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Looking for tips on VTT reveal-on-the-fly workflows and recommended VTT products

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I'm looking for tips on which VTT to use and how to use it for sharing maps on the fly in a VTT. I am running Rappan Athuk, which has a LOT of maps and I simply do not have the time or fortitude to prep them all for a VTT using dynamic lighting. Currently, I use RealmWorks, which is not a VTT, but which offers an easy way to show a map in a player window and review it using a paintbrush tool, in addition to more typical rectangle and polygon reveal tools. I share the player window on Google Hangouts. But this is just a way to reveal maps as the party explores. I would like to use tokens as well, and do not need more bells and whistle than that.

What I'm looking for in a VTT:

MUST HAVES:
  • Easy to load a map with fog of war masking applied
  • Easy to quickly match the VTT grid layer to the grid as shown on the map image (I actually find it easier to match a VTT grid to a gridded map image than to apply a VTT grid at the proper scale to a non-gridded map image)
  • Easy to reveal the map as the party explores, including in natural caverns, rounded room, and other none square or rectangular rooms
  • Ability to quickly throw on icons that lock to the grid
  • Easy to share player view using screen/window share for on-line play or on a second monitor / digital battlemap for in-person games
BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OTHER COOL VTT FEATURES?
  • Combat tracking may be nice but improved initiative works for me and many of the monsters are 3rd-party, I don't want to do a bunch of data entry just to use a combat tracker, so I likely would not use this feature for my current campaign
  • Dynamic lighting and auto-reveal: these requires far too much work to prep the map. Rappan Athuk has over 100 maps and is one big sandbox, I really don't know where the players will go next. I've not found these maps available, pre-prepped, for any VTT platform -- I'd love to have these tools and would pay a lot to buy the maps and content if they were available, but I'm not going to do that work myself.
  • Voice and Video - I currently work in an environment where I don't have good connectivity when playing with my players who are in the USA. Google Hangouts/Meet has provided the best experience for VOIP BY FAR. Roll20 and Discord have both been awful when I've played in games that have used those services.
  • Adventure content, campaign management. I already have much of Rappan Athuk in RealmWork and have the PDF of the book. If it was available in Fantasy Ground or Roll20, that would be the platform I would use and would be happy to pay the subscription and buy the adventure content again, but I'm not going to enter it myself.
WHAT I'VE TRIED

So far I've been testing or have tested: Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Map Tool, Astral, and Foundry VTT.

Roll20
What I like:
  • Easy to get a map shared with fog of world
  • Players can move their own tokens without installing software.
  • Putting up a grid and aligning it with the grids on the RA JPEGS (from the Kickstarter) is pretty quick and easy.
What I do NOT like
  • The reveal (remove mask) tools are wonky. No paint brush review, no touch screen support, and no good polygon reveal. I just find it too time consuming to reveal on the fly.
Astral
What I like:
  • Attactive interface
  • Good user experience
What I do NOT like
  • Has no reveal-on-the-fly capability.
  • You have to prep the map first and use dynamic lighting. So this is hard pass for me.
Foundry VTT

What I like:
  • Inexpensive ($5 / month on Patreon)
  • Is being developed to be developer friendly to support modding
What I do not like
  • It is still in beta, is rough around the edges, and a bit of pain to set up.
  • I would not bother trying to get my players to connect and move tokens, but even if I want to move tokens for them, I have to run two instances of the program and connected via localhost .
  • Offers decent free hand reveal, if you have a good mouse it is usable, but I find it finicky.
  • Difficult to match grid to pre-gridded maps, you have to open a settings window that covers the map and set grid size and vertical and horizontal adjustments that you can't see the result of until you save the settings. Takes far to much time to get a map ready to be used on the fly.
Fantasy Grounds

What I like:
  • Feature rich, mature platform, which an active and enthusiastic user community
  • It is pretty easy to throw up a map with fog of war and I've see a number of GMs use it for in-person games
  • It has free-hand reveal, which isn't as nice as a paint-brush review, but with a good mouse is usable and seems to be easier to use than the free-hand reveal in other tools
What I do NOT like
  • Perhaps the steepest learning curve of those on my list
  • All the features are overkill and it is an expense product, which would be fine if I would use most of the functionality, but as I'm using third-party content that is not available for purchase for Fantasy Grounds, I'll not be using most of FG's features
  • I still have to run two instances connected by local host to share a window with players in Hangouts or a second screen. Either that or pay a lot of money and have players download and install software.
Map Tools

What I like
  • Easy to throw up a map with a grid and fog of war.
  • Pretty easy to match grid layer to grid on map image
  • Offers free hand reveal that seems to be just as good as that offered in Fantasy Grounds
  • It is free.

    What I do NOT like:
  • Have to run two instance of the program and connect to localhost to show player view on a second screen or window​
Of all the tools I've been testing, I'm leaning to just using Map Tools.

Are there any tools that I've missed that have features that would make it a good choice for a reveal-on-the-fly play with little to no map prep?
 

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