The Netbook and the Gaming Table
The addition of small, very portable computers has really changed a lot of the way people view computing. I own a couple, and tend to carry the Sony Vaio P around like a security blanket. This means, then, I have access to a lot of data, even when not connected to the internet. This has held true for the other class of portable computing devices, the crop of e-book readers. I’ve found it useful to keep my gaming notes, especially for RPG games, on computers and have caught chatter from other roleplaying and GMing friends about the coolness of having whole RPG sourcebooks and manuals on their Kindles.
So what has the lightening of the gaming bookbag done for you, if you’ve switched to using electronic tools?
I’m not a huge tabletop gaming person, but the games I play all seem to have some new enhancement. With the ability to carry quite a bit of data around, having all my notes for games is easy, when it all fits in my purse.
For myself, my main tool has been Microsoft OneNote, which is a data collection and organization product that is often included in the more complete versions of Office. It’s a good buy on it’s own, if you’re a Windows user. I make use of a lot of personal notes when playing a RP MUSH, keeping track of my evil plans, notes on stats and specific game files I use often but need to view offline, etc. This picture is a snippet of the gaming section.
Each little portion of my character’s activities has a section, and pages within it. The main screen shows a rumor posting that relates to a plot I was working on. As a player, it helps to copy certain useful information into a form I can carry around, search, and add to. How many of us in online gaming have remembered reading something before, something a character said, but not the specifics? Handy now to slap into a searchable database.
Obviously, from a GM’s point of view, finding a software package for their platform and creating a database like this could mean not having to repeatedly create things each campaign. OneNote, as well as Evernote and other data organizing packages, allow you to create a page and then save it as a template to use over again. With OneNote, you can print a PDF right into it, and then overlay more typing. It’s a great way to create character sheets, if you lack a PDF writing app. It does take time to build up a treasure trove of your own information in any database, and that can be daunting to some, I think. Not everyone is confident with computers enough to take up a database application and turn it into something that is readily useful. I find OneNote to be very easy to use, and am interested to hear what others use to store their campaign notes.
As with any of the Tiddlywikis, just go to the blank one and Save As the file to your local disk, and there you can modify it. Narrator’s Helper, by the Flying Turtle bloggers, is located here: http://flyingturtle.deepeningdays.com/narratorsHelper.htm
I won’t go into detail about the file, only to say that the author has added a number of new features to the TiddlyWiki, including the ability to roll up NPCs and track their hitpoints and damage, as well as rolls based on their stats, right in the wiki file itself. Most of the improvements involve handling random number things in games that use dice, in addition to all the tagging goodness of the TiddlyWiki. If you’re the light programming type, I encourage you to download the file and try your hand at a customization. Share what you create with us, too!
Lastly, I wanted to mention the iPod Touch/iPhone devices. There are quite a few handhelds out there with their own app stores and such, but this is just a sampling off my own iPod Touch.
- Armory: If you’re into World of Warcraft, you may have known about the Armory app for iPhone. This is a slick little app that shows your character stats and equipment, just as it is in the Armoury website. Nice graphics with page turning sounds. However, I have found it not to work if you have an Authenticator on your account.
- Authenticator Mobile: Speaking of.. if you do have one, or wish to secure your WoW account, the Authenticator for Mobile is a free download out of the App Store. This is a program that generates a unique timed number that must be typed in when logging in. It’s an excellent idea to help keep your account from being hijacked (as mine was last week), and you don’t even have to dish out the $6 to buy the fob one off the store.
- Pocket MV: For those who are sucked into the virtual world of Second Life, there is Pocket Metaverse for accessing that graphical world right from your iPhone. Unlike some lightweight apps, this one allows map viewing, limited movement, chatting, inventory manipulation… the next best thing to actually logging in. For those on netbooks or older laptops that can’t handle the client, it’s a good option, even if it eats battery power like Oreos.
- Dice Rollers: There seem to be a number of them, such as Crit, Dice Bag and Motion-X Dice. Your mileage may vary, as I haven’t tried any of them, but those are free for the download.
I’m sure the new iPad will open up things even more, and the touch capability with the large screen should tempt programmers to create new tools for us gamers. Be nice to your programmers, convert them to gaming, then maybe they will gift us with cool.
I’ve kept to what I know here, but if anyone has cool tools they’ve found useful on portable devices, please share with us in the comments!