Random VTT rant

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Paragon

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I've usually found my players are not big fans of the VTT making rolls for them, or even of digital rollers (their claim is that they don't trust computer RNG, but I have mixed feelings about that). They're usually willing to accept digital handling of initiative where that has a random element, though.
 

EOTB

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At the end of the day, it's not hard to come up with an objection to VTT that VTT can't solve. It's not face-to-face gaming, and isn't a replacement for ftf gaming. So I don't bother negotiating with people who insist on comparing it to ftf gaming. They can simply not play and hope for more ftf gaming to come their way.

VTT is "baldur's gate ++". For years people have pined for D&D on their computer where the AI was brilliant and there were no walls. Well, there it is. Compare it to Baldur's Gate instead of ftf gaming, and only repurpose the time that would otherwise be spent hacking around on BG clones.

Combat in Fantasy Grounds is very quick - there's a button for every weapon attack a character has, all the persistent mods most people would apply are pre-applied, click on your target and click on the button for that attack.

EDIT - and there's also an option to manually input a die result you roll at home. But I wouldn't use it in games I run, as then I lose the advantage a good VTT gives - which is drastically speeding up combat involving players who don't know the rule set like the back of their hand.
 
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Bunch

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At the end of the day, it's not hard to come up with an objection to VTT that VTT can't solve. It's not face-to-face gaming, and isn't a replacement for ftf gaming. So I don't bother negotiating with people who insist on comparing it to ftf gaming. They can simply not play and hope for more ftf gaming to come their way.

VTT is "baldur's gate ++". For years people have pined for D&D on their computer where the AI was brilliant and there were no walls. Well, there it is. Compare it to Baldur's Gate instead of ftf gaming, and only repurpose the time that would otherwise be spent hacking around on BG clones.

Combat in Fantasy Grounds is very quick - there's a button for every weapon attack a character has, all the persistent mods most people would apply are pre-applied, click on your target and click on the button for that attack.

EDIT - and there's also an option to manually input a die result you roll at home. But I wouldn't use it in games I run, as then I lose the advantage a good VTT gives - which is drastically speeding up combat involving players who don't know the rule set like the back of their hand.
With a GM with solid knowledge of the system, GM inputting dice rolls can be just about as speeding. Partly because it one handler who really knows the system(presumably).
 

EOTB

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That's true - the manual input of the base roll into FG is fast. My thought was more centered around how unfamiliar players often pause action to ask about unfamiliar modifiers they think might apply to the base roll. I didn't say that very clearly.

But on reflection, you're correct - if the player (who may not be familiar with the game being played) is comfortable just rolling a die and calling out the number rolled, even a player new-ish to the game being played could roll dice manually at home and not slow down a game on FG.
 

Brock Savage

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I've usually found my players are not big fans of the VTT making rolls for them, or even of digital rollers (their claim is that they don't trust computer RNG, but I have mixed feelings about that). They're usually willing to accept digital handling of initiative where that has a random element, though.
That seems like a strange objection to VTT that borders on superstition. Granted, gamers tend to be superstitious about dice but still...
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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I can understand why some players don't like digital rollers, especially in a game with funky mechanics that some players enjoy using. The number-crunching and result determinations could be part of the reason why players like the game in the first place, so having a VTT macro take that over could remove some of the fun.

As much as I might like said mechanics too, I just can't bring myself to doing it manually anymore online, at least not for combat. I really want to try using the system ftf, though, because I feel like it would be a lot more smooth and enjoyable in person.
 

TJS

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Some systems have mechanics that really do have a tactile element that is lacking on VTT: Savage Worlds and 2d20 system spring to mind.

With other systems I think the VTT actually is a distinct improvement. Dice pool systems are faster and more straightforward on a computer (and larger dice pools are no longer an issue at all).

A dice pool with a variant target number is no longer a challenge to working memory if you just input the target number and let the computer count successes.

