Storm King’s Thunder Review on Fantasy Grounds

Gameplay Screenshot

It has been one year and 3 months but my group has finally finished Storm King’s Thunder on Fantasy Grounds. My party of adventurers started at Level 1 meeting outside of the small town of Nightstone and finished the campaign at Level 11. Along the way, the group learned about the breaking of the Giant Ordning and progressed through the Sword Coast following clues and investigating why Giantkind is attacking the “small folk” of the Realms.


Fantasy Grounds Scale
The scope of the campaign is ENORMOUS. Look at my screenshot below. The two maps contain pins that are story entries for the adventure.

Actual pinned location with story entries

The sandbox and open feel of the campaign was new to me. Storm King’s Thunder had a hard opening for level 1 characters but it was up to the DM to fill in some low-level adventures before the story really began. I ended up using The Sunless Citadel to get my players up to Level 3. It is one of my all-time favorite intro adventures and we were shouting ‘Ticklecorn’ the rest of the campaign (RIP Meepo).

Once the characters were at level 3 then the story arc really picks up. Giants are roving the lands, orc tribes are running rampant, and barbarian tribes seem to get pulled into the fray. Tons of sidequests allowed for an open game feel that was very manageable thanks to Fantasy Grounds. I never knew where my players were going to be session to session as there are no significant dungeon crawls as most dungeons were completed in 2 sessions or less.

Not so much a spoiler alert but if you are a DM and are interested in running this adventure do a pre-read skim looking for the different mechanisms to move the party from scene to scene. There are several options that open up over time but it is not clear where and when they should all be made available as they are sprinkled in at random parts of the book.

Extensions/Modules Used:
I want to state that I run my games pretty lean. I was very reluctant to add some of these extensions/modules as Fantasy Grounds does a tremendous job with its built-in automation. I did end up with some of these after encouragement from my players and testing to ensure there were no conflicts.

Critically Awesome Essentials Extension w/One Click Druid
Super useful for my table’s Druid wild shape and polymorph spells. Comes with a token library that temporarily changes the token to the morphed creature.
Rob2e Effects Coding
I admit I have it all. Big upfront cost but the increased automation really makes Fantasy Grounds sing.
NPC flavors
Honestly the least functional but most fun extension I run. NPCs are renamed to fun unique names instead of the normal ‘Monster 1’, ‘Monster 2’, etc. naming convention of Fantasy Grounds.
Friend Zone
This adds a Cohorts tab to the PC sheets. Dropping an NPC to the player’s Cohorts tab and then from the Cohorts tab to the Combat Tracker gives players full agency of their familiars, raised undead minions, henchmen, etc.
StealthTracker
With 2 rogues in my party I was losing my mind tracking stealth checks vs passive perception. This did all the work for me.
Syrinscape Sounds and Chat Triggers
I can’t recommend this enough. The chat triggers bring my sessions to life. The extension reads for keywords and then triggers a library of sound sets to play in Syrinscape. A little complicated to set up and requires a full Syrinscape sub to take advantage of but this brings my games to the next level.

Final Thoughts
This was a super fun campaign to run. It challenged me as an experienced DM (in a good way) and helped re-shape my play style. I would encourage any DM with some 5e experience on Fantasy Grounds to consider running this adventure.

Fantasy Grounds: Leveled Up Part 1

A couple of years ago I purchased Fantasy Grounds Classic (formerly just Fantasy Grounds before the release of Fantasy Grounds Unity) on a summer Steam sale. I purchased the standard license with the ambition of recruiting some old gaming friends to join me in playing Dungeons and Dragons on this Virtual Tabletop (VTT) platform. That didn’t go as planned, but let me start with an overview of the software.

There are currently two versions of Fantasy Grounds released by SmiteWorks. The first now being rebranded as Fantasy Grounds Classic. It is the original version of the software with over a decade of development behind it’s belt. It is very stable and has licenses deals with over a dozen RPG systems, including Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.

There are 3 license ownership tiers for purchase from SmiteWorks; free, standard, and ultimate.

  • With a free license you can connect as a player to anyone with a standard (with limits) or ultimate license. You cannot host a session as a DM/GM.
  • With a standard license as a DM/GM you can can host 1 free licensed player but you cannot host any other player despite their license type. Or, you can host as many players as you wish with a standard license. As a player you can connect to anyone hosting as a DM/GM as long as they have a standard license.
  • With an ultimate license you can host as many free/standard license holders as you wish as a DM/GM. There is no limitation as a player as well when connecting to a standard or ultimate license hosted session.

The second and newer version of the VTT software is called Fantasy Grounds Unity. It contains the same game licensing deals as Fantasy Grounds Classic as well as the tiered ownership licensing features listed previously. Fantasy Grounds Unity is currently in “early access” funded by a robust Kickstarter campaign in 2019. The goal was to improve upon current features, introduce a “line of site” fog of war mechanic, ambient lighting/effects, and cloud hosted servers. For SmiteWorks, Fantasy Grounds Unity is the logical step forward for their software line in order to keep their aging platform competitive against newcomers such as Roll20 and Astral TableTop.

To date I have not used the Fantasy Grounds Unity software as I am waiting for the official full release. Initially there were a ton of bugs with Fantasy Grounds Unity in early access but that was the point. If you purchased the software at a current discount you were buying it with the understanding that your were essentially a test user that helped with the development process. (It wasn’t called “beta testing” because there was a price point.)

With the purchase of either Fantasy Grounds Classic or Unity you get all the tabletop tools you need but only receive System Reference Documents (SRD) for Dungeons and Dragons 5e (or any other system that has an open SRD in Fantasy Grounds). In order to have access to rules in the game such as the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, a campaign book, etc. you MUST purchase the electronic supplements through SmiteWorks (or Steam if you enable account link). Owning the material in physical hardcover or digitally on DnD Beyond will not enable access in Fantasy Grounds. Purchased material in Fantasy Grounds is shareable among those at the hosted table, so only one person needs a copy. Smiteworks does not set the MSRP of the digital supplements that are available for purchase, the license holders do. Also, ownership of any material IS transferable between Fantasy Grounds Classic and Unity.

This does not stop you, however, from using Fantasy Grounds as a VTT in order to host a session to utilize the free SRD, player sheets, and dice tools available in the software to host a game as well as use theater of the mind, homebrew, or recreated/imported content into your sessions. Technically all officially licensed Wizards of the Coast content is optional if you just want to use the bare bones software as a supplemental tool to your games/campaigns.

I could probably write a few more paragraphs on the software but feel I will get too long winded (I probably already am). I recommend checking out the Fantasy Ground forums to help fill in the gaps or join the Fantasy Grounds Discord server to ask the community any question you have.

My next “Fantasy Grounds: Leveling Up” article will feature my initial experience, disappointments, and eureka moment that has at my computer playing on Fanatsy Grounds 2-3 times a week.

Cheers,

DM Greg