Tuesday Feb 20, 2024

A tour around 3D Virtual Tabletop tools in 2022

Hey there, JVHouse readers! If you have been around my activities, you might have noticed I’ve been testing various 3D software utilities for playing RPG or for creating maps. And I’ve found myself under the surprise of amazing options, some already available and others yet to come. Let’s take a look!

DISCLAIMER: Opinions are of my own, may be BIASED or WRONG. I am open to receive feedback. ALL SOFTWARE IS AMAZING. Different people, different tastes, different needs. Check them out to your own conclusions! The order of the following VTT does not follow any pattern!!!

TaleSpire (Released – Early Access)

In a nutshell

This gorgeous looking VTT is as close as it can get to actual simulation of playing with Minis. You roll dice on top of the table, move tokens around (as if grabbing them with your fingers and placing them elsewhere), and allowing you to design gorgeous looking 3D maps, tile by tile, that can be multi-level.

Pros

  • Amazing visuals, beautiful to see, fun to build with
  • A top-notch User Experience unmatched by any of the other platforms
  • Integration with HeroForge (if you have the Digital 3D download subscription)
  • Dice rolling as convenient as it can get, and a unique in-screen chat
  • Copy and Paste “pre-made” assets (called Slabs) by other users from the internet (notice this is not custom models or assets, but rather “constructions” by other users made with existing assets), such as TalesTavern or TalesBazaar

Cons

  • The amount of Miniatures is incredibly limited, to the point of being unplayable if you don’t have HeroForge (unless you can get around with really few ones)
  • Time-consuming to design maps, does not allow much of “improvised” play unless you can fly.
  • No support of custom assets or models (there are unofficial modules, but it gets hacky fast)
  • No support of 2D miniatures or 2D Maps
  • No support for GM Notes, journals, cheatsheets or Character Sheets in any form
  • Slow responding community, development feels slow if not stagnate

Getting it

Available on Steam, as Early Access, for a price of 20,99€ at the time of this writing. Each player needs a license.

RPG Engine (Released – Early Access)

In a nutshell

Feature-rich VTT with low-polygon graphics, sculpting map making tools, Steam Workshop integration and community models support, with an amazing character creator and an incredible amount of assets out of the box.

Pros

  • Character miniature creation, which even allows to equipe weapons on their hands or their backs
  • Character models have animations to move around, attack or have emotes
  • Incredible amount of assets out of the box, including Scifi, and HeroForge support
  • Steam Workshop integration, meaning the community can contribute models for you to use
  • Fantastic price to value ratio, and hardware friendly
  • Embedded in-game browser to be able to lookup things without minimizing
  • Fast, active and energetic community, development feels very active

Cons

  • Low-Poly graphics may not suit everyone, looking very ‘cartoonish’ (although that might also mean it is easier and faster to produce more content)
  • Terrain sculpting does not look so nice, with texture painting of plain colors
  • The User Interface is a bit awkward at times, requiring more clicks than it should
  • It takes a lot of time to build maps, and hard to improvise on the fly while playing
  • The dice roller leaves a lot to wish for!

Getting it

Find it on Steam for 15€, also a Demo is free for you to check out before you buy.

Tabletop Simulator (Released)

In a nutshell

TTS has been out in the market for 7 years now, if not more. Its focus is not necessarily RPG but general tabletop gaming, although it can certainly handle RPGs well thanks to its feature richness. Steam workshop integration means there are a thousand of custom models out there to get.

Pros

  • As real as it can get, when it comes to Virtual Tabletop. Play with cards, miniatures, board games.
  • Steam workshop means an incredibly large source of resources
  • Support for PDFs, images, Cheatsheets, 2D Maps and 2D Miniatures
  • Can get extremely productive once you get the hang of it
  • Crazy amount of features for rulers, intuitive dice rolling, shuffling cards, fun to play with

Cons

  • Steep learning curve
  • Steam workshop content might get broken at times
  • Not good for map building or terrain sculpting. It can be done but it is extremely difficult, and you have to look for assets everywhere such as walls and barrels from other games.
  • Taking notes and journals is very limited, can only be done in small sized pieces of “paper”

Getting it

On Steam, for 19,99€ as a single license, or 54,99€ for groups, as 4-pack.

Yag (Released)

In a nutshell

I don’t think there is any other 3D VTT around right now, with this many amount of out of the box assets, gorgeous graphics AND one-click geography AND one-click dungeons. If it isn’t enough, you’ve got 13 settings available (from Medieval Fantasy, to Modern, to Cyberpunk, Scifi, Post-Apocalyptic, Pirates, Steampunk, etc.). Did I mention you can mount a WW1 soldier on a Dinosaur? Yag has been there for 6 years, so the author was clearly ahead of the market.

