Dungeons and Dragons is an amazing game. It is full of imagination and creativity. I have been playing D&D since I was seven. Back then we had to (#1) color the numbers in on our dice with a crayon and (#2) use complex charts to figure out when we hit. There were photocopied character sheets, black and white rulebooks and actual lead miniatures! Heck, (#3) every thief had the same stats!
Things have certainly changed! The game is officially on it’s 4th Edition, the dice are much cooler,and most importantly, we have all this cool technology! My gaming group gets together just about every Friday night. We don’t just bring Cheetos and Mountain Dew to our game, we also bring our laptops and cell phones. While this takes up valuable dice rolling space, the computers have become an important part of our game and it has it’s pros and cons! In this and a few other blogs, I will revue how technology has enhanced our medieval fantasy campaign.
Before I start, let me make a couple of disclaimers here.
a. Our group is playing Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 or the d20 system if you prefer, with a few cool tweaks. We tried 4th edition when it first came out and it wasn’t right for us. I have plenty of friends that play and someday, I may jump on board. I have the Player’s Handbook and know the basics but, still have a soft spot for 3rd Edition.
b. I am going to promote the crud out of Google here! I love Google and we use many of their tools for our game. If you prefer another companies chat service, etc. than by all means, use them.
Let’s start by get the bad stuff out of the way first. Besides my aforementioned lack of table space, there is really only one bad thing that comes from us having our computers and cell phones with us. Distractions! We are distracted by our PC instead of playing our PC! We are a group of geeks getting together and we have a primal urge to share the latest Freddie Wong video, cool websites, movie trailer and more. This causes us to start late. Later in the game we get distracted by games on our cell phone or Facebook when we are not part of the story. This can be frustrating, especially for the DM, but it is fairly easy to keep down to a minimum. All it takes is a well placed threat of random damage to the offending player/players and they are suddenly back in the game.
So, let’s move onto the Pros, shall we!
On to the list of great stuff you can use to enhance your game.
1) Notes are a thing of the past, thanks to Google Talk. Now we can communicate with each other and the DM with ease. Unlike the old days when you would write your note on a piece of scrap paper, fold it over three times and pass it over the table, this is relatively inconspicuous. If you forgot your computer and don’t have that awesome smart phone with Google Talk on it as well, you can always text the DM. It is not nearly as subtle though. When the DM’s ringer goes off, you know the thief is up to something!
2) I started a journal of our game with Google Docs. It was how I tracked everything our group had done. My character has a slightly higher intelligence than me so I had to account for his memory somehow. I would bring my netbook to the game until I got my phone. Google Docs app took over and made life easier. Now we play at my house and I can use the laptop most of the time, unless my wife has to catch up on her Words With Friends games. As the game progressed we realized that the story-line was fairly in depth. Since I had the most complete notes it only made sense for me to give everyone access to them. With the sharing options on G-Docs, it eventually became the party journal. Now all of us are logged in taking notes, logging information, and reviewing our past adventures, all at the same time. We can see where another players cursor is on the document and we even discuss things there. It is what I will be using to tell our story.
3) Say what you want about Google +. Really, go ahead and vent. I see the plus’s and the minus’s of this service and have yet to make up my mind whether I love it or not. The one thing I do know is, it’s great for our group to collaborate between games. We can discuss strategy, share ides, and link our Google Docs to the discussion with ease. By creating a Circle for our group we also avoid boring any other friends with our plans to raid the slave camp of the Mercer’s! It is also a quick and easy way to let people know if you can’t make it to the game. We even have one player who has yet to set up his account. He still gets our posts as emails.
4) A virtual whiteboard can really help with strategic planning and more. We went with Dabbleboard. We are currently planning to secure a Dukes citadel for an attack. We can superimpose the map of the location on the board and scribble away with notes, attack lines, supplies and the works.
5) Our DM is quite skilled with Google Sketchup! How awesome is it to have 3D models of buildings to explore. He has only used it a couple of times so far, and for important or reoccurring locations. It makes our hometown tavern come to life!
6) The final tool we use is the DM’s website. I will give props to Joomla here. This free open source software is really sweet!
We are not playing in any of the prepublished worlds, we are playing in the the world of Yolariand and it is our DM’s creation. It is a dark setting with low fantasy. We are fourth level and have very little magic and fought very few creatures of myth or legend. We have encountered a few halflings and gnomes so far but no elves or dwarves. There are no undead in this world and the priests are quite weak. The cities are unique and different as is the cultures. Without the website full of personalities, maps, cities and more, we would be lost.
In the next D & D post, I will share some amazing web sources and other tools we use to organize and run our campaign.
Until then, may the critical hits be plentiful!