Virtual tabletops

I’ve been looking at virtual tabletop software for roleplaying game needs. I’m not exactly sure why, just felt like it, and if the need should arise, I’d like to know what options are available. I found this neat list of 34 virtual tabletop applications over at the Battlegrounds site.

The problem with most of these virtual desktops is that they seem to be map-based. I can’t fathom playing anything but vanilla Dungeons & Dragons dungeoncrawling with basically a map software. Of course it could be that many of these would be suitable for me if I just disregard the mapping part, but it’s just backwards thinking. The one time I’ve looked for a map-based solution was when I was dreaming about playing Warhammer 40’000 without a physical board. In a roleplaying game the focus should be on communication, not avatars on a map. This is an often encountered problem in tabletop games, too: bringing out a map moves the action away from the players and onto the board – not a desirable outcome in most situations.

The TRIS solution appeals to me, but sadly is Windows only. It’s based on scenes instead of maps. Another that might work is OpenRPG, which I haven’t yet tested.

I was thinking why I would need a software for playing online at all. Isn’t a chat client enough? I think not. You want to differentiate between off-game and in-game chat, you want the option to easily present files (PDFs, ready-written text, images, whatnot) and roll dice, preferably graphically. But maps and rulers and ready modules to move through? Has roleplaying taken a sharp turn towards a tactical exercise or have I moved away from the way the masses want to play?

Last night I went through some old notes of campaigns past and was getting that RPG flame back on. Oh, the possibilities!

One Comment

  1. Capt_Poco

    This guy is probably long gone, but dabbleboard is really useful for most non-tactical RPGs. Even a semi-tactical rpg like 2e D&D or something would work. But yeah. 4e and 3e don’t really work with no way to track conditions.

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