5E Most User-Friendly VTT? (Dice Games In The Time of Covid)

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, my group obviously isn't going to not play dnd. None of us really want to train a new tool proficiency just to play on roll20. Fantasy Grounds is expensive. Found one that looks slick but is kinda buggy called Astral. Apparently there are several others.

The question is, are literally any of them actually user-friendly? I remember using the beta 4e vtt and really liking it even in unfinished state. I didn't have to master a new skill to use it, it just worked, IIRC.

Anything around that is just easy to sit down and use? I'm fine with less features or whatever, I just want the thing to work without a steep learning curve. Video-chat is a plus, but we can do without it.
 
Roll20 is a very simple system if you don't want to do anything fancy (just rolling dice and moving miniatures). The problem is that there's a learning curve if you want to get into the more advanced options (character sheets, macros, etc.). It's more work for the DM if you use miniatures, because unless you can search for a workable map with its search engine, you've got to draw the maps out (I suggest using polylines, and stopping often to limit errors).
 
I agree, Roll20, while it doesn’t look very slick in my opinion, seems to have become the defacto standard for vtt. I’m hoping they work on an overhaul of the interface, and pay some UI/UX people to really give it something special. But it works pretty well.

If you have PCs with at least a decent integrated graphics, there are things like Talespire (Beta for backers, I think there’s still time to make a late pledge, is coming at the end of the month), and of course Tabletop Simulator on Steam. Multiverse is an interesting pixel-art focused thing, but it’s only just started its kickstarter. Might be one to watch in future.

You can always roll your own, though. I used a screensharing app like Google Hangouts or Zoom and a Swordfish Islands map loaded into a photoshop lite tool (Gimp), with a layer over the top to simulate fog of war (just made a white layer on the top, then erased it as the players progressed), it actually worked surprisingly well, but it’s cumbersome in other ways, and players see Gimp’s UI which is probably distracting to some.

Myself, I’m the opposite, though, I feel like having the video chat is the closest to in person for the types of ttrpgs I prefer. You can see people’s expressions, if they’re emoting, and just feel connected to the roleplaying experience than voices shouting into the cold void, all staring at a map from an overhead perspective. But to each his or her own. We just use Google hangouts and some online dice rollers (there’s tons) that have multiplayer rooms, we have our character sheets in a Google sheet, and it seems to work well for the games we play.

Good luck, though, I’m sure you’ll find something that works in these horribly uncertain times. At least we’re making time for rp gaming, so that’s something!
 

jedijon

Explorer
The way I used to play - maps & minis

The way I play - description & decisions

Could well be that by removing use of hit points almost entirely, a videoconference would generate some sessions you’ll treasure.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
Roll20 + discord video. Especially if you have a second monitor.

If you don’t want to bother with maps(which don’t HAVE to be detailed, a lot of times I just scribble on the map and go with it. Much like real life!) just use video chat and let people roll at home.

The learning curve of Roll20 and it’s basic assets isn’t that high. I use a bunch of the advanced features at times now but it’s all bells and whistles that aren’t necessary for a game. When I started I ran RoT using the free version and it worked fine.

Your first session will likely have some technical issues to iron out before it works well but that goes for seemingly EVERY tech communication application.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Interesting. Thanks for the replies. If roll20 is the simplest thing out there...I probably just am not someone who is gonna want to use a vtt.

I don’t want to watch a tutorial to figure out how to let players move an asset, or to have a torch throw out the correct area of light. I think what I would want probably requires a vtt built for a specific system.

Thanks for the thoughts tho.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Is there a good source for maps for Roll20? I can make my own using Campaign Cartographer but I'm lazy.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Roll20 is a very simple system if you don't want to do anything fancy (just rolling dice and moving miniatures). The problem is that there's a learning curve if you want to get into the more advanced options (character sheets, macros, etc.). It's more work for the DM if you use miniatures, because unless you can search for a workable map with its search engine, you've got to draw the maps out (I suggest using polylines, and stopping often to limit errors).
I find it’s only simple for showing everyone a map or other thing that would normally be a paper handout. Actually using it to run a fight is simple by some definition, but still requires tutorials and spending time to learn how to do even basic stuff like adding an asset and the giving control of it to a player.
 

Oldtimer

Great Old One
My gaming group tried to play over Roll20 tonight, since we didn't want to meet during the pandemic. After trying for almost an hour to get everyone to hear everyone else, we gave up. We simply couldn't get Roll20 to work. I suppose we'll try Fantasy Grounds instead next week.
 

Len

Prodigal Member
My gaming group tried to play over Roll20 tonight, since we didn't want to meet during the pandemic. After trying for almost an hour to get everyone to hear everyone else, we gave up. We simply couldn't get Roll20 to work. I suppose we'll try Fantasy Grounds instead next week.
I had the foresight to set up a Discord server for our group ahead of time, just in case, so when we ran into that problem we switched our voice chat to Discord.

