You created an account on Fantasy Grounds as part of that process. Most GM/DM’s have the Ultimate version of Fantasy Grounds, which means you can play in their game with just the free demo version.
Launch Fantasy Grounds. If you installed Fantasy Grounds a while ago and the Check for Updates box is red, click it. This will fetch the latest updates for you automatically and restart once you have them.
Step Two: Join Campaign
Now click on “Join Campaign”. Something like this will come up:
Your GM should have told you their name: type that into the GM Name Search box. There are a couple of other ways of doing this, for example if you’re playing with others in the same house via a LAN, rather than with people halfway across the world via the public web, but your GM will tell you what you need to do to access the game in that case.
The game you are looking for should show up in the list like this, with a green dot to show that the game is online and ready to connect. FGU is hosted on the GM’s computer, not on a company’s data center. That gives the GM complete control, and also means they don’t have to pay for expensive storage space. The downside is that you can only connect to the game when the GM is actively hosting it.
Click on the game in the list to select it, then click on “Start” at the bottom right.
FGU will do a few things, some of which might flit past really fast - resolve a connection, copy across a list of files, then start up. It’s copying across all the files from the GM’s machine to yours, so it may take a few minutes, especially if all the players are connecting for the first time at the start of game night. It gets quicker after the first time as FGU only copies across stuff that’s changed.
Complete Control: And A Lot Of Variety
Remember I said FGU gives the GM complete control over their game? Well, I wasn’t kidding. What you see next will vary very widely depending on what system your GM is running for you, what themes they’ve chosen for the campaign, etc..
So you could see a screen like this (this is a Pathfinder 2e campaign):
You might have noticed that for all the cosmetic differences, we’ve got a lot of the same stuff in the same places.
I’m going to give you the quick tour of what the main bits are and how they work. The character sheets will look different for each system, but fundamentally they all work the same way.
Step Three: The Campaign Setup Window
The first time you join any new game, the Campaign Setup window will pop up front and center. This is how it looks in the Official D&D theme for D&D 5E:
But it does the same thing however it looks in your GM’s game.
Untick “show on load” (because you only need to set this up the first time you join a new game) and click “Next” at the bottom right.
If you need to resize any windows, you can do it by clicking and dragging on the bottom-right corner.
This works for every game system and every theme, it just looks a bit different.
FGU is now asking you what Data Modules you want to load. A data module contains a bunch of game data like character classes, spells, items, equipment, etc. Your GM/DM will tell you what to select here, but you won’t go too wrong if you choose the one that says something like “All Rules”.
Here it is for D&D 5E:
If you click All Rules it’ll go away and load whichever of the D&D books your DM has purchased and allowed players to use in this game. A window pops up to let you know it’s done it:
If you need to, you can scroll down the list with that scroll widget on the right hand side of the window as you’d expect. Close this window with the X in the top right corner. It’ll look a bit different in different rulesets and themes but again it all works the same.
The Module Set Load window goes away, revealing the Campaign Setup window still open underneath it:
Hit Next again. FGU will offer you the options button, if you want it:
You don’t need to set anything in there for your first game, so you can click “Finish”.
Step Four: Character Selection
The Campaign Setup window goes away, and underneath you should see the Character Selection window:
If your GM has set up characters for you already, they should appear in this list. If you’ve going to be generating a character this session, your GM will talk you through it. That’s outside the scope of this tutorial, so come back when you’ve done it.
Select (or “claim”) a character by clicking on their portrait in the selection window. Your GM can release the character again if you screw up and click the wrong one.
Their character sheet should pop up in the middle of the screen:
Obviously, this will be different for if you are playing a system other than D&D 5E, but again, they all work much the same way in terms of how you use them in play.
You will see your character’s portrait has appeared on the top left of the main FGU window, too:
If you close your character sheet and want to get it back, click on your portrait up there and it will pop it back up for you.
Step Five: Rolling Dice
OK, we can look at our character sheet, which is handy. But we’re going to need to roll some dice. Most of the things you need to roll you can do directly from the character sheet. This is usually indicated by a little dice in a box on the character sheet.
So for D&D, we can make a STR saving throw by double-clicking in the box which says “STR” under “Saves”
Different systems have different sheets and different stuff to roll, but they all follow this basic pattern - if there’s a dice icon by the window you can roll straight from there.
