Smartphones at the gaming table

I was looking for a good dice roller for my smartphone. Some of them looked neat with nicely animated dice. You want 6d6 where one dice has different color? It is easy with drag and drop adding dice, shaking the phone and seeing how the dice stops. Of course sometimes they stopped on top of each other, at other cases on their edges, but it is easy to reroll when needed.

Of course I was still disappointed and decided to make some custom solution for myself. Because nice graphics and animation, drag and drop interface were still slow as hell when I have tried to use it. Why? Because in an average game you have many different kinds of dice rolls. And when you have to "reset" the dice roller, drag new dice to screen and have to do it one at a time and only then you shake the phone to roll your dice that is a bit slow. 

And in some cases it can be much slower than real dice.

The custom solution doesn't have any animation. It has a few tiles. Each tile has 3 lines printed on it:

  • A comment (like Attack Roll)
  • A dice code (Like 1d20 or 1d20+17)
  • And the last result.

If you press a tile, the last result part updates with a new dice roll.

If you press the little gear icon and press a tile after that... You will see a small "dialog" where you can update the first two lines. It can handle rerolls, joker dice and various mechanics. Hey, it can even count successes if I want to run a Shadowrun 3rd edition game. 

To make it ready for the store would take a bit more time, but now I have a custom dice roller on my phone. Yeah.

Probably most of you experienced some similar challenge. Some of you had the skills to make a custom solution, some others probably still use a clumsy dice roller.

But then I asked myself: We have smartphones. We have Raspberry Pi and we might have plenty of other solutions. Some new games can use this "advanced electronics" instead of plain old dice mechanics. 

With software: natural distribution is easy. In fact we can have any kinds of distribution.

With an "electronic character sheet" even XP and leveling up can use more complex math without making it any less accessible for players.

We can have better results with equal effort. At least if our target audience doesn't just loathe electronics at the gaming table.

Maybe they would hate to use a smartphone where some players would just launch Angry Birds, but some custom electrinics that can make the gameplay more interesting would get different treatment, and it would be a bit harder to copy. 

Something that can add to the mood. Say some electronics that can sense your had from a few inches distance and respond it with runes for fantasy settings, or any matching gizmo for scifi settings.

It is one of the newer options you can consider when you design your own game system.