Technology at the Table


Technology


I've been running Pathfinder for quite some time, but I haven't found a good way to use technology at the table. I'm curious if any of you have found great ways to speed up their game, more deeply engage your players, or create a better experience through the use of technology. Do any of you have some good tips on technology at the table whether praise or horror stories?


I don't generally allow too much tech @ the gaming table. A couple of laptops set on the PSRD website for rules-checks is usually about it (well, sometimes a Nintendo 3DS for the 10yr old!).

Since I generally try to keep my game moving ( I tend to run rather rules-light), it doesn't seem to cause much of a problem.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I currently use rollD20 to run my games and host my maps. Most of my players use phone apps for character sheets and/or dice rollers.

I find it speeds up the game a bit when they can click on button and have their attacks rolled and added up for them, same with damage.

Now we are currently 13th level so there are a lot of modifiers that need to be added, or taken away, due to different effects/spells/potions/abilities.

I enjoy using the web hosting for my maps so I can have everything set up at once and just reveal it as they get to it rather than have to move mini's around.

My 2 bits.


My group uses their laptops (atleast 3 do) for there character sheets, the DM does for all his notes. And i myself use an Itouch for dice app, crit cards, and character sheet.

My group has been trying to go into using a projector for maps, and if things keep going the way they are with moving and school we are looking at using a digital tabletop program or two.


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I got a kindle fire hooked to the TV with a HDMI cable to project art for monsters and specific places, and also landscapes. It really helps to set a mood for playing, and since I'm only GMing for my kids, I gotta compete with computer and mobile games...

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The majority of my group use PCGen on latops at the table. One or two players use Herolab. A couple of us use them beforehand to generate printed sheets. We also often use pdf versions of scenarios.

Silver Crusade

One of my regular tables has nothing electronic at the table, another group uses a hybrid, one group is heavy on devices, and online games are ... well ... online.


When I run a game I use Hero Labs for all characters. I have a copy of all characters on my computer and that is considered the official one. I give my players time before the game to update the character if anything has changed. This is a big help when I am creating an adventure because I have all the information about the characters available to me.

I use the tactical console for running combat and it really speeds things up. It allows me to apply any condition or spell to the characters both PC and NPC and automatically adjust everything. This really speeds up the game especially for those that are math challenged, or do not have the rules memorized. The die roller is also useful when I need to make a check and don’t want the players to know about it. Since I sit at the head of the table my laptop also acts as a GM screen.

The only downside is that the program can get expensive. Since most of my purchases have been spread out it has not been that painful, but purchasing everything at once will be costly. Since most of my group also uses it they can create their characters on their own system and simply email me the file to import into the party portfolio.


Let's see here.

1. I do all my GM prep in Evernote, which is an excellent note-taking and syncing tool.

2. I play background music from my tablet (a Nexus 10) at the table, using an app called Songs and Dragons. It lets you mix music and drop in random bits of extra noises. There are some other good web pages to do this as well, but I already use S&D and know how to do it.

3. I don't carry any books to game any more for PFS. All my rules are on PDFs or accessed via Masterwork Tools in-game. (I have the relevant PDFs on my device, but I can't remember the last time I used them at the table - I just use d20pfsrd or Masterwork Tools if I need to look something up, as they're faster).

4. If I have relevant art for a scene, I'll usually just show it on my tablet. NPCs get cards that I make in Word and print on 3x5 index cards with their name, a portrait, and a brief description of who they are. I mostly do this for roleplay-heavy or investigative scenarios where keeping track of who's who is really important.


Some use tablets instead of books. There is always a race between the book versus app to find an answer.

I use my Win 8 Tablet. I show relevant pictures, have PDFs of the books and adventures, a spreadsheet of relevant NPCs for quick reference. OneNote to get to old Session Summaries or content I made.

Sovereign Court

We tend to have a lot of tablets at the table for rules look up and character sheets. When I GM I use my lap top and a dice roller to speed things up on my end. I know lot of people have issue without actual dice on the table or with dice rollers not being random enough but for me it speeds things considerably. I also track initiative and conditions with note pad.

One thing I have done recently is hook up a TV via HDMI and show clip art of NPCs and things from the APs for my players. It helps give the players ideas about who and what they are dealing with. This saves me having to print things out. I am currently working on some PowerPoint presentations to play for my players around certain times in the campaign to try and up the wow factor.

I also track links to youtube and have pandora stations for background music while playing.

Scarab Sages

I am a big fan of using my iPad at the game table. Saves me from throwing my back out carrying too many books (again). Herolabs on my iPad means I don't forget to add the effects of various buffs/conditions to my character each round.


Wow, okay. A lot of people are using more technology than I thought. A few of posters mentioned digital character sheets, other than Hero Lab on the iPad/Laptop, which apps are you using for character sheets?


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I made this one: charactersheet.co.uk

Silver Crusade

Yeah, everybody in my home game uses HeroLab now (thank god). At least 6 or 7 people in my PFS cluster use HeroLab as well.


Like most people, I find it is mostly used for referencing when uncertain about rules. Sure, on the fly is nice, but the rules might have elements we fail to consider worth looking at for the future.

That and setting the scene when GM'ing. Since there's a good payload of ambient noise to access out there.


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I prefer to not use the background music. Most of the time when I have been at a group that does this, they set it fairly loud so it is immersive. Then I really struggle to hear what is being said and have to constantly ask people to repeat things. I like the concept, but it usually seems to get in the way.

I use Herolab to make my PC's (when player) and NPC's (when GM). But it won't work on my android tablet yet. So I have to have printed sheets.
One guy uses PCGen on his laptop.

Not bad, but both programs have a few mistakes (or can't handle house rules) so we have a tendency toward some common errors because it is what the program shows us.

I almost always use my tablet rather than printed books. Except the bestiaries. For some reason, I like having a printed copy of those to page through.

One of our PFS GM's tries to do everything from his small tablet. Unfortunately, that seems to result in a lot of time with us waiting while he pages back and forth and it has to reload pages. He tries to show us pictures that are too small for us to see across the table. He also sometimes wants to use it for the maps rather than draw them. So he shows us the map then it is gone while he is looking up other stuff. So we are constantly asking him to show us the map again, then he finally gets frustrated and scratches out a bad one very quickly. If he would just draw it out ahead of time, it would work much better.

I know of one guy that is really into using the tech. He has a sensor so that when someone is talking the background mood music drops in volume. He has a PC connected to a flat screen that he actually uses for the game table (large sheet of thick lexan to protect it). So he can display maps and images that everyone can see very clearly.
Then he has another computer for the GM game info. And a tablet for the rules and dice roller.

I think I would use it more than I do if my tablet was a bit more capable. If it had the memory to not constantly need to reload pages. Would load new pages faster. And I would also prefer the battery to last longer. I only get about 1.5 hours before I need to plug it in again which kinda defeats the purpose of the tablet in the first place.

I'm also going to need a faster hot spot access for rules look up.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I play several different game systems with different groups.

For Pathfinder, I've started using Hero Lab. Parts of it I like, other parts I'm still adjusting to.

Most of my gaming books are now PDF, although I much prefer PDF & paper when the additional cost is small. The PDF is to be able to look something up during a game, but I still find paper easier to read. I only have Pathfinder in PDF.

I've been using iBooks to view the PDFs on my iPad and the normal preview app on the Mac. There may be better ways to do this.

I tend to make extensive use of Google docs for shared information. Game logs, background information on the world, etc. Makes it much easier to share the information even though we have had to teach a few players how to use google docs. The game I'm currently GMing has a co-GM, so that makes it much more important to have this sort of access. For this I bring my laptop so I can have more data open and ready to access. The co-GM uses her iPad.

One of my gaming groups sends e-mail reminders via Yahoo groups events. We have a regular schedule and only have to go into the group when we deviate from the regular schedule. We are using Yahoo mostly because we have been doing it that way for several years and it hasn't been worthwhile to find a new scheduling tool.

PFS in this area uses Meetup to schedule events. In my opinion their tools work really well for scheduling a public group. Allows everyone to RSVP, state what character class and level in the RSVP, get notifications if there is a sudden change in the event.

I've created Google spreadsheets for a number of different game systems. With Hero Lab I'm hoping to avoid doing one for Pathfinder.


There's one player that has Summoning App on his IPad. That's been great as he can pull up the stats for summoning much quicker. Definitely speeds up the game.

I use my IPAD for the rules books, it's the main reason I subscribed to get the PDFs. I have also used a laptop when I GM, there are tons of site with random encounter generators, treasure generators, dungeon generators, name generators and other useful tools. Some you pay for most you don't.

I think being able to text at the table would be great as GM. Not everyone has phone though. If they did I could send player specific details to them with out other knowing and it would be less intrusive than passing a note.


voska66 wrote:

...

I think being able to text at the table would be great as GM. Not everyone has phone though. If they did I could send player specific details to them with out other knowing and it would be less intrusive than passing a note.

Personally, I think the phone going off is more intrusive than a piece of paper.

