Monday, October 17, 2011

App Review: RPG Roller v.2.1 by Moondog Software

At its most simple: tap the button to roll
whatever combination of dice you desire.
When I bought my first round of DnD materials, I bought three sets of dice.  At the time, I expected that I'd be playing along with two other people, so this would cover us.  Since that time, our adventuring party has grown to a total of five people (myself included), which means we're a bit short on dice.  With that in mind, and in hopes of saving a little bit of time, I looked on iTunes for a dice rolling application.  This is the one I settled on: RPG Roller by Moondog Software.

This is an application designed for efficient play at a game table.  It does not try to recreate "the experience of rolling dice."  Instead, it is a customizable random number generator.  The most straightforward way to use the application is to use the Quick Buttons tab (right), which allows you to roll any combination of dice you could imagine (you sweep your finger to access bigger dice--d10's, d12's, d20's, and d100's).  Simply tap the button you want and your roll appears as a huge number in the middle of the screen.  If you blink/forget, it also shows the most recent roll in the upper right-hand corner.  You can also access your roll history via the tab at the bottom.

Players can add customizable
buttons for each attack and damage
Perhaps more exciting is the Hot Buttons tab, which allows you to customize buttons to your specific needs. For my DMing session this weekend, I just made a page with the dice rolls I'd need for the adventure: 1d20, 1d4, 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 1d8, 2d8, 3d8, etc.  This way, I didn't have to sweep back and forth between the "big dice" and "small dice" pages.  It also let me add a bit more space in between clusters of buttons, which helps me avoid pushing the wrong button.

But if you desired, you could do what is shown to the right and create buttons for each attack and damage roll.  You can edit the formula to include any modifiers you desire.  For example, a Fledgling White Dragon's bite does 1d12+6 damage.  This can be programmed into a button.  When you push it, it will give you a number between 7 and 18.  It's neat.

For DMing, I prefer to just add in the modifiers myself, as the setup time to customize buttons for every single monster is a bit too much for my taste.  But a player might find it worthwhile to program all of his/her rolls into the device, since there are fewer combinations.  This could be especially helpful for younger players who are a bit slower with the math.  You can use color codes to help you find buttons on the screen too, which is neat.

There are other nice little features.  For example, you can go into the More tab and select "chart" and see a random distribution histogram for whatever roll you most recently submitted, along with summary statistics.  Beyond tickling my stat-nerd fancy, I can see this being handy when explaining the difference between a 1d12 and a 2d6 weapon.  There's also an option to prevent the iPhone screen from shutting down when the app is running, which is very nice when DMing so there's never a delay when I need to roll.  You also can customize the sounds.  If you like, the app can make a noise that sounds like dice rolling whenever you roll.  I prefer a simple "click" sound to play along with the button press, and it does this as well.

I have two minor complaints.  First, the buttons are a little small.  Since I'm usually standing when DMing, I'd prefer to have the option to have buttons twice the height shown here so that I'd have a bigger target.  That said, I've yet to actually hit the wrong button as far as I know, so it's not a big deal.

Second, the input syntax for multiple dice rolls threw me for a small loop.  I tried to input a dragon breath damage role of "2d8+4."  This should give a range of results between 6 and 20 (2d8 give you 2 to 16, then you add four).  The software, however, will give you results between 10 and 24.  It's adding four to both dice.  I had to contact the author to figure it out; to get it to work properly, you have to input "2d8 + 4" (note the spaces; this apparently is designed to help minimize the use of parentheses on complicated rolls, though I'm guessing it causes a fair bit of confusion by end users).  Once you do it that way, it works great.

All in all, though, this is a terrific little app.  It's faster and quicker than rolling actual dice, and it frees up my physical dice for my players to use.  And it's free!  While there is unquestionably an aesthetic value in rolling the actual dice on the table, there are situations (like mine) in which you need an alternative.  If you're in one of those situations and have an iPhone, I highly recommend RPG Roller.

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