Saturday, 28 March 2020

Virtual roleplaying part 5 - players and characters

If you look in the bottom left of your Foundry screen, you will notice a sad lack of players, logged in or not. So let's rectify that.

All your players need to connect is a browser, preferably Chrome or Firefox, a working network connection that can reach your installation of Foundry, and for you to create them a player. Off then, to the Game Settings menu again (far right, remember), and hit Configure Players.

Once you're in this dialog, hit Create Additional User, give them a name and an Access Key (password to you and me, although apparently not as secure, so usual advice about not reusing passwords from elsewhere definitely applies!): for now we can leave the Permissions Level as PLAYER (some of this may change in version 0.5.3, I gather) and hit Launch Game Session, which will restart your game.

If you look in the bottom left, and hit the downward pointing triangle to reveal the list of players, you now have a new player (in my case, me).

Right clicking on their brings up a menu: if you select Player Configuration you can assign them a colour, and a character....

But wait, we don't have any characters yet!

Let's go to the Actors tab (fourth one along on the right hand icon menu), and hit Create Actor then.

Give them a name (there's a NoPrize if you know where Alaric gets his name originally), make sure the type is set to Character, and hit Create Actor.

Because we have the D&D 5E module installed, up will come a familiar looking sheet. If you have VTTA's D&D Beyond module installed, you can populate the sheet from there (and I'll cover that in a later post). However, because it helps understand some core concepts in FVTT, we're going to build his sheet by hand. 

Probably the first thing you're going to notice here is that you're madly clicking on Level or the XP and nothing happens to change their Level. So....

Go to the Features tab on the sheet. Then go to the Compendium tab on your right hand icon bar (second from last) and single-click (not double, however much you may be tempted! it'll just appear and disappear again if you do...) on Classes (SRD).

Up will pop a window over on the left, with a list of classes, each with an icon. Left-click and hold on the one you want (in this case, Fighter), and drag and drop it onto the Features area in the character sheet. You'll see icon appear under Class Levels, and the Level on the sheet go up to 1. Nifty, huh? (If you want to start them at a higher level, click on the little edit icon to the right of the class in the sheet, go to the Details tab and change the level).

As they're a Fighter, they also get to pick a style and the Second Wind feat, so let's go back to the Compendium tab and click on Class Features (SRD). Up will pop another window, from which you can drag the appropriate features into the Features tab. 

Now we can go back to the front page, and set Alaric's stats and skills. Be aware that the core D&D 5E system does not do a lot in the way of cross-updating, so just because you've given him a level of Fighter doesn't mean he's going to have the right weapon and armour proficiencies (or armour class, or hits...). Let's fix that. Click on Weapon Proficiences (bottom right area, Attributes tab, then on the little edit icon. Select the correct proficiencies, and hit Update Actor.

Then give him some items, which is done in the same way - go to the Compendiums tab, open the Items (SRD) Compendium, and drag across. Note when you do so, that (for example) when you drag across armour, it comes in listed as Not Proficient when you click on it, even if you updated the character's Armour Proficiencies. 

Again, hit the edit icon on the right, then the Details tab, and you'll find a checkbox for Proficient - click it and save.  Oddly, you don't seem to need to do this for weapons! Also, note that just because he has chain equipped, doesn't mean his AC has updated, so you will have to do that by hand as well. 

We're also going to give Alaric a longsword and a shield, and some basic kit. Note that if you want to give him multiples of something, you can edit the item and set the quantity in the Description tab.

So here he is with a collection of, erm... stuff.

Let's preview a couple of the neater features while we have his sheet open. Go to the chat window (first icon in the righthand icon bar), and then click the icon for his torches. 

You'll see a description of the torch appear in the chat window. The Use button doesn't do anything terribly handy, but it does serve as a useful way of displaying the item stats for everyone.

More useful, though, is if you do this with the longsword. A bunch of handy things happen.

First up, the item 'card' that pops up in chat has Attack and Damage buttons (as well as a Versatile button if your weapon has the attribute). So lets go ahead and click Attack,
Another dialog pops up, and we can roll for the attack, with various modifiers. The result will appear in the chat, but note that as yet we have no way of knowing what you're aiming at, so it can't yet tell you if you hit or miss.
Never mind. That's what the players have you for.

