On Sunday night I got a bunch of Australians and New Zealanders together to play with SyncRPG. It is the new Virtual Tabletop (VTT) that is a branch of Maptools that has been opened up for trial. The VTT is focused on the Pathfinder Role Playing Game (RPG) at the moment and all of the special stuff that can be utilised that is different to Maptools really focuses on that game though you could do some extra work to include other games or use it with an OSR kind of bent.
To get the game ready I had to get the players to sign up for the open beta which can be done from here and going to the Login tab. You do need to have that approved. Just tell them that Mark sent you and you will get approved! Of course I kid, they are really after playtesters at the moment and you will get approved quick smart. I tell you now too, if you are a GM or a player that plays Pathfinder on a VTT like Roll 20 or Map Tools then you will want to check this out. There is goodness here, for free!
I then made the characters for the game and this was what took me the longest time. There is a Google Docs spreadsheet character sheet that is intended for use and it is a little fiddly and open and I got a little lost in it at times and did not understand how to put some effects like Toughness and Dodge into the sheet properly. This would come with experience I am sure but it was a little fiddly. That done, the process to assign the sheet to a token and get it usable for the web is simplistic, effective and really well laid out.
Once I was through the character creation process I created a new map on the software they provide for your computer. They have got Kristian Richards (Some of his work is here on RPGDriveThru) to build a bunch of geomorphs. They are mini maps (think like having a bunch of tiles that are square cup coaster size) that can be combined into a dungeon or sewers (which I used). He is going to continue making these too and they will be added to the site. I snapped a very serviceable dungeon together using snap to grid and I think around 40 tiles. This took me all of about 15 minutes to do and that was with a complete restart when I realised I could not get exactly what I wanted with the existing tools so a very small compromise later and I was ready to build the dynamic lighting.
This is the really big thing that I can see. It is the major selling point for this VTT. Yes, it has Dynamic Lighting. Yes, there is going to be no charge to use it. Yes, every stock map and geomorph is preset with the information needed by the Dynamic Lighting tool! What that means to you is that if I were to take this map, place it in Roll 20 or Maptools and get it to the point where the lighting works as well as this did in the game on Sunday would take you a couple of hours – at the least. In SyncRPG I put it in, selected all the tiles, went to the website and loaded the Apply Map Tile VBL and ran it and the game was ready with all lighting done. 30 seconds and it was complete. I love that about this tool.
OK, but what bumps in the road did we encounter? Plenty to keep us on our toes. This is an Open Beta and they must be expected. I realised that one of the players did not have his sign on details applied for the website in time for the game so I got him to download the files through my dropbox (I am not supplying a link, download it from the SyncRPG site under the VTT tab once you are signed up and you get the latest version). He loaded it up and at that time I did not have the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) functionality for ports enabled and so we went through a process to allow port forwarding on his router. He got on for about ten minutes but then the server kicked him and he kept attempting to sign in over and over but it kept immediately kicking him. We have no idea why. It could be that he was not part of the Open Beta yet but I could not see how it would know that…
We also all had Java errors along the way pop up but most were not fatal (that is they did not kill the program). I did have a couple of infinite fail loops happen to me and (for Joe) there was no discerning trigger. It is as if a background process just caused it. First was while I was using the initiative panel and the second just happened after I had not touched the controls for a couple of minutes. Despite these issues (and this is why they need you in beta testing) we had fun killing Kobolds and a couple of puppies and some great role playing fun such as the “I AM BANECK” that kept coming from the intimidating half-orc cleric. Go search Baneck on the SyncRPG site to check out the character.
The interaction between the character sheet and the software on your system is nice. For the GM, the ability to grab a token on the fly from the website and drop it in, with it mapping to all the macros in the tool and supply all the stats is fantastic. Really very impressive. This system is on par with Fantasy Grounds integration of the Bestiaries (though Fantasy Grounds has more critters processed). The automatic movement marker and tools are fantastic, but that is where I find it a little hard to review this tool.
In the game I had a player that was super familiar with Maptools. I have never been able to get a version of that tool to work on my computer until now. This tool is practically Maptools. The player told us all how to use the bits and pieces in the tool and what was available to me. It was massively more than I had played with and so I have to say that I am looking forward to learning some of this stuff. The other bonus of that is there would be a wealth of information out there for you to learn from.
We had a great game with this tool. It is Pathfinder focused at the moment and they make no apologies for that. They know that it can be expanded but they want to get things right first. There are a bunch of features that I mentioned in my initial review of this tool (you can find that here) and the tool feels good to play with. I really want to reiterate that if you play Pathfinder online and are currently using Roll 20 or MapTools, sign up to this Beta. They need testers. You need a good platform. Help build this from a good VTT to a great one for your game. It is fun and easy to use and the fact that the Dynamic Lighting is soooooo easy to use and free makes this a no brainer.
But some of you will be waiting to hear what I have to say about if I will be using it in the future, knowing that I have “pledged allegiance”, as Joe called it, to Fantasy Grounds. That is an interesting question but one that I will say I can answer. I actually intend to continue use of Fantasy Grounds for my Reign of Winter campaign. This is because it really focusses on a lot of features other than the stuff I have mentioned here. I am trying to move my games to a less visual interface and Fantasy Grounds does well with story based games as well as map based. I am going to continue use of SyncRPG though. I want to help them out to build it into a great game system. I will use it for the one shot games that I run from time to time and I will also be using their resources a great deal too.
I know the above kind of sounds I am sitting on the fence. I’m not. Fantasy Grounds is still my favourite tool – for now. I am always keeping my finger on the pulse for other VTT’s like Tabletop Connect and the like. To let you all know what is out there I have to! This is a great system, get out there and use it Pathfinder players. You will not be disappointed. The more users that come online also means the more content others have to use in their games and the more content you have to use on your own. Give it a try, I did and had a great night of fun! Keep rolling.