It’s undeniable: tabletop RPGs exploded during the Covid lockdowns. And while the games became more and more popular, they also became somewhat more difficult to play, since social distancing rules prevented groups from meeting in person. The internet, as it is wont to do, stepped up! Virtual tabletop platforms (called VTTs) sprung up in scores, and players began putting serious effort into perfecting online tools to enable the community to play when they weren’t face-to-face.
We’ve discussed some of those VTTs before. You can read about them, and get recommendations here (7 Tools You NEED to Game Online...That Aren't Roll20) and here (5 Free Virtual Tabletops (Other Than Roll20) You Should Check Out). And those recommendations remain unchanged! They’re meant for games like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder – games that require maps, grids, and mechanics to get the most out of them. They feature plenty of tools to that end, with avatars and measurement tools and character creators galore.
But there are plenty of games out there for which all of those tools are simply unnecessary. Games like Fate or Monster of the Week, or any number of indie games, which forgo heavy rulesets to focus on narrative descriptions and unbridled creativity. For those games, all the tools and mechanics of heavy-duty VTTs just get in the way.
Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of tools and gaming platforms out there meant just for those types of games, too.
RPG Note Cards
Built specifically for Fate or Fudge games (or which there are many), this simple platform allows you to create and display various cards with setting and character information. It sounds bare bones, but that’s all you really need. And besides, for how simple it is, it manages to support a surprising number of tools and useful capabilities.
A GM using RPG note cards can lay out and keep track of both the main tabletop and a ‘graveyard’ where they can keep all the information that the players aren’t ready for yet. And if they need additional space (perhaps some party members are keeping secrets between themselves?) they can create more and more tabletops. Plus, there are success ladders and tokens to keep track of what few mechanics there are to manage.
This platform is really meant for Fate games, but can be used for other, similar games as well. But it absolutely cannot support character tokens or images, so if you want to display locations, you’ll need to find some other method of sharing maps and grids.
You can check it out here: RPG Note Cards
A still streamlined, but slightly more robust option, Fari expands slightly upon the simple layout of RPG Note Cards. Instead of having wholly separate ‘tabletops for scenes, Fari provides different tabs for characters, scenes, and drawings, all while having a chat tab available for ease of communication.
Like RPG Note Cards, GMs that use Fari can fill the ‘scenes’ tab with information separated into easy-to-read cards, like a shared notebook. They can also keep track of their various PCs, NPCs, and worldbuilding with the ‘character’ and ‘notes’ areas, or simply by creating scenes that their players aren’t yet privy to.
Plus, Fari has excellent story randomization options to help shake things up or inspire new adventures. If you don’t know where to go or what to play, just take a look at the Story Dice and Story Deck buttons, and they’ll generate a few prompts for you to use.
This VTT is more universally applicable than RPG Note Cards, and has the added bonus of being able to sketch out or host images of things you might find hard to describe. However, it still doesn’t have a full map apparatus – which is fine since you aren’t likely to need it.
You can check it out here: Fari
Finally, on the other end of the streamlined VTT spectrum from RPG Note Cards is RoleGate, a chat based VTT. Instead of simple cards with bursts of shared notes, RoleGate focuses on blocks of text, like you would see in a chat room.
The whole play area is a giant chat log, with buttons on the side to allow players to roll dice, take notes, or make use of various interactive helps. You can easily highlight the scene-setting descriptive messages so that players can track what’s currently going on, too. And if it’s important for you to separate the player conversation from the character conversation, it has separate chat areas for each.
RoleGate is definitely the platform of choice for ‘play-by-post’ style games, where players are not expected to gather at one time, but post sporadically whenever they get the chance, wrangled into a general semblance of order by their GM. It’s also great if you’re looking to turn your game into an interactive and readable story, since you can toggle bystander access on and off.
You can check it out here: RoleGate
Have you ever used any of the VTTs listed above? Have you played Fate online with another VTT that we’ve missed? Ho did your game go? Let us know in the comments below!