Friday, January 28, 2011

Using RPTools to play Song of Blades and Heroes

RPTools is a suite of programs made for playing tabletop-RPGs on a computer, even over the Internet. The main module is MapTool, which allows players to draw maps, roll dice and place tokens of various sizes and with different properties. If you aren't used to the program, it's probably a good idea to check the tutorials to learn how to use the map, dice roller and tokens.

With little effort, MapTool can be configured to play Song of Blades and Heroes (SBH) and similar procedures might be used for other skirmish games. There are three basic steps to do this:

Configuring the map
By default, MapTool creates maps with square grids with a length of 5 "measurement units" per square, which fits perfectly to a certain well-known fantasy RPG. To edit these settings, you can use the Map -> Edit Map... menu. For SBH, I find it is better to use a map with no grid and with a Distance per Cell equal to the base size you are simulating. This way, you can read all measurements as millimeters. So, for 25mm bases, you would have something like this:
You may also want to tweak the "Pixels per Cell" value. This will correspond to the size your 25mm bases/tokens are shown at 100% scale on the screen. If you're playing on a large high-resolution monitor, you may want to raise this value, for instance.

Configuring token properties
Tokens in MapTool have properties. By default, these properties also conform to a certain fantasy RPG. To change them to SBH, you can access the Edit -> Campaign Properties menu and do the following:
1. Click on "Basic" on the list of token types;
2. Replace the existing text with the following:

*Special Rules(SR)

3. Click on the Update button.

Now, if you double-click a token, you can type its SBH properties and when you move the mouse cursor over it, you will see a popup window displaying its properties. Note that you can copy and paste tokens to create multiple models of the same type.
Configuring states
The last step consists of changing the possible token states to match what we need for a SBH game. Once again, use the Edit -> Campaign Properties menu but switch to the States tab.Edit the Incapacitated and Prone states, renaming them to Transfixed and Fallen. Don't forget to click on the Update button after each edit. You may also want to delete the other unused states.
 Now you can right-click on a token and set/clear those states:

Playing a battle
These steps give you a very basic configuration to play a game. You may want to switch to drawing mode and draw a rectangle limiting the playing region -- for a 120x80cm table, you'd draw a 1200x800 rectangle, for instance. You can also draw simple outlines for scenic items, broken terrain and the like, or use images for them (check this video tutorial for a good example).

Note: when moving models, add the base size to the length of the movement stick, to figure the maximum distance you can move in MapTool, since it measures from the center of the base. As an alternative, you can use an hex-grid map in MapTool (change this in Map -> Edit Map... menu), since SBH supports those too.

It is also possible to create macros for the dice rolls but since it is a lot of trouble to automatically account for the modifiers and special rules, I end up using mostly the /roll 1d6 command (several times if necessary)...

I find MapTool very useful to quickly test warbands and scenarios. It is also a handy way to play a game when you have no table space or minis available.


Chris Woods said...

Good ideas! Have you ever played online with this framework? I wonder if there's some way to denote distance as Short, Medium, and Long? Like, maybe the line stays green until it passes Short distance into Medium, then stays yellow until it becomes Long, and then doesn't get any longer... Probably would take more work than it's worth though.

Ricardo said...

Hi Chris, thanks! I have not tried playing online...

Regarding the short, medium and long distances, I am not sure if the line coloring could be done with macros.

One alternative is to create some measurement sticks as images and load them as objects (in the object layer of the map). Then you can move and rotate them as needed, using them as you would in a real board.