Virtual Table – first actual play experience

As planned, I was able to get a game going this evening on the beta version of the D&D Virtual Table.  I’ll start by saying that we had a fun little adventure, partly thanks to the program and partly in spite of it.

The good stuff

The best part of the evening was that I was able to get a game together almost entirely in a pick-up manner.  One of my regular Friday night MapTool game players was able to show up (thanks, Max!) but the other players were folks who were either browsing the open games or the beta message boards, looking for a game.  So, it’s clear that the Virtual Table does enable something like a pick-up game of D&D, which is pretty cool.

The built-in audio support is a good idea, too.  It’s nice to be able to talk to one another without having to deal with two different program (a la MapTool and Skype).  I’ll have more to say on this later, though.

Using the table was pretty straightforward.  As a shared battle map, the Virtual Table works.  Everyone can see their tokens and everyone else’s tokens and move their own tokens around with no trouble.  If you wanted to just have paper character sheets in front of you and roll physical dice and call out the results, you could do that very easily (though that would be a bit of a wasted opportunity).

There were even some things that I’d say Virtual Table handles a little better than MapTool.  Initiative was easy – click one button to add the party, add each monster, let everyone click the button for their own initiative roll… it all worked smoothly and just the way you would expect it to.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well shared editing worked.  If a player was editing their token, I could see the edits as they saved them.  I could apparently also edit the token at the same time (though we didn’t experiment too much to see what would happen if we were making conflicting edits).

The not-so-good

We had connection problems in this game.  I was lucky to have one player who has apparently played in a ton of Virtual Table games already, and he was able to clarify the best way to do certain things and help with troubleshooting.  He helped another player who was lagging badly, especially on the audio side, try to figure out the the problem with his connection (he was using a Mac, which apparently is more likely to cause audio problems for some reason).  However, the problem never really got solved and the Mac player had to drop off and rejoin a whole bunch of times.  Even the experienced player started having lag issues by the end (though the other two of the four players had no problems with lag or audio at any point). I don’t know if it’s a server issue or a problem with individual players’ computers (or mine), but it was troublesome.

Setting up player character tokens is a pain in the butt, too.  Each power has to be manually programmed, and it’s not at all intuitive to use.  It’s not customizable, either.  You can program in dice expressions (like 2d6+4) but you can’t have text be displayed after them automatically (such as “fire damage, and ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends).”)  There are kludgy workarounds for this, but they’re a pain.

Manipulating hit points is fairly intuitive, but it requires a lot of mouse clicks. I like being able to click one button for damage, type a number and hit Enter.  It doesn’t work that easily in the Virtual Table.

Adding conditions was even more of a pain.  There are built-in symbols for being Bloodied and Marked, which is a good start.  You can add other conditions by typing them in manually, in which case a little exclamation point will appear over the token, and you can hover over the exclamation point to see what you’ve typed for the condition (slowed, -2 to AC, ongoing damage, whatever).  And to get to this menu, you have to go into the “Adjust hit points” menu.  Ugh.

Another thing: Bloodied is not automatic.  This baffles me, frankly, and I’m sure they’ll correct it eventually.  It’s pretty straightforward to tell if a token is bloodied or not and I think that status should pop right up.

Overall impressions

I had a good time playing tonight, technical difficulties not withstanding.  Virtual Table is in beta and must be treated as such.  I’m sure Wizards of the Coast is watching the feedback as it comes in and will make improvements over time.  Once those improvements start flowing, and especially once the automatic import of characters, monsters and maps is incorporated, Virtual Table is probably going to be a lot of fun.  Until then, though, I have to look at it as a tool under development, not anything that I would use to replace MapTool right now.

Success with networking

As I mentioned in my last post, I first thought that OpenRPG would be the tool that I would use to run my online D&D game, but then discovered Gametable, which I absolutely loved.  The only problem with Gametable is that I couldn’t connect my wife Barbara’s computer to mine with it, which I could easily do with OpenRPG.

Fortunately, one of the players in the game, Zach, is a computer pro and was able to help me set things up so that I could host a game that both Zach and Barbara could connect to.  (We can presumably connect more people, too, though we haven’t tried yet.)  Let me share my new knowledge with you.

First, I’ll say a few words about connecting to your players via OpenRPG (since I never addressed this in my earlier posts).  In this program, you start by connecting to one of the servers out there for OpenRPG (you could also run your own server, but that’s beyond my needs).

OpenRPG Server Menu

To start networking, go to Game Server - Browse Servers

One you’re browsing the servers, you’ll want to pick one and join its Lobby. I’ve tried creating a room before joining a lobby, but for some reason it didn’t seem to work properly.

