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  1. #21
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    I'm a Pro on Roll20 and have bought all DnD and Pathfinder1/2 products there, as well as a lot of tokens, maps etc. I'm also an Ultimate user on both FGC as well as FGU and have bought all official DnD releases, Savage Worlds, Call of Cthulhu and more on FG. Why am I mentioning this? Well I just wanted to start with saying that I'm actually quite heavily invested in both platforms and as such can give you the pros and cons of both platforms. I also own Foundry but have never used it.
    Roll20 is good just because the player base is so large, it's very easy to find a game with strangers (I'm a GM so that helps as well ), if you're not using API's it's also quite close to playing on a TableTop in that sense that you have to calculate a lot of the die rolls yourself, targeting several targets at once is not easy to get going etc. I actually like that so that's not a minus for me. Also, it's easy to log on for both the GM as well as the players (it's in a browser after all).
    In FG you can choose to play it like a tabletop, calculating everything yourself but if you want to automation is there (depending on game and module). I looove the dice in FG, and the community that FG is much better in my NSHO. Prepwork is easier in FG as well and the ability to create items, spells, parcels, encounters, map pins etc is just so much better than Roll20. I like both but if I had to choose only one, it would be Fantasy Grounds no contest, but I would go with Classic for now as Unity is not quite there yet.

    Send me a PM if you'd like me to show you anything as you could log on with only a demo account.

    Oh and I'm not a DnD Beyond user (owning all hardback and the modules in Roll20 and FG makes this a bit to much even for me...) so I can't speak about it's connection to Foundry or Roll20, but as stated above, it might not be following the ToS.

  2. #22
    I've no experience with Roll20 but some with Foundry and a lot with FGC and some with FGU. The graphical/image/map part of Foundry is vastly superior to FG. In that department, FGC and FGU feel clunky and look completely outdated. If your VT experience is just two games, I'd recommend it, because is good for people that come directly from real-life tabletop and have no bias for automation and you and your players will like the better visual experience.

    If you and your players want to offload a ton of menial work and you are not afraid of a steeper learning curve, FGC is the way to go. FGC is so good at automation that for my game group it still outweights the better graphics of Foundry.

    And for FGU, don't even think of running an adventure there. It's just such a miserable experience right now that you should avoid touching it. The bad news for me is that from what I can deduce from the Unity forum posts, it will take a long time to achieve feature and performance parity with FGC. And once there, it will take much much longer to even look as polished as Foundry on the graphics side.
    Last edited by arkanis; May 26th, 2020 at 11:01.

  3. #23
    Like many newbies, I switched to VTTs because of lockdown.

    I thought I'd post my experiences so far with Roll20, Astral and Fantasy Grounds.

    Our group started with Roll20 because it has the lowest barrier to entry. Nothing to install, huge user-base, has a marketplace because I needed to learn how to run games remotely and I wanted the maximum amount of stuff provided for me to do that. I ran a few sessions of 5th Ed D&D and am currently playing in a 5th Ed campaign run by a very experienced Roll20 GM. I've got the top-level membership and bought a lot of the D&D stuff on there.

    I think:

    1) It's fine. With a good GM, willing to put some effort it, it can be brilliant. I'm sure you can play extended campaigns and have a super time.

    2) It's pretty. It does the map-and-tokens VTT thing well. There's a reason everyone is adopting their line of sight system- great for immersion.

    3) It's got a good marketplace. Lots of stuff is available on there and the implementation is OK so long as you're mainly running single-module adventures.

    4) It's flexible. You can run theatre of mind or crunchy detailed battles. It's quite system agnostic but has helpful levels of support for big commercial systems.

    5) It's limited. A LOT of the work still devolves onto the GM. Because its tools are system agnostic, you end up having to find workarounds to help. For example, we've taken to adding AC and passive perception to our usernames because the GM needs to see that ALL THE TIME and there's no option to eg add them as columns on the initiative tracker.

    6) For us at least the built-in video conferencing plain didn't work.

    7) It's organisational tools are very lacking. There's no way to hyperlink a handout to a map, for example, so you just click on the room to bring up the description, relevant monsters and treasures, etc..

