It has been 1 year, 5 months, and 2 days since I wrote my breakup letter with GameMaster 5. The relationship had ended a few weeks earlier, but I didn’t yet know what I was going to say. I didn’t want to rush into anything and all. While I was madly in love with EncounterPlus when I wrote that post, I had no idea how long it would last. Would it lose its lustre? Would something better come along and catch my eye? After a year and a half of regular use, I’m happy to say, I’m more in love than ever.
What is EncounterPlus?
EncounterPlus is an advanced virtual tabletop designed to help 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons dungeon masters run their game sessions more efficiently and easily than ever before. It provides:
Initiative Tracking. Track players & monsters during combat with their AC, HP, and any conditions they may have readily available.
Battle Map Support. Load image and video maps, move digital tokens on the screen or project to a TV table and use real minis.
AirPlay & Web Client. Display maps to a local TV or a streaming service using AirPlay or allow direct connections to an internal web server.
And so much more*. Dynamic lighting, line-of-sight, weather effects, 3D Dice, integrated notebook, animated tokens, and more.
Some features require a subscription of $3.99/mo or $24.99/yr..
What I love about EncounterPlus
While I could go on and on about the many features and capabilities of the application, What I really want to talk about are some of the reasons that are not immediately obvious when looking through release notes and traditional reviews. These are the things I love the most about EncounterPlus and the facets that make my life easier as a DM. (In alphabetical order)
The biggest selling point for EncounterPlus for me was the ability to run my sessions from a tablet. I like running a tech-heavy game, but I really hated using a laptop. The screen was hard to read, controls were clunky, and I felt like it came between me and the players.
(I don’t like playing with a DM screen for the same reason.)
The iPad on the other hand was smaller, easier to use, and less intrusive. It was also more versatile. It works well for my two most common setups as well as for games on the road, at a local coffee shop, and more.
We play in a living room. I AirPlay E+ to the TV and display a relevant image outside of combat & switch to the map after we roll initiative.
The players are 100% digital with either Fight Club or D&D Beyond, but they all roll real math rocks in a community dice tray.
It is an intimate, comfortable environment and I love how minimalist the setup is.
When COVID forced us to go remote, E+ implemented an integrated web server to allow remote users to connect directly to the VTT.
Leveraging my simple home studio, I ran Discord on my old iMac, Soundboard Studio on an old iPad, and E+ on my new iPad Pro. I upgraded the mic shortly after this picture and we were able to continue playing from the safety & comfort of our own homes.
All ‘@’ are for the person’s name in the Discord community.
There are not enough good things I can say about Juraj. I’ve never come across a developer more invested in their product and it’s users. He is kind, patient, and very responsive. He is most active on the EncounterPlus Discord server, but also responds to users on Twitter and Reddit too. While all of that is nice, what really amazes me is how transparent and responsive he is regarding new features and product development. You can follow the project on GitHub, submit issues, and watch as they get worked and implemented in the final product.
As amazing as Juraj is, he can’t be everywhere at once. Fortunately, the community seemingly is. The previously mentioned Discord is a hot-bed of talented, helpful individuals willing and able to help users with just about any question or issue they might have. Every time I check in, I learn something new that will help me run a more engaging and entertaining session. Even more impressive is the work the community is doing to extend and integrate EncounterPlus with other tools and resources.
D&D Beyond Integration
While there are no officially supported integrations between EncounterPlus and D&D Beyond, the community has created a number of tools that make it easier for E+ DMs to accomodate DDB players. DMs can import player characters into EncounterPlus and send dice rolls to the VTT via a browser extension. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The community is finding new and better ways to make the experience better for D&D Beyond DMs and players.
EncounterPlus Module Packer
It is a little too advanced to really dive into here, but I’ll try to circle back and do a proper article on it in the future. But first, I need to finish up some of the projects I’m currently working on before I take on any new ones. Keep an eye out for a preview release of my new DM Operations Center module in the next couple of weeks.
Native Support for Dynamic LoS & Lighting
Dynamic line of sight and lighting is one of the coolest features in EncounterPlus, but it can be time consuming to set up in a standard image or video map. Fortunately, more and more map makers, are starting to offer them in their Patreon tiers. The most notable and talented of them being the dynamic duo of Cze & Peku.
Do-it-yourself map-makers, like myself, aren’t left out of the fun either. The outstanding map-making tool, Dungeondraft, added native support for EncounterPlus a few releases back. Walls and lighting created in Dungeondraft are now included in the native .ddvtt map format and imported into the VTT flawlessly.
What about GameMaster?
Despite having left GameMaster behind, I still get questions about it. Why did I switch? Do I still recommend it? GameMaster is a fine app and one I whole-heartedly recommend for DMs that:
- run combat entirely in the theater of the mind or with physical maps and minis,
- have players using Fight Club 5 for their digital character sheets,
- want to use an Android phone or tablet.
GM5 is an excellent initiative tracker with some solid campaign and NPC management capabilities. The notes feature is very weak compared to EncounterPlus, and I strongly recommend using something like Evernote or OneNote instead.
What frustrated me about GameMaster was the lack of support and any semblance of community surrounding the app. I always felt like I was on an island. In fact, not a week goes by someone contacts me looking for help with GameMaster or Fight Club. I even get the occasional complaint/refund request.
The Future is Bright
Looking ahead, I am very excited about where EncounterPlus is headed. There are over 236 issues currently logged in GitHub and 221 of them are feature requests. There are a lot of things to be excited about in that list and given how far the application has come in the past year, I’m pretty confident I’ll see more than a few make their way into future releases.
If you’d like to learn more about EncounterPlus, I recommend checking out the following resources: