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LibrariaNPC

The Mobile GM

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I don't know about the majority of you, but I know a few of you know the pain of being a "Mobile GM." Right now I'm only "mobile" every other game, but it can be a bit of a challenge.

 

That said, for those of you who are Mobile GMs: how do you haul things around?

 

I've tried bags (my current one is a Bag of Holding from Think Geek), but they tend to fall apart pretty quickly when loaded for bear every session (the aforementioned bag has started to inside and pop seems after one year of use).

 

I've shifted over to hauling the books in a small container, but at this very moment, the container is maxed out (and I just got Onslaught on Arda I and will be getting Force and Destiny when it arrives) so I'll need to begin carrying just what is expected to be needed or get a bigger container.

 

For those curious, my container contains the following:

--Edge of the Empire Core rules (x2)

--Age of Rebellion

--Onslaught on Arda I

--Dangerous Covenants

--Enter the Unknown

--Far Horizons

--Stock Ships (from WEG)

--The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels

--4 sets of Edge of the Empire Dice.

--Pencils, Pens, and a notebook.

--Character sheets and notes

--Various other notes as needed (like the campaign and adventure at hand).

 

 

 

In the past, I've done the following:

 

--Typed or scanned the necessary stat blocks and print them out.

--Typed or scanned the "required" pages of books and make copies of the parts that are in high demand at the table (like equipment lists).

--Crammed everything into a bag and hauled it around, replacing the bag as needed (I was in college, there was ALWAYS a bag ready to be thrown out or needing replacement).

--Bring a laptop and have every book as a pdf (easy when the pdfs were being sold or if you have a good scanner to make your own copies; not to easy when you lack those options).

--Left spare copies of books or expansion books not needed for review at the gaming location (if said location was secured, like a friend's house).

 

Sadly, most of these aren't really good ideas or feasible now, so I'm trying to come up with alternatives.

 

Does anyone have any other ideas for someone who's a "mobile GM" to haul their books and other tools around, or is the container and bag combo really the best way to go?

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I'm fortunate in that our games are at my house, however I don't really consult books during the game, so I wouldn't feel the need to have them all with me even if we were gaming at a shop or elsewhere.

 

I use my Obsidian Portal to manage all my notes, NPCs, locations and stat blocks for the adventure. So I run the session with nothing but an iPad, a GM screen (for critical hit tables) and my dice. I use a whiteboard for tracking NPCs' wounds, strain and initiative.

 

In Obsidian Portal I make a GM-only Adventure Log for "Session 10 Notes", then I'll start writing up notes when I'm planning out the session. Usually I break each encounter into its own Wiki page, where I elaborate on what could happen. I add options for Triumph, Despair, strategies for NPC fights, and options for various types of skill challenges.

 

For my NPCs I use OggDude's Character Generator and print out stat blocks, which I upload to Obsidian Portal and refer to during the game.

 

So if the place we were going had wifi, I'd be able to run the entire game from my iPad (or my iPhone, it actually works just as well).

 

My wife just got me a Bag of Holding for my birthday, so I'm excited about that! I run a D&D game at work so I've started taking my dice, Players Handbook and adventure booklet plus whiteboard there.

 

I also made sure one pocket has both Beginner Box adventure booklets and presets, so I could run a game of EOTE or AOR at the drop of a hat :)

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I'm fortunate in that our games are at my house, however I don't really consult books during the game, so I wouldn't feel the need to have them all with me even if we were gaming at a shop or elsewhere.

 

I tend to have players throw a curve ball at me or I need to double-check what a specific skill does that doesn't see much use.

 

I tend to be The Forever GM, so most of the people at my table do not own the books nor will they read them outside of looking up a rule. The books are there primarily for the players to look up their own needs (gear, talents, talent trees) and for me should I need an NPC I forgot to stat or a mook that the party is about to pick a fight with.

 

 

I use my Obsidian Portal to manage all my notes, NPCs, locations and stat blocks for the adventure. So I run the session with nothing but an iPad, a GM screen (for critical hit tables) and my dice. I use a whiteboard for tracking NPCs' wounds, strain and initiative.

 

In Obsidian Portal I make a GM-only Adventure Log for "Session 10 Notes", then I'll start writing up notes when I'm planning out the session. Usually I break each encounter into its own Wiki page, where I elaborate on what could happen. I add options for Triumph, Despair, strategies for NPC fights, and options for various types of skill challenges.

