DDI-VT vs. MapTool What's the verdict?

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I'll be running my first virtual campaign in August and I want to get as much practice with the software as possible before I start. The problem is, which software should I use? I've narrowed it down to the DDI-VT and MapTool. Does anyone have any opinions on which is better?

FYI: I'll be doing a 4e undermountain campaign so it'll pretty much be pure dungeon crawl. 4 or 5 PC's and potentially a companion character for a while.
I haven't used the VTT (mostly cause the process to enter the beta simply seemed too much....and im the only person in my group with DDI anyway). But maptool as a number of boons.


1) Its free. Im not sure that multiple people can log into te VT at once on the same account (wotc probably doesnt want them doing so anyway). But if your entire group isnt using DDI, saying "you have to pay per month to play" can kinda be a downer.


2) I'm not sure if the VTT has macros, but with a little coding know-how Maptool sure can, helps speed combat up alot.


3) Im not sure if the VTT allows user images (once again, not sure).


4) Maptool seems to receive more active support.


However, Maptool has one major downside, and that is networking. Getting a server properly set up can be a real pain and being the host can often make you very laggy if you dont have awesome net.         

Supporters of the VTT, ASSEMBLE! (I dont mean this in a derogatory way).
I have played with the VTT very briefly, but it was some time ago and it's possible it's improved since then.  I'm a newbie DM though, and I'm currently running a campaign using Maptools.

VTT (when I last played with it)

Con: I didn't see any way to drop in my own custom images for mapmaking and such

Con: No lighting/vision blocking/etc tools.  Wandering around in the dark and tracking what players can see is complicated to do at a real tabletop but trivial when a computer's modelling things, it seems silly not to take advantage of it

Pro: Trivial to get a player's stats from a dnd4e file or a monster's stats from adventure tools imported

Pro: Fast to set up.

Also, I do recall having the ability to invite non-DDI subscribes to VTT (though they don't have access to adventure tools/character builder to import their own characters so you'd have to do it for them) -- so it does NOT require everyone to have a DDI sub, just the host.



Maptools:

Pro: Extremely customizable (Maptool is designed to be system-agnostic, whether you're playing D&D4E or running some war simulation game on a map that uses hexes in a battle system where the direction a character is facing has a significant impact.)

Pro: Wide existing userbase.  For 4e, you can download your choice of a small handful of "frameworks" that define common macros and easy-to-use interface for your campaign.  (Or you can be minimalist and track everything yourself -- or something in between.)  I use a framework[1] that gives my players an interactive character sheet that lists all of their powers, and they can use a power, select its target(s), check boxes for combat advantage/charge/cover/etc, and it'll do the relevant rolls with all of the correct modifiers.

Pro: You can make your own maps in Maptool (though if you want really pretty maps, your choice of painting program is likely a better choice).  There's a huge set of user-created contributions for terrain, objects, dungeon dressing, etc. -- I've made some myself[2]

Con: Maptools versions are not compatible with each other, so you must ensure your players all use the same version you do or Bad Things(tm) can happen.  Maptools is also not currently compatible with Java 7, though the next release should resolve that and it's not too difficult to force it to run on Java 6 if you have both versions installed.  [EDIT: VTT is currently not working in Java 7 either, based on some other posts on this forum.]

Con: Maptools needs to be installed.  VTT is pretty much self-installing.

Pro: Real-time lighting and vision-blocking/fog-of-war.  Con: Doesn't support 4e lighting rules (Brightly Lit, Dim Lit, Darkness) -- your choices are 'can see it' and 'can't see it', though you can fake it to some extent.Vision blocking can be slow if you make it too complicated.

Con: Maptools is not designed specifically for 4e, so is not as polished at handling 4e and typically slower to update to 4e rules changes -- though often times you can fake it enough.  For instance, the framework I'm using doesn't directly support things like Sneak Attack damage, so my rogue player just codes Sneak Attack as a "no action" "special" power that has no attack roll and rolls the correct damage dice.  Augmentable psionic powers aren't directly supported, but a power can have a power point cost and you can make multiple versions of a power to handle it.

Re Maptools networking: In my experience, it hasn't been too difficult to set up (but I'm technically inclined and run custom firmware on my router) -- though your options are
a) Your DM must host, or
b) Your DM has to trust the hosting player with his campaign file, or

There is a way to create a 'campaign repository' of objects used in your campaign using your choice of web hosting -- clients will try to download assets from that repository rather than from your PC which should alleviate network concerns.  I haven't personally used this feature, however, so don't know a lot about it.

Maptools also has valid use for an actual in-person game: DM runs two copies of Maptools on his laptop; one runs the server and the DM view, the other connects to the server as a player view and is on the laptop's "second monitor" (big screen TV or a projector setup).  I don't think VTT has that functionality.

If it's not obvious, I'm a fan of maptools :-p

[1]forums.rptools.net/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=...
[2]forums.rptools.net/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=2...

WotC seems to have answered your question for you.  The VT will be removed at the end of the month.

Maptools it is! 
WotC seems to have answered your question for you.  The VT will be removed at the end of the month. 


Where did they say that ?

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Email a few mins ago:

"














You have a new broadcast on your site at The Wizards Community!


Wotc_Joshfrom the groupD&D Insider Beta has sent you a broadcast.
Subject: D&D VT Community Announcement

  I wanted to inform you all about an important decision that Wizards has made regarding the D&D Virtual Table  and Virtual Table Beta. While we appreciate the enthusiasm and participation in the Beta phase, we were unable to generate enough support for the tool to launch a full version to the public. Effective July 30, 2012 the D&D Virtual Table Beta will be coming to an end and the VT will be closed.




