Your Experience with VTT - Free or Paid?

Retreater

Adventurer
It's really setting in that I have an uphill battle ahead of me trying to game in person these days. One of my consistent, outgoing, awesome players (and friends) is relocating for work. We're regularly facing sessions with 2-3 players. Attempts to find people online, through work, etc., have not gotten any results.

It's looking like if I want to get back into the hobby, I might need to reconsider a Virtual Tabletop such as Fantasy Grounds or Roll 20. I've used FG in the past, but the DMs turned out to be both inconsistent and inconsiderate.

Would a paid game have better luck in a consistent, quality game? Is this the norm when playing online? (The old rule was never to pay a DM, but maybe that's changed?)

Thanks in advance for the advice!
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
My experience with vtt is that it has some good features (like macros and revealing maps as you explore), but game play seemed to really slow down. In large part because players got distracted and side tracked way easier. You’re not there in person, with that social contract of being engaged. So I’ve seen what happens is if the player isn’t actively doing something in game, they are reading another article or blog or video in another window, and you have to take longer to corral their attention back.
 

HippyCraig

Villager
Check out d20pro.com and use something that has video and voice this can help bridge the gap moving from table to VTT
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
One huge advantage of using a VTT is that you don't have to lose your relocating player! Depending on the time zone differential, it's usually possible to adjust the game schedule so that they can join in too.

As far as finding players for a VTT... I have no advice at all. My group is primarily the same group I played with IRL, with 2 additions from players that joined other VTT games. Random players are going to be a crap shoot, regardless of paid or unpaid services. I'd rather have a small group of fun, enthusiastic players than have to weed through a bunch of jerks to have a large group.
 

tommybahama

Explorer
I'm in a paid game on Roll20. The going rate is about $12 per session. I can skip Chick-fil-A once a week to justify it. In fact, I'm gonna call it my D&D diet. :)

We are 12 weeks in and the game seems to be going strong. We lost one player who flaked, one to life/work balance (he was also in four other games!) and one to cheating (reading the module!). But in each case the DM quickly recruited another player. Except for the occasional odd race and class combo they all seem like good guys, except for the cheater. The funny thing is that he was also the biggest rules lawyer.

Dynamic lighting is overrated in my opinion and actually hinders play. We don't have a marching order which makes things worse and has led to more than one near TPK. But our DM seems to handle things well. I suggest you give a paid game a shot. At $12 for three hours entertainment, you'll probably find more good paid DMs in the course of a year than you will find in good movies.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
My experience with VTT's is limited... IMO, it works best for doing battlemaps for FTF play,... put them map up on screen.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
Hmm, paid or free...?

Well one thing I have always kept in mind is this, when a service is free, that means you are the product. That's not always bad, just something you have to keep in mind. One problem with free VTT platforms is user commitment. No money in, often means no commitment.

You asked about paid GM's... I've heard both sides of the coin, no commitment from the players and also lots of commitment. Not sure their is any good data other than anecdotal :( Sounds like the same with Free VTTs too huh?

As a GM I vastly prefer FG to Roll20. So much easier to prep and such. But as a player I'm not convinced it matters all that much. I mean yea it matters, but as a player what is much more important is the group of people. In that regard I've always found the FG community much more friendly and helpful than the Roll20 one. But experiences will vary.

My experience with vtt is that it has some good features (like macros and revealing maps as you explore), but game play seemed to really slow down. In large part because players got distracted and side tracked way easier. You’re not there in person, with that social contract of being engaged. So I’ve seen what happens is if the player isn’t actively doing something in game, they are reading another article or blog or video in another window, and you have to take longer to corral their attention back.
This can happen. It happened with the first group I gamed with online a long time ago. Hasn't happened since. Voice and video can help alleviate this, so can good DMs who keep things moving. In FG we use random initiative each turn, so everyone has to stay on their toes, and gentle prompts by me or the others players is enough peer pressure to get people to be all in.

But again, even that i all about the group. Find the community you like best, get involved, build a group.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
Free: MapTools, which I have used for years.

But I use it face-to-face. Everyone at the table has a laptop.
 

ninjayeti

Explorer
I'd strongly encourage you to give it a shot. I have been playing through VTTs for a couple of years now and it has really been a gaming Renaissance for me - prior to that it had been over 10 years since I had played IRL due to multiple moves, demanding work schedules, and having kids. Now I consistently have a weekly game and for a while was playing twice weekly.

The main bit of advice I would pass on is that you should look at online gaming the way you would look at online dating. You wouldn't expect to marry the first girl you swipe right on and you shouldn't expect for the first gaming group you connect with to be a perfect fit for you either. Personally I have had a couple of poor experiences (annoying players, GM who ghosted after 5 sessions), a couple games that were good-but-not-great, and an amazing game with an awesome group of players that is going strong 9 months in.

I've done both paid and free games. I'd say the main advantage of a paid game is you can get into something right away usually at the day and time you want. You will likely need to be more patient and/or flexible to find a free game with an opening. Paid GMs are obviously more reliable but the caveat is that paying players can be quicker to jump ship on a game because they know they can get into another paid game easily so games can still fall apart especially early on.

I definitely prefer Fantasy Grounds over Roll20, but that said Roll20 has a larger community and more paid games so you may have more luck finding games there.

Best of luck! You may have a false start or two but if you are willing to stick it out I think it will be worthwhile in the long run.
 

Zhaleskra

Explorer
Neutral. I used Roll20, but one concern is the lack of measurements if you don't use a square or hex grid.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
Neutral. I used Roll20, but one concern is the lack of measurements if you don't use a square or hex grid.
The ruler tool works without a grid, but you do have to make sure the size settings for the individual map line up with it, so unless you are using all the same map scales it will take a couple minutes per map.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
The ruler tool works without a grid, but you do have to make sure the size settings for the individual map line up with it, so unless you are using all the same map scales it will take a couple minutes per map.
I looked at Roll20 recently, and it had a lot of great features, but MapTool's ease of prep is what convinced me to stick with MT.
 

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