At some point someone will start designing systems with dice mechanics made purely for VTTs - dice systems that involve rolling between 10 and 30 d20s or something like that.

My personal conclusion after a year of playing online is that, despite preconceptions, games that don't have any requirement for miniatures and don't treat combat as primarily are tactical squad game are actually much easier to run online.

If I was designing a game to be run on VTT I would not make positioning a key element.
 

ffilz

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At some point someone will start designing systems with dice mechanics made purely for VTTs - dice systems that involve rolling between 10 and 30 d20s or something like that.
I bet Cold Iron would be a lot more appealing if it's normal distribution mechanic was mechanized in VTT eliminating the table lookup and the understanding when to roll extra d10s for the open ended curve.
 

Tommy Brownell

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Some systems have mechanics that really do have a tactile element that is lacking on VTT: Savage Worlds and 2d20 system spring to mind.
My experience has been the opposite. Our set piece battle scenes are more varied on VTT, Roll20 handles bennies great, our initiative card draws are faster. The only gripe I have is stuff like Frenzy (where you roll an extra attack die) are slightly cumbersome because I default to making two attack rolls and ignoring the second wild die (I'm sure someone has programmed a macro or something for Savage Worlds that I just haven't seen that does it).

Eh, GM bennies are kind of a pain because I can't break them up into individual wild card pools, I guess...but not that big of a deal in the grand scheme.
 

TJS

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My experience has been the opposite. Our set piece battle scenes are more varied on VTT, Roll20 handles bennies great, our initiative card draws are faster. The only gripe I have is stuff like Frenzy (where you roll an extra attack die) are slightly cumbersome because I default to making two attack rolls and ignoring the second wild die (I'm sure someone has programmed a macro or something for Savage Worlds that I just haven't seen that does it).

Eh, GM bennies are kind of a pain because I can't break them up into individual wild card pools, I guess...but not that big of a deal in the grand scheme.
It may be easier in some ways but it's not tactile, and it's designed to be tactile.

Even the card based initiative is there in part because it's easier on the table - nothing needs to be written down, you draw your card and place it in front of you. This is unnecessary on a VTT.
 

Tommy Brownell

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Okay, then to clarify, I don't feel like it loses anything by eliminating the tactile nature. And Savage Worlds is about 85% of what I've ran for the last decade plus, both in person and online.
 

Brock Savage

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Some systems have mechanics that really do have a tactile element that is lacking on VTT: Savage Worlds and 2d20 system spring to mind.
My D&D games are very tactile with minis, handouts, props etc so this whole VTT thing is a huge downgrade as far as I am concerned. HOWEVER VTT allows us to play more often, include more people, and is more convenient overall. I have players who drive an hour each way to play and VTT is obviously easier for them. We're taking a vote on it at our next FtF session
 

Tommy Brownell

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My D&D games are very tactile with minis, handouts, props etc so this whole VTT thing is a huge downgrade as far as I am concerned. HOWEVER VTT allows us to play more often, include more people, and is more convenient overall. I have players who drive an hour each way to play and VTT is obviously easier for them. We're taking a vote on it at our next FtF session
As I've probably said elsewhere, two of my players (married) live an hour and a half away. What once basically had to be a Saturday night activity due to work on Monday is now a Sunday night activity because people only have to crawl into bed when we're done.
 
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EmperorNorton

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I wouldn't do Savage Worlds on Roll20 anymore, and I haven't tried it on Foundry, but the implementation on Fantasy Grounds is REALLY good.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I haven't ran it on FG, just played it, but I prefer the flexibility on Roll20. But it's great that there are options out there for everyone.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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My personal conclusion after a year of playing online is that, despite preconceptions, games that don't have any requirement for miniatures and don't treat combat as primarily are tactical squad game are actually much easier to run online.

If I was designing a game to be run on VTT I would not make positioning a key element.

