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

Review: Lost Mine of Phandelver on Fantasy Grounds Classic

DM Greg here with another Dungeons and Dragons adventure review for use on Fantasy Grounds Classic.

The Lost Mine of Phandelver (LMoP) was the first game module I ran on Fantasy Grounds back in November 2019. As a matter of fact I still have the module loaded as my party, at the time of this writing, is still adventuring in the same area utilizing the same maps and continuing to interact with the NPC’s they met from their early interactions. If anyone is familiar with the physical copy of the module it includes pre-generated characters, fold out maps, an adventure campaign and setting, as well as some dice and quick start rules. The digital copy faithfully incorporates all of that into Fantasy Grounds (when counting the free 5e SRD rules and dice in the application).

The Campaign Setting

The setting for LMoP is a small mining town of Phandalin nestled on the Sword Coast between Neverwinter Woods and the Kryptgarden Forest along the Triboar Trail. The party has been hired by Gundren Rockseeker to escort a caravan of supplies from Neverwinter to Phandalin. Obviously thing don’t go as planned but the details and maps of the area really lays the groundwork for my ongoing campaign. The Sword Coast and Phandalin maps are excellent, nothing was lost in their resolution when loaded into Fantasy Grounds.

The Adventure

*Spoilers*

The adventure has 3 main parts. First, an intro escort mission that turns into a rescue mission that took us one session to complete. Next, the exploration of Phandalin and introduction to a handful of NPC’s along with a bunch of side quests that took us 4 sessions. And finally, the investigation and subsequent dungeon crawl of Wave Echo Cave, again 2 more game sessions.

The encounters formatted for Fantasy Ground is pretty much the standard I hold all other module to. The enemy tokens are pre-placed on the map and combat is logical and properly loaded every time.

Going Forward

After completing the module my players PC’s were all at level 5. Since then I have been adding to the intro adventure by running adventures found within Tales From the Yawning Portal and modules that Wizards released as add ons to Dragons of Icespire Peak. The world building has been very rewarding to me as a DM as again, LMoP laid excellent groundwork for my ongoing campaign.

Cheers,

DM Greg

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Review: CCC-DRUID-01 The Scourge Unseen

Dungeon Master Greg here, after logging about 100 hours as an Adventurers League Dungeon Master on Fantasy Grounds I wanted to go back and review past modules that I have run. There have been a lot of great adventures and moments but I wanted to start with one of my favorites.

Back in April I ran the Adventurers League Community Created Content Module CCC-DRUID-01 The Scourge Unseen by Jay Africa. It is a 3 part module for Tier 2 players. The first 2 parts blew me away. The fact that Jay encouraged players to use their real life knowledge of Forgotten Realms history and lore made for some amazing puzzles to solve.

There was no Fantasy Grounds .mod file with the purchase of the PDF. Depending on how comfortable your are importing a module from PDF to Fantasy Grounds may limit how much you get out of running this as a DM. The images of the maps and player handouts are a must for your players to enjoy the adventure. Preloading the excellent encounters is also highly recommended. The text can be read out loud to your group and is not really required, in my opinion, when creating the adventure in Fantasy Grounds. You can get away with sharing text in chat utilizing copy and paste.

I would say this adventure is the benchmark I hold other Tier 2 modules to. It has a good mix of puzzle/problem solving and encounters. It is a little light on NPC roleplaying/interaction but a good group with puzzle solving skills more than make up for that.

I look forward to running more of Jay Africa’s adventures in the future.

Cheers,

DM Greg

*Disclaimer: links to products contain affiliate marketing tracking, this site will benefit financially if products are purchased through the links.

DDEX1-10 Tyranny in Phlan

Last night my Adventurers League group deviated from the season 5 story arc to visit a Tier 2 module from season 1. The biggest driver was that there was not enough content published in season 5 to get everyone into Tier 3 unless they made every session AND used dowtime to level up. So we agreed to run a two sequencing modules out of season 1 in order to get everyone the ability to hit Tier 3.

Virtual Kobold Con 2020 DDHC-TYP The Sunless Citadel 05/01/20-05/03/20

Ever consider running the adventure The Sunless Citadel in an Adventurers League format? I had the opportunity to DM it on Fantasy Grounds as a three part session over the course of May 1st through the 3rd at Virtual Kobold Con.

First off, Virtual Kobold Con was the result of a regional convention having to cancel their whole event and go online due to COVID-19. They were recruiting GM’s to run games over any virtual tabletop (VTT) to include; Fantasy Grounds, Roll 20, Tabletop Simulator, and even Zoom.

I saw a recruitment post on the Fantasy Grounds Adventurers League Forum looking for DM’s for the event. I felt this was exciting as I would be able to run multiple AL games over the course of one weekend. Then the light bulb came on. Why not run one of the D&D campaigns as an AL legal DDHC over the the three days?

After weighing some of the pro’s and con’s I decided to go with The Sunless Citadel out of Tales From the Yawning Portal (TYP). My rational is as follows:

  • First, I only wanted to run the adventure over three sessions. A full campaign book would have had me at my computer non-stop all weekend.
  • Second, The Sunless Citadel’s adventure kept the entire party in the same Tier if I required them to start at level 1.

After skimming through the adventure I felt if my table had 7 Tier 1 players there would be no problem getting through all the content. As it turned out our Friday and Saturday session took 4 hours a piece. Sunday was wrapped up in about 2 hours, but there was a little content in the dungeon the party decided to skip. I think 6 party members would have used up the entire 12 hours I blocked out.

It was a great decision to run the the module over 3 sessions. It was an even better decision to host a game at Virtual Kobold Con as the players at my table were phenomenal. There was the risk of not keeping all 7 through all 3 days the party was able to stick together all three days. It would not have been as much fun for me without them!

I look forward to playing at this event again next year!

Cheers,

DM Greg