Random VTT rant

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Bunch

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I think the fundamental issue is that as a product niche it is still young and there isn't that much money in it. So progress is slow. But on the bright side progress will happen. Likely to occur when some related technology matures for other reasons to make it cheap enough for a VTT company to do. So far that been literally been the history of VTTs. Taking tools developed for other industries and repurposing them for tabletop roleplaying. Starting with a text chat bolted to a internet connected whiteboard along with a few RPG utilities like a dice roller.

Something like Roll20 was not possible in 2004 when Fantasy Grounds was introduced. Which is why Fantasy Grounds was a dedicated client. Also server hosted wasn't quite a thing then. Now it can be had for pennies as a result of virtual servers maturing. HTML5 was introduced in 2008, tools matured then around 2010 I started to see serious attempt making web based VTTs. Roll20 was launched in 2012.

There are two technologies potentially impacting VTTs. One is pattern recognition neural networks, for the application of recognizing character sheets and maps.

The other, I am not sure of it exact name. But what it does is allow you to run PC Games over the internet as if it was your own computer. Basically a server spools up a PC with a very nice graphic cards and streams the video to you, and in turn your client or web browser sends back your keyboard, mouse, or joystick. It application to VTT is that VTT itself is running on a virtual PC, and what you see is the video stream back. This allow processor intensive stuff like Dynamic Lighting to be handled way faster.
You think dynamic lighting is that intense graphically? We're not talking 3d so it seems relatively simple.
 

Paragon

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As to Roll20 and others, have not found one that is easy to use out of the box for anything but putting up a basic map. That can be had for free so go with TablePlop on that.

I tried only a few times to set up fog of war on an imported map in Roll20, spent hours and never got a complete or fully functional map. The map drawing portion of any VTT I tried is awful and slow and the maps look like a**.

Maptool does a reasonable job of handling fog of war, though there's a little learning curve with it. It harder to fuck around with line of sight, though. Its pretty pants for drawing anything but the most basic maps though; I either use other maps and import them, or draw them in Fractal Mapper and import them if I need something complicated and specific.
 

robertsconley

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You think dynamic lighting is that intense graphically? We're not talking 3d so it seems relatively simple.
No it not graphically intense, but it is processor intensive for something that has to be evaluated over a internet connection. Something I seen and tested with my own maps on Roll20.
 

Bunch

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No it not graphically intense, but it is processor intensive for something that has to be evaluated over a internet connection. Something I seen and tested with my own maps on Roll20.
Ah. I'm coming from Fantasy Grounds so the internet portion is taken out of the equation.
 

xanther

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Maptool does a reasonable job of handling fog of war, though there's a little learning curve with it. It harder to fuck around with line of sight, though. Its pretty pants for drawing anything but the most basic maps though; I either use other maps and import them, or draw them in Fractal Mapper and import them if I need something complicated and specific.
The dreaded words to me "learning curve." :smile: I would be fine with just good fog of war tools that can implement manually, quickly. Comments here make me think should give VTT a try again and forget dynamic lighting....after all I can simulate lighting with manually removing or keeping fog of war.

I think it would be cool if there was a default "cone" feature; just center the apex on a character then fan it out a certain distance and angle. For a quick what to you see in the moment to keep exploration moving.

I am interested in Fractal Mapper. Can one import objects? For example, I have a world map drawn up in CorelDraw. The file is huge given the amount of work put into making the coastline look real, and gives my current printer trouble. It would be great if could import a coastline and/or trace it.
 

Bunch

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I just want to point out a potential problem you all might encounter with dynamic lighting. Unlike fog of war dynamic lighting in Fantasy Grounds enacts automatically as soon as a player moves. If you don't lock down PC movement they can freely move anywhere legally movable (not blocked by a locked door, hidden passage, wall, etc). As they do that the light reveals whatever is passed through.
Fog of war being manual usually means a PC moved out of sight sees nothing. I often have to tell players "wait go back to X" because they walked into a room with monsters. (Monsters are manually revealed.)
 

ffilz

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What would be cool with fog of war would be a "dynamic lighting reveal", so reveal what would currently be shown with dynamic lighting.