 

A whiteboard was my friend when I had a place to hang it, so I can relate to that! How do you handle having it easy to display (or is it just for you)?

 

I've also heard some really good things about Obsidian Portal but didn't use it for long. I set up an account a few years back for a Victorian-era game, but no one really bothered with it and I dropped it after when the game collapsed. Is it a good resource just for leaving notes or can it be useful to the players as well?

 

I do use GDocs as a way of keeping my notes in the cloud for ease of access and to change regardless of my computer, which is great when you have constant internet access.

 

For my NPCs I use OggDude's Character Generator and print out stat blocks, which I upload to Obsidian Portal and refer to during the game.

 

I keep hearing good things about OggDude's Generator, but I sadly haven't had the chance to try it. The majority of my computer time is at work (in between doing my job as a librarian) and my home PC is currently a Chromebook (as my main machine is boxed up in the office; the joys of unpacking and settling in!).

I hope to give that a whirl sooner rather than later!

 

 

So if the place we were going had wifi, I'd be able to run the entire game from my iPad (or my iPhone, it actually works just as well).

 

I'll be asking about WiFi the next time I run at the other location. It can work out if you put enough on the cloud, so it's an option.

 

As a note, it doesn't work as well for convention games (of which I run a few a year). Granted, you don't always need the same collection of books, but sometimes you're bringing the entire collection across a state (or two) just to finish up an adventure in the hotel room the night before. . .

 

 

My wife just got me a Bag of Holding for my birthday, so I'm excited about that! I run a D&D game at work so I've started taking my dice, Players Handbook and adventure booklet plus whiteboard there.

 

I won't deny the awesomeness of the bag. The compartments rock, and you can cram a loaded binder, laptop,and a few rulebooks in the main compartment alone, as well as filling other compartments with other "essentials" of gaming.

 

Just be warned: if the bag has ANYTHING in it, always grab it by the handle. I grabbed mine the wrong way and ripped a number of seams from the inner liner (the padding in the main compartment). The other seams are probably general wear and tear as it's been my main bag for work (I usually do my statting during breaks, like the ones from vehicle threads I've done).

Granted, bags tend to fall apart quickly around me (a tactical attache lasted 6 months before I ripped it via cargo), so...

 

 

Thanks for the input on all of that, though! It gives me something to at least start with.

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I got some binders, gave them to the players with some graph paper as THEIR binder for all their character sheets, etc.  I have a laptop bag I use to carry every book out so far aside from the adventure modules.  Any source book comes with me.

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As a fellow "Mobile" and "Forever" GM, you have my sympathies.  It is a demanding but rewarding lot.

 

Some advice:

I've found that if you transport books resting on their covers or spines (rather than upright like they would be stored on a bookshelf) there's less wear-and-tear on the bindings.  My copy of Black Crusade found this out the hard way...

 

Keep character sheets (or at least copies of them) yourself.  I trust my players to be honest, but I'm not confident in either their familiarity with the rules (since I have the only copies) or their organizational skills.  This way whenever you bring the equipment to play, all the sheets are there as well.  It's frustrating to meet and find out that one or two players have lost or forgotten their sheets, while the rest are all ready to get started.

 

And try to bring only what you'll need for the session.  If you have talent tree printouts you won't need most of the supplements on-hand unless the players are going on to encounter something specific from them.  There's a decent variety of NPC profiles in the Core Book, and in a pinch you can just use a base of 2-2-2-2-2-2 with a single stat bumped up and a single rank in every skill.

 

Also, RPTools.net has a program called Tokentool that's fantastic for making simple tokens for characters or NPCs.  Just print them out and glue them to 1" wooden disks or washers.  I have a couple ziploc bags of tokens sorted by type (Rebels, Imperials, Civilians, Scum).

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I'll keep that in mind about the Bag of Holding, thanks!

 

I'm also the "Forever GM" in my group, but I just prefer to keep the books off the table during the game. If we forget a rule, I'll make a ruling on it during the session and look it up later.

 

I used to use Google Docs so my notes were in the cloud, then I used Dropbox (so I could edit with vim, my preferred editor), and I would print everything out and hole-punch it and put it into a binder that I'd run the session out of. Big waste of paper and time!

