Is there an alternative to Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds? These two seem pretty dominant, but there are other choices. Astral TableTop, more commonly known just as Astral, is a web-based and free forever virtual tabletop, cam and chat system and automation tool.
I must admit I’ve not used any virtual tabletop yet and so I made an account at Astral to test it out. It was pleasing to see that I didn’t need to download anything (not yet, at least; there are asset packs) and was welcomed by a straightforward and easy to understand tutorial video.
The site was founded in 2017 and has spent a good chunk of time since listening to its community and updating its code and capabilities. The result is what Astral calls a ‘new experience’ for the platform.
You can use the virtual tabletop to bring to life any RPG ruleset, build custom maps including sound, weather and atmosphere, you can upload documents, keep journals and track combat.
As a virtual tabletop newbie I was especially impressed by the dynamic lighting. That seems like a massive faff to take care of offline, but it looks terrific and seems to be painless with Astral.
Does anyone use Astral? I don’t have the figures but there are some 30,000 pieces of art in the marketplace that comes with the platform so that strongly suggests you won’t be alone.
Astral CEO Tom Lackemann told press;
The new experience is the result of listening to what our amazing community of Game Masters needed most,”
“We spent almost a full year refactoring everything about Astral to make sure we addressed the problems and needs GMs in 21st century have.
I’m sure Astral have very fierce competition in the form of Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, both those companies have huge fan bases and gamers lacking a reason to move won’t be in the hunt for an alternative for many years. However, gamers do tend to research and look for indie options. I suspect all it takes is a popular stream or two and Astral might start to find more and more users.
You can use Astral as a mobile-first utility, rolling dice and sharing rules. That’s handy and makes Astral a virtual tabletop that can follow you to an actual tabletop.
Tempted? You can try (and keep) Astral for free here.