iPad apps for roleplaying games

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know that I enjoy roleplaying. I am a great proponent of using technology to improve my roleplaying experience and my iPad has often been the focus of that.
There is some debate over the etiquette of using an iPad or other tablet at the gaming table. Clearly if the GM is set against it, you should probably keep it stowed, but mostly I think it’s fine, as long as you obey a few simple rules:
1) The iPad is used for gaming, not checking email and stuff – It should be used as a game aid and be no more distracting to you than your physical dice and copy of the rulebook would be.
2) The iPad should be used to enhance the experience, not slow it down – If you’ve got an electronic version of your character sheet to save constantly rubbing things out, that’s great; if it takes you ten minutes to find anything on that sheet, use a paper one.
3) Even if iPads are ok, certain specific things may not be – The GM may want to see everyone’s dice rolling or keep hold of character sheets; if this is the case then don’t kick up a fuss and accept the decision graciously.

All that said, should you be in a position to use your tablet for gaming, here are some options I use myself quite successfully.

Dicenomicon – Dice rolling
It should be noted that I’m not a massive fan of dice-rolling apps; there’s just something nice about physical dice and rolling them properly. However, there are some niche situations where dice rolling apps are a handy tool and Dicenomicon is one of the better ones I’ve come across.
The basic functionality is good, allowing you to roll dice of different types and view the individual results, plus automatically calculated totals. Where the app shines is in it’s ability to set up automated dice pools for specific effects. For example, at the touch of a button, I can have six lots of 4d6 (drop lowest) to populate the ability scores of a D&D character, or if I have a commonly used attack that does 8d8 damage (re-roll ones), I can automate this easily.

Goodreader – Rules, settings, supplements, etc…
RPG companies have embraced PDFs as an alternative medium and I am very grateful; PDFs are cheaper, don’t take up valuable shelf space, have hyperlinks to speed up browsing, can be searched for specific words, etc… There’s not a lot to say about Goodreader – it’s the gold standard in PDF viewing on the iPad and I use it all the time for RPG books.

Wikitouch (iPad only) – Campaign organisation
Everyone has their own way of organising a campaign. My current one has a lot of cross-linking between people/places/events, so I wanted a way to navigate easily between items on the fly. Wikitouch effectively sets up a personal wiki that I use to organise my notes, one page per item of interest and hyperlinks between. Notable features are the ability to edit online via web browser (easier for doing large scale entry and editing on my PC) and offline capability, so that I don’t need to be connected to the internet during my actual game session.

????????????? – Map software
Until fairly recently, I used an app called 3D virtual tabletop, which was a decent free map tool that allowed basic movement of miniatures round a static map (it came with a selection of fairly generic fantasy maps and miniatures, but it was also easy enough to upload more from images on the iPad). Unfortunately, this app recently moved to a subscription based model, which I don’t really want to get involved with. I am now on the hunt for a replacement option, so shall just make a couple of general comments.
It’s mostly a matter of personal preference, whether you prefer physical miniatures on a battlemat or digital ones on a screen and I’ve certainly seen good uses of both. If you are going down the digital route, the iPad makes things fairly straighforward; you can sketch a map while describing it (using an app like Paper by 53, which I heartily recommend) and then instantly screenshot it, import it into your mapping software, put counters on and get fighting. Of course, if you have time then you can create (or download from the internet) much more exciting maps that add a level of detail to combats. Worth considering if you have a decent sized tv and an adaptor for your tablet.

If anyone has any recommedations for good tablet tools for roleplaying, I’ll be genuinely interested to hear them. In the meantime, I just got my copy of the D&D 5th edition PHB, so I’m going to stop here to go and read a little of it before bed.

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