Apple’s new iPad and RPGs

Steve Jobs presents the iPad I have to admit I am very excited about Apple’s upcoming iPad. In my opinion it closes the gap between smartphones and notebooks, could be a perfect alternative to ebook readers like the Kindle, and be the perfect tool for technophile GMs.
Even at day one the iPad is more than able to handle the basic needs of the GM:

Dice rolling
If you don’t have any physical dice with you, you can use one of the great dice rolling applications that are even now available on the AppStore. They will all run on the iPad, too, like the other handy tools like initiative trackers.

The iPhone’s PDF viewer is usually able to view even PDFs with a lot of artwork in it, although it’s a bit slow at times. But the iPad has two advantages: bigger screen and faster CPU. I am sure it will be pretty easy to view your RPG PDFs on the iPad. Some publishers already give you a free copy of the rulebook in PDF format when you buy the dead tree version, so when using an iPad you might even leave your physical books at home.
If the rules come in HTML it’s no problem either as long as you have WiFi access. And that’s already the case in a lot of private homes. Looking up the Pathfinder SRD on your iPad is just a few taps away!

I use a lot of music when running games. Usually I either connect my iPod or iPhone to a Logitech dock or I use my netbook to access my iTunes library over WiFi. The same should be possible using the iPad.

Preparing games
A lot of people use their computers to write down notes for their upcoming games. With an iPhone and with the upcoming iPad you can do this on the commute, too (when you don’t commute by car of course). I am actually writing this post on my iPhone right now. And the iPad will come with a full version of iWork, which will make this task even easier.

The future
What I would like to see are more RPG tools for the iPhone and iPad. I would gladly pay for an app that allows me to look up rules, includes an dice roller and perhaps a character generator. An app similar to Fantasy Grounds Ii could be interesting, too. Remember the D&D on the Microsoft Surface videos that circulated on the RPG blogosphere recently? You can a lot of what you’ve seen in this video on an iPad for a much lower price (if someone writes an app for it).

In my opinion technology should be used to make our lives easier and to enhance things that already work without it. Pen & paper games are fine as they are now, but I don’t mind enhancing the experience by “throwing technology at it” as my friend Andrew usually calls it.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

9 thoughts on “Apple’s new iPad and RPGs”

  1. I've already settled on getting an iPad, specifically as an ebook and music player at the game table. It's also a good fit for what I want out of a mobile device when traveling. However, I'm waiting until the hype and elevated price of the iPad wears off before purchasing one – if this is anything like the iPhone, the first gen device will have issues and the price will drop within a year of its first appearance.

    I don't want a die roller though (just say no to eliminating all the tactile feel of the game)….
    .-= MJ Harnish´s last blog ..Customizing 4E – “Old School” =-.

  2. Altough as you say, the iPad has dinamic advantages, there is one real risk with the iPad capabilities, and is loosing players attention.

    If you have a device that can do multiple things like animations on the character sheet (not only on the character image) and probably play simple games…people gets distracted…their attention simply slips away into the bright colours and moving images…

    Of course that only will happen to those who are geeky enough to use an iPad as character sheet.

    To me, the future is still on DIN A4 ebooks. just for a simple reason: no battery to worry about. The ebook won't dry it's battery while displaying my character sheet, so while playing I won't be afraid (nor distracted) of low battery.
    .-= Abraham´s last blog ..News and prototype preview. =-.

  3. For a short while, in the year before last, I used a laptop with a larger screen than this for DM'ing labyrinth lord sessions. To cut a long story short, I found even with a large screen, PDF's themselves are rubbish for D&D compared to their paper counterparts.

    Cross referencing from one PDF to another was a nightmare, if not impossible. Viewing all of a page at once meant the writing was too small (most RPG's use A4 size pages), and finding information within them compared to just flicking through a real book that has a few bookmarks, was just terrible.

    I bit the bullet and bought the paper source books in question and have never looked back.

