Ubiquity of Wireless Internet Access (RE:Compendium access and the RPGA)

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As an off-shoot of the discussion on the use of the Rules Compendium for a rules source, there have been several comments about wireless access in play locations I'd like to explore.

I'm curious to get people's experiences on:
A) Where they play
B) The availability of wifi in those locations
B1) Cost, if any of wifi
C) Who has a pc/laptop/smartphone/ipod handy they can use to access the Compendium as they play.

This is just to sate my personal curiosity, because while I don't want to belittle those arguments, as someone who's ALWAYS connected it's hard for me to picture being disconnected in most public locations.

As always, I'm willing to be proven wrong.
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

So, I'll start off.

I play primarily at my FLGS (when I get to play at all).

My FLGS offers the use of his Point-of-sale system to customers and to volunteers (DMs) when sales aren't being rung up. In addition, he offers wireless access to customers and employees if they ask - and failing that, the malls he's in also have free wireless access.

I seldom leave the house without my "Geek" laptop (those at DDXP likely saw me using it at the front desk - no, not the pink one, that's Dave's), so I'm able, if I so chose, to quickly and easily use either the store's computer, or my own laptop in my FLGS to pull up the Compendium quickly and easily.

I only attend conventions on the national scale (GenCon, Origins, and DDXP), and aside from Origins, I find that while I *may* have to pay $5-$10 for wifi at these shows a connection is usually available if I want it. While I wouldn't pay that for Compendium access, I'm still a 'net Geek, and might well pay it anyway, access to the Compendium being an added bonus if I need it at a table later.

For mobile devices, the phone my job supplies me with runs Windows Mobile 6.1, which I recently discovered (in a discussion with Harliquinn) can pull up Compendium answers as well. I realize this puts me on the far side of "supergeek", and don't expect to find many similar cases, but it's a nice backup (if ungodly slow) should all else fail.

So, in summary:
1) I have free access at my FLGS and the malls in which it sits (two locations)
2) I had free access at DDXP, could buy access at GenCon, Origins may have been a dead zone. . . can't recall.
3) I have a cell phone that gets access so long as I have a cellular signal.
4) I have a laptop in my backpack at more or less all of the above, just in case.
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

I don't allow laptops at my table. So, no Compendium access for me.

For RPGA conventions, assuming I DM, I will make an exception. But, if the player starts any type of game, loads AIM, or starts navigating web sites, they are booted.

-SYB
I see free wireless at about a third to half of the conventions I attend, at least as far as being able to access it at the gaming table. I attend mostly East Coast events. The access where I can get it is free about 2/3rds of the time.

My problem is that a good chunk of the time there's no power outlet, so even with wireless, access is limited due to laptop battery life.


-karma

LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard | Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard | Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric

AL Character: Talia Ko'bori Silverwane - Tiefling Tome Fiend Warlock

Most of my games happen at people's houses. Our most common location has no internet, but our second-most common does.

Lacking a laptop, however, I don't take advantage of it even when it's available. I haven't really had need for it, though, so...
We don't have any consistent internet access at my FLGS.

- The shop's computer is usually available to us if absolutely needed, but it's at the other end of the store - two rooms away from where we're gaming - and it's a pretty slow computer at that. I shudder to think how long it'd take to load up the compendium on there.

- There's no wireless access - the nearest hotspot is the bar across the street, which you can get into from the shop if the stars align correctly, and even then only from the very front of the store (again, two rooms away from where we're playing).

- The shop has a metal roof or something that makes it a near complete dead zone for many if not most cell phones. Calling and texting are very unreliable for most people (nigh impossible for me, I have to go outside) and again, I don't even want to try loading up the compendium.

- I do typically have at least one player with a laptop at the table, and I have a laptop that doesn't usually leave home, but unless there's an offline version of the compendium, it's not going to do us any good.

When we're playing at an alternate location, we'll usually have better internet access. That would typically be my apartment (which has wifi) or rarely my friend Joe's apartment (which has wifi) or the campus student center (which has wifi conditional on being signed in as a student, which isn't too hard to get), but we're almost always at the game store, and pretty well thoroughly disconnected.
As with SYB, I don't allow laptops at my game table either, because they tend to distract people.
Apart from being a distraction, laptops take up too much table space for most places I've been. Books are easily stashed when not in use, laptops tend to stay out once booted up.

