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Surfacescapes D&D Demo 162

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the gentlemen-start-your-dice dept.
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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Surfacescapes D&D Demo

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  • D&D?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Follier (901079) on Monday October 19, 2009 @09:38AM (#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.
  • by Jonah Hex (651948) <hexdotms AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 19, 2009 @09:40AM (#29793233) Homepage Journal

    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-

  • Virtual D20 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slim (1652) <<ten.puntrah> <ta> <nhoj>> on Monday October 19, 2009 @09:43AM (#29793269) Homepage

    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?

  • Cool tech, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dr00g911 (531736) on Monday October 19, 2009 @09:44AM (#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.

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday October 19, 2009 @09:53AM (#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.

  • Re:Virtual D20 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fredjh (1602699) on Monday October 19, 2009 @10:15AM (#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.

  • Speaking as a DM... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ritorix (668826) on Monday October 19, 2009 @10:27AM (#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.

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

    by fredjh (1602699) on Monday October 19, 2009 @10:41AM (#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?

  • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Monday October 19, 2009 @11:02AM (#29794377) Homepage
    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:Cool tech, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Abreu (173023) on Monday October 19, 2009 @11:03AM (#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...

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Monday October 19, 2009 @12:07PM (#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.

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