OpenRPG Join a Lobby

Double click a server on the left, then click on the Lobby on the right

Once you’re in a server’s lobby, you can create the room for your game at the bottom right corner of this window.  Give it a name, and then a password if you wish (this keeps other people from taking over the room, though I’m not sure I’d be too worried about that) and an admin password – then click Create Room.

After that, you need to tell your players what server you’re on and what room you’re in (and the room password, if you’ve assigned one).  They’ll need to go to the Lobby, then click on your room and “Join Room.”  They’ll show up on the Player List in your room, and you can right click on their names to assign them the role of Player, which will let them interact with their minis.  By default they will be Lurkers, who can’t affect the game.  Only the GM (the person who started the room, or anyone who is assigned the GM role) can do things like changing the background to bring up the next map.

So, connecting to other players via OpenRPG is easy.  With Gametable, it could be a little bit harder.  I’ll lay out my experience, though yours may vary depending on your setup.  I’m using a Dell laptop running Windows XP.  Barbara has a Dell desktop, also running XP.  We have cable internet service, which comes out of the wall and into our cable modem, then into a Netgear wireless router.  From there, an Ethernet cable connects to Barbara’s computer, while my laptop connects to our secured network wirelessly.

The reason I go into all of this detail is that I had to mess with some settings to make everything work properly.  First, let me explain the steps within Gametable to start an online game.  If you’re hosting, start by going to the Network menu and selecting Host.

Gametable Network Menu

To host a game, go to Network, then Host.

From here, you’ll be prompted to enter your name, your character’s name, a password (entirely optional – I don’t think I’ll bother) and a port (I use the default of 6812).

Gametable Host MenuEasy enough.  For your players to connect to your game once you’re hosting it, they’ll go to the Network menu and choose Join, where they’ll be prompted with this screen:

Gametable Join MenuYes, it’s the same as the Host screen, except it’s asking for the host address.  As the host, you’ll have to tell your players what your IP address is.  The simplest way to find this is by going to (pretty obvious, I know).  It’s entirely possible that this is all that you’ll need – your players will enter the IP address you tell them, they’ll join your game, and you’re off and running.

I had two issues to deal with.  First, and I’m not absolutely certain that I had to do this but I thought I should mention it, I opened port 6812 in the Windows Firewall.  This involved going to the Control Panel, opening Windows Firewall, clicking the Exceptions tab, then the Add Port button.  I named the new port Gametable and had it open port 6812.  Maybe that port was already open, maybe not, but it definitely is now.

Firewall SettingsNext, I had to mess with some settings on my router.  This may not apply to most of you, but in my case I had two router issues to deal with.  First, since there are multiple devices on this IP address (including my computer and Barbara’s computer), I had to make sure that anyone connecting to this IP address would be routed to my computer.  Second, I needed to figure out how to have Barbara’s computer connect to mine, since they have the same external IP address.

I’ll take the second issue first, since it helped me address the first one.  It turns out that my computer has both an external IP address and an internal IP address.  The external IP address is the one other computers on the internet would use to connect to me, while the internal IP address is what the router assigns to my particular computer among the devices in the house.  To get the internal IP address, I went to the Run menu in Windows and typed cmd to bring up a command prompt (ah, the good old days of DOS – such memories).  From that prompt, I typed ipconfig.  This brought up information showing me, among other things, my internal IP address.

Running IPConfig

The steps I used to get to my internal IP address - click to enlarge

Now that I know my internal IP address (, I could enter this into Barbara’s Gametable program to connect to my computer – success!

In order to get computers on the internet to connect to my computer, I needed to set things up so that anyone connecting to my external IP address would be forwarded to my computer and not Barbara’s, which meant that I needed to change some router settings.  To get to the router settings, I went to in my browser and entered my login and password information for the router (I’m very glad that I remembered to write this down when I set up the router!).  From the main router settings menu, I clicked on “Port Forwarding / Port Triggering.”  On the next screen, I clicked Add Custom Service, then set things up for Gametable with the appropriate port (6812) and internal IP address to forward that port to (  Voila!

Router SettingsThis might sound like a lot of effort, but honestly, once I knew what I needed to do it hardly took any time at all.  And the upshot is that now I can use Gametable to host games!

Since it looks like I’ll  be abandoning OpenRPG before I even got a chance to really use it (which, I’ll admit, makes me feel a little bit sad somehow), I’ll shift to talking more about Gametable in future posts.  It’s extremely user friendly, so I doubt if I’ll need as much detail on the basics as I provided for OpenRPG.  My friend Zach, who helped me with the networking issues, got a chance to try out Gametable and seemed impressed.  I think this is going to be a winner!