When you make a roll this way, FGU reports what it has done in the window over on the left-hand side, which is called the Chat Window.
Step Six: The Chat Window
Take a look over there now.
I rolled a couple of Strength saves for Ascend - FGU has rolled a d20, added the lamentable -2 bonus for her and reported the result. The chat window will keep you informed what’s happening - you’ll see your fellow players’ rolls pop up in here.
You can also use it to chat to other people which is surprisingly useful when gaming via Discord or similar voice/video conferencing. The player whose turn it is and the GM need to monopolize the voice conference, but you can snark away in the chat window to your heart’s content.
Type in something in the little box where it say “Chat” at the bottom of that window.
Step Seven: The Dice Tray
Underneath the chat window is the dice tray. It looks a bit different for different systems, depending on which dice you need.
You can also roll dice by “picking them up” from the dice tray (left mouse click-and-drag) and “dropping” them on the chat window.
If you want more dice, right-mouse-click while you are holding down the left mouse button and dragging. So to roll 3d6, grab the d6 from the tray, right click twice while you are still holding the left mouse button, then drop over the chat window.
You can also roll any combination of dice by typing /roll into the chat window, like this:
Step Eight: The Sidebar
Over on the right hand edge of the window is the sidebar, which contains a bunch of controls for accessing things outside your character sheet:
The sidebar shown with all categories collapsed
Click the little polyhedral dice button, on the right of the top row:
A window pops up to let us choose the dice you have, add or subtract dice type, color your dice and more. For now, we’ll just click on the gray Default die.
Clicking on the Dice Color buttons in the upper-left corner will allow you to color the body and the text of the dice.
Click the first circle:
Choose a color you like, click OK.
Colors are easily adjustable for color precision
The second circle lets you choose the color of the numbers on the dice. Click OK when done.
Close the color window as usual (X in top right of window).
Lower down in the sidebar are some opening-and-closing arrows. Click on a category, say Character, and it’ll open up:
Click on Spells (or something else appropriate to the game system you are playing). Up pops the spell window, so you can look up anything you need.
Step Nine: Link Buttons
You will notice on the character sheet and on the spells window there are some little symbols next to a lot of entries.
In the D&D theme they are red dragons. In the default FGU theme they are like black-and-red shields.
These are link buttons. Click on one - a spell, or your character’s background or something else on your sheet.
FGU will open up a window with the description of the thing you clicked on. So if you want to know what an ability or spell on your character sheet does, click the link button next to it.
Step Ten: Character Sheet Tabs
Most systems split the character sheet into different tabs. Click on each tab on the right hand side of the sheet to look at it.
Here’s the skills tab for a D&D character:
You can make skill rolls from them right from your sheet - double click on the “total” box for that skill. the one with the little d20 in the bottom corner.
The details are different for different systems but the principle is the same.
Step Eleven: The Map
At some point, your GM will open up a map and put your character’s token onto it. It’ll look something like this:
You’ll probably need to rearrange the map a little and give yourself some screen space for it and your character sheet.
Remember that clicking your character portrait in the top right will re-open your character sheet (or bring it to the front if it is behind the map).
You can drag the map window around by clicking and dragging the window top as usual, but sometimes the map might appear with that offscreen (especially if you are on a laptop and your GM is on a huge 5K monitor). So you can also drag the map window around by left-clicking and dragging on the window, so long as you’re not actually over any character tokens when you do it.
Resize the window at the bottom right corner as usual. You can zoom the map to fit your re-size windows with the zoom to fit button at the top:
If you prefer, you can put the map into the background with the little arrow next to the? And X to close window icons:
You can pan the map around by clicking and holding your mouse scroll wheel and moving it inside the window. If you are on a Mac with a trackpad or Apple magic mouse, this won’t work - no mouse wheel clickable button! Honestly, it’s worth buying a cheap three button mouse just for this purpose.
But you can also pan the map around inside the window using the cursor keys on your keyboard (when you have no token selected - if you have a token selected it’ll try to move that instead).
Or there is a little pan control down at the bottom right of the window:
Click and hold your left mouse button on that and you can pan around the map that way too.
Zoom in and out of the map with your mouse scrol lwheel, as you’d expect.
Get yourself a nice layout, something like this:
You want to be able to see the map, your character sheet and the chat window.
