View Full Version : Why use Fantasy Grounds?

June 30th, 2005, 17:35
Like many of you, I used to be an avid RPG'er, but as time wore on, my gaming group got spread to the four winds. We are currently spread within about a 300 mile circle and get together about 2 or 3 times a year for gaming on a weekend, but getting 4 families, two of which have kids (some in college) to drive 150ish miles is not practical.

Thus we have looked to online gaming as an alternative. We have tried PBEM, IRC, and GRIP, but have not been happy with the outcomes. After 2 of us got full copies of GRIP for GMing we found that it had a few "issues" and was cumbersome and quirky. Now I have found Fantasy Grounds, but before I invest my money (and recommend my players do the same) I wanted some feedback on why use Fantasy Grounds.

Currently I believe that it has better developer support that GRIP, but there still seems to be some quirks about it (having read the back posts here).

What would you all say to me about the program and it's strengths and weaknesses?


June 30th, 2005, 21:26
There are other posts here that are similar, but in my estimation FG does some things very well.

Looks good - The dice, the way you can use tokens, images, etc. gives you a feel that you don't get from other virtual tables (in my opinion).
The ease of applying modifiers to all the rolls you do with d20 is solid (although it could be even better :) ).
Nice (but quirky) creation tools - Once you learn how to use the interface to build your modules, it does work well.
Most things work through file placement within your folder structure, which makes it easy to add images, tokens, etc. within your file structure and then you can work with it in your session.
Most everything is context sensitive, drag and drop, etc.
the 96 function key slots makes pre-work really pay off when you run (or play) a session.
when you are lazy like me, the ability to do things on the fly as you're playing is awesome... last night I was running a session, had CC2 open building a map, took screenshots of the map, dropped them into the images folder of my session, and then started sharing them with my player... all while we were connected.
The same goes for creating the story pages. While players are reading and deciding upon actions you can create area descriptions, NPCs, encounters, etc. while you are playing.Cons:
connectivity (for some, not me). Make sure your friends and you can log into a demo game (one at a time in the demo) before shelling out money for the full license.
Pace - Typing slows down the pace. (this isn't a FG con, just an online gaming "con"). My first combat encounter (2 players, 2 monsters) took an hour and a half to get through (some of that being me learning things, not the tool). As a result the more successful FG ventures are going to be short, low-combat modules as opposed to large hack-and-slash campaigns (my view). Also the use of an external voice chat can aid in pace of play as well.
Number of players at one time... along with pace, more successful ventures are going to be GM- 2-3 players, not 4-6. I am working around this by creating the need for parties to split up for separate goals throughout my campaign.
the quirky interface - it is a pro, but it is a con as well. not being able to use the number pad and no ctrl-c ctrl-v functionality is a pain, but I'm sure that will be addressed soon. Understanding how to use the drag and drop to its fullest potential takes time. More chat line commands need to be added to the application as well.
no sound bothers me, but I understand the choice. I just like hearing dice rolls :)
A better basic mapping tool within the app would have been nice.

I'm sure others will give you more to work with than me.

July 1st, 2005, 13:20
Nope. You covered everything I would have and more!



July 1st, 2005, 13:41
There are other posts here that are similar, but in my estimation FG does some things very well.


Number of players at one time... along with pace, more successful ventures are going to be GM- 2-3 players, not 4-6. I am working around this by creating the need for parties to split up for separate goals throughout my campaign.

I think this is very, very true...beyond three players, and the pace slows down to the point where people's attention wanders, alowing the game down even further.

IMHO. YMMV of course.

July 1st, 2005, 19:22
Not to beat a dead horse but I agree with the comments above, both pro's and con's...

Another unmentioned "PRO" is the fact that the user community is pretty active and tech support seems to be fairly responsive. I've had a lot of help from other users sharing hints, tips, etc.... And I read a decent amount of posts from the development team answering questions.

To me, the big question is not whether to invest, but WHEN to invest. This is a great product but also has a lot of room to grow. It's naive to think that other people aren't out there copying what "works" with this product and also improving what FG doesn't have.

