Tips for playing DnD online?

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Hi all,


TLDR: Do you have any tips on how to play D&D Pen and Paper online with a 1-2hr/week constraint for making the maps? 


 


Long version:


My friends and I all live in different cities (even different continents now), and we’ve just started playing DnD together online about 3 months ago. I realize though that it is not the best system, so I wanted to describe how we do things, and see if any of you guys had some tips or advice or knew of good tools to  use that would enrich our DnD experience.


We all meet in a google hangout, and using a great application called Dicestream, we can roll different sets of dice and display on the screen, customize banners at the bottom of the screen where I have my PCs write their names, their healing surges, temporary hitpoints, and action points, and finally there is a counter displayed on the top right, that they use real-time to keep track of their hitpoints. They can even change the color to red when they are bloodied, so that tool is pretty sweet.


For the map, and this is probably the biggest issue, I remake each area from the adventure into a google spreadsheet and share it with them, and that can be edited real-time by anyone, so we can see the movement of their characters and monsters. For a dungeon crawl like we are doing now, I have pre-made all of the areas on separate tabs, but hidden those tabs they haven’t been to yet, so once they move to a new area, I unhide it and tell them to switch tabs. This works, sort of, the issue is that you have to zoom way out to be able to see each area well (unless for very small places), so that zooms out the rest of your browser windows, and it is a bit of a nightmare: making it and formatting takes me about an hour each area.  Plus you can’t really get a good feel for the terrain, here is an example of an area from Shadowfell Keeps campaign (it is one of the better looking maps I have):


docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aqo...


For the most part this system is working fine, in fact much better than our first try doing this, which was me drawing everything on a large whiteboard, having a separate camera, spotlight, and my wife’s laptop/ google account connected to our hangout to show them the map, and I was moving everyone around by hand with them describing what direction they wanted to go in. Horrible.


It took us about 1 month of playing before we realized that we could do it in a google spreadsheet, so what I am wondering is if you guys that have a lot more experience with this have any good tips or tools you use for playing D&D Pen and Paper online? I’ve seen some other sites that have tools to do this, but I really can’t spend more than 3 hrs / week preparing for the D&D session, so like 1 hr / week for area is idea. 


I have seen references to the D&D Insider Virtual Table – in fact there is a link to that in the “New to DnD Start Here” stickied forum post, but it is a broken link and says that the table is in beta, so I am guessing it was never implemented and dropped as a project?


Anyway, any tips or tricks you guys have would be a great help to my adventure crew!


Cheers!


 


I have seen references to the D&D Insider Virtual Table – in fact there is a link to that in the “New to DnD Start Here” stickied forum post, but it is a broken link and says that the table is in beta, so I am guessing it was never implemented and dropped as a project?


 





The DDI VT is still being maintained and even improved on. You and your friends can all join for free here:

rpgtableonline.com/welcome.php

You will want to join the forums. This thread has links to video tutorials and everything you need to get started:

www.gametableonline.com/forum/viewtopic....

Here is a little blog post about it:

frothsof4e.blogspot.com/2012/10/check-ou...

You can import your 4e character builder files straight from your cpu, even offline builder files. The whole framework is built around 4e. You get two tile sets and 1st and 2nd level monsters for free. You can pay for more (all the monster data, extra storage, all the 4e tile sets, etc), although I know a lot of guys who have run long-term games without paying a cent. Check it out. I am a mod over there so let me know if you have any questions.
Hi 
Thanks for the reply, I will definitely check that out!  
I would also mention MapTool.

I currently use release 1.3b86 to play.  A session write up of my last campaign can be found here: The Dragon of Thunderspire Mountain

Its no where as user friendly the above, but it has more functionality and a great community.

My group has used roll20.net and have been very happy with it.

I love Fantasy Grounds 2.  With the 4E ruleset it's absolutely fantastic.  If I was just playing, Roll20 or MapTool would be fine with me, but as a DM, the tools and campaign construction available in FG2 it just breathtaking.

 

There's a bunch of tutorial videos on the FG2 Downloads section that really illustrate the power of the 4E ruleset.

Eugee wrote:

I love Fantasy Grounds 2.  With the 4E ruleset it's absolutely fantastic.  If I was just playing, Roll20 or MapTool would be fine with me, but as a DM, the tools and campaign construction available in FG2 it just breathtaking.

 

There's a bunch of tutorial videos on the FG2 Downloads section that really illustrate the power of the 4E ruleset.

 

+1. Fantasy Grounds is beyond amazing. The number of things that can be handled automatically is mind-blowing: attacks, applying damage (factoring in resistances/vulnerabilities and attacks that deal multiple types of damage), tracking the duration of status effects, etc. The community creates modules and mods for everything (my favorite is the language mod, which allows me to write a message so that only those who speak the appropriate language can read it; others see only an unreadable message in elven, dwarven, goblin, etc.).

My advice is not to make maps. I see someone mentioned Roll20 above. You can draw on that, or root through their collection of images. That's what I plan to do in a few weeks when I run a game on there. The delay is just due to schedule, not to prep I'm doing. I never prep.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.