Taking the Pen and Paper out of RPGs

By now, everyone and their mother has seen the D&D on Microsoft Surface videos, which are incredibly cool. Plenty other DIY RPG table projects have sprung up from the depths of basements everywhere, often incorporating some sort of projector that a dungeon master can work on from a laptop for map updating purposes. I like this idea. But I keep looking for, and keep not finding, the best possible update to social RPGing. I want to see the pen and paper go away.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the roots of this kind of gaming. It’s just that it gets to being such a pain in the ass to keep your own shit updated, to say nothing of the poor DM trying to keep track of the lot of you. It doesn’t need to be like that anymore. Given that everybody and their brother has smartphones, tablets, laptops, whatever, you’d think people would have leapt all over the possibilities here.

Here’s my basic thought process. Some service hosts a web server, and the DM can have some kind of account there to manage some of the details (this part already exists). Each of the players can download a small app to their phone or device, and with login info provided by said DM, can connect to the DM’s game. So far so good. They can each view their own character, their stats and inventory and remaining spells and such, and possibly get quiet messages from the DM. The DM, with the master controls on his/her laptop or whatever, can distribute loot, assign damage and whatnot, and generally just automate a whole hell of a lot of scribbling that would other wise be going on.

The whole of the idea would get a great deal larger in the long term. It could possibly even go so far as incorporating individual maps for players should they be separated in the game, or, hell, it could just let everyone play completely remotely if it comes down to that. The latter there isn’t the best possible scenario, but after trying to run a forums based game with a friend stuck in Iraq, it might be an interesting idea.

Incorporating all of this into a complete program that can handle a map table as well would probably not be a small task, especially given that there are n-million gaming systems to program for if you want to be a completionist. And yet I’m shocked not to see even the most basic start to this sort of thing out there yet. Maybe this can be my first foray into Android development or something.