Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Ultimate Form

The ultimate form of D&D is a copy of the real world in which the DM has a control panel and can manipulate any feature of the world, or indeed the universe. Furthermore, the world's history would be completely rewindable, so that you could go back to any earlier point in the simulation, make tweaks, and rerun things to see how the world turn out at some later date. Alernatively, you could effect a change in the world's "ruleset," but only apply it going forward; for example, on July 7th, 2016, gravity suddenly changes to 9/10th normal, and all preexisting activity and artifice must react to this change in physical law. (Imagine the effects on planetary orbits and their calculations, space travel, buildings, the tides, wind power, and a million other things.)

Now unfortunately with present computing technology, or even with that of the likely future, we can't get anywhere even close to what I've described. But I submit that if the few and dedicated among us work hard with what we have today, ever working to computerize sections of our game rules, and use the computer to create and power bigger and better D&D tools, then after another 40 years of this hobby maybe we'll finally be close to what is supreme: near-infinitely customizable worlds with all kinds of software knobs for the DM to tweak in order to create a high-fidelity game environment of almost any design.

Note that the above does not in any way signify or glorify some kind of transformation of D&D into a videogame! The two arts are distinct. D&D (the type of game) is still D&D even if computers are fundamental to its being played. We consider it completely normal today to do record-keeping on a computer, to draw maps on a computer, to roll dice on a computer, or even to have a virtual game table on the computer. Yet I think it's accurate to say people get cold feet when one proposes to make computer use mandatory for playing the game. Why? Imagine the benefits: storing auto-updated, always-clean, formula-incorporating character sheets; automatically and painlessly tracking character encumbrance, ammunition, and spell uses; providing easy hyperlinked or pop-up lookup for spells, special attacks, damage dice ... hell, all that lookup suggestion requires is a good website. No hard work at all if your rules are primarily typed up on the PC.

This is why I am posting about how I do the game. This is why I will continue to talk about my methods, and show off my tools.

I'm looking forward to 21st-century D&D.

Discussion questions:

Do you use the computer while actively DMing sessions?

Do you use it to make things for D&D, outside of the time you spend running sessions?

Have you programmed any rules into an automatic form (to any level of detail, even if it's just a toy diceroller?)

1 comment:

  1. I agree in a large part with your vision of the future (although I'm partial to fantasy worlds as well as a fantastic version of Earth).

    I'd also love to give my players all tablets with a character sheet app as well as a messenger app allowing communication to either the whole party or from me to an individual player.

    While running, I use my computer (I've a Surface Pro 3 which works beautifully during games) to keep the game calendar, track creature hit points, consult the world map, and snag reference images as necessary from the Internet to share with my players. When I get my trade system up and running, I'll also use the Surface as the party's primary interface with it.

    Out of game, I compile whatever game resources I'll need (usually tables of some sort). I like rolling all dice in front of my players, and so whenever a result will impact them, I'll roll the die in front of them and then consult the table.

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