 

In my EOTE and D&D games, I've had players getting engaged with Obsidian Portal, writing stories (the latest: https://explorers-on-the-edge.obsidianportal.com/adventure-log/the-crash ) and updating their own characters with their backstories, stats, pictures, etc.

 

For me even without the players' engagement it is my favorite tool, just because I love having an interconnected wiki with GM-only sections on everything. Feel free to have a look at mine (in my sig), I've organized almost everything from my campaign world in its wiki. There are also a lot of GM-only notes, but there's quite a bit of public info.

 

Whether it's Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, or Obsidian Portal, I think it should be easy to find a cloud-based solution that would let you run your campaign from a tablet or a laptop. Again, I'd recommend going book-free at the table, but that's just my preference :)

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I'm just about to be mobile, how fortuitous this topic has become.  

 

I've had to really pare down my setup; I'm a digital GM for sure, but I still have a ton of books and other materials to carry around.  My wife suggested I use my rolling travel suitcase, which will work when I cut my projector and minis from my setup. 

 

If push came to shove, I could operate off my laptop completely.  My players have books and dice, our story is our own, and while we love minis and maps we could eschew that entirely.   I have tokens and beads and some folding dry-erase mats if I need to present visuals, and that stuff all packs up really lightly.  Oh, how I would love to have pdfs so I could carry a much smaller bundle.  My chiropractor loves the business, though.

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-I have since made a database of every talent, weapon, armor, equipment and stat blocks from all the books using an app called GmToolKit on my iPad.

-For the dice (4sets in a dice bag for travel), I bought a valet tray with snaps on the side to make it flat on transport and use this for the "positive" die. The tray gets passed to the player who's turn it is. I keep the "negative" die on my side and give out the right amount to the player for their roles.

-I keep a composition notebook for notes and initiative and pretty much everything else.

-The last thing I like to bring is colored post-its. Blue for boost die, etc etc, I use them as markers to represent boost die or setback die for individuals or the whole group. For example when the group goes into a dark alley chasing after the bounty I'll place red post-its on the table, each one has a short descriptions on it such as "-1 darkness", "-1 boxes/trash bins." So the group and I know where the setback die are coming from. And if they get a boost die from something we use blue post-its with notes on it telling us where the boost is from and how much. It's something physical we can give back and forth from player to player.

Not to mention pens, pencils and a small dry erase mat if i need to draw the scene. All this fits into the small tactical messenger bag think geek sells for the iPad gen1.

The biggest part if making your own database, if done right it'll be like a wiki with links leading to all books that contain info on the item/talent/npc you need. After a while will stop looking at it as much, as you start to memorize stuff.

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I've tried bags (my current one is a Bag of Holding from Think Geek), but they tend to fall apart pretty quickly when loaded for bear every session (the aforementioned bag has started to inside and pop seems after one year of use).

Bag-wise, at Office Depot I recently bought an "Ativa® Mobil-IT Ultimate Carry-On Workmate, 11.5"H x 17.5"W x 16.5"D, Black" (see http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/410598/Ativa-Mobil-IT-Ultimate-Carry-On/). I found that I can get all the current non-beta EotE and AoR books and screens into the bag, but there isn’t room for even one more book.

 

So, I’m about to upgrade to the next size up, the "Ativa® Mobil-IT Ultimate Workmate, 14"H x 14.25"W x 14.25"D, Black" (see http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/410409/Ativa-Mobil-IT-Ultimate-Workmate-14/). This may also allow me to more easily haul around my Battlefoam P.A.C.K. 720 (see http://us.battlefoam.com/categories/Battle-Foam-P.A.C.K.-System-Bags/P.A.C.K.-720/), as I may be able to stack it on top of the Ativa.

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I've only recently started GMing and my games are a mix of Home and Away games... :)

 

Anyway, for away stuff I use my trusty Tenba Messenger 17 (I notice since I bought mine a few years ago that they've stopped calling it a '17' to denote that it can carry a 17" laptop and started calling it 'large' - probably because it will only just take a 15.6" laptop...).  It's a great bag that I've been using and abusing for many years.  I took out the padded dSLR inserts as I use it more as a computer bag and general bag than for cameras.

 

I carry an AoR Rulebook, my laptop (including powerpack and full-sized mouse), GM screen, plus the content of both AoR and EotE beginner's games, a notepad and a couple of sets of dice.  I do have a couple of resources as PDF files and Oggdude's Character Creator/GM Tools which are invaluable, and tend to run adventures as best I can straight off the laptop screen.  As I buy more adventure and/or sourcebooks I'll probably look to thinning things out and only carrying what I need to games.

