Rolling Tools Review

Hi All. Sorry for the long lapse between posts. I honestly thought I could keep up my schedule indefinitely. I’ve been super busy and traveling. I hope to get one post a week out now through Halloween and then back to twice a week starting in November, as well as regular contributions at rpgmusings.com.

It was a funny coincidence when I was asked to review two different iOS die-rolling apps in the same day. I accepted their offer (full disclosure: I got a free copies) and thought it’d be interesting to see how they stacked up against some of the other die rolling app’s that I’ve had on my iPod touch for a long time.

Let me start off by saying that I prefer physical dice to electronic. I love the colors and sounds of the physical act of rolling. Plus, my dice have sentimental attachment. And there’s somehow a sense that physical dice are fairer than the electronic ones, although I’m pretty sure that the electronic die are probably a lot closer to random than my physical ones (even the Game Science dice).

Dice have one big problem… I have to remember to bring them! This past week I forgot my bag with character sheets, minis, dice, etc. Fortunately I go everywhere why my cadre of pod touches and iPads, so I was able to pull up my electronic character sheet on i4e (where is the iPad version??) on the iPad and the rolling apps on my Touch and was ready to go.

I tried out these apps under various conditions. I’ll list the various things I liked and disliked about them, but leave it you to decide which ones, if any, are right for you.

  • Dice Bag [iTunes]. I’ve had Dice Bag on my iPod Touch since I got the thing, maybe 2 years ago. This is a great app that does just one thing: rolls a die. It has one screen with a picture of a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20, and for you old school D&D’ers, there’s a percentile, 3d6, and a 4d6 drop lowest. The graphics are so-so and the die sound is a little hallow. On the positive side it’s very easy to use and free. It currently has 2.5 stars on iTunes review.
  • Mach Dice [iTunes]. Moving a step up, for $0.99, this app lets you roll an arbitrary set of dice, so you could for instance roll a 2d4 + d8 damage with one go. You roll by shaking the device, which gives a nice physical feeling to rolling. You can pin a subset of dice to reroll just a few. You can customize a ton of the graphics, from the die color, background textures, pip types, etc. However the dice are surprisingly aliased looking. It also gives you several fields of dice, so you can have one screen that rolls your attack and another for the damage die. The roll action makes a good craps table noise. The die rolling is fun, but a bit sensitive. It’s a good general purpose app that you can use for Yahtzee or other games as well. The app currently has 3.5 stars on iTunes review.
  • Feudz Dice [iTunes]. This is a new-comer the app store. It is $1.99 but also has a free version [iTunes]. Feudz Dice combines the best aspects of Dice Bag and Mach Dice. The top screen has your choice of single die (d2-d100) and under the “Complex” tab is the ability to put in up to 7 multi-dice expressions (5 in free version). If you pay for the full version you don’t get ads, and there is a 3rd screen where you can save “groups” of rolls. This lets you create a custom roll for each power, for example and save them as a group. This lets you put in variables such as “level” and “base attack” into that expression. Finally there’s a “Tavern” tab which is just extras and settings. The graphics are top notch and well-themed for D&D, but the rolling sound is too mechanical, and there are no animations. The app launches quickly, which is a plus. I’m not sure I’d use the more complicated die rolls, since its pain to input all the information from my character sheet. I’d rather just press the die number several times, or use a character sheet tool for rolling powers. 5 stars on Itunes reviews.
  • iTools Game [iTunes]. This $1.99 app has one thing going for it that the others don’t. It comes with both English and Italian versions, which you can choose at startup (instead of it using the normal iOS localization route). Unfortunately the English translation is not that good, which can be distracting for some users. The App also unfortunately has a more complicated navigation system with inproper usage of UIActionSheet and other iOS menus. One thing I do like is that on the “Advanced” Die screen, which has your choice of various-sided dice, there is also a bar to let you quickly choose the number (so you can do 3d6 with two taps instead of three and having to total in your head). It unfortunately has a separate views for d6’s, and d2’s. The app suffers from trying to do too much. It has a generic score-keeper, but not as nice as the Score app, and it also has other modes for Dungeons & Dragons and magic. The Magic view has life and mana counters, as well as text fields for some other use. The D&D views have hard to navigate forms to replicate a character sheet. And this being a dice app, it’s unfortunate that you can’t even make rolls for the stats once you put them in. The graphics are okay, except that the “rolling” animations are dizzying spins and go on too long. The dice sounds is pretty good, actually. No ratings on iTunes.

Overall these apps do exactly as promised, but none are as fast or satisfying as rolling actual dice. In a pinch, I’d put on Feudz or Dice Bag, especially since they are both free.

