I’ve started prepping to run my first campaign of Dragonbane and am very excited to try a new system. My group is scattered across the U.S., so we play online through a virtual tabletop. We’ve done theater of the mind and used Roll20, but nothing has scratched the itch for running a game like FoundryVTT. I am not affiliated with Foundry, but I wanted to share my experience with the product in hopes of helping those of you who are still shopping around for something better.
I started with Roll20, and it’s not a bad option, but it left a lot to be desired. I haven’t used it in a while, but when I did, the setup was slow, the client was clunky, and a lot of the cool features were behind a subscription. I did some digging, and the alternatives at the time were Tabletop Simulator, Owlbear Rodeo, Fantasy Grounds, and FoundryVTT.
Tabletop Simulator is fantastic if you play board games. While it is a little clunky, you’ll have access to just about any tabletop you can think of. I’ve used it for card games and Warhammer, but it felt a little too clunky for D&D. I didn’t want to make people buy anything a new program, and some people in my group didn’t have the hardware to run it.
Owlbear Rodeo is free, and a solid choice. It has everything you’ll need to run a campaign, but you’ll be limited in how much you can upload unless you pay the subscription. When I first looked at Owlbear Rodeo, the client was a lot more basic. It looks like they’ve made improvements and added features since, and it looks good. I recommend you check it out for a free alternative.
Fantasy Grounds was the VTT I was considering the most at the time. It had official integration of D&D, some cool automation, and a very cool UI. The problem I had with Fantasy Grounds was the price. The license is $149 for the Game Master license, and you have to buy all the books. I already own a few, and I didn’t want to buy them again. You only need the Game Master license to run a game. Players can join for free. You can split the cost with your group, and this option becomes a bit more manageable. This is a solid option if you and your group are playing together for a long time, and want a VTT that isn’t much of a hassle. There is a demo available that you should try before you spend any money. My group was relatively new, and I didn’t want to ask for money.
The only option I had left was FoundryVTT, which was new and up-and-coming. FoundryVTT seemed to have everything I needed. I could add walls on my maps for vision, roll in the client, and run it through a browser. With a few modules, I could achieve the automation and customization I wanted for a more manageable cost. FoundryVTT is $50 for a lifetime license. Only one person needs this license to run the game. There is a demo available I recommend you try.
Your game is hosted locally, so the only limitation is your hardware. If you have a slow connection or computer, you can create your own server through something like a Rasberry PI, or throw it up on one of the many paid server options. I’ve been running it off my computer without issue, but it is something to consider.
After a lot of research and demos, I took the plunge and bought my FoundryVTT license. I have no regrets. It has everything I need, and it’s only gotten better since. FoundryVTT continues to receive support from its developers and its amazing community. They work tirelessly to add new features and systems to the client. Although D&D seems to be receiving the most love, support for other systems is getting better by the day. There is even official support from a growing list of publishers. With enough modules, you can customize FoundryVTT to be exactly what you need. We use D&D Beyond, and some modules let me import characters and let my players roll from D&D Beyond into the client.
If you are looking for a new virtual tabletop, I recommend Foundry VTT. The client is easy to use, learn, and teach. Games are easy to set up, and sessions run great. I know there are more options for VTTs now than when I first started. There are some very flashy cool ones out there that deserve some attention, and an official D&D Beyond one that I still need to try, but for my needs, Foundry has been very good to me. I’ll continue to recommend it.
Now that I am getting ready to run my first game of Dragonbane, I turned to FoundryVTT to make the transition as easy as possible for my players. I am very fortunate and was sent the official module for review, so stay tuned for that. You can pick up the official Dragonbane module for $24.41 from the Free League Publishing website. You don’t need the module to play Dragonbane. Importing everything you need is a simple task, but the module makes it much simpler. The module gives you access to all the core rules. These can be shared and referenced easily through the client. You also get access to the prewritten adventure and everything you need to run it, such as the maps, pre-generated characters, monsters, and loot. When you are ready to run your own campaign, you’ll have access to all the classes, spells, traits, etc. so you won’t have to create them yourself. If you know you’re going to play Dragonbane for a while, you’re going to need to pick up this module.
I’ll be running my first game of Dragonbane in a few weeks and will be posting my impressions. Stay tuned for that. I’ll be covering a bunch of systems on my blog, so make sure you show me some love by leaving a like, comment, follow, and share this with your friends. You can always buy me coffee.