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Surfacescapes D&D Demo

CmdrTaco posted about 5 years ago | from the gentlemen-start-your-dice dept.

162

Jamie found a video showing an unpolished idea demonstrating the use of Microsoft Surface for D&D. Looks like they are using 4th ed as the basis for the system. This comes from the Surfacescapes team at Carnegie Mellon, which strikes me as a very good place to be a nerd right about now... provided you make your saving throws.

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Finally. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793103)

Some proper Nerd News.

oh that was a stretch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793155)

My god! Amazing! Who would have thought multitouch/surface technologies couuld be used for something like this! What's next, chess?
( joking, for the sarcasm impaired )

Re:oh that was a stretch... (4, Insightful)

pamar (538061) | about 5 years ago | (#29793661)

My god! Amazing! Who would have thought multitouch/surface technologies couuld be used for something like this! What's next, chess?
( joking, for the sarcasm impaired )

Actually, I don't find the technology very suitable for D&D and other role playing games (while it would be perfect for chess).

I have discussed this for ages with friends and strangers in forums. What people seem to miss is that a Role Playing Game is not a Wargame. It may have simulation elements, but it's - at its roots - a narrative game.

This means that at some point the Referee (or DM or whatever you call him/her) will want to "cheat", hopefully in favour of the players, or more specifically "in favour of a good story". Automated systems - especially combat automators - will therefore either have to be sidestepped or manually updated on the fly - especially to edit out irreversible results like a deadly wound for someone in the party, or killing a valuable NPC and so on.

A table automator makes things even worse: this kind of "cheating" would be even more blatant, and damage the game atmosphere.

So, to sum it up: if you want to automate tabletop games with rigid rules and heavy bookeeping, like wargames, it's probably great (apart from the fact it does not alleviate some specific problems like being able to see the other's player pieces, how to simulate fog-of-war and so on, unless you force players to take turns at the table).

If you want to participate in a shared narrative game (like I would say any RPG is, even those heavily influenced by wargames, like D&D) it's probably better to have a lighter set of rules, and allow the referee to edit things on the fly without having the players to necessarily spot any inconsistencies.

 

Re:oh that was a stretch... (4, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#29794209)

What people seem to miss is that a Role Playing Game is not a Wargame. It may have simulation elements, but it's - at its roots - a narrative game.

FWIW, I've played D&D as both a narrative and as a pure strategy tabletop game.

Both ways of playing have their merits.

I've seen D&D GM'd as a creative problem-solving game. I've seen it GM'd as a "storytelling" game. I've seen it GM'd as a Monty Haul game. I've seen it DM'd as a wargame.

Automated systems - especially combat automators - will therefore either have to be sidestepped or manually updated on the fly - especially to edit out irreversible results like a deadly wound for someone in the party, or killing a valuable NPC and so on.

And yet, in my opinion, those are the things that make rpgs interesting. What does the party do when someone is killed off? How does the GM adjust on the fly to keep the plot moving? How can the eliminated player still participate (adding a new party member, assisting the GM, etc). A GM who fudges die rolls in order to keep the party intact makes for a poor game, IMO... then you have players taking risks they wouldn't otherwise take. Why shouldn't an enemy NPC get lucky sometimes? Why shouldn't a friendly (or key-to-the-plot) NPC get unlucky?

My point is, there are a ton of ways to play rpgs, and your particular favorite doesn't necessarily match everyone else's. And sure, you've talked to other people about it... but remember that there is a selection bias in your sample :).

Re:oh that was a stretch... (3, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29794257)

Well, there are several overhead projection systems currently used for D&D that only use the computer to show the maps and the movement as described by the DM. This allows for interesting line of sight and "fog of war" effects.

IMHO, 4th edition is a lot simpler when it comes to combat and theres no need to automate the rolls, damage, or effects (unlike 3rd edition where you sometimes needed spreadsheets to recalculate your entire character sheet if someone altered your ability scores with a spell)

In short, as a DM, my opinion is that anything that makes the combat part of a Tabletop Roleplaying Game easier and faster, while retaining narrative complexity is welcome since it allows the players to focus on the story and less on the mechanics.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (2, Funny)

Estragib (945821) | about 5 years ago | (#29794325)

Exactly. Thanks to this innovation you won't even have to talk to the other players or the game moderator any longer. Everyone can just take turns while the others watch TV, play FFXI on the PS or start a parallel pen and paper session. How avant-garde.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

aicrules (819392) | about 5 years ago | (#29794379)

Cheating of any kind immediately ruins the atmosphere. I guess if you're used to it as part of your normal game then whatever, but for me, any game whether all human or human/computer immediately loses its appeal once the rules are broken. The whole point of a game is to win within the rules. It's not quite as bad if human error leads to rules breaking, but this kind of computer-enhanced RPG would help keep that from happening.

I get that you may be trying to create a more interesting/epic story than "oops you got killed by the first troll you met" so maybe that's just the way YOU play the game. That's your choice. Definitely means I would agree that a computer-based board would do you no good at all.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

pamar (538061) | about 5 years ago | (#29794515)

Yes, sorry, I was a bit in a hurry and didn't add enough disclaimers to my post. I am answering to you but this goes for at least another couple of people who replied to my message.

Please understand that - of course - what I think is the "proper" way to play a RPG is just a matter of opinion and personal preference.

And when I say I "discussed it with people" I don't mean that everybody agreed, or that I managed to convince them of "the error of their ways", either.

