How Do Mobile Devices Affect Your Game?

How does mobile technology affect your game? On the one hand, it provides access to resources - dice rollers, looking up rules, character managers, game-specific apps; on the other hand phones provide the distraction of Facebook, email, and text. I've been in many situations where a fellow player is just randomly showing another one a (hilarious?) YouTube video rather than playing the tabletop game in progress. Of course, it's far from a gaming-specific question; I've sat in pubs and liked around at tables of 3-4 people where all of them were looking at their phones rather than each other, and I'm far from innocent of that particular transgression myself. So, when gaming, how do you adopt technology? Do you have rules or restrictions, or are you lucky enough that your game is so captivating that it overrides the impulse to check Facebook?

One thing I've seen happening in London is that diners at a restaurant put their phones in the centre of the table. Anyone who touches their phone buys (depending on the strictness of the rules) a round of drinks, or everybody's dinner - and the result is that everybody engages with each other the whole time, as though mobile phones had never existed.

That doesn't translate easily to a roleplaying game scenario (unless you're ordering pizza for the group). But some groups, I've heard, enact in-game penalties. Touching your phone negates your next crit, for example.

On the flip side, there are many mobile applications which enhance games. A mere browser allows for instant rules lookups; dice rollers and character managers abound, as do initiative trackers and GM helper applications.

What are your mobile device policies at the game table?


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Mobile technology causes a problem in the Pathfinder game I'm in that's supposedly coming to a conclusion. Even worse because it's the GM's phone, and he's looking things up at the table. While he is using it for the game, it would be much better if he'd made notes before the game because he usually relies on it even when one of us has already looked up what he's looking for in a physical rulebook in much less time than it takes him to find the exact same information with his phone.

When I was in a GURPS game that I later left, the GM of that group would use a laptop at the table to randomly generate dungeons during play.
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Josh Gentry - Author, Minister in Training
We allow dice rollers and rule-trackers, but absolutely now browsing or social media. Briefly and discreetly texting is permitted during other players turns, but it is discouraged.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't, at the moment, need a "policy", thank goodness. My people simply put their devices away when we start play. The guy who has a new baby checks when he gets texts or calls. Otherwise, we just don't see them.

It helps that we are playing a game (Ashen Stars) with simple dice mechanics. You don't really need a device when resolution is done on 1d6.

I should note that I have played in games where devices were a problem - I just wasn't running it. Out of five players and the GM, only two players *didn't* have a laptop or tablet at the table. While the story and challenges were (to my mind, at least) interesting and exciting, for most of the time the three players working on devices tended to disengage and play with Facebook and such.

After one fight in which one player needed a recap *every round* to keep track of what was going on, he (voluntarily, without prompting) left his laptop behind ad worked all-paper from that point on.

One of the players had the triple-whammy of laptop, surly and unlikable character who didn't interact with PCs (but who the player thought we should all just automatically take as our leader), and excessive player expectation of her own effectiveness. She was not my favorite part of that game.
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I make a point of things only if they need to be made a point of.

Typically, mobile devices allow us easy access to utilities that would otherwise be cumbersome to have at the table.

I don't really care what you're doing on your device, provided you aren't causing a problem for everyone else.


My players and I use mobile devices in our game all the time and it's never a problem.
It's all in the attitude of the people at the table. I can find pretty much anything faster on my phone or ipad (using RPG Books, I play Pathfinder) than my players can in the book. By the time they've grabbed the book to open it I'm already in the app doing my search for whatever Im looking for.

If the people at the table dont like tech at the table theyre gonna be against it no matter how helpful it is.
Fortunately I dont play with people like that and wont play with people like that in the future.


A while back, I had proposed a 'no tech' rule for my group. Thankfully, another player (one of the two original founders still with the group) seconded it. I had proposed it because another player was getting distracted by his tech (and I openly acknowledged that I would get distracted by own tech, too), and a member of our group that had passed had also become distracted near the end.

Now even the guy that had supported me has his own laptop and only one person in the group doesn't get distracted by tech because he doesn't have a laptop or smart phone (he has to tap out letters the old way to send texts). Yes, having a dice roller on screen is more useful than having physical dice consider how many dice we occasionally need to roll in our FFG Star Wars game, but it gets super annoying when SOMEONE has got an earbud plugged in to one ear and is snickering with a laugh VERY reminiscent of Muttley. I used to like Muttley.

I don't mind someone using their laptop or smartphone when their character isn't involved/present in a given scene. I actually think it can help prevent metagaming if - by not paying attention - they don't know what happened in that scene. And yes, if you don't have a physical copy of a book but you have the pdf on your computer, it's certainly helpful to be able to find a rule for clarification. But I purposely - and try to make a show of it - to close my laptop and put it to the side. I make a show of it because I'm hoping vainly that the others will take the hint and show some respect to the person that's about to run a game for our participation and enjoyment.


41st lv DM
It's not really a problem so we don't have any actual policy.
Now & then we'll look something up rules wise (especially if what's needed is from another edition).
And sometimes when the party is seperate someone who's waiting for the DM to get to them will be doing something on thier phone rather than BSing with the others.
For the most part though the games I'm in are tech free at the table.


...We use mobile devices to look up rules when questions arise. Other than that, ringers are muted and texting is frowned upon (except for emergencies/spouses).

...I have never liked dice rolling apps.

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