Random VTT rant

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Yeti Spaghetti

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While I love the general ease and opportunity presented by virtual table top providers like Roll20, I'm not sure that running a game with dynamic 3-D maps and player tokens and fancy graphics is my thing. Yet I feel like there's indirect pressure to include all those elements on the site, otherwise your game is considered subpar.

Am I the only one who feels this way? For those who have played VTT games for years, what percentage would you say "go all the way" with all of the sophisticated functionality and eye candy, and how many are more stripped down and basic (simple maps and player cards/tokens)? I'm just not sure I have all the resources, or the interest, to build these fantastic set pieces and run games that way. It's just a little too "video game-ish" for me.

Rant over.
 

Bunch

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I certainly don't. I have included Fantasy Grounds Line of Sight feature. That's both cool and annoying. It doesn't seem to take into account light source or vision type/range. On the one hand I have been able to have monsters hide behind corners and be revealed as a player passes them automatically which is cool. On the other hand I've had the players see things 200' away with 60'darkvision. So maybe I'm not setting it up correctly.

I don't think I would ever do 3d. That would require more map / scene manipulation I think to move/see everything.

In FG I'm already running into the issue I need to make my monsters/NPCs follow legal movement routes to go from A to B which is sometimes a pain. I suspect there's a way to turn that off and I've just not bothered to look it up.

I might include a map with an image of a river that moves. That level of artistic addition is both visually interesting and increases player knowledge. I now don't have to describe the flow direction because it becomes obvious at that point.
 

Stan

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I've run into that some when I ran a game for people on Roll20. I like to drop in a map and tokens and start playing. They seemed taken aback that I don't use integrated character sheets - for me it's easier to just remember my common mods like attack and damage. I did dynamic lighting once and it was cool but it took too long to set up; I'm not using it again unless I happen to get a map with it prebuilt.

I've also ran into bugs on Roll20 like the initiative tracker not showing all participants to all players and the sound going in and out.

A week ago, I started a new campaign that's Discord only. I like how easy it is to load images and documents right into the thread and to separate threads/channels for different aspects like one for setting documents. I'll still load up the occasional map but we won't bother with exact positions. I'm using Avrae, one of the many available die roller bots - it also tracks initiative and has some ability to integrate character sheets if that's your thing.
 

EOTB

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On the other hand I've had the players see things 200' away with 60'darkvision. So maybe I'm not setting it up correctly.



In FG I'm already running into the issue I need to make my monsters/NPCs follow legal movement routes to go from A to B which is sometimes a pain. I suspect there's a way to turn that off and I've just not bothered to look it up.

re: darkvision - it's possible to drop a stray light source on a map that will allow everything in its radius to be seen from any distance. Do you routinely "view as player" after setting things up?

re: movement - check "token lock", perhaps?
 

Bunch

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We've had a number of map visibility issues come up in play. We have generally solved them by using party vision I believe.

Often all but one player can see just fine but that one player(and it changes) can see either a black area with maybe tokens on it or nothing. Even after the map is shared. Since two out of three of our players are living together gaming side by side the need to isolate the problem has been low. They just look at the others monitor.
 

EOTB

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As far as myself; I'm ok with line of sight and dynamic lighting. If you make your own maps then it doesn't seem like that much extra time to add it in. I don't do the sound effects some people do, but I can see the appeal.

I've played FG with and without using all of the mainline features. I'd much rather use the character sheets, the combat tracker, and all of that because it lets me concentrate on making the situation alive instead of tracking the situation's accounting.
 

EOTB

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We've had a number of map visibility issues come up in play. We have generally solved them by using party vision I believe.

Often all but one player can see just fine but that one player(and it changes) can see either a black area with maybe tokens on it or nothing. Even after the map is shared. Since two out of three of our players are living together gaming side by side the need to isolate the problem has been low. They just look at the others monitor.
The changing players part is weird, but what you describe isn't systemic to the engine (at least that I've noticed) so it's got to be solvable as some quirk in data entry or menu option, somewhere. I'm not really familiar with the 5E ruleset and character sheet (presuming that's what you're talking about, which may be wrong on my part) or I'd ask more questions on specific settings for tweaking.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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I’m definitely on the “simple” end. Sometimes we just use a blank grid and tokens. Every so often I go out of my way to set up full maps and unique tokens and such.

