Sunday, November 17, 2013

Computers, Tablets, and Phones,.....Oh my!

I don't like computers, tablets or phones at the table. It is as simple as that. I only have so much free time. When I sit down to play a RPG, that is where I want my focus to be. Electronic devices are a distraction. Computers, tablets and phones make it too easy to be doing something else, surfing the net, reading, playing other games etc. RPG are a social game that already serve as an escape from reality.  Additionally, I find it to be rude to the other players and GM, not unlike taking a phone call during dinner, or at a movie theater.

I am guilty of sending and receiving texts while playing and have on occasion used my tablet to reference some  of my PDFs. While the first was and is rude, sometimes you just have to communicate with your wife. The second, was, in my opinion, ok.  It was game related, did not involve the internet in any way, and was done behind the GM screen.
Over time it has become part of our group's unwritten Social Contract, that laptops are not welcome, internet use is not needed, texting is kept to a minimum, ringers are set to vibrate, and you excuse yourself from the table if you have to take a phone call.

Rest assured that my little rant has more purpose than making me feel better.  It also helps to explain some of my game prep processes.

 I do a lot of the work on the computer. Spreadsheets, word processors and the internet all play important parts in planning a campaign. But, when it comes time for game play, it all gets printed out, and put either into a binder or a file folder. Old fashioned? Probably. The way I like to do it? Definitely. The best way to do it? For me yes, for you maybe not.

So now, when I write about some the ways I do things, you will know why I don't just put it all on a thumb drive and take that to the game with me. Instead I make my son lug a milk crate of books and a box or two of other miscellaneous GMing supplies into my friend's basement every other Thursday.

This was originally going to be a post on the new file system I am working on for the NPCs and monsters in my game, oops. I guess that will be a separate post.


  1. I'm with you there. One of my table rules is no electronic devices. The only exception is real emergencies (and a wife counts!) We're there to game, not to surf the web. It's one of the reasons that I absolutely hate the trend toward PDF-only releases.

  2. We haven't made it a rule. I'm not even sure the other guys see it as big an issue as I do. But, it has become part of the social contract, for which I am grateful.

  3. To me, it's generally obvious who is looking up information in their books and who is surfing or playing games. Speaking as a professional software developer, I love computers. I can fit all of e23 on my phone and see no reason to lug around heavy, more expensive, physical items. Sure, searching and bookmarking is a unique challenge, but that's not enough to dissuade me from the convenience.

    My group doesn't have a "no computers" policy, it has a "you're here to game with us" policy. Being able to look up spell specifics on my phone while someone else is using the GM's dead tree books to create a character or look up their own specifics is pretty handy.

  4. Our computer/phone use is usually to look up info for the game, sometimes it's on a PDF other times, it's an SRD site on the internet. As far as phone calls are concerned, most everyone leaves the table if they need to talk on the phone. I've read about a group that has a chat server dedicated to playing a game and they use tablets to send messages in game from the player to GM or player to player instead of passing notes!

  5. I prefer a non-electronic tabletop, my current Pathfinder GM has gone exactly the opposite direction and a laptop is essential to participation now. He uses for the maps and for players to update their hp and conditions so he caan check the screen and see at a glance if the party is about to kiss it goodbye. Roll 20 has a chat app, and the ability to set up dice rolling macros, which are vaguely useful. He's a big fan of Herolabs which also can track all of the conditional modifiers for people who are bad at math. His nest at the end of the table includes an ipad with the adventure module open, a dice app on his iphone, and the printed deaad-tree adventure in book form. Seems like an overload but it makes him happy. I'm the rebel at the table in that I have a dice tower with real dice in it and mycharacter sheet is printed out, mainly so I can doodle on it.

  6. I can see a time where I might use a laptop, but only for storing documents and pdfs.
    @Johnprime, I was once at a game where chat was being used for passing notes. The GM was also using a projector for his maps. The players note popped up on the big map, allowing every one to see his "secret" message.
    @Squirmydad, your DM sounds a bit to the extreme, but if the game is fun, and that is what helps him make it that way, more power to him.