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MapTool Mini Review

I took MapTool for a shakedown cruise last night. I (mercifully) survived my first time GMingSavage Worlds! Call me a 'believer' - MapTool is a great virtual gaming table. Add in the other RPTools then you've got a truly kick-ass set of tools for an online RPG game. InitTool came in handy for managing combat and has built in support for Savage Worlds and D&D (there were one or two more though I can't remember the other ones at the moment). Using TokenTool was a breeze and enabled me to whip up some custom tokens for a PC and some NPCs in less than a minute each.

However, I wouldn't say that MapTools is "very easy" to use. You will spend SOME time and effort trying to understand the interface and spend even more time to make full use of the application's capabilities. While that may not sound like a ringing endorsement, I found the energy and time very well-spent especially if one is determined to run a game online. There are also screen-cast tutorials out to help you along the learning curve.

I played in a few OpenRPG games a while back and that experience was OK. Over the past few years, I made several attempts to re-install the latest version(s) of OpenRPG and see if I could make a go of it but I always found the UI, the tools and all the XML stuff a bit daunting.

I was also encouraged to find an active and VERY supportive community on RPTools.net. One of the players, a veteran Savage Worlds DM and an RPTools regular, set up the campaign properties (e.g. stat block) and some basic scripts to help with the trait and skill rolls.

I found that I had to do a good amount of prep work setting up the tokens, embedding the stats and making maps. I spent a lot of time making maps but that's really not a necessity as there are a lot of good maps out there. I chose to make some custom maps and also re-scale some existing maps to the grid I was using. All this work saved a lot of effort and time during showtime. The players and I were able to focus on what was going on with the characters and their adventures rather than mucking around with the software.

MapTool does not support voice chat and I only used the MapTool's native chat last night. The chat interface saw us through the game just fine, if not a bit slowly. This is obviously a detriment especially if you or one of your players type slowly. If I were to run the game online again I would use voice chat (Skype conference call or Ventrillo, probably Skype since it's free).

For those interested in MapTool or other Virtual Gaming Table (VGT) software, check out this chart to see how each application stacks up against the others.

Does anyone have any experiences with MapTool or any other VGT software? It doesn't matter whether they are similar or contrary to my experience but I would like to hear your war stories. :)


Free PDF Black Gate Issue 12

You can find the free download over at the Black Gate Website.
Thanks to marthawells for passing on the news that...  "Black Gate magazine is now available in high-resolution digital format.

In addition to our regular print edition, Black Gate is now available for download as a high-resolution PDF. To help promote our new format, we're making the complete contents - all 224 pages - of Black Gate 12 available for download for a limited time - for free!

Black Gate 12 is available as a single download, or in two smaller sections. Both versions are suitable for printing, and require a PDF reader (such as Adobe Acrobat).


I just finished GMing my first Savage Worlds game on MapTool. Only two players showed up but that's ok.... I survived! More importantly, fun was had by all!

Hackslash.net - Random Goodness

I stumbled upon hackslash.net and found a couple of gems:
* A random dungeon generator (see the sample behind the cut)
* And some additional rules for Medieval Weapons for Savage Worlds

Behold the Randomly Generated Dungeon!Collapse )

Thirteen Bullets - Teaser

Here is a teaser for tomorrow night's Savage World's One-shot game:
This image was created using The Newspaper Clipping Generator.

NOTE: This is a work of fiction and this website nor the game has no affiliations with the Royal Ontario Museum.
Haiku Monday appears twice a month at Uncle Bear. This week's topic: The Geek Movie That Changed Your Life. Here's my haiku for this week (slightly edited):
Pulp movie homage
I want to be a Jedi
Great special effects.

Maptool Mania

After fooling around a bit with MapTool, TokenTool  and RPTroll's Savage Worlds MapTool macros and add-ons, I think I may have some of the basics down. Thanks a lot, RPTroll!

Click the Image to Embiggen.
I'm planning to run a Savage Worlds One-Shot game online using MapTool.

I put together a one-pager for prospective players for a Savage Worlds monster-bashing one-shot. A PDF version can be found here

Thirteen Bullets (working title)
A Savage Worlds One-Shot of Supernatural Pulp Action
System: The game will be powered Savage Worlds and our imaginations. Let's keep things Fast, Furious and Fun. You can get by with the Savage Worlds Test Drive v6 (free 16 page rules). The pre-gens will have some additional characteristics/rules but those will be described on each sheet. I'll have some other books on hand for my prep and reference.
When: A Tuesday or Wednesday night (7pm-10pm Pacific Time).
Where: Online using MapTool.
Key Influences: The Dresden Files, Angel & Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ars Magica, Grand Theft Auto (you heard me) for some grit and The Nocturnals and Hellboy for the pulp, weird fantasy flavour.
Who are the heroes? The characters will be part of a group that protects the mundanes from Wendigo Forensic Investigators, Demonic musicians and other supernatural horrosr. The heroes could be part of a motley monster-hunting group, a cabal of wizards and their confederates or even an off-shoot of a international conspiracy.

