I've lurked on this website for a long time and learned a lot. I've contributed only a few times. Perhaps I don't deserve anyone's help, but I'd like to ask people for their opinions in regards to tabletop game play that has certain isolated elements controlled by a laptop or mobile app.
I've already seen a few comments in unrelated threads, such as "...the idea of needing a computer and a printer to play a game is nuts...," so I realize some people are going to be visualizing a certain setup that is a pain in the ass.
My vision is Avalon Hill type tabletop games (or with miniatures) that have some extended functionality handed over to the computer, without it being a hassle for the players. That is the focus of this post.
However, DM & GM-facing computer-based tools are interesting, so if you are a GM and this has you thinking, feel free to comment.
What I'm referring to would keep the social group exeperience of a tabletop game. It would not force players to use a computer. A single laptop or mobile device would add some features to the experience.
But the game would be an actual tabletop game that keeps traditional approach to a map or game board, actual miniatures, the dice is still rolled on the table, there are physical paper character sheets.
So what features would players like to see in this scenario?
What can be added without involving players at all:
* time of day/night
These three elements do not require player interaction for the computer to be able to deliver this to the overall experience.
Imagine a 15-foot long miniplug cord that is delivered with a tabletop game. This miniplug cord goes from the laptop (or mobile device) to your stereo or surround-sound system, or any other speaker setup.
With that one addition of a cord, it's possible to deliver high-quality audio to a tabletop game.
The naysayers would say: "I don't want to be forced into using specific audio." But the reality is that the best movies and computer games have high-quality audio that is hard-wired into the experience, and players will never take the time to assemble some sort of audio soundtrack for a tabletop game (maybe you have if your hardcore into RPG and you put together a music mix for your D&D game, etc., but most people will never take the time to do that).
Then, there are a few other elements that can be added to the computer-engine, that is "loosely coupled," meaning that the players will not have to type or do a lot of clicking. A USB button could be added easily and when this button is pressed, the engine can deliver:
* or the passage of time without events or quests, which can also build suspense.
At this point, it is possible to manage "world state" for the tabletop game, which has never been done with tabletop games, that I know of.
World state is what the DM traditionally keeps track of when actions change the state of the world. If you kill the dragon, then that dragon will not be available for future events, etc.
Thus, the completion of certain quests can change "world state" and this is managed by the engine, and affects what other events happen or quests are delivered.
(An example of this type of dynamic quest engine with world state can be seen here, if you're interested
What we want is to keep people focused on the board game or tabletop game, and not having to mess with the computer or phone all the time.
But to say that technology cannot be used to enhance tabletop games is narrow-minded and short-sighted in my opinion.
I'm interested in knowing what features that experienced players would like to see in a tabletop game engine, to enhance the experience.
As a novelist, I once imagined a D&D-type technology that was like VR, but only in that your characters and the scenery and the monsters were all CGI and dynamic. A dungeon master controlled the game just like any D&D experience. But of course, in the novel, the technology for that D&D game was based on ET tech.
Of course, in the real world we have to scale it back a bit because we don't have alien ET tech to enhance the tabletop games (at least I don't anyway).
However, I am a professional full-time Unity game dev, so what I'm describing in this post is actually possible, and I have a working prototype.
One final thought: I'd like to ask anyone who comments to assume that the "creation" of computer-based tools can be done well, without bugs, and without hassle in setup. Thus, we would not be discussing whether a game designer is able to complete a working computer-engine prototype or product. I would love it if any discussion could be about what features would be cool, and not whether it's possible or not, etc.