The forums are rife with disbelief. WotC announced that they have begun beta testing a Virtual Table Top (VTT). The first thing I did when I heard was to check the date of the post. Surely, I thought, it must be a resurrected April Fool’s Day post. As far as I can tell though, this news appears to be real.

It’s time for a look at the next digital product we’re working on for D&D – The Dungeons & Dragons Virtual Table! The D&D VT is an online tool that Dungeon Masters and adventurers can use to run and participate virtually in D&D tabletop adventures. The tool has a whole bunch of features such as dungeon tiles for making maps, monster and character tokens, avatars that can be statted out and initiative and attack rollers. Users will need access to the rules and information found in the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop Roleplaying Game Core Rules in order to use the D&D VT.

Later today, Thursday November 18th, invites will be going out for the friends and family portion of the Dungeons & Dragons Virtual Table beta. The focus of this stage of the beta will be usability and gathering basic feedback about the D&D VT. It’s important to note that those invited to the beta are able to talk about their impressions of the D&D VT, so don’t be surprised if you see posts, blogs, and screen shots about their experiences. Here’s an example of what you might see:

WotC VTT

As we move further into the beta, D&D Insiders will be invited to test out the Dungeons & Dragons Virtual Table and provide their direct feedback as well. Until then, we’ve answered some basic questions about the D&D VT beta in this FAQ. You can also join in on the conversations in the DDI General Forums to see what people are saying about the D&D VT.

As you can see from the FAQ, the image, and post in the forums, this is clearly not the same 3D VTT that was advertised in the back of the core books. Nonetheless, it does appear to be a viable VTT and, at a glance, looks to have a very usable interface. It has VoIP built-in and presumably will be able to access other DDI tools directly (although it sounds like this initially will not be the case).

The biggest concerns floating around the forums are stability. The online character builder has been problematic at best. But the problems that are merely an annoyance in the CB would be unendurable problems in a VTT. Hopefully, they’ll take the beta testing period seriously and have it rock solid before it becomes available. Since the CB required Silverlight and the VTT requires Java, it is highly likely that the two utilities were written by different groups. Personally, I suspect both were actually purchased from two different third-party developers.

It’s still unclear as to how the fee structure will work out. I suspect that everyone involved would have to connect through WotC servers and each be a current DDI subscriber. Since it is common practice for groups to share a DDI account, this requirement alone would require a huge increase in subscriptions. There is, however, speculation as to a pay-as-you-go system. I doubt this would be as well-received.

Since I don’t play 4e, I see no reason to use this over MapTools (or any of the other free, game-neutral, VTTs). But for 4e groups this should be a wonderful addition. I’m actually a little excited to see where it goes even if I never use it.