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My players all bring their copies of the core rules. I typically game at my house and all I bring to the table is my iPad for music and my notes (using Microsoft OneNote). A white board and marker pen.

 

I don't refer to the rule book during a session. Occasionally i'll direct a player to quickly look something up while the rest of us continue to push on.

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I don't refer to the rule book during a session. Occasionally i'll direct a player to quickly look something up while the rest of us continue to push on.

This. I started using this ruling at my games and it has been ever so much easier. I'm no expert on the rules. I need to look it up as much as the next guy. But I have so many other things in front of my for the game that it's just too complicated for me to open up another book and try to find some specific ruling. I'd rather have one person with the rulebook during the game and have them find what I need while I'm continuing to run the game.

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Glad to see that this thread kept living while I was gone!

 

There's some great stuff here that is bound to be useful for myself and others, so thanks to everyone for the input!

 

 

First, thanks for the input on Obsidian Portal. I'll try to find my old account and see if I can get it set up again to use while I'm at work at the very least until I can either get a working laptop or finally finish unpacking my office (another weekend like this past one should do it!)

 

Second, I'm glad to see that others have the same pains/concerns that I do and would rather not be unprepared.

In the library field, we constantly argue between "Just In Time" (get access to the item only when needed) vs "Just In Case" (having it on hand at all times for whenever it is needed). As a GM, I tend to lean toward that "Just In Case" approach as I've been burned WAY too many times in my early GMing days by not being fully prepared.

 

Now for other comments!

 

 

I got some binders, gave them to the players with some graph paper as THEIR binder for all their character sheets, etc.  I have a laptop bag I use to carry every book out so far aside from the adventure modules.  Any source book comes with me.

 

I've had far too many cases were the players lost their character sheets and we had to spend precious time (we get about 3 hours every two weeks to game) either recreating the sheet or relying on an old one we digitized and bringing that up to date.

It gets ugly, so I tend to keep the sheets on hand since we game at 2 (and soon to possibly be 3) locations, one of which being home (unless my wife drops the game, then I'll need to always game elsewhere).

 

I do agree with having the sourcebooks on hand at all times, though, which leads to. . .

 

 

 Again, I'd recommend going book-free at the table, but that's just my preference :)

 

 

Take care of your books. Only bring along what you will need. If you are able to get PDF versions then that will make things so much more simpler for you if you just have to carry a small lap top or a tablet.

 

I think my biggest issue with the idea of going bookless is the one time I need a specific stat, I won't have it.

An ideal example came up at Friday's game session; the players didn't have a decision on a ship yet and after finishing the job to get the funding to get their ship out of impound, they needed the books to decide on a ship. Had I gone bookless, I wouldn't have been able to hand the books out to the players.

 

Granted, if I had the time to make a database for everything and have a device on hand to use it (my old Xoom is still buried in a box and only functional computer is a chromebook), it may have made life easier, but as I lack that right now. . .

 

 

-I have since made a database of every talent, weapon, armor, equipment and stat blocks from all the books using an app called GmToolKit on my iPad.

 

[...]

The biggest part if making your own database, if done right it'll be like a wiki with links leading to all books that contain info on the item/talent/npc you need. After a while will stop looking at it as much, as you start to memorize stuff.

 

If I'm sans app, do you have any suggestions on making my own database? My tech skills are weak in that department, so I should probably brush up on it and learn something new!

Added note: if I can make said databases offline-accessible, even better. I may need the notes at a convention later this year, and I'll be sans net access for the event.

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LibrariaNPC, I've heard Evernote recommended. As mentioned, I use Obsidian Portal for my entire database of NPCs, planets, characters, set pieces, notes, etc, but it's not available offline.

 

Prior to Obsidian Portal I used text files that I kept in Dropbox. They were available anywhere I needed them and I could store them locally so they were available offline.

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If I'm sans app, do you have any suggestions on making my own database? My tech skills are weak in that department, so I should probably brush up on it and learn something new!

Speaking as one of the guys who has done some work on Aahzmandius_Karrde’s project at http://swrpg.viluppo.net/, I can tell you that the single biggest problem with building your own database is the data entry part.

