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Fear the Boot » Podcasts

May 23, 2007

* A report on the Ziggurat Con donation drive.  You can find more details on the forums here.

* Fear the Boot will be attending a general reception for the gaming podcasters and listeners at Gencon on Saturday, August 18th, from 7:00pm – 9:00pm.

* An update on the World of Warcraft and Everquest II guilds.

* Gamers and sports.

* Balancing a game for setting accuracy versus fairness.

* How electronics can be used to enhance the roleplaying experience rather than damage it.

Hosts: Adam, Dan, John, Mike

David Rice
almost ten years ago

I loved the comment: \\\"To me automating combat is not good.\\\"

Good virtual table tops today don\\\'t eliminate the nature of the roleplaying game and automating combat removes the ability for the players to come up with odd-ball things that they want to do and the GM allowing it. But, there is a difference between automating combat and automating die rolls (as was pointed out in the podcast). Good virtual table tops and tools enhance the experience by allowing you a more immersive experience by not requiring that the GM simplify something out of the game.

For example, everyone has had a combat that took place on a train, or an outdoor combat with a Dragon with a move of 150 and is doing fly-by attacks every other round. Try to do this on a battlemap sitting on a table and you are going to end up keeping track of distances on a sheet of paper and not really using the battlemap. Move this combat into a virtual tabletop and you can have the creatures moving in all different directions without artificial limitations (like the miniature keeps falling off the table). You can have the air-ship from Eberron and the dragon + the 4 players that are flying and keep track of elevation and distances easily.

Another great use. How many of us have had a combat, erased a section of the map because we needed to draw some more, only to find that we needed that section again. In the past I went through great efforts, using multiple battlemaps, but that introduced other issues.

And finally, remoting gaming is a possibility. How many times have you had to miss a game because you had RL issues come up that prevented you from actually going to the game, but they wouldn\\\'t have prevented you from joining late from your house? Or perhaps one of your gaming group moves away for a job, military, etc...

The visualization can enhance the fear. There was a group that I was running using a VTT and they were going against a horde of Trolls. Most of the trolls were hidden until they came around trees, but during the trolls turn they started moving into place and becoming visible to the players. It was a very cool experience to see the \\\"oh crap\\\" look in their faces that is not conveyed as well when you simply describe \\\"40 trolls move out of the forest and toward you\\\".

almost ten years ago

I play D&D 3.5 face to face once a week with friends that have been playing D&D since 1.0

I found that with the invent of D&D 3.X, the game became less mentally visual and more physically visual and tactical. Today, we have miniatures, attacks of opportunity and counting squares.

Rubber battle mats are a bit limited as stated by David Rice above. I personally got tired of them because I found that I was erasing and trying to draw on the spot during game - It just got too time consuming and messy looking since drawing with dry erase markers looked terrible.

So I turned to Maptool (, a free tool that can be used to visually play the game. It is a virtual tabletop where I can place characters on pretty maps and play the game. I can remove fog of war quickly to represent what you see on the map instead of being forced to draw the map as the players move along.

Instead of have a large battle map on the table, I now have a bunch of players with their laptops in front of them. We still roll real dice; we still look at each other; and verbally speak to each other. It is a complete face to face game but we now have very lush and beautiful maps that the players are exploring. But the tool isn’t limited to that. We can also play when not face to face if the moment arose or we wanted to play an extra night this week while the wives were out.

It has allowed me as a DM to get far more game content into our 4 hour gaming session.

I tell you what, I give many demos over at RPTOOLS.NET; if you are interested in seeing what is possible, contact me over on the boards over there - send me a personal message. I will be extremely happy to give a demo for those interested. Really, it is my pleasure - anything to help the gaming community :)

Chris Frazier
almost ten years ago

Have you guys ever tried out the current crop of Virtual Table Tops software like:

Fantasy Grounds

...and the set of tools our group uses...


We use InitTool for keeping track of character information, initiative, combat notes, tokens, etc. and then use MapTool for dice rolling, handouts, tactical gameplay, \\\"whispers,\\\" etc. When we play in person, we run the game on a projector displayed on our table and players share a wireless mouse to move tokens.

Anyhow - I\\\'d check out those packages. They\\\'re all great additions to a table.

almost ten years ago

These folks have some good products as well:
Take a look at Screen Monkey.

