Saturday, May 15, 2010

Laptops Used to DM Old School Games?

Just wondering, other than for pre-game prep, does anyone who runs older D&D games (2e or older, or clones)  us a laptop to DM or play in a game?

Other than for pre-game prep, I can't see the need. 

If you do use one, what do you use it for?  What programs do you use?

13 comments:

  1. Yea I use it all the time - I have a photobucket account littered with D&D related pics - when the PCs stumble across a a scary cave, or an enormous medieval city, or a stampeding herd of horses - I show them a picture to set the tone.

    More importantly, I use Excel to manage all the monster and NPC combat. It makes combat lightning fast, and if the heroes go wandering, it rolls up some random encounters in the blink of an eye (using all the monsters ever, not just a handful listed in some table somewhere).

    Also I keep multiple PDFs open that I think might be necessary in an adventure so I can tab right to them. By the way, hitting ctrl+F to find an obscure rule is much faster than page through tomes and tomes of books :-)

    Oh, and it's a 2 screen system. My laptop has all of my notes and other things hidden from the players and the second screen faces the PCs - displaying any pics or maps or whatever relevant information the PCs need to see at any given time.

    It's really amazing - I don't allow other players to have their laptops at the table though, and I keep my internet off while gaming. So the secret notes still get handed out the old fashion way.

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  2. @R, That photobucket thing sounds neat, man. I've been considering doing something like that myself, but didn't now where to begin looking. Do you have a link to the resource?

    @magnus, the idea of texting private messages is neat, but i enjoy my method of writing it on a piece of paper, crumbling it up in a ball and throwing it at the head of the player. Brings an element of danger to the game for the players. :)

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  3. For the last few years I have only played online (FG2). But the last time I was DM I used a laptop instead of a DM Screen or notes. I like to keep detailed DM Logs to keep things moving quickly. It is also nice to have detailed logs of the game to look back at years later.

    I used the laptop to hold the DM Log and the adventure. I retyped the adventures into linked HTML documents. With windows for maps, notes, character sheets and backgrounds.

    Worked quite well. I still like to roll dice and keep a scratch pad for notes.

    tegeus

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  4. http://rixxk.blogspot.com/2010/05/d-meets-computer-age-dragon-26.html

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  5. All the time.

    Primarily for music, but also as a reference tool and to access some online generators.

    So, hell ya!

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  6. I'm not a DM but I think this is such a great post - all these guys are showing how beneficial lap-tops are at the gaming table, some great ideas here. Probably not the result you were expecting Joe. Dungeondad and his bro (the DMs) both use laptops for their campaigns: notes, PDFs, music, pictures etc. THe only time they use pens is for the battlemat.

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  7. I've been using my laptop the last few years. I have the Core Rules CD Expansion running, so I have all the rulebooks at my fingertops, along with a dice roller, random tables, wandering monster charts, etc. I can even roll up NPCs with the push of a button. Also I have all sorts of PDFs open on the laptop as I DM.

    This really beats using books and I love rolling into D&D sessions with just my laptop and the character sheets to hand out.

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  8. I am really surprised @Dunegonmum. I figured I'd get less yes responses. Thanks for the link @RickKrebs. Interesting article.

    I would love to have a 1e character generator, to make up pre-gens on the fly. Just hit a button and out comes a 5th level druid, gear and all, with all adjustments included.

    My handwriting is so sloppy that I like to type notes out on a computer ahead of time, or post game notes.

    For my actual running of the game though, I still use the old DM screens with notebooks and the main books in front of me.

    I think that other than the obvious reason, that I'm used to it, the other reason is I don't trust myself to make it flow smoothly or fast with a computer. I would be tempted to have too many resources open in front of me, and get bogged down with them all. With just the limited space the tabletop provides, it would make things go faster because there's less access to other stuff.

    Plus, I like the small mathematical exercise of rolling dice and calculating the hits and damage myself. I think it adds to the concentration level of everyone, which adds to the immersion factor.

    But hey, whatever works for you.

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  9. I started DMing with a laptop when I had a handful of modules in PDF format. Since I already had the computer in front of me, I would use it to display pictures. I don't use it to take notes or run combats, but I have used it a lot for fact-checking. Want to know how much 250 gallons of water weighs? Open up Google, type your question, and your answer usually shows right up.

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  10. Joe said:
    "For my actual running of the game though, I still use the old DM screens with notebooks and the main books in front of me.

    I think that other than the obvious reason, that I'm used to it, the other reason is I don't trust myself to make it flow smoothly or fast with a computer. I would be tempted to have too many resources open in front of me, and get bogged down with them all. With just the limited space the tabletop provides, it would make things go faster because there's less access to other stuff."

    I get you on this. It's why I still keep track of hit points and initiative on paper. I have my laptop to the side as reference/DM screen. In front of me is a clipboard lying down on which I write the current hit point totals for the monsters and a stack of 3x5s for initiative. I've seen slick programs for keeping track of those, but there's a slight delay in switching windows, mousing or tabbing to the right spot, etc. Keeping that stuff on paper is like having a 'dedicated device' just for that. It never gets in the way of the adventure descriptions, and the current book or notes I'm referencing don't get in the way of the combat stuff either.

    Oh: one more thing that I use the laptop for: random generators. There's a slew of them and I've got a nice collection of book marks. Names especially. I use certain generators for certain cultures so there's even an internal consistency that would be otherwise hard to provide.

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  11. I use mine primarily for music -- we patch the laptop into the house speakers and I have a nice slider control for handling the volume on a moment's notice. (The game host is an A/V geek.)

    I've also begun using the laptop to save on paper -- when writing up game outlines, I just put them in PDF form and keep them on the screen rather than printing them out. I'm still trying to come up with a good system for tracking combat and such via laptop.

    I don't mind if players use them a little during game, but where I draw the line is where they A) start fact-checking game stuff on Wikipedia and dragging the game to a screeching halt, or B) missing their turn because they're watching cat videos on Youtube or something.

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  12. I guess I'm the odd man out here. The most sophisticated technology I use at the game table is a Dragonbone.

    Even for prep, I hardly ever use a word processor. For something really big, like Castle of the Mad Archmage, sure. But for everyday gaming, I still use hand-drawn maps and notes in a notebook.

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  13. I've been thinking of writing an app that would let the DM send things to players via iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

    Alternately, those little 7" USB monitors could be useful for a small player-side display.

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