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Which one? Roll20 vs Fantasy Grounds

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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!