• New VGT: Gametable

    While out scouring the web for my daily dose of Virtual Role Playing news, I was delighted to come across a Virtual Gaming Table that I had never seen before. The name of the tool is Gametable and its perfect for beginners to the realm of pen and paper style gaming online. I'd even recommend Gametable to die hard fans of OpenRPG or MapTool. Now, don't let appearances fool ya. Though their website is pretty old fashioned looking, the Gametable Homepage conceals a great treasure just below the surface.

    First order of business... the download. It's less than 2MB, I kid you not. It took me longer to type that last sentence than it did for me to download the file. The file you will receive is a .zip file and you'll need a program that can handle the .zip extension in order to unpack it. Gametable will extract into a tidy little directory that you can drag and drop wherever you wish. Before you launch the client, you'll also need to have Java installed on your machine. Most of you probably have Java already, if not, google it and get it. Have ya done that yet? Good. So far, it's just been a simple download and extraction. If you're still with us, you're well on your way to gaming.

    Now, in order to launch the client I simply navigated to the directory we created for the program and double clicked the gametable.jar file. Windows users can elect to use the Gametable.bat file and are recommended to do so. Take a deep breath... and exhale... the program should be up and running by the time you're finished. You are greeted with an interface that will be pretty familiar to regular users of Virtual Gaming Tables like OpenRPG and MapTool.

    The layout that appears on a fresh install puts me in the mind of MapTool in that there is a small toolbar across the top of the window that contains simple drawing tools. You get all the necessities; Pointer, Hand, Pencil, Line, Rectangle, Circle, Ruler, and Erasers. There is also a button to publish your changes to the map that I'm guessing makes your edits visible to the other players. There are two drop down menus available up there as well. One is for changing the color of the lines drawn when using the line editing tools and the other changes the measurement value of the grid.

    A standard menu system at the very top of the window gives you access to further features. Changing the grid type is one of the features I like. You can elect to use a square grid, a hexagonal grid, or no grid at all. The Network menu allows for the simple creation of a server and also lets clients connect to an established server. Note that there is no metaserver available as there is when using OpenRPG. You can only connect to a known person that is hosting a server. There are also no lobby or room creation features. You're at the mercy of websites like www.thetangledweb.net for finding others interested in gaming with you.

    In addition to the above mentioned menu selections, there is a menu for the Map that allows you to clear, save, and load maps on the screen. You'll also find a Window menu that lets you undock the chat, library, and map windows so that you may arrange your table as you see fit. This feature works pretty simply and efficiently compared to the troubles I've experienced in the past with undocking windows in OpenRPG. The final menu option left to cover is the Dice menu. This menu allows you to add macros for speedy dice rolling. Macros are best used for rolling those complicated strings of dice and modifiers that tend to plague us as role players.

    Dice rolling in Gametable is pretty simple. You simply type in a special string to let the chat parser know you are gonna roll a die. The form is as follows...

    /roll 1d20

    You can change the number of dice or the type of dice rolled by simply changing the numbers before and after the 'd'.

    Further special chat commands are:

    Slash Commands

    • /as: Display a narrative of a character saying something
    • /deck: Various deck actions. type
    • /deck for more details
    • /emote: Display an emote
    • /goto: Centers a pog in the map view.
    • /help: list all slash commands
    • /macro: macro a die roll
    • /macrodelete: deletes an unwanted macro
    • /poglist: lists pogs by attribute
    • /proll: roll dice privately
    • /roll: roll dice
    • /tell: send a private message to another player
    • /who: lists connected players
    • //: list all slash commands

    I tried some simple HTML formatting in the chat as OpenRPG allows and it doesn't work. I also noted that links are only parsed and made linkable if you include the 'http://' before the address. This means that simply typing in 'www.thetangledweb.net' will not create a link in the chat window but, if you type or paste in 'http://www.thetangledweb.net', then a linkable string of text will be sent to chat.

    So, as you can see, the chat is simple enough to get right into your gaming while remaining robust enough to make the more experienced user happy. The next part of the interface we'll consider is the Library window. This is the area where you'll be storing your pogs, maps, and macros. You'll find that there are three tabs at the top of the library area that facilitate this function.

    The first of these tabs is the Pog Library. This will be the place to find all of your pogs and map underlays. There is a major difference between a standard pog and an underlay. An underlay is essentially an image that sits on the bottom most layer of the map window. It's a representation of the game map. A pog on the otherhand, will always show as being set atop of an underlay. Pogs represent moveable tokens whereas an underlay will not generally need to be moved. The default installation includes a number of underlay patterns that can be interconnected much like Dungeon Tiles. You'll find that you pogs and your underlays appear in different branches in the Pog Library tab. Simply drag a pog or underlay from the library and onto the map in order to place it.

    After you've dragged a few items from the Pog Library onto the map, you'll find them all appearing again under the Active Pogs tab. Pretty self explanatory I believe. This tab simply keeps track of all active Pogs currently in play on the map. If you click on one of the images, it will center your view of the map on that particular Pog. I'd like to see some further work done in this area someday but, I'm not sure how active the development team is on this program so, I'm not going to hold my breathe.

    The final tab in the library is the Dice Macros tab. This tab will give you a list of all the macros you create and allows you to edit, delete, or inititate the macro at a single click. This window will see a lot of use from game masters and players alike. It gets pretty annoying having to type in long strings of text to roll your attacks and defenses in a session. Using macros efficiently will certainly save a lot of frustration and you can thus focus your energy on properly describing your furious 'stumbling crane attack' with full flavor!

    The final major function of any worthy Virtual Gaming Table is the map area. Gametable certainly shines in this area. The map window handles much like MapTool and, if you've ever used MapTool, you know that it's got the best interface out there. Well, Gametable has very similar feel and this gives it major boost in the ratings. You can use the hand tool to pan around on the map. A scroll wheel allows you to zoom in and out in a pinch. The map itself is boundless so you can create massive battlefields and dungeons guide your party through. You can use all of the drawing tools on the map without any glitches... something virtually unheard of in OpenRPG.

    One last feature available in the map area is certainly my favorite and it involves the pogs. In addtion to being able to change the size, title, and facing of any pog; you can also assign attributes to each pog. When you assign attributes to any given pog and then hover your mouse pointer over said pog, a pop up window appears that contains all the information on the attributes you may have added. This allows for a simple but effective character sheet to be attached for quick reference during an encounter. I always found this to be a great aspect of MapTool and to find it hear in Gametable really raises it's value to the casual gamer.

    Overall, in my toying around with Gametable, I found that it has everything one needs to run a top notch campaign online. I'd recommend this program to anyone that is looking for a lot of power in a small and easy to install package. I observed a session for over four hours one night and nght one interruption occured during that time. If you're looking for a simple program to get started in playing your favorite pen and paper style role playing games online, this is the program for you. While not as advanced as OpenRPG or MapTool, this program can handle the bulk of the workload with a minimum of face palming.

    Thanks for reading.
    Let the good times roll...
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Sheng Long Gradilla's Avatar
      Sheng Long Gradilla -
      Well, I don't know if you already found this one, but I have used a tool called TTopRPG 2.0

      Check it out too.
    1. hortator37's Avatar
      hortator37 -
      My group used to use Gametable ages ago. It sucked so hard that we scrapped a session or two and spent our time looking for something new, which is when we came across Maptool. When we used it, it was glitchy as hell and quit on us at least once a session, but your review makes me want to give it another look. Maybe it's gotten better since then.
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