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View Full Version : Virtual Tabletops...Have you used them?



Tamerath
07-03-2009, 12:02 AM
So I didn't really have a clue where to post this, but seeing as I'm asking to get an online dnd game going I was wondering if any of you can help me out with some great advice.

I wanted to get a game started using a virtual gametable to connect several players together. The problem is that I have zero experience using software like this and there are so many programs out there. Some, I fear, require some experience in programming, or are just hard to use that I don't think some of my players would bite on that concept...

Some of the ones I was looking at include:
Fantasy Grounds 2
Maptool
Battlegrounds

Maptool is actually free but after sitting down with it I can't seem to wrap my brain around customizing it for my game (even after watching all the video tutorials)....

I was thinking that if Fantasy Grounds 2 or Battlegrounds (which aren't free in the market of 30 bucks...) that I'd actually give it a try if it was easy to use for both player and dm and wasn't hard to design a dnd game for.

So can anyone help me out here? Surely I'm know I'm not the first gamer that has past group members scattered throughout the globe, but I'm hoping that there is someone out there that has perfected on the concepts avaliable that I've seen so far...into a more user friendly interface.

rmckee78
07-03-2009, 12:56 AM
I have used all of them and Maptool is actually the easiest to use. Fantasy Grounds has a lot of cool options, but there is also a lot more stuff there to learn. Maptool does all the basic stuff really well and they keep adding more stuff all the time, like light sources. I would go with Maptool.

For all of them you are probably going to have to forward ports are your router and set a static IP address.

Tamerath
07-03-2009, 02:11 AM
So if I can ask...was it easier to start with Maptools and then switch over to something like Fantasy Grounds II? How much time did it take for the learning curve on it...especially with your players?

Q-man
07-03-2009, 06:39 AM
I've been using OpenRPG (http://penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php?b=444) pretty successfully for D&D campaigns. It includes a grid to display minis, a chat room with a dice roller, and the ability to create character sheets with calculations all inside the tool.

There are some quirks to the installer, but if you go with the one linked in my blog post its pretty easy to get running. I have a couple other posts (http://penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php?b=444) in my blog here that cover some of the features inside of the tool. I've been meaning to type up more but I've been lazy about it.

You shouldn't need any programming experience to use OpenRPG all of that work is done for you. The worst it has is writing macros for the character sheets, but thats entirely optional you can skip its character sheet feature and still play a game in there. You also don't need to play with any network settings for it to work.

If you have any questions about it I'm more than willing to offer what answers I can. If you want we can meet up in an OpenRPG room to go over them there, just let me know.

I should mention that when I see online games being posted in the Campaign Invitations forum they seem to use map tools more often, so it might be the more popular one here. I haven't used it yet, so I can't say which is better.

korhal23
07-03-2009, 09:13 AM
I use MapTool myself. What game in particular are you trying to run?

Arkhemedes
07-03-2009, 09:59 AM
Tamerath and I have been discussing a D&D Ravenloft game. I told him I'd be joining you in your Spycraft game and that I could hopefully learn some things there. But he's the one doing the real footwork on the maptools thing.

Q-man
07-03-2009, 10:20 AM
How much time did it take for the learning curve on it...especially with your players?

When we started our most recent campaign in OpenRPG I was the only one who was familiar with it. The DM and 4 PC's needed to learn it.

What we did was run a quick dungeon of 3 encounters in there, took us two sessions to get through them since we paused a lot to figure out how to do it in the tool. After that we were set and into the real campaign.

The ramp up time for players is pretty quick. Then just need to learn how to type in chat and click and drag their mini on the screen. The DM has a bit more work to do since their preparations are a little different. The DM will need to track down the appropriate images for the map background/terrain as well as any enemies the party will be facing. Then they have to position them on the map grid and save that layout for when the encounter happens. You'll also need to create the necessary aliases or impersonations in order to speak as the NPC's in chat. Its not really any more difficult tahn preparing for a game on a real tabletop, just how you go about it is a little different.
--- Merged from Double Post ---
Also, I finally grabbed a copy of MapTools this morning and was poking around in it. The install is a little cleaner than OpenRPG, and the interface looks a lot prettier. The two tools seem to differ drastically in how they handle things.