Let's assume you hit. Click on Damage, and you get another handy dialog for bringing the hurt.
And here's what those two look like in the chat window. If you click on the result, it'll tell you how it got there.

A few things to be aware of at this point. Yes, it's a pain having to bring up your sheet to click on the item to get the dialog in the chat box... That's what the button bar along the bottom is for - you can drag the item's icon to a slot, and then click it or hit the appropriate key on the number row...

And you'll get an error...

...because you don't have a token for your character on the map yet. We'll fix that next time, when we start on tokens and images and stuff.

One last thing before we finish: go back to the Actors tab, right click on your new character, select Character Permissions, and assign your new player as its owner. If you now go back to the Player Configuration dialog (right click on the player name, bottom left), you'll find your player and character are now linked.

A huge thank you to the folks on the FoundryVTT Discord, who have answered questions and critiqued these posts as I've been writing them. I'm FleetfootMike on there: feel free to comment and suggest improvements - this is as much a voyage of discovery for me as you :D

Till next time!

Upcoming posts:
  • part 6: tokens, images, monsters
  • part 7: player connections, movement, targeting
By the end of part 7, you should just about be ready to run a game, as long as you're still happy resolving hits, removing hit points etc. From part 8 on, things get clever. 

Friday, 27 March 2020

Virtual roleplaying part 4 - module configuration, walls

Let's install and activate a module to fix your map, just in case. Assuming you're still in Foundry, hit ESC (top left of your keyboard) and Return to Setup. This should take you to the familiar Setup screen. Select the Add-on Modules tab, and then click Install Module.

We're going to install the GridScaler module. Copy its manifest URL (which is probably here), paste it into the form and hit Install.

[Note: there is a native grid alignment tool coming in Foundry 0.5.3, but in the short term, GridScaler is what you need - besides. it's good practice at installing a module!]

Now go back to the Game Worlds tab, launch your World and go to the settings tab on the far right.

Hit Manage modules.

You will be presented with the Module Management dialog, which has a list of all the modules you have installed (currently exactly one!): make sure the checkbox on Grid Scale Menu (yes, the module name changes for some reason) is selected, and then hit Save Module Settings at the bottom of the window.

Your game world will reload.

Now go back to the Settings menu, and select Configure Settings, and then Module settings.

In this case there are no settings for your module, but in others there may be, so it's always worth doing this when you add a new module.

I always find when I add new modules it can be less than obvious where the features have been added: in this case its easy: look on the button menu on the left, and you'll see a new icon - a spanner. The module actually has copious documentation on how to adjust your grid, so I'm just going to point you there if you need it rather than make this post even longer!

Ok. Now your grid is properly lined up, let's draw some walls!

Back to the left hand button menu, and select the temple icon. You'll notice that the second column changes to a new set, which are, from top to bottom:
  • Draw Walls (selected by default)
  • Invisible Walls
  • Terrain Walls
  • Ethereal Walls
  • Draw Doors
  • Secret Doors
  • Clone Walls
  • Clear Walls
Drawing walls is easy: left click and hold at the start, drag to where you want and let go, there's a wall. If you change your mind in the middle, right click before you finish and the wall will go away.

Now, this is all very well, but it creates a whole bunch of individual lines - what if you want them joined up? Easy. Left click and to start, then hold down Command (on a Mac, Control on anything else). Let go where you want the end point to be, do not let go of Command, click again, drag again, let go again, repeat. For the last point, let go of Command before you let go. 

Presto. If it all goes horribly wrong you can delete individual walls by double-clicking on and end point then hitting the Delete key, or the whole lot with the Clear Walls button.

Notice that I've added a point at every doorway. If you don't want the chore of drawing doors separately using the Draw Doors tool, you can turn the section of wall across the doorway into a door, by double-clicking on it.

This will bring up the Wall Configuration dialog: change Is Door? to Door, click Update Wall, and away you go. The piece of wall will change to blue, and now it's a door (which means when you go to the normal map view, you can click on it to open and close it).

