Yet Another VTT

In my day job I’m a full-stack web software engineer. When I’m not playing or discussing or reading rpgs and I get some spare time, I like to have a software-related side project to work on.

I don’t tinker often, but lately I have caught the bug.

One of the things that frustrates me about playing games online is a lack of tools that work for my style of play. I particularly enjoy theatre of the mind with minimal, sketchy maps only when necessary.

In the real world, my table often just gets covered in index cards and sticky notes scribbled on with sharpie.

Roll20 and Tabletop Simulator etc are all amazing tools but they do way more than I need.

I don’t need fog of war, dynamic lighting, highly detailed maps etc - what I do need are easy drawing and writing tools (oh god, roll20 falls short when drawing in real time at the table instead of uploading maps) and a better way to organize and share sheets and handouts and such at the table.

I have started to create a prototype of a VTT for the games I play and the way I play them - it’s essentially a tabletop where you can spawn endless numbers of virtual index cards and sticky notes, write on them with Markdown, and drag/drop to rearrange them however you want on the table. So far everything is a card - even tokens are just small round cards.

I don’t know how far I will go with it, but so far I’m enjoying building it. I plan to add a dice roller, of course, and decks or stacks of cards that can be shuffled (or not).

Right now I plan for these cards to be controlled entirely by the players with no scripted behavior for any particular game, but I have toyed with the idea of creating widgets for making games like Microscope or “For The Queen” hacks easier to play.

Two additional goals outside of the kinds of tools I want at my table are to make it work on an iPad so you can use a VTT on the couch and also to do my best to make it really screen-reader friendly.

I don’t know what I’m hoping to talk about in this thread - I’d love ideas, questions, encouragement, indications of interest or anything you might have to say on the subject. What did you love or hate about another vtt you tried? What would be the killer feature for you in a minimalist 2d tabletop?

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I don’t think there are enough VTT especially ones that do things like Microscope. What you are outline sounds great. If you have ever played Hollowpoint turing dice rolls into small post it would make the dice grouping used to control the scene fiction would be awesome.

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Honestly, I would love more capabilities around cards. If you’ve played magic the gathering or any other collectable card game, some of the stuff that occurs in those games. Because I would love to have those type of things possible in a VTT and I have zero expectations of any major VTT implementing them anytime soon.

So stuff like:

  • Look at the top X cards in a deck, put them back in any order
  • Put X cards on the bottom of the deck
  • Shuffle X cards into Y portion of the deck (think like putting “The Queen is under attack” card in a specific section of the deck)
  • View the discard pile
  • Take a specific card from the discard pile
    etc.

Lots more but those are some affordances that I would have with a physical deck of cards in front of me, but can’t really do in any VTT. (there are some collectible card programs that can do it, but that’s a huge ask for people trying to play a small card based indie rpg)

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I am definitely going to think more about how I can make deck drawing flexibility like this, now that you mention it. I wonder if these behaviors can be codified the way we have codified dice rolling… hmmm

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Can you elaborate on this @get2joe ?

Hollowpoint uses a d6 dice pool and each player has their own color dice. When they roll the pool they makes sets by matching dice. So the longest set of matching dice with the highest value goes first followed by next player. The Game Master has a similar pool of dice. When it’s your turn to narrate based on your dice sets you can take a dice away from an oppose groups set. of dice if the set becomes single then that player loses the ability to narrate for the set. If the person being target in the narrative doesn’t have any sets left on the board they take a narrative hit.
The game was somewhat popular with a pretty steady group on G+ back in the day. I’ve had an online friend talk about playing again so I’ve been locking at better ways to track sets. before we use a Doc and just wrote 4x5 for a set of #4 that was 5 long (matching). This links goes to some old docs from the G+ group I still had on my hard drive for supporting the game Dropbox - Hollowpoint 2 - Simplify your life

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I’m loving this! Not got any specific ideas, but would love to give it a try (I used to be a webapp developer for 25 years, am quite good at giving such things a good kick of the tyres :grin:)

The game I play in uses roll20, and the GM sketches all the maps during play. Like you say, it’s far from ideal for this, but it serves. I enjoy it a lot more than when I’ve played with GMs who use fancy map tiles etc.

I wrote a blog post which started off being about something completely different, but meandered onto our use of roll20 for mapping, here:

My GM picked it up and ran with it on his own blog:

I really agree with the OP in regards to the off puttingness of roll20 and the like. They offer way too much than needed and are way too clunky.

I personally don’t play with index cards but your idea sounds super handy.

I have been hoping/pondering/wishing for a simple online solution that does not exist as far as I’m aware… It goes like this:

  • A simple site that DM can upload a map. DM can view this map wholly and the fog of war can be erased by the DM. The players side sees the revealed map only vie a shared link.
  • Everybody zoom in/out on the map
  • Everybody can draw on the map

Thats it.

Another version for DMs who like hand drawn maps on the fly (me):

  • DM can draw map on infinite canvas (the problem with jamboard is that it is so small and the brushes are shite) with ipad and pen.
  • Everybody zoom in/out on the map
  • Everybody can draw on the map

Thats that.

The first one sounds like Owlbear Rodeo. It can do more but you can just ignore that easily.

I’ve run A LOT of FoundryVTT, and (if this helps) I can tell you my “complaints” about it:

  • CPU usage on the browser is super high, even for players. This could be a Node.JS thing.
  • Creating custom character sheets and the like requires CSS knowledge. I do not have this.
  • Every major update breaks my system, and though I can debug JS I have only fixed the issue myself once.
  • There is no official hosting service. I run mine on a linux server, and had to write my own systemd units (I later submitted them). There is still a problem with updates requiring manual service restarts, but it works.

My ideal VTT would be one that I didn’t need to host, that let you create custom character sheets without CSS knowledge, and that allowed for custom rulesets without them breaking every damn update.

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Role may fit that bill. I use it extensively to create sheets for indie games I play. Doesn’t really have automation right now though, If you want that. So far no update has ever broken anything. There is also Let’s Role which is also a lot easier to make sheets for than Foundry or Roll20. A little knowledge of CSS helps though. And it works very well.

For index card heavy games I use Fari. Because it also has a pretty easy sheet builder. I would say that is what I am after the most and Role and Fari have that down pretty well.

As you can tell I use many different VTT. Each game has different needs and I don’t think one VTT will ever be able to cover all use cases. From the ones I linked maybe Fari would be interesting to the OP.

Mobile/tablet friendliness on Android and Apple would be grand. Not many VTT cover that space at all, or only as an afterthought. Looking forward to seeing what may come of this! It’s definitely a niche but I believe a niche VTT at this point may have a better chance than another “all in one” VTT solution. Good luck with your endeavour @jeffszusz!