    8) There's no map editing to speak of and the only "first class" entities it has are maps, characters, tokens, compendium items and handouts. Some systems support stuff like drag-and-drop from the compendium to the character sheet, but it's all a bit ad hoc. Its use as a GM prep tool is consequently limited, and I see quite of lot of GM saying they use paper notes/physical books etc whilst running games on Roll20.

    9) It can be hacked about with macros and an API, but as soon as you depart from the vanilla world, support levels plunge off a cliff into a wild west of GitHub and out-of-date wikis. So you can get more out of it, but you have to put a lot of technical coding-level work into doing it.

    10) Running in the browser is a two-edged sword. Especially with the large influx of new players during lockdown, it's frequently offline for half an hour here and there, which would be very annoying mid-game. They're fixing it, but I'm surprised at how often it seems to be a "whole system throws a bunch of exceptions when you even access the front page".

    11) Let us not underestimate Roll20's excellent looking for game feature and the huge user base. I wanted to try playing in a game run by an experienced online GM to learn. I found not one but multiple options at a suitable date and time for me, easily. If you want a pick-up game or to find a group, frankly, go to Roll20.

    In conclusion it is a pretty shared map-and-tokens system which runs in the browser, has wide adoption, decent (and improving) support for 5th Ed D&D and a few major systems but which has made limited progress going beyond that.
    Last edited by HywelPhillips; May 26th, 2020 at 17:26.

  4. #24
    I've tried Astral but only for testing, I've not run a live game with it because it didn't fit my use case (I couldn't buy a commercial scenario to get started quickly with it).

    My thoughts:

    1) It out-pretties Roll20, with tokens with transparency in all their examples, extensive weather effects, etc.. Maps can have triggers all over the place so sounds play or fire appears or all manner of other trigger effects snowball. If immersion and player audiovisual experience is your priority, Astral looks good.

    2) It's got a decent map editor built in. Indeed, if Roll20 feels like it is based around a maps-and-tokens shared VTT, Astral feels like it is built around a map builder as a core.

    3) System support on the other hand seems almost entirely absent. As far as I could see there was no help at all in generating a 1st level 5th Ed character - not even an SRD class list or spells to choose from.

    4) It runs in the browser, as far as I can see, with all the strengths and weaknesses therein.

    5) It lets you view PDFs of game scenarios during play inside the system (which is nice) but as far as I can see no simple way of translating that to game stats or clickable rollies for monsters etc.. I'm very spoiled by FG's magical ability to parse plain text and turn it into game stats on the fly.

    6) The marketplace is illustrative - it seems to all be maps and tokens. I couldn't see so much as a single commercial module to run. It will not be quick to get your first game going on it (which is why I've not tried).

    7) The interface is pretty but relies on a lot of pop-ups and sidebars and top bars, and I found the default character sheets for 5th Ed very hard to read.

    8) Simulating a combat seems to devolve entirely to the GM. As with Roll20, it didn't seem to be possible to add the most important stats like AC to the initiative tracker. The first thing I'd want to do if running a combat would be to get a physical stickie and write AC and PP on it and stick it to the bottom of my screen. That might be exactly what you want. For me personally, I want to be looking at the computer and have all the info I need there electronically and available at a glance.

    9) Similarly, inflicting wounds is handled by the GM clicking on the token, bringing up a window, entering a number, choosing add or subtract to click. It felt very cumbersome to me. Each character gets a quickbar so they can echo stuff to the chat system easier (eg typical weapon and spell attacks with rolled to-hit and damage) but then you can't *DO* anything with that info as the GM as far as I can tell. You have to open up a cumbersome set of things to apply the damage. Again, I've got very spoilt by FG. You rolled damage without a target? Fine let me drag it from the chat window onto the monster and inflict those wounds automatically.

    10) As far as I can see it has limited campaign management features and no system support to speak of. Like Roll20, you can probably set up an encounter on a map in advance; you can probably do some hyperlinking as well but I didn't explore deeply enough to find out how flexible that is. The first-class citizens of its world are definitely maps, tokens, effects, and stuff from "Map maker world".

    I would say if the main thing that frustrates you is Roll20's lack of prettiness and the ability to create more engrossing and immersive player experiences on the maps, Astral looks pretty and would be well worth a serious look.
    Last edited by HywelPhillips; May 26th, 2020 at 17:32.

