RPTools – MapTool preview article (R. Keith Athey)
RPTools is a brand of open-source programs designed to enhance traditional pen-and-paper role playing games. You can use the tools for face-to-face play, or Internet role-playing in real time even if your players are on the other side of the world. These tools are not a role playing game by themselves, nor are they meant to replace everything at the RPG table. Rather, they are designed to be as flexible as possible and usable for a wide variety of game systems.
The tools are generic, not built for any specific RPG, which allows for the great flexibility and configuration. The RPTools community thrives within the RPTools forums other venues like the MapTool Wiki, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ with knowledgeable user base willing to help with almost any game system. If you run one of the popular RPGs like D&D, Pathfinder, GURPS, Shadowrun, Warhammer, or Savage Worlds there is likely an existing framework you can simply load and start playing. You can find a list of the ever-growing number of supported systems under the Framework User Creations section of the forums.
It is the RPTools community that is the true foundation of the products. The forums buzz with ideas, suggestions, announcements, art, cartography, frameworks, game stories, and all-important answers to users questions. We take pride our community and encourage you to join and contribute.
All RPTools software is free and will remain free. We have CharacterTool, DiceTool, TokenTool, and IntiativeTool, but the jewel in the RPTools crown is MapTool. Don’t let the name fool you. MapTool is much more than just a mapping program. Included are not only powerful tools for the creation of detailed maps, but also a chat function, detailed token management (allowing you to track properties of the units placed on the map and display health and status information), and an initiative tracker. These features enable your computer screen to function as a virtual table top, filling the role of battlemats and dry-erase markers and providing for infinitely scrollable maps and the ability to use a large-screen TV or video projector. It is “game system agnostic”, meaning that while MapTool has special support for some game systems (like hexes for GURPS or square templates for D&D 4E) there is no requirement for you to use these features.
But MapTool does more than just emulate a tabletop. It includes a set of light, sight, and topology (light and vision blocking) features which limit the view of the players and reveal the map as they explore it. The GM can block vision through walls, turn on and off lights, specify low-light and dark vision effects, and place light sources on objects or tokens to simulate the visual cone of a flashlight or the dim light of a torch. The GM can limit a player to only what their token sees add a new level of excitement when the party splits up to investigate a dark, dreary dungeon.
MapTool includes a full-featured macro language that allows you to automate almost any facet of your game. These are entirely optional bits of code you write yourself or borrow from others you meet in the forums. They can read or modify statistics saved in individual tokens to speed up your game by automating the number-crunching and constant rules-checking that can otherwise bog down a gaming session. Rather than looking up the finer details of a rule in the middle of the gaming session, if you’ve set things up it’s as simple as a mouse-click. If you wish, reports on the results can be output to the chat window and displayed to whomever you wish (just the GM, for instance, or to everybody). You can even use macros to keep an updated visual display of things like hit points, mana, or ammunition right on your token.
All RPTools products require Java to run. You can even start RPTools programs via web link (try it).
See rptools.net for more information.
R. Keith Athey