I do take exception at considering RPGs in general games where you can "win" and therefore strict adherence to rules is not the proper way to go for me. But, obviously, it's my own opinion. Apologies if I didn't stress this enough in my post.
The recent editions of D&D are very "tactical", I understand, so among the various different RPGs it may be the most suited for this kind of treatment, but I (personally, IMHO etc.) wouldn't find this kind of technology appealing for playing RPGs.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (5, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 years ago | (#29795245)

The whole point of a game is to win within the rules.

That's too strong of a position. I think we can agree that the whole point of a game is to enjoy the time spent doing it. And that you enjoy 'winning' more than 'story'.

I get that you may be trying to create a more interesting/epic story than "oops you got killed by the first troll you met" so maybe that's just the way YOU play the game. That's your choice. Definitely means I would agree that a computer-based board would do you no good at all.

The way I play the game goes a lot deeper than that. I also have been blessed with game sessions where a character did something completely impossible by the rules, and it was allowed anyway, and great fun was had by all.

Anecdote incoming:

I once had a dwarven Animist who followed a god of war. The GM for this game was particularly brutal on mistakes, and over a short time I got kicked out of my church. They told me that when I returned I would be put to death. Later that same day I challenged a bar patron to a duel in an effort to impress the party I was hoping to join. The patron turned out to be the captain of the guard, and almost killed me on his first turn. Being the sturdy warrior I was, I ran. The entire guard chased me. I led them into my old church. Upon seeing my return, weapon drawn and bleeding, they leaped to action, swords drawn. The guards chasing me into the building, I yelled "Get them!" and promptly ducked under the nearest table. I snuck away, and the party agreed to let me go with them.

Later when we returned to sell our booty, we found that the town was deserted. I had accidentally touched off a civil war withing the church-vs-government power struggle in that city.

Now, that being said, were there no 'cheating' allowed:

1) The captain killed my character. I rolled a new one, preferably a different thing altogether, so death has some meaning.

2) I had no bluff training and horrible people skills. The parties in the church would have succeeded any check they were allowed to make and would not have been fooled. They would probably have ganged up and enjoyed killing my nearly-dead self. See #1...

My personal view is that RPGs are best with a balance of story and rules. The rules mostly matter during contests between players, while the story matters most in all other cases.

That's what is fun to me.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

Minwee (522556) | about 5 years ago | (#29794401)

So, to sum it up: if you want to automate tabletop games with rigid rules and heavy bookeeping, like wargames, it's probably great (apart from the fact it does not alleviate some specific problems like being able to see the other's player pieces, how to simulate fog-of-war and so on, unless you force players to take turns at the table).

If you want to participate in a shared narrative game (like I would say any RPG is, even those heavily influenced by wargames, like D&D) it's probably better to have a lighter set of rules, and allow the referee to edit things on the fly without having the players to necessarily spot any inconsistencies.

I both agree and disagree with you here. I think it is better to have clearly defined parts of the game where the players know the rules and can feel that they are on a level playing field with the GM, and let the light and fluffy rules apply to everything outside of that. If the game master spends too much time editing reality just to fit the predefined story then you might as well strap the players onto a flatcar and push them down the tracks.

You can play fast and easy all you want with setting up the story, introducing the villains and leading up to a big showdown at the end, but once the miniatures are on the map and the fighting starts you need to play fair with the players. If that means letting somebody's character get an amazingly lucky shot which puts and arrow through your carefully prepared villain's eye from the other side of the castle in the opening round, then so be it. Grabbing the dice and saying "Uh... that didn't happen" is just cheating.

As a game master you just need to deal with it. Do some quick rewrites and reveal that the late big bad guy was just a pawn and now there's a new guy in charge, or arrange to have him spirited away by his minions and show up a few sessions later with an eyepatch and an even bigger grudge than before, but don't cheat your players just because something that they did doesn't fit in with the narrative you had in mind. Remember that RPGs are a shared experience where all of the participants develop the story together. Railroading them into the storyline that you prepared for them is just boring for everybody [shamusyoung.com] .

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#29794447)

For war gaming, a large projection setup would be great for maps and terrain. I figured a 4' x 8' translucent surface (giant light table setup) with a projector below it (how far down to fill 4'x8' surface?) would work. Not sure how to support the surface without casting some kind of shadow, though.

As for computer input, figures with rfid tags and some kind of triangulation sensors?

For D&D, yeah, a touch screen in the middle of the table, to display various scenario elements would be cool but not necessarily required. I suppose you could also use a Mac tablet, if they ever come out with a tabloid size one.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 5 years ago | (#29794581)

rfid tags and triangulation sensors? That is way more complex than it needs to be. I've seen table top displays with a cheap camera mounted beneath the table that tracks simple stickers on the bottom of figures which gives position and vector direction. More complex figures allowed you to tilt the head of the figure up and down which mechanically rolled a sticker wheel on the bottom from one color to another which provided that data to tell the angle the head was at, and derive your perspective. You can do a lot with a cheap camera, stickers and a some programming. Need more figures? Print more stickers. Heck of a lot easier than programming or paying for proprietary rfid tags.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#29794849)

Ah, but with a translucent table top, optical recognition would be a pain. Maybe some kind of low level microwave field or scanning laser system...

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 5 years ago | (#29794473)

You have a good point; the system shouldn't be so strict as to bind the DM's hands and limit their freedom. On the other hand, done well, a system like this could enhance the story-telling aspect by handling all the little calculations and details that can slow down miniatures-based combat, freeing players and DM to focus on role-playing.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 5 years ago | (#29794519)

"This means that at some point the Referee (or DM or whatever you call him/her) will want to 'cheat', hopefully in favour of the players, or more specifically 'in favour of a good story'."

