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Virtual Table Top RPG - What is VTT Gaming?

Transcending Time & Distance

Virtual Table top platforms have surged in popularity in recent years, ascending from relative obscurity back during the onslaught of Coronavirus Covid-19, and becoming one of the main ways to enjoy roleplaying games in the subsequent period of isolation we faced together.

Typically and historically, table top roleplaying games (TTRPGs) have been enjoyed in face-to-face environments where you share exciting and unique gaming experiences with your chosen band erstwhile companions. Of course, this pastime was completely incompatible with social distancing and lockdown guidelines - at least in places where anyone had been taking the rules seriously.

D20 dice and other dice that could be used in popular roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons
Rolling dice at a table with your friends became a no-go for many of us.

Despite the hardships that had been foisted upon us by life, we, the TTRPG community, and the TTRPG hobby itself continued to live and breathe behind closed doors. This is due in no small part to the digital tools that we can access to play out our RPG campaigns and one-shots - Virtual Table top platforms.

Virtual Table Tops (VTTs or VTTRPGs) were around before Covid-19, of course, but the pre-Covid level of uptake that VTTs had within the community allowed for a lot of room for growth. In this article, I'll touch upon a few different VTTs - thriving Foundry Virtual Table top, big hitter Roll20 and relative new kid on the block Owlbear Rodeo.

In each instance the principal is the same - the point in a virtual table top is to allow groups of RPG lovers to experience the game from the comfort of their own device, regardless of the distance they might find exists between them.

The Power of Virtual Table Top Apps

When choosing a VTT platform to play on, it's usually wise to do a bit of prior research, especially into whether or not there are modules to add to the software to let you play your game of choice smoothly and easily. Once you've made your selection, you can load up the VTT with all of the necessary die rollers, rules, and mechanics that any party and their Dungeon Master (or Games Master if you prefer!) could ever need to play the game. The game of choice more often than not is the famous Dungeons & Dragons - but there is a whole world of RPG titles out there to explore - WFRP, Pathfinder, and Blades in The Dark to name but a few!

Officially launched in May 2022 - Foundry VTT is one of the most versatile VTT platforms.

In the case of Foundry and Roll20, their functionality goes beyond just one brand of game - each platform can accommodate any set of pen-and-paper rules imaginable. The popularity and reach of both of these platforms has afforded them much support in return; users are able to add their own elements to the system and share them amongst the community at large. In a short space of time, modifications and add-ons have become a big part of the VTT eco-system irrespective of the platform.

Appeared on scene in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter - Roll20 has over 8 million users to date.

The best RPG in-person experiences are filled with unique props, vibrant maps and a healthy dosage of comfort food! It's no surprise that VTTs would endeavour to give Games Masters the tools they need to replicate this experience in a digital space. VTTs allow a Games Master to control the game environment - from the map that players find themselves on, to the characters that the players find themselves facing! The system handles all the dice rolls and calculations as well - up front and transparent for everyone to see.

Nobody is rolling dice on the other side of a dodgy camera feed here!

This content that players and Games Masters need isn't always readily available - this is where Modemkiller comes in. The library of fantasy assets that we have are ready to use on VTT platforms - Fantasy Maps, Fantasy Characters and their respective tokens can all be used to bring your VTTRPG experiences to life. This is true irrespective of whether you're a Games Master or a Player, and irrespective of your choice of platform as well!

RPG enthusiasts are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting their VTT platform. In 2024 there are several options and none are a bad choice - it comes down to the personal slant more than anything else. Intuitiveness, functionality and style can all vary from group of games to group of gamers - some will even make uses of more than one!

This could be the reason several platforms can co-exist in a niche market like the one TTRPGs find themselves in. Testament still, Owlbear Rodeo is in open development - growing and adapting at every opportunity.

Currently in a state of open development - Owlbear Rodeo tracks it's growth in an interesting blog.

Each VTT platform approaches fundraising in different ways - examples at time of writing being that Roll20 and Owlbear Rodeo are accessible based on a monthly subscription; whereas Foundry VTT uses a one-off payment for complete access. Both provide access for a Games Master to run games for groups of players.

In 2024 the VTT eco-system continues to grow and to thrive. It seems to be that Wizards of the Coast might even have plans to compete in the market with their own brand of Virtual Table Top too! However, this Dungeons-&-Dragons-specific environment has been showcased as an entirely 3D experience, which leaves little room for traditional and digital art to feature as part of it. This is a snapshot from the development diary video of ONE D&D, the work-in-progress VTT platform:

If you want to read more about this and watch the video for yourself, you can see it here on a D&D Beyond post. Independent reviews on the early version of ONE D&D VTT were lukewarm, but Modemkiller is keen to see where this could take the VTT experience in general.

Regardless of which VTT mast you nail your colours to, we can all agree that Virtual Table Tops provide a much needed and accessible tool for players to enjoy their gaming when time and logistics might otherwise get in the way.

Long may it continue!

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