In case you haven't seen this one:
IT is a presentation on the new VTT software WOTC will be releasing to go with the new 4th ed. D&D
There will be a 'Base' set of tiles and Minis, but yes, of course, there will be subsequent virtual 'boosters' of Minis and Tile packs available for purchase.
Myself, I have all the plastic D&D Minis already, aswell as the cardstock DungeonTiles they produce. I have no need for the virtual stuff as I prefer my D&D games on the REAL Kichen Table.
I have been monitoring the announcement of D&D 4.0 for my gaming group.
We have entertained the notion of using a VTT application for gaming but we prefer the face to face time and the option to toss back a few drinks together. So fo us at least D&D is a social excuse for gathering.
While we aren't too interested in the VTT aspects the Character creator and Character Visualizer sounds really interesting. (Links can be found at http://www.dndinsider.com)
Some of our players are artists (professionally even) and the others simply drool over thier character sketches. The Character Creator and Visualizer would allow the group to roll thier characters online (And store them to avoid a lost character sheet) and create thier own art of the character's appearence.
Though I doubt all of us will spring for the monthly membership fee. I probably will and allow them to create and visualize thier characters before the game.
Before you do that you may want to look at some of the other VTTs that are out there. Most if not all allow you to use it FtF as well so that it basically just replaces the crystal map/scratch paper that we have all used for many years.
Many VTTs are free, and offer essentially the same capabilities as WotC's. Perhaps even better than WotC's in many respects. I won't name specific ones as a cursory search through these forums will tell you which one I use, but instead I'll give you the link to a very nicely done page of links to all the various VTTs that are out there:
Pyrandon, myself and our gang of thugs...I mean cohorts...I mean friends use OpenRPG and have been for over two years now. WotC's VTT has one thing (and one thing only IMO) going for it: Dynamic light sources. Of course, other VTTs (Battlegrounds to name one) already have that and others (OpenRPG) are working toward it already. Sure the 3d nature of it is great too but meh...just one more level of complexity that's can only add so much to the game before it becomes more of a pain than it's worth.
As to the Kitchen Table vs VTT debate: Kitchens win but when your players are scattered (literally) over two countries, that's going to have to be one BIG table!
Innkeeper at the Darkwood Inn. The Foul Punster of the Cartographers' Guild!
Better role playing than dragon slaying!
MapTool is currently adding light. As for the WotC VTT, note that the maps are still 2d, only the token is 3D and it doesn't have things like Visibility Blocking which is something MapTool has had for quite some time. It will be interesting to see how GameTable (I think that is what it is called) will improve over the next year. The real thing that it has going for it is the vast amount of money that WotC can throw at it. The biggest thing it has going against it is that it can only be used for D&D.
I have used Battlegrounds for a while now as my VTT of choice. My group has found it a great tool, and its got a very uncluttered interface that concentrates on what you need the most. Also Heruca, the developer, is one of the hardest working admins I've seen. He even finds time to pop in here every now and then.
I think check out the independents first like BG, Maptool, OpenRpg and Fantasygrounds. They may not have the marketing budgets that Wizards do, but they have been putting together VTts for longer.
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I thoroughly agree Torq! Of the four you mentioned, I only give BG and MT any real praise as their developers are very responsive, hard working, and very competent. You can't go wrong with either choice. ORPG, left me wanting more because of the poor graphic capabilities that I saw and also the clunky scripting that didn't seem to always work. YMMV. I never tried FG, but from what I understand it is D&D specific which for me is an immediate pass, as I play several different systems.
Well at least our current playstyle is is use a 4ft by 8ft white board with magnetic tokens and iniative markers. ($15 tileboard from Lowe's and a sheet of tin siding flattened out by driving a riding lawn mower over it repeatedly.)
Since we are all deeply rooted into Oklahoma City with families, so I doubt we'll have need to connect online. I don't want to discount the many uses of VTT, they just aren't our style.
Of course now that I am looking into expanding my cartography skills, I might look at a laptop/projecter set up to display onto that same whiteboard. And using the Character Visualizer to make art to demonstrate the appearence of an NPC would be quite handy.