WHAT IT IS:
Battlegrounds: RPG Edition (or BRPG, for short) is an online virtual tabletop for use with any “pen and paper” role-playing game system. It’s a multi-platform software tool that breaks down geographical barriers, by letting you play your favorite RPG with friends who live far away. It also enables you to play more games than you might otherwise be able to. For example, if your local friends aren’t interested in a particular game you want to play, BRPG enables you to play that game with an online buddy, even if that person lives halfway around the world.
BRPG provides you with all the tools you need to conduct a role-playing session: a battlemap – with an optional hexgrid or square grid – on which to place and move your digital miniatures and props, a virtual dice roller with both standard and polyhedral dice, text chat functions, and a Fog-of-War feature that lets you gradually reveal the game map as the players explore.
BRPG provides the game engine, and you provide the game maps and digital minis (see the Links & Resources page for where you can download free high-quality maps and digital minis).
WHAT IT ISN’T:
BRPG is not a game itself, but rather a tool for playing a game you already own over the internet. It doesn’t have any game-system-specific artificial intelligence to implement your game’s rules, and it doesn’t come with character, spell and monster stats for your specific RPG system. In fact, one of BRPG‘s greatest advantages is that it isn’t game-system-specific. It’s generic enough to use with any RPG rules system, so you can get a lot more use out of it than you can out of similar competing products that are tied to a specific ruleset.
OTHER POTENTIAL USES:
Aside from playing games online, BRPG can be used offline, too. The GM at a face-to-face game session might run it on a desktop computer or laptop connected to a large display or multimedia projector which the players can see. Or it can be played over a local network (LAN), with each player sitting in front of his/her own computer. In either case, BRPG would essentially be used as a digital battlemat.
While BRPG is primarily intended for use with pen and paper RPGs, with a little imagination it could also be used for other types of online collaboration. You can also use it to play some boardgame, wargames, card games, and dice games (although our other virtual tabletop software, Battlegrounds Gaming Engine (aka BGE), is specifically tailored for use with such games).
While online roleplaying is not a replacement for playing in person with your friends, using BRPG in your game sessions does offer some significant advantages over the traditional style of playing RPGs.
For starters, the visuals are greatly enhanced. Not only do maps look better, but so do the miniatures (or tokens) used to represent the characters, NPCs, and monsters that populate your world. And as you’ll see on the Features page, audio clips (both music and special effects) can be used to set the tone, enhance the mood, or even provide the players subtle clues.
Private messaging using the Chat window is certainly an improvement over whispering or passing a player a hurriedly-scribbled note, which can cause distraction and perhaps even alarm in a real-life game session. The same goes for die rolls, which BRPG allows you to keep private, if desired (or to fudge, if you’re the GM).
One of the biggest advantages provided by the software is the Fog-of-War feature, which prevents players from seeing parts of the map that they have not explored yet. This is difficult and time-consuming to achieve in face-to-face games.
WHAT YOU NEED:
Just as with a traditional pen and paper RPG, you will need a Game Master, or GM for short (some systems use the term Dungeon Master, or Referee) and one or more players. You will also need your RPG system’s rulebooks and character sheets, just as you would in a face-to-face game session. The more familiar you are with your game’s rules, the better, but if needed, BRPG provides you instant access to important reference materials, like charts and tables (due to copyright limitations, you will need to scan these in yourself).
If playing online, all participants will also need an internet connection (broadband is recommended, but not required).
HOW IT WORKS:
Whether playing on the internet or on a LAN, the process is the same: The GM (who must be running a GM Client) hosts a game. BRPG‘s peer-to-peer networking system effectively turns his computer into a game server. The players then join by logging into the GM’s game (using either a Player Client or a GM Client). The software allows up to 15 clients to connect to a game session at one time, and those clients can be any mix of Mac users and Windows users. Note, however, that large groups (over 8-10 players) can easily become unwieldy if players get bored waiting for their turn to come around again.
Once everyone is logged in, the players and the GM communicate with each other via text chat, which is built into the application. Or optionally, they can communicate via a voice chat application running in the background (see the Links & Resources page for various free voice chat software options). Some groups prefer a mix of the two: voice chat for “out-of-character” dialogue, and text chat for “in-character” dialogue. BRPG allows a log of the entire text chat to be saved, for those who like to keep a record of what happens in a campaign.
The GM moderates the game session just as he would in a face-to-face game. Based on the GM’s narration, the players, each playing the role of one or more characters, decide what they want to do. The participants move their virtual miniature figures around on the game map, in accordance with the RPG game system’s rules, to indicate where they are in relation to one another and to the game map’s terrain features. The GM may move any item in the game, but each player may only move his or her own character/s.
Read through the list of BRPG‘s features.