Battlegrounds RPG Edition

mentolio's picture
August 16, 2010 - 2:15pm
   My buddy sent me a link to specifically regarding a what appears to be some kind of universal RPG engine that it says will accommodate any system. With it, you can download all sorts of nice looking maps, virtual miniatures, etc. and play you game of choice with anyone else, anywhere else, on the internet. My question to all you computer geniuses out there (I am a computer-idiot...sigh): has anyone tried this thing? Ever even looked into it? I don't know enough about this type of stuff to make an informed opinion, but to me it looks kinda cool. Any opinions from those who know better would be greatly appreciated, thanx.
"...glad I keep this around for close encounters..."

adamm's picture
August 16, 2010 - 8:14pm
Thanks.....I had seen that before but forgotten the name of it.  Downloading demo now......

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 17, 2010 - 6:39am
We have used OpenRPG to play Star Frontiers in the past. Our experience; high learning curve, crashes often on windows. I've been playing with MapTool. I like the software, it's free and often simply make maps for fun. This community hasn't been able to get together to play online so I've dropped toying with it while I focus on other projects. I imagine come Winter we'll all start playing SF online.

Battlegrounds looks really nice and it's supported. $35 for the GM and $19 for floating is a little steep for me since I don't play a lot online. 

Thank you for sharing mentolio. Maybe you can submit a write-up on BG or virtual table top's for the webzine?

adamm's picture
August 18, 2010 - 10:41am
Well I tried to give that Battlegrounds demo a fair shake so I spent several hours screwing around with it and I could say a lot about how much it is NOT worth the cost.

There's a free one called Gametable that I'm going to mess around with tonight.

When is the deadline for submissions for the next SFMan?

I know you directed the comment at Mentolio, but since I know nobody locally who wants to play SF, testing out the virtual tabletop stuff is something I'm quite interested in.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 18, 2010 - 1:13pm
No deadline 'cause I have enough for #15. :-)
Let me know how Gametable works. Looking at the interface it looks a lot like MapTool.

I'm still willing to play on Friday's - there was interest but only Tom and I showed up for a few weeks then Tom got tied up with stuff. I'm thinking about starting up a mapping tool so we can see how close SF'ers are. Some of us might be close enough to drive a few hours and hang out for the day/eve maybe even tent/share hotel. 

adamm's picture
August 18, 2010 - 8:06pm
I tell you what, gametable is super simple.  After messing around for about an hour, I honestly feel that I'm ready to play a game with it right now....there's pretty much no learning curve from the player's point of view.

You have a map of infinite size, you have various counters (which they refer to as "pogs"), environment elements you can insert into the map, a dice roller, and you have a chat window.  You can overlay a grid on the map which can be either squares or hexes, and your objects can snap to the grid.  The default behavior is a square overlay and snapping is turned on...which is probably what you would want for AD.  Each counter can have a name and attributes.  Attributes are displayed when you hover your mouse over the counter and are used to track HP, Ammo, or whatever needs tracking for that counter. Screenshot here:
I'm hovering badguy1 so you can see the "attributes" I added to him.

The GM side is also pretty simple.  All the counters and map pieces are png files.  They just need to be the right number of pixels to fit into the grid squares which are 64x64 pixels, and you just save them to a PNG file in the right directory.  It took all of 15 minutes to grab 4 of the scanned Alpha Dawn counters and scale them to fit.  The downside is all of the built in map objects are obviously intended for a fantasy game.  The upside is you shouldn't need anything more complicated than MS Paint to take existing images and convert them into map objects for gametable.

One downside is that I found the tool to rotate pieces slightly limited.  If you were playing KH where facing of your pieces mattered I think it might get annoying....they really need to add a rotation handle so you can just grab stuff with the pointer and spin it.  I also found that the scanned KH ship counters need to be rotated 30 degrees so that "zero" rotation matches a hex facing in gametable.

