Friday, February 26, 2016

Fantasy Grounds

doug.jpg A few months ago, Beamdog partnered with Fantasy Grounds , a company that provides virtual gaming tables to gamers wishing to play traditional pen-and-paper games online. As someone who’s played tabletop games in AOL chat rooms (they had a built-in die roller, the height of innovation in 2002!), I find Fantasy Grounds’ invention highly appealing.

Players using Fantasy Grounds can purchase add-ons to customize characters, including portraits and items from our enhanced edition games. It's great knowing players who love Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale can create their ideal character using a Viconia portrait or Koveras's Ring of Protection (that Koveras sure is a nice guy).

We're kicking this partnership off by interviewing Fantasy Grounds’ owner, Doug Davidson, and making a special offer for our fans. Read on!

Doug Davidson chilling with Zuggtmoy.

In 2004, three business partners in Finland created the app that would become Fantasy Grounds. “They were looking for a way to play tabletop RPG games remotely when they were no longer able to gather in person,” says Davidson. “I have always been a gamer and a computer science guy. I desperately wanted to go off and build video games for a living.”

Fantasy Grounds, then, offered the former software developer and consultant a perfect opportunity to blend his computer skills with his enthusiasm for gaming. He purchased the company in 2009, which “allowed me to engage some of the various RPG publishers in the gaming industry and work with some excellent properties. John Gregory was one of those developers.” Given that Gregory helped build the 3.5 and 4th-edition Dungeons & Dragons rulesets Fantasy Grounds uses, it was a smart hire. It seems fitting that a system designed for uniting remote gamers led Davidson to hire Gregory without ever meeting him face-to-face.

Davidson says Fantasy Grounds’ largest audience is “people who want to play remotely across the world, different states, or just across town without worrying about weather or traffic.” GMs using Fantasy Grounds as a campaign tracker and information management tool in offline mode make up a smaller audience. Some GMs run two copies of the app, one on laptop for secret calculations and adventure notes, the other sending a player-only version to a connected display. This setup “helps eliminate the time of having to draw out maps or the costs of using flip-mats and miniatures,” Davidson says.

Lack of physical miniatures isn't a problem for players, as Fantasy Grounds offers many options to customize characters. “Playing an RPG is very much about what you expect your character to look like.” The portraits Beamdog offers “lets people roleplay their favorite Baldur's Gate character in a new tabletop RPG experience. The adventures that they took those characters on within the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games can be extended further with a good DM and a group of friends.”

It's no surprise Davidson has ideas for expanding the app. “Building your own content directly within Fantasy Grounds and sharing these modules for others to enjoy is something that I'd like to see take off.” Unfortunately, his work leaves him little time to game, though he remains passionate about the hobby. “My favorite games so far have been D&D, Pathfinder, Savage World, Deadlands, Star Wars Saga, and Pendragon,” he says. “To be honest, I have a hard time not liking a game.”

If you'd like to check out Fantasy Grounds, watch a demo on Steam or the Fantasy Grounds website, or visit their YouTube channel. The company also offers a free 30-day trial for GMs.

But wait, there's more!

In the deep, dusty archives of Baldur's Gate (or, rather, the well-maintained archives of Mike Sass's hard drive), we found the original Edwin Odesseiron portrait by Baldur’s Gate artist Mike Sass. The piece was never made available… until now. Fantasy Grounds has the portrait available as a free download, and so do we!

Behold, the inimitable Red Wizard of Thay in all his original glory! Our friends over at Gamerati have an interview with Sass up right now discussing his artistic process and influences. Read the history, meet the artist, play the character, and enjoy the portrait!

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