I don't have too much problem with players moving tokens out of turn.
 

robertsconley

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I think it would be cool if there was a default "cone" feature; just center the apex on a character then fan it out a certain distance and angle. For a quick what to you see in the moment to keep exploration moving.
So what you do in Roll20 is enable dynamic lighting and explorer mode

1625263999894.png

You then set your entire map to permeant darkness. Using Hide Areas, Permanent Darkness and the Rectangle Tool.

1625264061049.png

You set each character to have Night Vision and Limited Vision. Your call as to the distance and angles. You only have to do this once and copy the token from map to map. I recommend a placeholder map where you keep all the tokens for the PCs. Note that the first limited field is how broad the field of vision. The second is where the center angle is in relation to the token. Zero on the token I was on the token's back so I used 180 degrees to move it to the front.

1625264154421.png
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You could play around with actual lighting as well.

Then you switch to Permanent darkness and reveal an area with the Rectangle or polygon tool.

1625264539558.png


The result is this.
1625264511117.png

1625264581036.png

Moving forward

1625264606135.png

"Opening" a door.
1625264681671.png
 

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robertsconley

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Rushing in
1625264793038.png

But the character is ambushed from the right. Because this is what the player sees.
1625264839125.png

Wrapping it up
You can do this without having to draw walls. Just toggle the options as above and Roll20 does the rest.

The above with a 180 degree field of view

1625264936724.png

 

xanther

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So what you do in Roll20 is enable dynamic lighting and explorer mode.....

My whole problem with this in Roll20 is if you don't use a map they provide couldn't get it to work. That is, if import a map Roll20 (as they are pdf, jpg, etc. they just come in as an image) has no idea where the walls are, and just could not get it to work as shown in the tutorials. Maybe that has changed as it has been over a year now since last tried.
 

Paragon

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The dreaded words to me "learning curve." :smile: I would be fine with just good fog of war tools that can implement manually, quickly. Comments here make me think should give VTT a try again and forget dynamic lighting....after all I can simulate lighting with manually removing or keeping fog of war.

Its not hard in Maptool, its just not as self-evident as it could be and the documentation for Maptool is hit or miss. Once you know what's done, its actually pretty simple (other than getting used to using the polygon clearing/placing tool, and I'm not convinced there's any way to do polygon painting that isn't kind of tricky). But I do basic FoW stuff with it all the time, and I can't be arsed with some of the more complex options in the program.

I think it would be cool if there was a default "cone" feature; just center the apex on a character then fan it out a certain distance and angle. For a quick what to you see in the moment to keep exploration moving.

I am interested in Fractal Mapper. Can one import objects? For example, I have a world map drawn up in CorelDraw. The file is huge given the amount of work put into making the coastline look real, and gives my current printer trouble. It would be great if could import a coastline and/or trace it.

Yes. You can set it as a background and then trace from it. Its not effort free, but I did it with a map of California once for a post apocalypse game map.

(Its also not entirely effort-free to lean, though its simpler than something like Campaign Cartographer).
 

Brock Savage

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I am giving Roll20 another shot. Last time I was trying to do it mid-campaign for an adventure that is already challenging to run in person with minis and maps. It's no wonder I was overwhelmed by the task. This time around we are doing it with 1st level characters so I can build it with a curated list of monsters, some evocative places and NPCs, and good ol' RNG. Unfortunately I can get lost in the details fussing around with maps and tokens.
 

TJS

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My whole problem with this in Roll20 is if you don't use a map they provide couldn't get it to work. That is, if import a map Roll20 (as they are pdf, jpg, etc. they just come in as an image) has no idea where the walls are, and just could not get it to work as shown in the tutorials. Maybe that has changed as it has been over a year now since last tried.
Generally with Roll20 you have to draw the walls in using the draw tool on the dynamic lighting layer.

Personally I concluded it's not really worth the trouble.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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I am giving Roll20 another shot. Last time I was trying to do it mid-campaign for an adventure that is already challenging to run in person with minis and maps. It's no wonder I was overwhelmed by the task. This time around we are doing it with 1st level characters so I can build it with a curated list of monsters, some evocative places and NPCs, and good ol' RNG. Unfortunately I can get lost in the details fussing around with maps and tokens.
I've sort of had a change of heart about the site since my original "rant." I really like Roll 20. If you've got great players, you can do whatever you want: intense 2d maps, creative tokens, sound effects, simple maps. Yes, sometimes there are glitches, and it can be difficult to follow along with the game while hitting all the bells and whistles, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I'm even considering upgrading to a pro account to use an API script that someone made for me.

