Q&A with Tabula Sono

The RPGBOT team has been talking to the team behind Tabula Sono, a new 3d virtual tabletop currently running a kickstarter campaign to fund their public launch in summer of 2022.

Tabula Sono promises to be a free and easy-to-use virtual tabletop for tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, and other games where you’re often using miniatures on a tabletop. Among many features, Tabula Sono supports a “director” view designed for streaming and recording games.

They also support importing 3d model files, including those that you might use for 3d printing which you might get from a variety of sources including Hero Forge (to put that simply: build a character in heroforge, buy the digital copy, import it into Tabula Sono and you can use it in your games!). But if you don’t have a bunch of 3d model files sitting around, they already have a library of over 1,000 models to use for free, and they’re adding more in the future. No more scouring the internet for poorly-cropped monster pictures to drop them into your virtual tabletop.

There’s a lot to like here, and in addition to the information on the Tabula Sono website and on their Kickstarter page, we exchanged some messages to ask some questions that aren’t already answered on their FAQ page.

Tabula sono promo art

RPGBOT: Roll20 is the big name in the marketplace, but one of the biggest complaints about Roll20 and other virtual tabletops is that they’re very difficult to use the first time. What experience can new users expect from Tabula Sono?

TS: Tabula Sono is intentionally super simple and easy to use. Players are sent a game link, click, and the game loads right in their browser. Once the player is in the game, they can be assigned a miniature (or multiple) that is theirs to control. Traditional mouse and keyboard controls move the camera, and click and drag with the mouse will move the mini. For DMs, we are sticking with minimal and intuitive ui to draw walls, selection and grouping tools, and property controls for all items.

We’re keeping bells and whistles to a minimum – bring your favorite dice (some of us use physical dice, some of us use dndbeyond for dice and character sheets, some even use google dice roller!), your own character sheets, your own dm notebooks, etc.

Sono is not an all-in-one trying to do everything tool – it’s just a cool way to visualize the tabletop online.

RPGBOT: Will there be any sort of instruction manual, documentation, how-to videos, etc. to help people learn to use Tabula Sono?

TS: Yes. The first public launch will include a help center that you can click while in game. But because the UI is so simple and intuitive, it will be relatively light, with keyboard and mouse control highlights, DM tips, and an FAQ link.

RPGBOT: Some virtual tabletops have pre-configured modules, sometimes including official adventures from game publishers like Wizards of the Coast and Paizo. Some VTTs have community collections of pre-built maps. Will Tabula Sono have pre-built maps and modules or some way for the community to share maps?

TS:

  • A Creator Marketplace will launch later in the year as we want to be sure it’s set up correctly. This will be a place to not only share but also for independent content creators to sell their work to others in the community. Maps, Miniatures, World Presets, Effect bombs/particle emitters, and literature can all be shared and sold here.
  • A Sono Store at launch will have a simple store that will include 3d miniatures, maps, world presets, and combo packs. These will range from being completely free to purchasable depending on the source and licensing. NOTE: Free accounts will have access to our massive library of free assets, and subscription accounts have access to our entire library with the exception of licensed and premium assets.
  • We plan to stay away from licensing content as we don’t want any parts of Sono to become directed by contracts, noncompetes, or corporate producers/funds. We will have a variety of community tools including.
  • Dev Kit / Plugins – we already have a couple Alpha testers creating some plugin features on their own. This developers ecosystem will be open to all, so any user can submit a plugin or overlay for the community to have access to. These would include things like dungeon/map generators, encounter generators, dice rollers, an enhanced compass that includes controls and measuring/scale tools.
  • Subscription accounts have the ability to save unlimited “scenes” in their games – these scenes can consist of maps, world effect settings, props and miniatures (as much or as little as desired).
  • Anything that a user’s account has access to will be available to any other account in that specific game. So if a player has a certain map or set of minis, the DM can use them as well. 

RPGBOT: The kickstarter shows the capability to import 3d modeling files (STL files, etc), and the site advertises over 1,000 models with more on the way, including premium assets from the marketplace. Will the marketplace support 3rd-party creators who might want to create and sell models to Tabula Sono’s users?

TS: Yes! In the Creator Marketplace mentioned above

RPGBOT: Tabula Sono have anything to help me track things like clouds of fog and walls of fire?

TS:

  • Sono will have particle emitters that a DM can place on the map to create clouds of fog, fire, poison, light, etc.
  • The DM also has hide/reveal capability which when paired with grouping and hierarchy allows the DM control what’s visible to players for both a manual fog of war effect and cinematic reveals.

RPBGBOT: The promotional videos all show miniatures on a single level of elevation. Will there be support for multiple levels of elevation, such as for multi-floor buildings, flying creatures, etc.?

TS: Yes!

  • Multiple levels (as well as multiple scenes within a game) will be available at launch.
  • The next Beta release includes DM ability to change the Y coordinate property which will allow things like flying creatures. There’s also a rotate function for things like opening doors and indicating a prone mini.

RPGBOT: How large can maps be?

TS: Each 3D scene or map is huge – we started off large then went even larger in Alpha. We can pull an exact number next week, but it’s large enough that it takes forever to fly your camera from one side to the other! And the grid is inside a dome, making it an even larger surface area than a square. And with multiple scenes, you can build anything from 1 small building to an entire world with different environments and biomes!

RPGBOT: Will Tabula Sono support a “hex grid” in addition to box grids as shown in the promotional videos?

TS: Yes, will have a hex grid option at launch

RPGBOT: The website describes using Tabula Sono for games like Warhammer, which typically involves more miniatures than something like Dungeons and Dragons. How many miniatures can be on a map at once?

TS: We are still stress testing, but so far have been able to place hundreds of minis. We will continue to test and optimize this so that games can host whole armies if needed. We are intentionally staying low fidelity and using low poly minis so we don’t bog down servers, and Sono also operates on a system of automatically load balancing servers that’s scalable.

RPGBOT: Will there be any kind of API available for 3rd-party apps?

TS: Yes, as part of our Dev Kit mentioned above. This will continue to be worked out as we approach public launch.

RPGBOT: Will Tabula Sono support mobile devices?

TS: Not initially. At launch only desktop devices with mouse/keyboard controls is supported. Support for touch screen controls is something to be tackled down the road and will only be released if we can fully support it in the same capacity as desktop.

RPGBOT: Does your team have any exciting post-release plans which you’d like to share?

TS:

  • We’re super excited about the Creator Marketplace so our focus will go into that as soon as we launch the base product!
  • We’re also working through some Beginners features – we hear from so many people that they want to play games like DnD but don’t know how to get into it. One of the tenets of Sono is to give access to tabletop roleplaying to everyone. So we are trying to work through options for playgroup matching, beginner resources, and other community resources and events.

Conclusion

I’m very excited to see Tabula Sono in action. I’ve used a few virtual tabletops over the years, and their focus on just making the virtual tabletop part work well is exciting when so many virtual tabletops try to do everything at once, and are often worse for doing so. If you already use something like Roll20, but use other tools for voice/video (Discord, etc.) and character sheets (DnDBeyond, etc.), I think Tabula Sono is going to be a wonderful tool.

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