If you want to play a TTRPG in 2022 online, it’s basically a monopoly of two giants who control the majority of the market share, the titans of Roll20.net and Fantasy Grounds. One free with costs hidden in the background and the other you have to pay for up front with the same costs hidden in the background.
These two control all of the pricing and features of such play. Roll20 is the more adaptive platform, able to make adjustments quickly and then release those improvements to their users (most often for their premium paying users). Fantasy grounds does the exact same thing, except they release their advances as a new product.
As far as features go, they are basically the same thing with two wildly divergent user interfaces. When it comes to building and managing my NPCs, I felt like Fantasy Grounds was definitely the best system and easiest to use. When it came time to actually manage those combats, Roll20 had better features and an easier interface for all involved.
I’ve got a few thousand hours logged between both apps as both player and GM. I’ve run games across several different systems on those platforms, including 5e, Pathfinder, Starfinder, and FFG Star Wars. There are others I would have liked to play, but making the dice rolling mechanics of unique systems means you have to dig into the system and make everything yourself…
… unless you’re willing to pay for everything twice. See, every TTRPG book can basically be bought for use in your online games, but you’ll pay u[ to almost full cover price sometimes for the privilege. I have 5e Dungeons and Dragons books I’ve bought on both Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, among other systems, and I ended up paying more than I did for hard copies for the few lines of code I am using to play those games on their platforms because my local gaming shop offers a discount on TTRPG hardbacks to support the players.
Yes, I don’t have to do this. But I also don’t have time to input every monster, stat, and rule into the system either. These companies know this, and are overcharging us. Things got even worse over Covid when all these companies saw their user bases soar.
There’s another new online platform taking the Internet by storm called Foundry Virtual Tabletop. This, like Fantasy Grounds, requires a GM to buy the software once without subscription. However, I’ve hesitated to buy into the platform itself because I don’t want to pay a fourth time for all my gaming books for full functionality on a third platform.
The actual problem isn’t any of these companies’ fault. It’s the licensing from the actual game IP owners like Piazo and Wizards of the Coast. See, things like the 5e Players Handbook are completely paid for at this point. So every digital copy you buy on each platform is pure profit. Very little, if any, of that profit goes to the actual people who made that product. People seem to forget that Dungeons and Dragons alone is almost a one billion dollar IP at this point in time.
At this point in time for a product like the Dungeons and Dragons 5e Player’s Handbook I should have the option to buy an online digital license that allows me access to its material on any platform that supports it. Instead, they are charging me at each stop on the Internet for the same information.
This is one of the reasons we decided to make Horizon Drifters. We wanted to create an online place where anyone could log in, see all the rules, and play everything for free without ever having to hit a paywall. We wanted to make sure our complete was game available to everyone, regardless of income level, and that everyone gets the same high quality user experience.
Another element of our game is accessibility. Not everyone has a computer setup where they can sit and play their game. Most of these platforms don’t support mobile or tablet operations well. Our platform will run on any device, including your cell phone. You will be able to play our game anywhere you have a signal.
And never, not once, will one of our users be charged for playing our game. Never, not once, will we ask for your credit card information. You will be able to see and examine all of our full rules and mechanics, and unlike those other platforms you’ll be able to create your own species, planets, and anything else you can imagine in a database where all other users can view, rate, and use your content.