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Rising Phoenix
2019-05-03, 11:26 PM
G'day everyone.

What's generally considered to be the best program to play DnD over the net? As in have your mates in discord chat playing on virtual tabletop?

Free is best but I wouldn't mind buying a very good program.

Cheers,

RP

Gnoman
2019-05-03, 11:38 PM
I've had very good results with Maptool and Fantasy Grounds. Maptool is free with decent features, but no official support from any system, and unofficial support is pretty clunky, FG is flexibly priced, but has official support for several systems (of the "buy the appropriate module, have every class/skill/spell/item brought in for drag-and-drop), good unofficial support for many others, and a fair number of bells and whistles.

I've also had good results just using Discord with a dicebot. This depends on how often you actually need an on-screen map.

LordEntrails
2019-05-03, 11:42 PM
You probably just opened a can of worms. People are very emotional about their VTT choice :)

So, back in 2015 I did my research and picked Fantasy Grounds. It's not free, but I felt if held/holds a few advantages for me;
1) FG is the best for DM/GM prep time (and if you want, you can actually create and sell FG content on the DMsGuild)
2) community is strong and healthy and the company does regular updates and is customer focused
3) purchasable DLC content, cost, breadth, and timeliness
4) architecture, I want to run everything from my computer, I don't want my data stored on someone else's server or dependent upon their use license or server reliability

The giants in the room are Roll20 (www.roll20.net) and Fantasy Grounds (www.fantasygrounds.com). Their are numerous others, many of them relatively new, but some that have been around for awhile include Map Tools and Battlegrounds.

There are a few comparison charts (make sure to check the dates of when they were last updated);
- http://www.fantasygrounds.com/filelibrary/VTTComparison.pdf
- http://battlegroundsgames.com/vtt-comparison-chart/

A couple of words of advice;
- When looking at cost, look at the real cost over time for what your use cost will be. For instance, Are you going to buy DLC (official books)? Is the "free" version actually going to be sufficient for you or are you going to end up getting a subscription? Do you prefer a subscription model (pay monthly forever) or a one-time license fee. Are you going to share costs among the group, or is just the DM/GM going to bear the costs?
- Architecture, do you want a web/browser application that makes connections easy, but requires internet access, or do you want to run the program yourself?
- What game systems do you want to play? Just D&D 5E or...?
- How much automation do you want?
- Do you want to make homebrew and use houserules?

Rising Phoenix
2019-05-04, 12:03 AM
Thanks for all the replies.

I want to run a Pathfinder campaign with some homebrew.

And I am guessing that fantasy grounds is the best one to run if your friends can't afford the program?

Cheers.

Edit: Does fantasy ground include all the rules for the Pathfinder SRD automatically? Or do I need to buy the books?

Grod_The_Giant
2019-05-04, 10:01 AM
roll20 is very nice. I've run quite a few campaigns with it, and even started using it in real life games to provide maps and digital character sheets. Free, too.

Haldir
2019-05-04, 11:05 AM
I have never used fantasygrounds, but I have had positive experiences with Roll20, and from the look of that comparison document, I was lucky.

LordEntrails
2019-05-04, 11:43 AM
I want to run a Pathfinder campaign with some homebrew.

And I am guessing that fantasy grounds is the best one to run if your friends can't afford the program?

Cheers.

Edit: Does fantasy ground include all the rules for the Pathfinder SRD automatically? Or do I need to buy the books?
So the PF SRD (1E is included for free). Plus is are loads of community content for PF on the forums. You can also buy the core PF books on FG so you can drag and drop if you want (but not required). Note that if you have bought the corresponding PDF fro Paizo, you get the cost of that off the FG module. If not, when you buy the FG module you get the PDF for free.

With FG, if you want your players to pay nothing, then buy or subscribe to the Ultimate license. 2 things of note, their next version (FGU / Unity) is slated for release about December, you can get in on the Kickstarter here; https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/smiteworks/fantasy-grounds-unity
Also, for anything bought in the FG Store they do a 30 day money back guarantee. So you can always try without much concern if it doesn't work out.

NRSASD
2019-05-04, 01:50 PM
Thirding the praise for Roll20. I DM with it a lot, but I also run primarily homebrew stuff.

A good friend of mine uses Fantasy Grounds and prefers it to Roll20, but he certainly doesn't dislike Roll20. They both have features the other does not.

jjordan
2019-05-04, 04:18 PM
What about straight communication platforms that don't do book-keeping for you? Discord, Google Hangouts, etc... I've used Fantasy Grounds and, once you're over the initial learning curve, it's pretty good. But I don't need 90% of what it does and the maps, which I would use the heck out of, have always felt like a weak point to me.

2D8HP
2019-05-04, 10:05 PM
roll20 is very nice. I've run quite a few campaigns with it, and even started using it in real life games to provide maps and digital character sheets. Free, too.


It may be free if you use a desktop or laptop computer, but the lasr time I checked if you use a phone you get this:

"Mobile Browsers Not Supported

Currently mobile browsers on Roll20 are only supported in Games that are GM'ed by paid supporters (at the Plus or Pro level), or where the player is a paid Plus or Pro user. Consider upgrading your account*today to run Roll20 on your mobile tablet."

JAL_1138
2019-05-05, 12:30 AM
Roll20 is fairly easy to use, especially compared to Maptools (although itís been four or five years since I used Maptools; it may have improved a lot in the interim.

As for voice communication, Discord is pretty good. Expect connection issues and some audio problems, but still better than Skype by far. (Note when traveling: Discordís voice chat does not get along with some hotel-wifi networks and can be prevented from connecting, and may or may not have the same issues on college campuses depending on the type of network they have; Iíve run into the hotel thing firsthand, but Iíd been practicing law a few years before Discord was invented so I dunno how it deals with campus wifi.)

If you use Roll20 for the bookkeeping, youíll want to use something else for most of your communicationóRoll20 is for rolling dice and moving tokens on a map. Roll20ís voice option may as well not exist right now, and itís not that helpful as a communications platform for text chats. Fortunately itís not hard, nor that taxing on the computer, to run both Roll20 and Discord at once; a kinda outdated El Cheapo laptop running Windows (no clue about chromebooks or Linux support) will do fine.

Psyren
2019-05-05, 02:50 PM
+1 Roll20, it's the leader for a reason. Our group has gotten a lot of value out of it, and my DM (also my partner) ended up getting the paid version as a result of all the features while the rest of us stayed free.

Aside from not having to draw maps in Paint or Excel, we've also gotten other solid benefits, such as:

- dynamic lighting/line of sight (I believe this is a paid feature)
- automating complex dice rolls and modifiers - in particular, we set up our party's ranger so that we could calculate his attack and damage on the fly whether he was attacking a favored enemy at range, favored enemy in melee, using just his manufactured weapons or mixing in natural attacks etc etc. (He was some form of weretiger if I remember correctly). All he had to do was click a button.
- Drawing spell effects, auras and other areas directly on the map.
- Built in voice-chat for the remote players, though we ended up switching to Discord for other reasons.
- Built in campaign notes, private messaging to and from the GM (handy for passing notes to individual players), and a history of the campaign that really helped us pick up where we left off when we missed a week or two.


It may be free if you use a desktop or laptop computer, but the lasr time I checked if you use a phone you get this:

"Mobile Browsers Not Supported

Currently mobile browsers on Roll20 are only supported in Games that are GM'ed by paid supporters (at the Plus or Pro level), or where the player is a paid Plus or Pro user. Consider upgrading your account*today to run Roll20 on your mobile tablet."

Note that if you're somewhat tech savvy, you can run a mobile browser like Dolphin that can fool websites into thinking you're using a desktop. We never had to do this though as everyone we played with would be at their computers anyway.



As for voice communication, Discord is pretty good. Expect connection issues and some audio problems, but still better than Skype by far. (Note when traveling: Discordís voice vhat does not get along with some hotel-wifi networks and can be prevented from connecting, and may or may not have the same issues on college campuses depending on the type of network they have; Iíve run into the hotel thing firsthand, but Iíd been practicing law a few years before Discord was invented so I dunno how it deals with campus wifi.)

I've run into this too, but I simply used the Discord mobile app and my phone's (unlimited) data plan.

ExplodingRat
2019-05-07, 11:58 PM
I've only used Roll20 (which is pretty good, if you can pay the "membership fee" when DMing), though I'm sure there's other good ones out there.

The Kool
2019-05-08, 02:28 AM
I'm assuming you're looking for a virtual tabletop? There are really three different styles of remote gaming: Virtual Tabletop, direct social connection, and play-by-post. Each of these is a wildly distinct style of play.

Virtual Tabletop: Usually for people who want immersion. Roll20 and FantasyGrounds are prime examples of this. Stats, maps, handouts, ambient music, all right there at your fingertips. Something vaguely like this can be achieved via direct social connection if you begin to include things like Google Sheets and YouTube links, but that can be pretty janky (but hey, it's worked for me :smalltongue:)

Direct social connection: Video chat or voice chat. Hangouts, Discord, Skype, conference call, or pretty much anything like that. For those who play theater-of-the-mind gaming, this is generally more than enough, and can be the first choice because it gets all the extraneous things out of the way (and can even be joined in with a phone and a pair of headphones!)

