Let's talk Virtual Tabletops!

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
There are so many VTTs out there now, with more coming out all the time, that it can be quite intimidating choosing one to use. And WotC is busy working on the big official D&D VTT and also has its Maps feature currently rolling out on D&D Beyond. Here's a list, but it's almost certainly incomplete.
  • Roll20 - "We Set the Table, You Play."
  • Fantasy Grounds - "Experience the best mix of campaign management, ease of use, power, and support for the most popular roleplaying games of today, yesterday, and tomorrow."
  • Foundry - "A Self-Hosted & Modern Roleplaying Platform."
  • Owlbear Rodeo - "Tabletop map sharing for owlbear lovers."
  • Tableplop - "Free, easy-to-use virtual tabletop and toolset for pen-and-paper roleplaying games."
  • Astral Tabletop - gone, redirects to a gambling site
  • TaleSpire - "TaleSpire is a beautiful way to play pen and paper RPGs online. Bring your stories to life and embark upon campaigns together with your friends, regardless of where you are in the world."
  • Tabletop Simulator - "You can do anything you want in Tabletop Simulator - The possibilities are endless!"
  • Role - "The easiest place to play and create any tabletop roleplaying game."
  • Let's Role - "The immersive and intuitive virtual tabletop."
  • Skirmish VTT - "A next-gen Virtual TableTop software that will make you experience your Pen & Paper Role Playing Games like never before!"
  • D20 Pro - "Play Faster. Play Bigger. Play Anywhere."
  • EpicTable - "Tabletop-style RPGs. Online or face-to-face. Your game, your way."
  • Beyond Tabletop - "D&D and RPG Tools Without the Baggage."
  • Above VTT - "Integrated VTT for D&DBeyond"
  • Shmeppy - "Your wet erase mat. Online."
  • Alchemy - "The most immersive way to experience tabletop roleplaying games."
  • The RPG Engine - "An intuitive virtual tabletop that lets you create unparalleled roleplaying environments for your party to get lost in."
  • DiceWeaver - "Play your favorite role-playing games with your friends online or at your table!"
  • Shard - "The best way to play D&D 5E, virtually or in person."
  • One More Multiverse - "Start your next adventure in minutes."
  • Game Master Engine - "3D maps in a matter of minutes for planned or impromptu sessions."
  • Fablecraft - a VTT for its own specific game: "Fablecraft is a cooperative digital tabletop RPG that’s vibrant, hopeful, and easy to pick up and play. Get started quickly, journey into the magical world of Mythas, and enjoy rich adventures in sessions of 90 minutes or less!"
  • QuestPortal - "Quest Portal is the virtual tabletop for Game Masters who want to boost their storytelling and be confident about the games they run. Create memorable stories, characters and visuals and bring them to your game with ease."
  • SendingStone - "Put the RP back in online tabletop RPGs."
  • MapTool - "MapTool is a free, open source and extremely flexible VTT with all the bells and whistles."
  • Dungeon Club - "Your Independent Tabletop."
  • Cauldron VTT - "Any rule system. Easy to use. Free."
An indimidating list, especially for somebody new to VTTs (and by folks like that, I include me--I've played a little on Roll20 and run a little on Owlbear Rodeo, but that's the extent of my play experience).

So which do you use? Why would you recommend it? Or, indeed, why wouldn't you?
 
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I have used four of them so far. In descending order of frequency of use:
  1. Owlbear Rodeo. We used OR v1 for our last D&D5 campaign and for Forbidden Lands. I appreciated the simplicity and the minimalist interface. I also really liked that you could basically turn your mouse into a laser pointer and thus circle relevant areas on the screen (I like this better than a simple ping). The downside is that the dice roller is quite limited and geared mostly towards D&D. Also, since there is no prepackaged content, all maps and tokens need to be imported.
  2. Foundry. We used this for Forbidden Lands and Broken Compass. I like the "pay once and you're settled" approach, and there is a really nice selection of third party modules for Foundry, including adventures and campaigns (at least as long as you are fine with English). I also like the Dice so Nice 3D dice (it's basically my favourite dice roller visualization, especially when textures that mimic original game dice for a system are used). The downsides are that you need to spend quite some time to unclutter the interface. And whoever does the Foundry UI design, seems to strongly dislike old people, because the symbols on the right pane are just SO SMALL. Also, Foundry is really problematic in terms of API stability, which causes a lot of frustration with module developers.
  3. Fantasy Grounds. I used this when I played a few sessions of AD&D2. The UI feels like a weird throwback to the 90s and in many regards the software feels dated, even though it moved to a new graphics engine a few years ago. However, the developers seems to take care of backwards compatibility and API stability, so modules break a lot less than they do for Foundry.
  4. Roll 20. I played DCC once in Roll 20. Consistent with earlier experiences with the software, it feels like the built it once and then never really updated. I would rank the user experience even below that of Fantasy Grounds, and the only explanation I have as to why it still exists is that you don't need to set up the system on your own and that it has official D&D support.
I have also supported the crowdfundings for Role and Alchemy, but haven't really used either so far. Role turned out different than I expected and a bit too focused on video streaming/actual plays, so I might never really use it in practice. For Alchemy, I plan to use it for a game of Vaesen some time next year.
 

ichabod

Legned
I think a lot of it depends on your game. I've played Pathfinder on Foundry and it worked great, but Pathfinder on Roll20 is a mess (or at least was when I was checking it out). But it's not a Roll20 problem, because Pathfinder on Roll20 is a mess compared to D&D on Roll20. You need a VTT that supports your game well.

