I can’t play D&D the way I used to.
I mean, I could. But I have so many more tools and options available to me now.
25 years ago, I didn’t have a computer that can access vast stores of knowledge and stories, for example. Just being able to call up a Wikipedia article on the geography of North America has had a profound influence on my campaign, especially because I’m basing my map on real-world geography. In order to get this info back in the early days, I would have had to spend the afternoon at the library (not that that would have been a bad thing).
And that’s just general knowledge; it doesn’t even take into account the amount of game-specific sites out there! If I need random Elven names, or a list of possible encounters for a coastal wilderness, those are just a Google away.
Or take maps, for another example. In the old days, I would have had to draw the maps out by hand, on graph or hexagon paper. Making a larger campaign map, while fun and creative, meant a lot of effort and expense.
But I realized recently that I can use a good free image editor to do all the hard work, and only print it out once I have all the details filled in. And if I need a poster-sized print, FedEx-Kinkos is in my neighborhood. I can keep the version I see, with all the details not meant for players’ eyes in a layer I can turn off before printing.
Back when I was a kid, I had to make or purchase a DM’s screen with handy tables on it, to aid me in running the game and hide my notes from inquisitive eyes. These days, my laptop screen does both jobs much better. Every table I need to use is just a click away!
Need to generate player characters, and calculate the weight of all those weapons, armor, and gold they carry? There’s an app for that.
Here’s an idea I’ve had but haven’t actually used yet: if I need to share a picture with the players during a game, instead of printing it out, I can email or text it to one of the players who has an iPhone, which they can pass around the table to share! Easy peasy!