Yuck!!

http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2009/05/coddling-players.html [blogspot.com]

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

Daswolfen (1277224) | about 5 years ago | (#29794675)

What people seem to miss is that a Role Playing Game is not a Wargame. It may have simulation elements, but it's - at its roots - a narrative game.

The direction Wizards of the Coast have been taking D&D in for several years now is one of intergration with the miniatures game (and to a lesser extent, the MMORPG) with traditional roleplaying falling increasingly by the wayside. The story no longer matters to a significant portion of the current generation of gamers.

On a more personal note, when I first saw the Surface demoed, my initial instinct was that this would be perfect for Battletech or other miniature based games, but would need some work when it came to RPGs. As far as the DM 'fudging' rolls for the story, we didnt see enough of how the DM station works to assume that is not built in. I am sure there is an override roll button built into the rolling interface on that station.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

Dudeman_Jones (1589225) | about 5 years ago | (#29794679)

OR the DM could have a Narritive menu that allows them to alter results and specify effects to their choosing as such things happen...

You know, like a DM does in real life with a pencil

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

slim (1652) | about 5 years ago | (#29794773)

Actually, I don't find the technology very suitable for D&D and other role playing games (while it would be perfect for chess).

Surely, though, there's no better medium for face-to-face chess than a real chess board with wooden pieces. For distance playing, or for playing against an AI, there's nothing much wrong with a traditional computer implementation.

You could use Surface with special pieces to record the moves - but it would be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | about 5 years ago | (#29794925)

I agree with the parent here, games like warhammer and battletech will be great on a system like this because they are straight out fighting games and are designed to play on tables like this(without the electronic component) and would only increase the speed of play while leaving the game mechanics themselves alone. This is proven by games like MegaMek, Neveron, and Invasion3042 for battletech and Bloodbowl and ComSim for warhammer, which are played on the computer but retain the rules of the board game and only take over the distance calculations and dice rolls.

Re:oh that was a stretch... (1)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about 5 years ago | (#29795219)

This is a proof of concept. They said the DM has a separate screen/computer to input the enemy movements etc... The actual program is software based so the DM can choose software that lets him have whatever control level he desires. Heck, even without built in rules, the potential variety of map environments and enemy types would be a great addition to any D&D game.

Roll 1D20 (3, Funny)

protodevilin (1304731) | about 5 years ago | (#29793193)

...for security vulnerabilities?

Re:Roll 1D20 (3, Insightful)

sgbett (739519) | about 5 years ago | (#29793763)

Which genius thought a 6 meg background image was a good idea?

At that size I expect some pretty good embedded malware.

Re:Roll 1D20 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29794145)

Have you looked at the html/css that's used? It makes sense to have a 5.5MB background with that kind of idiotic writing. The obviously had absolutely no idea of what they're doing. A typical microsoft oriented developer, really.

D&D?? (3, Interesting)

Follier (901079) | about 5 years ago | (#29793209)

Wrong wrong wrong.

If they want this technology to take off, they need to get the porn industry on board. Seriously, the possibilities are endless.

Re:D&D?? (3, Funny)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 5 years ago | (#29793241)

So, a porn game with targeted shots? That certainly isn't kosher in the D&D ruleset!

Re:D&D?? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793307)

What would it be called? Facial Fantasy XII?

Re:D&D?? (1)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29794275)

There are several porn/erotica focused games out there, complete with interesting rules for seduction and arousal....

Re:D&D?? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793265)

If they want this technology to take off, they need to get the porn industry on board.

Porn and a shared surface? Ewwww.

Re:D&D?? (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | about 5 years ago | (#29793775)

It's a lot more fun if you share some surface with the girl.
(or so I hear).

Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (4, Interesting)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about 5 years ago | (#29793233)

If you can roll physical dice onto the Surface and have it read the values, that would be perfect! At least offer the choice. There is just something about rolling your own set of dice that makes D&D special. -HEX-

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793287)

Or, at the very least, have the ability to put in the values yourself.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 years ago | (#29793521)

Based on what the surface does, I'm not sure how this would work. If all the sides are symmetrical, can the surface distinguish them?

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 5 years ago | (#29793617)

All you would need to do is give the value of the opposite face in some machine readable form. Doesn't surface recognize barcodes? Or is that just Android?

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 years ago | (#29793715)

Okay, but now you're talking about fist-sized dice, aren't you?

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 5 years ago | (#29793837)

Surface, as I've recently looking into, uses a proprietary dot-based matrix marking call ByteTags to recognize objects. These dot markings aren't that big, so while the dice might have to be a little larger than normal, fist-sized is probably more than necessary.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

Fromage10x (1624793) | about 5 years ago | (#29793533)

My thought exactly. Either that or get rid of the dice altogether.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 5 years ago | (#29793557)

It should be possible in theory, you just need special dice. The Surface can already read objects that are placed on it using special tags (I think they were a bit like 3D barcodes on some things - the demo I saw used brochures and poker chip sized counters). As long as your barcode shows the opposite side to the one it is on (e.g. the "1" side of a D6 shows the barcode for 6) then it might work :)

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (4, Informative)

thenextpresident (559469) | about 5 years ago | (#29793665)

Dice are already marked. They have pips or numbers on them. Opposite sides add up to the number of sides on a dice plus 1. So if the number 1 was on the bottom, number 6 would be on top.

Granted, this works for some dice, like d6, d8, d12 and d20. d10 are odd/even, and equal out to one less then the total number of sides. So 2 and 7 are opposites.

d4s are usually easy enough, but depend on the type you get. The one I have has the number on the top, and the number doesn't appear on the bottom.

