I’ve always been one of those role players who hates any laptops/smartphones at the table when we game. I see them as distracting & therefore damaging to the immersion we seek. Gaming online right now (which we finally decided to try since returning to gaming & 2 of my gaming friends are not in my town) sucks compared to all-in-the-same-room sessions.
I’ve realized that the old war of having the nuances of realism (which we love) vs. sessions getting slogged down by “crunch” (which we hate) has a trapdoor: using an app. Of course, RPers have been doing this for many years now, & I’ve avoided it. Why go digital and lose the "pre-20th Century" feeling at the table?
But just over the past 6 weeks I have created an Excel combat tool (which I would transform into an app) that totally turned me around on this. During combat, this tool requires just one entry [a number] (from the players when they’re being attacked), and it instantly spits out a specific result by looking at all of that (stored) character’s information (stats/body/armor on each part of the body) to tell me exactly where they were hit, how severe that damage is, if they are knocked back/down/out/shock/blood loss, etc. I fell in love & can’t imagine going back now that we’ve used it.
I can play this with just the GM using the app, thus preserving the players’ “old-time” feeling. Or, I can also see a version where all players are using apps which are networked. I’m ambivalent. If you had proposed this to me even 6 months ago I would have balked. But now I can see a choice: Gain all the realism (in combat) I want (even more than I dared implementing in the past) with 1 second of entering a number, or stick to my old “sacred table” mentality (which is, at least in strong part, romanticized nostalgia).
I believe my group will end up with the GM-only app-usage. Smartphone possession (let alone, use) at the table is just inviting distraction.
But I’d like to hear what your gut-reactions to the use of an app as a part of a system would be. (Combat works without the app, of course, but not with that degree of specificity.)