Tabletop role-playing hails from the Polaroid and bell-bottom days of the 1970s, when computers the size of rooms were required to send Americans to the Moon, and the most technologically advanced item in a person’s home was a color TV. As a result, Dungeons & Dragons and its ilk were designed to be played with nothing more than pencils, paper, and dice.
Since those days, computers have become more common than cars and apps commonly augment the gaming experience, translating it beyond the table into the infinite shining realms of cyberspace. We here at Geek & Sundry here present our favorite apps for using with our tabletop games!
Since the inception of tabletop role-playing, maps have been indispensable at the gaming table.
Google Maps is an incomparable resource for gaming. In any tabletop game set in the modern day, Google Maps becomes an extension of your game. Players can see satellite images of where their characters currently are, see what is around them, plan escapes, tactics for ambushes, and get the ambiance of the locale. It makes tabletop into something like an augmented reality game. Players do not need to wait for the GM to provide information or make plans, they can retrieve it themselves. And the maps of Google make the game feel oh so real.
Chasing cultists through an Egyptian temple? Boom!
Getting chased by vampires? Took a wrong turn and ended up on a dead end in the Hollywood Hills? There’s a map for that!
Or what in the name of heaven is this suspiciously man-made looking compound in a stretch of Antarctica once claimed by the Third Reich?
Making a character can be half the joy of a role-playing game, but it can also be a bleeding-from-the-eyeballs exercise in math and keeping track of bonuses from various powers. (Yes, Pathfinder, I’m looking at you…) If you have to pick spells, you could be looking at two or more hours of work before even rolling your first D20.
Hero Lab is character-generation software that takes care of the math for you. Want to take Great Cleave? Super! But Hero Lab knows you need to take Cleave, Power Attack, and have a minimum Strength of 13 to do so. Hero Lab is also vital at the table. Hit by a vampire and lost some Strength? Again, enter it into the software and it will recalculate your bonuses, feats, and everything else right down to whether or not your loincloth still fits.
I, for one, welcome the arrival of our future computer overlords to help us meatbags make character generation go more quickly.
Learn more about human obsolescence in character creation here.
This website leverages old-school resources and a web-based presentation to help move gaming into the 21st century. GMs have always struggled with how to introduce players to their world. Obsidian Portal allows GMs to create webpages for their homebrew campaigns. GMs can provide as much detail as they want, allowing players to immerse themselves in the game even when they aren’t at the table.
For example, this Shadowrun campaign GM has detailed synopses of every session they’ve run, and backgrounds of all their characters! Check it out here!
Want to play D&D with friends in Siberia? You’ll need a virtual tabletop–a computer program that apes the gaming experience via computer. Fantasy Grounds is a standout virtual tabletop, not just for the nifty ability to roll dice using a mouse, but also because it is licensed to sell D&D content. Instead of having to spend time making a map like one from Out of the Abyss, you can click over the exact map from the book and happily return to fleeing from the drow. Learn more at their site.
This program allows you to design maps of any size or shape for whatever weirdness you can conceive. Build savage wastelands, grubby slums, and even map out the interior of fell dungeons from the safety of your futon. Add-ons allow for sci-fi maps, maps of star systems, and allow busy beaver GMs to add z-coordinates that add a third dimension. If the Resistance had this, finding Luke would have been a breeze… Take a look!
What are your favorite apps for tabletop? Let us know below!