  5. #25
    The one I've actually settled on though is Fantasy Grounds Unity. I bought and tried both Classic and Unity (with the top-tier pro version) and have purchased most of the 5th Ed D&D stuff, plus Call of Cthulhu, Masks of Nyarlathotep, and a bunch of other systems and scenarios.

    I've run a couple of months worth of sessions of 5th Ed D&D and Call of Cthulhu.

    Here are my thoughts:

    1) Unlike Roll20 and Astral, Fantasy Grounds is first and foremost a GM support tool. The "first-class citizens" in its world are not maps and tokens but characters, monsters, treasure, party, stories, notes, images, damage, targets, effects and draggable hyperlinks. If you decide to describe a new sort of magic sword, FG will take you the whole way, from creating it, to adding it to a treasure parcel, linking an image of it, to hyperlinking on the map the chest where they find it, to dragging it to the party for them to inspect it, to clicking a button once they've cast identify on it and finding out what it actually does, to allocating it to a character, to appearing on their sheet, to clicking on it to roll to hit in combat, to doing damage with it, inflicting that damage on a foe, and maybe triggering conditional effects like doing extra damage if the foe is vulnerable to fire and is of type undead. Neither of the other two VTTs have anything remotely like it, as far as I can see.

    2) It doesn't have an initiative tracker. It has a combat tracker which shows everything the GM needs to know for every character to run the whole combat without constant reference to NPC stats, looking up AC or manually entering the results of every blow. You CAN use it like Roll20's initiative tracker and have the GM do most of the book-keeping. But with a little care (and purchasing Rob 2e's complete effects packages) it can do 90%+ of the book-keeping for you and is simple to over-ride if you make a mistake or need to correct.

    3) By contrast with Astral or Roll20, if you get a result come up in the chat window you can drag and drop it on to the intended target and FG will track it accordingly. It knows the difference between a hit roll and a damage roll.

    4) If you can train your players a little to do target selection, you can get to the point where you can run a whole combat as the GM and not have to do a single bit of book-keeping. FG does the lot. I cannot express how excited I am for the prospects of doing that with high-level D&D play, something I've always shied away from because the weight of record-keeping on the GM becomes an awful lot like work rather than having fun with your hobby running a game for your mates.

    5) Fantasy Grounds delivers much better GM support for writing your own material inside FG and having it translate easily to running the game. You build an encounter, which it knows often have different monster types, and it allows you to drag and drop where the combatants will appear without actually having the tokens live on the map. You can have eight different battles queued up to run on the same battle map, with a hyper-linked pin to bring that up, all prepared with drag and drop- and click one button to enter it all onto the combat tracker and go.

    6) It has no map creation to speak of, although some is promised. Once you've got the map image though it's pretty easy to handle grids, LOS, etc..

    7) It's not as pretty as R20 or Astral although Unity has a few effects added (eg rain or snow effects layers) and now has working line of sight. Setting up line of sight is easy and fast, for my money is the easiest to set up of the three (R20, Astral, FG). It's functional but your players won't be cooing with the beauty of it, I suspect.

    8) FGU is beta and admittedly prone to updates breaking stuff. Support, however, are really on it. I've not missed any game time so far. The main thing is not to update on game night, just in case there's a new bug lurking. Do it after game night, make sure it runs OK, then don't touch.

    9) The user interface is... unconventional. This places a high barrier on casual pick-up by players. All my group are technical professionals, most of us have PhD's, and they found out how to use bits of Roll20 by experimenting before I did. With FG though I've had to tell them how to do pretty much everything. Dragging a character class to the sheet to level up makes sense once you know it, but I don't think anyone will guess how to do that by playing around.

    10) It has a solid marketplace and a very friendly and helpful community.

    11) It will not stop working if the company changes direction or goes bust. This is a non-trivial concern for investing significant cash and even more so if you're going to write and implement big homebrew campaigns in the system, rather than just using it as a way of all seeing the same map and tokens. Storage is local so I can back it up and have effectively no storage limit. I wouldn't want to actually develop my campaign in Roll20 or Astral - I think it is more intended for GMs to input a subset of their paper or other-format notes, not develop the entire campaign inside it which FG supports and encourages.

