GM technology tablet v Laptop

GM Discussion

Sovereign Court 2/5 Venture-Agent, Alaska—Anchorage aka 1bent1

I'm looking to have my GMing be less cluttered so I'm entertaining either using a Tablet or a Laptop to help me. For those that have moved beyond printing scenarios and NPC stats which have you found to be more useful? I will also undoubtedly look to get Hero Lab and stop using word/Excel for character sheets as well. I envision using the device for mostly Gming/reading PDFs and word doc, maybe some web browsing. I don't do any mobile gaming so that isn't a use I'm interested in.

Also if you also have a recommendation in a device please list that as well. For product discussion I'm a PC user.

Thanks a ton!

5/5 5/55/55/5

I find a laptop has the same problem for me as a dm screen. I have an obligatory hunch over and talk with my hands, so a screen is in the way of seeing my face and a possible projectile when my hands start going.

A tablet can vanish into a stack of papers when not needed. the laptop not so much.

5/5 Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka Pirate Rob

I've been super happy with my Surface (hybrid tablet/lappy)

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/55/55/5 Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

I use iPad+Keyboard Case+Good Reader.

The Keyboard case lets me prop up the iPad or keep it low. Goodreader app is amazing, and lets you organize scenarios, highlight, underline... It has become the way I read them.

Grand Lodge 4/5

I think it's just a matter of getting used to locating information regardless of which method you use. I just bought a tablet to cut down on the volumes I have to drag around, but I am still learning how to navigate the pdfs that Paizo has.

I should look at an app like GM HMM is using. Being able to organize information would really help.

Has anyone used HLO with a tablet beyond the demo? I would like to know how that works. I'm not sold on them yet.

Silver Crusade 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh aka Terminalmancer

I normally run using a laptop, in my case running Ubuntu (a flavor of linux):

* I can open up multiple copies of the PDF to different pages and switch between them. I normally use workspaces (feature not available in Windows) but alt-tab should work okay.
* If I have a 'net connection (I usually tether with my phone) I can quick-search Archives of Nethys.
* It's fast and I can zoom in to read stuff.
* PDF annotations are great.
* Mice are also great!
* Weight: laptops aren't heavy, but they weigh more than nothing.
* Power: my laptop won't hold up for a whole 5+ hour scenario so I need to find power and connect to it.
* Size: if you've got a tiny table a bigger laptop is suboptimal.

In a pinch, I've run scenarios off a Chromebook, too. This probably works for a Surface as well:

* Easy access to the PDF.
* I can usually tether and search Archives of Nethys.
* The battery lasts forever, so I don't need to plug in.
* Smaller size: it doesn't take up nearly as much space on the table.
* Weight: it's pretty light.
* It's slower than a laptop and PDFs are slow. Scrolling can be a pain.
* The available applications don't handle PDF annotations quite as well in many cases (using a mobile reader to make mobile annotations changes this--my wife uses Xodo reader for Android/Chrome OS and doesn't have a problem)
* Switching from PDF view to PDF view is possible but sometimes it runs out of memory and has to reload the PDF.

My wife sometimes runs off her phone, which I think is nuts, but she likes it:

* You always have your phone with you, so if you can prep on your phone, you always have your device with you.
* The battery life is usually pretty good.
* It doesn't take up ANY table space.
* You can look up at your table more when you're reading from the scenario
* It can be really slow.
* It's unlikely that you're able to switch from PDF view to PDF view.
* It can be hard to load files onto your phone unless you're using cloud storage like Drive, Dropbox, or whatever thing Microsoft is supporting. But then if you don't have an internet connection you lose access to network drives.
* The screen is tiiiiiny!

Remember you can always hybridize: print out the encounters (esp. PFS2) while running off a phone or tablet where switching between pages is hard or slow. Using both a tablet and phone at once. That sort of thing!

Dark Archive 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Captain, Germany—Rhein Main South aka schattenstern

I am using a combination of a surface and printed out statblocks and it works.

