Tuesday 6 March 2012

Tech-head or luddite: How do you play? {Theory}

Things have changed a bit since groups of players huddled around a table, scratch paper in hand and pencils littering the surface. Now the rise of tablet computers have allowed us to store a multitude of rulebooks in one easy-to-carry package. 

When I started playing D&D 4th edition, I used a pad of lined paper and a stack of core rulebooks which I took to every game. While I like the more classic pen and paper approach, I found that 4e was much easier when I wrote everything on a Word document and pasted in stat blocks. Sure, it's nice to have the Monster Manuals but if I want to use a selection of nasty beasties from all 3 books I'd have to take all of them to the session along with any other rulebooks I need, which was pretty heavy.

Now I use a laptop and I'm considering investing in a tablet to make it that much easier to carry. However, I have to note that this is just for 4e; I actually prefer the old paper method when playing games like Swords & Wizardry, Tunnels & Trolls and most other games. The only thing is that most of the rulebooks are in PDF form, which still means I have to either print everything out or I have to crack out the laptop for reference. So I'd say I fit in the neo-traditional camp of GMs.

So I guess the question is, how do you play? Do you use a tablet or a laptop or do you stay old-school with pencil and paper? Are you one of those people that's more likely to go to Target and see what  tablet or laptops deals they have than head to your local stationery store?

Does it even matter how people play? Let me know your thoughts.


  1. I suppose tech-head, though only for the display, everything else is done on paper:

  2. The only electronic device I use is a printer to print new character sheets.

  3. When we played Ars Magica we used computer for read rules in pdf and for bookkeeping.
    And I used wizards online dice when I lost my D20.

    1. I tend to use the online dice when playing with Mythic. Seems a bit easier when doing things solo - I don't know why

  4. I run a very olde skool Swords & Wizardry game. The highest tech at my end of the table is multi-color markers for the battle mat (in the old days everything was monochrome: my rulebooks, my computer monitor, and my battle mat scribbles).
    Interestingly though, one of my players uses an iPad at the table to read & reference his S&W rules pdf. Which I find to be a cool old/new fusion thing.

  5. I'm becoming more and more open to using a tablet, even for T&T.

  6. Electronic readers are great for reference works because of the search capabilities. "Drats... What's the name of the ruler of XXX again?"

    For anything else, I'm a die hard old schooler: pencils and paper only!

    So to summarise:
    - rules & cyclopædias— electronic
    - adventures & character sheets & mat— dead tree

  7. I'm a laptop gamer. As a player it lets me have a character sheet that keeps track of all of the modifiers. I admit I'm a bit of an excel geek so I'll make buttons or macros for the common modifiers. It really helps when you have complex characters at high level. As a GM it allows me to roll electronic dice (and avoid continual TPK's - I tend to have good dice luck), play with virtual maps, have references that I can search quicker than picking the right physical book from a stack.

    Distraction is an issue, but we have two rules - 1) don't do anything so engrossing that you fail to answer to your name or your character name. 2) pay enough attention that we don't have to recap for you. That works pretty well for us. And having those distractions makes it easier when the party is split. People can do whatever they do on the computer until the group rejoins.

  8. Low tech except my iphone which I use for some background music, dice rolling, note keeping, and as a general DM's assistant. Everyone has a phone so I'll text them little information that only their character knows.

  9. I wrote about this on my blog:


    Short version: I don't even like having lots of dice at the table, and am trying to collate all the charts and rules from the various books I use into homemade ready ref sheets. For combat/etc. I use a wipe-board.

  10. Dungeonmaster.pro is about to set up a suite of online tools to run all the rules from any device. They say it will be up in 4 weeks.