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!

Getting Started with Playing Tabletop RPGs over Roll20.net, Part II

Roll20whiteOnBlacklogoLast time, in Part I, we talked about setting up an account, creating a campaign, and creating character sheets. This time we’ll talk about creatures, maps, and running a game.

Creatures

To start, we’ll create a page not to use in play, but just to park all our creatures on. From there we can copy and paste creatures into encounter maps.

Roll20 Player RibbonLaunch your campaign (if needed), click the Page Toolbar, and click Create New Page. Rename the page Creatures and click on that page to go to it. Another blank map. Yay!

If you have way more time than I do, you can create NPC character sheets for all your creatures and attach them to a token. That way madness lies. I just use a token and hit points. I have the book or SRD open to the creature when gaming.

You can upload a token from your own fantasy art (Pinterest and DeviantArt are great sources) or search the Roll20 art library. If you use your own art, you’ll want to crop the image in an art program to be square. I’ll use the art library and search for gargoyle and grab the first free one I find and drag it onto the map.

GargoyleTo set hit points, I click on the token, then click on the gear icon and up pops the Edit Token dialog window. Red for blood, red for hit points. I set it to 60 / 60. (13th Age gargolyles have 60 hp). To make the red hit point bar visible to the players, I click the Advanced tab and click See for Bar 3.

Put “Gargoyle” in the Name box and click Save Changes.

Maps

Now let’s create an encounter map to put our gargoyle on. Make a new map and call it Gargoyle Lair. On the Page Toolbar, click the gear for this map and change the size to 50 x 50. Go there. Gargoyles might be found in ruins, so let’s pick a ruins map. Switch to the Map & Background layer by clicking on the second icon in the toolbar on the top left of your map. It switches from a block to a pushin.

On the right, click on the Art Library and choose Maps, Tiles, Textures. I’ll type ruin and scroll down, pick a nice one, and drag it onto the map. Oh great, a 1 square map. I’ll drag a corner out until it looks like it almost matches Roll20’s grid.

Right click on the map, click Advanced->Align to Grid. Hold down the alt key and with the mouse move the map so that the grid is aligned. There’s a great video on the Roll20 wiki explaining aligning your map. Making an exact match isn’t that important for range band systems like 13th Age or Numenera, but people like to use the measure tool and create auras, so it’s worth some effort.

Now, switch back to the Objects and Tokens lair, go back to your Creatures map, select and copy the gargoyle, and return to the gargoyle lair map and paste a few onto the map.

Gargoyle LairThen go back to the start map. Be sure to let the players control their tokens. Click on each icon, and use Represents Character to link it to the character sheet. Go to Bar 3 and associate it with hit points if you can. If the hit points are 30, you want it to say 30/30. Click the Advanced tab and click See for Bar 3 so all the players can see the bar. Save and Copy the PCs and paste them on to the Gargoyle Lair map as well.

Time to Play

Invite your players, have them join in. They will see their characters on the Start map. Later you can replace this with a friendly inn or lava pit, but for now blank is fine.

Drag the red Player ribbon over to the Gargoyle Lair map, and everyone will see that. Ready for action!

If your game uses a character sheet with an initiative button, have each player first select their token, then click the button. That will put them in the Turn Order. Otherwise, open the Turn Order window (the clock icon in the left toolbar) and follow the instructions to add everyone to the initiative list. Give everyone a number, then click the gear and Sort Descending.

Better yet, create an initiative macro if your character sheet doesn’t have them. All about macros -> https://wiki.roll20.net/Macros.

You roll dice by using the d20 icon in the left toolbar. Results show up in the Chat (speech bubbles on top right toolbar) window on the right. Many character sheets have buttons that do rolls and apply modifiers. The player clicks, and sees the results in the Chat Window.

Take 10 Ten TookClick the arrow to move to the next initiative. When someone takes damage, select their token, click in the red circle, and type -10 if they took 10 points of damage. Notice how the red bar shows they have taken damage. +10 (or whatever) will heal the selected character.

More information can be found on the wiki -> https://wiki.roll20.net/Main_Page

Play around and have fun!


Next -> Getting Started with Fantasy Grounds

Getting Started with Playing Tabletop RPGs over Roll20.net, Part I

Last time we looked at Google Hangouts roleplaying. This time we’re looking at Roll20.net.

Roll20whiteOnBlacklogoThe big difference is Roll20 is a Virtual TableTop (VTT). You can put a map up, with an optional grid, and you and your players can move minis (tokens) around on the map. It has a very robust built in dice roller. You can build macros for rolls you do often. Roll20.net has character sheets for tons of rpgs, and you can roll dice right from your character sheet.

And, like Hangouts, you can use video and see your players. Unlike Hangouts,  the big screen is always the map and not your players. Which is why I prefer Hangouts for less complicated games, it feels more like being there.

However, when I play D&D (including 5E), 13th Age, or anything where I want to have minis on a map, I prefer Roll20. And, if you like, you can play Numenera or other less complex games in Roll20, lots of people do. It’s a matter of preference.

