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Fantasy Grounds 5e - First Impressions.

Yesterday Smiteworks, makers of the premiere Virtual Tabletop (VTT) application Fantasy Grounds (FG) announced that they had acquired the licence to carry WOTC's Dungeons and Dragons line on the platform. This is an amazing when for the gaming community. While other VTTs are freely accessible to all,none give the experience or user-friendliness that is offered by FG. The crew at Smiteworks often interacts with the community through both G+ and through their forums and has a wonderful reputation of updating and revising the program to increase the level of user-friendliness.

I've been legally using Fantasy Grounds since around 2010 with a lite license that has been slowly upgraded over time to become a Full License. I was introduced to the VTT back in 2006 when I was attending college and thought it better to play D&D 3.5 with Army buddies instead of paying attention in my 400 level Shakespeare class. As I said above the changes in the program and the fine tuning have been amazing! It was that constant support and drive from the creators that originally spurred me forward to move away from the "duped" copy my old Commander had sent to me and pick up first the "lite" version and then quickly move up to the full version (I will, however, never upgrade to Ultimate, just too rich for me). As someone who loves FREE and would prefer to always go the free route this is one program I can say without a doubt deserves the money.

When the announcement came I was not surprised. I have been wondering for a few years (since the release of the long maligned 4e tools) why WOTC didn't just contract/license the work out to Smiteworks. Honestly, the only thing that did surprise me was just how long it took! So, how did this long awaited partnership turn out? So far it is a mixed bag.

The majority of my current issue with the offerings from WOTC on the Smitework store. While there is a lot offered it is stuff that did not need to be offered at the chopped up level it has been offered at or for the price. If a customer ignores the single monster classifications and classes modules and just gets the "complete" sets along side the basic rules and the Box Set Adventure he or she is looking at a combined cost of $125 dollars. That's a huge chunk of change, now add that to the fact that most of the potential customers probably already own the Player's Handbook, the DMG and the Monster Manual (Not to mention the basic rules pdf is free on the D&D website) and you're looking at a huge investment.

The question, however, is "is the investment worth it?" Yes and No. Down the road as players and DM's get more comfortable with the system and start to really dig in then the majority of the current offerings will be worth it (I suggest just going with the "complete boxes" they're the best value) and the buyer wouldn't be getting ripped off. A huge amount of work went into these programs, and a lot is offered outside of simple copy/paste of the original document. From the Store listing for the Complete Classes:

This Module Includes everything from the individual class packs and the character customization pack in one complete module.
  • 328 fantasy character portraits taken from various official D&D sources
  • A custom theme derived in the same style as the Player's Handbook
  • All Races from the Player's Handbook that can be dragged to your character sheet
  • Random tables for rolling background bonds, flaws, ideals, origins, etc.
  • A list of all feats from the Player's Handbook, organized alphabetically and searchable, that can be dragged to a character for ease of reference during play
  • Equipment tables containing items that can be dragged to character sheets, treasure parcels or NPCs for ease of reference, encumbrance calculations and ease of disbursement. The searchable lists contain all items listed in the Player's Handbook (Adventuring Gear, Tools, Armor, Weapons, Mounts, Tack and Harness, Vehicles.)
  • Draggable weapons that auto-enter the inventory, weight, attack type (melee, ranged, thrown) and the damage (with damage type.)
  • Reference material and artwork which is not specific to any one particular character class
  • All spells from the D&D Player's Handbook, ready to drag and drop to your character sheet
  • The class description from the Player's Handbook for all 12 core classes: barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, warlock and wizard
  • Details and features from levels 1-20 for all core classes
  • Automatic addition of new class features when you drag the class link to your character's level summary

The portraits alone are worth a good chunk if you look at the cost of some art packs/miniature packs that are sold for VTTs and I can attest from my initial testing of the $2.99 Basic Module that character creation has been made even easier from the main pen and paper version of the game. There are few flaws readily found and with even a half-baked concept in mind a player can build a character in 5 minutes or less.

With this in mind, the Basic Module is all anyone needs to play the game. This module comes with the core four races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human), the core classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard), a decently sized bestiary and everything else a player or DM would need to play the majority of the game.

I'm working on putting a video together spotlighting everything that comes with the Basic Module for Friday so expect that in the early afternoon. Until then I will keep playing with it and enjoying a return to my favorite VTT.

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