  Over the next three weeks, we encourage you to wrap up your existing campaigns and make sure to gather contact information from your online group members so that you can stay in touch if you like. We realize that because all data generated in the tool is in a proprietary format usable only by the Virtual Table, it is not possible to export your campaigns for use in another tool. You can, however, take screenshots of any notes, maps or adventures that you would like to hang on to or use in your home games.




  We would like to thank everyone who participated in the VT Beta and look forward to continuing to support D&D game play through our D&D Insider digital tools and D&D Next."



 
It is very dissapointing.  WotC continues to find new ways to alienate the player base.  I think DnD Next is going to be DnD Last. 

Daren
Very sad Vittie is let down. Very disappointing, the D&D VT was great for me !

I've enjoyed the experience and i'm glad i was given the chance to BETA test it since the Friends & Family closed BETA.  I hope another VT alternative will exist for D&D Next and if you need BETA Testers Josh, i will always be available.

In the meantime, other company such as Pathfinder is working on a new VT, d20Pro is working on a new VT and MapTool keep flourish. I hope WoTC doesn't miss the oppotunity to grab this market in one way or another in the future...


Now i gotta look for an alternative to support my online gaming addiction...Hook me up if you got something for me !

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Well, I guess there goes the rug folks. No more money from me. Sorry. The vtt was the best reason to pay the monthly fee for ddi. I waited this whole time, anxiously, for the final product. Kept paying and paying, supporting the cause, hoping it would come to fruition. But nope. Nope. Well, I hope they are happy with this decision, cause I'm out. Done done done.
Yeah, it sucks.  I held off on subscribing until the VT finally materialized, albeit in beta form.  After getting the e-mail that the VT would not be released, I immediately cancelled my subscription.

Well there is a way out...


I am the Vice-President of GameTable Online and I am happy to say we will be adopting the VT platform and are currently preparing to host it at our new RPG portal. GTO coded and developed the VT so we are very familiar with the platform and are excited to be going live with this roleplaying game application.


The anticipated name for the new VT will be RPGTable Online and we have claimed the URL address of www.rpgtableonline.com.  We have some work to do to prepare for the transition but expect to be back to hosting online RPG sessions by the end of July!


A big concern for us was making sure that your existing VT Dungeons & Dragons campaigns are transferred to RPGTO. To transfer your active campaigns to RPGTable Online all you need to do is register at www.gametableonline.com before we go live and email your GTO User Name and VT Screen Name to support@gametableonline.com. When the transition to the RPGTO site goes forward, our plan is to port your content over so all of your campaigns will be waiting for you!


GTO has been hosting online board games, since 2003 so we know and love games. We are looking forward to the opportunity to expand our online games to include RPGs application.


Robert Eng

I'd also recommend that people looking for a replacement check out Fantasy Grounds, especially if your game is more RP oriented.  It really captures the feel of a virtual table.
I'd also recommend that people looking for a replacement check out Fantasy Grounds, especially if your game is more RP oriented.  It really captures the feel of a virtual table.



Hi!

As someone whom has owned and used most VTT's out there over the years I second Fantasy Grounds. It is currently my VTT of choice and the only one out there with actual rollable virtual dice. This feature alone has been a huge draw to convince people otherwise leery of trying the online format.

It as close to playing face to face as VTT's are currently capable of. Certaintly worth the try.

Primarch

im backnig roll20.net, its html5, voice, video and google hangouts integrated.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

im backnig roll20.net, its html5, voice, video and google hangouts integrated.



But no virtual dice. Typing in macros for die rolling gets old real fast and the deveopment team seems to be very reluctant to cough virtual dice up, even though Tabletop Forge will be doing it.

I do like a lot of roll20 features, but ironically there is no "roll" in roll20 to be seen. Hopefully they will reconsider this oversight, if they added this feature it would catapult them to the top of the VTT heap easily.

Here's to hope.

Primarch

im backnig roll20.net, its html5, voice, video and google hangouts integrated.



But no virtual dice. Typing in macros for die rolling gets old real fast and the deveopment team seems to be very reluctant to cough virtual dice up, even though Tabletop Forge will be doing it.

I do like a lot of roll20 features, but ironically there is no "roll" in roll20 to be seen. Hopefully they will reconsider this oversight, if they added this feature it would catapult them to the top of the VTT heap easily.

Here's to hope.

Primarch




eh, its easy enough to just make die macros and they are saved per player on each campaign.  doesnt seem to be that hard to do.  but yeah, it's still in beta, and something i'll expect will come eventually.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

I'm glad I'm still using maptools.
I think DnD Next is going to be DnD Last. 

Daren




4e was DnD last for me.  I cannot fathom why anyone would want to pay a company that can fail at so many things so repetitively.
 
Not that I've been very active, but kept my sub going hoping for a turnaround.  This was the final nail for me.  Auto renew cancelled, finally.  Money has gone to Paizo guys - better product, way more bang for the buck.
Now i gotta look for an alternative to support my online gaming addiction...Hook me up if you got something for me !



Check out Tableforge

tabletopforge.com/

Works through Google+. And with the $44k they just got through Kickstarter, they look to be well on their way to improving the tool.
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere

Compared to MT the VT was a golden cage.


You had more comfort doing the things it was capable of doing, but MT just could so so much more

I too have cancelled my insider account.