What do you NOT want to use tech for in you TTRPG?

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
In a number of areas in my life I've given up technological conveniences, either because I've found them too intrusive, because of enjoyment of older analog ways of doing things, or because I felt certain mental abilities were atrophying. For example for the most important telephone numbers I generally "dial them" rather than using speed-dial or voice shortcuts to ensure they remain committed to memory in case I lose access to my devices. I started trying to rely on my GPS a bit less when when I found I wasn't remembering directions to places I've been to multiple times. Things like that.

Since starting a new job and then COVID, I've found myself running all my games online and it just isn't practical to lug bunch of books around, so my TTRPGs have become VTTRPGs. This has me thinking about where I think I'm using tech too much and where I would draw a line or dial things back.

1. Physical Books. I don't mind reading novels, etc. on a good e-reader. I love my Kindle Oasis. For running games, I like D&D Beyond and I've accepted PDFs. But still buy physical copies of many of the books. I enjoy browsing through physical books for inspiration or to get an overall sense of the content in a way that digital version can't capture. I also prefer looking at the artwork in print much more than on a screen. For quickly searching for something; for sorting monsters, magic items, spells, etc. digital is superior. For reading linearly, it is mostly a draw. But for browsing I much prefer physical books. I don't see myself going back to 100% analog when it comes to books, but physical books still have place in how I enjoy the hobby.

2. Dice. This is what I miss most when running VTTs. Yeah, we could roll and call our rolls, but when playing virtually, it is nice for everyone to see the roll, and without getting complicated with web cams, rolling the VTTs is the best way to do it. When I'm able to run games in person again, the dice will come out. The one thing, however, that I really like about playing on a VTT is that it is much easier to tract status effects and resolve area of effect damage. I could see using a VTT for in person play for larger and more complex combat.

3. Paper character sheets. Here again, I think I prefer a mixed approach. Manage your character sheet digitally, but print it out your character sheet before each session. I feel having a digital device in front of players at the table detracts from player engagement. Tablets with notifications and alerts shut off okay but I feel that there is something distracting about using a physical device. As a GM, I feel this is a bit hypocritical as I'll generally use a laptop at the table. But as a GM I have no choice but to be constantly engaged during the game. I don't know that I would be 100% comfortable asking players to only use paper character sheets for a 5e game, but I would at least suggest it and discuss it.

4. In person play. This is what I miss the most. Having everyone physically in the same room, sharing food, and hanging out together. Remote play is out of necessity, not preference.

Where would I not go back? Even for in-person play I would stay digital for:
  • All prep work. Writing session notes, writing adventures, planning campaigns, creating maps.
  • Battlemaps. I generally don't find physical tiles and battlemaps worth the hassle and expense. For in person play, I would continue using a horizontal display with digital maps. But I would use it with physical miniatures and/or tokens.
  • Occasionally for complex combats with many actors. I really don't like manually rolling saves and damage for large numbers of enemies when the wizard drops a fireball on them. Tracking all of that on paper feels like a chore.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

And now for a differing viewpoint:

1> PDFs only. I've thrown away literally hundreds of print books from my collection. I am not buying any more dead tree books.

2> I love the fact that there's no more fudging. Everyone's rolls are out there in the open. Don't miss dice at all.

3> I love electronic sheets. It makes prep work so much simpler when I can verify party assets of skills, etc. Plus the sheets do all the math.

4 > Never going back to in person. All my stuff at my fingertips, without having to bother lugging my GMing gear to someone else's place. Infinite numbers of quality players available to replace any player losses. Not ever putting up with some marginal player simply because his or her best friend/Sig other is also in the group, and I need to make headcount.

I used a VTT for the last decade of F2F gaming; the hassle of physical battle maps and minis is not something I miss.

The ability to effortlessly present players with props and handouts in a variety of methods without breaking the flow of gaming.

Frankly, online, computerized gaming is the best thing I have seen happen to gaming since I started in 1979. I can't imagine going back in any way or form .
 

BigJackBrass

Explorer
To a degree it depends on the game: Hero Designer is very useful indeed for creating characters if we're playing Champions, but for something like Fudge a character generator is largely superfluous.

For a long time now my scattered group has been gaming via video call (Jitsi these days, since Google canned Hangouts) with great success. Everyone misses playing around the same table, but that's not a regular option for us these days. We each roll our own dice, use paper or PDF character sheets and share handouts via Dropbox or screen-sharing. Tried Roll20 and for most of us it didn't offer anything extra that we needed but did tend to slow things down.

