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A GM’s Guide to the iPad, Part 3 (Video!)

Previously we’ve spent time discussing the potential for the use of the iPad as a GM’s tool, the applications, accessories, and potential workflow. Now, bringing it all together, we’re happy to demonstrate the iPad in action and give you a glimpse of what’s possible.

It’s important to also keep in mind that as of this writing, the iPad has only been out for six days. Not to provide excuses for the fledgling device—which has already sold some 450,000 units—but as an indicator that as the platform matures there will most certainly be new uses and applications to enhance functionality. Just this week Apple announced the preview of iPhone OS 4 which will find its way to the iPad, bringing multitasking, a slew of new APIs for developers to leverage, and a gaming-centric social network.


In my usage this past week I’ve found the iPad to be, in some ways, a solution looking for a problem. No, the device doesn’t fill any one gap that existed in my life, but it does bring a great deal of convenience. The rub being, is the cost of admission worthy of this convenience? For most, possibly not. Having been a part of the iPhone “revolution” from the beginning, I’m confident that we’ll see a similar ecosystem arise from the iPad. Disruptive technology is like that.

The great things that I like about the device are its speed, display, and battery life. The speed in particular is very nice. Having come from the two previous iterations of the iPhone (prior to the 3GS), I was hesitant to believe that Apple could deliver on their promises without killing battery life. But they did, with a custom CPU chipset and marrying it with a large battery (the bulk of the iPad is all battery). I haven’t gotten less than 10 hours out of the unit. This isn’t standby time, this is continous use. Standby time would likely be measured in a week or so.

The IPS display is crisp and vibrant, and the touchscreen best in class in this type of device. Not much to be said here. That it can play all of my Blu-ray rips at 720p is no small feat. Thankfully I don’t have to re-encode my entire digital library!

iTunes is increasingly becoming poorly named. The iPad takes a long time to handshake and sync, causing iTunes to come to a standstill on my 8-core Mac Pro. In fact, iTunes feels like the weak link. Sideloading content on the iPad is not intutive at all, very un-Apple like. It’s slow and it’s frustrating, and it’s hidden. Getting content to and from the iPad is harder than it needs to be.

Lack of printing is a WTF? moment but like the ads say, “there’s an app for that” (or soon will be). Perhaps even addressed in iPhone OS 4.

But sitting down and having the iPad on your lap and using it, the device just melts away. It’s a bit like “Minority Report” in that after a few moments you’re directly using the Internet; the device disappears. The iPad is instantly on and never gets warm during use. It’s amazingly fast and, thus far, hasn’t crashed. (I have had GoodReader lock up on me, however.)

It won’t revolutionize the way you run your games, but it may cause you to think differently about how you run them, and that’s a good thing.

The Videos

We have three to share with you from Gnome Stew Videos [1]. The first covers a basic introduction, the iBooks app and PDF viewing. The second tackles two of Apple’s big applications, Pages (word processor) and Keynote (presentation). Our final installment takes an in depth look at Safari on the iPad and navigating the Internet.


A GM’s Video Guide to the iPad in RPGs, Part 1 [2]

A GM’s Video Guide to the iPad in RPGs, Part 2 [3]

A GM’s Video Guide to the iPad in RPGs, Part 3 [4]

Next up, gnome porn? Don’t tease us.

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "A GM’s Guide to the iPad, Part 3 (Video!)"

#1 Comment By John Arcadian On April 10, 2010 @ 9:10 am

I’ve been looking for a solution like this for a while. Two of my players started bringing netbooks to game, and I have to say, the stuff they can do with those little things is geek-sexy. I run off a laptop right now, but I could totally see running off of a netbook or an Ipad.

Sadly, even though they are going to implement multi-tasking in the Ipad soon, there are still enough minor drawbacks that prevent it from meeting my needs.

Great series Don!

#2 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 10, 2010 @ 10:20 am

This whole series has been fantastic, Don — you’re off to a killer start! I’m also glad you dragged us kicking and screaming into the 21st Century with these videos; we’ve never done anything with video before, and it’s nifty.

Alysia commented while watching the first one that you sound like a professional presenter, and I agree. Nice work!

#3 Comment By Don Mappin On April 10, 2010 @ 10:32 am

Glad you like it, John!

One last point I’d like to mention for buyers, irrespective of whether you’re interested in the WiFi or 3G version of the iPad, is buy as much storage as you can afford.

The iPad is all about consumption and you want that data/media on your device. You want your entire RPG library on the iPad, not portions of it. Because that one time you need that book and it isn’t on there…yea, you’ll be frustrated.

Also, have iTunes sync audio content and auto-sample the bitrate down to 128kbs; you won’t likely notice the minor loss in audio fidelity on the iPad and you’ll–literally–save GB of space on your iPad. In my case I reclaimed about 6GB of space on my 32GB iPad. iTunes doesn’t touch the original source files.

