I congratulate Jeff and the rest at Alea Tools for doing so well on their Kickstarter for the RPG Initiative Board. It’s great to see gamers fervently supporting aids to their favorite hobbies. When something this simple gets this kind of support, it gives me hope that more and more attention will come to table-top gaming. There is a lot of bad, unhealthy attention out there but the more we have, the better chance we have at getting good attention.
As for the product in question, I don’t think I have any use for it. I like aides that speed up the things that take time away from play. For example: if I don’t have to take time to look up how a spell or an item works, because I have the info in front of me, that’s a good aide. Controlling time is important in the game. Little will spoil the tension of a good battle scene more than if the DM is lost for minutes in his books.
First, here’s the method for initiative that I use. I take a piece of graph paper, listing everyone’s character name, and I put a couple of spaces for monsters. Then I ask for and input the player’s initiative rolls and the monster rolls. And there we go, I call out who is up in order of their modified rolls, and that’s it. Seems quick and non-obtrusive.
The RPG Initiative Board has to be managed. Someone has to take time and manage the Board physically before and during the rounds of combat. Instead of the DM quickly saying who is up, we fiddle with the Board. Understand that it’s even less useful for me because I determine Initiative every round. So Bob may go first in round one but fourth in round two. That’s a lot of Board manipulation that slows down the combats. Seems to me that whoever is in charge of the Board would quickly tire of changing it all the time.
Another issue is that I don’t think the players should know when the monsters have their moves. There is some great tension to be had wondering if your heavily damaged character is going to get his or her turn before the dragon eats them. I could withhold the monster’s initiative, but then I’m recording in two places. I might as well just write them all down. Writing is faster. I cannot stress enough that we are playing role-playing games, not board games. In a board game, this kind of tension isn’t as important.
Be careful with this kind of tool. Remember what you are playing; a game that should move more and more toward a personal and immersive experience. We do not want to bore people but to thrill them.