Guest Blog: Getting Started with Fantasy Grounds

Guest Blog by Eric Lamoureux, Fantasy Grounds user for over six years.

Previously we talked about gaming over Google Hangouts and in Roll20 (Part I and Part II). The other big Virtual Tabletop (VTT) is Fantasy Grounds. I wanted to include that onto our list, but I have no experience with it. Luckily, Eric volunteer to write a guest blog. Thank you Eric!

Fantasy Grounds link from Dread Unicorn GamesFantasy Grounds is a virtual tabletop application developed by Smiteworks. It’s been around for over ten years and is currently under its second ownership.

Fantasy Grounds features map sharing with miniatures, automated character sheets, chat emotes, reference material, 3D die rolls, a macro/hotkey bar, mood lighting and a powerful combat tracker that helps you keep track of the initiative order, effects and conditions and automate die results freeing the GM up from most bookkeeping.

To run a session for one of your friends you can download and install the client here: https://www.fantasygrounds.com/filelibrary/FGWebInstall.exe

Once installed, select the “Create Demo Campaign”, give it a name and select from one of the rulesets already included. You can choose from 3.5, 4E, 5E, Pathfinder, Fate Core and Numenera. If the game you wish to play isn’t in that list you can select CoreRpg which is a generic table where you can edit the character sheet with a few clicks of the mouse and populate it with the fields and values you need. Note that without a license you are restricted to hosting one other player only and that anything you’ve created on the table will not save when you close it out. It’s a limitation of the demo.

To unlock the full potential of Fantasy Grounds you need to purchase or subscribe to a license. The Full license currently at $39 (or $4/month) will let you host a game for an unlimited number of players that also own the same license. The Ultimate license at a hefty $149 (or $10/month) allows you to host a game for an unlimited number of players with no license or a full license. So your group could try it out for one month and split the $10.

More rulesets are available from the store but aren’t needed unless you wish to take advantage of the full automation. If you fancy yourself a coder and know xml and lua you can build your own rulesets. Offered in the store are Rolemaster Classic, Savage Worlds, Castles and Crusades, Call of Cthulhu and Basic Roleplaying. There are also many community developed rulesets like Trail of Cthulhu, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, GURPS, Dresden Files, The One Ring, Warhammer 1st, 2nd and 3rd, Shadowrun and Warhammer 40k just to name a few. They are available for free.

Once you’ve created your campaign you need to give your address to your players so they can connect to the game. You’ll find that information on the right panel. Upon connection your players will begin to download the necessary files from your client to theirs. Depending on the traffic and your internet connection speed this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Upon entry your players will be greeted by a Character Selection window. They can create a new character, pick one up you had previously created for them or import a character they had also previously created from the Manage Character option located on the splash page. By double clicking on the fields they generate die rolls that will appear on the chat window with their results. With a paid license you have some character portraits and tokens available to you but you can always make your own by using any image you find on the internet and edit it with the image editor of your choice. You drop the file in the appropriate folder and you’re ready to go.

As the GM you have many tools available to you. They are located on the right-hand side panel. You can enter stat blocks for your NPCs, share maps you made or purchased, draw on a blank canvas and prepare an encounter that will auto-populate the map and combat tracker at the click of a button, create treasure parcels, offer a list of modifiers and conditions to your players to use, set mood lighting, change the color of your dice, use a calendar to manage your campaign or travel logs, create and use rollable tables and set various options to help run the game the way you want to run it.

You can also create or adapt an adventure module by using the Story feature. Type in the description or notes for a particular encounter and link up image props, maps, stat block, chat bubbles, tables and loot. This will act as your cue card during the session. You can also put pins on a map to access the information you need to run your game.

Also accessible from that panel is the library. In the library you’ll find reference material. In most cases it’s the actual corebook or companions encrypted in a language Fantasy Grounds understand. You can then share that content (or part of) with your players. They will have access to that material while logged in to your table only. Most of the rulesets will then allow your players to drag content from this reference module straight into their character sheet. Feats, skills, gear, weapons, spells, special abilities, hindrances, etc. become drag and drop saving your players a lot of time. These modules can also be created if you have the time and perseverance but are not needed to have a successful experience with Fantasy Grounds. Or, you can purchase them from the store as is the case with the D&D material.

Fantasy Grounds is a powerful and complex software constantly in development. There is a learning curve to it but the community is one of the best and most active out there and will be happy to assist you with any problem you may have. Come check it out at https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/index.php . This is where you’ll also find other users looking to form a group.

While Fantasy Grounds is natively for Windows you can take advantage of the wrapper provided by a purchase on Steam for your Mac or Linux. One more tip, when you don’t know what to do next during your game on Fantasy Grounds, right-click!

5 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Getting Started with Fantasy Grounds

  1. I personally have used Fantasy Grounds before and have found that it crashes often and trying to use a different ruleset that the ones that they have put in is frustrating. All in all I would have to say it is limited to it’s potential.

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  2. Not sure what the crashes were about. I have been using FGII for a month now and with multiple sessions that run 5+ hours I have yet to experience any issues with the application. On one occasion a player had to exit and start it up when the map did not refresh properly but that minor detail is all I can report on. I have not used a different ruleset, currently running DnD 5e and it works beautifully. The one gripe I have is No Dynamic Lighting, if FG had that I would never look at another VTT.

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