Unless it's a small (and usually small format) rulebook I'd prefer to use a printed copy, with a PDF being handy for copying tables, handouts, reference sheets etc. Many of the big hardback books around these days use multi-column small type and aren't easy to read on a tablet anyway.
 

aco175

Legend
My group is strictly pen and paper when we play, with a rare looking something up on a phone. I use my laptop to write the adventure and scan in maps, but at the table we all have paper sheets and plastic figures on dungeon tiles.

I never tried playing online and not sure how I would like it.
 

payn

Legend
When I play in person, I go paper character sheet and dice. I typically leave it up to the GM and/or table to look stuff up on their devices if they want. I just like being able to sit back and dive into the game with just my character in my mind. Of course, I don't do any in person gaming anymore so...
 

I never tried playing online and not sure how I would like it.
I felt the same way, but I quickly came to love it. My biggest stressor as a GM was maintaining body count at the table in the face of RL complications. But since the switch, and even playing faily niche systems, I can replace a player in 24 hours or less, and my turnover is very low.

The beauty of Roll20 really helps; the players move across the maps, opening doors or windows, climbing terrain features to see better, while I am free of mundane descriptions and can focus on unseen NPC movement and key descriptions and narrative. Players can text me directly (aka old-school 'passing a note'), and I can pass out props and handouts with the click of a button.

Drop your lantern in a fight? I click a button and the players radius of view shrinks accordingly. AOE spell or device? Drop the pog on the map, and a colored transparent shape shows its exact area. PC on overwatch? The player drops a marker on the map. The list goes on and on.

You never realize how much time is wasted until you go to VTT. No one asking 'What does this {item} mean? How far away is Mohawk #2? Where is the door? All that information and more in in full color in front of the player. This lets everyone spend less time struggling to visualize, and more time in choosing more dynamic actions.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
My answer?

I do not want to use tech for anything in my games. Nothing. Nada. Zero.

Not because I am a luddite - far from it. Instead, I would view using tech for my games as a "Busman's Holiday," in the sense that there are occasions when I need a break from technology. Sitting down with friends, chatting, rolling dice, no screens- it isn't a labor, it's a respite.

I think that we often forget about the value of ritual. I don't discount the ease and convenience of technology, nor that it makes gaming better (or even "doable") for many people. But just like there are reasons to take extra time and make a nice meal for yourself, there are reasons to game with physical objects, using papers, and pencils, and books, rolling dice across a table, and looking at faces instead of phones.

I eschew technology in gaming, not because I dislike technology or think it makes things worse, but because I value this time without it and the pleasure it gives me.
 

If I'm playing online, I'm happy to use PDFs, online dice rollers, computerised character sheets, and all the rest. When I'm playing online, I usually have just my laptop, nothing else physically required.

If playing in-person, everything is physical, and I don't have my laptop handy (I may have a tablet so that I can look up real-world stuff).

Trying to mix the forms of play makes things pointlessly complicated, so I don't do it.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I felt the same way, but I quickly came to love it. My biggest stressor as a GM was maintaining body count at the table in the face of RL complications. But since the switch, and even playing faily niche systems, I can replace a player in 24 hours or less, and my turnover is very low.

The beauty of Roll20 really helps; the players move across the maps, opening doors or windows, climbing terrain features to see better, while I am free of mundane descriptions and can focus on unseen NPC movement and key descriptions and narrative. Players can text me directly (aka old-school 'passing a note'), and I can pass out props and handouts with the click of a button.

Drop your lantern in a fight? I click a button and the players radius of view shrinks accordingly. AOE spell or device? Drop the pog on the map, and a colored transparent shape shows its exact area. PC on overwatch? The player drops a marker on the map. The list goes on and on.

You never realize how much time is wasted until you go to VTT. No one asking 'What does this {item} mean? How far away is Mohawk #2? Where is the door? All that information and more in in full color in front of the player. This lets everyone spend less time struggling to visualize, and more time in choosing more dynamic actions.
Do you ever do one shots? How do you tend to find players? Do you use Roll20s Find a Game site to post your games? Meetup? Or just word of mouth?
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I don't want to have special effects, animations, 3D models, and I dunno, ray-traced dice or whatever. I don't need, or even want, my maps to look like an MMO video game screen.

