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

aramis erak

Legend
I love my Kindle Oasis, but a game tool it is not. Great for reading a novel, but way to slow and clunky to be alternating among several books, searching, and jumping around a book.
Lenovo has a fairly powerful eink tablet coming out soon - it's being shown at CES.
Likewise, their Twist laptop (WIn 11) has both an eInk and an OLED screen - rotate the screen to pick which is in use, or set tablet mode and use the screen facing out of the closed laptop. It seems that it may be a kaleido3 eInk screen, at that... color!
They also have the ThinkBook Plus - IPS display in laptop mode, eInk when closed for use in tablet mode. Also a windows laptop.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Hear hear! Preach it, brother! :)
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.
For me, what I'd continue to use tech for would be:
--- online game logs that everyone can access from home
--- online rules, spell lists, pantheons, etc. that everyone can access at one during the games without having to pass books around
--- art and images
--- adventure writing in cases where I want to get it to a more vaguely-publishable form rather than just scratch-notes runnable.

For "battlemaps" I'd use what I've always used: a physical chalkboard and minis.
 

There's something nice about the tactile nature of paper that makes me never want to give up printed media, but the flipside is that as a disorganised person I really need to focus on keeping things stapled, bound, bookmarked, alphabetised, and otherwise arranged in a way that I can actually find them when I need them at the table!
 

I still use physical books most of the time. When I have multiple monsters in play, I will open up DNDBeyond to reduce the page-flipping I have to do.

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.

I miss the klickety klack of rolling dice, but when I have a lot of dice to roll, well, it's hard to argue with the ease of typing a few numbers and having at it.
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.

I will never go away from printed, hand-tracked character sheets. I love being able to go back and look at old character sheets and be reminded of all those adventures from long ago.

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.

No disagreement here. I miss seeing people in person.
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.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Really? Roll20's self-calculating PC/NPC sheet are extremely useful in my games. I just click on a button, and the page does all the math.
Which is fine if you're using the rules/system as written and-or as roll20 recognizes it.

If you're using a homebrewed or significantly modified system, though, yeah - have fun with that.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Which is fine if you're using the rules/system as written and-or as roll20 recognizes it.

If you're using a homebrewed or significantly modified system, though, yeah - have fun with that.
Or even just some of the options in core rules... using other attributes than the standard is in the D&D DMG and Talisman Adventures corebook.

The few games with linked atts that don't include the option generally don't have links in the resolution.

EG: In Twilight 2000 2.0e (not 2.2), skill rolls are made on 1d10 for skill×DiffMod or less. The hard links only matter for experience - if the skill equals or exceeds the attribute, the cost per level is doubled. (2.2 uses 1d20 <= (att+skill)×DiffMod for success)
EG: In Chaosium's ElfQuest, initial skill levels are multiples of various attributes; the attributes have no effect on skill use in play; only one has effect on advancement.
EG: RuneQuest 3 initial skills are adjusted for attributes, and each skill category's advancement is affected by current attributes, but the attributes themselves do not adjust the action rolls.
 

Which is fine if you're using the rules/system as written and-or as roll20 recognizes it.

If you're using a homebrewed or significantly modified system, though, yeah - have fun with that.
Not really. When my Zweihander campaign ended and we started Flames of Freedom, we had a problem because FoF had no Roll20 support (too new) despite both being from the same company. So one of my players simply re-did the Zwei PC sheet.

That's the thing: All the PC sheets for Roll20 are open to being edited by people who understand HTML/coding/computer stuff.
 

Or even just some of the options in core rules... using other attributes than the standard is in the D&D DMG and Talisman Adventures corebook.

The few games with linked atts that don't include the option generally don't have links in the resolution.

EG: In Twilight 2000 2.0e (not 2.2), skill rolls are made on 1d10 for skill×DiffMod or less. The hard links only matter for experience - if the skill equals or exceeds the attribute, the cost per level is doubled. (2.2 uses 1d20 <= (att+skill)×DiffMod for success)
EG: In Chaosium's ElfQuest, initial skill levels are multiples of various attributes; the attributes have no effect on skill use in play; only one has effect on advancement.
EG: RuneQuest 3 initial skills are adjusted for attributes, and each skill category's advancement is affected by current attributes, but the attributes themselves do not adjust the action rolls.
When my Zweihander campaign ended and we started Flames of Freedom, we had a problem because FoF had no Roll20 support (too new) despite both being from the same company. So one of my players simply re-did the Zwei PC sheet.

That's the thing: All the PC sheets for Roll20 are open to being edited by people who understand HTML/coding.
 

Randomthoughts

Adventurer
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.

2. Dice.

3. Paper character sheets.

4. In person play.

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.
I pretty much play TTRPG online exclusively now (on Fantasy Grounds). The only exception is during special occasions with family. But all my regular gaming is online, which is the main reason in fact gaming has become regular.

As for what I would keep electronic versus analog? Of the four you mention, I don't miss physical Dice and Character Sheets at all. I "grew up" with physical books and I'm in the 50/50 bucket where I read dead tree versions (which spares me the eye strain) but also enjoy the search capabilities of pdf. Unfortunately, I buy two versions of the rules that I use the most.

Finally, I don't miss in person play except with family/close friends (obviously for other reasons). I certainly don't miss the inconvenience of the commute or set up/tear down, however short that may be. The convenience of simply shutting off the computer and going about my day is something I would definitely miss (and feel it when I do play with family/friends).