Blog News

There’s been a lot going on in personal-life-land that’s made it hard to keep up my three times a week schedule. Long time followers may have noticed that I’ve missed it twice in the past two months. However, I don’t want to give up blogging, so I’ve done two things: (1) Accepted an offer to guest post on RPG Musings. I plan on posting there ~3 times a month on topics that will be more DM-focused or general role-playing. This way I can keep the player focus of this blog and still talk about other things. (2) I’m going to change my posting schedule. I’m going to instead try for 2 times a week: once on Tuesday/Wednesday and again on Thursday/Friday. I know that this makes it harder to know when to come to the page to read the latest post (sorry for that). Thankfully the Internet has several great solutions for that: follow me on twitter: @mikesdndblog, or subscribe to the RSS Feed. I recommend using Google Reader.

I wanted to thank all of you readers for your input and readership, and in particular for the comments on the posts. I feel like you all have helped me improve my game and have more fun.

So have a good 4th of July! I hope you all get some sun and some gaming in, and I’ll be coming at you next week. Here with an exciting post (7 Ways to Stab your DM with a Fork), and at RPG Musings with a cache of cursed item.

Where Do You Game?

A few months ago, this totally awesome D&D room made the internet rounds.  The guy has a totally crazy collection of gaming memorabilia, and a tricked out room to showcase it and play games. The description of the integrated lighting and sounds makes it seem more like a theme park attraction than a room in what might otherwise be a normal house.  Although I can’t imagine ever having enough rooms in my house to dedicate one entirely to gaming, I wouldn’t mind upping my geek cred by having a regular space for games and gaming.

We don’t game at my apartment because the space isn’t sized, shaped, or furnished for it. Instead our GM hosts the game in her dining room. As you can see here, she’s got a sweet setup with computer and recording equipment. On the table is our books, character sheets, and minis representing the heroes about to die. Although some libations did make it into the photo, missing is the awesome pulled pork we had for dinner.

Our Gaming Room

Where do you game? Growing up we gamed in kitchens, basements, and the public library. In college we generally used a study room or the floor of someone’s dorm. Now that I’m a little older, I insist on an actual table and chairs. Of course people are now gaming over the internet, which makes space less of an issue, if you’ve got a laptop and a desk or table.

I’m at PAX East

If I’ve set things up correctly this post will drop while I am hanging at PAX East! It’s been months of looking forward to get my geek on, and I’m sure it won’t disappoint. Assuming my internet connection is good, and you want to meet up, tweet me @TheMikeKatz. The next few days are going to be crazy so I may not have a post ready for Monday. If not I’ll have my post-PAX post ready to go on Wednesday. In the meantime, this is how I’m preparing…

 

 

 

  • I’ve got my board games:
  • I’ve got my role playing books, paper, pencils, dice, minis, etc:
  • I’ve got snacks, nintendo DS, iPod touch, camera, and chargers…

Now all I need to do is figure out to cram everything into a small, unobtrusive bag and where to park…

Have a great weekend everyone! And if you’re not there, get your group together and play.

Happy New Year

It’s hard to believe it’s 2010. This year will be 4th Edition’s 3rd year (and my blog’s second). I’m looking forward to all new monsters, dungeon tiles, and of course, Player’s Handbook 3.  PHB3 will have additional Psion builds and hopefully some new Psion feats and items to use in my game. I’m also looking forward to the Dark Sun setting. I enjoyed the original novels but not so much the setting when I played it in 2E. Thematically it felt like a mix of  Planescape and Dune, and it never really jazzed me. I’m the only person I know who enjoyed Spelljammer, so you don’t have to follow my opinion. This time I think they’ll do a much better job than before. What I find interesting is how they will adapt the 4th edition philosphy to the setting.

As for this blog, I’m looking forward to trying out some new moves at the table for improving my play and the experiences of my game-mates. I’ll share here what worked and what didn’t, and continue to review player tools, talk about how to handle playing through various fantasy tropes, and how to work with a DM following all the great advice out there on the interwebs.

Retooling this blog

Previously, I didn’t have a purpose for this blog other than to rant about various Wizard’s activities.  I always meant to turn out sage advice for DMs in the same way so many of the blogs I respect. Unfortunately for those plans my next chance to master the dungeon keeps moving further and further away, taking with it ability to test my advice and theories. So… instead I’m going to write advice for players, as a player. Since my DM keeps abreast of all the major blogs on DMing, I can use this as rebuttal, counterpoint, or thumbs up to how all that new advice and theory stacks up against the player perspective.