I agree, even though I don't feel like I'm supposed to. After all, having maps right on your screen with tokens and everything being pretty easy to just click and move around certainly does draw one toward making combat more about movement and positioning. I'm still learning to run Roll 20 like that, though--like how it's "supposed" to be used. I'm still more likely to just throw some pictures on the screen and do combat via theater of the mind as best I can via text. It just "feels more right" not turning a gaming session into a wanna-be video game. But I think that I need to stop doing that and start taking maps and movement more seriously. It might actually help take some pressure off of trying to describe battle movement and positioning, then getting lost on where everyone is and what they're supposed to be doing.

In that sense, I think VTT can actually make one a better GM (as minis might be able to).
 
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TJS

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My issue with maps is not about their use during the game, it's about inflexibility and prep time.

Maps are fine if you know a combat is going to take place and have time to make or find a map, tokens etc - but it's jarring when a fight breaks out and you have nothing prepped and it's slower to just draw a map for reference then it would be on the game table.

Plus searching the net for maps or drawing them yourself is just tedious and time consuming and if you're setting up stuff like dynamic lighting doubly so. And if you're not playing bog standard generic D&D it's a lot harder.

To me there's a vicious circle here. Maps considerably improve D&D because that's the kind of system that D&D is. But in other systems they are less important. When playing Feng Shui we ran all combats using a single page with a shot clock on it, and just moved the tokens along the shot clock.

I've argued before that the promotion of maps on VTT tends to push people into using published adventures, and I think it's ultimately in the interest of VTT makers to do so.
 

TJS

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I really think VTTs would be improved if they included functions like mind mapping tools or some if the features of Google Jamboards - but that doesn't seem to be an area they're interested in going in.
 

Stan

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I really think VTTs would be improved if they included functions like mind mapping tools or some if the features of Google Jamboards - but that doesn't seem to be an area they're interested in going in.
Yea, I think they want to sell prepped adventures and assets. If things like dynamic lighting or making maps on the fly were too easy, there would be less reason to buy maps with all the bells and whistles built in.

One the things that bugs me is the same thing that bugs me about DnD Beyond - they want you to buy everything all over again to get them to work within their environment.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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My issue with maps is not about their use during the game, it's about inflexibility and prep time.

Yeah it takes a bunch of time, but the tradeoff is that it can add to the experience. But investigations and combat on VTT done simply, and cheaply, can also be very rewarding. Which is why I mix it up, and probably always will. After all, having a very simple but engaging experience one session can make one all the more excited to see a 2D map with bells and whistles the next time around. And if the 2D map adventure is boring or flops, then players can look forward to something else the time after that.
 

Brock Savage

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My issue with maps is not about their use during the game, it's about inflexibility and prep time.

Maps are fine if you know a combat is going to take place and have time to make or find a map, tokens etc - but it's jarring when a fight breaks out and you have nothing prepped and it's slower to just draw a map for reference then it would be on the game table.
I saw this problem and prepared for it as best I could. First of all I started the campaign in a specific biome (swamp) to limit my prep time for the next few sessions. I bought a couple map packs along with tokens packs to cover the bestiary. I made certain to cover creatures common to the setting (stuff like dungeon vermin, giant rats, bandits, undead, etc). It didn't take too much time after the initial time sink of learning how to use Roll20. After that it was the usual bare bones prep I do for any session- random encounter tables, a rough map, some evocative locations, and a few notable NPCs.

I went the extra mile of creating "characters" for the Roll20 tokens so I have all the stats handy in a bestiary but it wasn't necessary. Since the 5e SRD is free the "work" consisted of choosing the right token along with some occasional tweaking and reskinning of a SRD monster profile.

Now if the players said, "screw this, we're getting out of the swamps and heading back to the city" at the beginning of next session I'd be disappointed at the lack of nice maps but not so screwed that I couldn't improv. During our next FtF session we're going to discuss how we want to move forward with VTT. If we decide as a group to go all in on VTT I will probably just buy a variety of maps from different biomes to handle sessions on the fly. A longer term project would be to complete the token bestiary.

