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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Maptool framework for "Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes" and "Tunnels & Trolls"

Maptool is a free Virtual Tabletop program. Basically it is a virtual tabletop intended for playing through internet. But it can be something else.

Contrary to what is usually put forward about the program ability to play through the net (and it is also true of other VTTs), Maptool is also (mainly?) a fabulous tool to play in "normal" face to face games with the players gathered around a table (and also to play by forums, but that's for another post).

Maptool is not specifically designed for one particular game (if you use it "out of the box", it is a simple whiteboard upon which you can move your game tokens). It is still possible to adapt Maptool for the game you play, and the way you play it, by developping a framework.
It is the framework that I have developped to play Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes with my gaming group that I intend to present here. I have also added elements specific to Tunnels & Trolls (5.5 ed) such as Monster Ratings or T&T talents. Which means that the framework can be used with both games.
Maptool can be downloaded here.
You'll find further explanations, ideas or solutions here..

First, I must stress that I use Maptool exclusively to play face to face games, with real players, and not to play online. I use Maptool as a display for my players and to record easily gaming stuff. You'll find a compleat explanation about the setup I use here, but, basically, it is simply a computer with a second screen attached to it.

The framework (meaning all the automated functions I have programmed) is the result of that way to use Maptool; and, a lot of things that could have been added or programmed for gaming online (like dice throws for exemple) are done around the table and are not part of the framework.

Here is what Maptool looks like when using my framework (the map is a scan of my old Games Workshop Halls of Horror floorplans set):

As you can see, selecting a token (or even just moving the mouse on it) shows the portrait associated to the token and reveals a small window with a few informations. The informations are going to be different if the token is a PC, a NPC or a MR monster. The map, shown on the right occupies the main part of the screen (you only see a fraction here, it goes further to the right). And there is a column on the left that can display the tokens and maps library or the Campaign Macros, by toggling the tabs at the bottom.
We are going to review all those campaign macros.

Let us see what those controls do.

The first button (Character Sheet) reveals the character sheet associated with a token (if he has a character sheet, MR monsters have not).
Here is, for exemple, the sheet of the private eyes that was visible above:

The second row of controls (Input Character Sheet) let you fill or change the contents of the character sheet.
Caution: if you choose MR and gives a Monster Rating to a token, the controls Skills, Spells, Stats and the Character Sheet becomes inactive, because MR monsters don't need them. To have them active again, you must give the token a MR of 0.
The other controls will open windows where you can input the values of the character.

The three following sets contols (Wounds, MR+, MR-, Healing, Strength and Power) let you modify stats that can vary through the game, either up or down. MR+ and MR- are for Monster Rating tokens.

Diminishing CON or the STR of a character can toggle a "Out" or "Dead" state that shall appear on the token.

But, to give the maximum of freedom to the GM, he can override those states and put them on or off with the next row of controls (States).
Here is what those states look like:
Out means that the character is unable to make something (either from passing out, or from non lethal combat, or....wathever), but is not dead.

Dead means, of course, that the character is, well, dead.

Next two controls, from the Appearance category let you play with the portrait, image or handout of a token, or an object.
To understand what it is about, you must know that it is possible to associate three images with a token (or anobject).
-the image, the token as it appears on the map
-the portrait that appears when you put your mouse on a token
- a handout, an image that you can show to give informations during the game (basically, it is used to show a handout carried by the token, hence the name).

The controls here let you change the category of those images to obtain effects during the game.

The first control of the row (Image), let you exchange the image of a token and its handout image. Not too useful for a character, but it enables you to give two images to an object and change from one to the other. For exemple, you can have a lorry with an outside image and an inside one showing its contents. The two images must have the same size.
The second control (Portrait) let you exchange the portrait and the handout of a token. It lets you change a character from a charming old lady into an horrible ghoul. Your players will love that. The two portraits must have the same size.

Next row of controls (Maps) let you manipulate the elements on the map.
Before anything else, always check the layer you are on before selecting, moving or manipulating anything on the map. It shall save you a lot of frustations.

First control (O H) let the GM move a selected feature from the layer Objects to the layer Hidden, which makes it invisible to the players, but still visible to the GM. Doing it again shall make the reverse operation (fromHidden to Objects).

The second control (PCs) let the GM move all the tokens that are tagged as PCs, from the current map to another map.
Third control (Select) let the GM move all the selected tokens from the current map to another map.
The last two controls (Z- et Z+) enable you to change the position of elements stacked together and that are sometimes difficult to select or drag because they cover each others.
It also gives you the possibility to stack different parts of a structure (the decks of a ship for exemple) and go from one to the other.

The last row lets you associate some effects (lights or areas) to tokens on the map.
The first one (Areas) let you associate a template to a character or an object. Mostly useful for area effects like explosions.
The Lighting button lets you associate à kind of light to a character (you can see the torchlight effect above).
The X control removes the lights and areas associated with a token.

-Invisible-Players view-

-Invisible-GM view-

Controls Invis et Vis make a token respectively invisible or visible. On the player's screen the token disappear (or re-appear); on the GM's screen, the token receives a small mark (see above) to show the GM that the token is not visible to the PCs.

That's it, I just need to give you the link to the framework. Just open it in Maptool and you are ready.

Don't hesitate to change anything you want in the framework. Experiment. It is one of the pleasures of Maptool. And if you have any question, please ask, either here or on a forum.


  1. Thanks Keith. I really wish Maptool could take off with face2face GMs.
    I hope this kind of simple framework can decide some peoples to have a try.

  2. is there a way to convert this to online ? i ask simply because alot of people that i find that are interested in playing MSPE are abroad and this would make the gaming experience better.

  3. Oh yes, Maptool is basically a virtual tabletop and is intended to be played online. Whilst I use it locally, playing online is the way it is intended to be use.

    You'll have to setup the program as a server:
    If you have any problem, just ask on the Maptool forum