Sarah Darkmagic's blog


Initial Thoughts on HP Mini 311

My husband recently bought me an HP Mini 311 as a Christmas gift. I'd been wanting a netbook for quite awhile, especially since my laptop hard drive is pretty full and I didn't have a dedicated Windows machine. Besides a 15" MacBook Pro is a bit large for our gaming table and having a digital copy of my gaming notes will improve my DMing experience. After a fair bit of research and a few anxious moments, I decided on a HP Mini 311. The reasons I purchased it are pretty simple:

  • Larger display for a netbook at 11.6" on the diagonal.
  • NVIDIA ION Graphic Card
  • Decent size hard drive and ram (I got the 1025NR with 250GB hard drive and 2GB RAM
  • Pretty nice screen resolution at 1366x768
  • Windows 7
  • Decent battery life (I got at least 4 hours of constant use and pretty bright screen while at Starbucks the other day)
  • Decent size keyboard (92% of full)

I've been using the machine since Tuesday, and I have to admit I'm quite happy with it. One of the minor annoyances was quite easy to deal with. The touch pad can be quite sensitive, especially when tapping is turned on, so I turned off the touch pad tap capabilities. The other annoyances just have to do with getting used to Windows after a long voluntary absence. As for playing D&D with the machine, I believe this is going to make running games much easier. I already have the WoTC Character Builder and Adventure Tools installed as well as a number of other tools such as Softrope. Obsidian Portal, Dungeon Mastering Tools and D&D Minion are all bookmarked and ready to go. I can use them and Google wave and docs on any machine to prep my game and access it all easily on the mini during the game. And I'm pretty confident that the machine will handle most of what I throw at it given I play WoW on it as well.

Overall I think netbooks in general and this one in particular are going to become more and more prevalent at the gaming table. I'm excited to see where this all goes.

Blogs I love: Buccaneer's Guild

Iain Norman, @teknohippy, writes a great blog called Buccaneer's Guild. He writes a bunch about using Photoshop to improve your game through maps and handouts. In particular, he loves drawing maps, both with pen and paper and digital tools. I hope to sit down with some of his tutorials soon and learn how he crafts his great images.

Recent Posts

Softrope - Soundtrack for Your Games

In addition to the great blog he writes, Iain also works on Softrope, an RPG sound mixer for DMs. I've used an earlier version and I'm hoping that my netbook will be able to run it as well.

Softrope brings customisable organic soundscapes like rainstorms, battles and creepy dungeons as well as spot effects such as growls, screams and explosions to your tabletop RPG. Music tracks can also be added to any scene.

Softrope allows you to build a collection of sound-based scenes. You build each scene with simple single sound-effects, layered up to create a more complex soundscape.

Arete: Experience the Greek epic

Arete (pronounced are-E-tay) is a new role playing game from Expy Games based on greek mythology. The designer is Nick DiPetrillo, @DMingNicholas. Nick also wrote Zombie Murder Mystery, Sailing Stormy Waters, and many articles on the Dungeon Mastering blog.

Designed to be Greek

However, that description alone doesn't really do it justice. This product doesn't use the bolt-on approach similar games have used, instead it was designed from the ground up to be a focused on Greek mythology. The game design focused on four principles for creating a Greek feel:

  1. Greek heroes are defined by the size of their actions, not the morality.
  2. Combat in Greek epics is fast, visceral and bloody.
  3. Gods play a constant role in the lives of heroic figures, for better or worse.
  4. Greeks have a unique culture, including elements like blood guilt, guest friendship and proper ritual.

Players are Story-Tellers Too

In addition to designing the game specifically for greek mythology, Nick sought to create a game focused on more cooperative story telling. In fact, players attempt to win narration rights during conflicts. This means that players are given a lot of story telling opportunities. For instance, the player not only indicates that he wants to fib but also gets to create what that lie might be. This can help DMs who are short on time as well as help make the game as exciting for the DM as it is for the players since the DM will never know how the story is going to go. This cooperative element of the game is driven by four more design principles.

  1. The story should be driven by the players and goals of their characters.
  2. The players and game master establish the premise of the game together. From that point on it is the role of the game master to be reactionary to the players and introduce complication to their goals.
  3. Players should compete for glory but not seek to undermine or defeat each other. The characters are all working towards the game goal, they just want to be the most impressive in attaining it.
  4. Even failure should be fun, sending the story in an unexpected direction.