Edit: The most annoying part of setting up for VTT was making characters online with a group. Ugh, what a pain in the ass.
 
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TJS

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Yes. But notice how much harder it is to find tokens if you're not using D&D. You have to make your own or using some kind of generic token.

Say I want a battle in a city. If that city is Genericville D&D, with 19th century buildings pretending to be medieval (because for some reason people think all D&D buildings should look like 19th century ones), then it's easy, but if it's 9th Century Chang'an or 15th Century Tenochitlan, then there's bugger all that I could use.

This is a big part of the issue I have. VTTs funnel users toward certain kinds of content.

You could argue that D&D is where the demand is, and that's true, but they also make it that much harder for anything else to break out enough to drive any demand.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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I've actually been surprised by how easy it is to find maps and tokens that work "well enough" for a modern campaign. A cyberpunk pack can double for a Southern city at night. A Mayan temple map can double for--well, a modern-day Mayan temple ruin. I've even started finding some top down player tokens that I might buy, after having sworn off using 2d tokens for players.

Plus, the "simple" circular tokens, which I have yet to use, are apparently pretty popular, and can be made freely at rolladvantage.com.

Now if players go "off the map" that's another story. Hasn't happened to me yet, but I gather that someday I'll have enough stuff built up for any kind of random street or building (interior or exterior). Or, if they go off the map, just switch back to theater of the mind, and either have a page set up for that with just a location picture or drawing, or just wing it on whatever campaign page you're on.
 

Brock Savage

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Yes. But notice how much harder it is to find tokens if you're not using D&D. You have to make your own or using some kind of generic token.

Say I want a battle in a city. If that city is Genericville D&D, with 19th century buildings pretending to be medieval (because for some reason people think all D&D buildings should look like 19th century ones), then it's easy, but if it's 9th Century Chang'an or 15th Century Tenochitlan, then there's bugger all that I could use.

This is a big part of the issue I have. VTTs funnel users toward certain kinds of content.

You could argue that D&D is where the demand is, and that's true, but they also make it that much harder for anything else to break out enough to drive any demand.
You are absolutely correct. This is why I can't run Carcosa on Roll20. It galls me that I might end up cancelling this campaign 6 sessions in because I cannot satisfactorily depict it on VTT. I was fortunate to find a 3d token artist I liked for Hyperborea who covers a wide range of creatures- including Mythos beings!

That said, it seems easy enough to make Pog-style tokens for free. I don't care for them myself but they seem to be popular.
 

TJS

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Yeah. There's something to be said for more abstract tokens.

A set of tokens with a single letter to match the first letter of the monster name can be enough. And it's probably better to have something abstract rather than something innapropriate.

And there may be some ways top square the circle there. For viking games use runes for tokens, for a wuxia game perhaps mahjong pieces.
 

Bunch

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A suggestion for all of you who want to draw a map quickly with VTTs. Invest in a penlike mouse. It makes drawing easier.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I basically never use stuff like dynamic lighting. For a lot of things, Roll20's search does a great job of finding me maps for (if not tokens). If my internet was faster, it would be ridulously smooth.

Non-D&D/fantasy assets is a real thing, though. I don't mind it for NPCs when I run ETU, because one of the funnest parts of prep for me is "casting" the NPCs with actors, but there's been more than once that I've had to use a map that was CLOSE to what I wanted, but not 100% aesthetically modern, and I had to tell the gang to just ignore that part. Which is fine, because in our face to face games, I tended to use the same HeroClix maps and same minis over and over ad nauseum to the point that they were nothing more than vague stand ins for what we were really supposed to be seeing, so I at least get closer to the right visual now.

That said, it seems easy enough to make Pog-style tokens for free. I don't care for them myself but they seem to be popular.
I'm all about the pogs. TokenTool is my very good friend.
 