The chat and grid for the maps are basically the same, but all the other pieces are very different.

I haven't actually done anything with MapTools so I'm hesitant to do an actual comparison between the two. I'd be biased towards OpenRPG since I'm more comfortable with it and I know most of the tricks. I wonder if anyone would be interested in running a quick dungeon delve in there? I'd offer to DM it since I'd like to see how the tool really works, but the players would need to tolerate me fumbling around looking for the controls.

Arkhemedes
07-03-2009, 10:37 AM
I'd be interested if we could pick a good time. As I've said we're trying to learn this stuff as well so we can get a campaign of our own going.

Q-man
07-03-2009, 10:59 AM
For me, Monday and Thursday evenings as well as weekends would work. Actually since I'm still stuck at home for another month my time is pretty flexible. We'd only need two or three players for it, so it should be too hard to arrange.

Arkhemedes
07-03-2009, 11:35 AM
Mondays would be tricky but not completely unworkable. Thursdays depend entirely on Korhal23's Spycraft game which I am committed to and which ever night that takes place on. Weekend nights are completely open however.

Tamerath
07-03-2009, 03:43 PM
Hey everyone, thanks for the help...I really needed it. So in response to Korhal


I use MapTool myself. What game in particular are you trying to run?

What I'd really love to do is run a 3.5 or 4th Edition D&D game on there...I saw something about frameworks...but I couldn't figure out how to manipulate the framework from inside Map Tools...also I have a question about maps...would it be possible to scan (for instance) maps from published sources (Dungeon Delve, Keep on the Shadowfell, etc.) turn them into an image file and use it for the background layer instead of actually designing a map?


I haven't actually done anything with MapTools so I'm hesitant to do an actual comparison between the two. I'd be biased towards OpenRPG since I'm more comfortable with it and I know most of the tricks. I wonder if anyone would be interested in running a quick dungeon delve in there? I'd offer to DM it since I'd like to see how the tool really works, but the players would need to tolerate me fumbling around looking for the controls.

I'm up for it...anything that'd give me a chance to play around with it and figure it out (especially with people that could guide me through it or would be easy on a newbie with a million questions). I'm open most of the week so whatever works best for you all.

Also I have a question about voice chat programs...do you use them with online games? I'd imagine it'd work better but since I gave up on my World of Warcraft guild running I dropped my ventrillo account as well...what are some good free ones we can use?...if you use any at all...

Q-man
07-03-2009, 04:44 PM
I have a question about maps...would it be possible to scan (for instance) maps from published sources (Dungeon Delve, Keep on the Shadowfell, etc.) turn them into an image file and use it for the background layer instead of actually designing a map?

Yes you can do that. I know for a fact OpenRPG permits it, and from the little I've done with MapTools it appears to allow it as well.

One thing you'll want to keep in mind is the format of the image. Bitmaps (.BMP files) are fairly large files, so transferring them across to all the players might be a bit rough. JPG and GIF files are much smaller, so if your scanning software allows it save in that format. If it doesn't you should look into some tool that will conver it for you.


Also I have a question about voice chat programs...do you use them with online games? I'd imagine it'd work better but since I gave up on my World of Warcraft guild running I dropped my ventrillo account as well...what are some good free ones we can use?...if you use any at all...

In our online games we use voice chat as well as the chat room. Our standing rule has been that in character stuff is done in the chat. Any out of character discussions are done via the voice chat.

Theres two reason for that rule. First OpenRPG will save the chat log, and having a transcript of the in character game session is pretty handy at times. Second we use ventrilo for voice chat, and it works very poorly when two people are talking at once. Rather than having to take figure out who's saying what we keep the important dialog in chat.

Inquisitor Tremayne
07-04-2009, 10:48 AM
I have been trying to get maptools to work for the past month and no success.

