I received Rocketbook Beacons from my wife as a birthday gift this year. I hadn’t used them very much until my game group moved our games to Skype a few months back. Recently I’ve been using them more and more. It’s a great tool and I’ll show you a bit of how I’m using them. Maybe you have some ideas for them as well. I did not get paid for this post and have no affiliation with Rocketbook. I just like their product.
Rocketbook is a line of products that use a special notebook and pen in conjunction with a phone app. You write or draw on the notebook, scan the image with your phone, and it will automatically send the image to an email, cloud storage or note taking app of your choice. You can set it up to send to different locations, create different file types such as JPG or PDF and it can use optical character recognition to create a document in Google Docs. I use my Rocketbook a lot for taking notes as I read, and have been using it here and there for different projects. It’s a handy tool. There’s a bunch of videos on YouTube about different ways you can use it.
One of the products is called Beacons. Beacons are a set of four orange foam triangles that have teeny little suction cups on the backs of them. You put them on the corners of a white board.
In the Rocketbook App, you set it to “beacons” and point the camera at the board. The camera scans the image which you can either send to a cloud location or it projects onto what Rocketbook calls a Snapcast. The Snapcast is just web page that is whatever your last image you’ve scanned with the Beacons. The app gives you the URL and makes it easy to share it to another person or you can bring it up on your screen in a web browser and screen share it in your video conference.
During game sessions I’ve been using the Snapcast to do quick drawings on my whiteboard for my players. After a quick scan, it posts to the URL and I have it on screen share. I could also just send the players the URL and they could have it in a separate tab or window when they need to reference it. For me, its a lot less work than using virtual table top software. It’s also closer to how we normally play during face to face. I don’t use a battlemats, 3D terrain or miniatures most of the time. Often I just use good old graph paper and pencil to draw out an encounter.
Here’s a photo of the board with a drawing of an encounter in yesterday’s session. Normally, during play I have it sitting on an easel next to me and I can draw out a sketch of the situation. Here’s an example from actual play. The room will make no sense to you at all but can get the idea of what I’ve got going on with the tool.
I’ve found it to be a quick, easy and reliable tool for online gaming. I’d rather not spend time fiddling with a virtual table top app if I can help it. They look cool but from the minimal amount of experience I’ve had with them, they seem to require a lot of time to set up and prepare for a game. The Beacons give me a tool I can use with very little effort and time commitment. Once you set up the app on your phone and play with it a little bit, you will quickly get up to speed and be able to use it with your video conferencing app of choice. They are relatively inexpensive at $15 for the beacons and the app is free.
I’ve also used the tool for brainstorming sessions where I’ll just stand in front of the board and scribble down ideas, capture the image and save it in Evernote or my cloud storage to look at later. Its a neat tool. I have a few other ideas I’m going to test out and I’ll make future posts if they work out.