But how common would you say that is on a site like Roll20? Is it some sort of weird "taboo" thing that only "strange purists" do, or would you say that a larger percentage of games are run that way? I guess I'm just so new to the VTT thing that I'm struggling with where mine fits in the grand scheme of things.

I'm going to start experimenting with dynamic maps (tokens will still be simple pictures/character cards), but like you I'm just not sure how often I want to do that.
 

Tommy Brownell

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But how common would you say that is on a site like Roll20? Is it some sort of weird "taboo" thing that only "strange purists" do, or would you say that a larger percentage of games are run that way? I guess I'm just so new to the VTT thing that I'm struggling with where mine fits in the grand scheme of things.

I'm going to start experimenting with dynamic maps (tokens will still be simple pictures/character cards), but like you I'm just not sure how often I want to do that.
Can’t help you with that. I can only speak to me, my group, and how we play.

I think the only time we’ve ever used dynamic lighting and fog of war, for instance, is when we bought the Ravenloft Roll20 module that had it pre programmed.
 

Picaroon Jack

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While I love the general ease and opportunity presented by virtual table top providers like Roll20, I'm not sure that running a game with dynamic 3-D maps and player tokens and fancy graphics is my thing. Yet I feel like there's indirect pressure to include all those elements on the site, otherwise your game is considered subpar.

Am I the only one who feels this way? For those who have played VTT games for years, what percentage would you say "go all the way" with all of the sophisticated functionality and eye candy, and how many are more stripped down and basic (simple maps and player cards/tokens)? I'm just not sure I have all the resources, or the interest, to build these fantastic set pieces and run games that way. It's just a little too "video game-ish" for me.

Rant over.
I came to Roll20 late due to the pandemic, and I just use it for 1. visual aids, 2. simple maps, and die rolls. All my players are new to Roll20 as well so they don't know about all the whistles and bells. My brother who is more experienced has echoed what you've said about it turning the game into an animated board game.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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I think the only time we’ve ever used dynamic lighting and fog of war, for instance, is when we bought the Ravenloft Roll20 module that had it pre programmed.
I came to Roll20 late due to the pandemic, and I just use it for 1. visual aids, 2. simple maps, and die rolls. All my players are new to Roll20 as well so they don't know about all the whistles and bells. My brother who is more experienced has echoed what you've said about it turning the game into an animated board game.

Thank you both for making me feel a little better. :smile: I guess I should clarify that when I say "dynamic" I'm just referring to having a "fancy" map with all of the art and detail. I realize that dynamic lighting is something even more sophisticated.

If the players are still having fun, that's all that matters to me. But for the most part, I'm sure I'm dealing with folks who have seen much more involved games.
 
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Picaroon Jack

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Thank you both for making me feel a little better. :smile: I guess I should clarify that when I say "dynamic" I'm just referring to having a "fancy" map all of the art and detail. I realize that dynamic lighting is something even more sophisticated.

If the players are still having fun, that's all that matters to me. But for the most part, I'm sure I'm dealing with folks who have seen much more involved games.
This seriously about as advanced as I have gotten:

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 3.53.20 PM.png

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 3.57.20 PM.png
 

Agemegos

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While I love the general ease and opportunity presented by virtual table top providers like Roll20, I'm not sure that running a game with dynamic 3-D maps and player tokens and fancy graphics is my thing.

I’m certain that it’s not mine.

I live fifty kilometres from the nearest D&D players, three hours drive from any city where there are players of any other RPGs. So I supported Roll20 from the beginning, at one of the higher levels, on the promise that it would be ideal for story-oriented RPGs. And I whined quite a bit on the supporters feedback board when all the development effort started going into a dice roller, line-of-sight blocking, dynamic lighting, and an invisible GM prep layer. My style of GMing involves the character players having a lot of freedom about where they go and what they do, so in my games fights almost always break out in places they I did not expect against opponents I did not expect, so all that stuff takes too long to set up for me to be able to use it. I need lightning-fast set-up. I don’t have time to choose where all the light fixtures are.