Imagine your game table with players, maps, dice, munchies. Now add five to seven laptops. Do you have that many outlets? Have you ever seen an outlet in the middle of a convention hall? Can your battery last three sessions at a Con?

How often do you really need to access rules during a game? Certainly you're not constantly referring to them. If you have access to the compendium, you have access to the character creator power cards. There's also better cards available for free on the net.

I like my laptop and had it at DDXP. It was fun when I wasn't playing but I never had a reason to pull it out in a game.
At home, I have wireless internet on my laptop.

At most home game locations I play in that are not my phone, I have wireless internet on my iPod, which works fine for Compendium access.

At most cons I attend, I do not have wireless access.

In *all three circumstances*, I find it far faster to pull out a book and an update document, as I do not always have the Compendium page loaded up and ready.
John du Bois Living Forgotten Realms Writing Director, Netheril story area Follow me on The Twitter: @JohnduBois Follow my presence on The Intertubes: johncdubois.wordpress.com
A) I play at a local Comic Book and Game Store.

B) The store has a wifi connection. Not the fastest but serviceable.

B1) The wifi at the store is free.

C) There is at least 2 laptops available at the tables when we play. And there are several of us that have DDi subscriptions.
Apart from being a distraction, laptops take up too much table space for most places I've been. Books are easily stashed when not in use, laptops tend to stay out once booted up.

FWIW, I have seen more players that have a bigger gamer footprint at a table than the ones with laptops. Character binders, dice rolling boxes, dice, pencil box, etc.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
Yeah, laptops ON the gaming table irritate me.

If I'm using mine I always have it off to the side, usually sitting on an extra chair. It's accessible when I wanna look something up, but it's out of the way so it doesn't distract me and where the lid doesn't block the view.

I find that it takes up less space than the stack of 7+ books, and being able to search is nice.



-karma

LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard | Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard | Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric

AL Character: Talia Ko'bori Silverwane - Tiefling Tome Fiend Warlock

My laptop at a table, no way it's a beast. My netbook, sure thing, it's tiny. I prefer to not dig it out unless I have a very specific need of it though. As far as where I play well, 3 out of 5 have wireless access for home game locations, public locations it has wifi but you pay and I've never bothered to find out how much.

When we play at my house my laptop is nearby if we need to look something up, but usually out of the way.
Blah blah blah
Our game store has a computer in the back room that we are allowed to use if we ask first. I am not sure if the store has wifi or not because the computer is right next to the RPGA area. Most of the RPGA groups that are playing don't have a laptop. There is one group where the DM has a laptop but that is because is running his own adventures. He use to play music during battles, it was annoying.

I am typing this from my blackberry, I haven't tried to access the compendium yet from it.

UPDATE:
I can access the compendium from my blackberry, but its fickle about it. The website keeps asking me to login, so I do it, then search for something, then when I click to read the details of item/spell/etc... the website asks me to login again.
There's wi-fi at my two most common game locales (homes, both of them), but no one ever uses it at the table.

At the convention space most commonly used here, I think there's wi-fi, but again, it's so rarely used in my presence, I have no real idea. The subject hadn't ever come up for me before.
C) Who has a pc/laptop/smartphone/ipod handy they can use to access the Compendium as they play.

I tend to find that, in general, players relying upon these tend to slow down play.

Having books, power cards (or equivalent on the character sheet), printouts of relevant pages for the character, or even photocopies of the needed material works much more smoothly.

Needing to show the judge what you've looked up gets even worse with a laptop vs. other materials.

-James
Well, my Tuesday night non-LFR game has wireless, which sometimes works. But isn't LFR.

The game store I run LFR and the D&D Delve at doesn't have wifi. I did see an unsecured wireless network that gave out a routered (192.168.x.x) IP address, but my portable was down to 20% ower or less, so I couldn't check to see if it was truly free, or setup like a hotel network.

Add in that on some nights (tonight was a Magic tournament of some sort, so the store was very crowded), it can be difficult to impossible to get access to an outlet....

