Last week I had the honour of being invited to play dungeons and dragons in a beautiful Tudor castle near Bristol. Alongside Yugi Hoe from the Drag Dungeoneers and Stephen Santouris from Roll the Damn Dice, we sat down with Dungeon Master legend and all around lovely guy Jeff Cannata for a hilarious one shot showcasing the new Realm Architect Virtual Tabletop System for their kickstarter campaign.
We were also lucky enough to be able to have CEO of Realm Architect Nils Philips at the table to take us through what we could expect from Realm Architect (and play a kickass lute shredding Bard at the same time) .
What is Realm Architect?
Realm Architect is a brand new Virtual Tabletop system for Dungeons and Dragons, giving you an immersive space in which to build your world, keep track of story notes, and run battles all within a digital environment.
No idea what a Virtual Tabletop is? I don’t blame you. If you’re new to Tabletop Role Playing Games (TTRPGs) just picture Dungeons and Dragons but instead of using pens and paper around the table, it’s almost like you’re playing video game together.
Now, before anyone starts worrying about losing that social aspect of playing a game with your friends, I should explain what I mean. You’re still playing Dungeons and Dragons with your mates, only this time you can see what the tavern you’re in actually looks like, you can see the fireball being hurled at you by the evil wizard as it streaks past your character’s face, and you can even see the fire begin to spread as it inevitably smashes open that bottle of top shelf booze and sets the building ablaze.
If you’re a Dungeon Master, just imagine all those miniatures, battle maps, world lore notes, city and tavern descriptions, and quest ideas that your party never encountered in one easy to use piece of software - rather than being scattered around your house on various post it notes and scraps of paper. Sounds like a dream, right?
Well before now, it sort of was. In my experience, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, Virtual Tabletop systems became a really handy tool for playing Dungeons and Dragons remotely with your friends. Seeing a shared battlemap you could update in real time would keep players invested in the action, and the ability to keep character sheets and roll dice all within the app would make the game accessible to players who otherwise didn’t have the right pieces. The only real problem though was that the Virtual Tabletop systems available didn’t really… work.
I mean technically, yes, you could look at and update a shared map, and technically yes, you could all connect and play - but the experience was often bogged down in calls of “Oh, hold on. Let me just find this menu” and “Wait up one second, why am I rolling 100 dice?” or even the dreaded “Hello. Hello. Are you still there?” followed by a sudden and dramatic disconnection from the server. Trust me, I tried a lot of different versions of the Virtual Tabletop system during that time and they were, by and large, more trouble than they were worth. I mean seriously - talk about doubling the workload of a Dungeon Master’s prep time just to get a visual aid your entire party can look at.
Realm Architect feels different though ...
As a piece of kit it’s pretty damn impressive, and their development philosophy of never having anything more than 5 clicks away makes their virtual tabletop system feel like a digital extension of the Dungeon Master’s brain. Giving you everything you need at your fingertips to seamlessly run your world without slowing down play or stopping to fiddle with menus.
With realm architect you can import your world map, add in all the locations you’ve created, assign each location a battlemap, and then drag and drop your characters directly into it. Need to look at the world map again? No problemo! Simply zoom out and there you are!
Zooming back into the battlemap, it seems that one of your party has headed into the basement, while the others are still outside - no matter - you can seamlessly transition between layers and keep track of your players effortlessly.
Need to see the stats for a particular monster that’s accidentally been summoned from an otherworldly abyss? Simply search the in-built 5th Edition D&D OGL and instantly find what you need, then drag and drop it straight onto the battlemap without skipping a beat. Then let that sucker run wild!
Uh oh, that otherworldly aberration has created a sudden and unexpected combat! Worry not, Realm Architect’s initiative tracker and built in dice roller will make switching to combat a breeze, also slowing down the time and lighting to be reflective of the ‘6 second a round’ rule.
From what we could see during our one shot, Realm Architect combines various Dungeon Master features needed to run any game smoothly, giving DMs easy access to all the tools they need while avoiding overwhelming features that could slow down gameplay. All of that packaged with an easy to use and gorgeously art styled interface.
Whilst Realm Architect’s efforts are currently focused on creating as immersive and user-friendly a system as possible for running Dungeons and Dragons games both in person and remotely, their development roadmap allows scope for the software to be used to run other tabletop role playing games (TTRPGs).
Realm Architect will be launched as a subscription based platform, and depending on the backing they receive for their kickstarter, the potential scope for their system is enormous.
You can check out Realm Architect’s kickstarter at the link below:
Our filmed one shot features taverns, old ladies, a health inspection and the birth of ‘Sexy Tuesdays’; so keep your eyes peeled for the videos once they drop!!