The greatest strength I think is that it's so intuitive to use you could probably just whip it open and start playing.

adamm's picture
August 18, 2010 - 8:28pm
One other possible drawback to gametable is it seems that every player can edit the map.  The person hosting the game can "lock" and "unlock" things, but any unlocked object can be moved around by anyone else, and indeed players can actually insert objects onto the map......I guess that's true on a real tabletop also and that's basically what they were trying to recreate so I'm not sure if I should call it a problem or just a feature.

adamm's picture
August 18, 2010 - 8:41pm
Oh yeah, I got pretty far off the original topic....sorry Mentolio.   I spent a lot of time messing around with the demo for the RPG product and in my opinion it's not worth it.  $35 for the GM license, and $19 for player to buy it for a GM and 4 players you're at $111.  You do get some extra features versus the free programs, but it's also a lot harder to use.  After spending all that extra money you're gonna be rewarded by spending a lot of extra time figuring things out.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 19, 2010 - 9:06am
Great writeup!
I wonder if GT is like MapTool where you can import art?
MapTool has a website that you can grab zip files of various items such as "modern" which has a host of airplanes, mechs and such. I've also installed a "star wars" zip file. :-)

EDIT: I copied my MapTool /images/objects into the GT directory and it worked. 

After playing with GT I find MT has more features, images, stuff. 

adamm - are you hosting a game this Friday? Smile

adamm's picture
August 26, 2010 - 8:49am
negatory sir.  Free time for me currently comes in spurts a couple times a week at random intervals.  Over the winter maybe.

I actually have a question about hard is it to do floor plans?  Do they have pre-existing shapes for putting buildings, walls, doors, furniture, etc on the map?

I was working on creating such objects for gametable and while it isn't hard, it's kind of time consuming, and it would certainly be easier if they were already there.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 26, 2010 - 12:13pm
MapTool has all that and more.
There are several "kits" you can download that have lots of objects. 

Wow... it sure would be cool to have the Star Frontiers maps in MapTool. Maybe I'll whip up a few in my spare time. :-)

jacobsar's picture
August 29, 2010 - 2:37pm
I use Fantasygrounds for some of my campaigns. The advantage to it is that the rulset for 3.5 is already programed in, so If I want to look up a montster as the DM I can. I can add spells to the player characters and they will se the changes pop up on there character sheets. The dice mechanic is cool too, just grab the damage rating under the weapon you want to use and drag it over to the chat window and it will roll the dice with a modifier for you.

The disadvantage is they don't have a rule set for SF yet.They do for traveler and Top Secret, but no SF.

Here is a link to a tour of FG:
Reasonable men adapt to the world around them; unreasonable men make the world adapt to them. The world is changed by unreasonable men.
Edwin Louis Cole

heruca's picture
April 5, 2011 - 10:29am
adamm wrote:
Well I tried to give that Battlegrounds demo a fair shake so I spent several hours screwing around with it and I could say a lot about how much it is NOT worth the cost.

adamm wrote:
I spent a lot of time messing around with the demo for the RPG product and in my opinion it's not worth it.  $35 for the GM license, and $19 for player to buy it for a GM and 4 players you're at $111.  You do get some extra features versus the free programs, but it's also a lot harder to use.  After spending all that extra money you're gonna be rewarded by spending a lot of extra time figuring things out.

Hi, folks. I'm the developer of Battlegrounds.

I realize that no particular software is the right fit for everyone, and adamm clearly thinks that the price of my software, which took 5 years of full-time work to create, is too steep. The thousands of Battlegrounds users who did purchase the software would seem to disagree with his assessment. Some users have even bought it twice.

I happen to think the price point is fair. Battlegrounds is less expensive than FG2, and more expensive than KloogeWerks. When comparing the various pros and cons of each virtual tabletop program, I believe that price point is warranted and justified. I'd also like to point out that I offer bundle discounts on the software for large gaming groups.

Yes, a feature-rich program like Battlegrounds is always going to have a higher learning curve than a feature-bare program, but I think that Battlegrounds is relatively easy to use for such an open-ended program, and you certainly don't need to learn everything at once. Battlegrounds has a very thorough User Manual, something that most competing products sorely lack. Even now, I am in the process of updating the User Manual to cover the many features that have been added to the program since the last update of the User Manual.

In short, adamm is entitled to his opinion, but I hope that anyone who comes across this forum thread will evaluate the software for themselves, rather than give Battlegrounds a pass based on a single person's assessment. I recommend that anyone who is investigating the possibility of adopting a virtual tabletop program read this "Guide to Choosing a VT", take a look at the feature comparison chart that I linked to above, and perhaps take into consideration how other VT users rate each VT offering.

