Jan 13, 2010

How Do You Like Your D&D? Basic Or Advanced

I've been seeing a couple of different blogs, posts, etc about people's game space, from professional tables, like The Sultan, to decorated rooms, like this functional game room, or this decorated game room, to incorporating the latest hi-tech, like this finished tabletop projector, or this beta tabletop projector project.

My question to you is: Are a lot of people using these elaborate setups? Is everyone now armed at the game table with a PC, open to your favorite e-character sheet, or Power Attack calculator and a steady stream of Twitter comments and photos?

As a DM, I did go through the phase when I had a laptop at the table to track HPs and init, and auto roll for the monsters, but the software was way crappy back then, and my typing skills sucked so it took me a long time to enter info into the various screens.

Most of all, I grew out of the computer phase because I simply missed the feeling I had when I first started playing. The sound of real dice rolling, scribbling on my page when I took damage (which seemed to happen a lot in the games I played back then), and rubbing holes into said same character sheet when the goodly cleric would crack open a couple of those precious Cure Light Wounds spells.

Nowadays, I use computers, the Internet, Photoshop, and whatever else I can get my laptop to point to when I prep for a game, but when the actual session starts, it's dice, notebooks, and pencils, along with minis, battle maps and the occasional piece of LEGO scenery (so I'm not completely old school).

Anyway, how do you like your D&D, basic (low-tech) or advanced (hi-tech)?


Christopher Heard said...

When I DM (which is most of the time), I keep my adventure notes on my laptop. I use combat/initiative tracking software (I wrote my own in JavaScript, but this next session I'm giving Masterplan a try). Nowadays, I also like having instant access to the D&D Compendium online (since I play 4e). However, I roll physical dice for all combat actions (except initiative, which I leave to the software) and we track conditions using physical tokens. I also use my laptop to play music (see my Dungeons & DJs series at Icosahedrophilia during the sessions.

Last time I GMed Star Wars Saga Edition for my sons and their friends, I hooked up the computer to a TV and had an intro crawl for the session, along with HUDs and such for them. I'm thinking about doing something similar for D&D, showing portraits of significant NPCs, etc. on the TV.

Most of my players now bring laptops to access their Character Builder files. I have one player who likes to roll dice on his phone, but I think we're going to put the kibosh on that. Dice rolled on a phone or computer are not public enough for a social activity like D&D.

Since we podcast our sessions, of course I have my recorder handy.

I would really love to have a tabletop projector setup, or a horizontal computer screen/TV, but I don't $ee myself going there soon.

So I guess I'm a high-tech DM. :-)

Eddie G said...

I should have mentioned, I'm a big fan of music during a game session (I'll certainly check out your DJ series). If a $300+ million dollar movie can benefit from a score, I'm sure my game can too. I had wanted to try sound effects during a game but never got around to setting it up, like goblins approaching, or a rustling in the trees.

Joseph said...

Gadzooks, Christopher's game sounds like the very antithesis of my own. Just books, a notebook, and dice (although I do have a Dragonbone electronic die roller that I occasionally use when I want to generate a number and not have the clatter of dice give it away to the players). The players themselves have their own PH's and character sheets, and of course their own dice.

No laptops, or PDAs, or anything. It's been years since I've even used miniatures. If a situation is really complex and in need of visual aid, I'll just jot it down on a sheet of paper and show it to the group.

Of course, I'm also running AD&D 1E, so doing things low-tech might be easier than a 4E game.

I've used music back in the hoary mists of time, but eventually came to the conclusion that it was more of a distraction than anything else, both for myself and the players. Once again, though, that's just my own experience.

Eddie G said...

Yeah, I think it's very easy to run 1E without minis. When I played 2e, we never used minis, and only occasionally drew a battle scene on paper (and not to mini scale).

With another 2e group, battle mats where essential, since the DM usually had 4x the number of attackers, divided into sub groups, each had different tactics.

Recently, I've wondered if I could run a 3.5 encounter without minis, but I'm thinking the AoO rules would get all hosed in the process.