GMing with a tablet

So, here’s a new thing. I have been GMing since about 1990, and for the first 23 years I got along just fine without electronic aids. But in the past year I have found that having a tablet handy while I GM is so darn useful that I may never voluntarily be without one.

For starters, it means that I have a bunch of tables to hand, for when my PCs run into unexpected NPCs (roll, roll), or find opportunities to acquire loot. And I don’t have to print out all of my favorite tables in advance, or print out new versions as I update them.

But perhaps even more importantly, it means that I can have a large stock of images on hand to show players as various things come up in the game. This helps in a couple of ways. Now when I say, “The only speeders on this platform are a couple of clunky old cargo models”, I can show the players this:

Fringe cargo speederand they have a basis for a more meaningful decision. That helps make the imagined world more real. It also adds granularity and detail that the players can use in the game. For example, if someone gets flung over the side of one of the cargo speeders shown above, there are obvious handholds they can use to try to save themselves. And a bloodthirsty driver could use those forward-pointing landing skids as rams in a hostile encounter. And the one on the left has some protection for the driver, and higher walls.

Sure, I could describe all of these things in words, but I probably wouldn’t because they wouldn’t occur to me. A drawing, photo, or other piece of art brings a whole package of reality and detail, that both draws the players more deeply into the imagined world of the game, and gives them raw material to use in solving problems. In the old days I’d print out a handful of images of the most important NPCs and vehicles. Now I can have dozens or hundreds to hand, and I can show them off in full color on a zoomable display. That’s a nice trick, and it actually makes the game better. Who’da thunk?

Of course, the ne plus ultra of GMing with a tablet would be to have the entire RPG system on the device. But since I have all of the necessary bits of WEG Star Wars committed to memory, that’s a step I haven’t taken yet. I may yet, especially if I get into the new Edge of the Empire game. I do have some WEG sourcebooks loaded, thanks to the d6 Holocron, but so far flipping through digital sourcebooks is still a bit slower than finding things in their physical equivalents, so I haven’t made much use of them mid-game yet.

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One Response to GMing with a tablet

  1. Pingback: Star Wars play report: The pursuit of Udin Heek | Echo Station 5-7

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