  4. While I've been a long time Apple fan (going back to the Apple II days), follows Steve Jobs to NeXT, and then became a Mac fan with the release of OS X (due to its NeXT heritage) … I am NOT a fan of the iPhone platform (and its sisters).

    I am, however, an Android fan. There's a couple of Android tablets that are going to be coming out, stating with the Notion Ink Adam, that have my attention. Better specs than the iPad, better price, Android based (and thus the Android app ecosystem), and all of the advantages you list above.

    Another one is the Neofonie WePad (German based, as well, in case that matters to you). More recently announced, though, so I'm not as solid on its specs.

    Though, regardless of which vendor you go with, it does seem like touch-screen tablets are about to make a bigger presence in our lives, and that could have a big impact on pen&paper gaming.

  5. I've definitely eyeballed the iPad, but I like the increased functionality of the android products, so if I ever explode my budget and shell out, it'll be for one of those.

    Right now, I run all of these applications off of a tiny netbook. It's unobtrusive enough at the table that I don't feel blocked off from my players, but it's so much better at math and organizing initiative than I am, that I would be crying without it.

    @The Recursion King To an extent, I agree with you. We tend to have both dead tree and .pdfs at the gaming table, and as far as looking up info, the dead tree versions usually win every time. However, being able to carry my entire library of gaming books with me wherever I go has proved far too handy and valuable, even if only for the value of saving my poor back.
    .-= Jenny Snyder´s last blog ..Final Lesson: HAVE FUN! =-.

  6. I'll go for the iPad as well! This is something I've been waiting for for years …

    I'm currently using the app GoodReader to read my rpg PDFs on the go … screen's a little small, but I've got the phone on me all the time, anyways.

    Hopefully they'll bring a dedicated version of that app to the iPad, as reading large (>5MB) files with on-board means on the iPhone is no fun.

    That being said, I love "real" books … but it is really handy to be able to travel with 20-30 books (which would simply be too much to carry around in dead tree weight).

  7. I think ultimately time will tell. If people are still using iPads at the gaming table in, say, two years, then it’s here to stay. I wouldn’t bet against that happening, but I’m leaning against it, if you like, based on my own experience and also how attached I myself have become to some gadgets I bought but then later simply let gather dust.

  8. One of my players brought his new ipad to the game, and I have to say, it was *a lot* less obtrusive than having laptop at the table (at least once everyone got past their "oh, shiny!" reaction). It takes up much less table real estate, and it was easier to slide out of the way when the time came to draw battle plans and such.

    Last week the same player used it to GM, accessing his notes on Google Docs, and occasionally switching to iTunes to launch mode music. He wasn't using it as a PDF reference, but I'm sure he will once he gets a good PDF viewer app for the device.

    From my perspective — ignoring the iPad vs. Android debate — I love the form factor. I've used a notebook computer on and off for years, but I've always been frustrated by how much space it takes up. Since we began playing Star Wars (which, IMHO, requires less book keeping than D&D 3.5 or 4.0) I've gone back to index cards and paper notes, augmented by an iPod touch.

    I can easily see putting my notes on a tablet, as well as any rules-quick references I might have. It's just that handy.

    Switching back to the iPod/iPad … while I usually use my real dice for combat encounters (my Call of Cthulhu dice are far too lucky not to), if we do starship combat I switch to using Diceonomicon on the iPod. Starship combat involves doubling all weapon damage, and Diceonomicon can do formulas like 6d10x2; having it do the math speeds up combat nicely (not hugely, but enough to make it worthwhile).

    I also use the iPod to control my iTunes playlists, which is perfect for creating an episode soundtrack on the fly.

    I'm not totally sold on the iPad — I want to see what HP does with the Slate, and I'd like to wait for some of the Android tablets — but I see myself buying one of these devices sooner rather than later.
    .-= Kenneth Newquist´s last blog ..Game Day: The Mandalorian Interlude =-.

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