Thursday, June 17, 2021
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Review: Fantasy Grounds Unity

Fantasy Grounds Unity is the second generation virtual table top (VTT) produced by Smiteworks LLC. The Unity moniker is a reference to the Unity game engine that replaced the previous non-Unity version of the software – now called Fantasy Grounds Classic. 

The Unity version provides many advantages over Fantasy Grounds Classic including better memory management, 64 bit operating system, and improved graphics.

Fantasy Grounds Unity is capable of being used to play any of the following role playing game rulesets: 5th, 4th, 2nd, 1st/AD&D edition Dungeons and Dragons, W.O.I.N, Rolemaster, Vampire – The Masquerade, Savage Worlds, Deadlands, Mutants and Masterminds, Fifth Edition Fantasy, Call of Cthulu, Castles and Crusades, 13th Age, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Barbarians of Lemuria, 1st and 2nd edition Pathfinder, Starfinder, and Traveller.

Definitely don’t consider this a tool for online only gamers.

It should be noted that this software can be used by a GM and Players for live and in person games as is significantly reduces the workload and and increased speed at which a game master can run a game. Definitely don’t consider this a tool for online only gamers. D&D YouTube personality Matt Colville is an active users of Fantasy Grounds but Matt like us recommends you use the software that you prefer to use.

There are three options when it comes to purchase:

Demo: (Free) You can play in any game if the game master has an ultimate licence. You can’t connect to anyone with a demo or standard licence, and you can’t share any of your purchased content with another player.

You can however test all the other features of the software including generating a character and rolling dice. It comes with the standard reference document for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons which is enough for a Dungeon Master to use it at a normal table game to run the Lost Mines of Phandelver if you purchased the physical boxed set. This version can be used by Dungeon Master for an live in-person game with Players using hardcopy character sheets.

Standard: (Paid) You can connect to any player with a standard or ultimate licence. If you are the game master you can share any content you own with other players.

Ultimate: (Paid) You can invite any player to play with you (Demo or Standard licence). If you are the game master you can share any content you own with the connecting players.

In all cases the payment is a one-off cost. For those people who intend to play for a long-time the higher upfront cost will be lower than paying the monthly subscription model common to other VTT platforms.

Smiteworks does offer a monthly subscription but we don’t think many would take up this option unless you would like to try it for a month before committing. Indeed Smiteworks its-self actively encourages everyone to purchase a licence outright as they see it as better value.

FGU DM Viewpoint: Combat Tracker, NPC statistics, Story Notes and Map showing Player Character and Non-Player Character Line of sight.

The most complex component of Fantasy Grounds Classic used to be setting up a game as the game master had to implement port forwarding on their modem – this is gone and its now simple to connect to others as a central server is used to connect players. Fear not the option to create a game on your local network also remains available without needing an internet connection.

FGU Finding a Game – far easier than Fantasy Grounds Classic

Once connected the process of creating and running games is straight forward and indeed easier, quicker and more efficient than other VTT platforms, or when using books. Encounters take seconds to plan, maps are simple to setup, and combats are a breeze to run even with a dozen enemy combatants in play. The Fantasy Grounds interface places the information you need as a player or game master right at your fingertips at the the time you need it.

Dreaded tasks such as encumbrance, and maths literally disappear as tasks which means the game runs far more efficiently and you can play more in the time that you have.

“Dreaded tasks such as encumbrance, and maths literally disappear”

Player Character equipment weights are automatically calculated as you place items into your character sheets and players can change the status of gear from worn to carried (which automatically changes the characters AC). Attack, Skills Rolls, Saving Throws require no more maths that double clicking the skills to be rolled and calculated. Spells requiring concentration can automatically role to determine if a character maintains concentration when hit for damage. Of course using any of these features is optional – you can play the style that best suits your group.

Line of Sight

Fantasy Grounds Unity comes with the ability to create line of sight. This is simple and quick to apply by drawing points or shapes (rectangles for doors, and circles for pillars). Line of sight is enhanced further by the ability for the GM to apply graphic effects adding clouds, fog and rain to the map. Using masks allows a GM to create a map where the area outside the inn is foggy and dark, but inside the inn may show the warm glow from fire.

FGU: Line of Sight Creation Tools are simple, quick and effective. Red lines denote walls, Blue Boxes Doors, and Yellow Boxes Windows. FX can be applied using Masks to have it rain outside the buildings

Line of Sight Plus+

At the time of review Line of Sight Plus+ was still in the later stages of development but once released (expected March 2021) it will add upon and improve line of sight by applying limits to visibility in darkness.

For example a human in a cave (would have no vision). Give them a torch and now they can see the distance of your torchlight. Does your character have darkvision? – great you can see 60 feet but only the shades of grey. Once implemented each character and non-player character will have a different perspective on how they see the world.

FGU: Line of Sight Plus+ Early Developer Video

Mapping

This version of Fantasy Grounds also includes tools that enable the software to develop maps. The mapping tools are good but more time is required for the mapping tools to mature as they aren’t intuitive to use – but can produce very good results.

Tiles sets purchased from Smiteworks store includes line of sight features so it can be a very good option for quick map creation.

Community Support

One of the really nice features permitted by Smiteworks is that they allow users of the Fantasy Grounds software to create their own modules and extensions for functionality they don’t provide. Fantasy Grounds community content is available for purchase on DMsGuild and DriveThruRPG with Smiteworks not taking an additional cut.

Smiteworks also supports Fantasy Grounds College which is a dedicated volunteer community of gamers to help bring new game masters up to speed with the VTT and organises virtual events.

At least twice a year Smitworks provides Ultimate Licence capability to all users to enable the running of virtual gaming events – these are a great time to check out the full potential of the software.

Summary

Fantasy Grounds Unity is the best VTT in the market if you want automation, line of sight management, at at lowest cost. Sure there are other competitors but if you are looking form the best value fully functional VTT this is it, and make no mistake it will make a GM more efficient at a home game if they use a notebook and Fantasy Grounds behind the GM screen.

Fantasy Grounds Unity is available for PC,  Linux, and Mac. It is frequently on special and you can purchase it direct from Fantasy Grounds or the Steam storefront. You can also link your Fantasy Grounds website purchases to the Steam store.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Task Suitability
9.5
Value of Money
9

REVIEW SUMMARY

Fantasy Grounds Unity (latest version) builds upon a strong foundation to become the best VTT for most Game Masters and Players. The software is not as complex as people first think as you can use as many or as little parts as you wish and there is a strong community to support you. However you decide to use it - you will have a powerful set of automation tools that will to focus on the story.

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