Interview with Brendon Duncan of 3D Virtual Tabletop

Hello Brendon, thanks for sitting down with us to talk about your groundbreaking 3D Virtual Tabletop.  Can you tell us a little about your product?  

3D Virtual Tabletop is a gorgeous virtual tabletop that looks like the real thing – stand-up minis on a battlemat.  People have been using it for both RPGs and board games.  Being available on iPad, iPhone and Android means that it has a really easy to use touch interface to slide the map and miniatures around with your finger. A version for web browsers on Windows and Mac is also in the works.  Although full 3D terrain and miniatures are coming in the future, right now you can use 2D assets presented in a 3D way, very much like Pathfinder’s Pawn miniatures.  This means you can use all the material you have already collected, and it’s easy to unleash your creativity. Bringing in your own maps and miniatures is really quick, for whatever genre you wish, to give the tabletop an individual look to suit your game.

 

How did you find yourself getting into this?  Are you a gamer yourself?  Tell us about your home game.

I got into this to fulfil my own tabletop needs.  I had a few situations at my table where the party was split and it would have been great for each player to have their own view and not be so aware of what was happening to the other characters.   I also had one of my players move away and looked for a good virtual tabletop to use to keep him in the game.  I was disappointed with what I saw.  Wizards of the Coast put out a great demo video of their D&D Insider virtual tabletop in 2007, which showed their 3D minis on top of dungeon tiles.  Years later when I was looking, it’s like the other virtual tabletop makers had ignored it, and even if you wanted just 2D, they weren’t pretty.  I began 3D Virtual Tabletop so that instead of being disappointed when I went from my physical tabletop to my virtual one, I could be excited.

I’m DMing a Pathfinder game that’s been running for about a year and a half.  It’s in my own home brew world, mainly because I can’t keep up with all the source material coming from Paizo.  It’s a “behind enemy lines” campaign.  It started with the fort they were in getting overrun and them escaping into the wilderness.  So far they’re 7th level and haven’t managed to get back to friendly civilisation yet.  In order to simplify some things and make others more interesting, I’ve incorporated a few rules from Basic D&D and some ideas I’ve gleaned from people talking about D&D Next.

 

How do you use existing technology to make your home game better?  Can you give us some examples?

I’m generally old-fashioned when it comes to how I run my games, apart from what I would call “essential” items.  We’re heavy users of the d20pfsrd.com site and other similar reference apps at the table, although sometimes this does slow us down.  I’m considering adding a rule that if someone can’t find the answer in x minutes, we make something up to use now and look it up later.  Our weekly sessions are coordinated through a Facebook group.  Of course, we use 3D Virtual Tabletop for dungeon exploration and combat.  It’s running on an iPad that we pass around, and the tabletop is also shown on a big TV at the end of the table, mirrored from the iPad using an Apple TV.

 

3d-virtual-tabletop-skeletal-dragon-in-dungeon1024x768

Tell us more about 3D Virtual Tabletop and why you think this will revolutionize gaming.

Technology is increasingly inserting itself into our lives, RPGs and board games are no exception.  Gaming is a great way of connecting people and the role that 3D Virtual Tabletop takes is to connect people without sacrificing your tabletop experience.  Even around the same table it can help to bring people together by replacing a wall of laptop screens with tablets or phones that are laid down flat for a more open atmosphere.  Getting rid of those compromises that we’ve had to make in the past is really what 3D Virtual Tabletop is about.

As part of the focus on the tabletop experience, I have started with 2D stand-up minis rather than full 3D figures.  This makes it really easy for people to inject their own personality and style into the game, and cater to any genre, not just what is built into the program.  It will revolutionize gaming because people can have their cake and eat it too. 3D Virtual Tabletop is an awesome tabletop experience that makes you feel like you’ve got your hands on a real tabletop, whether your group is around the same table or around the world.

 

What sets this VTT apart from other programs such as Fantasy Grounds and Roll20?

Think about a person who is important to you, someone who has had an impact in your life, or perhaps a character in a movie that you were really rooting for, or a villain that you wanted to see punished.  When you think of them, what do see?  Are looking down on the top of their head?  Probably not.  I don’t know why you’d want to do that in your games either.  All of those other virtual tabletops will do the job, it’s how they look when you’re playing that separates 3D Virtual Tabletop.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on miniatures and many hours painting them.  I really look forward to bringing them out when I can use them on one of the richly illustrated fold out poster maps included with an adventure.  If you enjoy that sort of thing at your table, then you’ll be pleased to know that you can now have that in a virtual environment.  The premier experience provided by 3D Virtual Tabletop has not been available until now; it is a game changer, making everything before it look antiquated.  It has also been combined with a very easy way to get your own artwork into the app to make it ideal for your game.

 

3d-virtual-tabletop-red-dragon-in-forest1024x768You have a Kickstarter running right now which has some great rewards for backers!  Can you tell us a bit more about this?

Although the 3D Virtual Tabletop app is available in app stores right now, it only works standalone on one device, it doesn’t have network multiplayer.  The Kickstarter project, a resounding success so far, already being 300% funded by more than 300 backers, is for adding cross-platform multiplayer, and offering special access and discounts in return.  There really is some astounding value there, I drove a hard bargain with the map and miniature publishers to get you a deal better than you’ll find anywhere else, and it’s only available to Kickstarter backers.  You also get a chance to put your own stamp on the product, with access to early versions to provide your feedback so that it really becomes the virtual tabletop of your dreams.  To support continual development and improvement, most functionality will require a subscription and backing the Kickstarter can also get you a reduced price for that, or even a lifetime membership.

 

What would you say to someone who is sitting on the fence in regards to VTT?  Are there other ways to use VTT aside from over the net?

There are two things that you need to know if you’re on the fence.  The first is that what you see in the Kickstarter video is just the beginning.  All of those features that you want to be in there will come in time as development continues.  Get in now to scoop the great deals because this is the only time they will be offered.  Coming in at this stage also allows you to affect the direction of the product, so you can make sure it suits your style of play.

The second thing you need to know is that it is surprisingly useful even when you have all of your friends around the same table, and only using it on one device.  Recently I had a session where the witch of the group got polymorphed by a mysterious gypsy.  It was really easy to do a quick internet search on the iPad to find an appropriate picture for her new form, then bring it into the app and display it on the map.  Its times like those when this tool can really add to your gaming experience.

 

 

Any final words before we sign out?

Even if you don’t support the Kickstarter, download the app on your iPad, iPhone or Android device.  Give it a go, find out for yourself how smooth it feels to use and how realistic it looks.

 

Thank you for talking with us today.  We’ll leave our readers with some juicy links to your website and Kickstarter!  

3D Virtual Tabletop

3D Virtual Tabletop KICKSTARTER!

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games / AdventureAWeek.com, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.