For the table top I only wanted a way of sharing quickly-sketched maps on a hex grid, snap-to-grid and facing on markers, control of markers etc. by the right person, and a way to handle cards and poker chips for giving player Fate points and so on. But I wanted better in the group communication channel: better video, user (GM) control of players’ virtual position around the virtual table supported by mock stereo sound…. But the majority of supporters drove the developers to put all their development effort into making it a miniatures gaming environment with computer-game gloss.

I’m better off with a videoconferencing solution designed for business meetings than with any available facility with actual games support.
 

TJS

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While I love the general ease and opportunity presented by virtual table top providers like Roll20, I'm not sure that running a game with dynamic 3-D maps and player tokens and fancy graphics is my thing. Yet I feel like there's indirect pressure to include all those elements on the site, otherwise your game is considered subpar.

Am I the only one who feels this way? For those who have played VTT games for years, what percentage would you say "go all the way" with all of the sophisticated functionality and eye candy, and how many are more stripped down and basic (simple maps and player cards/tokens)? I'm just not sure I have all the resources, or the interest, to build these fantastic set pieces and run games that way. It's just a little too "video game-ish" for me.

Rant over.
No. It's too time consuming and it offers too little real improvement for the time put into it.

It may seem worth it for published modules, but if all you ever do is play or run published modules you're losing out.

Trying to do that shit for your own stuff is a recipe for burn out. I've played around and come mostly to these conclusions:

- Dynamic lighting is really a pain. The main result is that players can't see what is going on. Is this immersive? Maybe a little? But how immersive can a two dimensional map with pogs actually be? And it creates information gaps that cause confusion. In the very instances where it actually matters, it reduces engagement if there's things going on in a combat that player's can't see.
- In Roll20 it's easier for exploration purposes to just use the old fashioned fog of war and the reveal tool. Revealing one room at a time is just as effective and takes no preparation time.
- Drawing rooms and layouts with the draw tool has not noticeably had any discernible effect on player engagement. And going minimalist means players ask questions and don't assume that what they can see on the map is all there is.
- The biggest issue with going the other way and using just the die roller is that big white page sitting there with nothing on it. Stick a map on there or something. I actually think a campaign map is the most useful thing, somehow it helps to focus the mind on the game. And I don't mean an exploration map - just a map of a region or a continent or something so players can look and think "yes, all this action is happening here".


Of course both WotC and Roll20 have a combined vested interest in people using all the bells and whistles. So both are happy if VTTs promote dynamic lighting and the like. It means that GMs will find it harder to create and much easier to just buy pre-prepared modules which they are in the business of selling.

Perhaps one day we will have a VTT that is built around a series of useful GM tools beyond the narrow confines of battlemaps. Tools for doing hex exploraton, or planning out relationship networks of npcs or a host of other neglected things.
 
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Brock Savage

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One of the reasons I don't use Roll20 is because I want to go all in with dynamic lighting, finding perfect tokens and maps, etc and it just took too much time to set up to my liking.
 

Bunch

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No. It's too time consuming and it offers too little real improvement for the time put into it.

It may seem worth it for published modules, but if all you ever do is play or run published modules you're losing out.

Trying to do that shit for your own stuff is a recipe for burn out. I've played around and come mostly to these conclusions:

- Dynamic lighting is really a pain. The main result is that players can't see what is going on. Is this immersive? Maybe a little? But how immersive can a two dimensional map with pogs actually be? And it creates information gaps that cause confusion. In the very instances where it actually matters, it reduces engagement if there's things going on in a combat that player's can't see.
- In Roll20 it's easier for exploration purposes to just use the old fashioned fog of war and the reveal too. Revealing one room at a time is just as effective and takes no preparation time.
- Drawing rooms and layouts with the draw tool has not noticeably had any discernible effect on player engagement. And going minimalist means players ask questions and don't assume that what they can see on the map is all there is.
- The biggest with going the other way and using just the die roller issue is that big white page sitting there with nothing on. Stick a map on there or something. I actually think a campaign map is the most useful thing, somehow it helps to focus the mind on the game. And I don't mean an exploration map - just a map of a region or a continent or something so players can look and think "yes, all this action is happening here".