Something I'm split on is battlemaps. I enjoy making my own battlemaps. And there are A TON of them out there free (but find it much faster to make my own than finding "the perfect one" for an adventure). But I do miss the simplicity (and quickness) of using an erasable battle map. FG has built in map features, and they're fine even on the fly. But in person, it would literally take seconds (but look that way lol).

I agree with you on the other stuff. Prep is so much easier online and FG is pretty darn good for it. I'm done with miniatures; I have enough laying around I still have to paint. And complex combats? FG's Combat Tracker and automation (for SWADE for example) is so good, I would prefer running a hybrid session if I ran Savage Worlds in person. Interestingly enough, my FLGS has rooms with hook ups to a TV.
 

Something I'm split on is battlemaps. I enjoy making my own battlemaps. And there are A TON of them out there free (but find it much faster to make my own than finding "the perfect one" for an adventure). But I do miss the simplicity (and quickness) of using an erasable battle map. FG has built in map features, and they're fine even on the fly. But in person, it would literally take seconds (but look that way lol).
I relentlessly hunt free maps on Reddit and Pinterist, and have for the last decade, as well as buy most of Oones product line.

What i find myself doing is coming up with a basic concept for a scenario, and then sorting through my 9 gigs of maps for the right map (I have them sorted into folders.

When starting a campaign, I examine maps and note which hold particular potential in my GM notes. Since I like tactical games such as the Zweihander/FoF series, maps are very important to me.

Also, I have the artistis ability of a dead sloth.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
While I use PDFs and online SRDs for game prep as the DM. For 20 years now, we've banned cell phones, laptops or any electronic device (aside from a calculator) from the game table. Everybody drops their phones onto a shelf in the room outside the gaming room. One player operates a small business pizza and he needs access to his phone in case a call from an employee occurs - he's the acception, but not allowed to use the phone for any other purpose while in game. When I tried using a laptop, everybody complained about the heat blowing out the back, so no electronics at all, has been our creedo for 20+ years now. Because I play at a live table, I have no needs for virtual tabletop either.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I run online with Google Draw & Zoom/Discord. Roll your own dice, we're friends. I use a word processor (now Google Docs) for my notes or a character sheet regardless if online or in-person - I just print them out if live.

For the RPGs that offer both, I prefer physical books to learn the system and PDFs for reference and for scenario creation.

When playing I avoid character builders as building them by hand helps me remember and use all of my character's various mechanical abilities.
 

First, sincere thanks to @Jd Smith1 and @Snarf Zagyg for their points of view. They mention some things I hadn't considered.

The only electronics I use are the spreadsheets for NPCs and docs for the rule set. Those are in the background, and aren't an influence during play.

I have to have dice! The tactile and auditory feedback builds and releases tension in a way that nothing electronic could.

Character sheets? Those are pretty much the only relics of times gone by, and can recall interesting memories. They tend to be either on a sheet of paper rather than a designed form, but both are available.

Rules? Some players like to reference them on their phones, others prefer a book. I prefer a book, but have made the rules accessible online.

I discovered while gaming over Zoom I didn't get the same charge, the same energy that I did when we were together. Being performer and audience in equal measure, all of us discovering what happens with the dice being the final director of the production. Didn't care for it; it must be the actor in me.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I relentlessly hunt free maps on Reddit and Pinterist, and have for the last decade, as well as buy most of Oones product line.
Oones puts out some great stuff. My first 5e campaign was in a homebrew world and I used a lot of Oones items, even for printed in-person games.
 

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.

I play online and we use a combination of physical books and PDFs. The PDFs are mainly an issue for me while running a game because it is on the monitor I am using to interact with the players. So when I can, I use the physical book. PDFs do have the bonus of advanced search features though and being able to cut text out and put into a note so I have multiple sections in front of me. I agree though, for browsing, nothing beats a physical book.

I feel like with linear reading, I retain more information when I read a physical book.

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.

I play on discord and we don't use dice rollers (at least when I am running sessions we don't). We also don't make people roll dice on camera. It is the honor system. If people are going to cheat, they will cheat. But on the whole, I don't notice any difference in pattern of outcome using this method (possible people are cheating, I can't say, but we still have character deaths and even TPKs).

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.

I don't mind digital sheets and character generators but once in a while I just want to write out characters by hand.

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.

I actually shifted to online play a few years before Covid and have gotten so used to it, I don't notice the difference. This might just be my personality, and I also have health issue with can make in person gaming inconvenient for me, but I found there was a period of time where online gaming felt disconnected, but then I stopped noticing all the things that make it different from live at the table play. I play mostly without miniatures, mats, or handouts, so that probably helps in this case.

Also one big advantage of online play is it is so easy to get a group together. If you suddenly want to play a random RPG, you can go online and likely find players who can hop on discord and give it a shot. It helped me tremendously with play testing (I was able to run multiple scenarios and mechanic tests each week with small groups of players online----this probably wouldn't have been easy to pull off in person). And you can game with anyone across the globe. On Friday two of my players live in England, one in New Hampshire and me and the other player live in Boston. On my Saturday bi-weekly game, one player is in Canada while the rest are mostly in Massachusetts. I designed a game with someone who was living in China then who moved to California. Time zones are a factor for sure. But one good thing about being able to play with folks from different places is it really gives you a different perspective on things that come up in play.

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.
 

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