For GM-screens, I think the new PF2 landscape screen is a godsend.

Dark Archive 5/5 5/5

I do most of my running from a laptop with an Excel sheet for initiative/hit point tracking, but I've recently started doing some from my phone with initiative tracking pad. Running from my laptop has been essential for running multi-table specials quickly, as I generate an Excel file before starting that rolls initiatives for all creatures and has HP input ready to be subtracted from. I also collect a bunch of initiative rolls from people at the start of those and input them in the sheet for easy copy/paste.

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I use a Dell XPS15 laptop that also converts to a tablet. I usually GM from it in laptop form as so far, it has been easier to have multiple PDF tabs open and swap between them. I will have the main PDF (highlighted), a PDF of stat blocks for each sub-tier (then close the one not needed), and if needed a PDF of the spells and/or rules that I may want to have on hand. I'd love to work out how to use it just as efficiently in tablet mode to avoid the screening between me and players/map. I do usually have it angled which helps.

I also find the touch screen useful too. I find the batter is sufficient to make it through at least one session though I have a pretty small brick that works well to charge via USB-C.

I do like to have a paper backup, just in case.

On the HLO question - I run it on my old iPad quite happily though if I have my laptop with me I will sometimes opt to use that in tablet mode instead. (Old eyes like larger screens.)

I have even pulled it up on my phone to check something but that is way too small for me to be comfortable playing that way.

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

I like my tablet, the battery can handle two slots well enough.

I installed some extra PDF viewers to be able to open multiple PDFs in parallel. Stupid but it works.

I like that it's lightweight and not attached to anything, so I can easily center and zoom on a picture and show that to the players.

I don't always print the main scenario, but usually do print the statblock appendix so that I don't have to flip between them.

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/55/55/5 Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

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With Goodreader I can open up two different instances of the scenario (annotated + original) and flip between the two to keep all the combat statblocks in sight during a combat.

I only print statblocks for big scenarios like specials.


5/5 Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka Pirate Rob

I already have 1 copy where I am, another copy for the pictures. A 3rd copy is likely to confuse me so I have the stat blocks printed out. I do have the CRB open as a 3rd item, and occasionally the Pathfinder wiki as a 4th window depending on my scenario needs.

Liberty's Edge 2/5 5/5

When I am mobile, I use my Chromebook that is a tablet as well. Home, I got my twin monitor setup.

4/5 5/5

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I use an iPad because that is the type of tablet I had when I started Org Play.

Tables (especially at conventions) tend to put space at a premium, so the smaller size of a tablet is a big advantage. Having all the rulebooks in PDF format also allows me to bring them with me anywhere. Note I still prefer reading the paper copies, but my back vastly prefers PDF. When going out of town, the tablet easily qualifies as carry-on baggage, making travel easier.

I use GoodReader to view the scenarios and normally create a separate Google doc with stat blocks and notes in them. Note that GoodReader does allow you to have multiple tabs open of the same document, you just need to “Duplicate Tab” on the document. On the other hand, it does limit how many tabs you can have open at the same time. The top of my Google doc is always the information for reporting and filling out of chronicles.

As a player, I use a Google sheet for tracking fame, money, etc. I am looking to scan all my chronicles and put them out on Google drive so that I don’t need to carry nearly as much when gaming and don’t leave something behind.

At this point, I am heavily invested in having the tablet. I think my GMing of a table would suffer a little bit if I were forced to work off a paper copy of an adventure. I do print out handouts, but my GM only references are all electronic.

Since I do a fair amount of GMing of PbP, it is worth noting that I do most of the work for them on my tablet as well. I keep a scratch sheet doc for tracking and fast cut & paste of data. I will copy the current combat stats into the doc and edit it as combat progresses. I use Google Slides for maps and have learned to manipulate things on that. Slides isn’t ideal, it can be difficult to move the avatars on the maps. The ability to update from my tablet makes it worth the pain — updates would me much slower if I had to use my computer.

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