I think Roll20 for D&D 5E is okay. It doesn't have all the features I would like, and there have been problems, especially on the player side. Last session a married couple in my game couldn't both get on with separate devices, so they ended up playing together on the same device. Not a big deal, but there was a lot of "Wait, which save was for Morin and which save was for Bash?" And the dynamic lighting broke for Morin's player, so she could see the whole map for one of the levels of the dungeon. Again, not a big deal, she just kept quiet about what she could see.

I played one Foundry game that was self hosted, and there were lots of problems with that. I suspect that was on the guy hosting it, but that's something you have to watch out for. I'm leery of running a game on Foundry because you have to manage so many modules. Roll20 I can just get on and play.

I tried to get up to speed on Fantasy Grounds and failed. I was trying to make a map for a one shot and I couldn't get the lighting and doors to work. I was thinking I'd have to find another video to watch, and realized I'd already watched about 20 hours of videos. I got better ways to waste my time.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I use Fantasy grounds. Mostly because a) sunk cost and b) I don't have the bandwidth to learn another VTT. I have hundreds if not thousands of dollars in FG between the ultimate license and dozens of rulesets and books. I am certainly not going to re-buy those assets for a different VTT. And I know that people love Foundry, and I even purchased a license, but it just isn't user friendly enough for me.
 

I've used Roll20 for 5e and Foundry for PF2e

Roll20 will get the job done for 5e, but to be fair a lot of the heavy lifting for us was being done on D&D Beyond through the Chrome extension Beyond20.

Foundry for PF2e is great. There's a very dedicated community making modules for it and the adventure modules you can buy are absolutely top notch. There is definitely a learning curve and I think the folks that put together the PF2e Beginner Box were aware of that. The included adventure, Menace Under Otari, makes the assumption the GM running it is new to both PF2e and Foundry, so it explains how you would resolve the required mechanics in Foundry. I'd recommend playing this adventure for people new to Foundry.

I'm interested in checking Role out. I bought a couple OSE adventure books from Exalted Funeral and they included a key to unlock the adventure in Role for free. The only issue is I have no plans to play OSE in a VTT so while I'll likely spend some time seeing what Role has to offer, I'll likely never use it in an actual game.
 
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kronovan

Adventurer
I wasn't aware there were so many VTTs - yikes! I only knew of 6 of those and of them, have only GMd with 3. I've gotten familiar enough with the 3 I've used (Foundry, Fantasy Grounds and Roll20) that I can succesffully run a campaign with many features enabled with any of them. What I use is heavily driven by costs.

These days I'm only using Foundry and Fantasy Ground Unity, because the 1-time purchase licenses I bought for them are considerably cheaper that the annual subscription fee I'd need to pay for Roll20. I'd never be satisfied using a VTT without the ability to customize character sheets and without a customization API, so for Roll20 I need to go Pro which end ends us costing me $135/year in my country's currency; as much or more than what I paid for perpetual licenses for Foundry and Fantasy Grounds.

I tend to use Fantasy Grounds Unity more than Foundry, because I can buy my DLC via the Steam store. Buying that way always ends up being cheaper than buying direct and cheaper than the equivalent modules on Foundry or Roll20's stores; something to do with how Steam handles the trade laws & conversion with my country's currency. Not to mention they frequently have sales where FG DLC is discounted across the board. I also find customization for FG to be more feature rich and easier than doing the equivalent for Foundry.

Where I'm biggest on Foundry is for D&D 5e and The Dark Eye campaigns, the latter being a TTRPG that isn't available for FGU. My 5e players and I also use dndbeyond.com and we like the freebie Beyond20 chrome extension, which allows players to make real-time rolls from their dndbeyond character sheets instead of the Foundry sheet; also works for Roll20. All my 5e player prefers PC creation and the character sheets at dndbeyond, so using Beyond20 with Foundry is a good fit.

My biggest dislike for FG is the need for players to download a client-side app. That said, the app takes up little HDD space and I've yet to have a player not successully insatll it; including one that installed the older Fantasy Ground Classic app on Linux. The newer Fantasy Ground Unity client has versions for MAC & Linux, so installs are easy on those OSs. Still, it's definitely easier for a Foundry player, who just needs to connect their web browser to my server.

Initially, my main reason for going with FG was the solid implemention for Savage Worlds (one of the 1st on that VTT), but SW DLC for Roll20 and Foundry have since evolved to equal it. For FG, I also own and run campaigns with Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, 13th Age, Old School Essentials, FATE Core (provided for free), Pathfinder 1e (provided for free) and the Cepheus Engine.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I primarily use FantasyGrounds and I really like the power and capability for the DM to use but I know that my players have had issues, particularly with dynamic lightning.
The UI is clunky and really poor and the dev team seem to not prioritise modernising it. So, I would hesitate to recommend it.
I have played and ran games on Roll20 and it is ok. As a GM I really did not like it. But that was year ago when it did not have a lot to offer.
I just had a look at the map tool from D&DBeyond and I would say that it is serviceable and with the planned feature list would be a good lightweight VTT.
I just looked at the map on D&DBeyond on my phone and it works, at least from the DM view. I must actually test it from the player view.
I could see myself migrating to D&DBeyond.
 

One group I play in uses Discord for voice and Roll20 for maps. Roll20's AD&D1e implementation is not all that good, so we mostly use separate character sheets.

The other group uses Jitsi for voice, video and screen-sharing. When we need maps, they're done by screen-sharing an Inkscape window, where it's quite easy to have small bitmap objects for tokens. The GM has to move them for us, but that isn't a big problem.
 

ichabod

Legned
I should say that while I use Roll20, I wrote my own python program to handle initiative, which makes it much easier to deal with combat.
 

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