Of course, if you've imported a big map from Dungeondraft, this is a LOT of clicking. There's a module that will help you. Clear the walls you've drawn so far, and using the instructions above, go and install DungeonDraft Importer (I'll wait).

Ok? Done that? Good. Now, once you've enabled the module. go to the Scenes tab on the right, right click on your scene, and select DungeonDraft Import. Note at this point it is very important your map image is imported at the right size.
Now you need to find your .dungeondraft_map file, and open it in a text editor. Copy the entire contents of the file, and paste it in the very minimal dialog box that appears in Foundry, and hit Confirm.

Et voilĂ , as they say in France. Complete with the doors correctly imported as doors (and yes, I forgot the secret door by the altar!)

Not that it hasn't imported the cave walls - this is currently a known limitation, so you will have to draw those by hand. It would also import any light sources you had in your map, but we'll get to that in another post!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Virtual roleplaying part 3 - maps and scenes

I'm guessing you're now all keen, and want to run a scenario on the VTT you just created. Ok. You're going to need a map.

This is not the series for discussing where to get maps, but I'n going to add a review of Dungeondraft (Wonderdraft's underground (and overground) cousin) later, and for now I'll be creating a map in Dungeondraft for the world of Testlandia.

Cue sounds of drawing, and, no more than 15 mins later (yes, Dungeondraft is that easy to use!), we have us a temple. (If you want to play with my map for now, the Dungeondraft map is here and the export is here.)

I've saved that, as well as exported it as a 128 pixels per square PNG (Dungeondraft's Export's Optimal Halved setting). I've also made a note of its physical dimensions, because that's going to make the next stage a boatload easier.

Back to FoundryVTT - sign in and launch your world, then sign in as Gamemaster. In order to allow players to wander over our map, we need to create a Scene. For this. go to the Scene tab (third from the left, top right) and then hit Create Scene.

You'll get the New Scene properties dialog. Fill in the important bits (circled in the image below) - most important, do fill in the size and the grid size in pixels to match your exported map PNG. You may also want to scroll down to the bottom and fill in the Navigation Name, which is the name your players will see it by, if the actual name is somehow spoilerific.

Then, you need to tell it where to find your map. Click on the icon all the way to the right of Background Image.

This file picker dialog is constrained to your FoundryVTT directories (this is deliberate, as it may be running on a hosted server,, and possibly as the system user, and for security reasons (trust me, I'm a professional) you really aren't allowed to go digging above that in the system areas!). Hit User Data, and navigate to the scenes directory of your world, which will look something like the image on the right. Note there are no files in that directory at present.

Now hit the Choose File button, and use your
computer's file dialog to find your map PNG file and upload it.

Presto, your map export will appear in the folder, and you can select it and hit Select File.

Now scroll down and hit Save Changes at the very bottom of your New Scene dialog.

If all goes well, you will have a map as the background to your scene, and, moreover, the grid on the map itself will exactly line up with the FoundryVTT grid. If it didn't, you have almost certainly got the dimensions and/or the grid size in pixels wrong. But don't worry, there's more than one way of fixing that - for now, click on the scene name top right and fix those numbers.

So there's your map. You can zoom with the mouse wheel, and pan around using Shift with the right mouse button. Not much, but it's a start.

For the next post, we're going draw some walls and install a couple of modules - one to help you if your map is misaligned with Foundry's grid. and one to save you some time if you're importing from Dungeondraft. Both these will also teach us some handy things (that I had to learn the hard way) about enabling and configuring modules.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Virtual roleplaying part 2 - installing FoundryVTT

As it currently stands, Foundry is in beta, and to get to play with it you are going to need to back the Patreon.

This is going to cost you either $5 or $10, and you can sign up by going here. If you don't already have a Patreon account, you'll need to create one or sign in via Facebook or Google. Once you've done this, expect a message in the next few hours with a link to the current download version.

Which Patreon level you pick depends on how 'bleeding edge' a version you want to run - $5 will get you access to the odd-numbered ('stable') versions, whereas $10 gets you access to the even-numbered ones as well (more bleeding-edge, more likely to have bugs, but you get new stuff sooner and have access to a private developer discussion channel on Discord).