Basically, the point is, most die follow a set of rules for number placement. If you can read the bottom of the dice, you can easily tell what number is opposite of it.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | about 5 years ago | (#29793981)

d4's are no problem, regardless of type. The #3 surface, for instance, will list "1", "2", and "4" in *some* (basically unimportant) configuration, finding the missing number, which yields the roll, is then just a matter of deduction.

The main issue is whether or not the system can read the numbers/pips, or if you need specially marked/equipped dice.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (2, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 5 years ago | (#29794443)

The tokens I saw were very much "black and white", so while pips are "already a system" they're not necessarily one it'll be able to read. It'd also only work with most D6s, since all of my D4s/8s/10s/20s had numbers on, which will probably be more difficult to read and interpret from any direction.

Besides, if all it can see is the number "1" then how does it know what type of dice you have to calculate what is on the upper-side? Most dice (except D6, I think) have triangular sides, so you couldn't tell from just the bottom face whether you've rolled a D8 or a D20.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 5 years ago | (#29793679)

Strangely (having looked at the video and full-screened it) it looks like their character selection does actually use a dice, or at least a dice-like object, so it can interact with them to some degree. I can imagine that rolling the dice off the table would cause problems, but that's just an obvious case for a re-roll (or pick it up and put it down however it landed).

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29794183)

DIE, already...

(singular of dice?)

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

sabernet (751826) | about 5 years ago | (#29794871)

Would be amusing to integrate a D4 with that logic :P

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 5 years ago | (#29793773)

As long as people don't read the dice, it should be able to. All it needs is to detect the die shape, "d20 just rolled" and then roll a pseudo-random and announce the "roll". Benefit: no weighted die-problems. Detriment: some people have d10's that are shaped like d20's, and some others do all their rolls with one d20 and one d12.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 5 years ago | (#29793991)

If you did it based on simple shapes (and not ByteTags, which would solve all these problems easily), you'd be up shit creek if anybody had dice that weren't a standard size as d4s, d8s, d10s, and d20s all have triangular faces.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (2, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29794321)

Well, as I posted above, I see nothing wrong with using the Surface (or a simpler overhead projection system on a blank table) to show the characters positions and keep the rest of the map obscured (maybe with a light radius focused on the character that carries the torch).

Use regular dice and the regular rules for the rest... After all, if we wanted to play a videogame instead of a Tabletop RPG, we would already be playing one, no?

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 5 years ago | (#29794707)

Agreed. I know it's possible because Microsoft always pitches that as a feature that it can recognize what's put on it. Maybe it's not that accurate but an HD camera installed above could solve that problem. Or just let the user type in on an on screen keyboard the roll outcomes.

I've been saying D&D, Warhammer and a host of other tabletop games should be investing in this ever since I saw surface. It's a perfect fit. Let the game handle all the rules just tell the player when to roll dice. Put RFID inside all the units so the board knows what is what. Create rich animated tabletop surfaces. Animate ranged attacks and area effects. It would be the perfect bridge to bring video gamers into the tabletop market.

Re:Suggestion: Integrate Physical Dice (1)

yttrstein (891553) | about 5 years ago | (#29794757)

Wait... if you're rolling your own dice, why not use your eyeballs and temporal lobes to read the value?

The whole affair is just weird. Why would anyone plunk down thousands (tens of thousands?) for a "Microsoft Surface" to play D&D on, when they can get a used card table for ten bucks at a flea market?

Now, combine AD&D combat rules with dice and a bona fide MMORPG, throw THAT on the table and I'm sold.

Virtual D20 (4, Interesting)

slim (1652) | about 5 years ago | (#29793269)

A "virtual 20 sided dice"? No, no, no. This is *not* the way to apply computing to roleplaying. The computer can hide the dice rolls, in fact it can hide the whole "combat system" from you, and just allow you to roleplay.

Now, I *would* like to see augmented reality applied to board gaming. Something that combines the tactile experience of playing with wooden pieces, with the convenience of computer gaming. For example, what if you could play Acquire, and see the current stock value hovering over the company tiles, rather than having to stop to count?

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

Aladrin (926209) | about 5 years ago | (#29793421)

Some people actually -like- the dice now.

Anyhow, they said that this was 'unpolished' anyhow. It's just showing how it -could- work, not necessarily how it will.

I'm sure someone will step up and write one your way as well... Or even give the option of doing it either way, for those that want the option.

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 years ago | (#29793509)

Based on what the surface does, I'm not sure how this would work. If all the sides are symmetrical, can the surface distinguish them?

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 years ago | (#29793671)

Oops, wrong post.

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

cjfs (1253208) | about 5 years ago | (#29793589)

Now, I *would* like to see augmented reality applied to board gaming. Something that combines the tactile experience of playing with wooden pieces, with the convenience of computer gaming.

The Tegra demo [gizmodo.com.au] from a while back comes to mind. Integrating that in with a miniatures game of some sort would be interesting.

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

KnownIssues (1612961) | about 5 years ago | (#29793669)

This was exactly my reaction. There's so much opportunity to have a computer replace the stuff that physical objects aren't good at. Why have it simulate (poorly) what real dice do so well? I've long wanted to try my hand at writing a program like this, but one that makes the un-fun parts of D&D faster, not one that makes the fun parts lame.

How about tracking initiative? How about showing the area of effect for a blast or burst when cover or concealment is in effect? How about Wizards of the Coast finally releases that awesome game table application they promised three years ago. Just kidding, I'm not that divorced from reality.

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

jggimi (1279324) | about 5 years ago | (#29793711)

I play an RPI MUD that does this. I -like- not knowing my character's stats, except in the most general terms, or even how the combat system makes its determinations, or, how it even works. One can, out-of-character, roll virtual dice against a stat to determine the outcome of some event, and then roleplay it as desired, but but that's about it for stats/systems.

