Harrek

Technology And Your Game

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This discussion kinda came up in a KS thread and I thought it might be good to discuss it here.

 

So how does technology get used or not used in your game?  Viewpoints as both a GM and player are welcome.

 

As for my 2 cents as a GM in a Pathfinder game that normally has 8 PCs, I use technology quite a bit.  I prefer PDF files at the table as there are a great amount of books that can take up too much space.  Plus I get the ability to do fast searches.  In my case they are in my iPad pro for reference.  In addition I use Hero Lab for the NPCs as much as possible.  This is especially true for me as I don't use "vanilla" monsters.  They normally have levels or templates.  I have also found that using Hero Lab during combat to put spells up on the NPCs and then adjusting the combat stat page automatically is a great feature.  Essentially it makes running such a large group in a manageable way.  I can keep the combat flowing much easier.  I also keep all my notes in an app that is shared across all my computing devices for updates and reference.  That combined with Hero Lab on the desktop makes preparation easier.

 

I still use a good old battle map and markers for the battle field.  Figures for the PCs and as many of the NPCs (and terrain) as possible of course.  Someday when the technology catches up more I'd like to have a projected or tabletop digital map.  But I see that slowing things down more than speeding things up currently.  The battle map does the job well with appropriate accessories.  And I don't really have a permanent location to game where I can ceiling mount a projector or have a table top screen with map.

Edited by Harrek
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If I had Hero Lab, I'd use it all the time, but it's so expensive once you add all the expansions. If I had started early on and just bought the new modules as they became available, that would have been less of a problem, but at this point, .... ::o: Instead, for character sheets, we use either one of the free ones online or write custom spreadsheets. (We have enough software guys that the latter happens fairly often.)

 

We mostly look up rules on d20PFSRD, because they update quickly and have nearly everything. The ads can get a bit annoying, but that's what they use to pay the bills, so that's a report, not a complaint. And several of us have subscriptions to Paizo products, so we have access to most of the PDFs we need for maps and the like.

 

In most of our campaigns, we have at least one player living out of state (Mass., Ill, Ore., depending on the game), and we use Google Hangouts to allow them to participate. I have a conference mike that goes in the middle of the table and works pretty well for sound. The USB cam that runs on the hangout isn't really high-res, so we also have a web-enabled surveillance cam that can be moved about and that has better resolution.

 

I'd love to have a good projector installed in the ceiling, but I haven't prioritized purchasing one yet. My job involves Photoshop and Illustrator use constantly, so I have the software and skills necessary to make that work, but again, it's the buy-in price.

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The hardcopy versions of my favorite RPG took longer to print than initially expected, so I had to start running the game from my Kindle. It wasn't as bad as previous games I'd seen run from .pdfs, but I was very glad when the hardcopies showed up.

 

The technology we did make excellent use of was Google Docs for scheduling, keeping track of XP, making session notes, etc.

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My players get too distracted if I allow technology at the table - and they are much more engaged if I've not got anything electronic going on, either. I've tried (and failed) to use Roll20 and similar programs, and absolutely hated them. I let them use a phone app to help them level up, but they need to have paper character sheets at the table. All my notes, etc, are hand written, to avoid messing with chargers. 

 

I tend to print out things I think I need before hand, and extra technology would just take up too much space at my table. We've found that long distance players aren't as engaged as in person players tend to be, so we try to avoid that idea. 

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We wouldn't start campaigns with new distant players, but one of the people involved went off to college and the other two moved for job changes, so they've been parts of the various groups for long enough that we're willing to put up with a bit of pain.

 

FWIW, one distant player, all distant players, or no distant players seem to work best. When there are multiple local and multiple distant players, communication becomes much more difficult.

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We have people distant that would like to join.  But given I have 8 players already we really don't have room.  And I don't think the technology is quite there yet to keep it all flowing well.  Hard enough sometimes getting some people to focus who ARE there.

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We do play in person. My bf is the only who uses his Ipad for looking up spells and general dndbeyond stuff. All the other players have a character sheet, some use the provided spell cards, some bring their own.

I've now forced them to all bring binders as well, as my living room was a mess of loose papers.

As the DM I use a big binder, a notebook and all my books. I used to bring my laptop when we were still playing at someone elses house to play music, but we don't have speakers to connect to it here.

My players are okay with their phones, they sometimes take pictures and send them to friends when I use papercraft or painted a miniature, which flatters me, so they get to keep them. :lol: No, seriously, they usually don't use them, unless there is some sort of emergency situaion.

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For games where we have remote or possibly remote players, we've used IRC in the past for communication.  This probably wouldn't work well for Pathfinder but it worked reasonably well for Mage: the Ascension and Exalted.  I wrote a dice-rolling bot to help with that.

 

My technology use when playing (other than IRC) has been to occasionally look up rules using PDFs (on tablet when I'm at the tabletop, in a PDF reader on the laptop otherwise).

 

For Exalted 2nd ed, I used Anathema for character creation, mostly to check my work.

 

 

During my last campaign as a GM (Pathfinder), I used Hero Lab extensively for designing encounters and keeping track of them.  I was originally building in Hero Lab and then using paper in sheet protectors and dry erase markers at the table, but bringing my laptop made more sense.  I also had the game books in PDF on tablet in case anyone needed to look something up.

 

My players did not use technology at the table to play, but they did tend to use it as a distraction when it wasn't their turn to do anything.

