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Which Online Virtual Tabletop Do You Use?

Which online virtual tabletop do you use?


  • Total voters
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Roll20 has been serving us pretty well since the pandemic struck. It's laggy at times (especially at peak hour useage), but it's still much better than it was even a few weeks ago.

I wish they would hurry up and get those feats working already.
 

DarrenShard

Villager
This thread has lots of discussion around the features and capabilities of different VTTs. What provides the best play experience so that you can spend more time playing games and less time focusing on the tool?
 


This thread has lots of discussion around the features and capabilities of different VTTs. What provides the best play experience so that you can spend more time playing games and less time focusing on the tool?

For me it is Fantasy Grounds with the excellent 5e ruleset. The automation takes care of all the bookkeeping details and I just DM the game.
 

This thread has lots of discussion around the features and capabilities of different VTTs. What provides the best play experience so that you can spend more time playing games and less time focusing on the tool?

I've used Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, the latter seemed more user friendly but still took a bit to learn. One thing I realized was that not only the DM but the players have to take some time to learn it too. We tried to use the built on video/audio in Roll20, Skype and Discord but we seemed to have lag and latency issues. In the end it seemed we were spending more time figuring out the program than playing so we quit using it. We only used it when the pandemic started and it was out of necessity so your experience may differ. Overall, I liked the features just took too much time to prep and even after that sometimes we couldn't get stuff to work.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I've used Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, the latter seemed more user friendly but still took a bit to learn. One thing I realized was that not only the DM but the players have to take some time to learn it too. We tried to use the built on video/audio in Roll20, Skype and Discord but we seemed to have lag and latency issues. In the end it seemed we were spending more time figuring out the program than playing so we quit using it. We only used it when the pandemic started and it was out of necessity so your experience may differ. Overall, I liked the features just took too much time to prep and even after that sometimes we couldn't get stuff to work.

We’re using Roll20 and, you’re right, there’s a learning curve for players too. We haven’t gotten to players computerizing their whole character sheet or using macros or the die roller. But they did pretty much pick up moving around and checking ranges after one session and that’s pretty much all I need them to do.
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
This thread has lots of discussion around the features and capabilities of different VTTs. What provides the best play experience so that you can spend more time playing games and less time focusing on the tool?
We use Roll20 for basic maps and Discord for voice plus Dice Maiden on Discord for rolling. That’s it. Nothing is integrated into Roll20, just tokens for relative locations.

We purposefully kept it barebones so we could have a shirt learning curve and so far it’s worked great.

I ran a Session 0 with very easy encounters and a simple adventure to let everyone come up to speed with VTT.
 


Foundry looks nice, but FGU has a pretty robust feature set, including dynamic lighting. The mapping is good and getting better as well.

What is also has is DLC. I can get all the WoTC books and modules and tons of 3PP material as well. All there and loaded up so I don’t have to enter it.

In Foundry, I have to source the maps and the text myself, load all the monsters. Tons of work.

Right now it sort of is bridged by owning the content in DND Beyond, but I am working for the extension to be determined to be violating fair use and shut down.
 


DarrenShard

Villager
We’re using Roll20 and, you’re right, there’s a learning curve for players too. We haven’t gotten to players computerizing their whole character sheet or using macros or the die roller. But they did pretty much pick up moving around and checking ranges after one session and that’s pretty much all I need them to do.
If you wan to shorten your learning curve for players then you should try out our VTT, Shard Tabletop. We usually find that players can get in create a character sheet and be playing in order 10 minutes.
 


Jd Smith1

Adventurer
For building maps or whole adventures? How do you find it for actually playing? Do your players figure it out as well?

Any jpeg or png can serve as a map (it needs to be at least close to 1 mb for good zooming); a couple mouse clicks puts it up as a map, and you can adjust it with a couple clicks so that your pogs fit. There are literally thousands of free ones on the Net, and I mean actually free, not pirated.