Q-man
07-04-2009, 10:55 AM
Where exactly is the problem you're having with it? Getting it installed and running, or connecting to a game in order to play?

Look at me, used it for 2 days tops and already acting like I know stuff :rolleyes:

Doom Crow
07-04-2009, 08:39 PM
An old group of mine used FantasyGrounds for an adventure a few years ago, and it took us 3 hours to get through one simple combat session! It was a dreadful experience because my players were not the greatest typers, people kept going afk when it came for their turn to roll around, and others couldn't grasp the controls for the program. All in all it was a bad time but it was our first time using the program so I can't judge all virtual tabletops just by one bad session. I'm sure the next time I attempt to use something of that nature, now that this technology has advanced significantly.

Q-man
07-07-2009, 04:21 PM
Ok I had forgotten about the delve I was offering to run in there. Assuming there's still folks interested we should get that started!

I'm thinking either Wednesday or Saturday night would work fine. I'm going to suggest 6PM Eastern time; we'll go until we're comfortable with the tool, or the delve ends. Have some level 1 characters ready to go, and we'll start by getting them built in MapTool.

If that time doesn't work suggest another and I'll try to adjust around it if I can.

korhal23
07-07-2009, 05:09 PM
You talking tomorrow? If so, I can probably show up and help out a bit if you'd like. Saturday's a no go, however.

Q-man
07-07-2009, 05:27 PM
Yeah I was thinking tomorrow. Its just a few encounters, shouldn't require to much prep work.

nijineko
07-08-2009, 02:53 PM
gametable (http://gametable.mornproductions.com) also has worth while features.

Arkhemedes
07-08-2009, 04:53 PM
Hey, I just now found out about this trial run. What do I have to? Where do I go?

Q-man
07-08-2009, 05:31 PM
Guess I should have given a bit more notice. I didn't actually create the game since i didn't hear anything back in time, sorry about that. Half a day isn't enough for many people to notice that its happening.

So I'll postpone it until Saturday 8PM Eastern time. Its still not the best notice but better than the next day. You'll have to download MapTool and get it running. Then on Saturday connect to a server rpg.mindlence.com port 51234. That'll be the game I'm hosting. I'll go over as much of the DM prep stuff and mechanics as you guys can bear. Then we'll go through a couple of encounters to see how that works and we'll call it a night.

Arkhemedes
07-08-2009, 05:38 PM
Cool. Sounds good with me.

korhal23
07-08-2009, 06:10 PM
I'd help out, but I'm going to be out of town Saturday night. Best of luck though :)

WhiskeyFur
07-09-2009, 02:32 PM
I think what would work better is a combination of software. OpenRPG or gametable, and a voice server so folks can actually talk to each other instead of typing it out. that way too if the connection is clear enough, that the GM can (if he's techie enough) use voice changers to actually sound a bit closer to the NPC he's emulating, or use sound clips like a roar just before that werewolf lord charges the players...

korhal23
07-09-2009, 04:19 PM
Typically when using a VTT and voice, you type in character and speak in the voice server out of character. You can integrate sounds into most VTTs (more trouble than they're worth), but voice changers are not such a good idea. Plus typing lets you have a transcript of the IC stuff and the rolls, which is always useful.

Q-man
07-11-2009, 07:57 PM
Well the server's up (been up actually), so far as I know. No one's connected, so its possible I got something wrong. Mythbusters is on, so I'm entertained. I'll hang out for a bit longer.

Arkhemedes
07-11-2009, 08:59 PM
Sorry Q-man. I tried to make it but I've been trying for half the day to get Maptools going over here. Not having any luck. My computer has issues and I'm not the most knowledgeable for sure. I'll keep trying. If I can't get this thing going I may have to bow out of Korhal's Spycraft thing on Thursday. I even bought a Spycraft book for it. Aargh!

Arkhemedes
07-12-2009, 05:25 PM
Alright, I got Maptools up and running. Yea for me! Now I guess I need to figure what to do with this new headset I bought so I can do Voice Chat.