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D&D General Your Thoughts on LoS, Dynamic Lighting on VTTs

Retreater

Legend
Since moving exclusively to VTTs for gaming in 2020 and the foreseeable future, I've been trying to provide a better experience online. For the past several months I've been using Line of Sight/Fog of War/Dynamic Lighting to reveal areas of the map to individual players only as their characters can see the areas.
This has had the effect of making it so players can't see what's going on in the adventure unless they're actually in the room. It's more realistic, but I feel like it might be causing the players to be disengaged in what's going on when their player isn't in a certain area when the rest of the party is.
I also feel like it is slowing down the game as each player inches forward to uncover a bit at a time.
Do you like dynamic lighting as a player on a VTT? As a GM do you use it?
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yep. Dynamic lighting on VTTs is an extremely cool concept that quickly becomes a huge time sink to prep, only to result in exactly the problems you describe - slowdown as players move around gradually reveal the map, and disengaging when they can’t see what’s going on. It can also result in an increasing reliance on the visual aid of the dynamically lit map over narrative description. All in my opinion of course. There are folks who swear by it, but it just isn’t for me.
 

As a player, I like it when it's being used, but I find it to be a small improvement at best. I don't like how it hides the areas you've already been to - I would prefer if it worked like a RTS game where explored areas stay mapped but you can't see sprites/tokens.

As a dm, setting up dynamic lighting on roll20 is way too much work to be worth it. (But I get the impression that this isn't true of Foundry, and I don't know about any other VTTs)

Edit to add: if someone was selling fully-set-up maps, I would consider paying money for that. It's a giant time savings.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yes, I like dynamic lighting as a player and use it as a DM. I find it works best in enclosed environments like a dungeon rather than in the wilds (e.g. trees or ruined walls in a forest or the like). As far as some players being able to see more than others given their positioning, if the game is sufficiently fast-paced, this isn't really much of an issue in my experience. A character looks into the room or whatever, nothing obviously dangerous stands out, the whole party enters. If everyone is sitting statically for a long period of time, maybe consider why that is and correct for it. I'm not really sure what you mean by players inching forward to "uncover a bit at a time." The most common complaint I hear with regard to VTT play is that the players are moving their characters all over the place in a way that is disruptive to the DM describing the environment. Perhaps you could elaborate.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
As a player, I like it when it's being used, but I find it to be a small improvement at best. I don't like how it hides the areas you've already been to - I would prefer if it worked like a RTS game where explored areas stay mapped but you can't see sprites/tokens.

As a dm, setting up dynamic lighting on roll20 is way too much work to be worth it. (But I get the impression that this isn't true of Foundry, and I don't know about any other VTTs)

Edit to add: if someone was selling fully-set-up maps, I would consider paying money for that. It's a giant time savings.
You can use advanced fog of war on Roll20 to get what you prefer. And you can buy map packs that already have the dynamic lighting set up.
 

Retreater

Legend
As a dm, setting up dynamic lighting on roll20 is way too much work to be worth it. (But I get the impression that this isn't true of Foundry, and I don't know about any other VTTs)

Edit to add: if someone was selling fully-set-up maps, I would consider paying money for that. It's a giant time savings.
I don't mind taking the extra time to do it. In fact, I find it kind of relaxing and do it for fun just to see what maps would look like in Roll20.
I believe there are some map packs on there that might already have dynamic lighting put in. Could be wrong though.
 