#4 Comment By Nojo On April 10, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

Love the Gnome-O-Vision, amazing job!

One thing this and other eBook readers gives you is a nice flat surface. No more worrying about breaking the spine of the book or using your dice bag to hold the book open to the right page.

#5 Comment By zencorners On April 11, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

[5] – Love the series, and it’s seriously has me siding with the iPad over the HP Slate at this point. I’d love the 64GB version or spending the extra $$ on a USB enabled router to share the external 1TB drive I have. I noticed you had the Evernote icon on your iPad do you use the app much for prep work? Or does most of your prep work occur in your word-processor?

#6 Comment By Don Mappin On April 12, 2010 @ 10:23 am

@zencorners — I like the concept behind Evernote I just haven’t mastered its usage (yet). On the iPad, the Evernote application is very similar to the desktop Evernote program. There’s not a whole lot to say about Evernote; it’s good for capturing snippits of data (in particular I store web snippits in Evernote) and having access to them. As a game prep tool, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how to best do that.

Martin did an article on using Evernote to capture ideas, not-so-much on using it for prep work:

For this weeks game I did my prep in Pages and sideloaded into the iPad. It was similar to the week prior, save that I was now able to enter and make notes. I setup a iPad-friendly template in Pages: .25 margins, one column on the left side, right side for PDF object snippits from my books (stat blocks, etc). Worked well.

#7 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 12, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

[7] – As a game prep tool, I’d skip past Evernote and just combine my word processor/text program of choice with Dropbox. Dropbox is awesome!

The only situation I could see doing actual prep (as opposed to just writing little notes throughout the week) in Evernote would be if a) I owned Apple’s bluetooth keyboard, and b) I was stuck on a plane with that, my iPhone, and no netbook.

#8 Comment By zencorners On April 13, 2010 @ 4:45 am

[8] – Could see that as well (prep on a plane). I ask about Evernote because I currently prep my games in OneNoteand have been tempted to transition to Evernote. I also LOVE the combination of Dropbox and (insert tool name here). between Excel, Word and OneNote files in a shared directory I always have access to my game in the cloud!

#9 Comment By AntTheLimey On April 14, 2010 @ 11:44 am

Here’s a quick summary of useful apps I have found so far & why:

DropBox (free): install on your PC & iPad. Drop files in it on one machine, access on the other. Brilliant! Drop your Rulebooks & characters in PDF form for instant readability. not a native iPad app yet (is an iPhone one) but its coming

GoodReader ($0.99): Best PDF Reader around. can connect to dropbox for you, and then save locally. i keep all my rulebooks and character printouts in here. you can search them, and it can rip the text out of the doc and display as a pure text view for easier reading, where you can change background/font colour and size.

PrimoPDF (for PC – Free): This installs a virtual Printer that prints to PDF for you. Very Very handy for any character or map generation programs that cannot save to PDF. Just print them to primoPDF! then drop the files in DropBox, watch them show up in GoodReader.

Evernote (free): For both iPad and PC. Write notes, watch them synch to all devices! I set up a notebook for each different game, and am now using evernote to store all my game content I generate. hell, I’m using it for ALL my content!

Maci Map Maker ($3.99): MUST BUY! right now its iPhone format, but its still amazing. He’s working on an iPad native version. Create a hex-map in seconds. drop icons on it. Resize, rotate, or move the icons with your fingers. Bloody brilliant!! this app eliminated our hexmaps, miniatures, free-floating coins, sticky-tape markers, and hunders of other little doodads we’d accumulated over the years for doing combat. The absolute BEST part is I no longer need to make Combat maps ahead of time, nor try to clean them afterwards.

As I find more, I’ll try to remember to come back here and update.


#10 Comment By Gamerprinter On April 16, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

We have a rule in our gaming group – no electronic devices in the gaming room. That means no laptops, no cell phones, no IPhones, and thus no IPads. I tried to bring a laptop using a VT app just to assist in DM management and everyone complained. We are a group of grognards, even though some of those grognards are only 22 years old (most are 47 years old.)

So as helpful such devices could be to assist a tabletop game – we will never use such. While I can appreciate that others might and should really. This doesn’t describe our group, so it will never happen.

#11 Comment By Gamerprinter On April 22, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

Despite my misgivings for bringing electronics into my personal games, I’ve just been contacted by the president/owner of RPGNet about doing a commission for several maps to be used in an IPAD experiment.

I will be creating a tavern map, then a city map, then a regional map, where one click zooms into different maps each consisting of multiple 1024 x 768 slices to view the entire map.

So it looks like I’ll be developing art/maps for the bleeding edge of technology – pretty cool!