Of course both WotC and ROll20 have a combined vest interest in people using all the bells and whiste. So both are happy if VTTs promote dynamic lighting and the like. It means that GMs will find it harder to create and much easier to just buy pre-prepared modules which they are in the business of selling.

Perhaps one day we will have a VTT that is built around a series of useful GM tools beyond the narrow confines of battlemaps. Tools for doing hex exploraton, or planning out relationship networks of npcs or a host of other neglected things.
I'm going to disagree with the engagement part of dynamic lighting.

I started from the camp of "Why the hell does everyone want this feature in a VTT that as far as I know never existed in F2F gaming?!?! I always thought it should be the last feature done because it represented aspirational usage vs actual. No one was going to miss it really if it wasn't there.

So cue me running 5e with some official modules on Fantasy Grounds. We decide to give it a try. It's pretty friggin cool. I have players saying "What Kenku?!?" In response to another saying "Shoot the Kenku!!!". They can't see them so they're kind of freaking out about what the other guy is talking about. Depending on if the party is making noise I might place monsters in put of sight positions or not. It's a fun addition.


I do agree it can be a pain to add .
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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Trying to do that shit for your own stuff is a recipe for burn out.
Which is partly what I'm worried about, especially when I go back to work in August (I work in education). Even the relatively stripped down stuff I'm doing now takes a good deal of time to plan, to write scripts and scenarios, get tokens ready, sound effects, etc. I may just get to the point where all I can really manage is throwing a basic map or picture down and just winging a monster of the week format every time. But again, part of me would feel guilty doing that and not at least trying to include maps and more bells and whistles. But hearing all this feedback helps. Thanks.
 

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EOTB

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At the end of the day, VTT is no different than tabletop. If you wanted to play bogstandard generic D&D in 1988, there were tons and tons of resources. If you wanted to depart from that even slightly, you had to be able to make your own resources.
 

TJS

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At the end of the day, VTT is no different than tabletop. If you wanted to play bogstandard generic D&D in 1988, there were tons and tons of resources. If you wanted to depart from that even slightly, you had to be able to make your own resources.
Well yes. But it depends on how reliant you are on resources in the first place.
 

ffilz

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I'm happy with using Fog of War in Roll20 and a range of quick drawn maps using the drawing tools to dropping an image from my archives.

Since the systems I play aren't well supported (RuneQuest 1st edition with house rules, Classic Traveller '77 with house rules) anything more is likely to just lead to frustration.

I do a best fit for tokens or sometimes grab images from elsewhere.

I don't use any built in character sheets, they're all wrong for my games.

I have one player who has written an RQ attack roll/hit location roll/damage roll macro. Sometimes I wish he wouldn't use it because I have a crit rule that requires a decision after the attack roll results in a crit but before you roll hit location and damage (you choose double damage after armor or half armor).
 

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I'm happy with using Fog of War in Roll20 and a range of quick drawn maps using the drawing tools to dropping an image from my archives.

Since the systems I play aren't well supported (RuneQuest 1st edition with house rules, Classic Traveller '77 with house rules) anything more is likely to just lead to frustration.

I do a best fit for tokens or sometimes grab images from elsewhere.

I don't use any built in character sheets, they're all wrong for my games.

I have one player who has written an RQ attack roll/hit location roll/damage roll macro. Sometimes I wish he wouldn't use it because I have a crit rule that requires a decision after the attack roll results in a crit but before you roll hit location and damage (you choose double damage after armor or half armor).
Houserule are the bane of VTTs since one of the things they really excel at is automation.
 

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The setup time due to my lack of UI familiarity kills me. Maybe if I had a Wacom tablet hooked up to freehand while... oh, who am I kidding. I'd get cheeto dust all over the costly tablet and someone will end up wanting to draw goofy naughty bits during lulls.
 