I have a GM that has tried this. However, for me (and at least some of the others) text means a low priority message. I will look at it when I have free time and it wouldn't be rude. Which is almost never at the game table. Heck, half the time I turn my phone off while gaming so I won't be interrupted. So sometimes the next morning I will have several cryptic messages that never accomplished anything since I didn't read them at the time.

If you are going to do this, be sure to tell people so they can try to remember to check their messages.

Shadow Lodge

I play over Skype nowadays because I moved away from my gaming group. It's not as good as a table, but it works. It also encourages the use of more tech because the screens are already there.

We use d20pfsrd for rules lookup. It's faster to search and load than pdfs and you don't have to remember what sourcebook the rule was from.

We also have used campaign wikis for years now and they're a good way to handle handouts and player notes. We do sometimes update or refer to them at the table.

I use RealmWorks for my campaign notes and it's lovely. When player access comes out it will replace the campaign wiki.

Several GMs in my group use background music. I personally prefer it used sparingly and low-volume or else briefly to set a scene - it's called background music for a reason and should not overpower table discussion. It's also harder to use over Skype because it's tricky to get the volume at sweet spot between "can't hear the music" and "can't hear the GM".


Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
voska66 wrote:

...

I think being able to text at the table would be great as GM. Not everyone has phone though. If they did I could send player specific details to them with out other knowing and it would be less intrusive than passing a note.

Personally, I think the phone going off is more intrusive than a piece of paper.

I have a GM that has tried this. However, for me (and at least some of the others) text means a low priority message. I will look at it when I have free time and it wouldn't be rude. Which is almost never at the game table. Heck, half the time I turn my phone off while gaming so I won't be interrupted. So sometimes the next morning I will have several cryptic messages that never accomplished anything since I didn't read them at the time.

If you are going to do this, be sure to tell people so they can try to remember to check their messages.

I had a GM run a campaign where we all had our laptops out and communicated through instant message for personal messages. Much of the group dynamic was squashed by this since many conversations were had in secret while the characters were standing in the middle of the party. It got so bad that we'd kill monsters and their corpses would be looted as we struck the killing blow. I want to try and avoid these sorts of things, but I'm still interested in trying to get secret or personal character knowledge to players without physical note passing.


On the note of campaign notes and websites, one of my groups used to run a google site where roleplay, official character sheets, lore and world knowledge was held. We'd also post character journals and official notes here.

We also used Drop Box for official character sheets so the GM had up to date information for the next game. We found a good digital character sheet that did some of the math for us. I think it was a modified version of the neceros character sheet that used to be on the pathfinderdb website.

One other note is we found that collaborative roleplay sessions away from the table worked really well in Google Docs. This essentially amounted to a co-authored story with two or three players writing fiction like they would interact at the table. After finishing a session like this we'd edit it for smooth reading and then post it as a blog entry on our google site. It was often an effective and fun way to continue the story and explore the characters outside of combat or fully flesh out a scene we skipped over at the table.

Thanks for the great ideas so far and keep 'em coming!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber
BretI wrote:

I tend to make extensive use of Google docs for shared information. Game logs, background information on the world, etc. Makes it much easier to share the information even though we have had to teach a few players how to use google docs. The game I'm currently GMing has a co-GM, so that makes it much more important to have this sort of access. For this I bring my laptop so I can have more data open and ready to access. The co-GM uses her iPad.

I'm the co-GM BretI mentioned. Yes, google docs has been wonderful as a shared memory databank for GMs and players alike. It has allowed us to maintain a very complex backstory for the game, with dozens of unique NPCs for the characters to interact with.

Hmm


Oh I almost forgot. I use "PDF X-Change Viewer." Its a free PDF view that has a number of note taking possibly so I can add virtual "post it notes" to my PDFs I find it a lot easier to use compared to Adobe.


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We don't really like Numeria in general, so we don't use any.

Dark Archive

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I use the free Masterwork Tools (Android) to look up rules/spells quickly and find it is very useful as both GM and player. I also use my tablet to show some scenario images, though prefer to have print outs for most things.

I use Herolab to generate my PCs but generally just have the print outs at the table. Though have noticed the relatively recent iPad Herolab interactive sheets look very useful.


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Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
I use Herolab to make my PC's (when player) and NPC's (when GM). But it won't work on my android tablet yet. So I have to have printed sheets. One guy uses PCGen on his laptop.

