Monday, 15 March 2021

Owlbear Rodeo, OMG....

Since last weeks, I have been experimenting with  Owlbear Rodeo, a VTT that I had not encountered before... and it is the most amazing one I have used so far. Fulfilling almost (more on this later) all my needs from a VTT, in the most easy, fast and user friendly way. 

At the same time I have bought and tried Foundry VTT and I did found the result absolutely atrocious. Probably not because it is a bad VTT (its success and the comments about it are proof that I am in a minority of one on the subject), but simply because it is the complete antithesis of what I want in a VTT and more importantly because it is full of things I don't want...

There is no real reason to compare those two VTTs except that, side by side, they both showcase what I like and what I dislike in VTTs. Which should explain more clearly why I like Owlbear Rodeo.

Why do I like Owlbear Rodeo so far?

Because of what it does:

Owlbear Rodeo is a very simple and intuitive. You just open the a page on its website . Launch a game.

Input a password (or not). Invite players. It shall give you a link for your player.Give that link to your players. Done.

From there, you can already play with the default content by sketching your maps.

But, of course, you can import your own maps and tokens. Dices are already included to roll on a "drawer".

Reduced window to show the controls

Everything is saved on your computer, no hassle, no fuss.

At any time, you can export the maps (which means the whole scenes) and the tokens. And re-import them later. So you can prepare a session or save the situation at the end of a game.

Of course all VTTs do this, but never as easily. Connection: one click (no port opening or technical stuff), joining the game: one click, no account to set. Saving stuff: one click (no fee).

Owlbear Rodeo is tablet ready (and usable), I experimented on my iPad and there is no reason a player could not play this way. You don't have to wait until an app is released. Just join at the webpage.

It is easy, super fast to prepare, connect and play, and stable.

As it plays in a browser, I can open any document I want (fillable PDFs mostly) in another tab and save them at the end of the game. Easy, neat and convenient.

With it, using a VTT doesn't become an activity or a hobby in itself. What I really like is that the use of Owlbear Rodeo is unobstusive. You don't need to spend more time readying your session on your VTT than preparing the scenario.

But also because of what it doesn't:

That's where the comparison with Foundry VTT should make what I mean clearer.

I mostly need a VTT that takes care of just the visual part. Preparing the maps, saving them and having them ready when playing. 

Admittedly, I have not always worked that way. I did made some Maptool framewoks in the past (for Savage Worlds or MSPE, for exemple). But my conclusion was that this not only increased tremendously the preparation time, but also that it didn't speeded play at all during the sessions, which led me to more minimalistic frameworks

But, even those proved, in the end, too cumbersome and ultimately, not only useless, but completely counterproductives. I am speaking here, about PCs and NPCs management macros, graphic macros are something else.

Conclusion: It is not because something can be automated that it should be! (which is something that should be branded with a hot iron on every programmer forehead, alongside with "if it ain't broken, don't fix it").

I certainly understand that other peoples have other needs for their games.

Mind you, I think that anything, in a VTT, that is optional and on the side is fine for me. But with Foundry I found that to simply use it, I had to go the whole way, using, or rather coding a template (because I don't use D&D).

And then, I was expected to fill a form for any and every NPC, spell, weapon, whatever...

But... the data needed during games is in my notes, in the rules, on paper or in pdf, and I don't need to have a copy of it inside a program before being able to play.

If my hobby was forms filling, I would collect tax returns.

Here again, I don't have a problem with the fact that you can do it, only with the fact that you need to do it (or at least that it is completely geared that way, and that you are expected to do it).

The little things that I could want to have access directly during play can easily be made into a pdf and opened in another tab alongside the Owlbear Rodeo tab, or, simply kept on my notes. Online info is generally limited to character sheets sent to players before session.

What I prefer is a VTT where you can play from scratch if you want (import a map, a few tokens and go...) not one where you must prepare  for hours (hours which would better be used preparing your scenario).

This is, of course, completely subjective. But that's my opinion and I completely agree with it...

