Roleplaying In A

A Remembrance

In General on May 8, 2010 at 8:00 am

Earth from Space
Image by The WHAM Agency via Flickr

Passed on by a friend of mine.

Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the molds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

[ — the harsh bright soil of Luna —
— Saturn’s rainbow rings —
— the frozen night of Titan — ]

We’ve tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
ALL HANDS! STAND BY! FREE FALLING!
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet —

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Robert A. Heinlein, may he rest in peace. He will never be forgotton.

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My Laptop and Tabletop Gaming

In Props on April 18, 2010 at 7:10 am

Back in March, I asked for help with mapping and one of the responses was MapTools, “an online, multiuser, networked, graphical, interactive, programmable virtual tabletop”. Kristian on The Dice of Life pointed out how useful this software was even for local tabletop use.

I then spent 12-15 hours learning to use it and this week, had great success with it. I was on an RPG Circus episode with some comments about it as well.

In that episode, and other places, I’ve heard some logical objections to using software mapping during games and I wanted to address some of those objections today.

Expense

The first, and probably the hardest hurdle for anyone thinking about using something like this is the expense of the equipment. I don’t recommend anyone go out and pay thousands of dollars for 6-7 laptops to use at a gaming table. This sort of thing is going to work best in homes with an HDMI-capable  laptop and an HDTV.

I think networking a bunch of laptops would be both a headache and just outright not worth it. With an HDTV, which many of us already own, you can pay about 30$ for a wireless mouse and an HDMI cable and have a set-up that works much like a tabletop battlemat or something similar.

As you can see in the picture on the left, this let’s you use the television as a map substitute and minimizes the distractions that laptops can cause with players, since the GM is only person using one.

The players then use a wireless mouse that gets passed around as needed to move tokens around on the display and an HDTV is generally large enough that the entire party can see it.

Time

There’s no getting around this one – learning to use software like this takes time and you definitely should invest enough of it that you know what you’re doing before you ever introduce it into the game. My prep for this campaign took a full two months from conception to character creation and a week of that was learning to use the program for mapping.

Take a few hours at a time to teach yourself this software. Some types are going to be easier than others and if the one you’ve picked starts taking too long to learn, do not be shy about switching to something else. Maptools took me 12-15 hours altogether and the time was the best investment I put into it.

When we did start using it, it was easy to show the players how.

Session 2: Using Technology

In General, Props on April 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm

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We got a late start because people weren’t quite finished with character creation. After about 45 minutes, I told them to finish up during the game, we needed to get started. Otherwise, the real theme was introducing and using the new technology of mapping on the tv.

1. I started the game off with combat. I don’t do much railroading but the first game of a brand new campaign does need a little set-up. To that end, I just outright told them they’d been hired and were on the job when they were suddenly jumped by gangers.

After this, they can do what they want, even ditching this job. It beats having them just sit around in a bar waiting. They went with the set-up and didn’t even discuss ditching the job.

2. I’d spent 12-15 hours making sure I knew the tech so it was pretty easy to teach. I kept things simple, not using many options available in the software, so things were easy to learn and remember. I think I’d want at least one more combat before I add anything at all.

3. Combat was slower than I’d have liked. I rolled initiative for each enemy individually and that was a mistake. Next time, I’m just going back to grouping them. It speeds things up quite a bit.

4. My players outright LOVED the mapping software and I was asked for the web address so they can check it out on their own during the week.

5. The group decided to go to once a week games, instead of bi-weekly. No one present was really happy with skipping a week although I did warn them I would sometimes call games due to lack of time to prep. They were fine with that and our next game is next week.

6. If you’re considering using technology to enhance your games, pay attention here – I’m going to post more on the subject this week. But if I have one tip you need now, it’s this: LEARN THE SOFTWARE.

Things are ever so much easier if you know what you’re doing.

7. One character, Raven, is establishing his personality very fast. The first NPC he saw, he started schmoozing with about drug deals. This is going to be a guy to watch out for.

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