Newton D&D developer Matt Howe talks dice-rolling

Newton can be a useful tool for role-players

With the death of Dungeons and Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, what better tribute could a Newton user pay than to use the MessagePad as a tool during games?

Thankfully, Matt How (aka, “Papa Duck”) has developed programs for that very purpose.

Matt has created Newton Dice Roller and a Newton D&D spells ebook – both are available, with source code, on his Papa Duck page for free.

Matt was kind enough to e-mail me more information about his Newton D&D projects.

“I have used electronic devices to support my role playing games since pretty much the beginning,” Matt told me. “I was playing with a Palm Zire for awhile and while searching the web for Palm based applications, I found a number of fancy dice rollers. These allowed you to set up combinations of dice and save them under a specific character name. Well I quickly outgrew the Zire but I liked the dice rollers. So I set down over a couple of evenings and created a character specific programmable dice roller for the Newton.”

Matt says he’s used everything from a Timex Sinclair to Atari and PCs. “But mostly I have created all manner of automated character sheets,” he says.

Matt\'s Newton die-rolling program

Matt’s dice roller works by compiling five pages of character stats automatically through nine dice rolls, after a character is created.

“I usually set up a page for melee attacks, one for ranged attacks, another for skill checks, etc.,” Matt says on his site. “Then the next time I play that character I just need to reload it to be ready to play.”

Matt’s ebook is made from Wizards of the Coast’s 3.5 System Reference Document (SRD).

Matt has been interested in programming since the Timex Sinclair days, he says, and now it’s his career – supplying accounting software to security firms.

“So it was only natural that I would start to program for the Newton,” he says. “I started with NS Basic but eventually went to NTK for the speed and universal deployment. I have made a number of small application along the way but my long term goal and on going project is Ladle. Ladle will be an application that will sync a Newton to Windows XP and Vista running the latest versions of Outlook.”

He says the Newton still has “the most bang for the buck,” especially since – for $150 or so – you get a capable, portable computer. Matt thinks the availability of software and the convenient screen size and battery life make the MessagePad still relevant. As for himself, Matt uses his Newton for record-keeping for several organizations he’s involved with, Bible-reading software, e-mail and web surfing, and mapping for travel.

“Suffice it to say, I carry my Newton everywhere I go and pull it out constantly,” he says. “When I arrive at work, it is the first thing placed on my desk.”

Matt thinks that more and more people are leaving the Newton platform, but thinks they should reconsider.

“I think that the Newton is still viable. Mostly it lacks in the internet area. But in all other areas it still excels,” he says. “I think that people should consider keeping their Newton and possibly adding a internet device of some type. I carry a Nintendo DS to supplement the Newton in web browsing. But the Newton is still my primary portable computer.”

Thanks to developers like Matt, the Newton can remain a viable option for folks on the go. And for first-level Elf Mages needing a set of stats to get them started.

Be sure to check out Matt’s other Newton software projects, like his Newton Dump and Newton Holidays, all available for free.


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