Here's something to help you out Kydeem

Hero Lab Character Sheet (Android)

Hero Lab Character Sheet Lite (Android)

PCGen Character Sheet Reader

PCGen Character Sheet Reader Lite

Liberty's Edge

As a GM, I use my laptop with the PRD, Combat Manager, and the Obsidian Portal

I don't mind tablets at the table for character sheets or for looking up rules since they don't take up much more space than a character sheet, but any sites other than gaming are a no no.

I don't allow phones to be used because for some reason people are more inclined to use them for other things. They are just too small to be very useful for rules let alone character sheets anyway.

I am against players having laptops at the table mostly because when two or more people have them, they not only take up too much space, but you begin to loose face to face contact with the players.

The only other thing I would love to try is to use a projector on the wall with MapTools or some other software instead of a white board.


Nylanfs wrote:
Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
I use Herolab to make my PC's (when player) and NPC's (when GM). But it won't work on my android tablet yet. So I have to have printed sheets. One guy uses PCGen on his laptop.

Here's something to help you out Kydeem

Hero Lab Character Sheet (Android)

Hero Lab Character Sheet Lite (Android)

PCGen Character Sheet Reader

PCGen Character Sheet Reader Lite

Thanks! I will check them out this weekend.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Anthony A. Scott wrote:
Do any of you have some good tips on technology at the table whether praise or horror stories?

I try to strike a balance. Electronica can be distracting.

My players all have BBM (available for iOS and Android as well as Blackberry). We made a group. That allows me to upload pictures to the group during a session and say "you see that". Their phones all bing, they each get a picture.

That works out better than holding up the relevant Bestiary with my hands over the stats, walking around the table and hoping nobody gets a peek at anything stat-wise.

It also works great for out-of-session discussion of battle-plans and the like.


Anthony A. Scott wrote:
... but I'm still interested in trying to get secret or personal character knowledge to players without physical note passing.

I've used 2 things relatively successfully.

Have several innocuous notes ready for each character. "The barkeep looks eerily similar to your dead cousin." Give notes to various players on a fairly regular basis. The secret notes will be lost in sameness. But this is a fair amount of prep work.

If it isn't something they need to know immediately, send them an email after the game session. "Oh btw, while thinking back on the day, Gronk just remembered that the baron and the guild leader have very similar scars on the back of their necks." Then they can take their time and ask clarifying questions with no one knowing anything about it.


Are there any problems that you've been trying to solve with technology that just hasn't worked out quite right?


Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
Nylanfs wrote:
Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
I use Herolab to make my PC's (when player) and NPC's (when GM). But it won't work on my android tablet yet. So I have to have printed sheets. One guy uses PCGen on his laptop.

Here's something to help you out Kydeem

Hero Lab Character Sheet (Android)

Hero Lab Character Sheet Lite (Android)

PCGen Character Sheet Reader

PCGen Character Sheet Reader Lite

Thanks! I will check them out this weekend.

Did you get a chance to try them out Kydeem?


Nylanfs wrote:
Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
Nylanfs wrote:
Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
I use Herolab to make my PC's (when player) and NPC's (when GM). But it won't work on my android tablet yet. So I have to have printed sheets. One guy uses PCGen on his laptop.

Here's something to help you out Kydeem

Hero Lab Character Sheet (Android)

Hero Lab Character Sheet Lite (Android)

PCGen Character Sheet Reader

PCGen Character Sheet Reader Lite

Thanks! I will check them out this weekend.
Did you get a chance to try them out Kydeem?

Nope. Just got a new grand daughter and almost all our free time has been taken up with her. I should get some time to restart PFS this fall.


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I use Hero Lab at the table, as well as a laptop. I keep all my books as PDFs - makes it a lot easier to lug around a laptop than 20+ books - and it lets me keep all my notes at my fingertips without having to shuffle through reams of paper.

One of the handiest things I do is go through an AP (for example) and mark any changes in the PDF. I have a Word document where I keep all the change details (altered treasures, encounters, etc). I can also have all the links I need to music MP3s so that I can just click on the appropriate bit on the page. For example, as the characters enter the Fire Swamp, I can click on the hyperlinked text "Rodents of Unusual Size" and immediately start the music I'd pre-planned for that encounter. I can also have generic ambient music / sound effects ready to go with a click.

I have all my maps and images in Dropbox, so when I want my players to have something, I just message them and they can access it on their tablets (handy for passing notes :) ). Also saves a lot on printing costs!

Hero Lab is one of the handiest, things, though. As others have noticed, it allows me to keep track of everything character-wise, especially during combat via the tactical console.

Liberty's Edge

PCGen for Character Tracking and Sheets
MyInfo for Campaign Tracking
Experimenting with EpicTable for Map Displays
CC3 with Add ons for Maps

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