Token Tool can make pogs out of any jpg or png with a couple clicks.

So adventure creating: last weekend I had a idea for an encounter for my game, an d I decided to insert it into my campaign.

First thing I did was to pick a map. That was the longest portion of the process, as I have about 15,000 maps stored. But I chose on in about ten minutes (I have them sorted and labels into useful categories.

I opened maptool, double-clicked on the map, chose weather to have hexes, squares, or none (I always pick none.

Opened the NPC folder for that campaign, double-clicked for one NPC, then pulled down a toolbar and clicked on 'adjust grid' Using the pog as reference, I adjusted the scale of the map so it was suitable for the pog. I could have adjusted the pogs to the map, but that means setting each pog.

I then pulled out five more NPC pogs. I made some adjusts, and cut & pasted three of the pogs to create multiples of each. The pogs were positioned on the map (I later moved them around a couple times until things were how I wanted them, but that is because I was trying for a specific series of events).

Then I went to my objects folder and double-clicked on several items wanted for the map, which I them adjusted and positioned in the Object Layer, so that players moving their pogs would not affect the item placement.

Then I moved the PC and NPC pogs for the party onto the map, made them visible to players. I then saved the campaign.

It took about twenty minutes, most of which was spent on choosing which map to use, and how the NPCs should be deployed (creative decision, IOW).

At the table, I opened MapTools (takes a minute or so to open). Chose Open Campaign and selected the appropriate file. Dropped a toolbar, chose 'Import Preference', and then chose the preferences file I wanted. (Preferences are states which can be displayed on pogs. For example, I use a blue circle for kneeling, red for prone, and so forth. There's no limit to the number you can create, but you have to load the file every time you open a campaign, which adds three mouse clicks).

Then I chose Start Server, which creates a LAN server.

When the time came, I told my players to log on. They started MapTools, found my server, and logged on.

And off we went, into three hours of in-character negotiation, argument, bitter combat, and post-combat mop-up.

Here is a screenshot of the entire map. As you can see, it isn't very complex, but this was a meeting engagement that was later interrupted by the arrival of two, more hostile, groups (already ready and waiting on the map, invisible to the PCs).
1.jpg


Here is a closer view. I use round pogs for known enemy, hex pogs for NPCS, and square pogs for PCs. At the start of the scenario the players could not see any of the enemy pogs.

2.jpg
 

ruedas

First Post
I tried Roll20 and found it to be very clunky, Fantasy Grounds works better and has a really helpful community behind it. I would say try both and see what you prefer
 

DarrenShard

Villager
Any jpeg or png can serve as a map (it needs to be at least close to 1 mb for good zooming); a couple mouse clicks puts it up as a map, and you can adjust it with a couple clicks so that your pogs fit. There are literally thousands of free ones on the Net, and I mean actually free, not pirated.

Token Tool can make pogs out of any jpg or png with a couple clicks.

So adventure creating: last weekend I had a idea for an encounter for my game, an d I decided to insert it into my campaign.

First thing I did was to pick a map. That was the longest portion of the process, as I have about 15,000 maps stored. But I chose on in about ten minutes (I have them sorted and labels into useful categories.

I opened maptool, double-clicked on the map, chose weather to have hexes, squares, or none (I always pick none.

Opened the NPC folder for that campaign, double-clicked for one NPC, then pulled down a toolbar and clicked on 'adjust grid' Using the pog as reference, I adjusted the scale of the map so it was suitable for the pog. I could have adjusted the pogs to the map, but that means setting each pog.

I then pulled out five more NPC pogs. I made some adjusts, and cut & pasted three of the pogs to create multiples of each. The pogs were positioned on the map (I later moved them around a couple times until things were how I wanted them, but that is because I was trying for a specific series of events).

Then I went to my objects folder and double-clicked on several items wanted for the map, which I them adjusted and positioned in the Object Layer, so that players moving their pogs would not affect the item placement.