Re:Virtual D20 (2, Interesting)

fredjh (1602699) | about 5 years ago | (#29793713)

No, no, no. This is *not* the way to apply computing to roleplaying.

Laughing... my first thought on looking at the demo was "all the boredom of the real thing."

Ok, on a serious note, I'm an old timer, and I really dislike the new D I think around the first AD&D they hit a the mark between complexity (simulating reality) and playability... that's just my tastes, I know others like the newer systems, and I have no problem with that, but it seems to me that slim is right... a system like this should allow you to keep the complexity, but make it work a lot more smoothly.

If you like rolling dice so much, perhaps a computerized version of the game is pointless.

It's called "tangible interface" (1)

S3D (745318) | about 5 years ago | (#29793805)

I *would* like to see augmented reality applied to board gaming. Something that combines the tactile experience of playing with wooden pieces

"Tangible interface" or "tangible space". I tried my hand in it with one of my AR demos [cellagames.com] . Mostly users ignore it and go for the path of least resistance - play with phone and markers, not bothering with on-board objects. AR novelty by itself seems enough. Probably require a lot of design fine-tuning to entice users actually use non-trivial game interactions.

Re:It's called "tangible interface" (1)

slim (1652) | about 5 years ago | (#29794381)

The video is pretty neat.

I think baby steps might be the way forward. Take an established board game, in which some piece of game state is somewhat inconvenient for a human to work out on the fly -- and use AR to provide that info.

Frivolous example: in Carcassonne, scoring for farmers is slightly fiddly. AR could highlight each farm and automate the scoring.

I think there's a lot of value in trying *not* to overstep the mark at first; enhance a board game with AR, rather than turn it into an AR game.

If this catches on, watching people play should provide plenty of ideas of how to make an "AR game" that keeps people playing with the on-board objects.

A good way, of course, is to design the game so you can't win without touching with the pieces!

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

kalirion (728907) | about 5 years ago | (#29794403)

I love seeing the virtual dice rolls in Neverwinter Nights, because then I know just what an impact raising my AC by 1 point has, etc.

Re:Virtual D20 (1)

slim (1652) | about 5 years ago | (#29794721)

I love seeing the virtual dice rolls in Neverwinter Nights, because then I know just what an impact raising my AC by 1 point has, etc.

It just goes to show; tastes vary.

Myself, I'd prefer the "system" to be as hidden as possible, in order to be more lifelike. So you don't "raise your AC by one point". Rather, you'd get some better armour. Internally, the model of "better armour" could be as crude as incementing a single variable, or as sophisticated as modeling the physics every time the armour collides with a sword.

If I were a barbarian in a fantasy world, I wouldn't be rejoicing because my HP had increased. I would be reflecting on how I feel vaguely fitter and stronger.

In real life, if I practice guitar for a week, I am not aware of the improvement as a "+1 guitar playing bonus".

I was put off D&D at school when lunchtime sessions would degenerate into endless dice rolling, rather than, you know, roleplaying fantasy adventures. (no giggling at the back - Family Guy already did that joke)

Cool tech, but... (4, Interesting)

dr00g911 (531736) | about 5 years ago | (#29793275)

It's a pretty cool proof of concept, but I absolutely shudder at the amount of additional setup time something like this would require for campaigns.

I've run a couple of 4E campaigns after finally letting go of my 1E rules, and not to put too fine a point on things... combat takes way the hell too long when you're forced to deal with miniatures and it just bogs everything down -- don't get me started on the amount of stickers and markers that are required for bookkeeping now.

A couple people at my table like the more strategic combat options that minis offer, but the majority prefer that the story advances more than a paragraph per play session. As the DM, I'm one of them. I'd rather roll initiative and talk through fast-paced combat.

WOTC wants to sell their absolutely hideous plastic minis, and lots of them, so it's in their best interest to make the game mini focused. There are so many rules that depend on movement and proximity that you've basically got to remove the entire combat system and house-rule over it if you forego the minis.

I've seen some folks that use an LCD projector and Photoshop in lieu of a battlemat, but that's still an enormous amount of prep time for a campaign.

Re:Cool tech, but... (4, Funny)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 5 years ago | (#29793305)

This... is why I'm an FPS gamer. It doesn't usually get more complicated than "loud end points at the other guy".

Re:Cool tech, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793591)

If by "enormous amount of prep time" you mean "0.5 - 1.0 hrs," then yes using Maptools and a combat tracker such as inCombat 4e does require some DM prep time.

Re:Cool tech, but... (1)

slim (1652) | about 5 years ago | (#29793673)

However, there's a lot of scope for re-use of that setup. Not great for the creative DM who writes his own campaigns, but if you treat it as a way to ship commercially designed campaigns it could well work.

In that scenario (in a hypothetical world where something Surface-like is affordable for the home), you'd buy the scenario, click a couple of buttons, and everything would be set up and ready to go.

How about if all the players had e-ink character sheets, updated wirelessly, too? :D

Re:Cool tech, but... (2, Interesting)

fredjh (1602699) | about 5 years ago | (#29794091)

I agree with you 100%. I haven't played since before my college days (my HS friends and I all went to different colleges... and the college kids where I ended up were "too cool" to play... or, maybe I just could find the right ones). Now we're talking almost 25 years.

So I started getting interested again, hoping that my son would become interested. When 4E was released last year, I bought all the main books and some extras, the first level adventure, and then... and then it was like trying to run through molasses. He's only ten, and he and his friend were completely bored, even doing the fun part of creating a character... which used to take maybe 30 minutes, at MOST, and was a lot of fun as you had your gold pieces and just equipped your guy.

