Like many of my fellow guildmates, in addition to gaming at LRPG guild events, I participate in regular home games with a core group of players. Until novel coronavirus COVID-2019, that is. It was two weeks ago now since our GM stated that this particular evening would be our last face-to-face game for the foreseeable future. Some of our group have existing health conditions that could cause complications should one of us unwittingly spread the virus around the gaming table. It was decided we would attempt to continue our gaming schedule using online resources and/or software. We then set about the work of investigating available solutions for online play.
Savage Worlds is our system of choice. We currently have a Deadlands: Hell On Earth Reloaded campaign and a mini-campaign based on the apocalyptic aftermath of Tracy Sizemore’s excellent Disaster at Gran Atomica. Therefore we needed a VTT that would support Savage Worlds with little to no need for extensive customization. Simply put, we didn’t want to have to be forced to do any code manipulation to get what we need to support play.
Searching for a VTT
The requirement for little to no custom coding needs lead us to exclude the popular platform Roll20. Some of us had experimented with Roll20 in the past (mostly for d20 and other OSR-based systems) but we were not confident in its ability to model the Savage Worlds system. Admittedly, this may have changed and we may have been wrong in our assumptions but that’s the direction we went in. If any of you reading this have experience using Roll20 to run Savage Worlds, please head on over to the LRPG’s Facebook page and give a shout out about how wrong we were.
We also took a very brief look at Astral TableTop. A quick read informed us that it is currently geared toward other systems, namely 5e, Pathfinder, OGL-based games, and Vampire, Fantasy AGE and Exalted. Again, we didn’t want to have to roll-our-own system support so, even with its beautiful interface, Astral didn’t make our cut.
We eventually landed on Fantasy Grounds Classic. Savage Worlds is represented very well on the platform and receives fairly regular updates. Its biggest challenges are namely price and learning curve. There are two licenses that allow one to host a game. With the standard license, a GM can host games for others also with a standard license. Or your GM can spring for the Ultimate license and host games for players using the free demo version. Then there’s the price of the SWADE core ruleset and any other setting modules you may want to use. It’s important to note that you can create your own settings and modules if you don’t want to purchase the ready made ones.
It’s important to note that although other VTTs are free, you would also have to purchase modules, settings or adventures if you didn’t want to take the time to create your own. In playing 5e on Roll20, for example, you’d have to pay for the D&D Player’s Guide or other modules to use anything besides the standard SRD. So keep in mind that there are potential costs involved in any VTT solution.
Taking The Game Online
Okay, guildmates, listen up. Your first few games online, no matter what platform you choose, will be challenging at the best of times. Fantasy Grounds definitely has a learning curve and that curve can be step at times. Use your chosen platform’s resources and lean on those who have some experience. There are many tutorials on YouTube on playing with Fantasy Grounds and there is a very active forum on which you can ask questions.
Armed with Fantasy Grounds and supported by YouTube videos and a great support forum, we set about learning how to game online. Our patient GM created a few one-shot games during which we could learn how to use this new frontier. The going was rough at first. But we persevered. By the third session of our so-called one-shot game (c’mon, you know how it goes) we were rocking and rolling. With the addition of a private Discord server to facilitate voice (and video) chat, it was a good proximation for actually being around the gaming table.
Our test one-shot game done and over with, we’re ready to circle back to our regular established gaming routine and feel very confident that we can achieve the same level of gaming satisfaction electronically as we can face-to-face. Honestly, we’re even considering taking one of our biweekly games fully online even after the current crisis is over.
My hope is that you too can find a way to continue gaming no matter how you accomplish it. My son chose to continue his 5e gaming strictly via voice over Discord. There are options out there. Do a little research, decide on a platform, call up your gaming mates and roll some dice. Whether they be virtual or the real deal. Game on.