Gaming in the 21st Century

I recently moved into a new house. As a consequence of this move, I ended up with a room devoted entirely to gaming. So for the first time, I hosted my RPG group and took the opportunity to jazz up our game session.

Playing in your own home gives you certain advantages, such as ample time to prepare and complete control over the environment. This allowed me to prepare a map for the coming encounter ahead of time. I really enjoy the free-form nature of FFG’s narrative dice system and typically don’t do many maps or advanced set pieces. You never know what you’ll need or what crazy things your players will come up with when spending advantage/triumphs/destiny points. But last time we had left off with them preparing to assault an Imperial base so I had a location we knew would be used. My son and I built a base out of Legos and X-wing miniatures.

And that was just the beginning.

As part of the move, I took some of the redecoration budget and bought a few toys. Mainly, Google Home and Phillips Hue lights. I had grand visions of now being able to live in the future, controlling lights with my voice, playing music on a whim, setting up fancy light settings for every RPG environment and you know living on the starship Enterprise.. Unfortunately, it turns out it doesn’t quite do everything you can imagine. But that didn’t stop me.

First, I set up playlists for each phase of the coming adventure. My PCs had to sneak into the Imperial base and then begin decontaminating some chemical barrels. The Empire was using this chemical to make a powerful weapon but in its current state it was a pretty unstable explosive. I created one playlist for the setup stage and then another one to play when they were inevitably caught (RPG1). The first song was an alarm klaxon. This is where I ran into my first hurdle.

Using a program called IFTTT (If This Then That) I had set up my Hue lights to turn red at the command “Red Alert.” I wanted to play my playlist on the same command. Unfortunately, IFTTT can’t get the Home to play any music. It is a depressingly absent feature that the only way to play music is with Google’s built in commands. So I was forced to issue two different commands to get the lights the right color and then have the klaxon start playing.

Additionally, to get Google to play your specific playlist is a bit complicated (“Okay Google, play my playlist RPG1”). You can word it differently (one of the advantages Home has over Amazon Alexa, more responsive to different ways of saying things) but the less precise the command the greater the chance Google will find another song/playlist than the one you intended.

All that being said, when the lights turned red and the klaxon started playing it really set the mood for the encounter. As things continued to ramp up a storm started to move into the area of the Imperial base. Half the party was up in X-wings protecting the nearby city. The next playlist had bits of thunder and storm sounds worked in-between the tracks. So when I got to phase 2, I triggered the next playlist (RPG2) and started another fun program for the lights.

Hue Disco is an app for your phone that syncs your lights with the music playing. I set it to run and the light flashed with the periodic lightning. It doesn’t work perfectly since it uses your phone’s microphone to pick up sounds and therefore picks up all sounds. But it was enough to give an illusion of flashing lightning which helped set the mood. There are other apps out there specifically to get your Hue lights to flash like lightning and in perfect sync with a storm sound track. Unfortunately, you can’t play the soundtrack over your Home speaker. It might still be worth doing though as you could play the storm on your phone and music over the speaker.

We specifically decided not to put a TV in the game room; it’s for table top gaming, not video games, but if you had one in your game room there are a lot more things you could add to enhance your game. Maps, creature images, prepared distress calls, opening Star Wars scrolls, etc. All of this technology can enhance your games in exciting ways. If you’re willing to put the time, and initial money, into it.

Do you use tech in your games or do you prefer it old school? Tell us in the comments.


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Wayne Basta

Wayne Basta

Editor-in-Chief at d20 Radio
Wayne is the managing editor of d20 Radio's Gaming Blog. He also occasionally writes books.
Wayne Basta

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1 Comment

  1. Well, you could make the first track you saying “Red Alert”… 😀
    That’s awesome, though. I might have to consider installing Hues over my dining room table…

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