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Unruly

Roll20 vs Fantasy Grounds

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So I'm looking at VTT options and I'm trying to decide which one to go with. So if you folks have had some experience with them, specifically Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, can you give me some pros and cons? Specifically, I'm looking at ease of use, built in support for rulesets, ease of customization, supplement sharing between DM and players, and that sort of thing.

 

Right now I think I'm leaning towards Fantasy Grounds, but the lack of VoIP built in is honestly kind of a big deal in my mind. I'd rather not have to deal with the terribleness that is Skype and I don't exactly want to deal with renting a mumble/ventrilo/teamspeak server.

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26 minutes ago, Unruly said:

So I'm looking at VTT options and I'm trying to decide which one to go with. So if you folks have had some experience with them, specifically Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, can you give me some pros and cons? Specifically, I'm looking at ease of use, built in support for rulesets, ease of customization, supplement sharing between DM and players, and that sort of thing.

 

Right now I think I'm leaning towards Fantasy Grounds, but the lack of VoIP built in is honestly kind of a big deal in my mind. I'd rather not have to deal with the terribleness that is Skype and I don't exactly want to deal with renting a mumble/ventrilo/teamspeak server.

 

Discord is easier than even Mumble (… I know someone who's running a Mumble server who might be willing to help you out, though).

 

I can't help with the other part. Sorry. :/

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Yeah, go with Discord for voice chat.

 

I'm on Roll20, and I think the big boon is that Roll20 has a free mode, whereas Fantasy Ground has costs associated with it.

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I've run both a mumble and a ventrilo server before, I'm just not in the mood to pay $7.50/mo for something that's probably going to get used twice a month at most.

 

As for Fantasy Grounds not having a free version, their website says they do. It's limited to only being able to play with people who have an Ultimate license, but if I'm going to run a game I'll probably drop the $150 for a one-time license just to have it. The thing I'm wondering about, which I know Roll20 advertises as doing, is the sharing of books/supplements between GM and players if the GM has a sufficient subscription. Like, if I buy the PHB, MM, and DMG then my players have access to it through me for the game. Maybe I missed it, but it doesn't look like Fantasy Grounds does that. Considering how the books are nearly the same price as their physical counterparts, that's a huge thing. I'd basically be asking the players to rebuy a bunch of stuff they already own.

Edited by Unruly

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Like was said, go with Discord, it's free, there's even a browser version. My group has been using it for over a year and it's been far more reliable than Skype has ever been.

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13 hours ago, BlazingTornado said:

 

I'm on Roll20, and I think the big boon is that Roll20 has a free mode, whereas Fantasy Ground has costs associated with it.

 

For Roll20, how much automation is there? Like, character sheets auto-filling based on the system you're using and that sort of thing.

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Don't use roll20. I have some nasty horror stories and bad experiences involving the people who run it that left a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

 

Personal experiences aside.... roll20 is fine to use as a player. However, as a GM it's just really clunky and a nightmare to use. In all honesty I'd much rather use Map Tool (which is basically the poor man's Fantasy Grounds from what I've heard). Don't confuse Map Tool with Map Tools (which is a geographical mapping program).

 

Map Tool has an active community who produce different frameworks for different systems. I've been able to use it to run Pathfinder, 3.5, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, Shadowrun.... It's a simple framework with a lot of possibilities but sometimes you need to get a bit technical. Fortunately "campaign frameworks" often has that covered.

 

I've often been tempted by Fantasy Grounds and lots of people tell me that it's like a slightly better version of Map Tool. That being said Fantasy Grounds has a lot more stuff integrated and kept up to date so I might swing for it eventually.

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16 minutes ago, Balgin Stondraeg said:

Don't use roll20. I have some nasty horror stories and bad experiences involving the people who run it that left a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

I've heard one of the founders is kind of standoff-ish, that's about it.

 

I've personally been able to use Roll20 as a GM just fine. Hell I've been doing it for well over two years.

