Gaming with a +5 Technology Bonus
Not too long ago we started a new Dungeons and Dragons 5e campaign, and of course this gave me a chance to see how much I could use technology to go paperless in the game. I have tried this before, using my iPad and Evernote, but that never really covered everything and I was still limited in what I could do, as well as having to switch between apps, etc.
Weapon of Choice – Chromebook
So let’s start with hardware, as I said earlier I had tried the iPad and it worked for the most part, but only to keep track of my gear, spells, etc. not for a full character sheet. What I really wanted was a spreadsheet that I could share with my DM, as well as have it do all those pesky skill equations for me. Google Sheets was perfect for this, but the mobile app on the iPad is less that perfect, plus things on the iPad require a lot more app switching to see everything going on. But sometimes if you want things to work the way you want, you have to go further into the ecosystem, so I bought a Chromebook.
The Chromebook was perfect for this as it ran the full web based Google Sheets in a web browser. This gave me access to all the formulas, and allowed me to run things in multiple tabs, making switching between things very easy. Another nice thing about the Chromebook is its battery life. The Chromebook has a 10 hour battery much like the iPad, but being a full browser it can do a lot more and is much more interactive. In my opinion the Chromebook is what the Netbooks should have been.
Leveling with Google Drive
Knowing I want to use the power of Google Drive, the next step is to get a working Character Sheet. The Character Sheet has 3 tabs at the bottom, one for the character, one for equipment, and one for other details. You will notice that as a Wizard you haven’t seen any spells yet, I will get to that later on. Below I have screen shots of the 3 tabs of my character sheet so you can see how I broke things out.
All of the Attribute Modifiers have been given a Named Range (strmod, dexmod, conmod, intmod, wismod, chamod). This is so that through the whole spreadsheet I can use them as variables in equations, for example my Weapons, Spell Casting, and Skills are all based on formulas using the appropriate modifiers. Another thing that is handy is the Hit Points table at the top, this makes keeping track of damage way easier. And as it is a full Google Sheet in a browser, I am not constantly going between edit and view mode such as in the mobile app.
Casting Spells with Trello
As I said earlier, with my wizard you will notice that my spells are not in Google Drive. At first I started using Google Drive for my spells, but it became too bogged down to use and I looked for other apps. I would like to point out that it did work, I just wanted something that made being able to bring up the full spell description easy, but also allowed me a way to manage my spells without a lot of fuss, and this brings us to the awesomeness that is Trello. Trello makes this really easy as it organizes everything by cards, that you can move between lists, label, etc. You can also open the cards so you can see more text, as well as any links, comments, checklists, pics, etc. With all that said, let’s take a look at my wizard’s spells.
I created the above Trello board for my wizard, making a list for just notes, then a list for Spell Slots. In the Spell Slots list there is a note for each level, and I have it setup with checklists, making it really easy to track when I cast a spell as I can just check it off. Trello keeps a preview on the card of how many items in your checklist you have checked off, making it really easy to see how many spells you have left at a glance. The next list is my Prepared Spells, these are the spells I can cast in a day. The next list is my Cantrips, spells I can cast at will, and then each spell level gets a list of its own. These are the spells I have in my book, and if I want to prepare them so I can cast that for the day, I can just move them from their spell book to the Prepared Spells list.
Now let’s take a look at the spell cards. You will notice on the spell card that I put the spell level in the title along with the name. This makes it a lot easier to track and see at a glance what level the spell is. For damaging spells you will also notice I put the damage roll in the title as well. When you click on the card it opens up with the full spell description on it, making it really easy to pull up when needed, as opposed to taking time to flip through the Player’s Handbook. You will also notice that some of the cards have a red label on them, that is because my wizard has bonus abilities with evocation spells, so all of those have been tagged with red. Blue labels mean the spell is a ritual and I can cast it outside of combat without having to have it prepared.
And don’t worry if this seems daunting, I did not type all that text into the card. There are many great resources online that you can easily copy / paste the text into your Trello card. For my wizard I have used the D&D 5th Edition Wiki for a lot of my wizard spells.
Once I started looking at Trello I did some Google searches and found that a lot of DMs also used it for running their games. Which makes sense as you could easily track the NPCs, locations, missions, all that detail in one place. Another great option is if you keep that data in Google Drive, which again there are benefits as Trello doesn’t do a lot with formatting, there is a powerup that links your Trello with your Google Drive and you can attach links of the Google Drive documents, right to your Trello card. So if you needed to get the full description you would not have to waste any game time digging around Google Drive, or worst, shuffling through papers.
Anyways, if you are looking to up your Dungeons and Dragons gaming with some technology, I would highly suggest start by getting a Chromebook, then use Google Drive and Trello. If nothing else that is a great place to start and works really well for me, but in today’s world there are a lot of hardware, and apps that can make your Dungeons and Dragons game a little more paperless.