Last post I showed you my new digital gaming display… a simple rig that makes it easy to lay a 4K TV in the middle of the table when we play D&D. These are my first thoughts and some more detail on how it’s running so far.
I have to say that the reaction around the table was exactly what I was hoping for.
I had kept the project a secret from all but one of my players. I arrived at my friend’s house to set up for the evening and everybody’s car was already parked out front. “Damn, not the big reveal I was hoping for.” But everyone was out back on the deck which gave me time to sneak in and get everything in position. Since this was my first time using the screen, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get situated, but it went pretty fast – less than ten minutes (and I had that down to five for our second session).
As people streamed in from the deck I got one “WTF?! Holy crap, that’s awesome!” after another. Big grin.
5 Physical Observations
- The size is just about perfect. The 40″ screen is plenty large for battle maps (more on this later) but leaves us room around the table for books, character sheets, dice, and drinks. You can see in the photo that we usually play with two 2.5 ft. x 6 ft. tables set next to each other. That’s larger than your typical dining room table, but it works for us.
- The height is not distracting. I was worried that a thick display would feel really tall laying on the table, but the Samsung is 2.5 inches deep, and I only added a couple of millimeters with my 3d-printed feet.
- The display is quiet and cool. It does have cooling fans which run, but I don’t think there is a significant amount of heat coming off of it. You do pick up a whiff of new electronics smell from time to time, but I’m guessing that will diminish with time. I’ve also realized that for long role-playing sessions, there is no need to keep the display powered on the whole time, so at least half the time it is dark, silent, and inert.
- The screen protector is like a security blanket. It just makes me feel better about fingers and minis rubbing across the glass. Way too soon to comment on durability, but it’s all working well so far.
- Transport is just as you would expect. Even for a relatively light piece of kit (I think it weighs 17 lbs.) I no longer “travel light” to game night. I ended up buying a Gator Cases Padded Nylon Carry Tote Bag for the beast in anticipation of rain and snow on game days. Another expense, but also a form of insurance…
5 Gaming Observations
- Battle maps on this thing are sweet. This was the main reason for the screen and our first few combats have gone really well. The rich art felt like “the good old days” when I meticulously printed and taped together card stock maps. They looked great but required a lot more prep and planning. I’m using Microsoft PowerPoint to drive the display and I’ll probably be doing multiple posts on that alone (it worked great).
- Browsing world maps might be the coolest thing ever. I know lots of folks that have a regular or dedicated gaming space have beautiful world maps hanging on the wall (of which I am jealous), but this is the next best thing. I purchased Mike Schley’s Faerûn World Maps and created a zoom-able, pan-able version. If only the screen also had touch!
- It’s a screen, you can use it for other things! Like doing an ad-hoc image search for sword styles as a player describes their new character’s kit. Or popping some quick art of a monster the party encounters. Or an NPC portrait. Or a representative landscape of the surrounding locale to set the mood. You get the idea.
- I’ve started playing with the idea of small digital “production” capabilities too. In fact, as I think on it, it’s very possible to over-produce your tabletop RPG with this thing. So I’m starting small, with a title screen for each session. 🙂
- It’s still a tabletop RPG. This is the most important thing to me… I don’t want to turn my D&D game into a video game. I want to use digital to enhance what I already love. I am admittedly only a short time into this experiment, but am loving it so far. For one thing, some of my prep is a lot easier which lets me spend more of my time on NPCs and story. That’s what they call a win/win.
More to come…
I’m going to keep documenting this experiment and share ideas as we go – what’s working and what isn’t. Shoot me any questions or comments you have and I’ll be happy to incorporate them into a future post!