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For the chat based playtest of various questions on this site, I find myself wondering about online battlemaps.

My current intension is to use Google spreadsheets to present an abstract, if serviceable battle map.

Can anyone recommend a tool, or non-gaming technology that will allow me to take a image (such as a dungeon or delve as presented in most DDI releases, set it as the background, and then allow players to manipulate "pogs" as an overlay? I'm OK with having no security functions, though I know my players will get twitchy over that.

I'm also interested in this technology for solitare games, as my current setup requires various adobe products, grids, and layers.

Optimally speaking, this would be a technology that runs in the browser and doesn't require any kind of dedicated hosting from private computers.

A similiar question can be found here though this question has a different focus in that I'm seeking persistent web-based software rather than online, but concurrent, gaming software.

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Maybe CW this, as it's likely to generate a list? –  Iszi Oct 18 '10 at 15:19
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7 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

PBPMap looks nifty. It offers a PBP Web Program that they make available to those who request it. There doesn't seem to be a means to simply download it.

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Something like GameTable? I know it's not exactly web-based, but it's Java.

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You can easily use a custom Vassal module to do this. Put the map as the background, align your grid, and import the tokens into the module as counters.

You will need a shared upload point (a secured FTP site is perfect; if you have a web host that allows you to create FTP accounts, a non-public directory with each player having access to it is a great way).

Once all the access is up, you post the module and the turn file. Each in their turn uploads a text file named "BHasIt.txt" or some such, downloads the turn file, takes their turn, saves, reuploads the turn file, deletes their hasit marker, and logs out.

Advantages:

  • each player's actions can be secured against other players
  • each player has a record of the past, as well as the save file keeping a record of the past
  • file can be set up to not allow a new turn until the GM takes a new turn
  • requires only an FTP client, FTP host, and Vassal
  • can be used for other functions as well, including dice rolling.
  • can be used live multiplayer if all are online at once and configured properly

Disadvantages:

  • slow process.
  • old-tech filesharing
  • requires learning the Vassal programming interface
  • potentially large transfer allotments
  • requires an FTP host with account access.
  • No drawing on the fly.

Note that Vassal modules can be created and shared without registering, and that live net play can also be used.

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In the linked question I suggested MapTools and it will certainly meet your requirements for maps and "pogs". It doesn't meet your optimal requirement of being browser based, however any browser solution (and I've used a few whiteboards) will require a significant download.

Is there a particular reason you want to discard client/server solutions?
If you are concerned about persistence you can save the state of your campaign at any point. If you are concerned about installation issues the processes is relatively straight foward: install Java, unzip client.

[EDIT] A possible option mentioned over in the MapTools forum is SoulGrinder. It does cost money though. On the plus side they do offer a 30 day trial.

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The primary reason is that the game itself will be asynchronous and running a java server requires far more effort than finding a web service that will do the same work. I've also tried gametable and maptools for myself and they seem extremely unwieldy. Given that we're in multiple time zones, the idea of trying to manage a game via these tools left open 24/7 strikes me as using the wrong tool for the job. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 18 '10 at 11:23
    
Ah, I see what you mean about asynchronous now. However running a server in this case means nothing more than leaving your PC turned on. Something I have done myself on occasion. I understand MapTools can seem like a sledgehammer because it is so feature rich but the basics are simple enough. I would just assign pogs to individual players, so when they log in they can only move those things they should. Consider it a back-up plan if you can't find the browser option :) –  Jagged Oct 18 '10 at 13:10
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A link to someone with similar requirement discussed on the MapTools forum > forums.rptools.net/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=16387 –  Jagged Oct 18 '10 at 13:20
    
not all ISPs permit hosting long-term sites from one's home computer. Further, most home users do not have static IP's from the far side (of their ISP) view... that is, while I might have 192.1.1.20 every day, the world might see me as 137.229.100.222:34 on one day, and 132.229.100.139:9990 the next... –  aramis Oct 19 '10 at 8:12
    
Regarding static IPs: Maptools solves this issue by allowing you to "publish" your server on their servers list. You use passwords to stop anyone joining but people can use this list to connect meaning you don't need to know your external IP and it doesn't matter if it changes from day to day. –  Jagged Oct 19 '10 at 8:37
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The solution I've been using is REALLY old tech...

I set the font on the BBS post to a monospaced font, and use an ascii map and colored letters to denote PC's... players can copy the map into their own posts and edit it. (Mine don't, but could.) Most VBBS boards support font selection...

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Roll20 is another option you should consider.

It runs in the browser, allows you to upload images to be used as tokens/maps from your PC and provides a number of other features that sound suited to what you want.

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Possible options:

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FYI, Google Docs is being sorta-but-not-discontinued: they're going to roll it into their cloud file storage offering soon and discontinue the current interface. No idea what the implications of that are for its utility for this purpose. –  SevenSidedDie Jun 9 '12 at 18:47
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