Tech Support – GGG Ponders on the Role Technology Has Taken in Running RPGs

Hullo, gentle readers! Your GGG is back! I’ve been absolutely consumed with working on a Lovecraftian Horror LARP, so I took a month long leave of absence. I’m very pleased to be back, though, and the experience made me think a lot about potential articles to share with you all.

One of the nice things about this event was that I got to see two friends that I hadn’t seen in years. He hasn’t LARPed in years, and after the game, he told me that, in response to one of our effects, he’d thought, “Whoa! Media!” It occurred to me after he’d said it that certain things we now take for granted in the game are pretty novel to people who haven’t experienced them before in conjunction with game play.

Although the game I ran was a LARP, much of the technology I use for LARPing also sees plenty of use in my tabletop games. I thought I’d talk about five things that I consider indispensable for gaming now that weren’t part of my gaming portfolio even ten years ago and how these advances have changed the way I run games.

Video Killed the Radio Star

We began our LARP with a train-ride sequence. It was mostly generated through sound effects and a decent physical set-up, but we also had a projected image from one of the staff’s laptops showing video footage of a real train ride shot from the side window. This was the effect that startled my friend. Another player also commented that this simple effect made it possible for him to feel immersed right from the beginning.

I’ve been using video footage in a number of ways in my games. I created a power-point sequence for the beginning of my current D&D game. I created a montage of images to commemorate my Call of Cthulhu game. My husband and I used pre-existing but respliced and re-voiced video footage to create opening scenes for our Star Wars games. With video-editing software being so easy to use these days, it’s no big deal to create great visual effects for your game.

Sounds Perfect

Very closely related to video effects are audio effects. A staple of our LARPs are customized sound effects and soundtracks for scenes or even monsters. The Walker in the Woods would not have been half as terrifying without his soundtrack of stomping and roars. A ritual sequence is made more intense and terrifying by a Diamanda Galas audio track. Our module space can be a haunted hospital or a cave with just the right background audio ambiance.

I’ve spoken before about how music can enhance a game, but background ambiance can work fantastically as well. When I’m tabletopping, I use a program called SoftRope which allows me to easily edit multiple sound effects into a background soundscape. I have everything from a busy tavern to a cave full of stirges ready to go with the tap of a button.

Message for You, Sir

I’ve pondered a game where I send messages to individual players over their iPads or iPhones, replacing handwritten notes with a high-tech equivalent. While I haven’t gotten that far…yet…the message programs of such devices, or even just sending texts cel phone to cel phone has become invaluable at LARP events.

In the old days, we would set up a module, then wait for whatever the NPC hook to go find a group of PCs, then lead them back to the module. This often resulted in NPCs waiting for players to show up…could be minutes, could be an hour or more. This wasted so much time and effort, especially if there were complications.

Now the NPCs can text the GM that the module is ready, the GM can send out the hook, and get a sense for how quickly the PCs were heading out the door. It’s really made life a lot easier for all of us.

Electric Dreams

It’s amazing to think of how computers have revolutionized gaming in general. I doubt I could run the LARP we run without a computer. The sheer amount of paper tags we generate for each weekend would take ages if I had to type them. Now, not only can I pre-write and pre-print all my tags in advance, I can even take my laptop and a printer with me to the weekend and print out tags on the spot if I find I need to.

A Series of Tubes

Okay, this one is a complete no-brainer, but the internet has utterly revolutionized the way we game. When I was younger, no one knew which products for games were coming out. A trip to the game store was a hit or miss prospect, and, if you missed a product, it meant long searches through multiple stores. Now, of course, I know everything that’s on the horizon, and, if I miss a product in the stores, I can have it within a matter of days. I can even buy products that’re years out of print.

I used the internet to announce and advertise the Lovecraft LARP, to let players register and pay online, to make the rules available, and so on. Now, my players are using it to connect with each other, share photos, tell stories, and plan future events. There’s nothing like the internet to make a gamer’s life easier.

In Closing

Technology has advanced so much since I started gaming as to make daily life seem like a sci-fi story. As I find ways to make my life easier, I also find ways to make my gaming experiences better. As new technology comes down the pike, I expect we’ll find even more ways to use it to run and play our games. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Your Turn

What’re some ways you’ve used new technology to enhance your own games? Do you miss the days of nothing but paper and pens ? Or are you riding the bleeding edge of gaming technology? Let us all know.

About GGG

Andy/GGG is a gay geek guy for sure. He's been playing D&D since he was 10, and he equates reading Tolkien with religion to some degree. He's a writer/developer for a Live Action RPG called The Isles, and he writes a comic called Circles, a gay, furry slice-of-life piece that comes out way too infrequently.

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