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Computers at the Gaming Table
You may have noticed recently I've been creating a good amount of GM assisting software, including the hypertext module and the hireling generator. This probably begs the question, do I use a computer while GMing? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is no.

I've tried it a couple times, using a laptop as either part of or the entire GM screen. It is nice at a couple things. I enjoy the ability to quickly navigate through documents, like searching PDFs of rulebooks or using a wiki to create my modules. On the other hand, there are some things it's just a terrible replacement for, such as dice rolling. And there are other things like quick note taking or HP tracking in a combat that I suspect it could be good at, but I haven't found any software yet that's faster than a pad of paper and a pencil.

Now I could get behind having a computer and using it for some things and not others, but the form factor is just not really conducive to that. The keyboard and mouse take up too much room, leaving only a small area for paper notes and dice. My laptop battery won't last a full game session, which is often at least 3 hours (my battery usually conks out after 2), so that means clunky power cables draped about.

Recently though, a thought struck me that perhaps this might be an actual good use for a netbook. Those tiny laptop machines may be horribly under-powered, but how much power do you really need to run a web browser and adobe reader? I started looking at netbooks with this use case in mind, and I stumbled on something that I'm now absolutely slavering over. The Asus T91.

It's a netbook, but in tablet form factor. That means you can swivel the screen around and close the lid such that the keyboard is covered with an upward facing screen. And then you control it with a stylus. At about 9' x 7' x 1', it's not much bigger than the steno pad I already use for keeping notes. It can lie flat on the table behind my usual screen, and still leave ample space for dice and other papers and whatnot. I have doubts about how good the OCR might be when writing with the stylus, but if I really need to write a ton of text quickly, I can always flip it back into laptop mode. And it claims to have a 5 hour battery, more than enough time for your average gaming session, so no annoying power cables.

The downside is, it goes for about $500 over at Amazon. That's pretty pricey for a netbook, and comparable non-tablet machines are usually in the $300 range. I could probably convince myself it's worth it, if only I could see and play with one for a little while. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a store that carries them, so my only choice is to buy it blind over the internet.

I may yet still get one. I'll probably wait until after Christmas and see where my finances are at. Who knows, maybe I'll get some Christmas money to offset the price. In the mean time, it's on my Amazon wish list, so I suppose there's always the extremely remote chance I might find one under the tree this year. Yeah, that's really not very likely, but they call it a wish list for a reason, right?
December 18th, 2009 - 08:36 am | Comments (2) | PERMALINK

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