The "normal" site used by the once-a-month local Game Day has wifi and power (local library), but that is one night out of the 3 I regularly play or run 4th Ed games.

Add that my phone is an antique, and my so-called Internet access through it isn't worth using... Typing in a URL is torture.
In home games we usually have one laptop open, but that's to run a webcam for the one player now living out of state, so it isn't used for anything else.

As a player in RPGA events I never use a laptop - all it does is get in the way - it takes up a permanent amount of space, restricts my reach to the minis, and effectively creates a barrier between me and my fellow players.

As a DM in RPGA events I use a laptop to read the adventure (along with notes on paper, it works just as well and I don't have to use up as much resources), and as an effectively as a DM screen. I have it sitting off to the side so that I am mainly open to the players, with the option to hide certain things if I need to.

Of the three stores I go to RPGA events at, only one (that I know of) has wireless internet, which you must pay for. I don't bother to use the compendium, both because I can't access it, and it's more tedious and time-consuming than simply looking something up in a book.

In my rapidly growing LFR RPGA group only one other person uses a laptop, also just for reading the module while DMing.
As a Dm Ihave a laptop but keep it off to the side and only use it for reference, However I do not let players bring laptops after an incident with a particular player who felt it appropriate to play diablo 2 in between his turn. and then when we told them to put away his laptop he proceeded to pull out a nintendo DS, so we made strict rules for what to bring (we even have a rule of only 1 copy of each rule book can be on the table at a time (to prevent another bad habbit of a different player who felt he could read a graphic novel and or work on his next character in between turns, these two players have moved on but we keep the rules in still incase we get new players with the same issues.
The compendium works pretty well on the iPhone, and I'd guess other similar devices too. Battery life and size are not an issue, and lack of wifi isn't either.
I run most of my games with several laptops on. I don't like to waste paper so I run the game from my laptop (who is also acting as a DM screen ). It gives me fast and reliable access to my books (err I mean the Compendium) and free up a lot of table space.

One other player is using his laptop for his character sheet. I don't mind if he does something else than playing DnD while it's not his turn as long as he is not disturbing anybody (read : I don't want to hear anything about it) and he don't waste all party's time by taking long turns because he don't know what going on. So far, had no problems.

Actually my biggest problems are with Paper character sheets. 1) They are poorly designed, making it harder to get important thing obvious. 2) They get terribly messy and reinforce 1. 3) They usually ends up taking more place than a simple laptop. Most of my players got their characters sheet covered in green (the color of our battlemat pen) due to erasing and drawing the map.

That and dice. I mean if you play a dagger wielding rogue, you need 3d4, 1d20, 2d8 and depending on your weapon crit propriety. I don't care that you have 200+ dice, just bring what you need. The rest goes in your dice bag.
Living in Australia:
* I play at stores, convetions (1 so far) and at homes.
* I've seen WIFI once at a home game.
* Internet is accessible at home games and sometimes at store games, although its often in another room.
* Players are the only ones I've seen with laptops and they're a minority (out of a table, 1 probably has it, 2 at the most. Often none).
* People probably have internet-capable phones. But I've never seen one used to look up a rule.
Just wanted to thank everyone for their replies and for feeding my curiosity.

By all means, keep 'em coming.
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

I have wireless at my home location but since I'm a bit old fashioned I love working from paper. Tried DMing from laptop (13" inch MacBook) once and despite the small size I still think it detracted me from contact with the players.

Most players in the area just use papersheets and powercards since the venues we play are rather small. I as a DM prefer a sheet I can look at and hold in my hand over laptops since unintentionally laptops distract from the game.
About 40% of my gaming takes place at my house, where I have wi-fi for my HTPC and as a courtesy for my friends who come over to play/visit. People are also welcome to use any of my computers for whatever purpose they need from looking up rules, printing character sheets or log sheets to general surfing.

Another 40% of my gaming takes place at a friend's condo where we have access to their wi-fi and home system as well.

About 10% of gaming time takes place at a different friend's house where they too have wireless.

