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So we all love our games and some of us love our tabletop roleplaying games. So I figured a thread to discuss various methods of online RP goodness wouldn't be bad. Here's my first contributions.


Roll20.net - Ubiquitous at this stage. It has tokens and a marketplace and the ability to break up scenes, upload images and tokens, play music via plugins to third party sites and a dice roller. It has manual fog of war feature for limiting lines of site, etc. Communicate via text chat, video, or voice chat. Supports in engine character sheets for supported or community created in-engine sheets.

Lila's take: Roll20 is the 800lb Gorilla of online tabletop these days and does a lot well. However much of their early developement was in Java and it shows. Many of their page elements can be clunky and unresponsive and its sometimes hard to tell if the app has taken a dive.


Astral Tabletop - Its like someone saw Roll20 and said "hold my beer" It does everything Roll20 does but better. Cleaner and more responsive UI, up-loadable assets and compendiums. Built in video/voice chat. It does not currently have text chat though they plan to add. Maps can be animated using gif and webm layers and has weather and other environmental filters that can overlay on maps. Maps can also contain interactive elements that can be updated by a single click from the GM or directly by the players by the GM's discretion. Supports dynamic light and field of view using these engines and defined barriers in the map building engine. Audio and music is tied to a given map using uploaded assets and are tied together as map layers. Supports free-form attribution assignment and linkable character sheets from any external source. "Attributes" can be called in the Dice Roller to make pre-scripted dice rolls that occur frequently. Attribute engine is Game System agnostic. Co-sponsored by DriveThruRPG which provided them the startup capital to make a better experience than Roll20.


Lila's take: Astral looks amazing. I have not played it yet but i have fiddled with it and it delivers on everything it sells. Really well put together and unlike Roll20 the free tier is actually worth a damn.


RoleGate - Focused on the play by post crowd and those who grew up on chat room RP. RoleGate supports IC and OOC chat as well as impersonation for the GM to allow for greater immersion. Multi-location segmenting allows players to keep RP separate without having to wonder if they are in a particular scene and built in dice rollers and character sheet engines. Very versatile and probably the best at its job I've seen. Mobile and desktop friendly.


Lila's take: This was a joy to use and play with, with clear emote and act vs speech text distinction. My only concern is that you have to find a gaming group willing to respect a schedule. It turns out that a lot of people take "play whenever you have time" as meaning "always be playing" and you may miss out if a particular game doesn't have a GM that enforces post order/structure.


TaleSpire - Tale Spire is in kickstarter but i have friends who had alpha access. Talespire looks an awful lot like what D&D Next was supposed to be. Full 3D with minis and animations and detailed textures and landscapes. But under the hood is a Lua scripting engine and the ability to import models as long as they're compatible with Unity. With a multi-level tile based design system its the only of these where creating maps can occur freeform without much effort. Just start laying down tiles until you've got what you want. It has a built in dice roller and a "GM Roll" feature where the roll is visible but the die faces are blank for everyone but the GM.


Lila's take: I'm a backer on the Kickstarter here. I have friends who already have access from their Early Access alpha support of Talespire. Its also the only of these I'd feel comfortable running a game in myself on the long term due to my improvisational style. Both Roll20 and Astral lend themselves more to GMs who do a lot of prep work and enjoy the crafting of detailed maps and experiences. Those GMs like myself who prefer a quick and dirty narrative structure built around a loose framework and then improvised from there have a hard time with those tools, as awesome as they are. TaleSpire's simple creation engine means its simple for, if the party goes a way you didn't expect or in a direction you haven't planned for yet you can just quickly lay out the terrain tiles and build on top of them. I think last check was that the play area the game could handle was 10s of km in all 3 axis but the devs aren't happy with that and are working on engine optimizations to allow an essentially limitless play field. Likely they'll need to use a load/unload system like a lot of open world games do based on player camera proximity.


Tabletop Simulator - Literally a 3D simulation of a tabletop you can load assets into. However due to partnership deals this one gets a lot of attention so "infringing" assets are locked down on. It has a scripting engine so you can build rules into a given simulation but its complicated and very involved. Adding models and assets requires modeling/coding experience and must be loaded into the game for each person playing manually or uploaded to the workshop and be subject to DMCA.


Lila's take: I hear its quite good in VR but in mouse/keyboard it feels a bit floaty and hard to control in my experience. I have it and I recognize it could be good but can't rightly recommend it with TaleSpire already better than it in alpha for tabletop RP games.

Fantasy Grounds - Officially licensed with several publishes and priced to match. Performance is much better than Roll20 due to being actual software as opposed to a webapp. They're feature list compares to Roll20 somewhat favorable but with the up front price tag that's not surprising. While it does support generic systems or custom built systems they focus on the licensed ones and building campaigns and running them with the suite rather than aiming for creating systems even though they market it as such.


Lila's take: If you're a planner Fantasy Grounds makes a solid case against Roll20 if you're using anything more than Roll20s free tier. That said while it does have great licensed integrations that make running within the system painless, it lacks most of the bells and whistles of Astral.

Edited by Lipala
Fixing TaleSpire Link
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TLDR On the above, IMO:

Astral is the best generalist with the best pricing but needs Discord or something similar if you want text chat

Rolegate is best for play by post

Tale Spire is the best simulation of miniature tabletop play and I feel like it enhances the experience.

The Rest - Are either outdated or priced out of what I consider reasonable. They consider themselves a niche product and price off that idea.


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