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Be Inspired by Talespire

Screenshot of Talespire as featured on Steam Store
Image credit: Talespire on Steam Store

With all the new restrictions dictating life in Singapore once again, it had seemed that my weekly Dungeons and Dragons meet-up would need to be temporarily put on hold. During CB 1.0, we moved our games online, tried Roll20 and dabbled with Fantasy Grounds, but neither had quite the same feel as our in-person games and had left us feeling a little flat. But then, genuinely by accident, I came across a small advertising banner in the Stream Store for Talespire. It spiked my interest enough to give it a try, and a few dozen hours later, I am completely hooked and raring to play our next adventure.

So what is Talespire?

Developed by BouncyRock Entertainment, Talespire is a way to create a digital table-top;

an online platform that allows you to build anything - from tiny one-shots to sprawling campaigns, individual scenes to entire worlds. This means you can take the physicality of D&D - the maps, miniatures, scenery - into a digital arena and make it even more expansive than you could normally achieve. And, being online, players can explore the world together without physically being in the same

room! Perfect for the pandemic and extendable to normal times when life means getting

together isn’t always possible. It does not have the default Dungeons and Dragons ruleset and compendiums built-in, as it aims

to be system agnostic for the moment. This means you can run it with any roleplaying system. I use Improved Initiative on my web browser for running combats, as I run the game in window mode, but you can use whichever method works best for your games. I am using a second monitor, so it's easier that way, but there's no reason you can't use a more traditional method of tracking initiative.

How can it benefit Game Masters?

  • The world is rendered in 3D view. This adds an element of verticality, which is hard to depict on a 2D board. And the worlds can be big. Really big. Each board can be up to 30km across and 10km tall! Not something easily achievable in the average house.

  • It's incredibly easy to use. This is one of the easiest programmes I've ever used to create battle maps. I'd say a learning curve of about an hour tops.

  • It's flexible. You can create elegantly simple maps without drawing, and you can create detailed worlds that look amazing. You can spend time creating rooms or scenes that combat encounters will take place in, or go the extra mile to create an entire dungeon for the players to explore. You can have multiple boards to your campaign, and each board can be copied - this allows you to create alternate versions in various states that can support whatever direction your story moves in.

  • There are in-game music tracks and light settings. You can adjust them on the fly, or set them in advance and easily apply it to the board when needed. This has been a big plus for me, really helping to create atmosphere and adding depth to the game.

  • You can build scenes in real-time. You can build your scenes as you run your game. This comes back to its ease of use and flexibility. If your players do something completely unexpected, you can roll with it, creating on the screen as they see it.

  • It's highly addictive creating maps or interpreting your own based on the modules you run.

  • It's cost-effective. Talespire is a one-time cost and the developers are adding in more assets and features as the software develops. Compare this to Roll20 which is free but limited, there is a monthly or yearly subscription if you want more space for assets etc.

Take a look at something you can make in the game right now as a Dungeon Master. It makes it

very hard to go back to Roll20!

Screenshot of Talespire - an online platform great for building worlds in Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.
As you can see from the photo, the ability to create dynamic lighting and shadows make the atmosphere of the game.

Ok, but I'm a player. Why should I get this?

No two players have the same picture in their heads when something is described to them. Situational information can be misconstrued, and Talespire can improve the game as visual

information during encounters is made clear by the program. Also, it just looks so much prettier. 3D terrain can present a more tactical strategy when

playing the game as compared to playing on a 2D map. Just take a look at what you can achieve with Talespire in terms of graphics. Here's a quick comparison between Talespire and a typical Roll20 map.

Screenshot of Talespire map
Talespire map

Screenshot of roll20 map
Roll20 map

Doesn’t this add on to prep time?

Only if you want it to. There are options for copy/paste when you're creating, which can

speed up the process. You can also make your worlds as simple or as complicated as time allows. Plus once you're confident, you can create worlds on the go - no prep time at all. For those who are really in a rush for the next game, there's already a community of

members on who have created many maps - from forests and goblin

lairs to functional dice towers and entire cities. Visit the site, pick a map that suits your game and start playing! New content is constantly being added, and as a bonus, importing it to your campaign is dead easy. Just copy the link provided on the site and hit CTRL-V in the game to have it copied to your copy of Talespire.

Different approaches to use

As mentioned, one of the significant assets of this program is its flexibility. You can adapt how you

use it to suit the situation rather than change your gameplay to suit the program.

  • You can craft small slabs and add details to them. I find this works best with roleplaying or puzzle sections.

  • You can craft big empty slabs with tiles as you would with a dry erase map and add in cover/terrain on the fly. I usually avoid this as I like to be prepared to some extent, but it's great for when your players just will not stick to your plans.

  • You can copy someone else's slab, then take it out or add in your own sections to make it original. I've found this most useful for situations where maps are not provided, and combat encounters are a possibility.

  • You can create whole areas. I find this works best with modules that provide maps. You can build according to the floor plan and decorate the rooms/areas according to descriptions. Works really well with dungeon crawls and situations where a tactical approach is warranted.

The bottom line: is Talespire worth it?

Talespire is still in early access and currently downloadable from the Steam Store at a cost of

$25 (approx.). For that, you get the ability to create entire worlds yourself, import community boards from the TalesTavern, and utilise the number of valuable assets already in its early access state. The ability to import and export your creations is also a plus point and one I can see myself using quite a bit. Worth $25? Absolutely, I feel that Talespire is well-worth its selling point and it's a very useful

tool in any Dungeon Masters' toolbox.

So, what do I really think of it?

Clearly, I think Talespire is excellent. It might be the next game-changer to the Dungeons and Dragon scene. I've already spent dozens of hours building maps for my players, and I can see myself sinking in more. The process is fun; I've spent hours without even noticing the time as I've lost myself in world-making and imagining. They've thought of ways to make everything usable. For example, the Dungeon Master overlay (which is accessible by a single press of the Tab key) lets you hide monsters or even entire rooms for them to be revealed when the time is right. I love the ability to add atmospheric toggles in different rooms, and then apply those settings at

any time. While I admit that the minis are quite limited at the moment, they are definitely useful, and I'm sure more

will be added on as the game develops. I am currently running my campaign solely on Talespire, and everyone involved is having a blast. Personally, as a Game Master, I enjoy crafting 3D dungeons. I love experiencing the excitement

it elicits in my players when they explore around the corner of creepy bone filled rooms. I love

being able to create an atmosphere with lighting and music. And I love that right now, we can spend time together whilst being apart. I genuinely and thoroughly recommend it.


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