    If what you want is an immersive VTT to show maps and tokens, with the GM doing all the heavy lifting of running the actual game system... FG can do it but in all honesty Roll20 and Astral are probably better suited for your purpose.

    FG is a bit cranky and certainly quirky.

    It's got a much steeper learning curve, especially for casual players.

    FGC is stable and performant but lacks some crucial features - line of sight might be non-negotiable once you've experienced how immersive it is in play.

    FGU is unstable and not yet performant but IMO is the place to be, not least because it runs on Macs without using the appalling WINE. It's worked fine for me to run I guess 30+ hours so far with five players, so let's not overstate the beta-ness of FGU.

    Once you get your head around how it actually works and start to use it to run games and even more so write scenarios, running games in Roll20 feels like having one arm tied behind your back. I don't want to live without effects and condition tracking, auto-inflicted damage including saves made automatically when targeting big groups of enemies, pins for hyperlinks, the parser that turns English-language monster descriptions into rollable stats that automatically come up in the combat tracker, a built-in calendar system, etc.. I do all my game prep on FG and can access everything with a few mouse clicks.

    Honestly, once we can play face to face again I'm going to find it very hard to let go of these GM support features.

    I hope that helps some people who might be looking at which VTT to choose.

    Best regards,

    Hywel
    Last edited by HywelPhillips; May 26th, 2020 at 17:43.

  6. #26
    Very well written analysis and comparison of the three VTTs you listed, Hywel! I'm impressed.

    I've tried all three platforms as well and don't disagree w/ anything you've said. Each platform has additional advantages and disadvantages, but you listed all the major ones, imo.

    Now check out and review Foundry VTT. It just fully released this week. (Through research, not saying you should buy it, or anything.) It does suffer from lack of content like Astral, though supposedly a chrome extension will allow you to convert D&D Beyond content to it if you have a DDB account.

    I like FG. A lot. Great devs. Good platform, though development is a bit on the slow side. I upgraded from Standard to Ultimate when the Unity kickstarter came around. I had planned to stay here for a very long time.

    But I will be checking out Foundry for my next campaign, I think. Just to test. Maybe it has some things I won't like. But I did hours of research on it today. It's missing a few things compared to FG like full combat automation, parcels, and 3D dice. But the dice can be added with an 'extension'. It has more automation than Roll20, it's just not quite as automated as FG. But it more than makes up for it in other areas. Or so it seems, having not actually used it yet.

    I really hope that Smiteworks can kick Unity development into high gear and add some highly desirable features like Fog of War since every other VTT has it. I want FG to be the best VTT. But I've already seen a few high profile converts from Roll20 and FG in the Foundry discord channel. So Smiteworks really has their work cut out for them...
    Fantasy Grounds Unity may be official now, but its release may take a while yet.

  7. #27
    Kelrugem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Three of Swords View Post
    Very well written analysis and comparison of the three VTTs you listed, Hywel! I'm impressed.

    I've tried all three platforms as well and don't disagree w/ anything you've said. Each platform has additional advantages and disadvantages, but you listed all the major ones, imo.

    Now check out and review Foundry VTT. It just fully released this week. (Through research, not saying you should buy it, or anything.) It does suffer from lack of content like Astral, though supposedly a chrome extension will allow you to convert D&D Beyond content to it if you have a DDB account.

    I like FG. A lot. Great devs. Good platform, though development is a bit on the slow side. I upgraded from Standard to Ultimate when the Unity kickstarter came around. I had planned to stay here for a very long time.

    But I will be checking out Foundry for my next campaign, I think. Just to test. Maybe it has some things I won't like. But I did hours of research on it today. It's missing a few things compared to FG like full combat automation, parcels, and 3D dice. But the dice can be added with an 'extension'. It has more automation than Roll20, it's just not quite as automated as FG. But it more than makes up for it in other areas. Or so it seems, having not actually used it yet.

    I really hope that Smiteworks can kick Unity development into high gear and add some highly desirable features like Fog of War since every other VTT has it. I want FG to be the best VTT. But I've already seen a few high profile converts from Roll20 and FG in the Foundry discord channel. So Smiteworks really has their work cut out for them...
    I think one should not forget the community in all the reviews of VTTs, too; and in that FG is the best in my opinion.

