First off I’m just going to be upfront about something. I don’t run complicated games. Just ask my players. I don’t have these huge worlds with eons of lore, armies of NPC’s, and miles and miles of land. My games of preference are *World games and the occasional 13th Age game. World games are very big on improv and seat of your pants GMing. 13th Age is more traditional in the sense that a sane GM should take some time before the game starts to come up with challenges and monsters to fight. I would struggle to improv 13th Age due to having to search for monsters in books. Maybe that’s due to my inexperience with the system, I don’t know. As for now I mostly run prewritten adventures so the need to organize is low since the adventure has done so for me. Having said all that my tl:dr review of Realm Works is:
- It’s a good program but I’ll probably never use it.
Ok first off, why is it good? Well it can do a lot. That should probably have been “It can do A LOT.” When I was playing around with Realm Works I realized I could do all of this on wiki’s and google docs/drawings and other programs, but Realm Works (RW) has it all in one bundle. When you need to bounce between sheets and pages quickly this can be a big time saver. RW does everything any other program I found online, but does it better. I dare say it is the best out there of what it does. When you first open it up, it is intimidating. Please for the love of Tempus read the hints and tips and tutorials, or go on youtube and find a tutorial. Going in head first with out a guide may put you off completely before you can give it a chance.
The feature I liked the most was a tie between how the program can link all of your separate bits of info so you can navigate via clicking the link, and the way the GM can simply toggle a switch to make something seeable by the players or not. You can do this on wikis and Obsidian Portal, but it is way easier on RW. The info hiding can be maps, NPC info, and really anything else the GM might keep hidden. The ability to have a fog of war on your maps can be huge and I’ve tried that with other programs, and RW does it the best so far.
So if you have a complicated game that would give George RR Martin a run for his money in terms of epicness and number of characters, RW may just save what little sanity you have left.
So why wouldn’t I use this in my games?
Maybe once a year I will run an RPG online with my mates who are all over the state. I could see using RW for something like that, but 95% of my games are ran in my home at my dining table. Now if every player has a computer out that could take up a lot of table space. Granted RW would replace character sheets but not everyone has a little laptop or tablet (and I’m not sure that RW runs on tablets to be honest, I do know there is no support for Macs at the moment). Assuming I got a bigger table the next problem I could see cropping up is the fact that now my players have a computer in front of them. Suddenly their attention span dropped. Sure they may be looking at my notes and handouts, but now they have their email open and then youtube. This may be more a problem with the people I play with but I could see other groups having this problem. The bit that would bother me the most would be the fact that everyone would have their nose buried in a computer instead of what’s going on at the table. It’s bad enough when a player is playing Pokemon when it is not his turn. I’ve been burned by electronics at the table before so I’m hesitant to encourage it.
Like I said at the start, most of my games are ran by the seat of my pants. When I’m running Dungeon or Apocalypse World I don’t plan anything out. So RW wouldn’t help much for prep time. I could see using RW after the fact to make a nice organized list of NPCs and locations, but that wouldn’t really push the program to its limits. If I get back into more traditional RPGs (D&D, Pathfinder, or a proper 13th Age home made adventure) then I could see using it.
I’m cheap. Well frugal at any rate. SRDs and free RPGs are my bread and butter. I own a few books/pdfs but most of them were gifts. I had to sell off all my hardcover books a few years back when money was really tight (do I heat the house or feed my kids tight) and ever since then I haven’t put a lot of money into this hobby. Fifty dollars is a bit steep. Granted I own video games that cost that much at one point in time (I buy via Humble Bundle to get them way cheaper) so if you have no problem dropping $50 for a new video game, then I’m sure the cost of the program won’t put you off. RW offers a cloud service to store all of your campaign, but it’s not free. You get the first 6 months for free but then it’s $25 for a half year and $40 for a full year. That comes out to about $4 or $3.33 a month depending on which way you subscribe. You don’t have to use the cloud if you want. RW works with out it but you’ll have to either manually move the file from one PC to the next or just stick to one device. Also if you want to utilize the ability for your players to access your game via there own device you need to have an active cloud service subscription.
This is a good program. Make no mistake, I’m thoroughly impressed by Lone Wolf for what they pulled off. It just doesn’t offer much for my current play style. You could offer me the greatest airplane in the world and some day I may learn how to fly it really well, but seeing as I work only 20 minuets away from my home the airplane isn’t offering much. If something changes in my RPG hobby and I end up getting back into epic campaigns the likes of which George RR Martin would blush at, I’ll be opening Realm Works back up. Maybe not for my players (due to inattentive issues) but I’ll use it.
I’d like to thank Liz for being so patient with this review and for giving me a review copy of RW. I probably would have never tried it out otherwise. Thank you for reading.