Then I moved the PC and NPC pogs for the party onto the map, made them visible to players. I then saved the campaign.

It took about twenty minutes, most of which was spent on choosing which map to use, and how the NPCs should be deployed (creative decision, IOW).

At the table, I opened MapTools (takes a minute or so to open). Chose Open Campaign and selected the appropriate file. Dropped a toolbar, chose 'Import Preference', and then chose the preferences file I wanted. (Preferences are states which can be displayed on pogs. For example, I use a blue circle for kneeling, red for prone, and so forth. There's no limit to the number you can create, but you have to load the file every time you open a campaign, which adds three mouse clicks).

Then I chose Start Server, which creates a LAN server.

When the time came, I told my players to log on. They started MapTools, found my server, and logged on.

And off we went, into three hours of in-character negotiation, argument, bitter combat, and post-combat mop-up.

Here is a screenshot of the entire map. As you can see, it isn't very complex, but this was a meeting engagement that was later interrupted by the arrival of two, more hostile, groups (already ready and waiting on the map, invisible to the PCs).


Here is a closer view. I use round pogs for known enemy, hex pogs for NPCS, and square pogs for PCs. At the start of the scenario the players could not see any of the enemy pogs.
I guess that I'm asking a slightly different question. From a tactical battle map, MapTool is a very competent solution, with a bunch of other good options that vary mostly on your preferences. (Finding maps on the web is especially valuable which is why we built in searching the web for maps into our solution Shard Tabletop)

Running a session is more than just about the battle map though. There are lots other parts of the game that can interfere with having an amazing play experience. Managing all of the current state of characters and monsters, including: turn order, HP, and conditions. Communicating information between players and the GM, like: what does that spell do, what does that class ability really say, what happens when that condition is active. Organizing the adventure, including: story line, session notes, and adventure history. Dealing with the unexpected, like: characters going somewhere unexpected, or dealing with monsters quicker than expected.

Virtual tools should hopefully help with the whole play experience to make let you spend more time having fun playing the game and less time fussing with tools and rummaging through books and notes.

There is also a question around how the tool impacts the overall interaction. In person do people interact less working behind a laptop? Working remotely does the tool encourage an interactive session? As an example, in person rolling dice together is pretty great, working remote not so well. A good digital dice solution can help recreate some of that excitement of seeing each other's rolls.

What tools and best practices do people find works best?
 

dbm

Explorer
We moved to playing via Fantasy Ground Unity when lockdown started in the UK. Just for info, you no longer need to bother with port forwarding on your router - it just works.

It’s really good, and supports more than just D&D. I play in a 5e campaign, and run a Savage Worlds campaign. The automation is really good on both once you understand them. Fireballing a large group of enemies is excellent, and the power implementation of Savage Worlds abilities is also cool. You do need to learn how the automation works to get the best out of it, but there is lots of online help and the community are friendly in my experience.

You can get an Ultimate license for less than $10 per month, and if the GM has one of these then the players don’t need a licence. I reckon it’s cheaper than the cost of hosting the game in my house, which I usually do for our F2F sessions.
 

Jd Smith1

Adventurer
I guess that I'm asking a slightly different question. From a tactical battle map, MapTool is a very competent solution, with a bunch of other good options that vary mostly on your preferences. (Finding maps on the web is especially valuable which is why we built in searching the web for maps into our solution Shard Tabletop)

Running a session is more than just about the battle map though. There are lots other parts of the game that can interfere with having an amazing play experience. Managing all of the current state of characters and monsters, including: turn order, HP, and conditions. Communicating information between players and the GM, like: what does that spell do, what does that class ability really say, what happens when that condition is active. Organizing the adventure, including: story line, session notes, and adventure history. Dealing with the unexpected, like: characters going somewhere unexpected, or dealing with monsters quicker than expected.

Virtual tools should hopefully help with the whole play experience to make let you spend more time having fun playing the game and less time fussing with tools and rummaging through books and notes.