Ok - warning from here on in. I'm a Mac user. I don't actually have a Windows machine, so if you're installing on Windows, the first couple of steps, and some file paths, will be different. You can find the official instructions here, which should cover Windows and Linux: for now, I'm self-hosting on Mac, although I may move to my home Linux box later (in which case, I'll post again to explain how :D).

Download the link: on the Mac it's a trusty .dmg (disk image) file - double click to mount it, drag the app to Applications and there you are. (For Windows, it's a setup.exe, so double-click it and see what happens :D)

Now double click on FoundryVTT, in Applications, and you'll find yourself at the startup screen. From here on out, it doesn't matter what OS you're on.

Accept the license conditions, and you're good to go.You're going to want to create a world, but first you're going to need to install a game system, so navigate to the Game Systems tab and hit Install System.

Game systems are built as zip files with a 'manifest file' which defines everything Foundry needs to install it. You'll be confronted with this screen: go find the manifest URL for the D&D5E system (which I'm assuming is the one you want), which will probably be, copy it, paste it into the dialog box, and hit Install.

A little network activity later (watch the progress bar along the bottom), you'll have the screen on the left!

Now back to the Game Worlds tab, and hit Create World. Give it a title, pick a game system (the one you just installed!), don't forget to fill out the Data Path (or Foundry complains), add a description and click Create World again. And now you can hit Launch World and you're in.

What happens next we'll leave for the next post.... But while you're waiting, I strongly suggest you join the FoundryVTT Discord server, where all the helpful people are (you can find me as FleetfootMike), and link your Patreon and Discord accounts.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Virtual Roleplaying part 1 - Choosing a VTT

As has probably not escaped everyone's notice, the world has gone just a wee bit mad of late. Enough that (unsurprisingly) my regular local face to face party isn't going to be face to face again any time soon. Hence. we're looking at running via video and some kind of Virtual Table Top (VTT).

Again, if you're as old school as I used to be, the idea of a VTT is going to be a bit alien to you. There many to choose from - heck, you can go with screen share and moving objects around on a Powerpoint document for the most basic. Essentially you're looking for something that allows players to see where their characters are on a map, chat and roll dice. Anything else is gravy - managing character sheets, importing monsters etc is cool but a bonus extra in the grand scheme of things.

There are two main players in the VTT world - Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds - both are pretty full featured, even allowing you to buy content from WOTC so that your VTT can apply/implement rules from various compendiums and handbooks as needed. There's also a number of newer alternatives.

So which one did I pick and why? Well, you can guess the former from the title of the post, but as to why?

  • I can't put my finger on why I'm not fond of Roll20: it just feels off in some way - counter intuitive.
  • I actually use FG as a player in my Tuesday online game of Pathfinder 2E. It's excellent fun, and seems to work fine. But the major issue is until FG Unity comes out, it won't run on my 64bit-only MacOS Catalina iMac except under Crossover or some other Windows emulation, and that has some really strange issues with (for example) importing maps, where opening the map seems to take me to a Mac app rather than FG. 
  • Both of the above have the issue that if you want content from WOTC, you have to pay for it. As I've already paid for it once, in D&D Beyond, I really don't want to do it again, 
  • One of the new kids on the block is FoundryVTT: supported by Patreon, it's in Beta with a very committed developer who's doing some really neat stuff. It has a configurable API for third-party modules, a number of core game modules including D&D 5E, and all the cool stuff (in various stages of development) like lighting, fog of war, vision etc. It's going to support (soon!) direct import from my dungeon mapping program of choice, Dungeondraft, so... The demo videos look cool. I figured I'd bite the bullet, support the little guy (as it were) and dive in.
So off we go. Next up? Getting it installed. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

My hobby, your hobby and gatekeeping...

This post, or variants on it, are really getting old fast. But since the audience for this blog largely isn't intended to be the one for my wargames blog or podcast? here we go again.

The image on the right, and its associated product, seem to have stirred a wide range of reactions among the RPG hobby. If you've been living under a rock for the last while, it's a supplement for the Critical Role world.

