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Take VTTs more seriously

What is it going to take for Modiphius to take VTTs more seriously? The 2D20 system suffers for the lack of official support compared to things like Symbaroum and Alien, much less the heavy hitters like D&D and Pathfinder, et al., and I can’t for the life of me figure out why Modiphius doesn’t make this a higher priority. The coding chops necessary aren’t particularly rare, you just need to pay a couple of people to do the damn job full-time. Vue and Node devs are a dime a dozen FFS!

There’s some excellent fan made modules for 2d20 games on Foundry and my understanding is that there are talks underway for something official at some point.

Cool, but I’m talking about proper support from the company, not fan-made stuff that falls off after a few updates.

Modiphius has seemingly allowed whoever raises their hand first to develop systems for their games, and those “companies” are not very professional, strictly speaking. The Nerd Eye crew (very nice, but busy, dudes who handle the rulesets for Fantasy Grounds) are effectively two-to-three people working regular jobs and doing that stuff whenever their lives allow for it, none of whom are software engineers and none of whom are really all that incentivized to deal with customer complaints or feature requests. They made their money on the initial sale of the ruleset and why should they really care if people are unhappy? They don’t represent Modiphius in any meaningful way, so if the product experience tarnishes the brand, why should they GAF? I mean, that’s fine for a fan-made thing, but these dudes charged $50 and are officially supported by Modiphius (i.e. they are cleared to release real published material in the modules/rulesets, not just the game mechanics which Modiphius cannot copyright) … and the experience is just not good enough.

That’s the full story of official Modiphius support for VTTs. There are no other 2d20 systems with official support on any VTT, as far as I can tell.

Over on Foundry, you’ve got a very, very good ruleset for Conan (arguably far superior to the one on FGU, but $50 cheaper!), but nobody has updated it to work with the latest version of Foundry (0.8.x) … which came out two months ago! There are no other major titles who have remained incompatible with the latest version of Foundry this whole time, as far as I can tell. When you ask about it on their Discord, the guys who were working on it are very forthcoming: they don’t have time to update the system because they’re out of work and need to concentrate on getting paid. That a really dumb way to operate in general in the era of VTTs, let alone in a post-pandemic world.

People just spent the last year playing these games exclusively online, and in that entire 12-month stretch Modiphius did precious little to cater to, or capitalize on, the online gaming milieu. That’s a shame and a huge missed opportunity. I am under no illusions about how much any TTRPG company really earns in profit (this industry is virtually microscopic in the grand scheme of things), but you don’t need to pay some huge crew … we’re talking about systems that all feed off XML and JS (or LUA). One team of two or three people could create rulesets for all the systems if they were paid to do so full-time, instead of whenever their regular lives allowed for it.

Hence this topic … I’d love for Modiphius to address in concrete terms their stance/strategy on VTTs and when, if ever, they expect to provide reliable and professional development of their rulesets for online play across more than just one platform and in support of more than just one system. Having all these broken rulesets out there, 99% of which aren’t “official,” as the sole representatives of your brand and games in the VTT space is crazy-town, to me.

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Dune has officially been released on Roll20 and looks pretty good

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When you ask for VTT support though…which one? If I were a publisher that would be a big decision to make because none of them are set up the same way and deciding on where to focus limited resources takes time and research. Is most of my player base using Roll20? Do they use FG? Foundry? Astral? Most people are very particular and will negatively comment if the decision isn’t the one they personally use. “Why is Dune on Roll20 but not Foundry???” etc. Then following that decision, you need to see how many people actually buy the thing you make. Are the sales enough to justify the cost? Especially when your audience is split over multiple platforms?

In the meantime though, if fans are making quality products and then a company can work out something with them, then that’s stellar. That’s why there’s been a burst of Free League products on Foundry and most of them are a two tier type thing. A free module with the mechanics, character sheet etc. and then a paid premium content with all of the things from the core book already added in. It’s a model that seems to work very well. Especially at the price point FL charges (which is yet another consideration…how many times can you ask people to buy the same material and at what price?)

I am glad to hear that it’s available for players, but it’s one system on one platform and it’s the only one that’s actually been released for Roll20, as far as I can tell. That’s a bizarre choice and it’s probably only possible because someone decided they wanted to build it and Modiphius agreed to let them.

That Dune ruleset is $65 and you don’t even get the PDFs, it’s just Roll20-specific content. Will it be supported in six months? Who knows. Will they ever release any additional modules? Who knows. If they don’t, and you come here to complain, what will Modiphius do? They didn’t develop it, and they don’t take any ownership or responsibility for those VTT products afaik: so, go ahead and make a post here about how Conan doesn’t work in FGU and is missing half the rules or content, you will not get the type of customer service response you might hope for from a publisher who has a scaleable product strategy, you will get told to go speak with three guys who have day jobs and mess around with the rules when their real lives allow for it. (No shade on those dudes, btw, I don’t know them personally in any meaningful way and I have no interest in disparaging their efforts, I’m just saying that it’s frustrating for a consumer to pay premium prices but not to receive premium customer service from the master brand.) I suspect the same is true for the Roll20 implementation of Dune.

I would say FGU, Roll20 and Foundry are the obvious choices.

Roll20 and Foundry could both easily be derived from a common set of (mostly XML) documents with some clever regex and XSL work as they both run Node.js and operate using standard webapp design patterns. And although FGU is a shambolic mound of archaic software architecture and Unity, you could still bang out most of the big XML libraries (i.e., Talents, Items, etc.) using the same methods. You would admittedly need to reconstruct the business rules/logic of your ruleset in LUA, but given that all the 2d20 systems use similar structures, you could potentially build this one time and merely mutate it for various specific system implementations.

Also, while I agree that it’s great that individuals have their passion projects and make rulesets for games that otherwise would never have rulesets, it all sort of falls apart when they decide not to keep updating the software … since Modiphius is willing to give their aegis to companies like Nerd Eye, they get to charge a premium price for the software but there doesn’t appear to be any obligation to continue supporting the products; there is no accountability baked into the arrangement. This is folly of course because these products represent your brand in the marketplace, regardless of who built them … it’s a symphony of bad customer experiences that all have the Modiphius logo on it, whether they were directly involved or not. To me, that’s an insane model to adopt in a world where the majority of TTRPGs are played online.