In my experience that type of problem happens often with browser-based voice chat. I recommend doing voice/video chat with something like Discord or Skype that has a proper app.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
Is there a good source for maps for Roll20? I can make my own using Campaign Cartographer but I'm lazy.
There’s also someone on the forums who makes them and puts a bunch in a thread for free. I haven’t used them but they look really good.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
My gaming group tried to play over Roll20 tonight, since we didn't want to meet during the pandemic. After trying for almost an hour to get everyone to hear everyone else, we gave up. We simply couldn't get Roll20 to work. I suppose we'll try Fantasy Grounds instead next week.
Just as a heads up, FG has no integrated video/voice conferencing. As others have noted, many people use a separate app for voice/video than the VTT.

In other words, just switching to FG won't solve your problem. It's a good VTT, though. You might want to brush up on port forwarding, though, just hosting a game might require some router work.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I find it’s only simple for showing everyone a map or other thing that would normally be a paper handout. Actually using it to run a fight is simple by some definition, but still requires tutorials and spending time to learn how to do even basic stuff like adding an asset and the giving control of it to a player.
I'm a Roll20 veteran, and I still find that stuff to be overly time-consuming. Correctly aligning maps and creating tokens is pure drudgery.
 
I find it’s only simple for showing everyone a map or other thing that would normally be a paper handout. Actually using it to run a fight is simple by some definition, but still requires tutorials and spending time to learn how to do even basic stuff like adding an asset and the giving control of it to a player.
Yeah, there's a bit more the DM needs to figure out than the players (players got it easy). I've been using it so long, I forgot about how hard some of the basic DM tasks can be at start.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah, there's a bit more the DM needs to figure out than the players (players got it easy). I've been using it so long, I forgot about how hard some of the basic DM tasks can be at start.
Yeah, I just want a program that is already set up to do things like;

  • Dynamic environmental lighting* and fog of war
  • Dynamic character lighting* where a player can cast light, select the character that is holding or wearing what they cast light on, and that character emits the appropriate distance of light
  • Player-side visual templates for spells, ranges, movement, and other effects. (in astral, you can shift-drag to measure distance, which is nice)
  • assets that are built to integrate with all the other functionality, and easy tools for users to make a custom asset integrate. ie, I set down a house, and bc it's a stock asset from the library, it is already set up to block vision and light, including windows and doors that can be clicked to open or close.
  • Character sheets and basic video-game style action bars (astral has this) so you can easily click to cast a spell or attack something, and have it allow you to then click on a target or select an area. (astral almost does this, but has no targeting, and I still haven't seen any area of effect templates.
  • Integration with character builder tools and encounter building tools would be nice. Maybe dndbeyon will make this happen someday.
  • A UI that is built for noobs to be able to use easily, and put the complex tools "behind" that basic UI.
I don't care about rules automation so much, but the above is what I would want at least most of in order to consider it better than having a webcam looking at my physical table and video conference call with my group.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, I just want a program that is already set up to do things like;

  • Dynamic environmental lighting* and fog of war
  • Dynamic character lighting* where a player can cast light, select the character that is holding or wearing what they cast light on, and that character emits the appropriate distance of light
  • Player-side visual templates for spells, ranges, movement, and other effects. (in astral, you can shift-drag to measure distance, which is nice)
  • assets that are built to integrate with all the other functionality, and easy tools for users to make a custom asset integrate. ie, I set down a house, and bc it's a stock asset from the library, it is already set up to block vision and light, including windows and doors that can be clicked to open or close.
  • Character sheets and basic video-game style action bars (astral has this) so you can easily click to cast a spell or attack something, and have it allow you to then click on a target or select an area. (astral almost does this, but has no targeting, and I still haven't seen any area of effect templates.
  • Integration with character builder tools and encounter building tools would be nice. Maybe dndbeyon will make this happen someday.
  • A UI that is built for noobs to be able to use easily, and put the complex tools "behind" that basic UI.
I don't care about rules automation so much, but the above is what I would want at least most of in order to consider it better than having a webcam looking at my physical table and video conference call with my group.
In the meantime, you might want to get started with the VTTs that exist now. Wishing for perfect isn't going to allow you to get a game together this weekend.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
We are neophytes to VTT. Our group tried Astral. We tried Roll20, but starting the night of the game, and we couldn't even figurte out how to place tokens. But worse, one person or another would constantly drop from voice/audio.

So we've moved to Zoom (a paid video conference service I'm using for multiple things) for fantastic audio/video, and a shared google something for maps. Working well. Absolutely no bells or whistles, but the social aspect is rock solid and the rest isn't tough to handle.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
I found FG to be very intuitive and Roll20 to be incomprehensible. Others are the other way.

But look, if you don't want to spend money (and don't want to get a refund from FG within 30 days), then just use Discord with a web camera. It's not ideal but it is as simple and user-friendly as it gets. I've done it. Just hang your camera from a light and point it at your dry-erase mat. Everything else is just like around the table. People talk, roll dice and keep track of their own character sheets.

Easy Peasy, not fancy, and not efficient. But no learning curve and no cost unless you need to buy a $10 camera.
 
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