Roleplay in an age of technology

This post is a departure from the overarching MMORPG theme of this blog but it does link gaming and RPGs. I spent a very enjoyable weekend running and playing in two different D&D (3.5) campaigns. My love of coop online gaming is certainly influenced by many years of playing Dungeons & Dragons or similar pen-and-paper RPGs. The social, cooperative spirit of such games is the core motivation for my MMORPG gaming.

In some ways these sessions have changed very little over the many years we’ve been actively slaying imaginary dragons, exploring strange lands and other heroic deeds.  Stacks of heavy hard-back rulebooks are laid around, photocopied character sheets are filled with the pencil scribbled statistics and notes of many an adventure. The obligatory polyhedral dice are ready to be rolled to see how fate will judge our heroes next actions…

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But technology and the Internet has had an impact. Although we still regularly use hardback rulebooks; I admit that having a netbook or laptop at hand for searching the many, excellent wikis is an invaluable tool. Otherwise much time can be wasted trying to find the one obscure rule you can never remember how to resolve (e.g. grappling). For D&D 3.5 there are several excellent resources, notably d20srd.org and danddwiki.com. Offline PDF versions of manuals are commonplace thesedays allowing you to have text searchable resources at your fingertips. I’ve used a laptop to run my game for years now as I prefer typing to handwriting my adventures and notes. It makes searching back through old adventures for references so much easier!

010bIn the second of the games played we experimented for the first time with replacing hand-drawn maps of adventure locales – instead using an image taken from the module and overlayed with a mask to gradually reveal the map as we explored. Although a bit fiddly to get used to it will save a lot of tedious map tracing in future!

This digitisation of the hobby could go even further with electronic character sheets, dice-rolling apps or a full-on virtual table-top program. However I’m not sure I’d want technology to take over too much as there’s something to be said for the simple pleasure of rolling a handful of dice or leafing through a well-worn manual.

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3 Responses to Roleplay in an age of technology

  1. Shandren says:

    Electronic character sheets are so nice. Especially if your group are buff-maniacs. Having the sheet keep track of your attack bonus, etc. As you use various spells, is invaluable. At least for those of us who always seem to forget that +1 that would have meant we had hit the bad guy, only to find it some time later during the next turns.

    The map thing sounds interesting, might have to try that out (recently moved so playing by skype with my old group till I move back soon, an electronic map which can “update” sounds really nice compared to looking at a lousy playerdrawing through a webcam :-P)

    Shandren

    • Telwyn says:

      @Shandren – could you recommend any electronic character sheet sites/programs? We would be interested in this possibly as character sheets get in such a mess from writing/erasing in pencil a lot.

      @Sylow – we did once try running Shadowrun over IRC since we’re not all in the same city but it didn’t gel with us. I do prefer the “get-together” aspect of RPG gaming even if it means playing less often.

  2. Sylow says:

    On our table the “no electronics” rule existed for a long time and only was killed when one of us had to move to another country for his new job. Now Skype (or rather TS) and a table microphone are part of the equipment, but most of the stuff we do is still the old fashioned way.

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