Dungeons & Dragons Virtual Table: A Player’s Perspective

The D&D Virtual Table is a major step toward making long distance gaming convenient for both players and Dungeon Masters.  As a player of D&D for more than 15 years, I can honestly say that nothing compares to having a physical battle map, real figurines and the entire group of players with a DM in the same room.  However,  if your group of players is like ours then between family, work, and hundreds of miles you don’t get the chance to crash a friend’s basement with a tray of pizza rolls and a case of Mountain Dew like the old days.

The table is easy to use and has all the necessary elements for play, including an editable map, moveable tokens, a dice roller, and a panel for viewing character and monster information.  You can also set conditions for your characters or monsters such as prone, bloodied, dazed, etc.  One feature that we don’t take advantage of is the built-in voice conferencing.  We use Skype because it’s higher quality, and…oh yeah, still free.   What I like most about this table, is the compatibility with the D&D Character Builder that’s also included with an Insider account.  After making your character in the builder, you can import the little guy right into the table with all pertinent information included within just three clicks.  From there, you can make live edits to the character in the table which last for that session, or if you leave the builder open, just make permanent changes there then save and import again.  It makes leveling nearly seamless.   In our latest session, we all leveled from 1 to 2 and were ready to play again in 10 minutes.

There is one word that best captures why the virtual table is not a homerun.  Can you say, “Beta”?  It’s only been in beta for a little over a year, and it shows.  First of all, there is way too much required mouse movement for players.  Macros are needed for all of the following and more: establishing conditions, switching between various conditional attack and damage rolls, and changing between tools and tabs.   The result of not having these macros is slower gameplay during encounters and a tedious ballet of dancing mice.  It would also be nice to upload an original pic to place on your token, instead of having to choose one of the provided stock images.  My only other rip on the table as it is, has to do with the types of things that the program just does not recognize.   For instance, it can’t tell when you’re in a certain stance, and therefore will not adjust attack/damage accordingly.  It also can’t tell when you should have combat advantage based on the arrangement of tiles on the map or skills currently in use.

Let me close, though, by pointing out that for all the things it can’t do, it definitely can provide a way for friends who live miles apart to get together and play  a great game of D&D.  At the end of the day, that’s all I really want.  I look forward to seeing the finished product and hope to Gygax that they don’t charge current inside subscribers more to use it once it’s finished.  When will that be?  Your guess is as good as mine, as there’s still no official word from the wizrobes out west.

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