28 February 2015

Apps for RPG judging

Here are some of the iOS apps I have used when running role-playing games.

Goodreader: Good reader is a PDF (and other types of files) viewer. You can have several PDFs open at the same time and easily flip between them. It now even lets you have multiple tabs viewing different pages in the same PDF. You can add your own bookmarks to PDFs that lack them.

I have even used the annotation features to stock a map, which works OK.

Evernote: I have an RPG notebook in Evernote. I have tags for monsters, encounters, treasures, house rules, campaign ideas, setting ideas, preparation tips, and more.

UX Write: All my campaign notes are stored on Dropbox. UX Write is my word processing app of choice for viewing/editing them on iOS. One of the nice things about UX Write for this is its automatically populated outline that makes it quick to jump to the part of a document you need.

Dropbox: Besides keeping all my campaign notes in Dropbox, I also use it to share documents and images with my group. e.g. When the PCs discover a map, I may hand them a paper copy, but I also pull up the Dropbox app and copy it from my campaign notes into the shared folder.

Battle Map 2: I’ve experimented with using Battle Map 2 on a TV. Also used it a few times when one or two players were telecommuting to a game. It worked OK, but it wasn’t great.

Hex Map Pro: I’ve tried using this one on a TV too. Also wasn’t great.

Old School: This is an app for planning and running classic D&D combat encounters. I have only actually used it a couple of times, but it worked well.

Lotto Machine: This was created to randomly pick lotto numbers. You tell it the range of possible numbers and how many to choose. You have six PC and need them in a random order for some reason? You can make everyone roll a die and reroll ties. Or you can tell Lotto Machine that you need 6 numbers from 1 to 6. Need to randomly pick three of the PCs for some reason? Ask for 3 from 1 to 6.

InitiativeBoard: I haven’t actually used this one yet, but it looks handy for tracking individual initiative in any game.

An RGP koan?

“What can a mage do once they are out of spells?”

That isn’t a question about the game. Answering that (and similar) questions is the game. That is what makes role-playing games different from conventional games.

18 February 2015

Role app

Role is an iOS app (Android version “coming soon”) designed to aid in the playing of a traditional role-playing game.

The app is based on its own system. You can download a copy of it off their web site, and you could easily play it without the app. You can get a bit lost with just the app, so it may be worth reading it before trying to play with the app. (Although, it may be more likely that you get lost in the app because you’re expecting more than is there rather than not understanding the system.)

This system is very light. It is very similar to Risus without the emphasis on humor. So no complaints there.

The app itself doesn’t really do much, though. About all it does is “roll the dice” for you; determine failure, success, or critical success; and track XP. As it currently lacks the ability to save your characters or adventures, it is really hard to see the point. And you might think that the app would communicate and coördinate with the other players’ apps, but it doesn’t. It does nothing to make the GM’s job easier that Notepad doesn’t do. There may be potential here, but it is severely unrealized thus far.

(And rolling actual dice is a huge part of the fun for me.)

They are positioning it as a “party game”, though I don’t think that excuses the lack of saving. That does seem to be one of the features they are working on, though.

It has a few character templates and more that can be purchased. There is very little to making a character here (make up three skills) so the templates don’t really seem to be much value. On the other hand, a free-form system like this really benefits from examples. shrug The templates seem so intent on supporting any genre that they come across as supporting only a very specific kitchen-sink genre. I personally didn’t find them inspiring.

There are also a few adventures and a few more to purchase. They have, however, too much setting and not enough adventure. Especially considering the apparent aim towards one-shots over campaigns.

It is nice to see an app that aimed to support very traditional role-playing in the “no miniatures” mode. But basic functionality (e.g. saving) is missing, what they have needs to be refined (e.g. genre-specific character templates and a bit more depth to the adventures), and they need to figure out how such an app could really help the GM.

01 February 2015


I have come to depend on my iPad both when running and when playing RPGs.

10 January 2015 was the first time I was getting ready to run a game and found myself thinking about having contingencies in case my iPad had issues.

My iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly the best iPad I’ve had yet. Except it doesn’t feel as reliable. Too often, in the few months I’ve had it, it has locked up or spontaneously rebooted. Once it appeared completely dead for a while.

Is it iOS? Is it the iPad Air 2? Is it a flaw in just my particular iPad? Is it the extensions I’m using that iOS has enabled? I don’t know.

(System extensions were always the biggest culprit of technical issues on the Mac. As happy as I am with the extensibility iOS 8 has enabled, I’m less happy to have the uncertainty that comes with them.)

Of course, the iPad is still the tablet that has most met my expectations.