Is it possible to buy FG and then have something better come along? Absolutely! There are several other options that already exist for users. Out of respect to FG, I won't mention them but the competition exists and is working towards improvement just like FG.

The way I look at the decision is that my purchase of this software is "creating demand" for continued development. If you wait around for the "perfect" software before buying, then nobody will ever make it.

July 6th, 2005, 13:31
All very persuasive arguments. I gave the demo mode a trial with one player and we liked it, so I have purchased the full license.

Thank you all for your comments. Now you get to listen to all my newbie questions about how to do stuff in FG :D .


July 7th, 2005, 10:34
I'll be adding this to the suggestions forum as well, as I continue to debate this issue. BTW, I, personally, no slight on FG, would love to know about their competition, and shall shameless mention them here as well. FG seems like a solid product, and has no reason to be concerned about references to their competition. In any event, you make people more hesitant to invest here by mentioning competition without specifying it, because an unknown competitor can not be examined to determine their pros and cons, and therein the potential for a better solution get purpetuated in the minds of the reader.

Things I think are missing:
#1: Cut and Paste. Really.. I mean.. really. Come on, this one is a no brainer, and is actually the #1 reason I'm not just buying this product right now to play with it further (even without commitment from my players to get it).
#2: Resizing the chat window
#3: Scroll indicator in the chat window. It only took once to accidentally scroll a little bit up and then thing my chat window had frozen to make me hate not having some indicator of where I am vis a vis scroll position.
#4: Miniatures. If they are available I don't know how to get access to them. Tokens are nice and all, but I'd like to be able to use minis if possible. It took me a long time to realize there was no way to get (or unlock) miniature versions of the PC portraits onto the map.
#5: Disable draw on map mode. Once I gave someone permission, I couldn't take it away.
#6: Links between tokens on the map and either note/site/image objects or entries in the encounter tracker.
#7: Init formula auto rolling and sorting (and rerolling/setting) for the encounter tracker.
#8: By hand resorting/shuffle of encounter tracker list order.
#9: Turn toggle/setting driver from the encounter tracker.
#10: Some command key-click combination to get a mod box (to hit, init, etc.) to auto-roll into the chat window.
#11: Map snap to grid functionality
#12: GM cone/rect/sphere/etc. ae marker. There is one for the PCs, but bizarrely, it did not seem to be available for the GM.
#13: Link names in the Encounter Tracker with personality/character records.
#14: Link and tracking mechanism for PCs to track their henchmen, familiars and companions. I.e. Let the PCs have multiple sheets stacked under their character, and let the DM send sheets to various PCs.
#15: Send to chat command key click option for "Chat Box" text on story records (and chat box texts for personalities too).
#16: Faster/easier interface for whispering to players. Facility to whisper to multiple players simultaneously (potentially the ability to create "channels" and wire certain people into it. Both blind and public, where blind means each person on the channel is unaware of the other, whereas public they are aware the other is there, and possible a third type where it's omni-directional instead of just one to many).
#17: /die should support arbitrary die types. I can't tell you my surprise at /die 1d3+1 not working. I was even using a leopard whose sheet I had pulled up from the MM within the demo package itself. It was... almost funny.

#1: Graphical Die Roller. Had a lot of lag issues. I purposely had some people with bad nets help me test, and we had all sorts of issues with die rolling animations running multiple times for a single roll (interspersed at strange and somewhat arbitrary disconnected intervals), as well as dice images getting "stuck" in the borders of the chat window.
#2: Map updates. Make a map, put stuff on it. Put a mask on it. Share it. Have players join after this has happened, and they don't always get everything on the map.
#3: Better Mask support. One of my players turned on masking at one point, and then I, the GM could do nothing with it. There were some other modal sorts of wedging that happened with regards to maps and things not showing up or being modifable by various people.
#*: There were a number of ["minor"] features listed in the guide which weren't in the demo, but I'm assuming that's just a synchronization of versions issue. Presumably DMs also get multiple text entry boxes in the release version.

