View Full Version : Who uses PS/GIMP/etc at the gaming table

05-09-2008, 12:02 PM
I saw someone a few months ago somewhere (link out of the maptools forum perhaps?) where a GM used Photoshop with a projector mounted above the gaming table to create a battlemap for real miniatures. He used various PS layers to show/hide features such as secret doors, etc as things were found and had a top layer overlay which acted as a sort of "fog of war/darkness" for unexplored areas which he erased as players entered line of site/vision range.

Question is, how many other people use their computer at the gaming table (for face to face) using a projector/second monitor/whatever to reveal map elements? Maptool, ViewingDale, etc would also be counted in this category

05-09-2008, 12:23 PM
For me, having computers at the gaming table are real atmosphere killers. Best of all to use the imagination and perhaps some printed maps as player aids or similar. Particularly with battlemats and combat, what I prefer is an urgency of narrative flow from the GM rather than a ponderous. 'You move ten feet to the west, hang on let me just move your counter.' type of situation....but that's just me!

05-09-2008, 12:29 PM
Since my evening job is printing RPG maps (see sig below) - of course I use printed battlemaps and one of our players has tons of figs, so battlemaps and miniatures all the way. As discussed on RP's poll - I don't use grids on them though, at least the maps I game with.

Since I print maps, it would be stupid not to have printed maps for gaming. I agree with Rav's statement - computer at the gaming table, no thanks!

I have seen a game using a projector screen, it was interesting and worked as a game, but I won't invest that much into a game - table, people, dice, map, figs and character sheets, and books for rules lawyering, that's all I need! :P

05-09-2008, 01:06 PM
At most, I'll sketch a layout of an area. I almost never use a proper battlemat, and I don't think I've ever used minis at a game that I GM'd. I'll certainly spend a lot of time on my overland maps, and I am learning some appreciation for interior mapping thanks to the challenges.

I am solidly a narrativist game master, favoring social interaction and cool cinematic action. Projecting a battlemat or VTT surface wouldn't really help me do my job. I could see using a computer for a variety of other tasks, but I really don't like losing eye contact with the players, and a computer screen would be sure to draw my eye away too much.

Heck, I don't even use a GM screen, usually.

05-09-2008, 01:53 PM
Since I have been using VTTs more and more for my gaming sessions I selected that option. The reason is because the players are spread out over the country so there is little other option.
I also selected "some drawing program" because MapTool allows you to create fast drawings while you are playing no different than using a battlemap, but a whole lot nicer.
I also selected "Our game is about imagination" because in my face to face gaming of late and in the past we rarely use battlemats of any sort.

Regarding computers at the gaming table, I find them to be vastly superior in many ways and actually enhances the whole gaming experience for several reasons:

If I need to look up a rule, I go to the search box in the PDF type it in and it finds it. Ten times faster than flipping through a book, and gives me the ability to check several books quickly if need be.
If I need a quick NPC name, I go to the name generator and hit the button. Instant name and some background information.
If the players throw a curve ball at me and actually choose to fight their way through the NPCs in an area that I didn't expect that to happen I can quickly slap a decent looking map together in a couple minutes and don't have to actually print anything out or take up space on the table with a battlemat. (Sorry GP... ;) )
I can have my entire adventure in a document format that allows me to make quick notes and jump to different areas without shuffling through a stack of papers.
If the players ask what a particular building looks like or the roads in a particular area, I simply jump to Google maps or Google Earth and pull it up.

So, basically instead of a stack of books, papers, binders, etc, and worrying whether someone is going to spill drinks on them, or continually picking up a pencil to jot notes and then later transcribe them to an electronic document I have it all in a nice small area of a laptop that can be closed if needed and the only thing in front of me are dice. That is why having a computer at the table is great.

05-09-2008, 02:22 PM
We use a computer to run a spreadsheet that keeps track of the encounters, (ie hits , rounds of stun etc.) Our battlemats are scratch paper with glorious 1 color scribble style maps and movement.

We don't have a lot of time to play, and no time to prepare, so anything that takes too long to set up doesn't work. Also it is just my wife and I so we can gloss over rules, aprroximate distances and generally narrate whatever we feel like, so the quick and loose paper style does well.

05-09-2008, 03:05 PM
I use a VTT with a projector. One of my players uses a laptop at the table and one other uses a palmtop. I think game flow is now quicker than it used to be when we did everything by hand. To deal with Ravs' concerns, we do get the occassional "I move one sqaure diagonally to the left, next to the small brown smudge on the map" rather then "I grip the pommel of my norched broadsword tighter and move towards the corner of the from from which we heard the noise, my stance is low, strung and cautious". I also try to make habit of describing any new encounter area before flashing the map up on the screen.


05-09-2008, 03:40 PM
I have a projector and use photoshop for running our combats at the table. On one layer I have the map and then overlay that with multiple layers blocking out the view of each room and then on top of that, I have a light source layer which is essentially a black square with a blurred "hole".

I'm prepping for tonight's session so fired up the projector, layed out some minis, and snapped off a couple pics for you guys to see my setup. Note the guy on the right (with the yellow ring under him) has the light source...

05-09-2008, 04:10 PM
Very slick! You should definitely check out the VTTs that are out there. It sounds like they would make your life a bit easier with all the layers and such you are using. You could even still use your miniatures.

05-09-2008, 05:52 PM
Wow, my table is very low tech by comparison. We use a whiteboard with a few combats stats and imitative tracking. We are switching to a magnetic board so we can use tokens and possibly preprinted battle maps.

But since I don't get much time to prep, I suspect that I'll stick to hastily scribbling out a map on the whiteboard and just stick the tokens on for placement.

05-10-2008, 12:54 AM
I'm going to rlucci's house!

05-10-2008, 05:52 AM
I use maptool because I'm based in a different country from my old gaming groups. However, much of the gaming is done on maps other than battlemaps. An example is the recent adventuyre played in Melvaunt from WotCs Mysteries of the Moonsea. Most of the adventure there was played over a city map. we have a 'party' token that shows where they are and as they explored the city they made notes of what the different regions where using the text tool on the map. We only switched to a tactical scale when a fight, or careful break-in adventure occured.

For face-to-face games I still bring a laptop because the online searchable SRD is a lifesaver for D&D. I also use maptool, but only on my ow laptop, so that I can use quick preset dice-rolls and precisely calculate distance. My players get line drawings on scrap-paper and their imagination. They do just fine.

05-10-2008, 10:45 AM
Hehe - I guess we must be oldschool players. We just a use a chequered tablecloth, with minis for the combatants, maybe a few pencils or dice to mark any important walls, and in our last fight a pint glass to indicate a shortlived magical rift! The same tablecloth has done service as an underground lair, a crater in the desert, and everything in between. Even a stretch of the Woolly Bay for a massive naval encounter. Tablecloths, minis, and imagination is where it's at.

As a side note, I'm intrigued by those who say they can find things in a pdf file quicker than in an actual real-world honest-to-goodness book. Whilst I think computers are miraculous devices with many good points, I've never found them significantly quicker than a book for flicking to info I might need. Maybe I'm doing it wrong...

05-10-2008, 12:02 PM
I use Minis, a lot of minis. Maybe because I am a competitive Minis player I have lots of them, in fact I have all sets all back to Harbinger, and am currently only missing three from the recent set (Young Red Dragon, Death Knight, Bralhannoth).

Anyways, with my HUGE selection of minis, I also have:

4 Chessex Battlemats
Every set of WotC's Dungeon Tile (They have a free mapper for use with the tiles here: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/20061121t)

05-10-2008, 12:40 PM
I use Minis, a lot of minis. Maybe because I am a competitive Minis player I have lots of them, in fact I have all sets all back to Harbinger, and am currently only missing three from the recent set (Young Red Dragon, Death Knight, Bralhannoth).

Nice... We have a number of minis, both real old (even paper thingies) and some of the more recent D&D minis also. heh.. most of the time, my DM ends up using boardgame pieces (sorry pawns) to represent grunt enemies. I SO wish we had a projector though to use something like Maptool cause he still uses a transparent 1 in square grid he draws line on with an erasable marker