My Useful Apps Spotlight: Jan 2014

The beautiful part of tabletop games as a hobby is once the lights go out, the games go on. But it still doesn’t hurt to take advantage of our modern wonders to help speed things up a bit (or, at least, lighten the load for game night and free up some table space.)

In the past I’ve praised Masterplan for being one of the most complete software suites from Dungeon Masters. The only downside is a lot of the software itself aims specifically at 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. While a lot of the bells and whistles are system agnostic, I felt trying to ignore the 4e-centric tools made for too much distraction in my game prep process.

So this past weekend, with the kickoff of our d20/3.5 Ptolus campaign, I was pleased as punch with the alternatives I found to assist in my campaign prep and combat management, all maintained on my mobile devices and rarely was a book needed to be cracked open on my end.

OneNote (Windows 8, Web via Skydrive, and Android)

Generally speaking, I prefer open sourced alternatives to Microsoft Office (LibreOffice being my favorite.) That said, when I bought my new Windows 8 laptop I was instantly smitten with OneNote MX preinstalled (but is free on the Windows 8 store.) While I’ve tried to adopt services like Evernote or Google’s Keep, OneNote has been the only service that behaves the way I want it to. One of the biggest features is simply how you can organize your information on a page: you can create and edit blocks of text however you need to, not just locked in like a word processor page. I’m able to not only write up the notes for a scene, but keep track of stat blocks to the side, import images or maps for reference, and if I have to I can even keep track of initiative or health on the fly. Prior to this weekend, I’ve used it extensively for REWIRED as well as Fate Accelerated.  I actually keep templates I’ve thrown together in a general “Gaming” notebook so I can quickly slap NPC stats down.

A glimpse of one of my encounters in OneNote. Encounter text, monster stat block, and a map for reference.

The cool part here is not only can keep multiple pages of notes in a campaign file, but entire sections of pages, and even set pages up as sub-pages. You can also link to other notepages, allowing you to setup quick references throughout your plans. And the best part for me? Not being restricted to a single platform. I was able to work on the OneNote MX app on my laptop, the web version on my desktop, and then run the game entire through the Android app on my Nexus 7 tablet.

Combat Assistant

Combat Assistant is an initiative tracker for Android devices. It was primarily designed for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but with the customized field options it’s easy to use with 3.5 or other editions as well.  It may not be perfect, and is definitely NOT a “universal” solution (it pretty much sticks to rolling a d20 for initiative) but what it does, it does well.

Customizing fields from 4E to d20/3.5
Customizing fields from 4E to d20/3.5
A look at the combat screen, with players and monsters mixed in. Plus conditions.
A look at the combat screen, with players and monsters mixed in. Plus conditions.
Picture taken from the Play Store Page, demonstrating how you can add thumbnail images.
Picture taken from the Google Play Store Page, demonstrating how you can add thumbnail images.












You can try out a free version, but the $0.99 price tag for the full version is perfectly worth being able to save, edit, and even backup your NPC’s, Monsters and Players for future use.

Handy Website Find: Mikael Börjesson’s Monster Project

One of the neatest finds I discovered completely by accident was this Swedish site that has translated a ton of the d20 OGL monster stat blocks into the Monster Manual IV format, both in Swedish and English. While there’s a lot of things I love about D&D third edition, book keeping on the Monster end drove me batshit. The revised stat blocks for these critters has made me incredibly happy, especially since they copy and paste perfectly into OneNote.

So while it’s been a while since I ran D&D, especially any third edition (easily it’s been five years…) it was awesome to find a couple digital assistants that have really aided in not only my prep time, but also kept the pace of the actual play pretty quick. If you have any other solutions you enjoy, and think I should check out, feel free to drop a note in the comments.

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