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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. :)



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 6th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
I've only dabbled just a little bit with MapTool. I gather that in order to use it properly, I'll really have to build up a library of markers and maps. Did you end up making your own custom maps for this? (I had originally thought that perhaps MapTool would let me make maps that looked like the samples, dragging and dropping various map elements into place, but it looks like that's not quite how it works.)

It's a fascinating program, and even if I were just to use the generic textures on an open grid, with a few random markers dropped to represent obstacles (some cover to hide behind, etc.), it'd still be a great resource.

I really need to try this out with someone else, to see how it works with multiple users; I suppose that'd be the real test.

If I end up having to make my own custom markers/tokens, I wonder if that's the sort of thing that other users would find handy? I suppose I need to check through that gallery thoroughly so as to make sure I don't reinvent the wheel first. (For my campaign, at least for the start, I am likely to use some modern street scenes - road, sidewalk, obstacles such as parked cars and dumpsters and such - with characters consisting of innocent bystanders, at least one cop (PC), and strange monsters. Not sure how much of that is likely to already be covered by the usual sci-fi/fantasy stuff.)
Aug. 7th, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
Mapping Resources
I made my own maps, because I like making maps. I created a subway station map, , subway tunnel and sea-side cargo unloading area. I'll put them up in a respoitory in a few days if anyone's interested.

That being said, one doesn't really have to make maps from scrach. I've run two sessions and haven't used any of my own maps (as the characters had no reason to go to those places.. yey). I've plundered and resized WotC's Urban Arcana maps. I also found a bunch of modern maps and lots of objects over at RPGmapshare.com.

And there's another WotC page for the Menace Manual maps.

On the Fantasy end of things, there are plenty of maps around the Dundjinni forums.

And other folks made pretty maps for some Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classic adventures.

And A Token Gallery is never a bad thing. :)
Aug. 7th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Mapping Resources
Cool subway map! You know, if you broke that up into 8"x10" sections and put all the resulting pages in a PDF, that map would be a useful resource for miniatures gaming, too. (For instance, for people playing "Crime City" or other modern settings. Or, for that matter, it'd probably work for post-apocalyptic settings like DL:HoE.)

Anyway, thanks for all the resources!
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
VTT Feature Comparison Chart
The VTT feature comparison chart you mentioned is no longer available at the link you provided. It can now be found here, instead:
Mar. 13th, 2011 01:38 pm (UTC)
The chart has now been updated with new info for MapTool, Fantasy Grounds 2, ViewingDale, and Battlegrounds. Info for the other VTs will be updated if the developers respond to the request for update info.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )