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Saturday, May 1, 2010

iPad-arama - 24 hrs with the iPad 3G

Yes, I've gotten about 24 hrs... less sleep, driving, travel, socializing, visiting family... sigh, alright, maybe more like a solid 6 hrs, much of that time spend searching the Apple App Store for, what else?  iPad Apps.

First things first.  The iPad doesn't do flash, in doesn't do external memory, and it doesn't do USB ports, so put your flash drives away.

What it does do (among a whole lot of other stuff) is read PDFs.  That's muy importante to me and just about every other gamer out there that has a collection of RPG PDFs and enough disposable income to pick up what is, for all intents and purposes, an expensive proprietary touch screen computer device.  Thank god my family understands the importance of my "family recycling program"; they know at some point my latest gadget will be theirs when iPad 2 comes out next spring ;)

Back to the PDFs.  Regretfully, most of the apps on my iPhone do not work natively on my iPad.  They either work by using just a small portion of the screen, or they can be blown up, like digital zoom on your camera.  Digital zoom can ruin the sharpness of a picture, and this is no different.  Not a big deal on most games, but for text (like a PDF) this is a game killer.  Now my nice (and expensive) document editor and viewer on my iPhone (DocsToGo) is pretty useless reading PDFs on my iPad.  Definitely annoying and discouraging.

Then I remembered an app I had read about in preparation of receiving my iPad - GoodReader.  If my short term memory is correct it cost 2 bucks in the app store.  There are different ways to get your documents transferred from your computer to your iPad, but the least stressful method (and I tried the stressful ones first) was to use a Cloud computing storage solution that the app could connect to and download the documents I wanted it to transfer.  I used Dropbox, but it supports about 6 cloud storage services.

Basic Roleplaying looks amazing, but the art didn't seem to work in the PDF.  No biggie.  Very readable, especially when one pinches out to get rid of the white margin.

Dark Fate, a S&W campaign setting, looks as good as the printed version would, assuming I had a printed version.  It really looks that good.

Take 5 minutes.  My son is happily playing the piano on my iPad at the moment ;)

The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game - Beautiful in full color.  The Kindle DX has been put to shame.  I pinched out to get rid of the margins.  It was readable at the default size, but the little extra made it so much nicer.

Labyrinth Lord, Advanced Edition Companion - Just a pinch and it was perfect.  I no longer need a hard copy of my gaming material if I wont be GMing (still quicker to flip thru a book then slide the page scroll to fast advance, but not by much).

Knockspell 4 - I was putting off the full in depth read for the arrival of my iPad.  This will be my reading tonight.  Again, just a pinch to enlarge slightly and it is perfect.

Basically, every PDF I've opened on the iPad has looked amazing.  Better then reading on the computer screen.  My preference for all that I've listed above (with the exception of Dark Fate, which didn't need any adjustments) was to pinch out the margins just a tad.  Probably has a lot to do with my eyes going just a tad bad at close work these days (43 is just around the corner).

The iPad is a winner, and for reading PDFs it is damn close to perfect.  The Kindle DX is going to have to drop in price to remain competitive, because as a PDF reader it is a very distant second (and will drop further as more devices get released).

Time to play.  I  want to load up The Dungeon Alphabet and see how it compare to the hardcover I have ;)

Friday, April 30, 2010

iPad - My Girlfriend is Gonna Kill Me

I can't put the sucker down.  Didn't get a chance to start playing with it until about 90 minutes ago, and I've been uploading some PDFs to read tonight.

I'll give a write up tomorrow when I can take an extended break from playing with it ;)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Geek Anticiation - Awaiting the iPad 3G

Yep.  I've gone off the deep end of Apple Geekdom.  I was doing OK until December of 2008, when my son convinced me to get iPhones.  Then there was the Macbook this past fall.  Now I await tomorrow's iPad delivery.

I'm excited for the techie geekness of it, but I'm even more excited with ability to read my PDFs in a native format.  Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed reading most of the RPG PDfs I've placed on my Kindle DX, but the iPad should blow that away.

I fully expect tomorrow's posting will be a review of the suitability of the iPad to read PDFs.  Probably a quick review of some appropriate PDF reading apps.  Some pics of the iPad with some PDFs displayed. 

I never wanted to turn into an Apple fanboy.  Really I didn't.

I even took off from work to ensure someone would be there to sign for the package.

I'll go to my corner now...

(then I'll go back to the VTT reviews and such... might be doing a Q&A with someone involved with MapTools - look Ma, I'm a professional! ;)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fantasy Grounds 2 - Review(ish)


Its much easier to review a game or RPG supplement than it is to review a Virtual Table Top.  Everyone has different gaming habits, as is easily seen by the different and overlapping style of play, let alone "Old School" vs "New School".  It seems to be even further afield when it comes to VTTs.  The major ones each seem to have found their niche, tho there is overlap with features.  So take my opinions with a grain of salt... or maybe even a pinch.

Fantasy Grounds 2 is probably the most popular commercial VTT on the market.  What are it's main draws?  They are simple really.

Amazing 3-d dice with physics and everything.  You know how players like to play with dice at the table, rolling even when they are not up?  The dice in Fantasy Grounds 2 are so cool you'll find your players doing the same online.  It's addictive, what can I tell you?  heh

Character sheets.  Nothing quite like interactive, self bonus populating, character sheets.  It really does speed things up having all of your character's info right there in front of you, laid out professionally.

Support for many of the major games out there.  Some are commercial add-ons (yes, you have to pay) and some are community created (free).  Generally speaking, the commercial ones add in bells and whistles and access to the rules in game... community driven projects rely more on accurate character sheets.

