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Thread: Virtual Tabletop for 4e

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    Virtual Tabletop for 4e

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    I'm looking for some advice from anyone who has experience with some of the various virtual tabletops out there, mainly Fantasy Grounds 2 and D20Pro but I am open to anything that is easy to use.

    I just accepted a job about 1000 miles from my gaming group and my players don't want the game to die but I am the DM. I'm looking into keeping the game alive via virtual gaming interspersed with the occasional marathon in person session when I am home for a visit.

    I have heard about the DDI Virtual Table but with no release date or pricing details I am reluctant to just wait for it.

    Both Fantasy Grounds 2 and D20Pro look excellent but I am curious how they integrate with 4e. We aren't rules experts by any means so rules integration would speed us up but isn't necessary as we were getting along just fine on the table top. I have been searching the web for reviews to no avail so I turn to you fine people once again for advice.

    Fantasy Grounds 2 seems to be more expensive but if the integration is better would certainly be worth it.

    Which would you recommend for a novice D&D group?

    Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Struggle Against the Empire Character: Deak Alder


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    The WotC virtual tabletop is probably going to be your best bet in terms of integration. The problem is that when I say 'going to be' thats definitely future tense. As far as I know none of the integration is done yet. The cost will likely also be a sticking point, I suspect that it will be attached to their DDI subscription which makes it a monthly fee to use.

    Fantasy Grounds has some integration, but I've never used it. From what I understand it will give you a full character sheet that you fill in. Once thats done it will calculate the modifiers and make all your attack rolls just take a button click. I've never actually used it so I can't say for certain. At the time I wasn't about to pay $25 just to see how it works.

    My personal choice is MapTools, as far as I can tell its mapping abilities far exceed anything else out there. That said, most of these features are overkill and not used very often. Its scripting features are also pretty awesome and allow you to create the same forms that you would get out of Fantasy Grounds. Fortunately some folks have already built macro frameworks to take care of this for you; for example this one. Again I haven't used those, being a bit of a computer geek I decided to make my own which I'd be willing to share if you're interested.


    If you're ok with paying for the integration in Fantasy Grounds, then go that route. It ought to be ready to go straight out of the box and cause the least hassles. If you don't mind fiddling around with the MapTool macros and frameworks then they might be worth a look. Seeing as how all the MapTools stuff is free anyway, you might see how daunting that will be before buying Fantasy Grounds.

    I suppose once WotC finishes their tabletop it'll be worth a look as well. Since it'll import characters straight from their character builder, you won't be able to get much easier in getting everything built and ready to go. The real sticking point will be how they price it once its complete.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grazak View Post
    I'm looking for some advice from anyone who has experience with some of the various virtual tabletops out there, mainly Fantasy Grounds 2 and D20Pro but I am open to anything that is easy to use.
    This "Guide to Choosing a Virtual Tabletop" might help you make an informed decision.

    Be aware that FG2 is a Windows-only program. If anyone in your gaming group uses a Mac, you might be better served by a cross-platform program.

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    That's a good point. Both the WotC tabletop and MapTools are written in Java so they'll work just about anywhere.

    It might also be worth saying that the WotC tabletop will include voice chat, whereas with all the others you'll need to use skype or ventrilo or something similar to add voice.

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    I've been running 4e D&D for about a year and a half using MapTool. I haven't really had a chance to compare it to anything else; it fit the main requirements for me:

    • It is free and does not require any sort of registration or login.
    • It's easy to "install" - just download it and run.
    • It can be used by players with either PCs or Macs.
    • One of my players already had experience with it and gave us a tutoring session.
    • It has nice text chat, initiative tracking, dice rolling, and macros.
    • It has a useful suite of related utilities, particularly TokenTool.
    • Customization is relatively easy. (I'm a bit of a minimalist and try to do as little as possible to get by, so I really haven't pushed the boundaries on this at all.)
    • Last, but most important, my players accepted it gracefully.

    I did find some drawbacks:

    • Some people (including me) have difficulty running servers, presumably due to firewall issues.
    • The "mapping" part only works when there's already a map. In other words, it's a tool to run maps, not create maps. The drawing tools are very primitive. I was originally under the mistaken impression that with a name like "MapTool," it would help me create maps from scratch.
    • It's not all that stable - bugs and/or crashes occur at least one each session. Fortunately we haven't experienced any outright data corruption with saved files yet - that would be a deal-breaker. Development is continuing and active, but also runs the risk of introducing new bugs.

    For me, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and I have no plans to replace MapTool with any other resource in the near future. I will be curious about the WoTC tabletop, but I have a suspicion (maybe already confirmed; I haven't followed up on it) that it would require some kind of membership, perhaps a subscription to D&D Insider, which I don't wish to make a requirement for my players, or myself.

    By the way, I strictly run my games as text chat-only. One of the great reliefs of online gaming is that I no longer have to give myself self-inflicted sore throats. Also, text chat preserves a log of the gaming session, something that has come in handy more than once. Therefore, the issue of voice-chat integration doesn't play a role in my decisions. It may be different for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umiushi View Post
    It can be used by players with either PCs or Macs.
    It runs on Linux too, thats where I host my games from. Though I doubt thats of any real concern.


    Quote Originally Posted by Umiushi View Post
    The "mapping" part only works when there's already a map. In other words, it's a tool to run maps, not create maps. The drawing tools are very primitive. I was originally under the mistaken impression that with a name like "MapTool," it would help me create maps from scratch.
    Drawing the maps in MapTools doesn't work, as you said its drawing tools aren't the best. The intention is to image files of maps, or map pieces, and drop them onto the grid to create the map. There's a ton of places to get free images of maps to use. I've found that by scanning in Dungeon Tiles and positioning them in MapTool you can get enough variety.

    Quote Originally Posted by Umiushi View Post
    It's not all that stable - bugs and/or crashes occur at least one each session. Fortunately we haven't experienced any outright data corruption with saved files yet - that would be a deal-breaker. Development is continuing and active, but also runs the risk of introducing new bugs.
    Really? I've actually never seen it crash. I've run into a few other bugs, but nothing nearly that serious.

    Quote Originally Posted by Umiushi View Post
    By the way, I strictly run my games as text chat-only. One of the great reliefs of online gaming is that I no longer have to give myself self-inflicted sore throats. Also, text chat preserves a log of the gaming session, something that has come in handy more than once. Therefore, the issue of voice-chat integration doesn't play a role in my decisions. It may be different for you.
    I love having the chat log! It sucks to come up with an awesome twist during the session for the group, and then later on forgetting what it was. The chat log won't have the entire idea, but at least knowing what you said to your players is a great reminder.

    My group still uses voice chat during the sessions, Ventrilo specifically, but thats just for out of character stuff. We stick with typing for everything in character. First of all the chat log is great to reference later, but mostly because there's no question what was said, you just scroll up through the chat window and you can find out for sure.

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