The remaining 10% is at various locations where we sometimes have wi-fi, and sometimes don't. For the times we don't have wireless access, that's when I turn to my iPhone and its 3G connection for internet access. If the iPhone doesn't cut it (required site needs flash support, doesn't like the Safari browser, etc.) then I take the SIM card out of my iPhone and put it in my USB 3G modem which I then plug into my Asus EEE netbook. The netbook is what I use to keep a copy of rules I use (illusion magic for my wizard, basic bard writeup for DMs who haven't seen it, etc) as well as electronic copies of all of mine and my wife's characters and log sheets. I also use a custom excel spreadsheet to keep track of character stuff, though I also have power cards if I'm out of battery power or if the DM prefers I not have a laptop at the table. In the event the netbook isn't suitable (odd resolution causes problems, machine not fast enough for whatever reason), then the 3G USB modem gets plugged into my full-sized laptop and that's what I use. That's a last resort thing though, since I put it together out of spare parts that we were throwing out at work so the machine has some minor 'issues' and the battery is pretty bad and only lasts for about 2 hours.

In the event I have to resort to using my 3G connection and there are other people who would like to connect to the internet on their wireless laptops, then it's a simple matter of setting up an ad-hoc wireless network and turning on connection sharing on my laptop to give multiple people net access.

High-speed home net acces, wifi and 3G/Edge cell network access is pretty much ubiquitous in the areas of Southern Ontario where I game, so it's a very rare and frightening occurrence to not have some manner of internet access.

Any place where I end up with internet access from any of the above solutions means I have access to my entire home network via RDP, FTP and SSH so if I've forgotten something I can get it in short order. Files get downloaded to my USB thumb drive, and if the files have to be printed and I'm not at a friend's place then it's usually a simple matter of borrowing the LFGS printer or finding a copy store or similar type service to print off whatever I need.

And WolfStar, if your setup puts you on the far side of "supergeek", then I can't even imagine where I stand.

By the way, I have the Compendium bookmarked on my iPhone and it seems to work just fine.
Maybe it is different in Australia, there are hardly any DMs here with Laptops, and most don't like players with them either.

We have found that:

1. Laptops combined with dice, and other stuff usually take up an inordinate amount of room.
2. There is usually insufficient power to run all of them.
3. Burning said power aint too great for the environment. (Bigger Gamer footprint if you will)
4. Time taken to find things on a laptop is usually less than checking a printed copy
5. Laptops encourage less participation as players are constantly trolling through rules, building characters, or generally mucking about.
6. Excessive use of electronic character sheets often result in people not understanding their abilities and becoming over-reliant on others to do their work for them - this means they don't understand why their 'to hit' is that number, etc. This leads to errors and often an increased lack of understanding, rule-wise.
7. If a player/gm is looking at a screen they are not addressing other players/interacting interpersonally that much
8. Said Laptops cause a worry at cons with other people being careless with drinks, etc, also it's a lot worse losing the laptop than having some dice stolen.

I am personally of the opinion that technology is a great aid, but I have met many players who don't understand how their powers work, take up a huge amount of space with those darn power cards (write em on a piece of paper FFS, and tick em off when used) and often have ask questions like "why are my numbers like this? where is the random +1 coming from?"

- Metz does think that all this newfangled technology can result in people not knowing the rules and becoming over reliant though - he has seen it.
3. Burning said power aint too great for the environment. (Bigger Gamer footprint if you will)

Oh man... this makes me want to plug in more computers... I need to buy a few more..
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
Oh man... this makes me want to plug in more computers... I need to buy a few more..

What an odd reaction.
What an odd reaction.

Some people just dont buy into all this Global Warming crap. So his reaction was quite funny actually.
Some people just dont buy into all this Global Warming crap.

I'd respond further but that would be off topic ;) It still seems odd, saying you'll do the exact opposite for no real reason....

I'll have to take your word for it that it was humorous ;)
Honestly I'm pretty sure that your Gamer footprint would be much higher with printing paper than using your computer for mods
I don't allow laptops at games i GM & i'm even a pain in the ass about it when i'm a player. If i wanted to play a computer game i could have done that from home.

I've also found that laptops take away from ROLEplaying as the people who use them just sit their and do all the maths for "how to beat the odds" rather then actually game.