What I would like to see in Owlbear Rodeo

Mostly, and more importantly, I hope they won't change the idea behind the program, and stay with the visual representation only. Complicating the program or having a features bloat would make it just like all the other VTTs. This is certainly a case of "Less is More'.

My only regret, is that Owlbear Rodeo is not optimized for isometric gaming (meaning that there is not built in way to swap tokens to change their facing). After asking on Reddit, it seems that there is no intention to change that in the future. Which I can understand because only a very small minority of gamers use isometric views. But, well, there are workarounds, which, whilst not perfect, solve the problem.

And, that's all, which is not much new features needed for a new program. Almost perfect for me from the start... I hope the natural tendency of programmers to never stop adding features won't ruin it.

Anyway, Owlbear Rodeo is free, easy to use and fast to master. So, have a try, and, if after trying it, you still prefer forms filling to roleplaying, Foundry will be there.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Easy isometric figures

If you would like to play on a virtual tabletop using isometric figures, you'll need a program that enables you to swap tokens. Maptool, Roll20, Tabletop Simulator and Foundry can do it... I'll try to make a more comprehensive list one day (if you know which other VTTs let you swap figures, let me know in the comments).

And you need four illustrations representing four facings for any figure you want to use. There are different ways to make them.

But, here, our ressource of choice for making iso figures will be the cardboard figures easily available on the web.

Because they are plentiful and cover most gaming periods, they can easily give you all you need to populate your virtual tables.

Caveat: It is of course possible to simply draw or paint the four facings (or at least two with mirroring), but it is a quite obvious task and nobody needs directions for that.

The four illustrations, four directions isometric figure

The first style of iso figures is the easiest one, but that one doesn't use cardboard figures. It is simply making a 3D figure on HeroForge and export its four isometric views. I have already covered it in a previous post, so, if you are interested, it is here.

The only thing that was not covered, is that I resize the images by comparing them to an iso figure drawing that I use as my standard for size. Nothing fancy here, on photoshop, I just paste the images from HeroForge on a page with my standard figure and then resize them until they look the same scale (yes, good old eyeballing...). I note the percentage of scaling and apply it to the HeroForge images.

I finally place the images on bases, but more about it later.

The two illustrations, four directions isometric figure

This one is the typical situation where you turn a paper miniature (with front and back, like those from Okumarts, who by himself already covers most rpg settings) into an isometric figure.

It is quite easy to transform the 2D figure into an isometric one:

First, you skew the two faces of the figure 22,5°, once to the left and one to the right. And resize them at 90% in height (mathematically it should be a little more, but I think that 90% looks better).

Resize the figure just as for the four illustrations figures above. With the added benefit that when working from figures placed on a page, it is enough to "eyeball scale" one of them, the same scaling can be applied to all of them (or even better to all of the figures from the same designer).

Secondly, you give those 4 images some depth by adding some white border, but not everywhere. You use "drop shadow" on them. But a white shadow (I know, it only makes sense in a graphic program).

 Here are the settings (for left and right).

You must choose which one of the two possibilities depending on the orientation of the image.

And then, I place the images on bases, more about it later.

The one illustration, four directions isometric figure

For that one, you'll need one illustration, but seen from the side (as my older paper figures or those from some designers).

You can also make this kind of figure from any other illustration, on the condition that it goes from head to toe and is mostly seen from a side. Illustrations with lines drawn work better for that, rather than painted ones.

And those figures are made using the same method as those with two images above.

The only difference is that after you have skewed your image 22,5° (once to the left and once to the right), you duplicate them and flip them.

And, of course, give them some depth... Now, I put them on bases....

That was easy enough... No?

But you could ask why I put those figures on bases? Here is why:

Basing the isometric figure

As you could read from the explanations above, I place the isometric figures on bases. There are three reasons for that.

The first is that, as I use very different types of figures, it gives them an unifying appearance, they look more as a part of the same game.

The second one is that I can use an indication of the direction the figure is facing on the base. With some drawings, the facing could be unclear without it.