Creating a Campaign

To get started, go to Roll20.net and create a free account. Then log in and click Create New Campaign.

On the next page, give your campaign a name. I’ll name mine Demo 13. You could use tags for your rule system if you want to have strangers find your game. I’ll skip this as I tend to play with friends. I always choose a character sheet, based on the system I’m using. I’ll use the 13th Age character sheet. 13th Age comes first (it’s alphabetical) and I like 13th Age, so I’ll pick that. You pick the game you want to ref.

Then click-> I’m ready, Create Campaign!

Roll20 Player RibbonThis puts you on the Start Map. It’s blank. Click the little blue Page Toolbar toggle up top and you can create new maps. Players only see the map with the red Player’s ribbon. Once you create new maps, you can drag the ribbon around and the map you put the ribbon on is the one and only map your players can see.

When I first started using Roll20, I kept forgetting to drag the ribbon. I’d be describing things on the “Scary Cave Map” and my players would be staring at the “Safe Inn Map.” Confused everyone. When you change scene, drag the Players ribbon to the new map.

Before we get into running a game, a word of advice: having a safe neutral map to park your players in between games is a very good idea. Maybe an inn. Because your players can jump onto Roll20 when you aren’t there. They can futz with their character sheets, reread any handouts you’ve shown them, and lurk. If you don’t want them seeing stuff, park them in that safe map.

Inviting Players

Exit your session by clicking the My Settings (gear) icon in the upper right. Scroll down and click Exit Game.

Click View Details, then Invite Players.

Character Sheets

To get back into your campaign, click Launch Campaign.

Your players can’t make their own characters. You have to make one and share the editing permissions to the player. To do that, click on the Journal (newspaper) icon in the upper right. Click Add->Character. In the Can be edited and controlled by dropdown choose the player. Yes, the player will need to have created an account and joined your game first.

Token Search
Token Search

You, the GM, has to click Edit and give the character a token, which acts like a mini during the game. Players can email you images, or you can search for tokens by going to the Art Library (picture) in the upper right. Some are free, some cost money. I want a cleric, so I’ll choose Tokens and search on Cleric.

Scroll down for the free ones From the Web.  Drag the token to your Start map, select it, then click Edit on the character sheet. Then click Use Selected Token.

Once you’ve done that, they can log in and create their own character. It’s a good idea to check over the character sheet to see they made it properly.

That’s enough! Next time I’ll talk about creating creatures and maps. Then well talk about running a game.

In the meantime, here’s a great tutorial from Starwalker Studios -> https://youtu.be/5rH8bpRMTGs?list=PLUGTtv2RH-6G-mc55STfzEh06y1uD6NVR

Next -> Part II, Creatures, Maps, and Play

And -> Getting Started with Fantasy Grounds

Getting Started with Playing Tabletop RPGs over Google Hangouts

I prefer playing face to face. But sometimes it’s not possible. Or you want to play in a campaign where your GM is in Pennsylvania, and you live in Oregon.

Google Hangouts is simple. Players have their printed character sheets, a computer, video and audio, and off you go.

dicestream-icon-2_256_256I’m talking Google Hangouts with the DiceStream App. This is one of my favorite ways to play online. You see everyone’s smiling faces, and whoever is talking gets their video feed plastered on the big screen, while everyone else is down in little windows at the bottom. It’s almost like being together, though you can’t share drinks and snacks.

The GM can switch windows to show maps and other handouts. Use the green Screenshare button on the left side of hangout.

Running a game over Hangouts with DiceStream works well for theater of the mind type games, where you run without minis and just describe everything. DiceStream is perfect for games with fairly simple dice rolling mechanics. For example, Numenera, Trail of Cthulhu, Fate Accelerated, or Basic Roleplaying all work well in this setup.

Click on the Dice Stream icon on the left of the Hangout and start rolling dice. If you roll the same numbers of dice often, I like to go into Dice Stream’s Settings tab and uncheck Clear Dice Selection After Roll. I usually check Clear Dice Before New Roll, so my screen doesn’t get filled up with old dice rolls.

You can add the Hangout to a Google Calendar event, which will send reminders to your players.

Google Hangouts is free and can be found here -> https://tools.google.com/dlpage/hangoutplugin/

DiceStream is also free and can be found here -> https://plus.google.com/107354344238067073375/about

Click on the Start a Hangout with Dicestream link. From now on, you’ll have DiceStream in Hangouts.

Here’s how to create a Hangout for your game in a Google Calendar event -> https://support.google.com/calendar/answer/2690797?hl=en

Here’s a great Tutorial Video from Starwalker Studios -> https://youtu.be/AcGXJVrjml0?list=PLUGTtv2RH-6G-mc55STfzEh06y1uD6NVR

Next I’ll talk about using the Roll20 virtual tabletop. This is great when you want more powerful dice rolling and/or a virtual tabletop.

And don’t miss -> Getting Started with Fantasy Grounds