In closing i would like to remind people of the good old days when D&D was billed as a "pen and paper game" with a catchline that read "Just bring your imagination." not like now where its a pen and paper game, "Just bring your imagination, 300 mini's, 10 books, a laptop with sufficient power cabling, wifi & a DDI account" :P

Lets not try to make this high-tech guys. Just play!

-M :evillaugh
The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. -Albert Einstein When the forces of stupid collide, magical things happen. And by magical, I mean ******* moronic. - Anon
It still seems odd, saying you'll do the exact opposite for no real reason....

I'll have to take your word for it that it was humorous ;)

Oh, it's not humorous. I am dead serious. I have my reasons, but as you said they're off topic. Although I did just buy an Alienware M17 laptop tonight after posting that... and I never turn off my desktops. (yes, that's plural :P)

Anyway, back top the topic at hand... as I have stated before, I find that laptop users take up less space. Maybe that's just in my area. Non-laptop users have a ton of crap they pile on the table.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
If i wanted to play a computer game i could have done that from home.

But wait! Didn't you know? 4e is an MMO!
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
I don't allow laptops at games i GM & i'm even a pain in the ass about it when i'm a player. If i wanted to play a computer game i could have done that from home.

I've also found that laptops take away from ROLEplaying as the people who use them just sit their and do all the maths for "how to beat the odds" rather then actually game.

Whether or not I am using my laptop, for whatever reason (out of ink is an all-too-frequent occurence, really), I probably wouldn't enjoy playing with you.

And I have seen non-laptop users who sit like a bump on a log, and laptop users who interact fully.

Remember, it isn't laptops that kill roleplay, but players kill roleplay. (couldn't resist)

More seriously, it is entirely feasible to only print out the signin sheets and story awards (and the story awards are optional) and still have a successful game.
On a little side note a nice plan a few fellow gamers and I had. As soon as the digital game table was working, we would all take our laptop and sit in the kitchen with the game table on the beamer. Everyone would use his laptop and headset to roleplay and we would make some nice pictures of it for Wizards.

DnD 4th edition MMO-style :P
Honestly I'm pretty sure that your Gamer footprint would be much higher with printing paper than using your computer for mods

Perhaps for DMing.

But most players I have dealt with have the paper version AND the laptop version - doubling up... (that may be harking back to LG where it was compulsory however, so this may change, I will admit that)
Some people just dont buy into all this Global Warming crap. So his reaction was quite funny actually.

Global warming is one issue. Arbitrary wastage of power based on expensive non-renewable resources is another. I hope you never complain about rising fuel prices...

The issue was bigger in LG, where you had to have paper versions as well as any electronic. (Double whammy) - This is no longer necessary, in which case it's not so bad.
To bring it somewhat back into the topic, both the game stores I play at regularly have PCs available with internet connections, but no wireless. As to using a laptop at the table, I don't mind if the player stays engaged. Rude behaviour is the same whether it is a laptop, handheld gameboy thing, a cell phone or a book. As long as the players stay active and engaged I am happy.
One of the largest gaming conventions in the UK is held just up the road from me, at a holiday park. WiFi is available in the main hall, but costs £25 for the week, and its range doesn't extend much out of the building, so for games held in the chalets there is no WiFi.

The place is pretty much a mobile phone blackspot, too, making it feel oddly isolated to the modern technophile despite the crowds of players.
When we first started our home game, we had 2 players who had laptops. We found they took up too much space at the table and they took more time looking stuff up. My roomate and I (who alternate DMming) decided to ban laptops at our table. We have one player who keeps stuff on a handheld device (blackberry or ipod touch - I'm not sure) but he's organized and quick about pulling up the information.

4e just isn't complicated enough to need a computer (not like 3.5 with all of it's bonus stacking complexities and recalcuation of stats when your base scores change).

As for LFR gamedays - it seems our group is lenient with laptops, I've only seen a DM refuse a player his laptop once - and that was because he opened World of Warcraft as we were sitting down to play (another player had his laptop open only for his character sheet - but did start playing minesweeper after a lengthy battle and his character being out cold with no healers available)

EDIT: Oh and there's when I play LFR onlne - but that's entirely different Everyone's at a PC then.
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