Sunday, September 4, 2016

Fantasy Grounds (We like Apps, we're more familiar with the edible kind)

Afternoon Game Fans, today we’re going to take a look at a different product than we usually feature, we’re looking at the Fantasy Grounds application.  One of the defining traits of Taletop Role-playing Games is well, the Table.  Traditionally these are games that we gather on a weeknight or a weekend afternoon to play.  Whether we’re at a house gathered around a table, meeting at a shop, a game cafe or a community center, these games require a social gathering point to get started.

Social media, the internet, and high-speed video communication have changed the way that dynamic works, and finding a way for people to gather around a virtual tabletop seems like a no-brainer to us.  Fantasy Grounds stepped into that niche and provides a wonderful medium for players around the world to gather and play their favorite role-playing game without having to leave their homes.  

“Well why the hell would i want to do that?” It’s a valid question.  If you’re heavily invested in the socialization aspect of gaming, the disconnect between communicating over text messages and through microphones could be jarring.  Some players have regular games that meet several times a month.  Some folks have access to dozens of gaming opportunities in their environment and this may not seem like a critical thing to those folks.  

Now step outside that environment where you have all of those creature comforts and imagine you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  Your town has a gas station, a library, and maybe if you’re lucky, a post office.  You’re interested in Role-playing Games and you’ve looked around and found some people talking about it, but you’ve never had the chance to play.  Given the area surrounding you, it’s possible you won’t get the chance to experience the reality of playing around a table with your friends.  

From that perspective, a virtual tabletop application is like finding the largest chunk of gold you’ve ever seen.  It gives you three important things that a newly discovered gamer needs to have.  First, you get a tabletop to play on.  Second, you get access to a variety of different game systems to try out and learn.  Third, and i think this one is extremely critical, you get access to a social network of people who share your hobby.

So let’s take a little closer look at those, shall we?

The tabletop application offered by Fantasy Grounds encompasses several key aspects that make it a wonderful option for new players.  The automation and shared maps are what sell it to us.  Being able to see the dungeon map laid out with tokens is part of the RPG experience from a virtual standpoint.  Mechanically, combat slows down the RPG experience and we’ve played in games where it took an hour to get through a single round of combat (To be fair, that was Classic Deadlands with three Harrowed Gunslingers and a party of 7 players), and we’re fans of anything that can make combat play faster.  Being able to automate systems is a key point for Fantasy Grounds and it shifts the players focus on to their characters and the story they are experiencing rather than the wall of dice and statistics that they might get distracted by.  
Secondly, Fantasy Grounds has made an important step in their product development.  It’s a systems agnostic approach to gaming.  You can plug and play a lot of different games from their licensed partners into the application and go to town.  If you’re willing to put in a little extra work, you can adapt their core gaming engine to duplicate a myriad of other systems.  For those you of who are budding game designers, you can use the same engine to test out new ideas in gaming and test out your ideas before moving deeper into a printed prototype.  

Our favorite part is the social network that exists within the Fantasy Grounds engine and the access you get to like-minded gamers.  If you’ve ever wanted to bounce an idea off a gamer, or talk about the games you play, It’s a decent probability that you can connect with other gamers who have been their before.  Fantasy Grounds does an excellent job of creating social interaction opportunities for Gamers who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to do so.  

From a monetary standpoint, Fantasy Grounds probably has a price point that will meet your specific needs.  You can either pay a monthly subscription fee, or you can purchase a license outright.  From those two directions, you can also purchase additional licenses for content that you’re looking for.

As a monthly subscriber you have the option of paying 3.99 or 9.99 (US currency) per month.  The basic subscriber gives you access to the application and its functions, while also giving you access to several game systems.  (Additional books can be purchased if you want those specific books, with all the content in a ready to utilize format).  The ultimate subscriber gives you an additional function where you can host the game for people who aren’t subscribers.  

If you’d rather do a one time purchase, you have that option available as well.  The standard license is $39, while the Ultimate license is $149.  These give you full access to the Application.  If you are looking for the specific adventure modules for let’s say Storm King’s Thunder, those are an additional purchase, as are any of the additional rules sets you may be interested in.  

All in all,we like Fantasy Grounds and think it fills a niche in the gaming community.  Virtual tabletops are going to become more important as technology continues to develop and improve.  A technically sound, error free virtual table top system is vital to enable gamers to interact across physical distances.  The same benefits of virtual commuting apply to virtual gaming, and this is a right step in making that a more realized prospect.

Check out Fantasy Grounds at
If you want to get a look see at the system in action, you can check them out on Twitch at or you can check out a lot more detailed information on them at  Their youtube channel is chock full of play throughs and examples of the system in motion.

Game on Game Fans, and we’ll catch you all after Labor Day (Who are we kidding, we’ll probably be putting an article or two up tomorrow).  

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