Things are still plugging along with the short adventure I’m writing, and that will be up as soon as I’ve had time to tweak the format and draft it properly. And, you know…finish the actual writing.
But so as not to leave you without any content this weekend I wanted to share my thoughts on a tiny smattering of tabletop gaming apps out there on the market right now. I hadn’t. Intended to use this blog for much commentary of this sort – wanting to focus on putting out raw game content for fast, easy utilization but as you know I have become a chronic “breaker of form” as of late. Besides, anything that might improve your game at all is a good thing. And by thing, in this case, I mean app.
I’ll preface by saying that as an iPad/iPhone user (flame war in the comments below) my experience is limited to what’s available on the Apple app store – but you’ll find that some of these apps have Android versions. This is by no means an extensive list and may not even be the best apps for their purpose; rather these are apps that I either use, intend to use, or merely have a crush on. By all means, if you have encyclopedic gamer app knowledge, or simply a favorite that I overlooked, share a link and your recommendation in the comments. Always be linking. Web hits are like points – and it’s all about the points, Brendan.
Recommendation – Must have!
I really cannot stress enough how much I love this app. I’ve used it extensively in the past year or so and this well-supported app continues to improve with every version. It was built with 4th Edition in mind; tracking initiative (rolling it for you or taking the value of an initiative you roll yourself) tracking hit points, bloodied values, and status effects, as well as ongoing damage, prone status, and defenses (including temporary adjustments). It’s simple to heal or damage a creature on the fly and initiatives can easily be shifted around or grouped as need be. The newest version even allows you to change a creatures icon so you can easily spot the orc warchief from the orc grunt (hint: he has the fanciest hat). It even includes a virtual die-roller!
To help DMs plan ahead of time you can set up and pre-roll initiatives for encounters you have built, plugging creatures in as needed. The latest version has expanded to allow more information per creature (info like race, class, skill bonuses, etc.) though all that is purely secondary.
The latest edition has expanded the app’s functionality beyond just 4th edition D&D. With a little work you can set up DM Tools to serve a variety of games with varying initiative systems. The game library starts out with D&D 4th and Pathfinder pre-loaded, and though I haven’t toyed with the function enough to speak to it’s practicality you can even download additional modules (Maybe it will even support some zany phased initiative like in “Alternity.” I would wiggle with glee)!
In all I find this app flexible though not too busy, and very practical. Do yourself a favor and check DMTools out.
Recommendation – A great addition if it’s your group’s “thing”
I feel a little bad reporting on an app that I’ve only used a couple times, but DMDJ is too cool a concept to ignore. The difficulty with introducing music or sound effects to a game is keeping them fresh, and not letting the requisite tinkering with the old jam box/iTunes/stereo get in the way of the game. Alas, most movie and video games soundtracks are intended for short scenes, not 45 minutes worth of roleplaying and 2 hours of combat (yes, yes, I admit, my encounters can get a little…busy). DM DJ seeks to alleviate that problem and provide the DM with a greater breadth of flexibility in their soundscape. It features ambient sound for a variety of environments (and caters to more than just the typical medieval fantasy by including the other two best RPG genres: horror and sci-fi) in addition to easily looped music tracks and one off sound effects.
It depends on the situation of your game, but you can use DMDJ to set a great mood, and keep everyone focused and in character. I even used it to spice up a night of Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator (A video game with a lot of table-top sensibilities that I highly recommend to any who want to “boldly go” and string six computers together) and found that the drone of a spaceship’s engines and some rhythmic techno made a great game all the more exciting.
Not everyone gets into the “bells and whistles” of a game and not every scene needs an ambient soundtrack, sure. But I stand firmly behind DMDJ as a solid addition to your game. Recommended that you have a player or a second device running it, since the music won’t keep playing if you open up another app.
3D Virtual Tabletop
Recommendation: Good for long-distance games; a work in progress
When I first saw the link to this app I was all over it. I’m a real whore for miniatures – and battlemat-heavy combats have always been one of the trickier impediments to on-line tabletop gaming. The simplicity and ease of use that a 3D battle grid could provide would really help a lot of games to get off the ground. Right now there are desktop, iPad, Kindle Fire, and Android versions available – though in some cases the full list of features are not yet implemented. Still, I’m in love with a map that creates its own “fog of war” to keep the players guessing what might be down that next hallway without forcing me to slow down the flow of the adventure to draw it.
My biggest gripe with the 3D Virtual Tabletop is that there isn’t quite enough flexibility. Though I love the ability to tag miniatures with light sources, I’d also like to SET light sources in the environment. The ability to plug in your own maps is great, but being able to make custom miniatures would also be pretty awesome.
While I’d still stick with my stable of unpainted Reaper miniatures – I’d recommend giving the Virtual Tabletop a look-see. For gaming groups that can’t meet in person or for gaming in confined spaces (Road trips, plane rides, trains voyages!) it would be a cool and handy thing to have.