 

 

In our next campaign (also Pathfinder), we're going to play online because logistics prevent everyone from getting to a central location on a weekday night.  I'm supposed to be evaluating tools we can use for that but haven't gotten very far.  Roll20 is the leading contender (mostly because it doesn't require the players to buy anything).

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I love what Hero Labs does for Pathfinder.  I got it a long time ago and have periodically bought a book or two.  Anytime I have the itch, I can go lose myself in creationism for hours.  Or if I have a story arc, I'll go in and build out lots of things.  

I do have the PDFs of a great many of the books (also a lot of the World of Darkness books... too many that I don't actually want to count and know).  I've never played with technology at the table other than trying out some dice rollers or taking photos of our minis as we were playing (or epic dice rolls... the good and the bad).  Technology is great for building and researching.  It can be very distracting at the table and you certainly don't want people trying to look up something to rules lawyer from 12 different PDF files during the middle of the game.  

We've never tried remote players in games. 

I will say one of our players usually has her phone in her hand and it's mostly a fidget spinner, but if anyone isn't following the storyline... she's the one that we have to repeat things for.

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Tabletop - two three people with the rules on tablets, two that use their phones in the same capacity. (I forgot that Megan has started using her tablet as well.)

 

Some of the others have actual books, others borrow ours..

 

On my end of the table I have my laptop - which I mostly use for background music. My rulebooks are the actual books - I have an easier time remembering where things are in a book than on a tablet.

 

Dice are handled with dice, character sheets and other pieces of paper are handled with character sheets and other pieces of paper.

 

I use my desktop computer and printers to produce more bits of paper, and sometimes to make PDF terrain.

 

I have, and print, a huge number of forms to help me organize - then eventually reorganize the mound of paper, resulting in a much smaller amount of paper.

 

When working on my own stuff, one of the first things I do is establish a timeline for the campaign - even for the kids game, I like to track things like weather, tides, and what the off screen bad guys are up to. Even a crappy database program works fine for this, but I use the one that came with Word Perfect, way back when.

 

For NPCs, etc. I use PCGen.

 

Mapping - I am fond of Campaign Cartographer 3+ - but have used Fractal Mapper in the past, and used to really love a program called Dungeon Crafter, that unfortunately does not work on any computer using Windows 7 or above. ::(: (A tile based mapping program that I used for floorplans - easy, and looked good.)

 

For my more polished moments, I use Page Plus as a desktop publisher, and either Word Perfect or Open Office for word processing.

 

For treasure, I cheat, and use an online treasure generator - left to my own devices, I am way too stingy... (So, you kill the dragon and find 57 gold pieces, 12 coppers, and a 2 year's supply of pocket lint... congratulations on reaching level fifteen.....) I may swap out random magic items, but use the random ones as a guideline for value.

 

The Auld Grump

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We went largely paperless - I have a Surface mini-com with Hero Labs - even for live gaming a while back, and have stuck with it because we keep getting that /one player/ who cannot seem to keep his sheet straight (.. we're actually pretty sure at least one of those was doing it deliberately), and it's very much harder to do that with Hero Labs and the GM insisting on having copies of everyone's sheet. For me ..  I can actually run two characters, one with the Leadership feat and caster levels and /not/ lose my damn mind. Or stray pages.

Ironically, I am /more/ distracted with paper, because I'm the one usually keeping track of what's been going on and what we've learned and picked up, and for this game, I'm doing that the old fashioned way, with a notebook and a pen. Other than that, everyone uses their own dice, and mapping is usually done with the aide of a flip-mat and pens; sometimes I'll pull out the dungeon furniture if we get it into our heads we need things like walls and pillars and stuff. Gotta use the painted stuff for something, right?!

 

I GM the virtual tabletop game, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it without Hero Labs and the books in PDF; I would never be able to keep track of the mobs, the encounters or anything else, and I don't have the desk space to keep umpteen books plus screen open on the desk. We use D20Pro, and while it has some hiccups and a bit of a learning curve, it's no worse than Mumble, and we all figured /that/ out.

Helps that Mr. Thorne knows how to set that stuff up and make it work. ^^;

 

As a general rule, I find having things like books in PDF format, or access to SRDs. Hero Labs and other sheet managers are more useful than not for gamers like me who have trouble with the math necessary. I can do it, but there are days when I just /cannot math/, and I need the help. Mr. Thorne grabbed spare licenses for his HL sub, which means only having to buy books once, with access on four machines, and it's a lifesaver.

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pdf books can be nice for reference, though I've found that if I've played a game enough I start remembering what page to flip to for a given rule.  For reading I just prefer physical books.  Other than that, it's pretty much old fashioned pen and paper, dice and minis. 

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I run my games online with people I've never met face to face so... very technological game here.

Even so I still prefer checking my books' index for a rule instead of searching the PDF copy of that book I have.

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2 hours ago, Auberon said:

pdf books can be nice for reference, though I've found that if I've played a game enough I start remembering what page to flip to for a given rule.  For reading I just prefer physical books.  Other than that, it's pretty much old fashioned pen and paper, dice and minis. 

I like pdfs for searching. I prefer physical for basically everything else.

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I like PDFs because they don't take up more room on my already full shelves.  I've taken to only buying physical books when I know players will need it for a game (well, if we ever play it).  And I've grown accustomed to reading on my iPad.

 

I love physical books but I just don't have the room anymore.  (Which still doesn't stop me from buying books at used bookstores...)

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