Wishlist (not really important, but they would make me smile/happy):
#: More or customizable "Mood" colorings. I had half hoped that the "flame" icon was going to cause some shadow flickering at the edges of the screen/game window.
#: Preferences to allow you to switch the keyboard and command key short cuts for things. So /emote could be mapped to :, narrate to & (or whatever) I mean /action... and control shift changed to something more natural, like... straight up control, and let actions be control shift.
#: Static text area, at the upper portion of the chat window, sized dynamically, where the DM could put or add short term static information (like the description of the current area, current acting player, what have you). This would effectively be a floating text area, so chat text would scroll underneath it, leaving it "sticky" at the top of the chat window.
#: Quality, Integrated Voice Support.
#: Speech pattern filters ala OpenRPG's alias library speech filters.
#: Tabletop virtual folders and filing cabinets for gathering and collecting sub collections of events, personalities, etc. in a visually different location and more visually intuitive fashion the categories in the Story list.
#: Squelch control. Sometimes it's nice to be able to actually prevent a player (or players) from sending text to the chat box.

#1: The interface while quirky in terms of its choices in how to do things, lets you do quite a bit of what you'd like. While I hate that emoting is the "hardest" thing to do in their interface, it's all still pretty happy, and has keyboard short cuts. IC, OOC, Naration and Emote text as well as whispering.
#2: Excellent alias support. OpenRPG lets you do some filter mapping of speech patterns which would be nice to see available here, but no other program I've used lets you switch between aliases as easily. Between /id name, shift arrow keys and clicking on your alias, that part is very nice.
#3: The dice. They are pretty. Sad, I know, but I like them. Even if I didn't use them in our practice session.
#4: Online d20 sources that are customizable. Even if I'm not really sure I'm going to spend the effort to make a set of customized rule books for my game, it's nice to have the option. And having the base d20 rules, even abridged, was quite handy in our little test game. Especially the MM. No images though. That was a shame.
#5: Overall smart look and feel.
#6: Better then WebRPG/OpenRPG style coded and interlinked character sheets
#7: Stable connectivity. I had the worst person (netwise) from our games, who kept timing out of Ventrilo and getting disco'd from OpenRPG along with my nephew on Dial-up from India (I'm in Cali) on at the same time. Neither of them had connection or chat issues, although both had some timing issues with the dice roller. Worse when they used the graphical dice, but still present using /die (as near as I could tell). All in all, though, a pleasent surprise.

I haven't looked at GRIP yet (although I think it's sufficiently old and crufty as to not be able to compete). I know that Screen Monkey (by NBOS), can not come close to the ergonomics of the chat interface. WebRPG has more lag, and is less stable, but, supports auto init handling and char sheets. OpenRPG is also seemingly less stable (don't minimize it), and lacks the ease of alias use or overall attractiveness of the client, although otherwise I would say OpenRPG has the best feature set available without any of the polish. Also, I don't know offhand how to do auto-init stuff in OpenRPG either, although I think there is a way. Ghost Orb isn't released yet, is web-based like Screen Monkey (as far as I can tell, at least), and is monthly subscription based, which makes my players gag on principal. IRC has all sorts of issues, including hacks, setup requirements, privacy (if you avoid setting up your own), quality of dice roller, lack of maps or minis or supplemental support of any kind--It's just a chat client with a die roller bot. MU* conversions (using a MUSH/whatever room for a virtual table) sounds ok on the surface. Obviously no graphics, and no table/chart/rule book sources unless you build them yourselves, but you can actually get some very interesting puppet, room and party branching/grouping effects, if you know what you are doing. Requires, amongst other things, scripting knowledge in that type of MU*, and access to a MU* you can use for this purpose. Ventrillo, Teamspeak, RW, etc. all have issues just on the voice end, and don't provide any meaningful chat functionality (but are nice adjuncts to any of the above). Netmeeting has never worked well for me, but it seems like if it did work, it should be co-optable for this purpose. *shrugs*.

Personally, if the things from my missing list were fixed, I'd feel like FG was the clear and away best product I've found in this space. As it is, I'm still debating...