I had been running a 4e campaign with a group of friends I knew online for a while. Well, truthfully, several of us have been running our own, but for simplicity's sake I will reference my own game only.
I had been using Gametable for quite a while, but the frequent appearance of bugs had slowly worn away my patience.
I had taken a look at Maptools some time before the switch, and was intimidated at first. This brings me to my first observation:
Maptools can seem intimidating at first with the abundance of features.
The video tutorials were extremely
helpful, and after watching them my players and I quickly became comfortable using Maptools.
The first couple sessions were slowed as everyone had to familiarize themselves with the new systems, but this was to be expected. In time, we got into the flow of things and became quite fond of the macro system. This brings me to my second observation.
The macro system is very well done. I especially like the fact that stats and mods can be entered into the character's token, and then used in the macros. Given the way the 4e system works, and how normally several macros would need updated every other level, the fact that it can all be tied to a single stat is very pleasing.
The very first map I designed in Maptools was pretty pathetic, but it got the job done. It just so happens that the current campaign involves a haunted castle, and I quickly found that simple matters such as the look of the game can make a critical difference. See screenshot below.
The map which used fog of war, and vision blocking certainly added more to the haunting effect than the simplistic "Here is roughly where the walls are, here are some monsters that you can see now." style we had gotten used to.
I feel that it wouldn't be logical to make a feedback post with only praise, so I close this post with the problems I have and the things I did not like.
Although I was originally pleased that a single campaign file can host several maps, I was disappointed when I could not find a way to remove maps that might have been created in error, or that were deemed not necessary after all. It is possible that I may have overlooked this feature (Possibly with it staring me in the face), but if it should turn out that this is not presently possible, I would like to suggest the feature be added. If it is possible, I'd appreciate if someone could tell me where to look for this functionality.
Secondly, my network setup makes it impossible for me to host. I have to depend on one of my players to act as the host for me. However, we quickly discovered that only the hosting computer is able to open campaign files. Even as a GM, I was unable to open my campaign file. The obvious workaround here was for me to email the file to the hosting player, and have him open it from his end. This is pretty much handing one player the DM's notebook with all the details and secrets of the campaign, and hope they don't look at it between sessions. I certainly hope that a future update addresses this issue.
The last issue I have has to do with the way campaign files load. I think it would be nice if they could be set to load looking at a specific location in the map, and at a zoom level that is chosen by the DM who makes the map. In the screenshot I posted, the map always loads zoomed in really close to the corpse pile, which is mildly irritating and seems unnecessary.
Overall, switching to maptools was a step up, and I am quite pleased with the results.