Which one? Roll20 vs Fantasy Grounds

Before you wonder…

No, I’m not going to enter the great debate about the banning of people from the Reddit or the ‘5 white guy comment’, although it was probably both of these which made me rethink which platform I go with. I wrote a blog post some time ago about Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds but I have yet again come to point that I want to compare the two major RPG platforms online and, by blogging about it, hopefully come to some decision which one I want to use.

Games I play

One thing I really like about Roll20 is the range of games you can actually play on the system. I tend to play quite minor league games – e.g. Mythras, Shadowrun, Starfinder and Call of Cthulhu so I have been happy with Roll20 as long as there is a character sheet to match my game. Although I have played 5e D&D before, it is not one of my regular systems – but it does appear that many of the features for Fantasy Ground are based on specific games. Yes, I know there are rulesets such as CoreRPG and MoreCore, but these would require quite a bit of work to actually implement and even then, they have areas such as ‘Hit Points’ which do not feature in some of my games – Mythras has hit points per location and Shadowrun has two condition monitor tracks. It is not only the character sheet which aare game specific, I’m not sure whether I could do much with things like the combat tracker for my games, apart from the order of attacking – which is readily available in Roll20.

Less Automation

When I started to play RPGs there was no computers – so we rolled everything and had to remember which dice to roll when. Sometimes I wonder whether or not the character sheets on Roll20 actually makes the dice rolls too easy. On the Mythras sheet you press a button for initiative – do we actually know which dice this is? Even I need to try to remember. Also, calculations like encumbrance are actually done automatically – which means that people not only trust these, but also rely on them. It could be that if I moved some of the games to Fantasy Grounds, players would need to be more involved in what and when to roll things – is this a good thing or not, I’m not sure – although one of my players commented;

I’m down for learning the system (aka writing all my skills with very easy through Herculean on my paper character sheet)

Maybe, removing some of the automation would actually provide more understanding of the game mechanics.

Rules and Modules

Both platforms have the availability of purchasing ruleset. I’m actually quite excited about some of the rulesets which Fantasy Grounds provides – Call of Cthulhu and Starfinder are already on my list of games, but games like RoleMaster, Mutants and Masterminds and even Traveller feature high on my list to play – even Deadlands sounds appealing. Although you can buy rulesets for Roll20, they appear to be more D&D and Pathfinder focused. Modules are also available on both platforms. I’ve never actually purchased a module on either, but I would be interested how these actually work and it would certainly save me some time prepping for sessions since maps, tokens and descriptions are provided, rather than me having to create everything.

Campaigns

Away from modules, campaigns are next on my list. I tend to use RealmWorks for campaign creation, mainly due to its ability to link everything together – really useful when players want to ask the NPC from the first ever adventure a question! Roll20 doesn’t have the ability to create modules/adventure within it, although Fantasy Grounds does. However, I am wondering whether I really need this option due to my use of RealmWorks. Using only one would of course mean that I don’t have to pay for the second.

‘Suck it and see’

My conclusion at the moment, even after writing this blog post, is that I’m undecided. I can see advantages for both platforms and really I should try and use Fantasy Grounds before I actually pass judgement about it. Maybe, and it is just a maybe, I should DM/play some of the games which the system was actually developed for in order to see how it works, rather than judging it on a system that I need to create a ruleset for. Anyway, let me know which system you use, both game and platform and why you use it – I need all the help I can to make my mind up! Comments are open!

3 Comments

  • Lord Entrails

    What was the purpose of this post? It’s absolutely useless and basically the same thing you said back in May. You start off stating you are trying to compare two competing products, and you end by stating that you actually haven’t even tried to use one of the products!

    As you know, you can use the basic functions of Roll20 for free. And you can use the advanced features if you pay.

    You can try out FG for free (but you can’t use DLC and you can’t save), or you can buy what you want to test on FG and then get a full refund if you decide within 30 days it’s not for you.

    If you are serious about comparing the 2, then go buy a subscription or one time license of FG. Read the user guide, watch a video or two, and ask from help on the forums or FG College. Install MoreCore, download the character sheets for the systems you want to explore, or ask for help creating a new one if you find a system that doesn’t have one.

    • admin

      Hi Lord Entrails,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read not one of my blog posts but two and your expertise on not only the subject of the post but your comparison. This is the first comment I have had for a while and, as you pointed out, this is probably due to my overall lack of writing skill. I always say “Give out generously, give in graciously but never give up’ so I will be taking all your feedback onboard in preparation for future blog posts.

      I realise now, after reading your feedback, that I maybe should have made some additional points clear at the start of this comparison. I have a pro account for Roll20 and in order to prepare for this post I did download the free copy of Fantasy Grounds and the More Core extension which you mention. However, I felt this provided an unfair advantage for Roll20 so I purchased the Ultimate package for Fantasy Ground so that I had full access to the full program. As for advice suggesting I engage with the FG community- you can see that I posted the following comment on the forums some time ago (https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/showthread.php?43553-Shadowrun-5e-Mythras) which pointed me in the direction of the MoreCore extension.
      As for user guides and videos – I spent time watching not only the FG ones on YouTube but also content by Taking 20 (especially Cody’s comparison of the two systems) and several by the Digital Dungeon Master (if you need the links to these then please let me know). I also tweeted about it some time ago, although sadly I cannot find this tweet in order to provide the appropriate evidence of the event.

      I hope this provides you with some additional information and apologies for not making this clear at the start of this post. As you pointed out – I have lots to learn about blog writing!

      Thank you once again for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.

      Inwils

  • Lord Entrails

    Glad to hear you found my response helpful. It’s always easy to get misinterpreted online 🙂

    No need for you to provide other proof like your tweet, I believe you have reached out to learn. You just didn’t let us know that in your blog 🙂 I love to see good comparisons of the various VTT’s, so I encourage you to continue your exploration of FG and to come back and write more when you have a better feel for FG.

    As I said earlier, their are lots of resources to learn FG (and you’ve already mentioned some of the better ones) so I hope you feel you are well on your way. I do encourage FG College. I hope you will find once you learn FG, the time you put into learning it will have been well worth it.

    Happy gaming and hope to hear more from you as you gain the experience to make a comprehensive comparison.

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