    It is up to you whether you want to believe me in the following I was once on the Foundry VTT because I searched for some person there, and there was some modding/coding channel where people spoke about pirating stuff from Roll20 and FG, sharing ways to do that etc. and it got not moderated although the posts there were sometimes rather old (maybe it is now moderated? I am not there anymore). Just to cite roughly out of my head about what people were saying there when it was about what could happen with these piracy methods of FG stuff: "What should Smiteworks do? Erasing my License? Pah, as if I would ever will use that license again, so, no problem in stealing their modules to make use of them for Foundry" (comments roughly like that I was able to find there) And, it looked like whether the developer of Foundry was also participating in these discussions, and not to ban these discussions.. But I may be mistaken, and it is so long ago that things may have changed and/or my mind tricks me now So take that with a grain of salt

    For me personally that is a reason why I would never switch to Foundry, regardless how well-developed it will suddenly be (and since I play 3.5e it will probably not so soon well-support that ruleset. Also a plus point for me for FG ). Such conversations about piracy should not be welcomed as it looked like there; but as I said, maybe that changed already. All VTTs are competitors, yes, but that shouldn't mean that you can treat your competitors like bad enemies without showing any respect

    I like the community here which lead to that I developed stuff for it, too So, I just wanted to say that this is also a big plus point for FG for me
    Last edited by Kelrugem; May 27th, 2020 at 01:17.

  8. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelrugem View Post
    I think one should not forget the community in all the reviews of VTTs, too; and in that FG is the best in my opinion.
    Yeah, I can't speak on Foundry's community, that's for sure, just having looked into the VTT today.

    As for FG's community, I must be more lenient than most in that regard. I was on Roll20 and active in the community for over 5 years and only saw what I would consider a few 'bad apples'. I've seen as many here in the last 2 years or so, and it's a smaller community. That said, the number of helpful ppl are about the same as well. So to me, they're about the same. (Unless you take moderation into consideration, in which case Roll20's censorship and community is vastly worse.)
    Fantasy Grounds Unity may be official now, but its release may take a while yet.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Three of Swords View Post
    Yeah, I can't speak on Foundry's community, that's for sure, just having looked into the VTT today.

    As for FG's community, I must be more lenient than most in that regard. I was on Roll20 and active in the community for over 5 years and only saw what I would consider a few 'bad apples'. I've seen as many here in the last 2 years or so, and it's a smaller community. That said, the number of helpful ppl are about the same as well. So to me, they're about the same. (Unless you take moderation into consideration, in which case Roll20's censorship and community is vastly worse.)
    Yeah, I also never had any bad experience on Roll20, that's right But I never really participated there sadly, so can't really say a lot about this community (and yes, one has everywhere the "bad apples" sadly )

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelrugem View Post
    I think one should not forget the community in all the reviews of VTTs, too; and in that FG is the best in my opinion.

    It is up to you whether you want to believe me in the following I was once on the Foundry VTT because I searched for some person there, and there was some modding/coding channel where people spoke about pirating stuff from Roll20 and FG, sharing ways to do that etc. and it got not moderated although the posts there were sometimes rather old (maybe it is now moderated? I am not there anymore). Just to cite roughly out of my head about what people were saying there when it was about what could happen with these piracy methods of FG stuff: "What should Smiteworks do? Erasing my License? Pah, as if I would ever will use that license again, so, no problem in stealing their modules to make use of them for Foundry" (comments roughly like that I was able to find there) And, it looked like whether the developer of Foundry was also participating in these discussions, and not to ban these discussions.. But I may be mistaken, and it is so long ago that things may have changed and/or my mind tricks me now So take that with a grain of salt

    For me personally that is a reason why I would never switch to Foundry, regardless how well-developed it will suddenly be (and since I play 3.5e it will probably not so soon well-support that ruleset. Also a plus point for me for FG ). Such conversations about piracy should not be welcomed as it looked like there; but as I said, maybe that changed already. All VTTs are competitors, yes, but that shouldn't mean that you can treat your competitors like bad enemies without showing any respect

    I like the community here which lead to that I developed stuff for it, too So, I just wanted to say that this is also a big plus point for FG for me
    I second that!

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