Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gadgets and Games

With the release of the new iPad 2, many people are looking at unloading their old iPads in lieu of getting the latest and greatest iProduct. Let me say that I am not a fanboy of apple. I do believe that they make a quality product, but I do not think they are the best products for everyone. Each person has to assess their needs individually. That being said, my wife knew I was interested in the iPads and she managed to get me a used one for the fraction of the price. For the last week or so, I have been playing with my new iPad and not focusing on much else. Along with countless hours I have whittled away playing Angry Birds and searching for cool new apps, I have also rediscovered comic books with the official Marvel iPad app. I am very happy with the iPad's functionality and the purchase.

The next question I posed to myself is how to use the iPad to enhance the gaming experience. I would have liked to turn this into a a Top Ten list of useful iPad apps, but I could not find enough apps to honestly recommend. Part of the reason is many of the apps don't have a free version to try and part is many apps are geared towards D&D, a game I am not playing.

Of the apps that I can recommend, I would suggest getting the Dicenomicon by Gandreas. This is a really nice dice rolling app for both the iPhone and the iPad. The main selling point for me was that it allows custom configuration of dice mechanics which allowed me to program the dice to explode. This is a core mechanic in Earthdawn and dice rollers without this functionality are not useful. You can also color-code your dice so if you make the same rolls repetitively, you can simply roll them together and have dicenomicon add up the totals. I even include initiative in there so that I don't have to switch my dice selection every round. Of course, this becomes harder for game masters who switch between rolls more often than players, but when used in conjunction with normal dice, I found that the app makes the fight go much quicker. There are a number of pre-programed rolls in the app and even has dice programmed for the Fudge system (which is what the Dresden Files use). Finally, the iPad version comes with a built-in PDF viewer so you can have your character sheet side by side with the die roller. The app costs $4.99, but is well worth the investment; and this is coming from someone who highly dislikes electronic dice rollers.

The Dungeon Master Toolkit by Level 99 Games is the other app that looks promising. The DM Toolkit is an empty database, template system that allows you customize the app for your game. I was leery to purchase the app as it costs a hefty 12.99, but it looks promising. The more I use this app, the more its functionality becomes apparent. Those that purchase the DM Toolkit for a full-featured Dungeons & Dragon App will be sorely disappointed. The app is configured with D&D in mind, but the configuration is only for the templates. Actually rule information on items, monsters, etc. will need to be manually entered prior to the game. I also recommend getting a blue tooth keyboard as entering data with on-screen keyboard is time consuming. I have high hopes that this will help accelerate combat in my non-D&D games. You can see a youtube demo of the app by clicking the following link: DM Toolkit Demo.

In the future, I will try to review other apps that I find useful for the iPad or iPhone. I am not a fan of laptops at the gaming tabled, but I have a feeling that tablets will be more usable at the game as they are less obtrusive than even netbooks. If you have any suggestions on gaming apps, please pass them along.

Take what you like and leave the rest for the next weary traveler.

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