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1 hour ago, Balgin Stondraeg said:

Don't use roll20. I have some nasty horror stories and bad experiences involving the people who run it that left a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

 

Personal experiences aside.... roll20 is fine to use as a player. However, as a GM it's just really clunky and a nightmare to use. In all honesty I'd much rather use Map Tool (which is basically the poor man's Fantasy Grounds from what I've heard). Don't confuse Map Tool with Map Tools (which is a geographical mapping program).

 

Map Tool has an active community who produce different frameworks for different systems. I've been able to use it to run Pathfinder, 3.5, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, Shadowrun.... It's a simple framework with a lot of possibilities but sometimes you need to get a bit technical. Fortunately "campaign frameworks" often has that covered.

 

I've often been tempted by Fantasy Grounds and lots of people tell me that it's like a slightly better version of Map Tool. That being said Fantasy Grounds has a lot more stuff integrated and kept up to date so I might swing for it eventually.

 

I tried using MapTool and the other RPTools years ago, probably close to 10 years ago now, and I found them to be the same kind of mess that a lot of niche open source projects seem to be. As in it looked like it was only going to be functional if I memorized the manual, learned to code, wrote a whole bunch of macros to do even basic functions, and then my players all did the same. Maybe it's gotten better since then, but it left me unimpressed before.

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4 hours ago, BlazingTornado said:

I've heard one of the founders is kind of standoff-ish, that's about it.

 

I've personally been able to use Roll20 as a GM just fine. Hell I've been doing it for well over two years.

 

Back when they were getting started the roll20 guys performed a large advertising offensive. They hit a lot of message boards and message lists to drum up interest. However, they didn't try suggesting people use their new platform. Instead they announced an online gaming convention and, at the exact same time as they announced it, claimed they already had way more players signed up than they had GM's available to run games so they weren't advertising for players. They were advertising for GM's (to make themselves look popular). The obvious trick/trap was that a new gm would try it out, maybe like it, tell all their players and get more people using roll20.

 

In other words they may have been rather dishonest about the amount of players they had signed up already.

 

They also offered to pay GM's to run these overflow games. Now I'm English. Over here we don't pay our GM's to run games at conventions. I don't know if paying GM's to run convention games is common overseas or not. I offered to run a trilogy of scenarios, not because I wanted the money but because I'd rather those scenarios recently and could run them quickly with minimal preparation. The roll20 rep offered to pay me $20 to run the three scenarios which felt reasonable to me as it was not a massive amount.

 

Once I had finished running the first game I reported it to the guy and he immediately wanted to pay me $20. I said "don't you want to wait 'til I've finished running the other two games?2 And he immediately said "oh no. It's $20 per scenario."

 

That felt dirty. It was immediately obvious that they were paying for popularity. They'd taken on something like 20-30 overflow gm's and if they were paying everyone $20 per scenario that was a pretty hefty expenditure for a free online convention (since, as far as I could tell, the players weren't paying for tickets and it was more of a launch party kind of thing).

 

I ran the other two scenarios because I had promised to do so and I took their dirty money because it was something I had agreed to do. Then I basically never used roll20 again. From the GM side importing a map and trying to get the grid to fit is a nightmare. Their "simple" system for it is too simple. If a player wants to import an image they have to send it to the GM to import whereas with Map Tool any player with the token tool can throw in an image quickly for people to look at. Laying down shadows and fog of war is so much more accurate in Map Tool. I can draw all manner of shapes. In Roll20 fog of war can basically be squares or oblongs. This may have changed more recently. Essentially I'm seeing this as the difference between the Neverwinter Nights toolset and the Neverwinter Nights 2 toolset. The NWN toolset was rgeat if you wanted to knock up a quick area and had a rough idea of what you wanted it to look like but if you wanted to make something specific you were pretty screwed as it just didn't give you enough control. The NWN2 toolset was great if you had a very specific idea for what you wanted to create (with an average area taking about 8 hours as you had to place every single book on a bookcase) but if you approached it with just a rough idea of what you wanted to create then you may have been overwhelmed with choice. Personally I prefer the more chocie approach over not enough control. Roll20 is more like the NWN tool set and Map Tool is like the NWN2 toolset. Fortunately campaign frameworks integrate stuff so you don't need to memorise as much. If I want a monster to attack a player in a pathfinder game I just select the monster, hit the attack button to open the attack window, apply any modifiers then click the button to roll the attack. I don't understand how the scripting behind that works but I'm grateful that it does what I need it to.