2D static maps, please. Preferably ones that I've drawn myself on graph paper and then scanned in.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Not because I am a luddite - far from it. Instead, I would view using tech for my games as a "Busman's Holiday," in the sense that there are occasions when I need a break from technology. Sitting down with friends, chatting, rolling dice, no screens- it isn't a labor, it's a respite.
I see where you are coming from. I don't have the option for in person games these days. In terms of the busman's holiday issue, I have definitely reached that point in foundry where I've been simplifying things. Once I started editing macros and editing snippets of code in character sheets it started to feel like work. I've also really pared back my use of community modes because testing and troubleshooting conflicts, and having to redo the process every time their is a platform upgrade, also started to feel too much like my day job.

Also, now that I've found a number of co-workers who are board game geeks, I've really cut dome my time seeking out one-shots and mini-campaigns to play TTRPGs as a players. I've even learned to enjoy Settlers of Catan. Booze and silly competition helps.
 

I use tech for as little as possible. When playing in person, I type up my notes on one (1) a4 page and have a dm reference on one a4 page. When playing online, however, I do sometimes use owlbear rodeo and a shared google sheets doc for character sheets. All dice rolls (for me) are physical though.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
For about the past 15 years, all of my character sheets have been in some kind of electronic text form. Similarly, all of my campaign design notes have been as well.

I have also bookmarked a host of gaming resource websites for a variety of systems.

OTOH, all of my purchased game books are physical. My dice are real, not virtual. (I do have some PDFs, but they were free, not purchased, and I don’t use them.)

At the table, my use of tech is mostly limited to looking at my character sheets, but sometimes, I will look stuff up online if I don’t have immediate access to the relevant physical resource.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I have also bookmarked a host of gaming resource websites for a variety of systems.
I use evernote to capture any online content such as cool blog posts that I don't want to lose access to if the site goes down in the future.

I use xBrowsersync for bookmarks and Inoreader for keeping track of new posts on sites I follow.
 

Do you ever do one shots? How do you tend to find players? Do you use Roll20s Find a Game site to post your games? Meetup? Or just word of mouth?
No, I run campaigns of 50-odd sessions, as a rule.

I post for players on Redditt and the Roll20 forums, and the response is amazing. Even though I have been playing first Zweihander, then Flames of FReedom, neither widespread games, I have had incredible response. The last time I had a vacancy, a player notified me of a RL issue that forced an immediate drop., I posted immediately, and had two new players by game time Tuesday. I intended to jettison one, as I like to stay at 5 players, but both turned out to be of good quality, so now I'm running 6 until RL attrits me again and I go back to 5.
 


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I find them too distracting and restrictive. They pull focus, causing the players to fixate on a flickering torch or an artist's mark on the wall and miss other clues that I'm actually describing. They eat badwidth and CPU. Etc.

Besides. If we wanted to play an MMO, we would play ESO. :)
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
No, I run campaigns of 50-odd sessions, as a rule.

I post for players on Redditt and the Roll20 forums, and the response is amazing. Even though I have been playing first Zweihander, then Flames of FReedom, neither widespread games, I have had incredible response. The last time I had a vacancy, a player notified me of a RL issue that forced an immediate drop., I posted immediately, and had two new players by game time Tuesday. I intended to jettison one, as I like to stay at 5 players, but both turned out to be of good quality, so now I'm running 6 until RL attrits me again and I go back to 5.
Great to hear. I read so many posters complaining about not being able to find anyone interested in playing anything but D&D. I figure they must be talking about in person play in a location without a large gamer community. I've been happily surprised as the number of on-line non-DnD games I've been able to find.
 

Great to hear. I read so many posters complaining about not being able to find anyone interested in playing anything but D&D. I figure they must be talking about in person play in a location without a large gamer community. I've been happily surprised as the number of on-line non-DnD games I've been able to find.
That was why I left F2F gaming. Our area has a small gaming pool, and keeping a table full had become a tremendous hassle over the last decade. There appears to be a shortage of dependable GMs online; most of my players had no knowledge of Zwei or FoF, but were looking for a steady weekly game.
 

I find them too distracting and restrictive. They pull focus, causing the players to fixate on a flickering torch or an artist's mark on the wall and miss other clues that I'm actually describing. They eat badwidth and CPU. Etc.
Ah, the curse of a GM who loves the sound of his own voice. :)

Me, I enjoy the relief from mundane details, allowing me to make far better use of my time at the table.

But Bandwidth is not an issue: I use both Discord and Roll20, hosting six players, and a 4.5 hour sessions consumes about 200 MB. Although we do not use video feed.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top