RPTech: Why Wait for Wizards Virtual Table?

Remote gaming has never been as good as it is now. Computers are a part of all of the Lords of Tyr games, and have been for quite some time. Sure putting a video camera over our miniatures table worked... kind of. But now the tools are so much better and interactive. Are you incorporating technology into your games? The Wizards of the Coast's Virtual Table is already in beta. But why wait! Get your digital game table on right now!

The future is now. This isn't 1983 anymore people. Technology is here, and if we want these games to survive for the next generation of gamers we need to be integrating the modern world into the game.

But D&D is a pen and paper game! But I like carrying around 30 pounds of books! But I like to memorize every crazy little rule and exception and I read all the errata because I have lots of time on my hands!

What are you people waiting for! A zombie apocolypse to come and wipe out the modern world so we can play with hand carved wooden dice “like we did back in the old days sonny”?

Well until the zombie apocalypse is here (I'll be fine. I'll have solar power and my laptop and Android device) how about we all join the modern world for a while.

Years ago the Lords used Klooge. They have been doing cross platform game table software since 2001, before the Lords of Tyr even formed. Klooge was OK, It worked relatively well. Back then not everyone had a laptop (although with all the tech geeks in our group we always had enough to cover everyone). For me, because it wasn't open source I felt it lacked a certain something. Was it the community? Was it the worry that if the project went dark that the whole thing would just disappear? Was it the fact that it costs money and I always wondered if we would have enough licenses to cover the group if everyone showed up at the same time? Then I found RPTools!

Maptool is written in Java and is cross platform just like Klooge was. However, the RPTools are open source. That means it is free and you can see and modify the source code. Its also modular, which means you can add functionality to it. There are dozens of tools and game mods available. Heck there is even integration with the DDI online tools, through cut and paste, that people have created.

The really great parts of Maptool, however, is the map, the game tokens, the initiative tracker, and the dice rolling. You don't need a bunch of fancy stuff for it to work well in your games. You just need it to do those basic things. In fact, not adding in lots of game specific programing and rules makes it simpler and more flexible tool.

So when it comes to using Maptool for your games, I suggest to just start with the basics. Just think of it as replacing your miniatures, battlemat, and erasable markers. Heck you don't even really need maps ahead of time. You can just rough out terrain with the sketching tools. Maptool comes with enough textures to at least get the feel of the terrain you want to use.

But what happens when you want to take it to the next level?

The next part is to start thinking about putting in maps and finding tokens. The first and one of the best resources is Wizards of the Coast. They have wisely chosen to release almost every map and piece of artwork in all of their publications on the web. If you like using adventures published by Wizards, you have every map and just about every creature available to you as a downloadable jpeg file. This makes prep work for these adventures very fast. You don't even have to cut and paste from a scan or PDF file. The one downside to this is that I think the resolution on these graphics tends to be on the low side. I'm sure they do that so that the graphics can't be reused for anything that is too high quality.

The WotC Art Galleries are located here.

The WotC Map Galleries are located here.

There are some other very handy and free tools that can make your life simpler as well. Firstly is GIMP and Inkscape. GIMP is a free bitmap editing application similar to photoshop. But, of course it is open source and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Inkscape is a free vector drawing application that is similar to Adobe Illustrator. It is also open source and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Dungeon tiles can be very useful digital items. You can scan them and make all kinds of awesome dungeons with them. There is another great tool that you can use that also let's you make 3d objects and has tons of templates, kits, and ready made 3d buildings that you can use to create dungeons, towns, cities and even continents. Its a little tool from Google called Sketchup. There is a pretty large Dungeons and Dragons collection of maps, items, buildings and kits. There are also kits available like “None the Wiser's Instant Town Modules”. You could spend all day in Google Sketchup and keep finding neat things you can make maps out of.

The bottom line is that Google is your friend. The materials available to you on the Internet are virtually unlimited. If you can't find it, you have the raw materials to make it yourself.

This is just the start of a series of articles that I'm planning on using technology. Additionally I'll be doing a series of screencasts to show how we use technology in the Lords of Tyr. I hope they are useful to you. If you have specific questions, or want to know about any specific tools, please contact me here!