You’d think this is the year where I have nothing but bile and rage towards Wizards of the Coast and how they’re treating the D&D license. I’m not really sold on Essentials, not a fan of how much errata has been put out, really not a fan of the sudden direction of “protecting our IP” by restricting 3rd party, community driven projects like Masterplan and others from taking advantage of our D&D Insider Subscriptions. On top of that, they take away our external Character Builder and replace it with a purely web-based one (which sucks since half my gaming group, the half that hosts, doesn’t have the internet at home. Except on cell phones…)
So I bet a lot of peeps are expecting me to bitch about today’s (err, yesterday’s) announcement about the D&D Virtual Table Beta.
So many things to tear into here….how about the vague comment on the price in the FAQ? How about the fact it doesn’t look that much different from GameTable or Maptools? Of which, both of those programs are available for free. Or the fact it’s not going to tie-in with the Character builder at launch? Or that it’s nowhere near as epic and cool as the original character modeler & tabletop shown before 4e’s launch? Okay, you guys wanna hear me bitch? Fine. Here’s my problem with it:
I’m actually optimistic about the Gods-Be-Damned thing!
Yeah, it’s just a Java-based 2d map tiler and virtual tabletop tailored specifically for playing D&D. But despite its simplicity, it’s making me glad I didn’t ask for a refund on the remainder of my annual sub. Hell, if they pull it off with my simple “wants & demands” I might even sub for another year. There’s actually some pros coming out of this package, even as many people are quick to call them faults:
- Not Everything Needed to Run a Game: They’ve stated it has chat (both voice and text), dice rollers, map tiles, and pog minis built in, but that you will still need the books to run. Hello? Freaking genius here. They say the monster & character storage information system is tailored to 4E, but any edition can be ran with everything else. If everything isn’t tied into Compendium stat blocks or CB files, holy crap! Does that mean we can play with house rules? I can use my older, non-errata books? We can play 1st edition using newer tiles? That’s cool!
- (Hopefully) Easier format to Host a Game: Don’t get me wrong, love GameTable. Have played some cool sessions via MapTools. But let’s be honest: not everyone is versed in port forwarding and hosting. Not everyone has the most reliable connection. I’m hoping, praying, for a centralized server network of some kind. A matter of logging in, finding our friends and joining a game. If they give us this, it’s already becoming a “friendlier” alternative and opens up a lot of gaming possibilities for folks online.
- Easier to find a game: I’m also hoping they have a central chat lobby, or some means of meeting and finding new players for pick up games. There’s been a lot of nights I just wish someone would run a one-shot, or a delve or something. If they provide an optimal meeting ground to promote games and look for players, it’s already worth a few bucks just for convenience. There’s been other online rpg hangouts before (I loved OpenRPG back in the day), but it’d be nice meeting others who want to play the same game you do. And hell, if the community is active enough, I’d rather pay a sub to be able to find pick-up groups for the same ol’ Dungeon Delves or WoTC modules over and over as opposed to paying a sub to run some grind dungeon in WoW or other Pay-To-Play MMORPG. (Did I mention I’m a Guild Wars fanboy?)
Plenty of Room for Concern:
There’s a lot of ways this could go wrong, of course. The fact they haven’t thought of a “price” to it makes me wonder if it’s going to require a separate fee from DDI. If that’s the case, my secondary concern is for the folks who don’t want to use DDI but still want to play online. Are DM’s going to be elitist in favor towards other subscribers, for the ease of using the CB? Since the CB doesn’t currently support exporting or sharing character files, will my PDF’s printed out in Hero Labs (or scans of my hand written sheets, or typed up emails) not be wanted? Will DM’s be able to pay to host games and let their players join without subscribing? Lots of variables in there, which all we can do is speculate, watch and wait.
The worst that happens? We continue using what we had before, and I don’t resub. No biggy.