Well, it seems that Thursday, December 9, was the day that Wizards of the Coast decided to really open up the Virtual Table to lots and lots of interested players. I got my invitation, as did a whole bunch of other people I talked to. So, I’m not a special snowflake, but at least I get to try this out!
I spent probably about two hours playing with the Virtual Table today, and I immediately had a goal in mind: Set up the first 4e Home Encounters adventure! I had already built this encounter in MapTool, so all I had to do was re-create it in the Virtual Table.
The login process with the beta invite is a little unusual. I received a welcome email with links to FAQs, five “passes” that I could use to play in Virtual Table games, and a link to the beta group on the WotC home page. From that group, I had to find a link to a forum post that had the actual link to the beta itself. From THAT link, I got a pop-up that asked for a user name and password. Sheesh, what a lot of work!
Once I was in, things got a little easier. I could browse open campaigns with short descriptions and indications of how many seats were open. But I didn’t have time to play – I wanted to try setting up my own game. Thus, I used the New Campaign button.
When you create a new campaign in Virtual Table, you start by editing its name, campaign system (which edition of the game you’re using), campaign world (core world, Forgotten Realms, etc.) and campaign format (ongoing campaign or one-shot). I like the nod to older editions of D&D, though I’m not particularly experienced with them myself.
After you edit the info, you click the Launch button. At this point, a Java program loads up and you are left in the map editor window. All I’ve done so far is draw a map and create monster tokens.
It took a little bit of fooling around with the controls, but I was ultimately able to draw a rudimentary map for the first 4e Home Encounter. Dungeon Tiles weren’t going to be an option because the beta currently has only tiles for, well, dungeons. This first encounter takes place in the wilderness, so all of that stone wasn’t going to be helpful. This meant that I had to draw on the virtual battle mat – old school!
The tools available for drawing are very simple. Think Microsoft Paint with fewer options. You can draw freehand lines, straight lines, empty ovals, filled ovals, empty rectangles and filled rectangles. You can adjust the thickness of your lines to narrow, medium or thick. You have a choice of six colors for your lines and shapes – red, yellow, black, blue, brown, or green. You also have a choice of backgrounds – Battle Mat, Sand, Dirt or Grass.
Yes, I know that this is just a beta, and I’m guessing the drawing tools will be improved later. But in a strange way, I kind of like the limited choices right now. It feels more like drawing on an actual battle mat, and it makes it so that I’m not focused on making the map look awesome – I’m just making it look serviceable for my players. Drawing the map did not take long at all – maybe 10 minutes once I understood the controls.
The final step for me was creating the monsters. You begin by picking the monster image token that you want. The selection here is limited for now, too, but I was able to pick a wolf and an orc, and I used a drake instead of an alternate wolf picture (there are two different kinds of wolves in this encounter). Once you have the picture, you name the token and enter its max hit points and defenses. You can also enter in notes. Finally, you create powers.
Now this is an area where the creation is easy but the results currently stink. You can create a “power” and within that you can create various die rolls associated with that power. To run the die rolls, you have to click each button separately. So, if the wolf has a Bite power, you create the power and any notes you want to see alongside it, then a die roll button that will display “Bite versus AC” and then the result of 1d20+10 or whatever. You can also create a separate die roll button that you can call “Bite damage” that will display “Bite damage” and then the result of the damage roll. When you want your wolf to attack a PC, you click the “Bite versus AC” button, ask if it hits, and if so you can click the “Bite damage” button. It’s nowhere near as flexible as MapTool, of course, but it works.
I’m going into oral surgery Friday morning (I’ve scheduled this post to go up later in the day on Friday), but I’m hoping to run this encounter a time or two, perhaps over the weekend. I’ve also put a post on EN World to say that I’m going to run it Monday evening at 7:00 PM Mountain time for anyone who wants to play, just to give the program a test drive. Feel free to drop me a line via email or in the comments if you’re interested in playing with me (assuming you have a beta invitation yourself, of course). Let’s see how this runs!