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A while back I was in a group that ran Roll20 with all the widgets turned on... which was fun for a moment before it became a clusterfuck of nitpicking, pixelbitching and fidgeting with the settings.
They pulled back from it after just a couple of sessions.
Same thing goes for trying to run games on tabletop with full terrain and miniatures.
None of it is worth the hassle and limits the imagination of all involved by restraining events to what is available visually.

Meanwhile, Roll 20 works just fine, IMO, with quick wiggly lines drawn to show where the walls are and some enemy tokens to show us how badly we've fucked up.
 

Bunch

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The setup time due to my lack of UI familiarity kills me. Maybe if I had a Wacom tablet hooked up to freehand while... oh, who am I kidding. I'd get cheeto dust all over the costly tablet and someone will end up wanting to draw goofy naughty bits during lulls.
The naughty bits is a real thing. One guy in a precious group drew dick pics every chance he got. It sort of brought back the magic of playing as a 12 year old.
 

opaopajr

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The naughty bits is a real thing. One guy in a precious group drew dick pics every chance he got. It sort of brought back the magic of playing as a 12 year old.

"Aww, pubescent scrawling of genital heiroglyphs... I remember that development stage!"
 

Brock Savage

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The naughty bits is a real thing. One guy in a precious group drew dick pics every chance he got. It sort of brought back the magic of playing as a 12 year old.
I occasionally game online with a "friend of a friend" neckbeard who doodles dicks non-stop every time we play on Tabletop Simulator. That and the never-ending stream of lame dirty jokes leads me to believe he hasn't been with a woman in a long time. The things I put up with to have an extra body for a game of Eldritch Horror!
 

TJS

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But how common would you say that is on a site like Roll20? Is it some sort of weird "taboo" thing that only "strange purists" do, or would you say that a larger percentage of games are run that way? I guess I'm just so new to the VTT thing that I'm struggling with where mine fits in the grand scheme of things.

I'm going to start experimenting with dynamic maps (tokens will still be simple pictures/character cards), but like you I'm just not sure how often I want to do that.
I think this may depend on D&D or not D&D. I think a minimalist approach would probably be fairly typical for not-D&D (for lack of a realistic alternative, if nothing else). For D&D it's hard to know. If you were charging money I'm sure people would expect the bells and whistles, if not I think they'd probably be less demanding.
 

CRKrueger

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At the end of the day, VTT is no different than tabletop. If you wanted to play bogstandard generic D&D in 1988, there were tons and tons of resources. If you wanted to depart from that even slightly, you had to be able to make your own resources.
Hmm, I remember needing pens, paper, a way to make copies and a shelf.

I didn’t have to learn how to code in whatever programming language/markup language the VTT uses as well as subscribe for online storage.
 

Bunch

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I occasionally game online with a "friend of a friend" neckbeard who doodles dicks non-stop every time we play on Tabletop Simulator. That and the never-ending stream of lame dirty jokes leads me to believe he hasn't been with a woman in a long time. The things I put up with to have an extra body for a game of Eldritch Horror!
You could have just asked me to stop..I don't deserve a public shaming.:weep:
 

robertsconley

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While I love the general ease and opportunity presented by virtual table top providers like Roll20, I'm not sure that running a game with dynamic 3-D maps and player tokens and fancy graphics is my thing. Yet I feel like there's indirect pressure to include all those elements on the site, otherwise your game is considered subpar.

Am I the only one who feels this way?
3D is like having Dwarven Forge at the table. Looks cool but your limited to what in the box. Having refereed session within Bioware's Neverwinter Night it is not worth it compared to a 2D top down presentation.

Yet I feel like there's indirect pressure to include all those elements on the site, otherwise your game is considered subpar.
If that the case then you have a out of game issue. That needs to be discussed. My players appreciate the bells and whistles I throw in when I setup one of my maps for dynamic lighting and don't complain when it not there. They are adults and now that my time is limited and often I can lay every map I put up dynamic lighting.

If your players don't get that, then spell it out that there going to be more than a few times where all there is a form of fog of war or just theater of the mind.

I am into miniatures in a big way for face to face and use tokens and battlemaps constantly for VTT. Partially because it help me because I am 50% deaf which is accompanied by language comprehension issues for speech. Partially because I like the spectacle and gotten good at assembling stuff on the fly. But even for me there are limits.