Pros

  • One-click terrain generation, with customization of many sliders that get you where you want
  • One-click dungeon generation, with customization of paramaters such as levels, rooms, corridors
  • 13 Setting packs to choose from, each with dozens of models, all in gorgeous looking 3D models from Unreal Engine
  • Environmental lightning, fog of war, model animations, custom weapon equipment, mounts
  • Author is personally active and very helpful on Discord
  • Crazy good price-value ratio

Cons

  • Incredibly steep learning curve, will probably scare you off during the first 5 hours
  • User interface is as awkward as it can get, with huge menus and unexplained buttons
  • Requires a super-duper graphics card accelerated computer
  • Lack of journal note-taking methods, cheatsheets or chat functions
  • Development is stagnated for an unknown period of time, as it is porting to UE5

Getting it

Available on Steam, for 13,99€, which includes all 13 DLC packs. One license per player.

Tabula Sono (Released)

In a nutshell

This is the only 3D VTT available out there that is both FREE and can be run on a BROWSER. There is a Foundry VTT module that promises 3D, but this is the only one that is specifically created for an online, web-browser based experience.

Goods

  • FREE to play, and WITHIN the browser. Send URL invite link to players and play.
  • Draw lines and bring them up as walls, very quickly, to formulate dungeons
  • Upload your own 3D objects and assets
  • Allows for 2D maps and assets
  • Very energetic and active discord community and devs

Cons

  • Hey! Didn’t I mention this one is free to play? Don’t read Cons!
  • There are very strict upload and map limits to the time
  • Miniatures are non-colored
  • No 3D dice support
  • User interface is awkward at times, not so many shortcuts and requiring effort to grasp

Getting it

What do you mean getting it? Go ahead and play! https://tabulasono.com/

RPG Stories (Unreleased – Private Alpha)

In a nutshell

A fully-fledged VTT that promises fast-building Dungeons and outdoor environments, GM tools priority (journal notes, map pins, drawing tools), and community model integration, as well as support for exporting map creations to other VTTs.

Preview notes

So far it looks like there are no terrain sculpting features, for example to make mountains or rivers. Placement is on a tile basis, and the dice roller is extremely awkward. The GM Tools however are a nice touch that sets it apart from other 3D VTTs that don’t seem to care much about the game master’s necessities. It seems to launch with three settings, Fantasy, Modern and Scifi.

Getting it

Check their website to support their Kickstarter Campaign: https://www.rpgstories.net

Menyr (Unreleased)

This seems too good to be true, will it hold to its promise? A downside is that it only shows Medieval Fantasy content, so that might point towards direct competition of One D&D (see below)

Constructo Dungeons Builder (Unreleased)

If there weren’t enough, this is yet another Kickstarter backed project in which VTT functions and Map creation features are there. Similarly to TaleSpire, it seems to simulate an actual tabletop experience, with platform based miniatures.

One D&D One (Unreleased)

Based on the pre-alpha footage, this might be a one-shot killer (I hope not!) of TaleSpire, Menyr and will probably take off a portion of RPG players from Tabletop Simulator. It does not however seem to have “animated” Video-Game like features such as Yag or RPG Engine. Only time will tell!

Never Ending Dungeon (Map-Making, Unreleased)

What I like about Never Ending Dungeon is its personal touch regarding not only one-click map-making software and VTT export, but also the capability of generating story, monsters and playing a Solo Adventure. This project from Poland is indeed curious, to say the least!

Dungeon Alchemist (Map-Making, Released, Early Access)

In a nutshell

Dungeon Alchemist is an automated generation software in which the user lays out the shape of a dungeon, and the program will automatically fill it with objects and assets. It is possible to shape the terrain and work with different kinds of settings.

Pros

  • Extremely easy to use
  • Can export to 2D Maps for actual play in 2D VTT software

Cons

  • At the time of this writing, the asset amount is incredibly limited
  • Feels like all taverns are the same, after a few runs
  • Not truly AI-powered as promised

Getting it

On Steam, 37,99€

Chronos Builder (Map-Making, Unreleased)

What is interesting of this one, is their promise of day-0 support for non-fantasy settings, and it indeed looks amazing. Time will tell!

Other mentions (Not tested)

These I have not tried, but they may be equally interesting, do check them out:

Conclusion

What can I say, I am surprised by the amount of ongoing platforms, and how new and recent they all are. Is this a sign of the direction of this hobby? I wonder. Still knowing people who need nothing but a set of dice and a sheet of paper.

With regard to these platforms, they all seem to have a distinctive feature, be it triple A graphics engine, simulate moving minis with your hand, focus on animations and interactions, on GM tools, on improvisational tools, or map making. Definitely check them out and do share your thoughts, thanks for reading!

JV

JeansenVaars

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Harknail
Harknail
1 year ago

The reviews are helpful, but you missed Scene Grinder, a 3d VTT currently in beta. https://www.scenegrinder.com

Marc
Marc
1 year ago

A fantastic resource, thank you, Several I haven’t come across before.

You might also want to check out:

Realm Engine: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1427700/Realm_Engine__Virtual_Tabletop/

ARCana: https://mirrorscape.com/

Dragon Map Maker (3D build, sadly only 2D export): https://www.dragonmapmaker.com/

Terrain Tinker: https://www.terraintinker.com

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