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VTTs Feel the Strain

Gamers are increasingly turning to virtual tabletops (VTT) to network with other players around the globe. Thanks to the pandemic, virtual gaming platforms are experiencing an unexpected surge that is stressing servers and causing lag. How are VTTs holding up?


With the pandemic pushing more and more people to shelter in place, gamers are using online tools to role-play with others when they can't game in person. The video game industry is already experiencing this surge, with Steam reaching 20 million concurrent online users, with 6.2 million in-game at the time. D&D Beyond's usage is up too: doubling its active users in the past few weeks with a threefold increase on its Discord server.

They're not the only ones experiencing increased interest. Ed Diana, owner of NBOS Software, which produces the free online gaming tool, Skwyre, noticed a change:
"There has been a slight uptick in sales of our mapping and notes applications, which I assume is due to people having some more free time to work on their campaigns. Hopefully people are finding world building to be a great way to keep their minds focused on something creative during this stressful time."
Joe Lesko, creator of Fabletop, saw a sharp increase:
"The number of new users has roughly tripled so far, but the system can handle much more than that, so we should be fine. With extra time at home, I've been working on some new features that players have been asking for."
Tobias Drewry, CEO at Mesa Mundi and the lead developer for D20PRO, definitely noticed an uptick in activity.
"D20PRO is not a web based application so resources used to create a game in D20PRO are retained on the GM/Host's computer. Additionally, D20PRO is only being impacted by networking issues related to ISP's rather than commercial server infrastructures. There is a learning curve to setting up D20PRO for remote play as it can suffer from aggressive firewall rules and the like, however, with a short amount of work to create an exception, our customers are nearly all up and running with a few odd-case exceptions. To help folks, our team is spending a lot more time watching and responding to our discord and forum support channels. A little one-on-one support is almost always appreciated!"
Like D20PRO, EpicTable has experienced an increase in interest but since it runs on the user's computer the load isn't a problem, according to John Lammers, the creator of EpicTable:
"Yes, there's been a noticeable uptick in EpicTable downloads, new customers, and active games. Handling the load is not a problem. EpicTable is a Windows app (though some play on Macs under Parallels or on Linux via Wine), so really, most of the work is done on the GM's and players' computers. The services that must be in the middle, like messaging and sharing of resources like maps, are minimally used; plus, they're cloud-based and scale automatically with the load."
Tom Lackemann, founder of AstralTabletop, saw tremendous growth in activity over the past weeks.
"This recent growth has been remarkable for our 3-person team to handle but we're going strong! We've been fueled by user feedback since the beginning and it's been great hearing from new users who are just starting to dip their toes into the online world of tabletop roleplaying."
Fantasy Grounds has seen a tenfold spike in users and Roll20 has seen an increase as well. Roll20 saw this coming, according to Amber Cook, Director of Business Development at Roll20:
"We have seen an increase in traffic as a result of people staying inside, and moving their in-person games online. We noticed a significant spike in traffic from Italy, Spain & other European countries and shortly thereafter in North America. Roll20 has seen a lot of growth in recent years, so we were already working on improving our efficiency & planning new features but the recent increase in traffic has caused us to speed up some of that work to accommodate new users. Our ever growing development team has dramatically reduced the speed at which our servers respond and our capacity to scale."
Whatever platform you choose, VTTs have been preparing for this moment. They're ready.
 
Michael Tresca

Comments

We've been playing on Roll20 for a long time. The first weekend, the servers were obviously stressed, and the lag was terrible (one player got booted out and couldn't even log back in). The following weekend was much better, and overall has gotten back to just short of normal, with only the occasional lag.
 

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Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I’m going to be honest. I was fairly dismissive of online portals feeling it was overly complicated and fiddley. After playing three or four sessions I can truly say I’m a convert.

In many ways roll20 is easier to DM than a standard game which involves battlemaps and minis. The prep can be done in advance, rules are on tap, calculations done in game. I’m almost tempted to try Pathfinder again if only they had the full rule set available.