I'm thinking we're going to just slug through it from now on with graph paper, like we used to... the great thing about graph paper and actually writing on it is that it gives the players perspective of where they are in relation to other things (like the exit), but I'm not so sure yet. I do know I'd like to see a lot more automation in creating characters, and was thinking of just rolling my own... but who's got the time?

Re:Cool tech, but... (1)

kionel (600472) | about 5 years ago | (#29794561)

I couldn't have said it better myself.

I ended up writing a series on my (now sadly become rather stale) blog called "Why I Hate D20" [blogspot.com] wherein I discussed being an old-school (think 1979 for my first experience) RPG player grappling with the then new-ish "OMG Isn't It Cool!" D20 rule set. In the end, I just concluded that I was just getting a little too old to be able to waste a weekend around a kitchen table with nothing more than my dice, some friends, and my imagination.

This, of course, is total bunk.

What I ended up doing is re-writing some rules I'd put together when I was -- I shit you not, now -- 13 years old. I cleaned up the design a bit, of course, but the spirit remained the same.

The name? QUIDPERG: The Quick and Dirty Role Playing Game.

Character creation takes no longer than ten minutes.

Scenarios take no longer than ten minutes to create.

Combat? Quick, dirty, and brutal.

Result? It's a blast.

Is it as feature-rich as most of the commercial packages? Of course not. But it's playable, and my group finds it fun.

(Heck, I should just release the damned thing on my Blog.)

I wrote QUIDPERG because I genuinely think that the RPG as a pass time has lost its way. While it's neat to be able to buy pre-painted minis and battle mats for our games, the fact of the matter is that the core mechanic -- the fun -- was lost in the mix. So I'm going back to it.

QUIDPERG is right for my group. Would it work right for others? Who knows? Really, though, that's beside the point. If we GMs find ourselves fighting with ridiculous mechanics (D20), then we have this neat option to just say "No!" Exercise that right, folks. You'll feel better that you did.

Re:Cool tech, but... (1)

zx75 (304335) | about 5 years ago | (#29794247)

I use a (homemade) grid mat, erasable markers, and little colored stone gems that I got at the dollar store that I wrote numbers and symbols on with a paint pen.

The only reason I started using this setup was that my players preferred it because it gave them a better ability to visualize a combat area and *gasp* speed up combat! They no longer had to ask me about positioning, if they could do one thing or another, they could see it and decide for themselves. Made combat quicker because everyone was now prepared when their turn came.

I would love to have the surface to facilitate the kind of game I already run, so that I don't have to:
- Remember my 'stone' miniatures
- Remember to bring paper-towel and a spray bottle
- Remember to bring markers
- Easily create creatures that are bigger than a single space (its a pain moving a 3x3 grid size monster across the board that uses 9 stones).

Stuff all of that... Microlite20 (1)

evilandi (2800) | about 5 years ago | (#29794287)

Fed up with complexity and commerce? Want brevity and simplicity?

http://microlite20.net/ [microlite20.net]

Core rules fit on 8 sides of A6 paper.

Alternatively, dig around in the second hand bookshops for Fighting Fantasy Role Playing Game. The rule system from the "choose your own adventure" d6-based novels, but adapted for multiplayer RPGs.

Re:Stuff all of that... Microlite20 (2, Interesting)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | about 5 years ago | (#29794377)

How about Tunnels & Trolls where your character sheet is index card-sized? I haven't gamed for years, but I always found that all of the complex combat rules hindered the storytelling, the part I enjoyed the most. After a while, my group adopted a 'if you don't know the rule, don't look it up, just improvise' rule and it made the games a lot more fun.

Re:Stuff all of that... Microlite20 (1)

dr00g911 (531736) | about 5 years ago | (#29795213)

Yeah, we were the same way. No rules lawyering at the table, 30 sec max for lookups then best judgement. Keep everything rolling so the laughs and momentum didn't start to lag.

Funny you mentioned Tunnels & Trolls. I'm still using the old grievous injury chart from that set just to spice stuff up and give the folks a little acting fodder for their characters.

I'm still considering going back to 1E right now... the interesting bit is that the wives/kids that get pulled into my games now "get" the talent tree/spec style system that 4E introduced. I like the concept of the eberron-style "dramatic actions" to use. I like the concept of powers for everyone (poor fighters in 1E)... I even like the care that's been taken into balancing everything this time out.

I just don't like a perfectly good story to be made tedious with an hour-long combat session and micromanagement for dots, bloody, focus, challenge, aoe, movement, opportunity... all that stuff. If I want that, I'll play Warhammer or Axis & Allies or any number of perfectly good wargames.

But for D&D, roll initiative, say what your character does with feeling and get your THAC0 on. You're doing something wrong at my table if you aren't trying to chew scenery or crack everyone up when it's your turn.

Re:Cool tech, but... (1)

kieran (20691) | about 5 years ago | (#29794319)

I'd have thought that the real promise of this Surfacescapes concept is that it could speed things up a lot and remove most of the minis into the bargain.

Lose the stupid virtual dice and either use an RNG or read in real dice rolls. Have the system handle all the status effects and crap for you automatically, and display them as little icons. The D&M would just need to enter any custom creatures and create (or download and customise) the maps.

All in all, it should mean more time to focus on story and still keep the combat rich enough to satisfy those hungry for a little skirmish strategy.

Re:Cool tech, but... (2, Interesting)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29794399)

You don't need to buy the "hideous plastic minis".

In fact, I use cheap colored glass beads and I find that it helps my players focus on the game itself and not on the minis.