Stan

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One of the things I can do reasonably simply in Roll 20 is make tokens. For characters, I usually clip out a headshot of whatever pic they send me and drop it into the game and resize it.

Scripting and fancy stuff is enough work that I can see what some DMs charge, though it's a foreign concept to me. In my head, I'm usually thinking If all you losers would take 5 minutes to memorize key aspects of your character stats, you wouldn't need scripts. How hard is to roll 1d20 +4! I guess my efforts to never be the slow one at the table has affected how I play.
 

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...You could argue that D&D is where the demand is, and that's true, but they also make it that much harder for anything else to break out enough to drive any demand.
Oh I've seen this before OS > software > OS > software > OS....etc. It is an extremely effective tool for creating a barrier to entry.
 

ffilz

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One of the things I can do reasonably simply in Roll 20 is make tokens. For characters, I usually clip out a headshot of whatever pic they send me and drop it into the game and resize it.

Scripting and fancy stuff is enough work that I can see what some DMs charge, though it's a foreign concept to me. In my head, I'm usually thinking If all you losers would take 5 minutes to memorize key aspects of your character stats, you wouldn't need scripts. How hard is to roll 1d20 +4! I guess my efforts to never be the slow one at the table has affected how I play.
Yea, tokens are easy. Google search for an image or cut and paste from a digital counter sheet. I have used Snapshot! counters in Traveller games, and I cut the "party" counter from SPI's Deathmaze in honor of my use of it for face to face games...
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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Count me as a major convert to Roll 20 scripts and macros. Just learned how to program them to not only roll but set off sound effects. It's hard once you get going not to keep experimenting and adding new stuff, because it's fun and a challenge.

The good part is that you can always scale back if you think things are going too far with fancy stuff.
 

EmperorNorton

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I just clip images and use a round token frame that I like (using various colors for different stuff, each character has a color they pick, red for hostile monsters, silver for NPCs (I have red and silver versions of a lot of the NPCs/Hostiles for things that could go either way), etc. etc.)

Just need some art and resize paste into a psd, mask to the circle, and boom done.
 

Paragon

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That seems like a strange objection to VTT that borders on superstition. Granted, gamers tend to be superstitious about dice but still...

I think the problem is some of them are too close to the problem (they understand the maths and code too well not to think about it); I've noted that in practice physical dice have, shall we say, limited randomness too, but its a problem there they're all used to.
 

Paragon

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My D&D games are very tactile with minis, handouts, props etc so this whole VTT thing is a huge downgrade as far as I am concerned. HOWEVER VTT allows us to play more often, include more people, and is more convenient overall. I have players who drive an hour each way to play and VTT is obviously easier for them. We're taking a vote on it at our next FtF session

I think he's talking about the whole "physically handling the metacurrency" element given the two examples he's been discussing.
 

Paragon

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My issue with maps is not about their use during the game, it's about inflexibility and prep time.

Maps are fine if you know a combat is going to take place and have time to make or find a map, tokens etc - but it's jarring when a fight breaks out and you have nothing prepped and it's slower to just draw a map for reference then it would be on the game table.

This is clearly a YMMV case, because I've found on the whole I can do an improvised map on Maptool than I could messing with a battlemat. It probably isn't going to use as many curves and such (because the Maptool drawing tools are kind of crap) but in terms of handling I don't find it any worse.

Plus searching the net for maps or drawing them yourself is just tedious and time consuming and if you're setting up stuff like dynamic lighting doubly so. And if you're not playing bog standard generic D&D it's a lot harder.

To me there's a vicious circle here. Maps considerably improve D&D because that's the kind of system that D&D is. But in other systems they are less important. When playing Feng Shui we ran all combats using a single page with a shot clock on it, and just moved the tokens along the shot clock.'''

There are other games where I consider maps as or more important than D20. I know it can be done but I'd sure as hell not want to do so with Savage Worlds, Hero System, GURPS or Fragged Empire. There's no way on God's green earth I'd keep all the positioning and physical layout intact in my head well enough, and all those suffer if you can't.

