Roll20 Warmaster

Top down photo of a Warmaster Empire command stand w/ iOS Prisma Gothic filter

I’ve been chasing the online miniature wargaming dragon for a good while now – have had experience with Cyberboard, Vassal, Full Thrust Java Client, Table Top Simulator (unsucessfully), and now Roll20 (successfully). 

For me Roll20 get’s closest to pushing units on the table top realtime with reasonable graphics.  My first real implementation here, beyond the standard RPG, has been for Warmaster. This post describes that process of setting up such an environment.  

Example of what’s been produced with this method

Tools Used

  • iPhone – camera & photo edits
  • Tripod – platform for the top down photograph
  • Prisma iOS app – photo filter
  • iPad – tablet based graphical editing
  • Apple Pencil – fine point stylus
  • Magic Eraser iOS app – transparency editor
  • Desktop PC – runs Roll20 in any web browser
  • MS Paint – creates the basic template
  • Roll20 – the tabletop platform

Photos

  1. Shoot top down photos of a Warmaster army – 1 photo for each unique base type
  2. Crop all photos to roughly same dimension
  3. Push these photo through a filter – a bit more illustrative than photographic
  4. Export filtered photos to iPad
  5. Remove photo boarders with transparency editor – use Magic Eraser or similar
  6. Import photos to PC
  7. Create a “scaling reference” – 40x20mm = 280x140px – save this as a png – use MS Paint or similar

Roll20 Game

  1. Create new game for Roll20
  2. Configure new “map” – no grid – 5cm = 70px – 6×4 foot table = 37×25
  3. Drag & drop appropriate texture or aerial photo to map, ensure it is on the “map layer”
  4. Go to the “journal” – create a new “character” – edit that character so that Name = Basic Template, In Player’s Journals = All Players, Can be Edited… = All Players – save these changes
  5. Again open & edit the “Basic Template”, click duplicate button x times
  6. Drag & drop stand scaling reference to the table top
  7. Drag & drop appropriate unit photo the table top
  8. Scale the unit photo to the scaling reference
  9. Select the re-scaled
  10. Open one of the “Basic Template” copies and edit – Name = appropriate unit name – click “use selected token” – ensure that “all players” is set for journals & controls – save changes
  11. Repeat

Roll20 Macros

You may wish to create the following macros – ensuring that they are shared with “all players” and marked as “in bar” – these provide a simple button to throw x dice.

#1d6
/r 1d6

#2d6
/r 2d6

#3d6
/r 3d6

#Attack
/em attacks
/r ?{How many attacks}d6s>4 
***Note: 5+ vs defended & 6+ vs fortified***

#Save 
/em saves
/r ?{How many saves}d6s>?{Armor value}

#Drive-Back
/em checking drive backs
/r ?{How many hits}d6s
***Target confused on any d6 = 6***
***Target driven off if result greater than its movement rate***

Unit Photos

Here are my unit photos for: Tomb Kings, Vampire Counts, Empire, Dwarves, & Dark Elves. Also included are a hit token and a scaling refernce when 5cm = 70px.

Update – April 19, 2020

There is a nice selection of paper tokens for Warmaster Fantasy & Ancients available here. Helpful if you don’t want to photograph your own units.

Video Walk-through

May illustrate some of the description above.

Update May 18, 2020

Have created Mighty Empires assets and kicked off a 5 player campaign. Mighty Empire tiles are available here. Use them as a deck of cards in Roll20 on a unique map.

Have also posted a new video an actual play from the first battle fought in our Mighty Empires campaign. Empire(1185 pts) vs Empire (1500 pts). This condensed to 30 minutes to provide a good overview of Warmaster game play on the Roll20 interface.

Crashlandia

At the beginning of 2020 we rang in the new year with a buddy’s birthday, celebrating as we normally do: friends, food, and games. This is day long affair where we cram as many games as we can into 12 or so hours. This years theme “I Can’t Drive 55”.

Original t-shirt art from VNWiki – Prisma iOS Tokyo Filter

First on the docket was the new’ish hot wheels set published by Osprey, Gaslands. There was much kit bashing of $1 hotwheels, though I opted for a simpler approach the overall look of the table was impressive.

We had two single lap races, the first to test-drive the rules & the second to compete for a custom trophy. It was fitting that the youngest amongst us would take home that prize. Fun times. . .

Get your motor running

Fun times for sure! The game scratches that Car Wars to Hotwheels conversion I’ve had for years, but I found the rules needlessly wordy and complex. Trusty iPad to the rescue where I consolidated the rules to a scant 2 pages! Find that summary here, along with a generic vehicle control panel, dice labels / reference charts.

The Tower

Art by Rolla Nordic (Murielle Berulfsen) – Prisma “We Can Do It” filter

The Thought Eater podcast recently jogged my memory on dice towers. Which I find to be an interesting table top accessory. Probably speaks to my neat’freak ascetic – everything in it’s place. That along with my appreciation for mechanical / tactile tools.

I’ve heard from some who are defiantly anti-dice tower. The basic complaint is they are too big, take up too much space, are noisy, and ugly. I do agree that a dice tower can create these problems. Imagine a table where everyone had their own personal dice tower – maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

A few years back a good friend, Dave S. told me a tale of a fabulous game where the DM had a dice tower – all their rolls done in the open – with the advantage of the being decorated in the the theme of the game. That story sparked a moment of creativity – I made a tower for Dave as a gift.

Dave’s Dungeon Craw Classic Dice Tower (DDDCDT)

I made two more of these with the same collage theme and was always frustrated with the actual construction. Plans sketched on paper – cut lines drawn in pencil on 1/8” press board – hand cut w/ carpet knife and steel ruler – all contributed a good deal of wonky variance that I would try and resolve during construction with predictable results.

