If you haven’t been following the official news coming out of Wizards of the Coast, they are finally working on the much hyped virtual table they promised before the launch of 4e back in 2007, albeit a bit different from what was originally planned.
While the original one they promised was set to feature a 3d battle grid, virtual minis of monsters and pc’s, and lighting effects, the current offering is much more subtle. If you are familiar with the Maptools program, or Gametable, you’ll instantly notice the direction WOTC has chosen to go with their Virtual Table program, which runs off Java and is currently in beta testing.
As you can see, it’s very similar to the offerings from the community built tables, and my guess is that Wizards will have to do some major customizing to make it a product worth paying for. By that I mean that the day it works with the monster and character builder, and Wizards integrates it with perhaps Dungeon magazine to make its maps and adventures available for it, it will be a very attractive product for a 4e DM.
So what does the table have? Lets see:
- An initiative tracker. It’s very simple, you add characters and monsters to it, and the thing tracks the initiative for you. I didn’t give it a robust test, so I don’t know if it tracks conditions and their durations unfortunately. I know that those things are a big deal for many DM’s.
- A map maker. It looks like Dungeon tiles will be a main part of the setup here, and that part of the program works great. you build your maps, save it, and then work on another one, and so on. The tiles selection is small during the beta test, but I have no doubt that it will one day include all the sets.
- Monster tokens. You can assign tokens to the monsters. Right now, it is a small selection, but I imagine it to include all the monsters in the game one day. It uses the art from the Monster Vault tokens from what I can tell.
- Journal. There’s some kind of journal option that honestly I didn’t play with. Imagine it as a place for campaign notes and such.
- Integrated voice chat. While other table top programs require a third party to include voice chat, this one has it built it. it also includes voice filters to disguise your voice when role playing. Think orc, male to female voice, and things like that and you get the idea.
- Text chat. There’s a text chat built in as well that includes the capability to whisper privately to other players if you want.
- Dice Roller. A simple dice roller that allows single or multiple types of dice to be rolled.
I had the opportunity to roll a very quick encounter with the program, and found it relatively easy to use. I’d like it if double clicking on the tokens gave me their stats and powers, rather than all the clicking I have to do, but that’s a minor gripe. Also, our voice connection was a little wonky and settled for text chat instead.
The map making is simple and works like it’s supposed to. I’d like to see all the tiles sets there and perhaps even adventure poster maps. I foresee a future where adventures come with a download link for the virtual table files for online use.
Admittedly, I haven’t given this thing a proper run though, but I will. I wanted to throw this out there for those of you that haven’t heard the news that this was coming. While it’s not the fancy 3d table that was promised, I have some experience with the programs that this is basing itself on, and they work really well for online D&D, so If they get this right and add all the 4e stuff that will make it stand out from the free competitors, it should be a hit. On that note, no pricing talk has started yet, so we don’t know if this will be part of the DDI subscription, or a separate thing. We shall see.
But yes Virginia, Wizards’ does have a virtual table in beta test this Christmas.