My gaming group will shortly begin another Ars Magica campaign online. Last time we limped along with Discord and some journaling software, but it's been two years and I'm wondering what is the current best choice of online tabletop software to play Ars Magica? I'm leaning toward Foundry VTT for the new game, but I'd love to hear what experiences the rest of the folks here have had.
One quirk - my house rules use a 0-9 roll, with exploding 9s on a stress die, in place of the current AM5 system. So supporting the custom dice a plus.
See the previous thread if you are interested the discussion from 2 years back.
What I've considered:
- Roll20 My group has used, but not loved, Roll20. Network issues in particular have bedeviled us in games using other systems, and while the interface is familiar and generally bug-free, it's aimed primarily at tactical combat, and has limited options for eye candy and special effects useful maintaining engagement with theater of the mind. An acceptable baseline if nothing else works, but not great.
- Fantasy Grounds I had a lot of hope for Fantasy Grounds, especially the new Unity version, but the ruleset is no longer in development. (The author was so awesome that the company hired him full time. Great for the platform as a whole, not so great for playing Ars online.) It's a client/server system, so getting my players to install and run a new piece of software wasn't ideal, but I would then have control of the complete system. I'd only face slow connections when I had a net slow down, and if the SG has network problems no platform would work. Good looking, a friendly community, and a character sheet with known bugs that aren't going to get fixed.
- Foundry The new hotness, I've been really excited by the possibilities from Foundry. Pay once and I have total control, no cost and no new software for my players, great community, and amazing modules that do almost anything you'd possibly want. Plus weird bugs and outright failures with almost every new release. I want to love this, and the early Ars Magica support is promising (my players will be use Metacreator for the number crunching during character creation anyway), but one session totally wrecked by some quirky incompatibility between modules is one too many. I used to be paid to be a software tester, I don't want to do it for free just to get my VTT to work.
- Astral With serious effort and money behind it, Astral will probably be amazing in another year or so. It isn't amazing now. I don't need another mapping app, the nifty ability to use an existing pdf character sheet and overlay the numbers isn't useful to me here, and as of this summer the state of the code was ... rough. If I'm going to be fighting through weird bugs to get my game to be playable, I'd prefer to support the plucky underdog writing code just because they think it's cool, not offering my skills to a corporation at a steep discount. And I have no idea whatever whether it currently supports Ars.
- TableTop Simulator Theoretically, TTS could support any game, since it's really just a meeting place where games can be played. We can roll attractive 3d dice bouncing around with full physics, but unless I'm willing to code a game (or win the lottery and pay some other guy to do it), we'd just be sitting on virtual chairs at a virtual table using the same fillable character sheets we have in Discord. The ability to display 3d terrain and characters is awesome, but spending hours to create a walkable simulation of Durenmar isn't actually the best use of my SG prep time. Mind you, if I had infinite resources, I'd absolutely choose TTS - hiring fleets of minions to code the character sheets, 3d design my characters (Heroforge now supports output to TTS at a modest cost per model) and buildings, design the virtual room and table to match the meeting room for the local covenant, and convert the rulebooks into attractive, usable, in-game resources. And pay a professional SG to run the campaign for me so I can get a chance to play. But unfortunately I have caviar tastes and a ez-cheez budget.