Start Slow

776103_com_465pxprintSo, you've got your tablet computer (most likely an iPad I'll wager) and you're excited to the point of bursting with the various ways you want to use this awesome tool at your game table. Then you start to think... Just how the hell do I actually *do* this?


I mean yeah, it's clearly a tech tool that will work well for your tabletop games but just how exactly are you supposed to actually implement it in play?


Should you replace all your hard copy books with PDF copies in your GoodReader app? Should you leave the dice bag at home and get set up with a kick ass die roller app like Dicenomicon? Do you load it up with images of monsters and NPCs so you can flash them for every encounter? Should you put together a playlist of mood music or sound effects for the adventure? What about all the dungeon and world maps that you could put on it? What about a character sheet? While the Character Folio from Darktheatre (a plug!) will no doubt fill the character sheet gap nicely what about all the other stuff?


Here’s what I did to implement the iPad into my games. It's not a "recipe" as much as a guide you figure out your own direction.

I'm a GM 99.99% of the time for my group and, as such, I figured my iPad would be just the thing to let me get away from lugging all my monster books with me to my next Pathfinder game I was running. It would also let me bring a ton of pictures, maps, music, etc, etc BUT - I wasn't totally sure if I really needed or would use all that stuff I could pack onto the iPad so I figured I'd slowly work it in and see where it really fit for me.


First thing I did was load up my GoodReader app with the PDFs I had of all my monster books that I normally take to the game. I then, as I was running Pathfinder, I put in the Pathfinder core rules PDF into it as well. That would take care of my basic book needs I figured.


After that, I organized some monster images I had and loaded them into it. I decided to only go for key critters that I planned to use in the upcoming game. I had some great pics of ghouls, kobolds, a nasty looking troll and this really cool mind flayer image (I couldn’t wait to pull that image out and scare the crap out of the players!). Got ‘em loaded into a nice picture folder and that bit was done.

Then I took the digital copy of the map I was using for the dungeon and loaded that up. I figured I could easily use the iPad image of the map in the same way that I used my normal map print outs.

Finally, I did something that may seem a bit odd: I packed up all my hard copy books and a copy of the map into my game bags and headed out to the game.


Why the heck did I double up on all that stuff?


Because I wanted a security blanket.


I wanted to know that if for any reason in the heat of combat or when a rule needed to be referenced quickly I wouldn't have to worry about me making a mistake with the iPad (i.e. user error) and then lose precious gaming time as I tried to find what I needed. I didn’t want to interrupt my game because, as you've already read, I HATE that.


So yeah, I brought my security blanket with me. Just in case. It turns out I needed it that first night too.


I felt like a techie GM wizard with the monster images (the players loved seeing those) and quick access to the maps I had loaded up saved me loads of time when I needed to flip from one to another. I was kicking ass with the iPad until I hit a snag. A rule question came up during combat.


I was fumbling with GoodReader trying to find the grapple rules in the PDF copy of the Pathfinder rules and I felt I was wasting time. I knew I could find it quickly if I had the book in my hand so I put the iPad down, scooped up the hard copy, found the rule, laid down the law like the omniscient god of the table that I am and we were gaming again in no time.


Was that the app's fault? Was it the iPad's fault? No. It was mine.

I got flustered and I panicked. I was worried that I was taking too long, that I was interrupting the game while I figured out what I was doing wrong with GoodReader. I went for my security blanket to keep things rolling.


Turns out the group didn’t even notice or feel like the game was interrupted by my use of the iPad for my grapple rules research. When I asked them about it after the game they just said “We thought you didn’t have that book in the iPad yet so you had to go hard copy.” So yeah… it was all in my head. And knowing that gave me confidence.


As I had great success where I used my iPad I then started to integrate it more into my games. At the next game I left certain hard copies at home (those monster books that only had one or two critters in them that I needed for example). I was a lot more familiar with my apps and how to use them quickly so I was confident I didn’t need the hard copy.


I also stopped bringing print outs of maps or pictures unless they were prop-style hand outs. The iPad is my main source for nearly all my gaming material when I’m playing. Heck, I even use the Penultimate app as my go-to format for anytime a quick sketch or bit of hand written scrawl I need to show the players.

So, in short, my advice is to take your time. Figure out what portion of your game you’d like to use your iPad for and go for it. Bring a safety blanket with you if you think you might need it – There’s no shame in that. Just work with the tool and find out what features/apps work best for you and if something doesn’t quite work out that’s fine. You can always try it again later if you want to.


Oh, and I still pack my die bag to every game because I love the sound a d20 makes when I roll a natural 20.


Don’t tell me it sounds the same no matter what number comes up.


It doesn’t.