Interview: Doug Davison (SmiteWorks)

Fantasy Grounds is a virtual online gaming table application primarily intended for pen and paper style narrative roleplaying games. It is designed to perform many of the things you can do while playing at a conventional gaming table, but enables you to do those things online.

[Robert] With so many competitors vying for top spot in the realm of virtual tabletops, what are some of the things you’re doing to stand out?

[Doug] We believe that Fantasy Grounds is the only fully featured virtual tabletop that provides map sharing abilities, character sheet management and campaign management. It may not provide dynamic lighting and reveal of the fog of war as you move (yet), but neither does your table at home. It serves as a great basis for any roleplaying game you want to play, by providing common map sharing, simple fog of war, area of effect templates, dice rolling, macros and campaign management. The real strength in Fantasy Grounds comes when you start taking advantage of the game-specific rulesets that are either provided for free with the Full and Ultimate licenses or are available as add-ons. For instance, in the included Pathfinder ruleset, the GM can have a monster target all the players under a 30′ cone and roll an attack that automatically displays hits or misses and allows you to follow up with your damage or effects for the spell or ability. The players benefit from this automation too and it makes managing all the complication of their attacks much easier. All the effects, both positive and negative, within Pathfinder and D&D games can become very cumbersome to manage in face-to-face games, and Fantasy Grounds allows you to manage these much more easily.

[Robert] What are some of the things people may not know about the crew at Smiteworks and about Fantasy Grounds in general?

[Doug] I started and ran a gaming forum and community in central Illinois known as CU-Gaming for a number of years with a fellow gamer. We ran two mini-conventions as well before I moved back to Kentucky and got busy with Fantasy Grounds and other work.

John lives in Seattle and had the honor to have Monte Cook GM for him for their regular D&D campaign. John has been the GM for the same group for 24 years and got started with Virtual tabletops when he moved out of state 10 years ago.

[Robert] What can we expect to see coming from your development studio in the near future?

[Doug] We hope to release Fantasy Grounds to Steam sometime in May, 2014.That will take us a lot of work to get our full catalog of over 250 add-on modules deployed and marketed through there. Once that is stable and managed, we’ll start looking into other areas for side or add-on products to enhance your Fantasy Grounds experience or to provide support for it in other platforms.

[Robert] With Fantasy Grounds supporting a number of systems is there are specific system that you prefer to work with if given the choice and chance?

[Doug] I like a lot of different systems, but I have the most familiarity with D&D (many different versions), Pathfinder and Savage Worlds. Not surprisingly, those rulesets currently have the most automation built into them. I have a little more time available to me now, so I’m looking forward to learning some of the other systems that already have strong support in Fantasy Grounds.

[Robert] Have you considered and are there any plans to release a mobile version of Fantasy Grounds and if you did what are some of the features you’d like to see added into the mix?

[Doug] We have discussed this quite a bit and we’ve mostly been playing around with some very basic prototypes. Until recently, neither John nor I had much time to devote to this seriously. Now that I’ve resigned my full time job to focus solely on SmiteWorks, I am hopeful I can start picking back up on some of these projects that we only toyed with so far. When we get to that stage, we’d probably look at doing these under Kickstarter to judge how much demand there will be for them. It’s not going to be a small project.


Written by Robert Beasley

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