Pokémon Deck List Sheet Despite OpenOffice Weirdness

Since I’ve been running Pokémon League Challenges (our next one is 20th Dec 2014), I’ve had no end of issues with deck registration sheets. For one thing, it takes ages before anyone uploads one after a new set releases. More annoying to me as TO (tournament organizer) is that all of the available sheets use American civilian–standard middle-endian dates, but the Pokémon website and tournament software both use the Internet-standard big-endian dates (fun fact: most countries in the world use little-endian dates, as I did above), so adding new players to the software is a bigger hassle than it needs to be – especially with my oft pain-fogged mind.

So it took me several months, especially since I had to track down the official abbreviation and set symbol for Phantom Forces, but I finally finished my own deck registration sheet. Further complicating things is a strange problem I was having with OpenOffice, but I’ll cover that in its own section later.

The first obvious difference you’ll see is that it has the set symbols and abbreviations for every set currently legal in both Standard and Expanded events, with a separate table for each format. That way you don’t need two different registration sheets if you run or attend events using both formats. At the WNC Pokémon League, for instance, we alternate the two formats from season to season.

As with everything I intend to be printed out by end users, I designed it to use as little as ink as possible. That’s why the table that lists all of the Standard-legal set symbols and abbreviations ends with several blank lines, intended to serve two purposes. The first is to eliminate the need to wait for me or anyone else to add new sets by giving you space to write in newly-released sets and their abbreviations as soon as you need them. Those lines also mean that copies leftover from past events will never go to waste since up to four sets released after the sheet was printed can be added to it.

It is my intention to upload a new revision every time there is a new set release or rotation, so the link above should always lead you to the newest version.


Now my weird OpenOffice issue. If you are only here for Pokémon and have no interest in the finer points of OpenOffice, you can skip the rest of this post.

If you work with complex documents a lot, you may be aware that OO Writer is terrible at formatting tables, so it’s much, much easier to make them in Calc and paste them into Writer. Fortunately, Writer is as much a low-end desktop publishing program as it is a word processor, so it handles the insertion of layered objects very well, especially if you put all of the individual components into separate Frames like I do. As an example, the deck sheet linked above has five frames in addition to the five embedded tables. My most complicated character sheet to date, for HackMaster 5e, has 16 distinct frames in addition to inserted Calc tables.

So what was weird? When I pasted the format tables into Writer the set symbols vanished. I belatedly remembered that you can’t link* in the images if you want to copy the table to another document. So I tried embedding* a single set symbol into Calc, then copied the table into Writer. As expected, it successfully copied the embedded image but not the linked ones, so I set about replacing all of the linked images in Calc. But when I pasted the final table into Writer, it still only pasted that first embedded image.

Because Writer is so bad at tables, I decided to just make the whole thing in Calc even though Writer’s Scribus-like features make some parts of the job much easier. As expected, managing some of the fiddlier bits of arranging various elements on the page in Calc proved to be a great deal more work than in Writer, but there didn’t seem to be any alternative – until, on a whim, I tried to copy Standard table into a different sheet in the same document and was pleasantly surprised when the images actually went along for the ride.

Naturally, my next move was to try to paste it into Writer, and it worked perfectly, so I went back to designing the whole thing in Writer. Even weirder is that up until then the set symbols would all move slightly every time I opened the spreadsheet. For some unknown reason, the first time the images stayed put upon loading was the same time that they also successfully traveled from Calc to Writer. They have remained in place ever since.

So my question for you OO experts out there is: do you have any idea why all of that happened? Specifically, why couldn’t I paste the embedded images? Why would they move around randomly? And why did they suddenly start behaving?

* There are two ways of adding images to an OO document: linking and embedding. A linked image is simply referenced by the document, much like Web hyperlinks, making the resulting document much smaller, but if the document is copied to another computer then the links break so the images don’t appear. Actually embedding the images makes the document more portable, but also larger.

“Pain is Temporary… Quitting Lasts Forever”

(Post title is a paraphrase of the following quote:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” –  Lance Armstrong in It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.)

Those of you who follow me on facebook or know me personally may already be aware of this, but for the past couple of months my chronic pain levels reached the point where I was almost totally incapacitated. The most I could type at one time was a paragraph about as long as this one will be when I finish.

