Why I Love This: Jeannette on Fantasy Grounds

Jeannette approached us recently after hearing about us through our founder's recent interview at EN World. She let us know she'd only been gaming a short while, but thanks to the VTT (Virtual Tabletop) Fantasy Grounds, she's been able to do it with people all around the world. Fantasy Grounds has a convention coming up called FG-Con that runs from April 8th-10th, and it looks like they could use a few more women around! Take a look at what Jeannette has to say, and if you still want to know more about Fantasy Grounds, a great way to learn would be to join her women-only game (psst... guys, she's also running an all-gender game if you want to get a chance to play too)!

Unlike the vast majority of RPG fans I have met, ladies or otherwise, I came to the hobby rather late in life. It was a bit over a month before my 58th birthday that a friend who had been playing RPG’s for over 30 years came to me and told me about Fantasy Grounds VTT, owned by Smiteworks. How he and his friends had recently started using it and were excited about the many, many features it had available. He knew I had never tried RPG’s; he also knew I have a degree in theater and acting, was semi-retired  and looking for something creative to fill my leisure time, and that  I was a geek girl before the term came into common usage. In junior high, I was the only one with a magnetized chess set so we could play on the tedious bus rides, during lunch, anywhere we wanted a pick-up game of chess. He invited me to a game he was running - within 30 days I was completely hooked.

As a result, for me, RPG’s begin and end with Fantasy Grounds. I have had no opportunity to be in a face to face game, nor have I tried any other VTT’s I understand are available. The major reason are, simply,  the immense versatility of Fantasy Grounds, the many supported rulesets, the easy to use in-game player and GM tools - it would take me a lifetime to try everything I can here.

I cannot compare systems, but I can discuss why I love Fantasy Grounds. The very first reason, as I have already mentioned, is versatility. Smiteworks offers several licensing options, from the free demo through full and ultimate licenses. Details of the variations and the platforms compatible with Fantasy Grounds can be found at their website

Another part of that versatility is the large number of supported rulesets. All Fantasy Grounds come with seven rulesets: Dungeons & Dragons 5e, 4e, 3.5e, Pathfinder, CoreRPG, Numenera and Fatecore. Additionally, another nine rulesets are available for purchase from Smiteworks, but then add another whopping thirty-eight fan community created ruleset extensions, which brings the total to fifty-four. I was amazed there were that many variations to rules in RPG’s. The full list of rulesets can be found on their wiki. If I only try one ruleset a year, I won’t live long enough to try them all.

The last and largest group, though, leads to one of the other reasons I love Fantasy Grounds - community support and creativity. Fantasy Grounds is a growing community, and a good many features and ruleset extensions have been created by the players, the fans themselves. This community is also quick to assist any newcomers through their forums, and Smiteworks has absolutely brilliant customer support response. If I post a question on the forums, it isn’t unusual to have an answer within an hour. The most amazing moment came when one Friday night trying to connect to a weekly Castles and Crusades game I play in, my table just kept getting shut down. I sent a message to customer support, but resigned myself to waiting through the weekend possibly for help. That proved to not be the case. Within a half hour, I received an email from Doug Davison, the CEO of Smiteworks offering his help. Via email and finally connecting to his server he did all he could to resolve the issue. The entire time I am thinking, “How unique is that, to get customer support from the CEO himself late on a Friday evening?” I was impressed. The forums aren’t  just for help, either.  You can advertise games, look for games, and general sharing of RPG information and gaming in general is tremendous.

Moving on to another aspect of Fantasy Grounds, I love the ease of use. Admittedly, with so many supported rulesets, and available extensions, there are a vast number of options and features to learn. I grew up in an era when they were still fighting the use of calculators in schools, however returning to college several times in later years I acquired computer skills unheard of in my generation. I will never be an expert, but I believe if I can learn to use and enjoy Fantasy Grounds and its features, those who grew up with these technologies should breeze through the learning curve. Within two years I am not only completely at home as a player even in unfamiliar rulesets, but have recently started running my own games. Currently, I’m running Savage Worlds, for me the simplest and most versatile of the choices.

You will find a video that demonstrates some of these features and choices above, but the developers and fans have created a wide variety of tutorials and user guides available on the Fantasy Grounds Wiki

To play Fantasy Grounds, all you need is the software and a VOIP, though some users still prefer text-only games. I know players who use Skype and Google hangouts, but the most popular tool to host games is Teamspeak. Fantasy Grounds forums provides a Teamspeak server of their own free to all players that can host up to 500 players in many games. Once again, I found the support by Smiteworks and the Fantasy Grounds forums to facilitate player access is  beyond anything I have ever encountered. Even if you haven’t tried it yet, you can log on to Teamspeak, and surprisingly often find players and GM’s lurking about happy to answer any questions you might have, though as yet they do not have a dedicated position to guarantee that help all the time.

These reasons are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why I am so passionate about Fantasy Grounds and the world it has opened up for me. I have one final reason - the bi-annual FG-Con online RPG convention. The next one is scheduled for April 8-10, and it is there I will not only be running my own games at a convention for the first time, but I’ll be running the first and only all-woman game (as in women GM and players).  

In addition to the bi-annual conventions, every other month FG-Daze is offered through the forums themselves, a single Saturday filled with one shots anyone can join and try it out before they decide if this is something they want. I would love to see many more women joining us because here, as in most places with RPG’s, we are still a very small minority. The vast majority of the guys have been wonderfully supportive, and Mr. Davison and the convention organizers are encouraging more women-only games, female GM’s, and of course simply more women playing in ANY game. They even gave me my own blog on the forums that in part addresses women using Fantasy Grounds, but more broadly all new users and fans of RPG’s like myself. You can read my blog here. Can you tell I am a fan of the Dune books?

I would love to have some of you join our ladies game there. I still have a couple of seats open, and if enough women are interested, I would be happy to add a second session to welcome you to Fantasy Grounds.  This link will take you directly to the sign up page for the women-only game, though to sign up you must register first (which is pretty simple). Unless you are registered and have set your proper time zone in your profile, all games are shown in GMT. A world time clock can aid you in figuring what time a game is in your zone. You are welcome to sign up for ANY game with open seats that interests you, all you need is the demo version of Fantasy Grounds (most GM’s have the ultimate license and can host demo players), Teamspeak, and a desire to play RPG’s with some wonderful people.

I could go on for pages about so much more with Fantasy Grounds, but I hope this is enough to get you started. I can be contacted through the forums, and will be happy to assist any who do so, and perhaps even arrange times we can meet and I can show you why I am so passionate in person, and give you a head start on what to expect at FG-Con.

I will close with this: I did, indeed, find RPG’s late in life, but with Fantasy Grounds I plan to enjoy my second childhood even more than the first, and look forward to it making my Golden Years a bit richer.

Do you identify as a woman have something you're passionate about that you'd like to share with ConTessa's readers? We're always happy to take guest blog posts, and love to hear what women in the world of tabletop RPGs are being passionate about today. Drop an email to admin@contessa.rocks with your idea, and we'll help you get it published!