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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Techno-GM

July 2nd, 2007 (11:33 pm)
current location: KY16 8SX

Last weekend's game was my first experience as a techno-GM, thanks to a loan of msinvisfem's laptop, and the wonders of WiFi.

I guess I have been a techno-player before, as there's one game in particular (Aulm, for those who will know what I'm talking about) where I used a Quicksheet spreadsheet and HanDBase databases on a Palm III in order to keep track of cascading changes to  attributes and skills (in the case of my character sheet, in Quicksheet) and relationships between people, places and events (in a linked collection of HanDBase databases).

That experience was fairly successful and certainly helped me to keep on top of things. However, I haven't really repeated it for other games. I think that's because the other games I've played in since then have been more easily tracked with brainpower, pencil and paper, so I've not felt the same urge to invest some time in designing spreadsheets/databases to cope. I'm also not new to the Palm and an avid learner of the new systems, as I was then!

However, it has shown me that electronic systems can bring something to the management of a game, so although I was prepared to run with pencil and paper alone, I was willing to take up the offer of a loaner laptop to try running a game with technology.

I didn't have much in the way of electronic systems to run, because of my base assumption that I'd have to run with pencil and paper, but even so there were a couple of ways in which the laptop proved useful.

My note-taking during the game, while it still dropped off a bit as things got more interesting, was more organised, legible and structured than would otherwise have been the case. I typed things directly into a GM's wiki using (which I mentioned in another post recently), and was also able to look things up in a player's wiki that may become more publicly available at some point in the future, once I have a less embarrassing dearth of content and a technical solution that will make it practical.

The wiki structure was loose enough not to feel restrictive despite the lack of prior design. Doing the same thing with a database would be restrictive without some serious thought prior to use, as I occasionally found with my HandDBase efforts. However, it is encouraging enough of structure that I may have a clue how to navigate it in future, and I won't lose the bit of paper in a pile of other, similar pieces of paper. It was very easy to add cross-references on the fly. I imagine this will be very valuable, though I do wonder what navigation will be like once there's a lot of information to navigate through.

I was also able to wield the mighty power of Google to our advantage; when the topic of cab fares came up in the game, I was able to get a ball-park figure for Victorian cab fares directly from the web. Of course, electronic GM-ing also offers the help of Excel for dealing with all those knock-on effects of wounds.

I have never (yet) been the owner of a laptop, but I am considering the possibility next time I get myself a new machine and this experience is a point in its favour.