Role-playing reviews

Reviews related to role-playing games, with a focus on Gods & Monsters, and a bit of superhero gaming.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

A gaming library in my pocket?

Jerry Stratton, May 10, 2011

Books on the iPad (small)

Drag a PDF into this window to add a book to iBooks.

I’m not generally one to jump on the latest technology. Back when Brad was adapting the Gods & Monsters manuals to the Palm I was probably still using a Motorola StarTAC. It worked, and reliably.

But I got an iPad about a month ago; my 2001-era PowerBook G4 had developed an annoying vertical bar on the monitor, and the wireless was going out. It had also become fragile; I didn’t take it traveling any more because it had a tendency to start crashing after getting bumped around.

Given what I used it for—taking notes while reading, browsing the web while watching movies, and playing games while waiting for a plane—it made sense to replace it with an iPad rather than another laptop. This also allowed me to buy navigation software rather than a dedicated map unit.

Last weekend, we had our game within walking distance of my apartment. Normally, I load all of my gaming books into a 1968-era attache case I found in the trash. I bring every adventure they’ve been in, just in case they have a question about the past, I can look it up. It’s heavy. At one point it destroyed my convertible top, although in its defense the canvas was old, thin, and dry from the California sun. But I wasn’t about to drive when I could walk, and I wasn’t about to lug that thing while walking. So I loaded only the necessary books into my messenger bag.

Then it occurred to me I might be able to load the rest of them up as PDFs in the free iBooks app. I only had a couple of minutes, so I just opened up iTunes, when to the Books section, and tried dragging a PDF to it. There it was! I dragged everything else in, synced it, and the PDFs were all in the iPad.

iBook bookshelf

If you’re trying to count them up, there are more books here than you’ll ever see on the Broadsheet. Two of them are for Fight On! and a couple are skins of other people’s adventures.

Reading the Gods & Monsters PDFs is very smooth. It’s also easy to search for something. I keep short notes on every gaming session in a word processing document; I saved that as PDF and put it in, too. They had a question about a belt they found a long time ago; I was able to search on “belt” and found it from several years ago.

You can also bookmark items within a PDF, and quickly switch to a view that shows only the bookmarked pages within a book. (I don’t see a way to see all bookmarked pages in all books at once.)

PDFs can be sectioned into “Collections”, so that all your gaming stuff can be separate from your electronics manuals and your purchased books.

It does not support storing images. On the Mac, it’s easy enough to open images and save them as PDFs, but it would be nice not to have to do that, since maps are often images.

If a document changes, you can replace it by right-clicking it in the Books list and choosing “Show in Finder” (presumably it will be named something else on Windows). Then you can replace it in the finder. However, somewhat annoying if you have documents that change a lot, whenever you update a document it will pop back into the PDF Collection; you’ll need to move it to the correct collection each time it’s updated. Also, sometimes it won’t pick up on the need to synchronize unless I fake rename it or the author.

iPad bookmarks

If you bookmark some pages, you can switch to a view that shows only the pages you’ve bookmarked in that book.

I’ll still want to use paper for the current adventure; it’s still a lot easier to juggle things happening in multiple places. And I’ll probably still want to keep paper copies of the “big” adventures on hand. But those notes I’ve been keeping on the adventure? They’re coming in on a quarter inch thick or more. They’re history. Given what they’re used for, it’s much easier to keep them on the iPad so that they can be searched on the fly.

Music and pictures

But the other uses are for music. Those portable speakers I bought four years ago are likely to sit in the closet now. The iPad’s speakers are just fine for gaming purposes.

And I experimented with using the iPod Touch for storing images while they were in the jungle cities of Angwat—mostly just slightly retouched photos of Angkor Wat. The iPod is of course too small for that, but with Air Sharing I was able to turn the iPod into a web server, and they were able to view them on a laptop using a web browser. However, it did mean someone had to have a laptop at the table, which meant (a) handing the iPod around the table when they got to the temple, or (b) taking time out to make room on our very crowded gaming table for a laptop. With the iPad, that’s not a problem. It’s little more trouble to carry around than any other book.

Other tablets

I expect other tablets can do this sort of thing too, so if you have any experiences with them, add them to the comments.

“…and I’ve learned a tune or to, so I’m well prepared to ramble, and must go…”

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