 

Added note: if I can make said databases offline-accessible, even better. I may need the notes at a convention later this year, and I'll be sans net access for the event.

You can always print off data to a PDF file and then bring the PDF with you on your own offline electronic device. A good PDF should at least be searchable, even if you can’t change the sort order or anything.

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When you're playing in a sandbox, it's hard to predict what books you'll need ahead of time.  Even that big rolling toolbox at the bigbox hardware chain can't fit them all, and more come every month!

 

Agreed! And the sad part is, when I run games, I run an "Open, living universe," so anything can happen. I'm also used to the general rule of being a GM: no matter how well you've planned a session, the PCs will go ahead and do something entirely different.

 

That said, I have a lot of practice at shooting from the hip and making up the adventure and opposition as I move along. I'm usually pretty good with just having a guideline for an overall story, a few story hooks when things slow down, and a handful of NPCs should I need them. Sadly, it means having the books on hand to get the stats for {Ship X} is usually a good idea. . .

 

 

 

If I'm sans app, do you have any suggestions on making my own database? My tech skills are weak in that department, so I should probably brush up on it and learn something new!

Speaking as one of the guys who has done some work on Aahzmandius_Karrde’s project at http://swrpg.viluppo.net/, I can tell you that the single biggest problem with building your own database is the data entry part.

 

I figured that was going to be the most time consuming part (and it's a part I can relate to!). Are there any suggestions as to best program to use for that?

Excel? Word? Access? Something that I'm not familiar with?

 

 

 

Added note: if I can make said databases offline-accessible, even better. I may need the notes at a convention later this year, and I'll be sans net access for the event.

You can always print off data to a PDF file and then bring the PDF with you on your own offline electronic device. A good PDF should at least be searchable, even if you can’t change the sort order or anything.

 

PDFs are always my friend for that reason. . .as long as it's done right, of course!

 

 

LibrariaNPC, I've heard Evernote recommended. As mentioned, I use Obsidian Portal for my entire database of NPCs, planets, characters, set pieces, notes, etc, but it's not available offline.

 

Prior to Obsidian Portal I used text files that I kept in Dropbox. They were available anywhere I needed them and I could store them locally so they were available offline.

 

I do use Evernote and Google Drive to have all my stuff available offline.  Works quite well.  

 

I'll have to look into Evernote again. I have it on my tablet, so maybe I can start using it again. . .

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I forgot to mention that one of my former players swears by an app called Empire Legends. I haven't tested the offline capabilities (if any) yet, but for those of you who don't like paper sheets, it's a way to run your character sheet through your device.

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I'll have to look into Evernote again. I have it on my tablet, so maybe I can start using it again. . .

 

 

I would rate my experience with Evernote on tablets (iOS tablets at least) to be suboptimal.  On my laptop, however, it's awesome and since everything else lives on my laptop for game time, it works out well for me.  

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I've been considering using a laptop to run my games, but I don't feel like I want the laptop screen in between me and the players. And if it's off to the side, then I'm having to turn away from the players to read the screen.

 

Currently I'm running like this:

 

iPad w/ Safari and my Obsidian Portal. This is all my notes, stat blocks, everything I have planned for the adventure.

 

iPhone w/ Spotify and Hue. This is controlling my soundtracks and my mood lighting. For each encounter I've made a note of which Spotify playlist to play ("Mystery", "Exotic Combat", "Imperial Combat", "Inspiration"). I have Hue colored lights so I've got a few presets to set different mood lighting for each encounter as well.

 

8.5x14" Whiteboard. For tracking initiative and NPC health.

 

AOR GM Screen. For Critical Hit charts. I keep it flat and open it up if I need it.

 

 

And that's about it. I have the dice and I've printed out the PCs' group and character sheets from OggDude's builder.

 

I've considered using a laptop for all three of the things I use mobile devices for now, I just feel weird about having it between me and the players.

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I've considered using a laptop for all three of the things I use mobile devices for now, I just feel weird about having it between me and the players.

 

My wife, one of the players at the table, hates it whenever I have anything between where I am and the rest of the group. This includes laptop screens and GM screens. This is probably one of the reasons I've taken to always having the books on hand. . .

 

 

I would rate my experience with Evernote on tablets (iOS tablets at least) to be suboptimal.  On my laptop, however, it's awesome and since everything else lives on my laptop for game time, it works out well for me.  

 

 

Duly noted, and thank you for that!

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