It also suffers less from distractions and players talking BS because people have to concentrate a bit harder. Love it! Will definitely be keeping at least one of our games to a weekly sesh online even if lockdown ends.
There are definitely things I miss about in-person games, but... a VTT makes everything so much easier. It does all the math for you (applying modifiers to attacks and skill checks, etc.), for example, which probably saves at least ~10 minutes of game-time per session. And clicking a button is a lot faster than rolling dice. As a DM, I can keep multiple monster stat blocks open at a time and don't have to flip between pages. In general, the pace of online games is just plain faster, and I'm not sure I could ever go back to playing in-person after playing online.
 

We've been playing on Roll20 for a long time. The first weekend, the servers were obviously stressed, and the lag was terrible (one player got booted out and couldn't even log back in). The following weekend was much better, and overall has gotten back to just short of normal, with only the occasional lag.
I was trying to log on to Roll20 this morning and couldnt. I was using MS Edge. My neighbor was having the same problem and said that he had to update MS Edge then it worked. I just switched over to Chrome and I was able to logon. But Im sure the servers will be stressed no what browser your using.
 

TheSword

Hero
There is another upside to using VTT that I never even considered. The psychology of the fog of war setting on roll20 definitely changes how people play.

It is possible for the rest of the party to split even a little bit and the player then feels alone because they can’t see the others. If they get distracted they can end up completely separated and end up having to call out, ‘where are you guys’ which I then say alerts potential dungeon enemies.

In a session on Wednesday a necromancy dropped a darkness spell on the party. Around a table they just would have confidently walked through it as they would still see the map and their tokens and would roughly know where they were. With roll20 I was able to remove their ‘sight’ while inside the sphere making their whole screen black. They could still move their token within the confines of the rooms and corridors. However not being able to see each other was psychologically massive. They all retreated and one ended up going the wrong way getting separated and having to communicate with shouts. It made for a very interesting session.
 

Reynard

Legend
There is another upside to using VTT that I never even considered. The psychology of the fog of war setting on roll20 definitely changes how people play.

It is possible for the rest of the party to split even a little bit and the player then feels alone because they can’t see the others. If they get distracted they can end up completely separated and end up having to call out, ‘where are you guys’ which I then say alerts potential dungeon enemies.
I am looking forward to Fantasy Grounds Unity's full implementation so I can use the line of sight aspects for just this reason. PCs seeing the darkness swallow up the areas behind as they delve deeper should have a nice claustrophobic feeling.
 

Jimmy Dick

Explorer
I was trying to log on to Roll20 this morning and couldnt. I was using MS Edge. My neighbor was having the same problem and said that he had to update MS Edge then it worked. I just switched over to Chrome and I was able to logon. But Im sure the servers will be stressed no what browser your using.
MS Edge does not work for Roll20. You need Chrome or Firefox. Be advised that Roll20 just released an updated dynamic lighting system on the 8th which uses WebGL. That works on Chrome and Firefox, but not on MS Edge.
 

MS Edge does not work for Roll20. You need Chrome or Firefox. Be advised that Roll20 just released an updated dynamic lighting system on the 8th which uses WebGL. That works on Chrome and Firefox, but not on MS Edge.
It was working with MS Edge up until yesterday. If Roll20 just released an update then that's probably the problem. As far as I know my neighbor updated MS Edge and his still works so who knows. I had Chrome installed and that works so I'll just use that.
 


I was trying to log on to Roll20 this morning and couldnt. I was using MS Edge. My neighbor was having the same problem and said that he had to update MS Edge then it worked. I just switched over to Chrome and I was able to logon. But Im sure the servers will be stressed no what browser your using.
Servers are definitely stressed, but I found in general it best to normally use a separate browser just for Roll20 (or any VTT). Not a computer guy, but the main browser always seems to get clogged up more often. I normally use Firefox overall, but use Chrome for Roll20.
 


I was looking at Roll20's marketplace and I didnt see WotC D&D 5E Dungeon Masters Guide. That seems odd, is it for sale there? If not does anyone know why? Im just starting to use this program and trying to get the basics down and one of the things Im researching and mulling over is, is it worth a subscription and purchasing some rule books over using just the free version and the SRD.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I was looking at Roll20's marketplace and I didnt see WotC D&D 5E Dungeon Masters Guide. That seems odd, is it for sale there? If not does anyone know why? Im just starting to use this program and trying to get the basics down and one of the things Im researching and mulling over is, is it worth a subscription and purchasing some rule books over using just the free version and the SRD.
So I have a subscription. Have NOT purchased a digital core book. I’m not sure they’re really necessary and I tend not to reference the rule books during play.
I HAVE purchased an adventure or two (Ran Curse of Strahd most recently). That was a solid purchase in my opinion. It was nice to have everything organized for me right off the bat.
 