They don't have to be good looking maps (though I prefer that), but some kind of visual representation? I get that other people can apparently get by without them, but for games that care about things like cover, movement and area effects at least, not me.
 

Paragon

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Now if the players said, "screw this, we're getting out of the swamps and heading back to the city" at the beginning of next session I'd be disappointed at the lack of nice maps but not so screwed that I couldn't improv. During our next FtF session we're going to discuss how we want to move forward with VTT. If we decide as a group to go all in on VTT I will probably just buy a variety of maps from different biomes to handle sessions on the fly. A longer term project would be to complete the token bestiary.

Edit: The most annoying part of setting up for VTT was making characters online with a group. Ugh, what a pain in the ass.

This is more or less what I did, but then, I was using a VTT for map display well before we weren't playing in person.
 

Paragon

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Yes. But notice how much harder it is to find tokens if you're not using D&D. You have to make your own or using some kind of generic token.

Making your own is not exactly a giant pain as long as you can find a piece of artwork you find acceptable; I do pretty much everything with some web searching and TokenTool.


(Once in a while you'll run into a set of opponents or a character nothing really close can be found, but that's at least as big an issue with miniatures or the like; at some point if you're using anything but generic markers that's going to come up anyway._

This is a big part of the issue I have. VTTs funnel users toward certain kinds of content.

Eh. Again, this is only true if you don't go "close enough is good enough".
 
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Paragon

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Yeah. There's something to be said for more abstract tokens.

A set of tokens with a single letter to match the first letter of the monster name can be enough. And it's probably better to have something abstract rather than something innapropriate.

And there may be some ways top square the circle there. For viking games use runes for tokens, for a wuxia game perhaps mahjong pieces.

I've got a set of number and letter tokens specifically for that kind of purpose when I can't be arsed to do anything else or when I have an unexpected encounter.
 

Paragon

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I basically never use stuff like dynamic lighting. For a lot of things, Roll20's search does a great job of finding me maps for (if not tokens). If my internet was faster, it would be ridulously smooth.

Yeah, as I've noted, part of the question of how problematic this can be depends on how fancy you really want to get. Maptool has all kinds of options I don't bother with; about as far as I go is to use the Fog of War tool in its more basic functions. But messing with lighting? Naw. More trouble than its worth.

Non-D&D/fantasy assets is a real thing, though. I don't mind it for NPCs when I run ETU, because one of the funnest parts of prep for me is "casting" the NPCs with actors, but there's been more than once that I've had to use a map that was CLOSE to what I wanted, but not 100% aesthetically modern, and I had to tell the gang to just ignore that part. Which is fine, because in our face to face games, I tended to use the same HeroClix maps and same minis over and over ad nauseum to the point that they were nothing more than vague stand ins for what we were really supposed to be seeing, so I at least get closer to the right visual now.

Yeah. There's a million kinds of fantasy maps and tiles, but it starts to thin out the farther you get away from that (and it can be annoying, oddly enough, to find SF maps that aren't clearly intended for Star Wars). Its slowly getting better, though.

I'm all about the pogs. TokenTool is my very good friend.

Yeppers.
 
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Paragon

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One of the things I can do reasonably simply in Roll 20 is make tokens. For characters, I usually clip out a headshot of whatever pic they send me and drop it into the game and resize it.

Scripting and fancy stuff is enough work that I can see what some DMs charge, though it's a foreign concept to me. In my head, I'm usually thinking If all you losers would take 5 minutes to memorize key aspects of your character stats, you wouldn't need scripts. How hard is to roll 1d20 +4! I guess my efforts to never be the slow one at the table has affected how I play.

Well, that's one of the things I have to constantly remind myself; that people expect the VTT to do things I'd never begin to expect it to do. I don't even expect to have something like Hero Lab for everything, let alone have it baked into the VTT I'm using. People can just use their damn character sheets like they would face to face.
 
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