When I actually started to play RPGs we (as in the group and I) had to book the dining room table in order to play, since it generally meant it would be out of action for the majority of the day! Coupled with this, I remember having boxes of dungeon tiles, small drawers full of painted metal figures, a DM screen and adventure log and a piece of perspex which was where the action took place! The latter would be placed ontop of a hand drawn square grid which I actually covered with that sticky back plastic – so there were several wrinkles all over! Coupled with a huge tub of dice, that generally made up the tools of the trade for my DMing. But now things have definitely changed. No dining room table, no DM screen and no piece of perspex! Instead these familiar items have been replaced with programs which run on the internet and bring the gaming group together. I always like to research what is available and then I find that writing a blog post allows me to clarify my thoughts before purchasing – so here is that blog post!
Roll20 – Since starting to DM again, I started to use Roll20 for my online games. The reason for this was because it was free and that it would actually host the chat and video feeds as well. After a few gaming sessions when the video died on us I got so frustrated that I purchased Zoom to host the cams and audio. Whenever you have a free version of anything when a paid/premium version is available, you suddenly find that you need all the features of the premium package and I soon found myself paying for a pro Roll20 account. So why do I use Roll20 at the moment? Well first up is the generic nature of the system. Although I have played D&D 5e, I tend to play minor league games rather than the main ones. Because of this I really need a generic program which allows me to play these minor league games. Roll20 is very generic and even if there is no actual character sheet available for the game, the dice roller still allows for any system to work. The marketplace has a range of floor plans to buy and download and the players don’t need to purchase anything, just have an internet browser open and ready to join the game. Although Roll20 does have modules available, unfortunately that don’t have any for the games I actually play so I am not able to utilise this function of the site, although if I actually do get into Starfinder, I know they have a deal with Paizo, so there might be some coming.
Realm Works – I’ve always wanted to share my world with players and also have somewhere where I can put all the information about the game and link everything together. Too often I end up DMing on the fly, create something and then forget about it until one of the ever vigilant players bring up the name/object again. Since buying Realm Works it has definitely taken over from my google drive system for my adventures and campaigns. As long as the sheet is created, Realm Works will always automatically create hyperlinks to it when the word is used. This means that you usually have to create things back to front, e.g. all the NPCs first before the encounters, but once you have done this everything links together seamlessly. Players can buy their own version and then I can share maps, stat blocks, information and plot lines with them at a touch of button. The system is synced to cloud based storage so I hope I will never lose anything. The only downside about it, is that it is stored on one computer so I have sacrificed the mobility of google drive for the other features. Although you cannot buy modules specifically created for Realm Works, You can transfer the information from pdfs into the system which then works very well. Currently this is the system I use for all the campaign notes and I must say it is going well.
Fantasy Grounds – This seems to be a really powerful program and I have noticed that more and more people are using it. It actually requires everyone in the group to have the software and, if the DM hasn’t paid for the Ultimate! version, the players might have to purchase it in order to use the system. When you actually learn the system, apparently it can be quite a steep learning curve, then it does almost everything for you and is more than just a gaming platform. Within the system, you can create your own campaigns, adding maps and encounters straight to the system. There are also some pre-made modules for the program so that adventures can just be imported and delivered straight from it – reinforcing the tagline of the program – ‘Prep Less, Play more’. I’m not sure how the system actually works technically, although I do know that I had to open a port which seems really complicated. However, the most disappointed factor of the program is the lack of versatility. The system appears to be set up and contains the ruleset for a certain number of games but if you are not playing these games then the program doesn’t appear to have much to offer. I was once chatting in the twitch channel to the people and when I mentioned the games I play I received the comment – ‘We have nothing for you…”. There does, however, appear to be a large range of resources for the program including rule books, modules and additional supplements. I think the main advantage of Fantasy Grounds would be that it would actually be my DMing program and my ‘creation’ program all in one rather than having two separate programs. Also the system does a lot more within the game, rather than just rolling dice, for example I really like the ability to make cones for spell effects etc. If I was actually playing the games which Fantasy Grounds supported then I would probably have been using it from the start, although the lack of generic capacity means that moving to the system would actually mean I would be prepping more, rather than less.
Fantasy Grounds is the only system which I haven’t actually played/DMed with and you might think that this presents a biased point of view, but really, until they actually support the games I play/DM I am not keen on purchasing the system in order to explore it beyond the evaluation copy. I guess I could just start to play all the games they support but I’m never one to be told what to do…
As always, I am really interested to know which systems you use and why and whether you have any hints or tips for me, so please feel free to add them in the comments below.
So, until next time, remember to be who you are and say what you feel because the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind. Have fun and I’ll catch you all later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!