In regards to the more complicated combat rules, I find it a lot more interesting to allow positional options, tactical movement and making use of terrain to gain advantages than the old "I hit it with my sword"

And if you feel that 4th edition requires too much prep time and is too slow, then I imagine you never played third edition...

Re:Cool tech, but... (1)

Kagato (116051) | about 5 years ago | (#29794531)

I think you could use some of the game engine ideas from Never Winter Nights as a starting point. It would show you the die rolls in a scrolling window as you proceeded through the game. In combat it would determine dozens of rolls and saves almost instantly. I think you could expand that metaphor to the surface to create fairly quick combat rounds.

As far as housekeeping, wouldn't the whole point of the surface be to automate all that crap? I would think if anything the automation would allow people who like to be more strategic to play with people that want to roll-n-go. I think the table also takes care of some of the distractions that are created by the "Rule Nazi" in a group.

Re:Cool tech, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29794683)

I would wager your games are horrible to play. The game was originally a tactical simulation of combat - which 4e has done more to move back to the tactical, from the horrible systems that had no tactics involved.

I highly doubt you know what you're talking about.

Re:Cool tech, but... (1)

dr00g911 (531736) | about 5 years ago | (#29794935)

Poor attempt at a troll, but I'll bite, Mr. AC.

Chainmail (D&D's spiritual daddy) was a tactical wargame, as is Warhammer.

D&D is a Role Playing Game. You know: tell stories, have adventures.

Tactics are all well and good if that's the kind of game you want to play. It's not the kind of game I want to play, and it's not the kind of game most folks at my table want to play, either.

I want to get through an "episode" per 4ish hour session, not a paragraph of story progress and maybe two encounters.

There's a reason I've been holding onto my huge collection of 1st edition books for all these years -- they work, the rules are flexible, and most people at my table have them more or less memorized. I can put a few figures on a mat, not sweat the finer strategery of combat, and kill a few orcs in 10 minutes with almost zero bookkeeping apart from initiative and hit points.

This keeps the story moving and keeps combat fun.

Might come as a shock to you, but I encourage my players to act. Tunnels & Trolls had it right way back when with their grievous injury chart. Roleplaying is about far more than magical hit point numbers.

I've likely been DMing longer than you've been alive, so I'm just gonna laugh at the rest.

Gold, silver, electrum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793381)

provided you make your saving throws

You do have to throw your savings at them to afford to go.

I spent 15 seconds watching the background load (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 5 years ago | (#29793393)

then I just closed the window. I hope their D&D table isn't as horridly optimised.

My own project is similar (4, Interesting)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 5 years ago | (#29793395)

When I started, I didn't have much spare cash, and it was hard to justify investing in Microsoft Surface for a pet project. (Not when I was already in process for a do-it-yourself kitchen, bathroom, and stone patio set of projects)

For my gaming group, I designed a do-it-yourself surface structure. It's a simple design, but robust enough that you can easily customize it for your own needs.

Once I finish up and polish the plans, I'm going to publish them on my site, along with a components list of what I found worked (and didn't work), for putting together a pretty nice table that could seat about 6 comfortably.

The main goals I had in mind when developing the surface was (in no particular order or completeness:

1. Portability (We didn't always play at the same location)
2. Universality (I didn't want it to matter if you played warhammer or dnd or battletech, etc)
3. Unobtrusiveness (Don't let the tool get in the way of the game)
4. The surface had to improve the gameplay experience (sister requirement of number 3)

The part that I wish I had some assistance with was specialized coding for the modules. I'd love for you to be able to select a game, and have the engine running the display account for differing needs of each game. As of right now, it simply provides the basic components that someone would want in a surface system.

It was mostly a hobby of mine, I'm a systems engineer and enjoy my work, so I treated the whole thing like a full scale project to keep my skills sharp. It needs cleaned up for public release, but given the interest there seems to be in the subject, I'll try to make it entertaining enough for a writeup here on Slashdot.

Bandwidth Stress Test - How To (5, Funny)

Knx (743893) | about 5 years ago | (#29793415)

1. Set up a website [cmu.edu] with a 5.45 MB background image
2. Submit it on Slashdot
3. You're done

Re:Bandwidth Stress Test - How To (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 5 years ago | (#29793915)

That wasn't just slow loading, it slowed down FF scrolling. It uncompresses to 89 MB...

4e is crap (-1, Troll)

sajuuk (1371145) | about 5 years ago | (#29793453)

They might as well be playing WoW on Microsoft Surface if they are playing 4e.

All that went through my mind... (4, Funny)

Sabalon (1684) | about 5 years ago | (#29793459)

Let the wookie win.

thanks reddit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29793489)

for giving slashdot a reason to seem relevant!

Old idea with new hardware... (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 5 years ago | (#29793703)

As ideas go it's really in the same tradition as various others than have been created over the years, including OHP, as someone else mentioned.

I think the only thing I really don't like about it is the clunky dice rolling. I'd far rather it just showed the result of a dice roll, rather than doing a laborious animation of the rolling dice. In fact I'd rather it just showed the damage over the monster.

I would also point out that Surface units cost something like £8,500 ea. for a commercial unit. Your other choice is the developer unit, which is £10,000. Something tells me this is very much a "play with and figure out stuff we can do with it" project. It's not exactly going to be a practical solution for your average gaming group - maybe a gaming shop as a novelty.

Re:Old idea with new hardware... (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 5 years ago | (#29794533)

As ideas go it's really in the same tradition as various others than have been created over the years, including OHP, as someone else mentioned.