I think the site is a great tool for gaming because it's intuitive, generally runs well and you can do whatever you want with it.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I've sort of had a change of heart about the site since my original "rant." I really like Roll 20. If you've got great players, you can do whatever you want: intense 2d maps, creative tokens, sound effects, simple maps. Yes, sometimes there are glitches, and it can be difficult to follow along with the game while hitting all the bells and whistles, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I'm even considering upgrading to a pro account to use an API script that someone made for me.

I think the site is a great tool for gaming because it's intuitive, generally runs well and you can do whatever you want with it.

That's why I haven't moved on. My players appreciate it when I do the extra bells and whistles, but don't mind it when I slack off. It works on all of their devices, and I tend to get it to do what I want.

And last night they finally (or one of them did, anyway) realized that I enter everything into Roll20 myself. Apparently she thought I was just using largely prepackaged stuff, so the appreciation for the GM workload went up just a little bit.
 

Lychee of the Exchequer

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I must confess I've played in a small handful of online games, and I'm trying at the moment to decide if they're :

- just disappointing compared to real life tabletop play
- so mediocre that I hate them (for a very hyperbolic value of "hate")
- bizarre and frustrating but worth it just to play with my far flung friends, scattered by the pandemic winds

Truthfully, I think I need to sort my social life (with mooarr social !)

The last time I played online we used Discord for the audio and Roll20 for the visuals (just pretty NPC pictures, and vistas of another world). It worked... well ? [I want flesh and blood around the wooden table, dammit !]

Also, on a totally unrelated note, I find my new RPG Pub avatar very cute, in a monstrish way, if I dare say so.
 

Stan

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The last time I played online we used Discord for the audio and Roll20 for the visuals (just pretty NPC pictures, and vistas of another world). It worked... well ? [I want flesh and blood around the wooden table, dammit !]
I've decided that, if I'm not using a battle map/grid, just discord is easier to manage. There are bots with die rollers and it's easier to upload pictures to discord than roll20.
 
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Venger Satanis

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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.

Some players complain, but I run all of my Roll20 games as text only with the occasional scribble off to the side just to give people an idea of scale or where things are in relation to each other.

After 10 minutes, a guy dropped out of my session just yesterday because he "couldn't handle it" - and it was only a one-hour session! That shit happens, but I've never been happier with my virtual games. I'd rather play face-to-face, of course. But if I have to run games on the computer, taking away all the distractions is the best thing for the GM... in my opinion.

VS
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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Some players complain, but I run all of my Roll20 games as text only with the occasional scribble off to the side just to give people an idea of scale or where things are in relation to each other.

I'm running text-only too now, only I occasionally read scripts to the players. It's an OSR game that generally attracts older players, so maybe that's why everyone has opted for not using voice and video.
 

Lychee of the Exchequer

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I'm running text-only too now, only I occasionally read scripts to the players. It's an OSR game that generally attracts older players, so maybe that's why everyone has opted for not using voice and video.
You mean to say that we old foggies can't see and hear anymore, yes ?
 

EmperorNorton

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Honestly the biggest difference to me in using a VTT (though I don't use roll20 anymore cause I find it a pain to use, I have been messing around in foundry lately and quite like it), is that it was SUPER important to be playing on a 2 screen setup for the computer. 1 screen just isn't enough to keep everything in front of my that I want.

Like when I play in person, I have a bunch of papers, and I can spread them in front of me, so I have so much "real estate" for quick glances. With only 1 monitor it never felt that way.
 

Ram

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Reading through the posts in this thread has been interesting. I've been playing online using Fantasy Grounds for about 15 years. I've also played online using other vtts or just using something like discord with no vtt. You can see a bit of my history from this post on this board. The first link in that post takes you to another post of mine even further in the past.

If you are interested in playing online, but haven't enjoyed it yet, try to address whatever is causing your discomfort. For example, sometimes when I feel like I need more 'real estate' as EmperorNorton EmperorNorton mentions, I might use real life real estate. A table with books. Sometimes I might use more screen real estate. A laptop on my desk with reference pages opened up on PDFs or on websites, etc. Depending on my need I utilize the proper tool that works for me. I think this is true whether you are playing on Fantasy Grounds or another vtt.

