#RPGaday2015 – Day 14: Favorite RPG Accessory

The question for Day 14 of RPGaday 2015 is asking what our favorite RPG accessory is. I can imagine that responses will cover a really great range of products from maps and miniatures to peculiar dice aids to high-tech tables, and beyond. For most of my time in gaming I have had one beloved accessory, and only one. This accessory comes in many shapes and sizes, many colors and clarities, but at the end of the day I would have said no matter its trappings, this single accessory was the be all and end all of such things.

Strangely enough, times have changed.

rpg-a-day-2015

Until I got my first Android tablet, and the succession of phones and tablets which have followed, dice were my first and only love as an accessory to roleplaying. While randomization can be handled by chits, or cards, furtive exchanges of hand signs or whatever (aside: I once designed a resolution mechanic based on a Zippo lighter) it has always been dice which handle this task best for me. Since the arrival of highly portable computing and display power, I have found the elegant utility of dice to sometimes be outweighed by the versatility of the device itself, or the aid provided by a well-designed app.

In my face to face Star Wars Edge of the Empire campaign for example, I use my Surface tablet to run Excel to track obligation, character and ship stats and names, solar system and NPC details I have to invent on the fly, grudges and favors, and so forth on one half of the screen, and keep a pdf compilation of useful charts and tables open on the other half. A quick swipe of my finger and I can bring up ship images and whatever else I might need, including full on video of a title crawl with musical score if I like. If I take my Android tablet, switching between applications is not quite as seamless, but I can still run Excel in a window and a pdf reader in another window, and tab through the home button to pull up another app as needed. That is a lot of utility to pack into a single carry item smaller than a rule book, and not much heavier than my dice bag. Hell, with the Android tablet, I can run the amazing FFG Star Wars dice app and have access to 3D rendered dice sets for every single Star Wars game they produce, not just the RPGs. I don’t even need the dice bag in other words.

However, it is not the wonder of the tablet or smartphone I wish to extol in this entry. It is in fact the RPG app in general, which kindly programmers out there make available to speed and facilitate play of their favorite games for the rest of us – sometimes for profit, sometimes not. There are fantastically full-featured apps like the Battletech Dice Roller and the Shadowrun Dice Roller which never leave you hanging no matter what sort of tech you are imagining. There are simple, programmable dice rollers, such as the potent and clean Dice Bag. Of all of the apps that I have used, the one that has give me the most actual utility other than Dice Bag is the RuneQuest 6 Combat Effects App.

This Android app focuses the selection process of Special Effects earned in combat which is a very useful collation of detail for experienced players to speed up play, while staying simple enough for beginners to not impede the learning process. It empowers the players to make quick and informed decisions at the table without needing to resort to chart look-ups or access to the rules, and focuses the content on the specifics of the scene being played. It is everything an aid should be without any of the dross. It makes a standard part of play easier, faster, more efficient, and a bit more fun in the process. RPG TimE Entertainment did an excellent job on this app, and if you are a RuneQuest player who has not given it a look, now might be the time.

#rgaday2015

Comments
One Response to “#RPGaday2015 – Day 14: Favorite RPG Accessory”
  1. BF Wolfe says:

    Great choice. I would say games are still lagging behind the potential here. Some of the better game systems out there are still quite complex in terms of mechanics, and we often have to trade between game realism and large amounts of bookkeeping. The new interstellar for mechwarrior is one example you brought up recently, but I just can’t get myself excited with it certain to be a number nightmare with uncertain interrelations with 10 other books.
    Apps have the potential to a) hide this complexity from the player entirely and b) provide an intuitive platform for face to face or across the world gaming. Forget about the dusty old tomes and books, build me a game that exists only on my tablet (and the tablets of the other players).
    Rule lookup, cross referencing, tables, calculations… All of things can become trivial and allow the gm and players to focus on what’s important.. The story.
    n the software business they say the goal is to let the user focus on their task, not the tool. Every time a user has think about he interface, the software has failed. It seems these days games are 90% interface and 10% task.

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