Apart from the "touch to interact" and "can be made aware of physical objects" bit. They didn't make particularly good use of it in the demo (they did the touch gestures and they used an object at the start for player selection) but it could be much better. According to a MS rep I talked to, the US DoD has had a look at some units for the "battlefield planning" situations instead of the classic "map on table with blocks of wood and big sticks".

Microsoft Surface + Cheetos and Pizza == Epic Fail (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 5 years ago | (#29793769)

On the other hand, it would let my D&D group get together create a rich and vivid shared history without all that awkward talking that we currently have to endure. Now if they could just find a way to remove the requirement to be physically present as well we could be on to a winner [ddo.com] .

Surface Finally has a reason for existing (1)

cadeon (977561) | about 5 years ago | (#29793771)

This is seriously the only reason I've ever seen to use a Surface. Cool technology, sure, but until today, entirely useless.

And I don't think that having a D&D concept pushes Surface from 'entirely useless' to any form of relevance.

MapTool (1)

Lachryma (949694) | about 5 years ago | (#29793787)

I don't really want the whole damn game embedded. I just want MapTool [rptools.net] with multitouch.

Re:MapTool (1)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29794439)

This. This. A thousand times this!

Speaking as a DM... (5, Interesting)

Ritorix (668826) | about 5 years ago | (#29793877)

For D&D I would like a Surface that can:
-bring up maps as needed, to be played on with Surface-aware miniatures that track positions
-display a combat state tracker, like a game scoreboard, with initative, hit points, state tracking (dazed, on fire, etc) in clear view for all players
-combat-aware board that determines flanking, cover and similar bonuses based on mini locations
-dice that auto-sense the roll and calculates your bonuses, displaying the results
-full web integration with the D&D sites if you need to reference a quick rule (there are already Iphone apps that do this)

Actually that sounds like more trouble than its worth. These days we use a clear piece of acrylic and dry-erase markers over a grid map. Simple and effective.

Computers already have a place at our gaming table, for some it substitutes for a paper character sheet and its nice having a full rules library within reach. It may have gone a bit far when the other week three players were screwing around on their Blackberries at the same time. Turned out they were plotting something they didnt want the DM to listen in on.

OK, that's just mean. (1)

wonkavader (605434) | about 5 years ago | (#29793993)

Nice wolfie walks right around them, and past them and is on his way into the forest, and they blow his ass off unprovoked.

Bad Magic User! Bad Paladin! Bad whatever the heck your character was.

Virtual Tabletop and other stuff (1)

robertsconley (978470) | about 5 years ago | (#29794041)

They should pay attention to how Virtual Tabletop software does things. A lot of the setup issues would be similar between the two. For example many Virtual Tabletop had to deal with the issue of animating virtual dice. What they showed in the video is a bit too sluggish. Another concept of virtual tabletop is rulesets and modules. A ruleset configures a virtual tabletop for a specific game or RPG. While a module is a prepackaged bundle of maps, images, tokens, notes, monsters, etc. It should be easy to do both. In the end surface computer and virtual tabletop are going to be two parallel lines of development that will impact the futures of RPGs. With e-books being used alongside both as well as normal tabletop play.

Solo RPG? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29794075)

Now as a solo RPG this concept has potential.

Awesome Potential (2, Insightful)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29794095)

4E is built for this sort of application. This might be better than what WotC had planned (at least for a meatspace game). If WotC is smart, they will build this on their own and then build modules for it. The potential is astounding. /4E is my favorite edition. //OWoD is my favorite RPG

re: awesome potential (1)

ed.han (444783) | about 5 years ago | (#29794627)

don't you think that this would represent a pretty significant financial investment?

Re: awesome potential (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29795045)

i don't know how to not think something, or how i'd know i was not thinking it.

Would it be a significant financial investment?

Do you mean to develop it or to own it? For the former, yes, but WotC could recover that cost by making it part of DDI. In the later, yes, but there are always people with more money than sense... or just willing to cough up the dough. Like any toy, the early adopters will pay through the nose to have the newest gadget, but will fund the infrastructure to make the next version cheaper. Eventually, all screens will be touch screens, in the same way that almost all TVs for sale today are HD.

Plus, the very act of making such a system will spawn a new sort of high end board game market. Monopoly w/o needing to count money or worrying about losing pieces, no stepping on hotels.... i can see families sitting around a touch screen table (where they just finished dinner), clearing off the plate and loading last week's unfinished game of Scrabble. They reload it and start playing again.

Instead of using a touch screen this system could use a projector with RFID tagged minis. A device could continuously poll the tags to see where the minis are. Or each player could have a device that the sensor would track as a sort of cursor to move a virtual mini instead of an physical mini.

Life's more fun when you look at possibilities instead of difficulties. Problems are obvious and boring... solutions, there's the fun. Getting to the Moon was way more interesting than "oh that would be difficult and expensive". Cars were expensive, now everyone has them.

Posted to ENWorld (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29794553)

I'm interested in what the ENWorld community thinks.

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/266714-microsoft-surface-used-d-d.html

Senior Project (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 5 years ago | (#29794601)

I actually did something like this for my senior year project. We tried to make a Warhammer 40k game. We didn't use MS surface we used Reactivision, to do the tracking. And Reactivision was actually much better than most of the other implementations because it could also track an objects orientation. We never really got it to work that well but it was a fun project

http://reactivision.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Why make the player "roll" the dice? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 5 years ago | (#29795179)

Since the computer is deciding what dice to provide, why slow it down by having a stupid gesture to make get them to roll?

5.5mb background image (1)

dameron (307970) | about 5 years ago | (#29795255)

Right about now, I'm sure their loving the guy who decided they needed a 5.5mb background jpeg [cmu.edu] on their page.

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