As for using Battlegrounds to play Star Frontiers in particular, some of you may be interested in this free pack of sci-fi themed figure tokens that I recently released. There also a very nice Star Frontiers map that a Battlegrounds user made and posted to the BG Forums, but I'm afraid I can't provide a direct link to it, as it is in a section of the forums that is only accessible to registered forum users.

heruca's picture
April 5, 2011 - 11:24am
By the way, thanks, mentolio, for bringing up Battlegrounds in the first place. Smile

AZ_GAMER's picture
April 5, 2011 - 4:42pm
I am not really into VT at this time, i have way to much on my plate as it is, however I agree with the developer that even at $111.00 its a fair price. How much would four players spend on gaming books and accessories...a lot more than $111.00 thats for sure. When reviewing a product here in the forum I think its very important not to be too quick to judge if a products price is worth it or not. The important thing is, does the product work for you. If so, 20-35 bucks is indeed fair. If it doesnt work for you than obviously the price would be too high and another product would be better.

Its a tough market out there folks. I have spent a good three months trying to generate interest for our miniatures product and I get the same arguments about price point too. Putting a product together takes time, energy, effort, lost sleep, anxiety, frustration and alot of hours. 19 to 35 bucks isnt much when you consider all the effort the developer made in creating his product. It's ok to not like it because its not your cup of tea but lets be realistic...people got to make a living.

thespiritcoyote's picture
April 6, 2011 - 6:48am


It's fair when you can afford a $5 burger, not so much when they want to take your house back.

I trust, for the most part, that prices are set where it is feasable for the provider to do so, but... if realestate didn't ever have people artificially inflating the prices... RV park custodians would likely loose hamburgers too.
Everyone needs thier hamburger, so they can survive to another meal, and provide hamburgers to others in the meantime... Who said college dosn't teach you anything? Foot in mouth

Consume..  produce.. sleep.. repeat; the daily grind of all natures creatures... and gods grand plan... look it up!

I have spent aprox. $100 a year on the hobby...  averaged... and the last decade drops it considerably. I would consider that to be twice average for my area, being in a more rural portion of the world. I think that would be the region most beneficially targeted to such products as Virtual Online Tabletops (all the you-tube, in-use reviews, seem to agree with that when they invite you to stare into their windows like a peeping stranger... c'mon like you don't breifly look at their environment when you watch... Tongue out), but the least likely to gain an acceptable price for the consumer.

From the consumers perspective, it is a bit heavy to dump the entire year into only one product, on a possability of reward, rather than break it up into six or seven smaller purcheses that will each bide a sense of having gotten something till the next item.
Weighing a $100 convention trip, or a $100 chat program with some nifty bonuses.... Think it is the convention that wins, hands down.

That said, it is very handy to have these tools, but I have yet to see one (even the one that Gaming table wotc has.) that gives an impression of delivering on the full potential, or is built for any system.

But hey, I am a die-hard Blender, Gimp, Madtracker, Audacity fan.... even tho' I forked the cash for the Coral, Max, Cubase, Fl Studio, and the Adobe Creative, Microsoft V-Dark GDK studios (etc.. etc...), a few times. Those have all produced hamburgers, however...
So, careful thought is worth consideration in both directions, imho.

And yes, Battlegrounds does what you need it to do, and is worth being considered as a professionally designed virtual gaming table, if you have the group that makes it work for you. You may need to know what others are using, and willing to afford.

a quick "in-use" vid I found... don't see many....

I don't have it right now, (I'd have to afford an extra convention trip again...) but it would be nice if some videos of 'in-use-play' came on youtube, or the main site, so a comparison could be made with the others that have those. It might be a big help in answering some of those questions for people like this. besides that, I am allways up for watching a session in somone elses game. Foot in mouth I was one of the people in lobby and meetings pushing that rpg-tv idea that kinda bombed a while back..... oh well, really thought it would have done better, considering gamers are hardly a minority anymore.
Oh humans!! Innocent We discover a galactic community filled with multiple species of aliens, and the first thing we think about is "how can we have sex with them?".
~ anymoose, somewhere on the net...

if you square a square it becomes a cube...
if you square a cube does it become an octoid?