It is also true that if you sit down and try to play online and don't plan for it, don't expect to have to learn things... the experience will definitely disappoint. If you give up at that point though you miss out on the strength of the tool. it is also true that just because you are playing online doesn't mean that you have to use any technology you aren't comfortable with. I mean it is possible to play in person using a whiteboard and miniatures... it is also possible to play in person using elaborate, custom sets and miniatures. Both are possible and people will have preferences, but you don't give up playing the way you like because of that. The same for playing online... some play with pretty maps... some play with hand drawn line maps... some use line of sight... some don't... etc. Use what you like. Find players that like what you use. I promise, you are not alone in your general preferences. (Now, some of the more specific details may be unique to you... but that's what keeps us honest. :smile: )

I can promise you that plenty of people are using Fantasy Grounds (and I suspect other vtts but I want to stick to what I can say with confidence from experience) but not using most of the power it brings. They don't want automation, they don't want maps at all, they don't bother with online character sheets.They play and they find a way that works for them and the group. Venger Satanis Venger Satanis describes his choice a few posts up.

Sometimes the benefits of an online session don't even translate in the way that most of us are thinking. I've played with folks online that are using text because a member is hearing impaired... and with folks that are using voice because a member has diminished vision and uses zooming to be able to see images and the like as necessary. We are complicated creatures and the world only enhances our complications. Find the tools that sing when you use them and cherish them. Just remember to never stop adding to your toolkit. Consider all the posts in that other thread asking "How old is too old?". Whatever it takes to engage in the hobby you love...
 

Skarg

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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.
My focus when using VTTs has been to minimize the time I waste using the VTT, and avoiding doing things that take more time using the VTT than not using the VTT. For instance, I avoid entering character stats into the VTT, or trying to automate much of anything. I mainly just want it to give me a map and counters and a chat window, and the ability to show and hide parts of the maps with players. Things that work easily without wasting time are nice, such as the rangefinder. Things that are fiddly, I tend not to use.
 

ffilz

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My focus when using VTTs has been to minimize the time I waste using the VTT, and avoiding doing things that take more time using the VTT than not using the VTT. For instance, I avoid entering character stats into the VTT, or trying to automate much of anything. I mainly just want it to give me a map and counters and a chat window, and the ability to show and hide parts of the maps with players. Things that work easily without wasting time are nice, such as the rangefinder. Things that are fiddly, I tend not to use.
That's about where I am. And if I didn't need the map and tokens aspect, I might use just Discord, though with video not working well with it, a purely audio experience might not work for me. I use Google Sheets for character sheets. I can customize calculations for my house rules. My RuneQuest sheet has a summary page where I can quickly look up any skill of interest and see who in the party has it.
 

Skarg

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In the voice Roll 20 games I've played in, people had problems with the Roll 20 audio when more than two people were connected, so we used Discord for the voice and Roll 20 for the maps and text chat.

I've also had a few issues with Discord audio, but we pretty much always managed to work around them.

And I have done some PbP play where I just used Roll 20 to generate maps which I then cut and pasted to Discord, not even having any players join me on Roll 20.
 

Spellslinging Sellsword

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For my Roll20 game we ended up dropping using the internet for voice and just do a conference call on our cell phones. Actually works pretty well. Not sure what the other guys do, but I just connect my gaming headset to my phone instead of computer.
 

Skarg

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That makes sense if everyone can get it to work and not be charged for it, since it wouldn't use any network bandwidth or computer resources.
 

Paragon

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I've decided that, if I'm not using a battle map/grid, just discord is easier to manage. There are bots with die rollers and it's easier to upload pictures to discord than roll20.

I'd tend to agree, but then I use Discord for the audio portion (and occasionally uploading images or such), as my map stuff is separate.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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Starting to re-think my ban on using voice on Roll 20. Had a battle with 5 zombies go for 1 1/2 hours last night! Even with macros that were installed to handle rolling and damage calculations, it still took forever. I can't help but think that if we were all talking instead of typing, some time would have been saved, But hearing about how glitchy the Roll 20 audio is, I'm not sure I want to try it.
 

