Manage Your Gaming Session with the DMTools iPad App

by skallawag on January 10, 2011

“Egad! An app review on Dungeon’s Master?!?” Yes, only because the geek in me sometimes needs to link the love for D&D with the love for gadgets and toys. After purchasing my new Apple iPad back in November, one of first apps I downloaded was the DMTools app as I was to DM a small side story arc for our regular game. In the beginning, DMTools was a bit cumbersome to use, but after a session or two it has become an essential tool for my use as a DM.

PC and NPC database

The first thing I did in DMTools was to create a list of player characters, listing their key defenses (AC, Fort, Ref, Will), hit points and initiative modifier. Personally, I don’t use this information in DMTools, but it is a good reference should you quickly need to check a player’s defense score without them knowing. At the beginning of each gaming session I also add the monsters that I’m going to use to the NPC list, recording the same information as I did for the players. Once you create PCs and NPCs, you have your initial database from which you can draw from to create encounters.

Encounters

The next step was to create an encounter within DMTools. This is easy to do – just just select “new encounter” and add the PCs and NPCs (monsters) you need (an Orc here, Ogre there, two Wraiths, etc.) and the encounter is set. In any given gaming session I’ll have 2 or 3 encounters so I usually set them all up at once. Unfortunately there is no linkage into the Compendium, so picking monsters and encounter planning still needs to be done independently of the app.

Initiative Tracking

With the encounter participants and details already loaded into the app, you can select the encounter, which will add the PCs and NPCs that you have already pre-selected, and it will automatically roll initiatives and place the NPCs and PCs in proper order. I still like to let the players roll initiatives, so I need to manually rearrange the PCs – some way to manually set initiative numbers would be nice down the road. Being an iPad, it’s easy to drag PCs and NPCs up and down on the screen to arrange them in proper initiative order. If a PC decides to delay their turn or refocus, then moving them is also done with ease.

Hit Point and Condition Tracking

Once you get going with your encounter, it’s easy to track hit points and conditions. Scoring damage or healing is easily done with a few taps of the finger, along with tracking conditions such as marked, dazed, deafened, blind, slowed, etc. Some of the condition icons leave much to be desired – probably because mentally I can’t link the icon to a condition half the time, but that’s just me.

Dice Rolling

When it comes time to roll attacks with the monsters, it’s easy to do becasue there is a built in dice roller feature. The rolls are customizable and easy to program into the dice roller. It will save your custom rolls until you modify or delete them. For example, your monster has an attack of 1d20+24 and with 3d8+7 damage. You can program both these rolls into the die roller so that with one touch, it will roll and sum the results keeping the game moving quickly.

Notes Feature

Personally I haven’t had a need to use this feature of the DMTools app, but I can see where there may be a need at times to make quick notes. This is where you can do it.

Summary

Overall, I would give this application an 8 on a d10 based on its current features and the usefulness of this application to my role as a DM. Note that I’ve only used DMTools on the iPad so my experience is skewed in that manner.

Pros

  • Customizable dice roller.
  • Initiative tracking and easy management of initiative order.
  • Easy hit point tracking (damage and healing) and condition tracking.
  • Less time tracking monsters, more time focused on the game.

Cons

  • Initial learning curve.
  • Condition tracking icons could be more intuitive.
  • No way to manually set initiative scores at the start of an encounter.

Wishlist

  • Linkage to the DDI Compendium (yes, this is a stretch!).
  • Rewards or random treasure feature (for gold or gems, items would be hard to do).
  • Manually enter initiative scores at the start of an encounter.

App Details

  • Price: $2.99
  • DMTools is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
  • Created by Score Studios.

Score: 8 on a d10

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 janna January 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm

sounds like master plan, but less useful

2 Lahrs January 10, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Your article fails to mention how to convince the wife to let me get an iPad, so at the moment I am unable to try DMTools for myself, but it does appear to be a useful tool at the table.

3 chase_dagger January 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

One major problem here: App not on Android OS. So until then it has no value at all. :-)
Sorry; I had to get that in here, I hate Apple: Same Tech bigger price tag. :-)

4 chase_dagger January 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm

In all fairness: Functionality looks good. If looks very fit for it’s designed purpose, and it seems like it’s also fit for use (or it looks very usable in the sense that you can work with the tool while actually in a gaming session.)

5 skallawag January 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm

@janna
Not sure what Master Plan is, and if it’s this: http://habitualindolence.net/masterplan/ then it’s a totally different utility. It would be like comparing apples to oranges.

@Lahrs
I feel your pain! I had to do a huge favor for my wife before she let me get one and I’m still doing extra favors to avoid hearing more grief!

@chase_dagger
I was totally against Apple since I could remember, but Apple just had a product that was widely adopted. Previously I had used a laptop at the gaming table and now I don’t need wait for things to boot up, don’t need to find a power outlet to plug into and don’t need to wait for any programs to load. I have to admit as a PC fan, the iPad has won me over.

6 dicefist January 11, 2011 at 1:49 am

No, Masterplan is not a totally different utility at all. The earlier comment was accurate. Masterplan can run combats like this app, arguably better, and has other functions also re:encounter building.

7 Wimwick January 11, 2011 at 6:54 am

@ dicefist
They are different programs that have similar functionality. Masterplan does allow you to do more than DM Tools as it supports plot and skill challenge creation along with other tools. However, it’s only useful to the DM at the table if you are able to have your laptop with you. I use DM Tools on my iTouch, which I always have with me, which means I can log into the compendium and update my encounters at work.

8 Acheron January 11, 2011 at 8:43 am

Ha Ha Ha Great Post, neither did i new of This app nor masterplan, i think Ipad will be for 2012 i have to roll some dice for it to be sooner, will see, but do you think it will look good on an Itouch? The screen space an all?

Very good post, reaaaally useful, puts the Ipad and this app in my Wish list.

Regards

9 Gormal January 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm

This app is available for the iphone as well hoawever it is sometimes hard to read all the conditions that a character and monster icons. Otherwise I like the app great for people that like to hold there intiative and move them around.

10 Alton February 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Any update as to availability for Android OS?

11 Vee February 18, 2012 at 8:03 am

So far i like this app, I agree it could use more but I am going to be giving it a go for the first time this afternoon during my game, however I can not figure out how to add players information, I click add and the only options I have are encounter and monsters, can someone PLEASE help me?!?!?

12 Skallawag February 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

@Vee
I just took a look and you would add a player as a monster. There is then an option to toggle the monster so that it shows as a player. It is a bit misleading.

13 Vee February 18, 2012 at 11:29 am

Thank you, I saw that but it wouldn’t let me toggle it so I was confused, here I found you can only do it when you are creating, which kind of sucks because I have had a player die and then to get through the story I have them play the npc, that decided to work for them. Thanks for the help!

14 Paul April 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Hi Guys, Just googling around and saw this post. Wanted to let you know there is a huge update we just released, dropbox support for easier editing and better template support for any game type and custom fields, a whole lot of interface improvements (hopefully more intuitive) and various other features. Also hopefully addressing a few of the cons people had.

Also, sorry @Vee, probably not going to do an android version anytime in the near future.

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