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Posts Tagged ‘HDMI’

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. Read the rest of this entry »