EmperorNorton

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Starting to re-think my ban on using voice on Roll 20. Had a battle with 5 zombies go for 1 1/2 hours last night! Even with macros that were installed to handle rolling and damage calculations, it still took forever. I can't help but think that if we were all talking instead of typing, some time would have been saved, But hearing about how glitchy the Roll 20 audio is, I'm not sure I want to try it.
Just use something like discord. The roll20 audio is horrid, but it is easy to get a free alternative.
 

Tommy Brownell

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Just use something like discord. The roll20 audio is horrid, but it is easy to get a free alternative.
Yeah, Roll20 audio is trash. Just find an alternative. We use Facebook calls. A lot of people use Discord. Just go with whatever works, because Roll20 audio (probably) still doesn’t.
 

Bunch

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Just use something like discord. The roll20 audio is horrid, but it is easy to get a free alternative.

Yeah, Roll20 audio is trash. Just find an alternative. We use Facebook calls. A lot of people use Discord. Just go with whatever works, because Roll20 audio (probably) still doesn’t.
What they said. Do anything but roll20 audio. Everytime I hear someone list that as one of the features of Roll20 vs another VTT I immediately lose all respect for the reviewer.
 

AsenRG

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For my Roll20 game we ended up dropping using the internet for voice and just do a conference call on our cell phones. Actually works pretty well. Not sure what the other guys do, but I just connect my gaming headset to my phone instead of computer.
Hmm, that makes me think about just using Viber:shade:!
 

TJS

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Starting to re-think my ban on using voice on Roll 20. Had a battle with 5 zombies go for 1 1/2 hours last night! Even with macros that were installed to handle rolling and damage calculations, it still took forever. I can't help but think that if we were all talking instead of typing, some time would have been saved, But hearing about how glitchy the Roll 20 audio is, I'm not sure I want to try it.
I use Google Meet for video these days mostly.

I've used Discord for voice before, but definitely think the video helps keep people focused.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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I use Google Meet for video these days mostly.

I've used Discord for voice before, but definitely think the video helps keep people focused.

I wonder if we could try Zoom for voice, since I record my sessions with Zoom already.

I kind of enjoy the anonymity of going text only, but all the typing and waiting takes time. I think at this point it's mostly just a consequence of running a VTT game. Even if we were using voice, the 1 1/2 hour battle probably still would have taken over an hour. Ultimately you can't replicate the speed and ease of being face to face and rolling dice quickly.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can flip the script, and run an in-person game using Roll 20 features to supplement gameplay. (Those macros for the Pacesetter Action Table are pretty amazing and take a lot of the frustration out of playing with a gritty OSR table system.)
 

Bunch

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I wonder if we could try Zoom for voice, since I record my sessions with Zoom already.

I kind of enjoy the anonymity of going text only, but all the typing and waiting takes time. I think at this point it's mostly just a consequence of running a VTT game. Even if we were using voice, the 1 1/2 hour battle probably still would have taken over an hour. Ultimately you can't replicate the speed and ease of being face to face and rolling dice quickly.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can flip the script, and run an in-person game using Roll 20 features to supplement gameplay. (Those macros for the Pacesetter Action Table are pretty amazing and take a lot of the frustration out of playing with a gritty OSR table system.)
We've used Fantasy Grounds many times for in person play. We tend to just tell the GM what what action we want to take and he did the FG part. On the plus side you really do get pulled out of the mechanics at that point.
 

Paragon

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My own feeling about video is "just another screen to pay attention to" but people's mileage varies.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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On the plus side you really do get pulled out of the mechanics at that point.

I'm just not sure if that's a plus or a negative though. Rolling dice in person and running the numbers is, after all, a major aspect of the enjoyment of in-person play. I guess I would have to give in-person players the option of using VTT macros for rolls. My guess is that most would at least use them for battle to help things move along more quickly.
 

Bunch

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I'm just not sure if that's a plus or a negative though. Rolling dice in person and running the numbers is, after all, a major aspect of the enjoyment of in-person play. I guess I would have to give in-person players the option of using VTT macros for rolls. My guess is that most would at least use them for battle to help things move along more quickly.
Battle is where it's most helpful. You have things like saving rolls at end of turn done automatically. No one forgets. I can't recall if flanking gets calculated automatically.

You can have players make the rolls and just apply them in the combat tracker and chat window.
 
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