OK, a quick post for the day to let you know what I am up to for the weekend. It is Fantasy Grounds Convention this weekend and I am running a game. I am not entirely certain how I ended up running a game but I know it came soon after a talk with Damian Hupfeld about something or other and I signed up to run the module I have been working on for a play test. I think it may have been because I shared a video about Fantasy Grounds and the combat tracker and realised that when I reviewed it a while back that I really did not even scratch the surface of this tool and would have to give it another look.
Fantasy Grounds: Before the Game
So I am writing this to get down my impressions of the virtual tabletop Fantasy Grounds right at this moment. It is a bit of a pain as I have heaps of prep to do and only 29 hours to do it in and I have 12 hours of work to do otherwise but I think this will make for a better return review. I run the game at 1 P.M. my time on Sunday and it has a full table, 6 players. I will be running a Pathfinder game completely of my design called Crossroads and it will be the first playtest of the material. It was not made specifically for Fantasy Grounds but let us say that the convention came at an opportune time.
Last night I stayed up so I could watch a session given by Damian Hupfeld for beginner GM’s with the tool. I am not necessarily a beginner with the game but let us say the Ultimate License investment I made has so far netted me two games. That is around $70 Australian a game so far as I bought it outright before there was a subscription service. Let us say I am keen to use it a bit more. I have a lot of questions about this tool and after watching the hangout last night it multiplied my questions. Damian will be upset to hear that because he asked for questions throughout the night and I did not chime in but there is a reason for that. The reason is Damian showed what he was doing on Hangouts (Google+) but asked us if we want to ask questions to use Teamspeak. It was the first time I had used Teamspeak but I signed in OK and then found the horrible situation with that was the video coming through the hangout was 30-45 seconds older than the audio I was hearing. In short I was a bit afraid to ask a question because it may have already been shown. So it is not anyone’s fault but my own for not speaking up.
There are several feelings that I have at the moment going in to this game and investing this preparation time. The first is that for one main reason this tool looks like the bees knees of virtual tabletops to me at the moment. Two words – Combat Tracker. This thing looks like it is the time saver of all time savers in virtual tabletop software. It automates so much and I am flat out impressed. I did not use it in my previous review and that leads me on to my next few points.
This system has one of the worst “User Guides” I have seen. It does not talk stuff up. It just exists and sits there and you have to know what you are looking for. That is not a good thing. The amount of times I heard last night “It is counter intuitive but when you have done it once…” Well if it is counter intuitive make it intuitive. If you have a User Guide that does not highlight the best bits and the best bits are hidden by counter intuitive controls then fix it! I want people to learn that they can rack up encounters in a few short minutes and the prep is easy to get at but they need to know HOW first.
A lot of this HOW that I speak about is in the forums. Let me tell you about forums. I don’t read them. Period. Unless someone sends me a link I avoid forums like the plague. Why? Well, they are antiquated, and a lot of the material that you are looking for takes hours to find trawling through irrelevant posts on the hope of a wing and a prayer that it will be answered somewhere in the threads. I work full time as a teacher. I am a part time student. I work fifteen hours a week at a service station and I run a blog writing 3 to 6 posts a week for it. I do not have time to deal with forums. I need an excellent user guide. Some of the videos on YouTube are good BUT they take up a lot of time.
Now this all sounds rather negative and I do not want it to be. Honestly, the stuff that I saw last night (I did not know you could queue up targets for NPC’s! And you glossed over it as if it was a natural thing) and the stuff I have seen in videos looks like a different world to the games I have run. The reason being was I did not know what I did not know. I used the tool like I have used other virtual table tops. That in itself is a crime as there is so much power under the hood here. There is so much room for time saving in the actual game that I can not even imagine how I have been getting by prior to this!
OK, so there you have almost all of my unadulterated thoughts about Fantasy Grounds prior to running my convention game. I am going to write a post game blog about how I feel then and compare the two. I am going to send some questions off to Doug Davison and Damian Hupfeld and get some responses from them. The Fantasy Grounds Convention is underway now and you can look at the schedule here. I hope it is a success for them, and for me. See you all next week!