Virtual tabletops -- what do you know and what do you think?

Paizo General Discussion

Virtual tabletops -- which ones do you know about, what do you know about them, and which is your favorite?

Paizo has done a great job supporting virtual tabletops but what can they do better?

Do you know of any tools that work great in conjunction with your favorite virtual tabletops?

What have you found in virtual tabletops that you think doesn't work very well?

A long time ago I used to play Dungeons & Dragons. I was a DM. We had a small group of local players from high school. We each took turns DMing our campaigns.

Fast forward to 2012, I began playing Pathfinder as a player for many years. In 2017 I decided I wanted to be a GM again. I'd like to Pathfinder a lot because of all the materials were available online. I'd like to own my material so I prefer buying the PDF files.

At first I started with local players but we had trouble building a group that could play consistently, so we played with a small group of players, who each played multiple characters.

I tried advertising with actually some really nice looking, I thought, readable ads posted and very public places like our local college at bookstores and so on.

At the same time I was trying to solve a lot of problems with running a campaign. A lot of this had to do with the mechanics of running a campaign. Some of the problems were how to have exactly the pawns on the map that were confronting the players rather than putting in proxies. Another problem was how to draw the map for the players and yet not reveal the entire map all at once. However the other issue was I simply couldn't draw the maps fast enough.

I started to print the maps and the pawns. This was actually a lot of fun, and online I found cheap printing ink. I did this for quite a while.

But it was taking a lot of time away from my campaign, and we still weren't getting enough players.

Some of our local players actually just lived a little bit too far away really to play with us regularly.

So this whole problem led me to attempt to use a webcam. We were going to help our remote players play by moving their pawns around on the map. But, not surprisingly, nobody went for the idea.

So I decided to investigate virtual tabletops. Using online resources, such as Discord, to find players to play my campaign was well underway. Finally the issue of finding players was resolved.

By far, my favorite virtual tabletop is MapTool

MapTool, in my opinion, is the gold standard for virtual tabletops (VTTs). It is very stable, easy to use, customizable to any game system, and has only about one or two minor issues my two groups have found so far. We have been playing with it every week since the beginning of 12/2018. I have tought new players how to use it in less than 15 minutes.

As a software developer, I find MapTool's design features I use as a GM and in-play features to be amazingly intuitive.

With MapTool's macro language (based on JavaScript and HTML) is versatile enough that I have been able to add lots of features (as buttons and dialogs) to help my players cast spells, attack, use skills, do combat maneuvers, etc. What sometimes really makes it hard for me to sleep at night, is that because MapTool is so fully customizable, I can do almost anything I want with it.

MapTool is also incredibly fast and efficient with transferring data to my players when they connect, so I manage the size of the files I add to my campaign without becoming overly worried about its size -- currently it's almost 30MB and even my player on a DSL line is unaffected.

MapTool is free and it runs from your PC. For the GM, it makes designing campaigns much faster because all your files are local on your computer.

The developers, who created MapTool, have done the gaming world (especially RPG) an invaluable service. I've already said it through other channels, but it bares repeating ... Thank you, thank you, thank you ...

I'd encourage anyone using MapTool to make a donation through RPTools' preferred method which is on DriveThru RPG.

For those of you interested in running a Pathfinder 1e campaign with MapTool, under the name adventuremagic123 (yes, I know, superheroes aren't supposed to reveal their identities :)) in RPTool's forum under "User Creations", I have posted and will continue to post my latest macros and campaign settings. You will need these to get started until you find a better alternative -- they may very well be all you need!

Pathfinder 1e macros for MapTool

D20Pro was my second choice.

As a software developer, I think, like MapTool, it has the right architecture and overall design. What that means in non-technical terms is that all the files for the campaign live in the right place (for the age of high-speed communication we live in).

My overall impression of the product, though, was sort of like the one you get from a really nice car that's been sitting in the garage too long. Needs some work to get it going, again.

