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Archive for the ‘Props’ Category

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.


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.


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. Read the rest of this entry »


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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Session 1: Character Creation

In General, Props on April 2, 2010 at 4:18 am

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I ran our first session, which was all about campaign introduction and character creation, in a quasi-seminar format. It was an astounding success and everyone really loved how it worked out.

1. I removed a lot of the furniture from my living room and set up 2 tables, with chairs, in a kind of boardroom set up.

2. I gave away swag! I probably spent $20+ on this but it was well worth it. Swag included dice, pencils, scratch paper, nametags, an NPC business card and a cd that included genre-specific images, music and pdf’s.

3. I included a folder with my pamphlet, a lot of information on the campaign and character creation as well as a player questionnaire and GM evaluation sheets.

4. I hooked up my laptop to our HDTV and created a Power Point presentation that covered the high points as well as a lot of general creation information such as statistics, special abilities and related information. I also included new rules in this. Read the rest of this entry »

Help Me With A Campaign Portfolio

In General, Props on March 6, 2010 at 6:00 am

The other day, I was struck by a brilliant idea. I’m running a modern game where corporations have a great deal of negative impact on the world around them. I decided to have our character creation session be run as a seminar, complete with portfolio and swag.

The first thing I did was make a list of everything I wanted to include in the portfolio and very quickly, I had TWENTY-FIVE items. That’s a huge number and far beyond the scope of my project. I did some whittling and combing and came up with the following:

Brochures produced earlier, Character Sheet of my own design, Character Creation Information, Game Information Sheet, Swag, Sample Chr Sheet, Combat Example/Primer, Q/A Sheet, GM Screen Info, In-character Job application, GM Evaluation Sheet, Player Interview Sheet, Crime/Punishment Info Sheet, Screamsheet, Additional Resources and an Intro Evaluation (so I can see how this idea goes over).

I’ve finished the Campaign Information and here it is! Let me know what you would change.


A World Of Corruption

Game Information Sheet

Viriatha de Cordova, 7XX-9XX-3XX0, Monday – Sunday 9am-10pm
XXXX XXXX Street, Every Other Thursday 7pm – 11pm

Required Materials

Dice, 6- and 10-sided
Paper as needed
Character Sheets
Pencils provided on request Read the rest of this entry »

Pamphlet Prop

In Props, Setting on March 1, 2010 at 8:30 am

The last few posts have been background information for my campaign planning because I was inspired by something posted over at Held Action back in October about making pamphlets for players.

It’s an absolutely beautiful tutorial and made the whole process very, very easy. I do wish he’d included a download of this own Ghostbusters product but no joy on that.

For myself, I made a decent cover page with black and white art (no color printer here). Then I included a glossary but tried hard to keep to terms I actually use in the game that would be relevant. I used Wikipedia to grab some intro material but then the interior of the thing was basic campaign background.

I tried to avoid just duplicating information that could be found in the Cyberpunk 2020 book.

Here’s a pic of one page and if you like that, grab a download.

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