Worse, in some isometric figures available on the web, there is only one orientation available and no base for indicating it. In a situation like the one depicted here under, you would have a complete mess, with figure fighting one another being depicted back to back and no idea of who is going where or seeing what. Top down figures on map give clear indication of these things. Isometric view is a huge visual improvement, but it would be a big step backward if without orientation. So, please, if you make isometric figures, please, make a rear view...

The last reason is that because I am using mostly "flat" maps (meaning maps made from top down ones instead of those drawn isometrically), there is no elevation elements on the maps.

Using bases gives a "pawn on board" look that seems more natural to the eye than a 3D rendered character on what is a topdown flattened view. This is, of course, completely subjective and YMMV... widely.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Wonderdraft and the World of Legend

This summer, I did spend my vacations at home and I was searching for a worthy endeavour  beyond fixing the house.

I had discovered a wonderful program called Wonderdraft that let you make gorgeous RPG maps. I decided to have a try at it.

As I needed an idea about what to map, I decided to make a map of the world of Legend, the setting of the Dragon Warriors rules (pay what you want on Drivethru RPG). 

The rules are really good, and simple, and I have used them several times in the past, but mostly, the setting and atmosphere are really gripping.

As the setting was published separated from the rules and is almost rules agnostic, I decided that it would be the perfect place to have a try with a Sword of Cepheus or MSPE in fantasy experiment. Or, using the french version of the map, play some scenarios with the Coureurs d'Orages rules, to which I have taken a liking recently (for french rules, the narrativist drivel to be stripped off is really minimal, just one paragraph in the whole book)

I also decided that I would make myself all the ressources needed for the map. Why make things simply?

To make a long story short, here is the result:

The full sized  map (in english and in french) can be found here:

Legend Maps

But, why stop there? So, I had the map printed on fabric, by Geekify. The result was everything I had expected. The only problem being that I can not give it as a prop to my players, because we have not been able to have in person games for almost a year.

If you would like to print the map. Here are the files at double resolution for print quality.

Upscaled Legend Map French

Upscaled Legend Map English

Finally, I tried to share the ressources I made for the map on a dedicated site called Cartography Assets.

But..... I had to abandon the idea. You know, I expected a place to drop the files with, maybe, an image of the map to show the results. And I did found myself with several pages to fill (without much explanations), which would make your IRS returns look like a piece of cake... so, well, no sharing...

Anyway, I hope the map shall prove useful and fun...

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Hero Forge as a graphic ressource tool

 Riles42 has posted on Reddit a movie poster style celebrating the three years of his D&D campaign.

He used images taken from the Hero Forge minis he designed. 

He used the tools for posing, lighting... the miniatures to export their portraits with a transparent background.

All within Hero Forge. And then assembled them.

The result is really bluffing....

It won't be long before I have a try....

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Hero Forge for Virtual Tabletops

I have begun to use Heroforge to make portraits, tokens and virtual miniatures (2d and 3d), I think it is going to be quite useful for my Tabletop Simulator games, but beware, making figures with the HeroForge site can become addictive very fast...

Here is a character that I am using in my MSPE games on Tabletop Simulator


By simply going to the HeroForge site, you can make a 3D representation of the character and export a screenshot, like this..


With a free account, you can save your characters and then make more or modify them later... with different versions


With a subscription (4$ a month), you can export 2D front and back that can be turned into 2D miniatures in TTS.


And also export topdown tokens...

or isometric tokens (that can be used with Roll20 or Maptool in addition to Tabletop Simulator...)


Finally, at the price of 8$ for a miniature, you can download it in Unity 3D format, which can be used directly in Tabletop Simulator..


With the price of 3D figures, I'll probably limit myself to PCs or important NPCs, but for 2D figures, isometric figures and tokens, I'll certainly use a lot... 

I'll also probably buy 3D figures for skirmish games, though, whilst extensive the parts useful for historical figures are still limited. 

But then, new parts appear regularly and we can hope that the designers take a look at history (after all, for exemple, uniform parts from the ACW can be used with the western figures; those from WW1 and WW2 with pulps ones; those from ECW with swashbuckling ones, and those from Middle Ages and Antiquity with fantasy figures).