 

There was also an issue with early builds of roll20 having a music & sound effects juke box system (which was part of the gm subscription). I was informed that any gm could upload any sound file to the juke box and it would immediately become available for every gm to use. This sounded like a copywrite court case waiting to happen!

 

So that was my nasty roll20 story.

 

More recently.......

 

The roll20 staff banned an entire group because one girl complained they didn't want her to play with them. I don't know the full details of the story but it's a pretty extreme reaction to ban a group without investigating. They banned another group because "we don't need another five white men." It seems that they've been bullying and intimidating people they don't agree with. I'm glad I didn't become heavily involved with roll20 because the guys behind it really don't seem like very nice people right now.

Edited by Balgin Stondraeg

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11 minutes ago, Balgin Stondraeg said:

They banned another group because "we don't need another five white men."

Uh, there was no such ban over "we don't need another five white men".

 

Cody of Talking20, a man of RIDICULOUSLY fragile ego, wanted them to sponsor his Save or Dice show, which was a group of white dudes playing D&D including people from WebDM and Nerdarchy, great guys. Jim Davis was there too... The Roll20 rep said "No thank you, we're looking to sponsor more diverse gaming groups.", and Cody lost it. Meanwhile Jim Davis, being a reasonable adult, understood their business plan and moved on.

 

There was no banning involved. Cody's just a big manbaby.

 

 

 

As for the rest, this seems a bit... I dunno... irrelevant? They paid people to GM their online event.... It's no different from other companies offering free stuff during promotional events. Heck every Roll20Con they enable certain features to free users and sometimes give away some game assets. It brings interest to their product and their brand.

Edited by BlazingTornado

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I use Fantasy Grounds for my in person VTT (a TV installed in a table). It's great for what I use it for. It does have a steep learning curve, as most of the commands are not intuitive, but once you learn them, it's fine. It seems like every time I start a new game I have to do some quick googles to remember how to do basic stuff.

I chose FG over Roll20 because I think I saw a Youtube review that analyzed that it would be cheaper in the long run. I don't know if that is true any more. The support for the 5th ed modules is great, though. I just started running Dragon Heist for my group. There was a big controversy about the low-fi, old school maps that appear in the books; Fantasy Grounds had a forumite build color maps for all the encounters in the book, and they include those maps for free with the cost of the FG module (which costs $25).

From what I've heard, FG is more automated, and Roll20 has nicer animation or lighting, or something. I don't use automation for my game, as it's all in person.

 

I'm happy with my decision. It's great!

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I'm personally leaning towards Fantasy Grounds right now, as I said in my original post, and I think I'm going even further in that direction after looking around for the last day or so. FG seems to have much better pricing on their "books" compared to Roll20. I'm going to be running D&D 5e, and over on FG the books don't go above $30 even for the most recent release. At Roll20 only the PHB, Rise of Tiamat, and Hoard of the Dragon Queen are $30 while everything else is $50 to get the whole "book" or a bunch of roughly $10 purchases to buy the modules in parts.

 

FG having a permanent license option is a big thing as well. It may be a big upfront cost for the Ultimate license, but it's the equivalent of just over a year of subscription time so it pays for itself if you use it. I've dumped that much money on all sorts of less useful stuff in the past, so I can justify floating it to support playing a game with my friends. I'm not exactly happy about having to rebuy a bunch of materials I already have in physical form, but I will in order to make my job easier. Also, apparently one of my friends has prior experience with FG, so that tends to tip the scales in its favor a bit.

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Well, I just jumped on Fantasy Grounds. The sale they're having made me twitch and I "accidentally" bought a bunch of stuff. So now I gotta learn some software...

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