The players will begin the game as Seasoned (20 XP) characters.

I've got some ideas for pre-gen PCs or recurring NPCs. You don't have to use these pre-gens but this should give you an idea of the kinds of characters that would be suitable for the setting:
* Troll-blooded Babe, Fae Princess in Exile – a newbie to the mundane world, she has some clout within the Fae Realms.
* The Warlock - Don't call him/her that though. A 'Relationship Manager' that deals with entities from The Beyond.
* The Shanghai Spectre - Ghost Hunter. Crime-Fighter. Pizza delivery person. Inherited the legacy of a pulp hero of the same name.
* The Russian Mobster with a heart of gold. His crime family was wiped out during a hostile takeover by monsters and magic.
* The Estranged Apprentice of an Ancient Atlantean Sorceress/Banking Executive. With great power comes great responsibility, or does it?

Other appropriate archetypes include the Private Investigator/Professional Wizard, Mad Scientist, former Igor, Flesh Golem Bodyguard, ormer Cultist, Were-Rat Thug, Demon-Hunting Priest, Former Servant of the Fae, Avatar of the Warrior god(dess), Knight of the Church, Scooby Gang member.

Where is the game set? The game on-line will be set in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I downloaded and tinkered with MapTool and it looks like I've found a winner. I found MapTool rather intuitive and didn't take a lot of headscratching on my part to use it. It even has a Fog-of-War feature. Nifty that. Using TokenTool it was shockingly easy to grab an image and turn it into a token. You can even drag and drop tokens from TokenTool into MapTool.

I have also uploaded a PDF for The Shanghai Spectre which you can find here. The other pre-generated characters are still a WIP (Work In Progress) but I will be posting them over the next few days for your comment and more importantly for your entertainment. :)

Steel & Spellcraft - Utum

"Steel & Spellcraft" is an irregular series of blog posts featuring a heroic fantasy setting on the planet Mars far into the distant future. Today, I present to you:

My Geek Week: Young Apprentice

The highlight of my Geek Week was having my son ask me to play D&D miniatures with him. This week, I also:
* played in the twice-a-month Keep on the Shadowfell campaign. The DM didn't like the standard Skill Challenge system (even with the errata) so we tried out an alternate skill challenge system, Stalker0's Obsidian which can be found in the Enworld forums.
* completed Act I of Diablo 2. Yes, I know, I'm soooo late to the party.
 * started reading Jack Vance’s Dying Earth (which I got through BookMooch).

My son, let's call him Spider-boy, got some book store gift cards for his birthday and the family trooped out to the store earlier in the week. He chose a few books and used his gift cards while I picked up the D&D Miniatures Start Set (using my own money, of course)

We got home and we tore into the package playing with the quick start rules (a one-on-one battle between a Human Fighter and a Yuan-Ti) and then played a few more rounds with the figures in the set.

For last night's game we're used some additional rules over and above the quick play rules but we kept things pretty simple. Spider-boy noted that the miniatures battle game was like Pokemon battles (where you get to assemble your team of critters, send them into battle and pick which powers to use, there are stuns, paralyzes etc). I responded by saying that that was a very sharp observation though Pokemon is more like D&D. That got him thinking.

Before each game, my son picked a battle map and we selected our forces. I had also picked up a few boosters during the week to expand our selection.

For our first game last night, Spider-boy picked the temple ruins in the jungle (or was it a dense forest?). I sent my Hooked Horror against my son's motley team: a Dan Elven Archer and a Grick. Though I promptly dispatched his Grick, my Horror was no match for my son's Battlemaster.

Having felt the thrill of success, Spider-Boy wanted to take on another challenge. This time, in the caverns surrounding a Dwarf Outpost, Spider-boy's Angel of Valor, Dwarf Battlemaster and Elf Warlock took down my bad-guy war band composed of a Drow Spiderguard, a Deathjump Spider and a Tiefling Warlock. My son was keen to use the Angel of Valor's Lightning Strike ability - which electrified and stunned the Drow and Spider. I managed to take down the Angel of Valor but by then it was too late for little band of baddies.

My son even made sound effects and gestured to describe what was going on. Most Excellent! 

And you can't put a price on the expression on his face when I labelled the box of minis: Dad's and Spiderboy's D&D Minis.