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.