Have NOT purchased a digital core book. I’m not sure they’re really necessary and I tend not to reference the rule books during play.
Im watching a tutorial now and the only reason I would buy the PHB or DMG, & MM is if it allows for me to create encounters that I integrate player stats into. Which Im still not sure how well if at all the program does this. Trial and error I suppose is the best route at this point.
 

I was looking at Roll20's marketplace and I didnt see WotC D&D 5E Dungeon Masters Guide. That seems odd, is it for sale there? If not does anyone know why? Im just starting to use this program and trying to get the basics down and one of the things Im researching and mulling over is, is it worth a subscription and purchasing some rule books over using just the free version and the SRD.
Roll20 has stated publicly that their is not enough value in converting the DMG to Roll20. That everything a DM needs to play using Roll20 is in the SRD and other books.

Personally I don't get it. I think they don't see enough marketing potential or they don't have the ability/interest to do anything useful with it.

I have the DMG on Fantasy Grounds and I use non-stop when creating adventures. On FG, the DMG can be used with what they call the Item Forge. It allows you to drop multiple magic items into the 'forge' and create combo type magic items. I almost never use them as is, but I use to to create draft versions of custom items. I also use all the loot and magic items tables in the DMG. I also use the encounter building info regularly.

Note, FG is the only place I have my 5E books, so I do not have a print copy to refer too, but wouldn't want anyway since content creation (of any kind) is so much faster in FG if you have stuff you can copy and modify.
 

Roll20 has stated publicly that their is not enough value in converting the DMG to Roll20. That everything a DM needs to play using Roll20 is in the SRD and other books.

Personally I don't get it. I think they don't see enough marketing potential or they don't have the ability/interest to do anything useful with it.

I have the DMG on Fantasy Grounds and I use non-stop when creating adventures. On FG, the DMG can be used with what they call the Item Forge. It allows you to drop multiple magic items into the 'forge' and create combo type magic items. I almost never use them as is, but I use to to create draft versions of custom items. I also use all the loot and magic items tables in the DMG. I also use the encounter building info regularly.

Note, FG is the only place I have my 5E books, so I do not have a print copy to refer too, but wouldn't want anyway since content creation (of any kind) is so much faster in FG if you have stuff you can copy and modify.
Doesnt make much sense to me. Anytime Ive used the SRD theres always some limitations so Id prefer to at least have access to all 3 core books in a VTT. I used FG 5 or 6 years ago but it was pretty complicated and the group fell apart so Im not sure I want to pay for it again.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
Im watching a tutorial now and the only reason I would buy the PHB or DMG, & MM is if it allows for me to create encounters that I integrate player stats into. Which Im still not sure how well if at all the program does this. Trial and error I suppose is the best route at this point.
I’m not sure what you mean by “integrate player stats into an encounter”.
Do you mean... judge the difficulty of an encounter using the player character sheets?

But anyways, I found value in the adventures but since I have hard copies of the core books I don’t feel like I need them on Roll20. Just me though.
 

I’m not sure what you mean by “integrate player stats into an encounter”.
Do you mean... judge the difficulty of an encounter using the player character sheets?

But anyways, I found value in the adventures but since I have hard copies of the core books I don’t feel like I need them on Roll20. Just me though.
I was wondering if you can add a characters stats to a combat/encounter tracker from their character sheets then run the encounter.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I was wondering if you can add a characters stats to a combat/encounter tracker from their character sheets then run the encounter.
There is a combat/initiative tracker that tracks who’s turn it is.

If you select the token and have it roll Initiative it should throw up a tracker. You can’t manipulate things like Hps or abilities through the tracker I don’t think.
 

There is a combat/initiative tracker that tracks who’s turn it is.

If you select the token and have it roll Initiative it should throw up a tracker. You can’t manipulate things like Hps or abilities through the tracker I don’t think.
Probably just use it for a mapper more than anything then.
 


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