There is also a question around how the tool impacts the overall interaction. In person do people interact less working behind a laptop? Working remotely does the tool encourage an interactive session? As an example, in person rolling dice together is pretty great, working remote not so well. A good digital dice solution can help recreate some of that excitement of seeing each other's rolls.

What tools and best practices do people find works best?

MapTools. It is extremely user-friendly. As to finding maps, Pinterest and DeviantArt have thousands.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
This thread has lots of discussion around the features and capabilities of different VTTs. What provides the best play experience so that you can spend more time playing games and less time focusing on the tool?
Depends on what tools you need, and what resources you are using.

I like Roll20 because it's free and web-based, so you don't have to troubleshoot multiple software installations and IP connections for multiple people, every time you want to play. It has several compendiums that you can purchase for different adventure paths, campaign settings, and rulebooks. (The downside being, of course, that you have to purchase that content--and the price is roughly the same as the price of buying the hardcopy.) Still, it's nice to be able to drag-and-drop in monsters, maps, magic items, etc., and have everything already linked and rigged for lighting.

Roll20 also has a high learning curve, but once you and your players get the hang of it, you can throw a game together with a moment's notice. I imagine this is going to be true for anything...including D&D.

We tried FantasyGrounds first, but we weren't able to get it to work for all of our players. Everyone was using a different device and OS -- some were using Mac, some were using Chromebooks, some were using touchpads, others were using their work computers and didn't have permission to install the software -- it required a level of technical mastery that was beyond some of our players. So I guess it also has a learning curve...or a learning curve of a different sort. (I understand that FantasyGrounds takes a bit of effort to set up and get running, but once you do, it runs effortlessly. I can't vouch for that, because we never got it to run.)
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
This thread has lots of discussion around the features and capabilities of different VTTs. What provides the best play experience so that you can spend more time playing games and less time focusing on the tool?
The right attitude.

I'm not trying to be cure here--well, maybe a bit--but it is true.

I have spend a lot of time and more money than I should have diving into various VTTs over this past year. The one gold truth that I learned is that whatever tool you use, you don't have to use its every feature. Almost any tool can be easier to use if start with just the basics.

Also, there is "prep time" and there is "learning curve" for how to use the tool. Some tools can drastically reduce prep time, but have a very high learning curve. For example, I found a lot of people using Roll20 for on-the-fly games, but I found I had to invest quite a bit of time in learning the tool before I could start throwing together a game on the fly or improvising through a sandbox session in Roll20.

Another consideration is there the best way to save prep time is to pay for someone to do all the prep for you. If you are running official WotC adventures or if the third-party system and adventure material is available to purchase for the VTT you use, well, that certainly take away a lot of the prep time.

Because I am not running material that I can just buy ready to play in a VTT, I wanted something I could run my games in without hundred of hours of data entry and graphic design.

Here is my journey through a forest of VTT offering and how I got to where I am today. Maybe useful for you.

After a few years of running my own home-brew campaign, work was getting to be too demanding and I decided to purchase adventures and campaign settings. I used RealmWorks to manage my campaigns and to share maps. When I no longer had time for all the data entry, I just used the books, but put all the maps in Realm Works. Then I had to work over seas. I would display the players view of the maps in RealmWorks, shared using Google Meet. Everything else run pen and paper.

But I was spending too much time just loading maps. Also, I couldn't load a map on the fly quickly enough to run my sandboxy adventures and I didn't have time to enter all my maps into RealmWorks.

Then Lone Wolf Development stopped developing RealmWorks.

At the same time I was running my games I would play one-offs using the Roll20 find a game feature. So I played a lot of games using Roll20, usually with Discord. So I got an account and tried running games in Roll20. But the space limits, the time to prep maps, just wasn't as fluid as I wanted. I probably didn't give Roll20 enough of a chance. I am grateful to Roll20 for giving me a platform where I could find games when away from my gaming group in countries with poor and censured internet. But I just never like to DM in it. It seemed like too much work and I never got to the point where I was comfortable running a game in it for my players. I ended up cancelling my account after a few months.