Connecting and transferring data to players was slower than my group would have liked. Also, if you try to use D20Pro, you may have better results if you have each of your players connect to your server one-at-a-time. When we had too many people do that at once in fall 2018, we had problems and the players had to start over trying to connect.

About 50% of our game sessions went on without anything but a couple of minor issues.

D20Pro attempts to add some advanced features not available in MapTool -- but feedback from my group was that it felt like a work in-progress. One of those was tracking conditions and spell effects automatically.

D20Pro did more or less successfully provide automation in terms of determining where attacks were successful and supported energy resistance. This is, again, somewhere that (perhaps wisely), MapTool does not go.

With MapTool, though, it is possible to add these kinds of features, yourself, with varying levels of difficulty.

My two groups played with D20Pro regularly for a period of about 3 months.

If a small list of concerns for D20Pro were addressed, I have no doubt it could do well in the market place. With some major work, I truly believe it could be a game changer (no pun intended :)).

Roll20, as with D20Pro and MapTool, was designed not to stop you from playing with whatever rules you use. This is important because that "feature" enables you to play with all the materials you already have without having to buy redundant data sets.

Roll20 has a lot of players who love you use it and nothing else.

The problem I had with it as a GM was that I felt building campaigns with it was too slow compared to the much better experiences I had with MapTool and D20Pro.

I also didn't like having to keep my files on their server. I like keeping all that stuff locally on my machine and backing it up however I want. I also felt organizing my material locally was much faster and easier.

If Roll20 ever offers a product with an architecture like MapTool or D20Pro, I will be more than happy to take another look.

Any GMs out there with a different impression of Roll20?

Fantasy Grounds, I thought, had the nicest looking interface but I also thought the hardest to use. It pretty much seems to share the same architecture as MapTool and D20Pro (and that might be a hint to the Roll20 team).

Maybe, I needed to give Fantasy Grounds more time. I installed it and investigated. It potentially seems like one of those products you might need to buy to get further along than you can with the demo you really properly evaluate it.

As far as I could tell, Fantasy Grounds has gone the farthest with trying to provide full automation for the game rules. The downside for Pathfinder is that:

1. The GM has buy the data set per book to play material from that book (pretty much) for players to have characters based on that materisl and

2. Data sets for most Pathfinder books do not appear to be available.

Am I wrong about any of this? Fantasy Ground folks?

With MapTool, I find the following tools invaluable:

1. Hero Lab (Encounter Builder)
2. Hero Lab (Encounter Library)
3. hl2mt.exe

One thing I'd like to see VTTs help with is flying, especially with the vision blocking layer. For example, if some flies over a building and everyone else is one the ground, the flier needs to see everything but the others should still have their vision blocked by the building.

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I completely agree with you on MapTools. I've been using it for years and years, with very few problems.

As a note, there is already a very good set of campaign macros for D&D3.5/Pathfinder 1.0. While not quite perfect, it covers just about everything that MapTools can cover. It can be found at: 94

I'm mentioning that mostly because I use and like it, and partly so you don't have to "re-invent the wheel" if you don't want to.

Add in the "Bag of Tricks" to add even more neat features. I'll let you find that one on your own, but it shouldn't be difficult.

I've looked at it before, and you've reminded me to take a look at it again.

The scripts there are very sophisticated , and it will take some time for me to dig through them all.

No, I don't think there's just one solution. The macros I've created have the virtue of being just the opposite ... Easy to understand -- probably even for beginners. Provide just enough functionality to play. Don't require JSON and dialogs to create PC nor NPC tokens. Just have to fill-in token properties using stat blocks and other, optional information. Very straight forward. Clean design that's easy to understand at a glance.

Yes, in terms of learning advanced MapTool functionality, your link is invaluable -- and I'll admit pretty much takes me to class. Yet, for what I want, it feels way over designed and far more complex than what I'm looking for. The design does not look as intuitive as I'd like.

