Monday, May 17, 2010

Laptops At The Gaming Table

This post over at Wondrous Imaginings got me thinking about my stance at laptops at the gaming table and how it's changed.

Laptops have only recently (read: the past few years) been a potential issue in my campaigns. When I first came back from overseas, the shop we gamed at didn't allow for laptops at the gaming table, and we just sort of followed suit. I wasn't using my laptop nearly as much to game, and my crop of players at that time didn't seem to have a need, either.

Laptops can be a terrible distraction at the table. Yet as I've increasingly added to my pdf library, my own no-laptop at the table rule has gone the way of the dodo. The players who have used laptops have utilized them properly, and I can't think of any distractions they've presented. So, the laptops stay.

Could I get by without it? Easily. It really does pretty much just exist as a pdf and media reader.

I'm waiting to see Instant Message programs take over some of the note-passing functions currently a part of the game.


A.L. said...

I think with the new netbooks and things like the ipad my issues with lap tops at the table is going down. That being said, i still think they can distract.

if you are using a laptop to keep track of your character sheet and some pdfs, that's fine. However, if all I can hear while I am GMing is people typing and doing things. Well, then there is a problem.

I've only had to enforce a no-laptops rule once in recent memory. That was due more to the fact that everyone had them, and it was hard to see people over them constantly. The quality of the game also improved dramatically when I took away the toys, so I think it was the right call.

Aside from that, my way of handling laptops is simple. if you have a laptop in front of you (or are doing something while playing in the game) I don't repeat myself as much for you, and am less forgiving of a lack of situational awareness. I feel it is fair, since they're the ones who are distracting themselves and I don't see why the game should suffer due to their inattentiveness.

Anonymous said...

What does a laptop DO at a game?

Yong Kyosunim said...

As a GM for our campaign, I use a laptop and have been for the past year or so. It started out as an experiment because I frequently have trouble keeping pages of my modules together along with notes. Oftentimes, I'd pack up my stuff drive to the game and realize that I forgot to print out a handout or that 25th level mage that I spent four hours statting up is still sitting on my desk at home.

Now that I take my laptop with me, there's no excuses to not have the files. At first, I only would whip out my laptop when I had my classical senior moment, but then I decided to run the game from the laptop. I used Excel to handle my NPC initiative rolling and initiative tracking. I write my own adventures, so naturally everything is on Word. If I want to show my players a pic, I turn the laptop around and let me see the jpeg instead of printing it out and getting a lecture from my wife about wasting printer ink.

In short, having a laptop has kept me really organized and has been a great tool to use. My only caveat is that my laptop is huge so it blocks the view of one of my players at times.

My players don't use laptops for their characters, so it's not an issue of everyone having a laptop. As a player, I doubt that I would bring a laptop since all I have to keep track of is my character sheet.

Jack Philpott said...

In my experience it's all about how they're used and how good the players and GM are at avoiding distrac...ooh! Butterfly!

In all seriousness (were such a thing possible) I allow them up and until the individual player abuses the privilage. As a GM I prefer paper just because I can sort and skim faster than I can scroll, but if a GM can flip through a pdf fast enough to keep the game going then all the better.

Cell phones and texting, however, are RIGHT OUT.

da Trux said...

I've never had any kind of rule about lap tops at my games, but I don't use one, and neither do my players. PDF's are horrible as compared to books, and I can understand how a lap top can be distracting; especially if it has a wireless connection and somebody just HAS to share stupid youtube videos.

MJ Harnish said...

I generally don't use a laptop for GMing since for most of the RPGs I run (mainly indie stuff) it doesn't really offer any benefit. However, I've found it exceedingly useful for running 4E D&D since I started using Masterplan (which WotC recently C&D out of existence) since the software means I can keep all of my notes for encounters, etc. all in one place - I really resisted the idea of a laptop for 4E until I discovered how much easier it was to build my adventures in Masterplan and then just click through the various scenes as they came up.

Greyaxe said...

I actually hook my laptop up to my network to pull resources from a variety of systems and display them on my 46 inch LCD. The players love it. I allow laptops but dont provide internet activity.

Anthony Emmel said...

I occasionally use my laptop if I'm using a pdf adventure that I haven't printed out. I considering getting the large Kindle for my pdfs though, since that is essentially an electronic book-sized object.

Technology is just a tool, imo. It can be used in a useful manner or not.

Brandon Hudson said...

Very informative and well written post! Quite interesting and nice topic chosen for the post.

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