By the way, the reason the map is black and white here is that the cave is dark and my character Ascend has darkvision. FGU renders only what your character can see, which in this case is the cave out to 60 feet away but only in black and white because that’s how D&D darkvision works.
If your character lights a torch or casts a light spell, the GM will add a light for you and suddenly you can see in color:
You still can’t see around corners so you can’t see what’s down that corridor to the south without moving.
Step Twelve: Moving Around
FGU has two movement modes: free movement, and token lock. Your GM will choose which to use for a given situation. A lot of GM’s let you move freely out of combat then turn token lock on when a fight breaks out.
When token lock is off (free movement), select your character by left-clicking their token on the map.
You can now drag and drop them with your mouse to move, or use your keyboard cursor keys.
You’ll see FGU update what is in your line of sight, and you can see a dim version of places you’ve already been to remind you of what was there. Go a few more steps along the corridor and the dragon disappears, because you no longer have line-of-sight to it.
Move back and it’ll reappear when your character can see it again.
When token lock is on, you can plan your moves but they only happen when the GM approves them.
To plan a move, drag out from your character token. An arrow will appear and it’ll say how far that movement is:
If you want to go around a corner, you can drag again from that end position to plot out the whole of your movement:
If you mess up, you can cancel and start again by dragging out from your character token again:
When you’re happy with the move, the GM can approve it and your character will glide into their new position. They might not get all the way if (for example) there was a wall in the way that they couldn’t see when you dragged out to plan your move.
If you need to “ping” or point something out on the map, you can quick-draw an arrow by clicking and dragging with both mouse buttons at once. It’ll draw an arrow in your dice colour. Click both mouse buttons again to dismiss it.
Step Thirteen: A Fight Breaks Out
When a fight breaks out, your GM will walk you through the specifics of what you need to do to cast spells or make attacks in your game system.
But there are two extra things that you can do to help them.
The first is to target whoever you are attacking (or healing, or buffing with a spell or whatever).
On the map, make sure your own character’s token is selected (left mouse click to select if it is not).
Then target your foe by holding down the CONTROL or CTRL key (Command or CMD on a Mac) and left-mouse-clicking on the foe.
A targeting arrow will appear between you and the foe, showing you the range:
You can un-target them again by CTRL-clicking on their token again.
You can select multiple targets by CTRL-clicking each one in turn.
(Get ready for that fireball!)
Your GM will show you how to make an attack or cast a spell - FGU can cast a fireball at all of those creatures at once, roll the saves for the GM, keep track of which ones passed and failed, inflict the damage, and even do double damage to anything with vulnerabilities or half damage for resistance automatically, which is a great time-saver for everyone.
The details of how to do that are sufficiently different for each system that it’s quicker for the GM to show you, but it’s not hard.
I’ll quickly run you through it for D&D 5E.
If you go to the Actions tab on your character sheet you can probably guess how Ascend could roll to hit a kobold with her quarterstaff: by making sure it is targeted, then double-clicking where it say “+2” in the box with a black d20 in it.
If you look in the chat window not only does it tell you what you rolled, it also tells you that it’s enough to hit the kobold’s AC.
You can roll your damage by double-clicking on the box which says “1d6-2 bludgeoning”.
FGU even applies that to the Kobold with the cruel-hearted walk and keeps track of their HP so the GM doesn’t have to.
Spells are just as easy. In the actions tab next to each spell you’ll see a little magnifying glass.
If we click on that it “opens up” the spell and shows us details:
To cast a spell, first target your foe. Then double-click the little yellow icon with a d20 in it where it says “Cast” and we’re off:
If you hit, your GM will ask you to roll damage. Double-click one of the red blood drop “DMG” buttons to do the appropriate sort of damage, depending on which version of the spell you cast.
Now the dragon is good and mad, so it is probably time to run away!
Just before I go though I wanted to show you one more thing as your GM may want you to have this window open in fights, too.
On the sidebar, at the right hand side of your screen, the top-left little crossed-swords icon brings up the Combat Tracker window.
If you have used other VTT’s, this is a bit like the initiative tracker, but much more powerful. You might want to find a way to arrange your screen so you can see that window as well.
FGU is a very powerful program, and there’s quite a bit that I haven’t shown you. If you want to explore more after a few weeks, your GM can walk you through stuff like levelling up, looking at items in the party inventory, keeping notes and calendar entries for the party inside FGU and so on.
But that’s everything you need to know to play your first session and more.