With my local group the GM has pre-drawn (high quality too) maps of towns, buildings, dungeons, etc. They might be an available package from somewhere, I\'ve not asked. He loads them on his laptop and uses Photoshop puts a Layer of black over them. The laptop video output runs through a ceiling mounted projector which shows the layout on the tabletop scalable for use with miniatures. By erasing the black top layer the local map is revealed as it becomes visible to the players. It takes some advanced work on his part but it makes play very visually interactive.

Carry on.

almost ten years ago

Near the end of this podcast, you talk about electronic RPG aids and how a middle ground must exist between a traditional pen-and-paper RPG and a computer video game RPG like WoW, and claimed that \\\"the technology exists\\\". I completely agree on both counts, and I think my Battlegrounds software, which Chris mentioned (thanks!), falls squarely in that middle ground that you mention.

It offers much of the appeal of a video game (beautiful maps and tokens, visual aids, sound effects or music on demand, etc.), but is designed to give the GM complete control of the game session (unlike a computer RPG like Neverwinter Nights, where your options are limited). My software encourages role-playing by providing a high immersion factor, and by taking care of tedious details that are hard to game without the help of a computer. For example, it has a Fog-of-War feature that dynamically reveals the map and shows you what each party member can see based on their light sources and special vision types.

You put out a challenge at the end of the podcast, and I\\\'m responding to it. I\\\'d like to invite you all to download the free Battlegrounds demo ( and try it out. I\\\'ll contact Mike by email and get him a complimentary GM Client license if he\\\'s willing to take a good look at it. I\\\'ll even offer to do a personal demo for you guys.

You say in your podcast that no one has made this tool that you are wishing for. Well, maybe it HAS already been made, and not enough people know about it.

almost ten years ago

When you were talking about the electronic aids for gaming, it made me think of my other hobby, wargaming. In particular how Vassal ( has helped expand the hobby. While it is not a perfect comparison to RPG aids, it does automate the more monotonous aspects of die rolling, score keeping, etc. I wonder if its basic idea could be altered to assist RPG\'s?
Also, I enjoyed the section on sports. I\'ve always heard about gamers hating sports, but have never experienced it first hand. My Call of Cthulhu game took a break to watch the Superbowl and I\'m in a boardgame group that is often interrupted during football season.
Keep up the good work!

almost ten years ago

There are a few things electronic aids have to overcome before they\\\'re ready for prime-time. First, people like to roll dice. It gives the illusion of control, and leads to things like good dice, dice training, and players who get a reputation for being unable to roll well. All add to the fun. As much as TV\\\'s Frank may enjoy it, pushing the (virtual) button just doesn\\\'t have the same impact.

Second, they need quick setup. Way back when, y\\\'all mentioned that a rules check that takes more than 30 seconds is probably too long. Having the GM buried in a program setting up a fight is probably gonna kill any urgency just as well.

Third, any programmed aid flexible enough for house rules is likely complex enough it\\\'ll be difficult to use. For example, my gaming group used BattleTech\\\'s floating crit rules for years before we saw it published as an option (we thought it was silly that you could only get random criticals in the best-armored least-jointed portions of the mech). How would you get something like MegaMek to do floating crits if they weren\\\'t already programmed in? What can you do if your players do something creative that The Rules don\\\'t cover but you think should get \\\'em a bonus?

To sum up: The aid has to avoid coming between the player and the action, it has to be quick and easy to set up, and it needs to be flexible to accommodate house rules and the unusual situations that inevitably develop.

almost ten years ago

I must say i quite enjoyed that episode. As you were discusing electronic aids all i could think of was that middle ground discussed in your interview with ryan dancey between the MMO\'s and tabletop. I think electronic aids could be a part of that solution. The thing that detracts most from my roleplaying games is the constant cross-referancing of rules, looking up of spell effects and re-checking of combat modifyers. If there was a way to simply input the relevent information one time and reference it at a glance would be a godsend. although no electronic dice rolling for me i loves me my dice! wow this is long i probably should have posted it on the forums ah well.

Andreas Henker
almost ten years ago

Hello again!

Just want to drop you guys a line to tell how much i liked this episode. I personally use electronic aids when I dm, DM Genie being my tool of choice, I\'ve tried e-tools as well but found it too complicated to customise. Maybe you guys should run an episode in which you discuss the electronic aids you have tested (most have free trial versions). If you prefer you could let your listeners report on certain programmes/aids. Let us know... An aid you did not mention is music and sound fx? Don\'t you use any?

Looking forward to your answer,