Play-by-post: Forum or instant-messaging based roleplaying, this is more like a collaborative writing effort than a traditional tabletop session. In fact, you don't have sessions, it just kind of slowly trudges on into eternity, if you're lucky enough to have players who don't get bored and wander off. A very different style of play for a very different style of player, the two best places for this style are probably right here on GitP and over on rpol.net, where I cut my teeth on PbP (though community matters, and you'll hear a lot of different answers to that one if you ask).

Know your group. Some people assume they want a virtual tabletop but actually wind up not using any of the features, and would have done just fine with a Discord group call.

Edit: On the topic of using Discord voice chat in conjunction with Roll20's VTT... there's a reason this is so popular. If I recall correctly, one of my compatriots found that the devs over on Roll20 actually recommend this over using their own VC service.

Man_Over_Game
2019-05-08, 10:11 AM
What are the biggest differences between Fantasy Ground and Roll20?

Gnoman
2019-05-08, 03:58 PM
Roll20 is free-ish, and accessed through a web browser.

Fantasy Grounds is not free, and is paid for via a lump sum or a subscription. If the GM has paid for the best licence or the highest level subscription plan, players only need the demo version. It runs as a standalone program on your computer.

In my experience, FG is a lot more stable, runs faster, and is a lot less buggy than Roll20 is, although I haven't used Roll20 very much.



Other than that, the biggest difference is that FG has more licensed modules available for purchase for full integration, and homebrew modules seem to work a lot better. FG is also s bit more polished.

These videos might help illustrate the difference:

Roll20 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7kd_-simRI) official video, not sure what they're using for voice chat.

A game run in Fantasy Grounds (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paVqb5suKII&list=PL6WX0yyxWfVQU1NqvbrBP1F83QY6i4cNr&index=7) from another forum. In this case, voice chat is using Discord (I think).

JMS
2019-05-08, 07:20 PM
This may help: Ridiculously comprehensive guide from google docs. (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cNlFbHk511xRCxziPmcncilEzPd3J7AyzrVhWzSZY28/edit#)

LordEntrails
2019-05-08, 09:34 PM
What are the biggest differences between Fantasy Ground and Roll20?
1) Architecture. Roll20 is a browser bases Software as a Service. FG is a client-server architecture where both the GM and the players download and install the application. Some implications of this; Roll20 only works with an internet connection and means your content and games are stored elsewhere. FG requires the GMs network to allow incoming connections or to use a VPN service and all your content and games are stored on your computer. This also means you can mod FG fairly easily, and it has a large developer community that does so.

2) Content. Roll20 does have purchasable content, much of it from the community. Publisher support is less than FG has, and things like D&D 5E books are not all available, and many of them are not yet fully supported with their own tools (i.e. Races from Volo's Guide can not be used in the Roll20 Charactermance yet). R20 content you buy you can only use/share withing a certain number of campaigns (1/3/5) depending upon your subscription level (i.e. this mean a free user that buys the 5E PHB can only use it one campaign). FG has over 1200 items in its store, and perhaps that many available on the DMsGuild. It has the most number of licensed RPG systems, by far. Their is no limit to the number of campaigns you can have, or the number of campaigns you can use a product in.

3) Customer Support & Community. Up until ~6 months ago, Roll20 customer support and public treatment of its customers was atrocious (so much it made it into the major media/news outlets). They have since been making huge strides in fixing their public persona and providing better technical support. Though they have a huge backlog of bugs to fix and still appear to ignore many long standing issues while continuing to roll out new (unstable) features. FG has never had that problem, and are exceptional in their approach to customer first and it shows in their community. It part, it includes a 30 day money back guarantee, no questions asked. The community is exceptionally active and friendly, and the devs frequent it and answer questions and provide support as needed. The community has actually been running free cons for years and has setup a volunteer "college" with free classes and resources.

I'm biased. But I'm biased because I did my impartial research and tried out both before deciding on FG. But, which one is best for you depends on your wants and needs.

Pex
2019-05-08, 11:20 PM
Tabletop Simulator, available via Steam at least. A few of my games use it. You get dice rolling, character sheets, miniatures, terrain, spell effects, the works. If you use D&D Beyond or some other website for your character there's a way to get a window in the game to view it. You still manage your character sheet on D&D Beyond, but you can refresh the window in Tabletop Simulator.

SirGraystone
2019-05-14, 01:49 PM
The best platform is not an easy thing to answer as it depend of what do you want to use it for and what rules you plan to us. If you just want a map and dice either Roll20 or Fantasy Ground will do.

I use fantasy grounds myself, it let me use the map of a dungeon, create story entries for each room link to a pin I can click on the map to open the entry needed later, link to encounters in can create with the npc location on the map all ready, that I can just drop in the combat tracker when it's time, make parcels with the loots of the room I can drag to the party sheet if the group win. All that make the game go smoother but take more preparation time.