As a result, I haven’t been blogging or working on any of my books or short stories because I haven’t been able to. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have been totally unproductive. To make my life GMing D&D Encounters easier, I copy-pasted the relevant monsters from my epub to the spreadsheet that I normally only use to calculate how much XP to give each player. In doing so I discovered that I could do work like that for much longer than serious typing, so I got some other things done instead.

Made D&D 5e Character Sheet More Multi-class Friendly

In making my first multi-classed character, I discovered that my sheet was only slightly better for that purpose than Wizard’s. I rearranged the top matter a bit to make room for listing multiple classes and their levels, leaving the original “Level” space for the character’s total level. The largest difference is that in place of the checkboxes for keeping track of spent hit dice, there are now two boxes for tracking two types of hit dice – there wasn’t room for a third one, or I would have included it.

It has replaced the old version on Scribd.

Added Features to the D&D 5e Grimoire

In putting a caster on a character sheet for the first time, I realized the grimoire could use some additions. Across the top there are now spaces for your spell attack bonus, saving throw DC, the maximum number of spells you can prepare each day (generally caster level + spellcasting ability modifier), and your spell slots.

For the sake of the mage character sheet, I also lightened the color of the headers so the bar wouldn’t bleed through the page as much.

Both have replaced their old versions, linked above.

Mostly Finished GURPS Character Creator Spreadsheets and Half Done With One for D&D 5e

In the course of creating a new GURPS character several months ago I accidentally half-built a GURPS character creator spreadsheet. Over the past couple of months I’ve been slowly revising it. Now all it needs is a little spit and polish.

Inspired by that project, I decided to make one for the current editions of D&D and HackMaster as well. I haven’t yet started the HackMaster one, but the D&D one is at least half done. I have yet to start on the “Race and Class Features” tab, but the mechanics of everything else are mostly, if not completely, done.

The only major things I have left to figure out are how to handle armor and weapon proficiencies, and race-based skills (dwarves, for instance, don’t actually grant proficiency in History, but for all things stonework, they are considered proficient and double their proficiency bonuses).

The gear proficiencies are the big puzzlers. I have only been using lookup tables and other advanced spreadsheet features since a fellow D&D Encounters GM helped me start my GURPS character creator, so I’m mostly learning by doing. Because of that I have no idea how to limit the player’s equipment choices based on the proficiencies granted by the character’s race/class combination. My temporary fix is to simply list them and leave it up to the player to only choose proficient gear. Likewise with limiting the player’s choice of skill proficiencies.

Other than that, all that is need is more spit and polish, and to have local players do their best to break my code and give me their feedback on the user interface (UI). After that I’ll upload a basic version to Scribd as usual, then continue working on actually integrating proficiencies into the various places they are needed.

These are currently my top priority and should be finished fairly soon.

Worked on HackMaster 5e Campaign Manager and Started D&D Version

If you were active on the Kenzer & Company forums when HackMaster Basic first released, you may have seen my original encounter builder spreadsheet. Since then I have incorporated much of my HM4e campaign manager into it, and applied some of my new-found advanced spreadsheet coding skills, as well as the session experience tracker I originally made for D&D Encounters. It is probably only about half done, but is a lower priority than the other projects since it does everything I need it to for my current campaign (it works, but the UI is ugly and a bit clunky), and both D&D and GURPS have larger user bases.

Speaking of the experience calculator, while working on the HM campaign tracker, I slowly added new features to it, gradually turning it into a D&D campaign manager. I am also adapting it into a  generic campaign manager that should be easily user-adaptable to handle just about any level-based fantasy trpg. It will likely become my top priority after I finish the character creators.

As an indicator of how much better I’m doing now, I wrote this entire post in one sitting. I need to rest for a while now because my upper back is starting to flare up pretty intensely, but I was able to ignore it long enough to finish this, so I have high hopes for the near future (although, as always, I’ll sleep and then proofread it tomorrow before actually posting it). On the advice of a doctor, I started taking magnesium supplements a week and a half ago, and it seems like it may be doing the trick. If you suffer from chronic pain, it might be worth a try (but always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement).

So that’s my last couple of months in a nutshell. Keep watching here for updates on my character creators and campaign managers.

D&D (or Any Other Level-based game) Session Experience Calculator

Had a great family vacation, and got a 93 in my online Java class, but now I’m back to focusing on writing and game design. For example:

To compensate for my memory issues and to save a lot of work for non-mathophile GMs, I created a spreadsheet that will calculate how much experience I need to award each player at the end of each session of D&D Encounters.

