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  1. #1

    A Year In Fantasy Grounds

    In March 2020 our 5e TTRPG group transferred online. My buddy (I.T. professional) purchased both Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, evaluated both, then decided to continue our Avernus campaign in Roll20. Once I got accustomed to playing online, I built a 12th level 5e adventure in Roll20 to DM. We played this 'one shot' over seven sessions and I gained valuable DM time.

    No amount of prep replaces direct experience DMing (online)

    I found making individual saving throws and manually reducing hit points cumbersome. I wanted the unwieldy aspects of running online games automated and later found Fantasy Grounds. On June 10th, 2020 I purchased Fantasy Grounds Unity and began figuring out the software.

    The learning curve (at 40+ hours for me), turned out to be well worth the investment. I began prepping for our next campaign, a 5e D&D Eberron conversion of the Pathfinder Skull and Shackles adventure path, building everything I could think of into the software before our first game.

    Six months later the Avernus campaign finished. In November 2020 I resumed DMing for our group in Fantasy Grounds.

    Here, in no particular order, are my general experiences:

    • SmiteWorks Admin are quick to respond and friendly. Fellow gamers are a great resource and happy to teach. Thanks to everyone who helped me along.
    • I first learned to play via one shots, then learned to DM the same way. I felt comfortable DMing around six to eight sessions in, even with some Roll20 experience. My players had similar learning curves, though Ctrl-clicking or building powers in still gets forgotten.
    • I knew I was comfortable DMing when I quickly diagnosed player software familiarity lapses and easily improvised work arounds if glitches came up. Nothing replaces direct experience DMing online.
    • If I am to play online I prefer Fantasy Grounds automation and my players with experience on other platforms concur.

    Things, in hindsight, I wish I knew beforehand:

    • Staying organized and navigating through the software's internal logic necessitates trial and error, then forethought. That being said, all campaign building, table creation, item building etc. should be in one master game and then exported out as a .mod file. I currently have three games built, one of which is now active, leaving me to search for or rebuild files.
    • Always copy NPCs, story, parcels, from purchased products IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE CHANGED. I updated story modules without first copying the files, then reverted the module, losing all of my work. The little notebook icon in the right side of the window tells you if it's owned, changed, or neither.
    • I use a second account for an additional player login to see directly what my players see (and still necessary, even with Player Vision Preview in current version, though this may be argued.)
    • If the characters don't know or identify an enemy or piece of equipment, using the Non ID Name (Red circle) allows an alternate description. One click on ID puts the name back correctly.
    • The dice tower works great for checks the players wouldn’t necessarily know, like stealth or appraise checks. Other notable dice tower mentions include death saving throws and knowledge checks.
    • I purchased DMsguild extensions and mods, mostly from Grim Press and Rob Twohy, and downloaded others from within the FGU forums. I am happy I did. Verify the players have access to and then open these files in their library.
    • Updating. Every month, I update FGU around the 1st and ask my players to do the same. My (DM) updates include verifying which DMsguild purchases and FGU forum downloads got updated, then downloading those files for transfer into FGU. Please note that updated files sometimes have misspelled names, so need to be corrected when replacing the old version.
    • Windows users - earlier this year, one of my players computer refused to update Fantasy Grounds. After four hours and numerous tries we found the specific files from within the SmiteWorks folders so he could update. The next week SmiteWorks launched Fantasy Grounds customer portal. No similar problems since.
    • Windows users - my computer was running hot during games - my graphics card (GPU) running at 80%+ during sessions. I typed /vsync 4 in game chat which reduced the GPU to 15% without performance loss.
    • The software isn't perfect and has its quirks. I'd like to share tokens with my players, easily move custom tables between games, rename purchased files, etc. Still, even with the other options out there I'll take Fantasy Grounds stability and automation any day.

    In early April I started DMing a second game in FGU for some friends who moved out of town. Then last month came the loosening of restrictions, so my weekly Tuesday game resumed in person again. Changing back to tabletop proved more work than anticipated, with my campaign needing to be cut and paste into OneNote, but worth it to see my friends every week. At least I still get to run Fantasy Grounds a few sessions a month. Now I miss the convenience of automated conditions, critical hits, concentration checks, and calculations using the software.

    Brian D Mod_Ext Files Jun2021.JPG
    Last edited by Brian D; June 10th, 2021 at 16:59. Reason: Added screenshot of .mod and .ext files

  2. #2
    LordEntrails's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    -7 UTC
    Blog Entries
    Great to hear the feedback. One observation, you don't need a second account to log in to your campaign as a player, just use "localhost" or select your own GM name (depending upon how you are hosting, private or cloud).

    Problems? See; How to Report Issues, Bugs & Problems
    On Licensing & Distributing Community Content
    Community Contributions: Gemstones, 5E Quick Ref Decal, Adventure Module Creation, Dungeon Trinkets, Balance Disturbed, Dungeon Room Descriptions
    Note, I am not a SmiteWorks employee or representative, I'm just a user like you.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Some good tips. I also think OneNote is underrated for general use with RPGs - I use it for the core planning of my FG campaigns main story arcs that span multiple FG modules.

  4. #4
    I completely agree that "localhost" does the same job as a second account. Sometimes higher comfort levels arrive slower with us late adapters

  5. #5
    OneNote bridged the mental gap from building dozens of map locations and tables. I cut and pasted what I could and screenshotted the rest. A year ago I'd never guesses I'd be reverse engineering an online campaign.

    Attachment 47466
    Attachment 47467

  6. #6
    BelleMuerte's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    North Florida, USA
    Happy One Year Anniversary.

  7. #7
    Sulimo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Pacific Time Zone
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian D View Post
    OneNote bridged the mental gap from building dozens of map locations and tables. I cut and pasted what I could and screenshotted the rest. A year ago I'd never guesses I'd be reverse engineering an online campaign.

    Attachment 47466
    Attachment 47467
    Yeah, OneNote works great for doing OCR. Even from a picture.

    I have a bunch of physical books, that were published long before the advent of digital publishing, so it is really useful to convert those over to FG format.

  8. #8
    JohnD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Johnstown ON
    Blog Entries
    Even though you're face-to-face again, you might consider still using FG - it works just as well if you're all in the same spot.
    "I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind."

    - John Diefenbaker

    RIP Canada, February 21, 2022

  9. #9
    ddavison's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Blog Entries
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. #10
    Oh wow! I have one note. I've never used it. I'll have to look at that.

    Thanks for the great write up.

    I came back to D&D a little over a year ago, after a 25 year absence. First, I tried Roll20, but the restrictions on uploading and a few other things made me want to look for something better. Found Fantasy Grounds and I love it. I'm approaching one year on my current campaign, and we've learned a lot.

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