Tech at the Table:


Tonight’s #RPGChat, tonight as I’m writing anyway, made me feel compelled to say a few words about working gadgets into the game table experience. Naturally mileage will vary with your group of players.

I would have a very difficult time running Mage without my laptop. There are just so ridiculously many things my Mages can do (See: The rest of this blog) that if I had to print out all of my notes there wouldn’t be a tree left standing anywhere on the planet. I also keep their stats on an Excel spreadsheet so that I can make secret die rolls for them from time to time without having to ask what their dice pool is, which would blow the secret now wouldn’t it?! Then of course there is the nightmare that is tracking initiative when people are speeding themselves up, slowing each other down, and mucking with the time stream. I don’t think I need to name any names here, do I Aenaiyah?

Yes, a laptop at the table is this GM’s friend.

The problems can happen when the players have them. They can make a player easily distracted. I admit that I have been guilty of being distracted myself from time to time, which is no one’s fault but my own. We live in a world of multitasking. We’re all so used to needing to multitask at work that we even multitask when we’re supposed to be relaxing and enjoying things.

One thing that makes it easier for me is the fact that I GM in a modern day setting, so the characters have just as many gadgets as the players. As a result I can work them into the game. When I’m researching a setting for a game session I’ll keep track of what comes up with interesting Google hits. Then I’ll work those things into the game session. For example, I was looking for an abandoned location for a less-than-sane Mage killer to be hiding out in and settled on a monastery in Staten Island. I chose this particular location because not only did it suit the general feel I was looking to evoke, but there had been some interesting stories about the location posted on various sites around the web. These sites had everything from your standard hauntings, to a fire set by a crazed monk (who continues to haunt Staten Island), to 17 flooded levels deep beneath the ground that hadn’t been entered in a century or more. Not only did this give me great encounter seeds, I knew that I could count on my players to Google the place as soon as I said the name. When they did they turned up the same links I had, so I was prepared for everything they decided to do at the location. Furthermore, I didn’t have to worry that they would “know to look into something” because “if the GM bothered to make this up about the location it must be important”. Some things were absolutely not of any consequence whatsoever and were just random facts they found on the internet. Other things they found on the internet were absolutely important. All of them had equal weight in the minds of the players because I hadn’t made any of them up.

By taking advantage of the laptops the players had with them I was able to not only prevent them from being taken out of the game by the distraction, I was able to bring the game into the real world just a little bit more. By using real life places, and real life search results, I was able to make everything just that little bit more eerie because it was more than simply something I made up. It was real.

And real is creepy.

Mages Make Me Cry

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Posted on September 23, 2011, in Gaming, Mage Awakening, MtAw, RPG, White Wolf, WoD, World of Darkness and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Aenaiyah (The Acanthus)

    Hey, just because I cast Acceleration and Shifting Sands and Temporal Stutter doesn’t mean I’m the worst at messing up initia–yeah, no, can’t finish that statement with a straight face.

  2. Mainly I just use a laptop during some games so I can reference game materials. Far easier to carry one computer as light as a book and thinner than them than it is to carry a library with me.

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