is easy to mark on the GM layer, then I can put some kind of telegraphing clue in the map layer, like an uneven area of the floor or whatever.

I also score all of my games with a soundtrack from songs I buy off Bandcamp. That's not exactly about monster tactics, but it's still cool.
 

I have a big whiteboard and a spare laptop that I put upside down on a stool (with the camera facing down). Does that count as a Virtual Table Top?

It allows all the features of a face-to-face session, minus the spilled drinks and crumbs of all the snacks.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I also score all of my games with a soundtrack from songs I buy off Bandcamp. That's not exactly about monster tactics, but it's still cool.

I've played around with sound in my games, using Syrinscape, then just Google Music / Apple Music play lists.

I've just found that it adds to prep time and is more stuff to manage as a DM. Now that I'm heavily using VTTs where I can link a sound/music loop to a map that automatically plays when the map is loaded, I've been thinking of giving it another look. The only problem has been that I have have a download of the music file and then upload it to the VTT. Luckily the modding community (I used Foundry) has come up with a number of music and sound effect packs, so I'm playing around with these.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I have a big whiteboard and a spare laptop that I put upside down on a stool (with the camera facing down). Does that count as a Virtual Table Top?

It allows all the features of a face-to-face session, minus the spilled drinks and crumbs of all the snacks.

No. Not a judgement on your play style, but it isn't virtual. It is a physical battlemap shared with your players. I did that a few times with a webcam on a tripod overlooking my Chessex battlemap and or terrain on my table. I did this mainly with in-person games where one player had to participate remotely.

It is difficult to simulate line of sight and fog of war on a physical battlemap. It is also more difficult to track monster/npc movement outside of the characters' sight.
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
Still prefer in-person gaming, but if I have to use VTT, might as well take advantage of it.

A lot of people use a laptop and a monitor for their home games. You can buy a portable monitor just for that purpose of Etsy. So you can have a multimedia battlemap AND miniatures!
 

Oofta

Legend
A lot of people use a laptop and a monitor for their home games. You can buy a portable monitor just for that purpose of Etsy. So you can have a multimedia battlemap AND miniatures!

When we moved, we did consider building a game table and using one of our TVs as the display. But it was a bit more advanced wood-working than I was comfortable with combined with (at that time) never using digital maps we bought a pool table instead.

But even then, there's something about hearing "you're blind" and literally staring at a black screen with the DM indicating general direction of the enemy by "pinging" the screen. :devilish:
 
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