Still, the work done there is a major contribution, and I'll certainly continue to study it till I understand it better. It is much more impressive than what I've done.

Being a wheel, though, is probably a stretch. More like a masterpiece of programming that belongs in a very nice place in a museum way deep inside -- and maybe mine just goes on the ticket stub.

Therefore, I'm sure that there's room for lots more interpretations of what sort of macros work best, and, hopefully, we'll see more implementations.

I'll share my experiences, although all my games are face-to-face and I'm using the VTT strictly as an accessory.

The VTT I'm using is Roll20. The main reasons are that it is free, easy to use (for what I'm doing), and web-based (no software installs/updates). We have HeroLab for the update and "does everyone have the right files?" headaches.

I use MapTool, but only to draw my own custom maps. The massive library of graphical items is what keeps me using it instead of just using Photoshop or the like. I do some final editing in Photoshop to get a JPG of the map. Then it gets loaded up to Roll20.

I'm using Roll20 strictly for the fog of war, ping feature, and graphical handouts. My players are all using laptops (HeroLab) and can see the map as players with Roll20. I reveal as necessary. Dungeon-crawling made simple.

The players get to see pretty maps without having everything revealed to them. All of us can "ping" on the map. They can also view any graphical handouts I've exposed to them whenever they want.

When it comes time for combat, I'm drawing on a grid table (6' x 4' plexiglass over white butcher paper with a 1" grid). We're all using token/minis/whatever and dropping real dice. I use white-board markers which makes clean up super-easy. An end-of-the-session wipe with rubbing alcohol keeps the plexiglass looking like new.

Anything else graphical (monsters, NPCs, images of places) is being shown to the players via a 14" diagonal iPad. Yep, I'm lazy. I'd rather hold up full-color artwork than say 1,000 words.

TL;DR: Since I'm just displaying pretty pictures, Roll20 does a great job without all the weight of MapTool. But, we play face-to-face.

I downloaded and experimented with Mote, today. Their website makes a lot of promises. It's a modified version of MapTool.

It will import MapTool campaigns, but, today, I didn't have much luck with it. I tried to import a 30MB campaign (mine are all currently that size).

Mote took over 15 minutes before it stopped with an out of memory error, through a native file version for Mote was created for the same campaign.

I reset the launch parameters and set them to max. 4048MB RAM and 4MB stack size (the per thread stack). I tried to load the native Mote file created above. Mote cranked away for over 25 minutes, but it still didn't finish loading the file. I gave up and stopped it.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Some great info and thoughts about VTT play here, well worth the read!

The Online Region of Paizos Organised Play obviously has a lot of investment in VTTs (you can find our Discord server here), the most common by far is Roll20, we tend to see games for that on a daily basis, following on from that in popularity is Fantasy Grounds. Both are excellent choices with different strengths and learning curves and I'd recommend giving them both a try before deciding which one works for each group of players.

D20 Pro and Maptools are not something we see being used much at all in the Organised Play format, perhaps that will change as things shift, but for now they're certainly not ones we see a lot of games on.

In regards to your 'flying' question and roofs there's some very cool options now available in Roll20 that will do something close to what you're looking for I think, you can see more about it here.

Roll20 has also recently made a lot of improvements to their advanced fog of war option which should hopefully enable it to run much more smoothly on most peoples PCs (fingers crossed!). It's a brilliant option in my opinion, most of the players I've used it with certainly seem to enjoy it.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

One thing that I know is that the VTT Venture Officers are awesome and helpful! I hope that you come join us for some games on the discord!


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I have used Maptool for the last 10 years or so, with Lindsay's macro set. It has been amazing.

I wish there was someway for Paizo to directly support Maptool, but honestly, with the PDFs I have everything I need with a little bit of setup.

I can only hope Lindsay, or someone else makes a PF2e macro set when it comes out.

Maptool is the bomb.

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