In this installment, I will be discussing the iPad as a gaming tool for GMs and players.
Gnomes are Fast
I will begin with some nice whine. Here are the flaws of the iPad, the things that initially made me walk out of the Apple Store empty handed. I have since gotten to play with one in depth, but I wasn’t all that impressed at first…
For starters, getting files onto the device is a pain. Unless it goes through iTunes, your only option is a third party app. Not that this is all that difficult, but not having a drag and drop interface is a bit silly at this stage in the technology.
Solutions: Dropbox, Evernote and Good Reader all have file transfer ability. Conversely, you can get around some of the device’s issues by making folders in your iTunes directories and putting files in there, yet this doesn’t work with everything.
One thing at a time
Next is the multitasking issue. I know that with the announcement of OS 4 this issue’s days are numbered. What it means now is that you can’t easily swap between apps that you are using.
Solutions: Just wait. Also, most apps will save the state you were in when you leave, the only real pain is waiting for the app to start up, or having to go through a menu screen again.
This coffee tastes funny
The D&D compendium uses a pop-out box to display your selections, and in the iPad’s Safari browser, this always popped up at the top of the page, no matter how far down the page you were, you have to scroll back up to see it.
It would also not register the function buttons sometimes, not letting me close the pop-out and such. I would have to restart my browser to fix the issue.
Solutions: No idea on this one. Hopefully it will sort itself out with future updates.
Pick a Different File (PDF)
No native PDF. Safari will display PDFs you click, but the iPad itself doesn’t have a viewer for the file type. Also, with no real file system (except through iWork documents), you couldn’t save them anyway.
Solutions: Drop the buck and buy Good Reader. It is a great PDF reader and has file syncing to boot. Otherwise, you can use a program like Calibre (free), which can convert PDFs to ePub formats.
Handy little Handheld
Alright, enough with the whining, lets get into what this thing does do:
Books and PDFs
With Good Reader, you can manage and view PDFs quickly and easily. Depending on the PDF, you have search capabilities and bookmarking. Load up your digital books and supplements onto the iPad and leave your library at home.
This is huge for me. I run about three different games a week, each using a different system.
I collect backpacks and messenger bags like most women collect shoes. Each game night has its own bag, and even then I can’t carry my entire library for each game. I am a game consumer whore… and how.
With the iPad I can load up my game libraries in digital form and just bring the essentials. With its slim profile, my shoulder and back are going to be thanking Apple.
With Apple launching the bookstore on the iPad and delving into the ebook market, hopefully it will only be a matter of time before game publishers start utilizing this avenue for their books.
Though, drivethru RPG is a great place to get digital gaming content right now. It is my go-to digital gaming store.
Currently, there is a great, free, Wikipedia app called Wikipanion. For all those fluffy books you don’t have, you can be sure that someone made a wiki about them.
I used wikipedia quite extensively on my iPhone during sessions. It really helps out when you need to look up game world info or history and don’t want to go digging through books and derailing your session.
The web browser does what it does, which is everything but flash.
You can visit sites, login to pages, forums, etc, and all the usual. I personally use this for the D&Di Compendium. As stated above, there is some wonkiness, but it beats running to a PC (the computer PC, not the gamer PC) or having a laptop on the table.
You can also use app slots as direct links to webpages. Again, I have the compendium on my front page, but you can link to any site that you wish. When OS 4 comes out, you can keep all your webpage links in a single folder for ease of access.
…walk into a bar
I don’t generally use minis and battlemats. I like to keep things abstract in my games. Yet, visual representations are still very useful.
There are a host of sketchpad apps for the iPad, but Adobe Ideas is free and simple. Sketch out a room, street, city, etc. It is pretty fun on its own, so try not to get too distracted.
Don’t hate the player
As for players, they can use the iPad for their character sheets, sketching, note taking, etc.
If you are in a totally tech savvy group and everyone is sporting an iPad, you can even have a chat session up in one of the various chat apps, just for the game.
Imagine, as a GM, having all your players just send a chat to you containing their initiative score while you get things organized. Yeah, I just drooled a little on my keyboard, too.
Odds and Ends
There are so many apps for the iPhone and iPad that have gaming applications, and so many more yet to be made, that there is no way to cram them all in this post. Here is a shortlist of what is available and what I hope to see:
Dice Rollers – There are several
D&Di App – Come on Wizards, get with it
Spreadsheets – Use iWork’s Numbers
Charts/Initiative Trackers – Use iWork’s Keynote
Power vs. Content
I know there are some Apple haters out there, I was one too (and still am at heart). Yes I have seen things like the Gemini. On paper, these competitors’ specs blow the iPad away.
But, what good is a top-of-the-line piece of paper, if all you have is one blue crayon to write with?
The iPad has the edge of a fully stocked app store, and a developers circle that has been years in the making. There is just no getting around the fact that other tablets are going to be playing catch-up for a few years.
And by the time another tablet surpasses what the iPad has to offer, you will have gotten several years worth of gaming in the 21st Century in.