MapTool states should differ for online and in-person play

I’ve been running my online Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition game for several months now, and MapTool has been fantastic for running the game.  The players have macros for their powers and abilities, we can keep track of hit points electronically, etc.  It’s also great because it’s easy to keep track of all of the conditions that can be put onto a character – bloodied, prone, marked, cursed, ongoing damage, weakened, dazed… the list goes on and on.  My MapTool states for the online game consist of little icons that can show up over a token in a 3 by 3 grid (so there can be up to nine states on a token at once).

A token that is granting combat advantage, dazed, slowed, taking ongoing damage, marked, cursed and bloodied

I love this about MapTool for in-person games that I run using my projector, too.  Unfortunately, it’s much harder to make out the details on a monster token when I’m using the projector because I have to keep the map zoomed pretty far out in order to project a grid with 1-inch squares.  This means that it’s really hard for the characters to see all of the states on a creature.  Is that guy bloodied?  Is he marked?  What about prone?

The solution here is a combination of using bigger states and using different states.

  • Bloodied: The most important state.  Instead of an icon on the image, use a red circle around the token
  • Prone: A purple triangle (actually a yield sign)
  • Marked: A blue or green X (have two different marks available in case you have multiple defenders in your party)
  • Cursed/Quarried/Oathed/etc.: An orange cross
  • Other: Normal icons, but in a 2 by 2 grid instead of 3 by 3 (so they’re bigger)

The most important states for players to be able to see clearly are those that are most likely to affect their interaction with a creature.  They have to know if it’s bloodied, prone, marked, or subject to a striker ability (quarry, etc.).  It’s nice to know if the bad guy is dazed or has -2 to its defenses or it’s slowed, but not AS important.  The really important conditions, therefore, should get big, prominent marks across the face of the token.  The less-important conditions can rely on the 2 by 2 grid (at the very least, you as the DM can still zoom in on them on your screen to see what they are.

The easily-visible conditions can be tailored to your own campaign, of course.  Every defender should have his or her own color of marks, but they can all use the same symbol (since a new mark will override an old one, you’ll never have to worry about making multiple marks visible).  If you have multiple strikers that can put conditions on a creature, you’ll want to use multiple shapes (maybe a cross for one and a diamond for another).  Assassin shrouds are tricky – I haven’t yet come up with a good way to keep track of how many are on a creature, but fortunately my regular games don’t include any assassins (though I see them occasionally at convention games).

Bottom line: Icons are great for understanding what a particular symbol means, but they’re hard to see at a distance.  Colorful shapes are better for in-person games with a projector.

5 thoughts on “MapTool states should differ for online and in-person play

    • Yes, you can import your own images for use as state icons in MapTool. Those are the ones that show up in a 3 by 3 or 2 by 2 grid. The big shapes (circle, X, cross, diamond, triangle, yield) can’t be changed that I know of, but you can set them to whatever color you like.

  1. You know what I do is use a bit of code in the monsters properties that show up on the stat sheet on mouse over. It lists the states the monster has so players can read them easily.
    Here is the code I use.

    *States:[h:theList = getTokenStates()][r, foreach(item, theList, “”): if(getState(item), item + “, “, “”)]

    • That’s a nifty little piece of code! I didn’t even realize you could put so much code in a property.

      I tried it out in my game, and I think I’m going to stick with things as-is for now since my online players know what the state icons mean. It’s rare for a monster to have so many states that it’s tough to keep track – and if that DOES happen, the pop-up for the monster gets really long with all of those state names!

      Also, I’d have to do a little more work to make sure I have all of the states that I want. For instance, I make liberal use of a state I call “Ongoing Condition” which can represent anything that I don’t have a specific state for.

      Still, very slick programming – thank you for sharing!

  2. I actually have a state for each type of ongoing damage and properties that track it. Each time a person gets initiative it checks the property to see if that person is taking on going damage and displays the amount in chat.

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