Retreater

Legend
Yes, I like dynamic lighting as a player and use it as a DM. I find it works best in enclosed environments like a dungeon rather than in the wilds (e.g. trees or ruined walls in a forest or the like). As far as some players being able to see more than others given their positioning, if the game is sufficiently fast-paced, this isn't really much of an issue in my experience. A character looks into the room or whatever, nothing obviously dangerous stands out, the whole party enters. If everyone is sitting statically for a long period of time, maybe consider why that is and correct for it. I'm not really sure what you mean by players inching forward to "uncover a bit at a time." The most common complaint I hear with regard to VTT play is that the players are moving their characters all over the place in a way that is disruptive to the DM describing the environment. Perhaps you could elaborate.
The feeling is that they are moving more like their characters might in a real situation than when a battlemat is shown on a table in person. If they can't see what's going on, or that they lose sight of other characters, they will go back, regroup, discuss what's ahead, etc. Which is fine, it just goes more slowly than in a face-to-face game at times.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The feeling is that they are moving more like their characters might in a real situation than when a battlemat is shown on a table in person. If they can't see what's going on, or that they lose sight of other characters, they will go back, regroup, discuss what's ahead, etc. Which is fine, it just goes more slowly than in a face-to-face game at times.
That's odd. Online play in my experience is in every way faster than face-to-face games, provided the group has some experience with the VTT (and nobody has any computer or internet issues).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yes, I like dynamic lighting as a player and use it as a DM. I find it works best in enclosed environments like a dungeon rather than in the wilds (e.g. trees or ruined walls in a forest or the like). As far as some players being able to see more than others given their positioning, if the game is sufficiently fast-paced, this isn't really much of an issue in my experience. A character looks into the room or whatever, nothing obviously dangerous stands out, the whole party enters.
How do you consistently insure the bolded section happens?
If everyone is sitting statically for a long period of time, maybe consider why that is and correct for it. I'm not really sure what you mean by players inching forward to "uncover a bit at a time." The most common complaint I hear with regard to VTT play is that the players are moving their characters all over the place in a way that is disruptive to the DM describing the environment. Perhaps you could elaborate.
In my experience the “slowdown” comes from players kind of stutter-stepping with their tokens, moving ahead a few squares at a time to see what’s further down the hall, or as you say, having their tokens dance around randomly to try and get a clear view of something. For example, a character might open a door and be unable to see the entire room, so they move side to side to shine their sight arc around the room and see what’s in it instead of just stepping inside like you say they do in your games.

It’s not a huge slowdown, but it shifts focus towards trying to get a clear view of the map instead of paying attention to the DM’s narration. I’ve experienced this from both sides of the screen, both having to repeat myself as a DM because the players were more concerned with trying to see the map than listing, and as a player myself, unconsciously tuning out the DM’s description as I look at what’s going on on the map. Especially if the descriptions frequently don’t contain information I couldn’t have gleaned from the visual aid.
 

cmad1977

Hero
You can use advanced fog of war on Roll20 to get what you prefer. And you can buy map packs that already have the dynamic lighting set up.

You can also create a token with vision and make hay emits light that is controlled by all members of the party. This allows the group to drop a little token behind them that provides light(i set mine to dim light) and grants vision to everyone in places that the heroes have been.

The advanced fog of war does this but I have had issues with its implementation(could just be me) and found this trick works well.

Another important thing IMO is to put ALL the tokens on the map on the GM layer so the game isn’t calculating the vision of every NPC on the map at once.

I also don’t bother with making things like pillars or boulders block sight. If a monster is hidden behind the pillar, it’s on the GM layer. This lets the players see the room in all its magnificence. Most people will understand that while THEY can see all the pillars in the room, the heroes cannot.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
It depends on a lot on how you do it. I've used the roll20 implimentation where players can quickly scrub their token around to see whatever they want in a way that results in jus being annoying to everyone while at other times I've used other FoW systems in other VTTs that required the players to say they want to move here & the gm to move their tokens making for a more interesting experience with mystery & the unknown. That second is helped a little by things like "you aren't sure, but with your perception are pretty sure the bad guy is somewhere around here" & so on.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
How do you consistently insure the bolded section happens?

In my experience the “slowdown” comes from players kind of stutter-stepping with their tokens, moving ahead a few squares at a time to see what’s further down the hall, or as you say, having their tokens dance around randomly to try and get a clear view of something. For example, a character might open a door and be unable to see the entire room, so they move side to side to shine their sight arc around the room and see what’s in it instead of just stepping inside like you say they do in your games.

It’s not a huge slowdown, but it shifts focus towards trying to get a clear view of the map instead of paying attention to the DM’s narration. I’ve experienced this from both sides of the screen, both having to repeat myself as a DM because the players were more concerned with trying to see the map than listing, and as a player myself, unconsciously tuning out the DM’s description as I look at what’s going on on the map. Especially if the descriptions frequently don’t contain information I couldn’t have gleaned from the visual aid.
Re: the bolded, I have players that Get Stuff Done (with incentives accordingly) and who trust that I'm telegraphing anything bad.
 


I also don’t bother with making things like pillars or boulders block sight. If a monster is hidden behind the pillar, it’s on the GM layer. This lets the players see the room in all its magnificence. Most people will understand that while THEY can see all the pillars in the room, the heroes cannot.

I like this. It's causing me to rethink how I'm currently doing lighting in Roll20.

In our new campaign, we're playing around with the new Updated Dynamic Lighting on Roll20. While we've only had three sessions, I think I'm leaning towards activating "Explorer Mode" (previously called Advanced Fog of War as @iserith mentioned above). IMO, it kind of accounts for the characters mapping/remembering what an area looks like while not worrying about the "realism" of seeing through walls. Where @cmad1977's idea helps me is that I can add monsters on the GM layer in those already discovered areas so they are not seen by the players. The next time the PCs go in - pop - a new baddie is there... once I quickly and deftly (yeah, right, if I'm lucky!) bring them to that layer, that is!
 

Nebulous

Legend
I have experimented a LOT with Roll20 dynamic lighting the past year. I've found that it is best used sparingly, and as someone else mentioned, in a dungeon setting. I've also found it best to MIX up maps, for example, sometimes don't use the lighting at all, or switch to fog of war and clear it room by room, and sometimes yes you do want dynamic lighting enabled so that as players creep forward it ebbs away. I have my D&D game currently set exactly how I want it. Players with darkvision tell me where they are looking and I'll clear the fog, leaving everything in shades of black and white, as darkvision does. Sources of light flicker and show color, so when they are creeping through a dungeon environment it is about as close to the real thing as I can get, and the effect is stupendous. Seeing crap in shades of gray is not that fun and they are scared of what they CAN'T see. Perception checks are disadvantage too, and all of this is stuff that can't be recreated at the table in real life, just by imagination.

The immersion factor is great, but again, I would not use it all the time and not for every map. It can be very annoying in a brightly lit map to have huge blocks of black created by pillars or doors or walls blocking line of sight.

f5WwFY4.jpg
 

It depends on a lot on how you do it. I've used the roll20 implimentation where players can quickly scrub their token around to see whatever they want in a way that results in jus being annoying to everyone while at other times I've used other FoW systems in other VTTs that required the players to say they want to move here & the gm to move their tokens making for a more interesting experience with mystery & the unknown. That second is helped a little by things like "you aren't sure, but with your perception are pretty sure the bad guy is somewhere around here" & so on.
As I'm sure you are aware, but I'll mention it for the other Roll20 novices out there (myself included, despite having played on it since last March), you can solve for the "players can quickly scrub their token around to see whatever they want" issue by using the "Update when Token Drop" feature. That way there's no "scrubbing" going on. That, and setting the expectation that players should not move their tokens until asked to do so. Which is kinda basic playing-in-good-faith style.
 

Nebulous

Legend
As a player, I like it when it's being used, but I find it to be a small improvement at best. I don't like how it hides the areas you've already been to - I would prefer if it worked like a RTS game where explored areas stay mapped but you can't see sprites/tokens.

As a dm, setting up dynamic lighting on roll20 is way too much work to be worth it. (But I get the impression that this isn't true of Foundry, and I don't know about any other VTTs)

Edit to add: if someone was selling fully-set-up maps, I would consider paying money for that. It's a giant time savings.

You can set the maps to stay revealed. It's annoying when it turns black again, but it is a setting. Roll20 doesn't make it easy to figure out though, some convoluted bullcrap. But when it works it works well. Foundry is probably better, but I haven't invested the time to learn it yet.

And any premade adventure you buy on the Roll20 Market usually has all the dynamic lighting done for you.
 

Nebulous

Legend
As I'm sure you are aware, but I'll mention it for the other Roll20 novices out there (myself included, despite having played on it since last March), you can solve for the "players can quickly scrub their token around to see whatever they want" issue by using the "Update when Token Drop" feature. That way there's no "scrubbing" going on. That, and setting the expectation that players should not move their tokens until asked to do so. Which is kinda basic playing-in-good-faith style.
Yes, and a dynamic lighting setting where you can't drag tokens through walls. Cheating players are easy to thwart :).
 

Nebulous

Legend
FYI, that map above is one I made myself. The original block of art was, um, maybe 10x8? I don't know, but I turned the tiles around and inverted them and stuck together to form a huge, HUGE maze. The webs were all added by hand, thoughtfully arranged and draped and overlapping. There's tons of corpses hanging in the webs too. Then I went through and added the dynamic lighting walls. I've used that same map for two different games, Dungeon World and D&D, and each has been completely different. Having someone carry a torch or dancing lights actually MATTERS. Snuffing that source of light can also throw a non-darkvision character into serious trouble, and the evil DM gets to uncheck "Has Sight" on the PC token.
 

Nebulous

Legend
revealed areas stay revealed, but shaded out. Players can't see tokens but you CAN see anything embedded on the map layer. This was a flooded basement level of varying degrees of depth, and short PCs were in over their head.

In this map there are NO dynamic lighting walls. Players COULD drag a token all over the map, but Fog of War is on so they'd only see black.

ii4BIAB.jpg
 

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