Gaming in the Digital Age: The D&D Virtual Tabletop Beta

I recently received an invite to the official Dungeons & Dragons Virtual Tabletop beta. So, what did I think about it?

Quite frankly, I had given up hope that this project was ever going to see the light of day, so when it was announced that they were going ahead with it in the same week that it was announced that Duke Nukem Forever was actually going to be released, my head spun around three times…surely it was a sign of the Apocalypse!

And then I didn’t get a beta invite.  And then another batch or two of invites went out and I still didn’t get one.  I gave up again and, lo and behold but what do I find in my inbox last week but a VTT beta invite. SCORE!

So, as soon as I got home, I jumped in.  What do I think about it?  Simply put, it is very, very nice and has the potential to be even more awesome. Especially compared to the online Character Builder fiasco, this thing is sweet.

I’ve only played around with the building an adventure side of things, so I haven’t been able to properly field test how it actually plays, but you have all kinds lf great tools to use.  You can lay down dungeon tiles, keep journals and notes, roll dice, chat via voice with the built in voice chat or via text if you prefer.  There is an initiative tracker and you can drag tokens from the map to the tracker and then input initiative rolls.  There is a simple dice roll “macro” system, but it could be implemented a bit better; as it is, non-dice effects and such have to be kludged in.

You can keep track of conditions and stats right on the tokens themselves, as well as hit points, though you do have to open up thetoken to do so.  It would be nice if conditions could be added similar to how they are added in MapTool (just right-click on the token, select the condition from a list), but it’s not a deal breaker.

The tabletop has fog of war capabilities as well as the ability to draw right on the map itself or to lay down virtual Dungeon Tiles (which do look rather nice, by the way).  Unfortunately, there is currently no way to import your own map or token graphics and no way to resize tokens once they’re on the map, but they might implement that later (it is still in beta testing, after all).  The line of sight tool could come in extremely handy.  The template tool, for drawing bursts or blasts is a bit wonky and extremely basic right now, but again, this is just a beta.

There is also no integration with the character or monster builder yet.  If they can get that and the image importing in, this just might be a killer app.

There are a few things I didn’t get to play with, like the built-in voice changer. I look forward to maybe getting some of my players that are also in the beta in there to test that and a few of the other features.

Oh, and one nice feature about the voice chat is that it is push to talk by default.  If you have never played online with, say, Skype just trust me that you want push to talk capability especially if you play with people that might have some background noise like children (like mine) going on.

I look forward to continuing to kick the tires on this thing, and will keep our beautiful and intelligent readers updated on my experience with this beta test.  Will it beat out MapTool for our client of choice?  Only time will tell, but it’s definitely, absolutely a strong contender.

[tags]D&D,Role Playing Games,Tabletop,Virtual Table Top,VTT,Beta[/tags]

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