Solution – a template – grabbing my trusty iPad I laid out in iDesign a simple pattern template – print without scaling and paste directly to the press board – hand cuts still not 100% but much much better. Download the template here.

The tower in action, complete with sound effects

Hammer of the Gawds

Prisma Canoe filter iOS – WHFB 1e cover – original art by John Blanche

In 1980-something I started going to my first game conventions. These were not just for Dungeons & Dragons, but full of so much more. One of these things was a tabletop game played with toy soldiers – hundreds of them really. This was Warhammer and this game inspired me in new ways.

Miniature wargaming is one aspect of my tabletop gaming hobby, perhaps a smaller part these last few years, but extremely influential in how I enjoy these games. Warhammer was clearly the culprit that propelled me down this path, inspired me to pick-up a brush, amass hordes of “lead figures”, and build railroad scenery like a man processed.

Warhammer during this time was… odd. Army composition was left to the players, there were few restrictions on how games were organized and even fewer supporting materials beyond the core rules. The good ‘ol days.

The first Citadel book I cherished after the rules – more cover art by John Blanche.

This magazine provided a complete scenario; 3 unique forces each with competing objectives; card stock buildings to cut, fold, and assemble; advertisements for special miniatures; comics strips…

This was the begining of the end.

Today one can flip through the virtual pages of this journal. Such a joy, and it was during one of these flights of fancy that I decided recreate that game of my youth with the mastery of the hobby I now possessed. It was successful – it was glorious – the game was a bit awkward.

Video journal for the centerpiece for this scenario – YouTube playlist

Below is a photo gallery of the game in action. Fun project – fun times.

Tech

2x filter via Prisma iOS

In my hobby today I use so much tech, it’s like I was born and raised in Silicon Valley or something. Desktop publishing was the boon of the 90s while teetering on the edge of the always connected internet age. Now digital is everywhere, it is everything, it is the tools I use daily – you probably do too.

One of my favorite aspects of RPGs are deeply nested random tables which create a staggering array of combinations while yielding unexpected results. The best of these can take a good deal of dice rolling, note taking, and inspired interpretation. Not really a tool that can be used “in game”, but that all changes when we go digital.

Behold the power of:
=index(Lookup!Y3:Y32,match(RANDBETWEEN(1,30),Lookup!$K3:$K32,0))

What is this strange gibberish you say? Simply the logical power of a digital array (spread sheet) that provides instantaneous lookup against random entry (dice rolls) from a given table.

Want to know something special about a city – push a button:

Maybe you need an NPC for that city – push a button:

Or maybe you have favorite tables you’d like to convert to a digital solution, for instant generation from nearly anywhere. Here’s a Google Sheet sample that you can study and build your own thing. Doesn’t make sense? Ping me and I’ll walk you through it, we’ll record a video of that and post it here.

How do you play?

That’s me on the left

My cousin Christopher taught me how to play D&D, he gave me the context to digest the text. Without that starting point I would have been lost. I imagine that today this is still the case for new comers to the hobby.

Last year (?) in my exploration of the OSR RPGs of today I stumbled on the concept of solo RPGs. This looked like a good way to explore the roots of my hobby without the complexity of organizing a face-to-face game.

Selecting Ruins of the Undercity for my first effort I was surprised to read that I would use whatever core rules I desired to play this game. As I wanted an experience as closely aligned with how the game was original played, I selected the 3 little brown books that started it all.

Trouble was the text for these rules wasn’t very clear and rather disjointed

So I set about drafting a summary of these rules that would allow me to better understand the core mechanics and refer to easily during play. 12 little pages that I should now print on brown paper (which I’m very proud of) you can find them here.

I haven’t yet returned to Ruins of the Undercity, or my exploration of solo RPGs, perhaps one day.

In the beginning…

Fitting that my first post touches on the game that started it all. Why at age 9 in 1980 this was at the top of my Christmas list I have no idea, but there it was and it was wonderful. In fact, it still is wonderful.

It would be difficult to describe how this one game propelled me into a world of sword & sorcery, science fiction, and fanciful day-dreams. Flights of fancy emerging between players clutching strange dice and scribbling on paper. I played this game every spare moment I had, for years, until I didn’t.

Why I stopped playing with such devotion I cannot rightly say: other hobbies competing for my attention, video games, girls? Whatever the case I hadn’t played D&D until something caught my attention in 2012.

Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery. Fast play, cryptic secrets, and a mysterious past await you.

https://goodman-games.com/dungeon-crawl-classics-rpg/

I had good fun with DCC, sharing this game with friends and exploring the OSR in general. Then in 2019 I committed to run my original D&D at a local convention. I picked up that original rule book and said “err, what the…?” The rules were not clearly organized, naturally archaic, and difficult to understand – not good for convention play.

So I created a summary; a control panel that the DM or PCs could use to quickly understand all the core rules. This would allow us to play the game in our allotted time of three hours without constantly flipping through a rulebook.

  • PC Control Panel – provides core character rules, equipment list, and more all on a single page.
  • DM Control Panel – provides turn track, core wandering monsters, reaction table, basic deeds, combat summary, and more all on a single page.

I’ve run this game now 7 or 8 times and these references have been invaluable. I’m intrigued by this control panel / quick reference sheet concept and want to do more. Though I am conscious that more than a single sheet of paper just gets in the way. Perhaps I’ll find a use of the other sides of these sheets.

Update Feb. 1

Our regular Thursday night group that plays online has been having good fun playing Holmes Basic D&D. We are delving into Gabor Lux’s Castle Morthimion – which I will also run at DunDraCon44 in just 2 weeks. I had always planned to put a little something on the 2nd side of these control panels & inspiration recently struck for the PC version – a simple character sheet, update is linked above.