A few years ago when 4th edition was introduced, I wrote a very hesitant post (on my now-deleted myspace blog) about D&D insider. I wasn’t too enthused, mostly because WoTC wanted to charge a rather high monthly fee for access things that players would have presumably already purchased: rules and tables. The Dragon and Dungeon magazines had already lost me when they went digital, and as a more casual player, had never much appealed in the first place. The one thing Insider promised that had any merit I far as I was concerned was the “virtual table”.
The idea was that with a subscription, you could play D&D over the internet with other subscribers. Presumably the draw of this was a user friendly interface, since the game itself can be played pretty easily over a chat program (well, if everyone agrees to be honest on their rolls).
It had tremendous appeal for me. With something like that, scheduling games would be more flexible. I could play from home, without having to haul books and dice back and forth to someone’s place. I wouldn’t be limited to a small pool of local players. Granted, it’s still a fairly pricey way to play, but if your alternatives were slim..
I got curious a few months ago and decided to see if WOTC had ever gotten the thing to work. Sadly, the virtual table never came to fruition and was finally canceled after a year or so of “delays”. What’s left? A handful of conveniences for DMs and hardcore players, most of which can be found elsewhere on the net- and often (in the case of the character builder, at least) in better form.
I just ran across a dozen different sites for virtual tabletop gaming. None specifically for D&D, but most had very customizable maps and such. Of course they’re not flying cars, but nice nonetheless.