From Tabletop to the TV, Part Three — Masterplan Addendum

So after yesterday’s post, I decided to share my experience and blog on the Masterplan Facebook page. I was replied to with the following question:

“Intrigued as to why you don’t use your custom token images inside Masterplan?”

First rule of gaming: Read the freaking manual. Then read it again. Both of which I appear to have failed at. And yes, it does come with a nice, full 87+ page (as of version 7.5) pdf manual. So, after successfully humiliating myself on Facebook (isn’t that what it’s for?) and probably making the programmer face palm a couple times, I decided that for last night’s session I’d give Masterplan a full push as the sole software to run the entire session. Overall, I was impressed. It took some adjustment; I will be honest that using Game Table to handle the minis part was a bit more flexible in terms of managing “the table.” It’s quicker to pan, zoom, toss minis and overlays/underlays out than in Masterplan. Also, I couldn’t find any way to “unlock” the grid to freely push the counters around, and there’s no drawing tools in Masterplan for ad-lib corridors or rooms.

That said, after getting familiar with the controls and setups I’d gladly say sacrificing the freedom of a virtual whiteboard for Masterplan’s combat management is an easy trade. You’re not just getting a combat map to move icons around to keep track of battlefield tactics and positions, you’re getting a lot more streamlining on the book keeping end. You’re getting tools that not only track damage, but remind you of conditions and effects, auras, line of sight and lots of other factors that can occur out on the D&D battlefield.

Getting Custom Images into MasterPlan

For Players, when you add the Player Characters to the Project, under the advanced tab there is a Picture entry with a “Browse” or “Clear” button. Simply browse for the desired image and it will be incorporated into the project. For monsters, either edit their entries in your library files OR edit them from the Encounter Builder menus. The last tab on their statistics is “Picture” which functions the same way. Take note that when you load an image, it will attempt to scale the image to an appropriately sized counter on the battlemap, so make sure the dimensions of the image file are adequate to be resized into roughly 1″ square tokens.  One cool feature to note is it will scale the tokens based on the size assigned to the character. This results in Halflings and Gnomes having smaller tokens, larger creatures taking up more squares, etc.

The Combat in Action

Click for the Full View

What you see here is a side by side of the DM’s view of the Masterplan software, and the Player View window with the map currently loaded up. When using a secondary Monitor or TV for your game, the Player View can be sent directly to the secondary screen and ran in fullscreen mode. For the record, this looks pretty good on a 40″ HDTV.  Take note on the DM side, not only do we get complete stat blocks of the selected tokens, you can also just move your mouse over a token to get a brief pop up of its base defenses, hit points and conditions. You may also notice the selected Drow Blademaster doesn’t appear on the Player View. You can right click and toggle tokens on your screen to be visible or not, allowing you to keep track of stealthed enemies with ease. In this picture you can also notice on the Player View the enemies have Health Bars over their head; this is another toggle on/off option available to your preference.  It doesn’t give exact numbers, but it does an abstract view of the target’s health and it turns red when they’re bloodied. I personally leave it on, but one of my players did comment that it did add a “video game” feel. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you to decide.

Dealing damage to your monsters is as simple as just double clicking them; but if you right click them you can also select to add effects and conditions to them. This is a pretty damn nice feature that I totally glanced over until last night. It made keeping up with saving throws, ongoing damage and even Fighter Markings so much easier for me. The program will even roll the Saves for you when it pops up a reminder about them. You can also tag these onto the players in the program, which helped big time in reminding me when Saves were needing to be made. Another little nice feature I never noticed until last night was the notification about creatures who have Auras. It’s been revealed that in the upcoming version 8 of Masterplan, the creature auras will be displayed when the token is selected. That’s a feature I’m definitely looking forward to.

One Minor Gripe

Running this exact map last night, one hitch we ran into was showing the full map in this case was a bit much, having the tokens really tiny and hard to see. Luckily, the DM can zoom and pan the map, but it’s not the easy “grab and go” that using Game Table was. Instead it’s a menu option, that brings up a zoom slider and allows you to drag the map with the mouse. However, while you’re doing this it’ll make the Player View flush white with small “the dm is adjusting the map” text, and won’t reset the image until you are finished. Take this into account when prepping an encounter; if there are going to be nearby enemies during a particular fight that won’t be up on the view, it may be wise to only place the initial wave of beasties on the map and keeping the others on standby to be place in gradually. Another solution may be to break the encounter up into separate maps and run it as two back-to-back fights.

Aside from the map positioning controls, everything else was solid. Being able to directly interact with the creatures stats and conditions by clicking on the tokens themselves kept things moving; the little reminders for saving throws and ongoing damage were a godsend. While it didn’t have any drawing tools, it did have some quick overlay generating tools that allowed me to quickly thrown down Area of Effect templates, or quickly make labeled color pogs for things like summoned monsters or familiars. Most importantly, it kept all of the combat tracking, plotline information and everything else I needed for the session directly from a single source. Perfect.

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