For those who have played VTT games for years, what percentage would you say "go all the way" with all of the sophisticated functionality and eye candy, and how many are more stripped down and basic (simple maps and player cards/tokens)? I'm just not sure I have all the resources, or the interest, to build these fantastic set pieces and run games that way. It's just a little too "video game-ish" for me.

Dynamic Lighting/Line of Sight detection when working is a win in my book. The only improvements I am looking for at this point that regard is automatic wall detection that is editable after its run. And better shadowing as diffuse lighting is not handled well causing pillars and the like to cast sharp shadows.

3D is always accompanied by too much baggage in the general interface. I would consider using it once in a great while if the software fully supported the full range of 2D VTT features. The closest is Virtual Tabletop which focuses on emulating an actual game table. The result is a view not unlike what you would see if you were playing face to face. It "3D" are actually either Dwarven Forge or models that you place on the table as if you had them on the shelf.


Rant over.
We still have a couple of generations to go before what workable gets settled in the VTT world. The thing to watch out for when the software edges into CRPG territory. Even a better Bioware's Neverwinter Night is a step too far. VTTs work because outside of the interface you are using the same books and doing pretty much the same prep as a face to face game. If you do mostly theater of the mind with a few handouts then there no effective differences in the prep.

Trying to run things when it is mostly a CRPG is not the same thing but adjacent as most of the prep and material is baked into the software. Unlike a VTT which is meant to be agnostic to what rules you are using.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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3D is like having Dwarven Forge at the table. Looks cool but your limited to what in the box. Having refereed session within Bioware's Neverwinter Night it is not worth it compared to a 2D top down presentation.

Again I misspoke, when I said "3D" I really meant "2D top down" maps like the ones you always see. I get why some people prefer them over other more plain presentations, though, so thank you for sharing.

And just to clarify, my players aren't complaining! It's just me that needs to get over the whole inadequacy thing, apparently. :smile:
 

Tommy Brownell

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Again I misspoke, when I said "3D" I really meant "2D top down" maps like the ones you always see. I get why some people prefer them over other more plain presentations, though, so thank you for sharing.

And just to clarify, my players aren't complaining! It's just me that needs to get over the whole inadequacy thing, apparently. :smile:

I get it. I would have issues running sessions for people outside of my group for that reason: I don't know what the VTT expectations are for them, and don't want to disappoint anyone. Also why I won't do convention games. I'm not showing up with a bunch of terrain and minis and elaborate set pieces.
 

robertsconley

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Again I misspoke, when I said "3D" I really meant "2D top down" maps like the ones you always see. I get why some people prefer them over other more plain presentations, though, so thank you for sharing.

And just to clarify, my players aren't complaining! It's just me that needs to get over the whole inadequacy thing, apparently. :smile:
I had a friends who can't draw maps and was terrible at paint programs. Yet always has the most amazing setup when we used Roll20 (and earlier Fantasy Grounds).

His trick? Google Search. He was a maestro at finding just the right map.

Caveat: My view is that the power of VTTs software is that work as you work. If your normal style is Theater of the Mind with a few visual aids as handouts, then continue doing just that. Either way works as well some of this and some of that just like at the table.

For example
Desert Oasis Battlemap

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Desert Character Token
 

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E-Rocker is a goose.
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I had a friends who can't draw maps and was terrible at paint programs. Yet always has the most amazing setup when we used Roll20 (and earlier Fantasy Grounds).

His trick? Google Search. He was a maestro at finding just the right map.

Caveat: My view is that the power of VTTs software is that work as you work. If your normal style is Theater of the Mind with a few visual aids as handouts, then continue doing just that. Either way works as well some of this and some of that just like at the table.

For example
Desert Oasis Battlemap

View attachment 32459

Desert Character Token
Yeah I keep a ton of maps downloaded for a bunch of what I consider likely encounters so I can pull them out on the fly.

I also think the paid monster manuals for whatever your game system you use is money well spent. It saves a fair amount of time building them.
 
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