I will unashamedly confess, I'm a #critter. Critical Role is largely responsible for reminding me what a fun hobby RPGs are, and in addition, for demonstrating that, for me at least, D&D 5E was well worth checking out. I'm also an old school DM with (until I got rid of it in the early 2000s) about 4 shelf feet of 1st and 2nd Edition books and scenarios, and a sprawling homebrew campaign that ran for a decade or more across four different parties including play by email (before a long break). Heck, in my day you didn't stream your D&D session: you wrote it up for Usenet (thank goodness my writing's improved since!). That makes those of us who posted our session-by-session write-ups to the Critical Role of the era. (Yes, this is a joke, get over it :D)

Look. Just stop it, ok? No-one's asking you to like it. No-one's making you buy it. It does not diminish the hobby. For goodness' sake, it's the top selling book on Amazon [Other retailers are available. Support your Friendly Local Gaming Store.] It's bringing people into the hobby.

What? It's not your hobby?

OK. Here's the thing. The hobby is bigger than you. And: trust me on this from experience with being chairman of a wargames club, and with some of my current players who started out as Critters... it does not matter in the slightest what brings people in to the hobby, be it CR, some old D&D setting WOTC haven't republished yet, OSR or whatever for RPGs, whether it's Bolt Action, Warhammer 40K or X-Wing for wargames... We have three new members at our club this week, who want to platy Warhammer Fantasy. Personally? It's not my bag. At all. But we're not going to turn them away! Enough people down the club play it they won't lack for opponents, and there's enough other games going on around them to capture their interest in other things. We have people who joined us three years ago to just play Warmachine who've since built English Civil War and WW2 armies...

If you think your bit of the hobby is better than what brought someone else in? Great. Prove it. Show them by your example. Introduce them to your passion.

But don't belittle theirs. Waving a knobbly stick and yelling 'Get off my lawn"? Really not a good look on you.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Ambar Campaign - second session

And why NOT reuse a bit of wargames scenery :D
(Hey, I'm a computer scientist, I count from zero :D)

I was all set and kind of planned for Saturday's session until a shipping notice from eBay told me that the Reaper figures I'd ordered weren't going to arrive in time. So that fun little encounter was put off till next time, which handily means less prep. This time, though, I had to write a few notes, and design another more major encounter in case they got that far. Amusingly, I spent almost as much time realising I'd now come up with enough of the Tarani language (borrowing words from Hindi and Urdu) that I needed to write myself some notes on the language structure. As yet, none of them speak the language, but there are some interesting subtleties waiting for them when they do.

As you may recall, we left our heroes debating what to do with the bad guys - namely, hand them over to the watch, as their priestess, C, gets on with the local watch (she heals them, they like her). After some scratching of heads and figuring out how to read a paper left in a language none of them speak (see above, but B has Comprehend Languages), they headed for the marked lodgings out by the Eastgate, cased the joint a bit. spoke to the owner, decided to wait...

And back came the three bad guys they'd handed over to the nice but dim watch, having been let go on... someone's orders. Clearly of a mind to collect their stuff and bug out. The party were of a different mind, needless to say. Upshot, three dead cultists, some language help from the landlady who was half-Tarani, and a couple of bits of paper.

One was a credit note (clearly for emergency funds) on a Tarani merchant in Ambar - yes, Ambar appears to have invented banknotes, which I had great fun with: "It is as good as money! A credit note on Master Bishen is better than gold!" The other was another map, which they went to investigate the location of. This turned out to be a ruined, rumoured haunted temple on a cliff-top: as they approached, half a dozen skeletons arose to engage them...

Whew. That was possibly a bit close to a TPK. Admittedly, C as the only person with healing was perhaps unwise to wade into combat, but some good dice rolling from the skellies did drop C, B and A, the party tank to zero. Fortunately the remainder of the party managed to pull things together, aided by the ranger K grabbing A's warhammer (ooo, look, bludgeoning damage!) and laying about her with it.

Thoughts arising:

  • I do need to mount the spare TV on the game room wall. I want to do it anyway, so I can watch what I'm doing when streaming wargames, but it would have been great to be able to toss portions of the city map up on it, or even initiative displays. 
  • I need to figure out how I'm awarding XP.