What You Get

When you purchase Arete, you will be able to download a zip file. Once unzipped, you will have 3 pdfs: a character sheet and two versions of the game information, one with artwork and a printer friendly version. The game information itself consists of the following bits:

Table of Contents
Introduction
- The Making of a Greek Hero?
Conflict Resolution
- The Essence of Arete
- Types of Conflict
- Narration Rights
Character Generation
- Overview
- Abilities
- Traits
- Magic Items
- Goals and Boons
Combat, Injury and Death
- Combat
- Wounds, Recovery and Death
The Culture of Arete
- Ariestea
- Blood Guilt
- Divine Favor
- Gender
Running Arete
- Role of the GM
- Campaign Building
- Setting Obstacles and Scores
Allies and Enemies
- Bestiary
- The Gods
References

In addition to the 40+ pages of Arete content, people who purchase the book will get lifetime updates, customer support via forums, email or toll-free phone number, and, if you don't like it, there is a 90 day money-back guarantee.

The Company

I haven't had the chance to play this game, but I have purchased other items from Dungeon Mastering and I've contacted Yax (@dmyax) before. I've found Yax to be a great guy and very easy to deal with. Recently I purchased the Dungeon Mastering Tools and realized after that there was a deal that I had missed. I contacted him and I was reimbursed the money I would have saved.

Quick Note and Excerpt

Being female, I often worry about how genders are treated in role-playing games, particularly historically-based ones. Nick dedicates a section of the rules to discussing his use of masculine pronouns in discussing Greek heroes and also gives suggestions one female heroes players might want to use. Finally, he states that if any of the social restrictions in the game would hinder enjoyment, the players should feel free to get rid of those portions of the game. This is often a thorny subject so I'm glad he decided to take it head on.

An excerpt of the first chapter can be found on the Arete game info page.

Spell Book iPhone App by Robertson Games

Basic Information

Stuart Robertson, @robertsongames, released a new iPhone app, Spell Book. More information can be found on his website, Robertson Games

Spell Book is a handy quick reference for all the spells you'll need for your game, organized by name, class and level. You can also save your favorite spells to your personalized spell book to find more easily during your game.

Game Systems

  • Swords & Wizardry
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • Original D&D

Screenshots

Title ScreenTitle ScreenMy SpellsMy SpellsIndividual SpellIndividual SpellSpells By Class and LevelSpells By Class and LevelSpell CategoriesSpell Categories

Initial Impressions

First, I need to admit that I don't play any of the games this app is aimed at. However, I'm an avid iPhone user and feel that I still have some insight to give. The current application offers cleric (levels 1-7) and wizard (levels 1-9) spells. It's pretty easy to find the spells you want, either by class and level or alphabetically. Once you find the spells you want, you can "save" them which adds them to the My Spells listing. A few features that I think would be pretty nice to have are:

  • The ability to have multiple spell profiles (set up by character).
  • The ability to save custom spells.

Overall, I think it's a nice reference for players.

D&D Minion - Combat Initiative and Conditions Tracker

@newbiedm recently tweeted about a great new combat initiative and conditions tracker built using Google Apps called D&D Minion. I've been wanting one of these myself so I dug right in.

When you first visit D&D Minion, the screen is pretty blank. For those who don't want to log in using a Google login, the options are pretty sparse. You can add and remove PCs and NPCs, set initiative order and conditions, pick random PCs and NPCs and roll a d20. Entering the initiative on the left reorders the entire list and right clicking under the status column allows you to set the current conditions. Great stuff all around, but not earth shattering.

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However, once you login, you can see how useful this application really is. Logged in users can create campaigns and encounters, permanently saving the PC and NPC groupings. When you sign in, the PCs for your currently active campaign will automatically appear and you can add NPCs by using the Actions > Add from encounter menu option.

View larger video

There are definitely some things about it that weren't obvious to me out of the box, such as right clicking on different areas bringing up menus. For instance, I didn't get right away that I could edit saved characters by right clicking on them. Those are little things and a quick screen cast or screen shots could help with that. I also wish it could easily work with my Dungeon Mastering Tools account.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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