Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Optimized for iPad and Smartphones?

Today is a shockingly golden age for dead-tree, table-top RPG stuff. Sure, Lulu is a pain in the neck at times, but the opportunities these POD services create have lifted us out of the era of netbooks and into a world of incredibly high-quality gaming materials for a broadly diverse range of sensibilities and tastes. And do I have to mention Vornheim, and how it's pushing the envelope in terms of squeezing new utility out of the dead-tree format?

But the rest of the publishing world is moving more and more towards electronic formats. Kindles, iPads, and smart phones are likewise opening new, and very different, opportunities. So that's got me wondering: what would a table-top RPG optimized for these sorts of devices look like?

Hyperlinks, naturally, with some going to different pages and others just opening small boxes with definitions or other info in them. Interactive character sheets that help you fill in the blanks or do calculations for you, as well as full-on character generators. What about interactive maps (click on the hex to pull up its writeup in the key, or roll for wondering monsters)? Animation? Music? Minigames as part of the game?

I think those last few are getting a bit far from what most of us want at the table, and even the first few make it harder to tweak the game to your own personal preferences. Still, there's clearly a lot of territory to be explored and exploited usefully in the electronic media of today.

For those of not driving 27 year-old cars and who have fully embraced the 21st century, I'm curious what sorts of things you'd like to see, or have already seen that would improve your prep and play.

15 comments:

JD said...

I run an entire campaign off my ipad2. All maps are stored in pdfs, ,monsters are links to online sites, bbeg are done in herolab and exported tona doc, the whole srd/bestiary/apg is an app I bring up.

I tossed a whole bag full of books and just use a tablet. This is the way gaming in the future needs to be.

Restless said...

I've been considering picking up an Asus EEE Slate to run a game from. (No iPad for me, I readily admit I'm a bigot when it comes to absolutely no Apple kit. I'd consider an Android tablet if we'd get one worth having... but also I'd like handwriting recognition, so I guess I'm stuck with Windows.)

Of course, I'd put all the static .pdf files on an SDXC card for reference (and not taking up the SSD), random tables would be via Tablesmith or something similar and the bulk of the game material would be in a Dokuwiki I build for just this purpose. It'd make restocking or updating and making the place seem "alive" so much easier.

For instance, a megadungeon would be built out where each room of any note would have its own page. If there's no page, when players make it of note I can just make a new page (in a special notation, to make it easier to organize) and put in notes. That way, if someone feels the need to scrawl something on the wall, stuff is dropped somewhere or something is changed, I have a record (and a history!). You can do the same with locales, smaller dungeons, hex encounters, etc., especially since Dokuwiki has a very luxurious level of nesting namespaces.

And for the record, I had an '82 Cutlass Supreme way back in the early to mid '90s. I loved that car. Too bad I let the wrong dip$#!7 do a brake job on it and ended up in a pileup, unable to stop.

bighara said...

GoodReader + my gaming pdfs = win

rmckee78 said...

Stop publishing .pdfs in 2 column format. It is a pain to read them on a computer screen that way, you have to keep scrolling up and down. I can't stand reading more than about 5 pages in 2 column format on a screen.

Mark said...

I second the call for publishing PDFs with only one column. It may be a pipe dream, but I can hope.

Something that came up for my group a few weeks ago was dice. One player was dead cold (he had three 1's in one combat) and downloaded a dice roller to his phone. Everyone of us had a try. I missed actually rolling the dice, but seeing as how I carry about 50 dice in my bag it may be nice for those fistful attacks.

trollsmyth said...

Thanks for the quick responses, all. I'm seeing a lot of "no giant pile of books" comments, which, yeah, is also great. I also enjoy being able to have the computer run a search on my pdfs when I'm in the need for looking something up quickly.

Restless: Yeah, being able to annotate is great. Hmmm... Dokuwiki isn't difficult to use, but I wonder if it's simple enough for casual users?

rmckkee78 and Mark: Single column won't be too long? Granted, you can fiddle with the text, too.

I'm wondering if maybe landscape wouldn't be a better option, with maybe three columns and no scrolling, at least for devices with as much screen as the pads.

MrGuy said...

I moved to NYC a year ago. The group I game with still resides in Wisconsin. We use Skype for communication and are currently tinkering around with d20pro and MapTools for a virtual tabletop, instead of using group video calling through Skype and pumping two webcam feeds across 1100 miles of interweb tubes.

Since I game from my couch, I use my iPad as my primary source for content. Our group keeps a shared folder in Dropbox with things like pdf copies of reference material for easy access and also with form-fillable pdf files for our character sheets. Form fillable sheets do not appear on iOS devices with saved form data, so you'll need something like BullZip PDF printer to "flatten" the data into a non-form pdf that can be easily viewed on any iOS device (process takes as long as it does to print the pdf to a normal printer).

As for apps that I use? iAnnotate is my primary character sheet viewer, as it allows you to essentially handwrite directly onto the pdf and save those handwritten notes between sessions. I also use PFR for an easily accessible app-based SRD.

Spellbook Master is a decent app for referencing most popular 3.5e spells and roughly 95%+ of pathfinder spells too. The 3.5e material is simply "d20" which is not the same as D&D, so you miss things that might show up in the spell compendium (if you have the PDF, just load it with iAnnotate and bookmark your spell descriptions in that case).

Since I'm currently playing a Sorcerer 5 / Wild Mage 5, with fireball and celerity in my list of spells, RPGCalc comes in handy for rolling up 20d6 every once in a while. I've also recently just resorted to using it as my main die roller. This thing even allows you to specify "orders of operations" for you math guys.

Last one I use on my iPad is only for when I go back to visit the guys in person: Initiative Tracker by lvl99games. If you're at the table with this available, your DM will love you.

Greg Christopher said...

This post was a catalyst in my decision to buck-up and finally just put in the hyperlinks in my games. I had been putting it off because it is a lot of monotonous linking, but it needs to be done.

Thanks Brian.

Stuart said...

Something like this which I really need to finish and share with everyone.

trollsmyth said...

MrGuy: Form fillable sheets do not appear on iOS devices with saved form data, so you'll need something like BullZip PDF printer to "flatten" the data into a non-form pdf that can be easily viewed on any iOS device (process takes as long as it does to print the pdf to a normal printer).

Ack! That's annoying. :/ Though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. And yeah, I am so with you on the Initiative Tracker. That sounds excellent.

G. Christopher: Excellent! I probably love dead-tree more than most, but hyperlinks are wonderful things.

Stuart: Yes. Exactly something like that. Very keen.

trollsmyth said...

Stuart: The Spellbook app looks pretty cool, too.

-C said...

I used to drive a cutlass.

Now I have a 94 roadmaster.

Eric said...

Our 3.5E gaming sessions use http://d20srd.org a *lot*.

For PDFs and screen reading, I think the best way to go is to provide a single column 8.5" x 5" digest format. Some people like to print books in that size, and it's a good size for reading on a laptop or a tablet- a little small for an iPod Touch or smartphone, but OK in landscape mode.

Restless said...

Regarding using Dokuwiki: I'm not sure if it's ideal for everyone. It's not so much the use of the wiki that's difficult, it's the keeping it organized so you can properly leverage it. It requires a considerable amount of forethought.

Suzanna said...

Well, I do not really believe this will have success.