Off the top of my head, supported games include:  3e, 4e, C&C, Savage Worlds, Labyrinth Lord, CoC, Basic Roleplaying, GURPS, Traveller... there are more, and there is also a genric character sheet for use in unsupported games.

An active community.  An active gamers seeking games / games seeking players forum.  There are always games looking for players, although it may not be for the system you want.

Of course, there are some weaknesses with FG2.  They are big or small, depending on how important the feature is to you.

There is a Fog of War for mapping, but it is not line of sight based (like some other VTTs have).  As the GM you have to reveal the map as you see fit, it is not dynamic.

The dice aren't the easiest to convert to games that need special dice.  There is an extension for FATE/Fudge dice, but the work around isnt the most elegant - hell, its plain awkward.

No built in mapping program, just a chalk board.  There are free and commercial mapping programs out there that do great jobs, but some have remarked on this lack of a feature.

Price.  It isnt cheap.  Then again, neither are commercial RPG game books, video games, computer games, MMORPG games.  It's a one time expenditure.  For some, the bells and whistles pay from themselves.  For others, free alternatives do the job they need.

No VOIP built in, but again, if you want the feature there are many alternatives for free (Skype).

There is a learning curve.  Really, expect to be lost for a bit.  Play as a player before running a game if you can.  Watch the damn tutorial videos.  I can't stress this enough.  Watch and learn.

I've really enjoyed playing in FG2 campaigns and I'm working on running my own to start next month.  It will be my first time DMing in over 13 years.  This is the VTT I've chosen to run with, although that may change down the line.  It fits what my group and I are looking to do at the moment.

So, how do I rate Fantasy Grounds 2?  An exceptional Virtual Table Top that does what it does well.  It's not perfect, but then we are all waiting on perfection for a long time ;)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fantasy Grounds 2 - Hands On Experience


This isn't going to be a review.  That will come later.  Nope, this will be about how I've used FG2 as a player, and soon, how I will as a DM.

I first picked up Fantasy Grounds back in late 2005 or early 2006... not really sure.  I had already found Klooge, even spent an evening playing in a playtest of a Rolemaster add-on for it, but except for a Play-By-Email game back in the heyday of AOL (damn I wish that game had continued, the GM was an amazing artist and storyteller) I didn't have any experience in on-line gaming.


I'll admit I was overwhelmed at first, and it wasn't until spring of 2008 that I actually got to play in a Fantasy Grounds campaign.  A nice Warhammer 40k Dark Heresy campaign.  The game rocked.  Some personalities conflicted.  New players were brought in.  Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Savage Worlds, Serenity - entertaining false starts. That group lasted a bit over a year and I have no complaints.  Those patient souls taught me a lot about using the Fantasy Grounds Software.  They made me ready from my next campaign:  Castles & Crusades.

I've been playing in a monthly (was weekly, then hiatus, then back again) Castles & Crusades game since fall of 2008.  Not a bad length of time for an online campaign.  Lost players.  Gained players.  Not one personality conflict that I've noticed, just an overall fun group to game with.  Leveling is slow as molasses going up hill, but at the age of 42 I've discovered its not the levels, its not the loot, but the time you spend getting there that is important.  Wonder how well that carries over to real life? ;)

Soon I'll be getting my own Labyrinth Lord game running via Fantasy Grounds.  I doubt I'd be at this point without the fellow gamers that guided me so well.  My hat is tipped to all of them.

Next up I'll give a more review like article on Fantasy Grounds 2.  I just felt the need to ground myself in a bit of personal history first.  :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Basic Roleplaying Gets GORED


I totally forgot when I was writing up last night's post about Chaosium's Basic Roleplay that Goblinoid Games has given it the "open rewrite" treatment.

Meet GORE, a nice reworking of the percentile system seen Runequest, CoC, Basic Roleplay and others.  Its a nice alternative for gamers on the cheap.

I'll now return you  your regularly scheduled blog ;)

Basic Roleplaying - The Other "Old School"


I remember picking up a copy of Runequest 2, Pavis, Big Rumble and one other damaged (name escapes me) but perfectly usable Chaosium Gloranthian product at a gaming con at Columbia University back in the late 80's.  The amount of care that went into these products was amazing to me at the time (and I am way overdue to pull them ut of storage).  I had hoped the Avalon Hill edition would build upon the the gems that I had found, but it was an unwieldy, unnecessarily complicated beast.

As time went by I found Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, Hawkmoon, Elfquest and the under appreciated (even by me) Worlds of Wonder.  All using the same core gaming engine, nearly unchanged (the core - options galore as time has progessed) since Runequest's initial release back in 1978.

Why all this reminiscing?  I've had the Basic Roleplaying release sitting on my shelf for a bit... truthfully not giving it much of a thought until I saw that Smiteworks had released a Basic Roleplaying ruleset for Fantasy Grounds 2.  It brought back fond memories of Runequest and Call of Cthulhu.  So I picked it up.  Then I went to the Chaosium site and picked up an adventure book and the fantasy rules. (there is a perfectly usable and FREE quickstart pdf available)

Why, when I'm starting up a Labyrinth Lord game in the coming weeks?  Because I've already had a player ask for a quick pick up game, and a RPG without levels, without undue complications, will make it easier to pull a short scenario that is balance for 1-4, then a D&D variant.

Hmm, if I put them through a CoC session, any sane survivors is a sort of victory for them.  ;)

This is post 203.  Seems I passed 200 without even paying attention... heh