So I went to MapTool. Networking issues, due to the security controls of my employer's internet (which I used in the employer provided housing while working abroad) made it a impractical to actually host as a normal VTT. Instead, I would run two instances of Map Tool. A DMs instance and player instance. I shared the player instance using Google Meet. This worked very well. With Map Tool I can quickly filter from hundreds of maps, open one up with Fog of War, then filter through thousands of tokens and quickly add them to map. The 5e frameset provides some quality of life features for 5e DMs, but for the most part, I was just sharing maps, revealing areas by painting away the "fog" and throwing tokens on the map. The main issue was that the players were not able to control their own tokens, which is not as satisfying. Also, all map reveal was done manually. So, little to no prep time, but more work for the DM in play. That said, Map Tool does support full VTT functionality with many lighting and reveal features that are more advanced than some of the commercial tools. The main issue for me was that I didn't have the time or interest in trying to come up with a way to figure out the networking given my situation.

At the same time I was running games in MapTool, I tested Fantasy Grounds. I participated in some virtual convention games that used Fantasy Ground Classic. The only way I could get it to work when abroad was to us my Google Fi 3G connection on my phone with a VPN running on my phone, then join my phone's hotspot from my computer. It was just barely acceptable as a player, but I wouldn't be able to run games this way. But I though I could use it like MapTool and run locally, with a GM and a player's instance and share the player instance. With FG you can use online and for local play. FG Unity had just been released so I did the $10/month subscription to test it out. While I liked that I could have hundreds of maps and thousands of tokens and fairly quickly find them, it took a bit more time to get things ready on the fly. But my main issue with FGU is that it kept hanging. I tried to use it to run games but ended up having to give up on it and go back to Map Tool. I liked the idea of the automations but I would have to rebuy D&D content I already bought in book form and on D&D Beyond. I also found the interface had a high learning curve. There are great learning resources for FGU and great support, but I didn't have the time to spend many hours at FG College (and acutal site/service they offer) just to run my D&D Games. Map Tool was doing the job.

I tested d20pro. Really liked it. Like Map Tool and Fantasy Grounds, it is locally installed so easy to reference large libraries of maps and tokens. It offered a much easier interface than FGC or FGU and is targeted to d20 games. But it didn't have the fog of war reveal tools I need for my low-prep games.

I looked at Astral VTT, but it is online only, so there are storage issues. But the real killer is that it only supported lighting, line-of-site prepped maps, or just sharing the entire battlemap. It didn't have the manual fog of war application and reveal I was looking for.

The tool that ended up convincing me to move from Map Tool was Foundry. It offered everything I wanted with the caveat that I had to install some community modules to get it that way. In particular, Simple Fog, so that I can easily apply and reveal fog of war manually. Also, unlike FG, Map Tool, and d20pro, my players do not have to install any software. They just interact with the map using their browser. Because of my work travel situation and the areas I have to work, I'm hosting my license of Foundry on virtual machine online. But if I were only running games from my ample home connection, I could easily just run the game from my laptop. Loading maps and assets are a bit more involved than Map Tool or Fantasy Grounds, but all the other features and advantages are good trade off for the extra couple minutes it would take me to set up a battlemap. In particular with with third-party modules I can import my DnD Beyond purchased content and I can apply a variety of automations that make running the game easier. And expanding it with modules, I find is much easier and more smooth than customizing Map Tool.

Another tool I am Kickstarting is "Role." If you have basic needs. You just want a web meeting tool with gamer features. I.e., voice, video, text, an easy to reference character sheet that gets out of your way when you are not using it, and a basic battlemap that you can drop tokens on, as well as a dice rolling app, then this could be the tool for you. Unfortunately, you'll need to wait until it is released. Currently there is just an early access release for backers. For more info, see: Role: A New Kind of Platform For The RPG Community
 

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