Using it couldn’t be easier. Type the number of players into the appropriate box at the top of the sheet. Below that you will a list of all of the non-unique monsters that appear in the Tyranny of Dragons season of D&D Encounters. Each row below that is a separate encounter. Simply type in the number of each monster you used in the encounter, and the spreadsheet will do the rest.

It looks up the appropriate amount of experience points (XP) for that monster using the table on the “Data” tab (you can easily add your own, as long as the list doesn’t exceed 50 in all), then uses that to add up the total experience for the encounter. The XP totals for each encounter are added together, then divided by the number of players.

Since quest XP rewards are specified per player rather than as an amount to be subdivided, I have provided a space especially for those. Next to the blue box that tells you how much XP to give each player you’ll see a long red box. Put each quest reward in its own cell within that box, and the spreadsheet will add their sum to the amount in the blue box.

If you understand lookup tables, it is trivially easy to use more than 50 entries in the data table, but I was required to set a limit. I tried to allow more than 15 monsters on the table, but i kept getting an error telling me my formula was longer than OpenOffice could handle. If you know a way around the problem, I’d be happy to hear it.

Naturally, this can be used for any level-based game (as I will for for my HackMaster 5e campaign); it’s just pre-filled out with the monsters for DnD Encounters: Tyranny of Dragons.

D&D 5e Character Sheets Aplenty

In the course of making several characters and actually getting to play a session, I modified my original character sheet and made a couple of adaptations for specific purposes. As always, these can all be downloaded from my Scribd library, from the links below or on my Downloads page.

For the original I adjusted the placement and spacing of the top matter. My writing is fairly small, yet I still had trouble squeezing a few things into the space available. I also put the associated attributes and a space for the total modifier beside each skill. We use the first public playtest’s idea of disconnecting attributes and skills, but since most people play by RAW (Rules As Written), it occurred to me that I should include those.

DnD5.CharSheet

The first adaptation I made is customized for spellcasters. I moved the skill list to the former Character Notes section of the front page. Then I replaced the now-empty back page with my grimoire. That way the various spellcasting classes don’t need two sheets of paper until relatively high levels. You could also print page 1 on both sides of a sheet of paper, and thus get two characters per page; useful if, like us, you tend to make multiple characters for D&D Encounters.

DnD5.CharSheet (mage)

Speaking of the grimoire, I made two fairly minor changes to it. After realizing that not every spell needs the full space I provided, I halved the row height and then lightened the lines between ever other row. The result is that spells that need the full space still have it, but if some of your spells don’t need that much space you can fit more of them to a page.

DnD5.Grimoire.web

The final version is specifically designed for pre-generated characters. For it I simply copied the top section of the first page of the mage sheet halfway down the page, then filled the back page with just the guidelines. I did that so we could fit a character onto half a sheet of paper, partly to save paper and ink, but mostly because that’s all the space a pre-gen really needs.

DnD5.CharSheet (half-sheet)

File Sizes in Free Word Processors

From my lovely and intelligent wife I just learned that there is a significant difference in the resulting file sizes when using OpenOffice and LibreOffice, so I decided to test it myself since I currently have the newest version of both installed while I decide which to use in the future. I also tested Free Editor, which can open a ton of different formats just as OO and LO can.

I should mention that I have been using OpenOffice since it was called StarOffice, so I have a great deal of brand loyalty, but I did not let that affect my evaluation – LibreOffice was actually winning until she told me that an hour ago.

The test was simple: I loaded up Manny’s origin story that I posted last week, and pasted it into a fresh document in each OpenOffice variant, but since Free Editor can only edit documents, not create new ones, I simply loaded the original in it and then saved it to a new file. Here are the results:

Libre Office 112 kb, OpenOffice 29 kb, Free Editor 4 kb

As you can see, OpenOffice wins out easily over LibreOffice, but LO runs much faster on my laptop, so there are distinct advantages to both. Free Editor tops them both, but as it lacks the ability to use Styles, it is useless to me for all but the simplest documents.

Since we’re discussing drive space, I thought I’d also compare how much space each program takes up in the Program Files folder, excluding my user files in hopes of getting a fair comparison since these are not virgin installations. Free Editor I have only recently installed, and my wife has just finished installing it on her netbook, so that one is pristine. Not surprisingly, Free Editor is fairly tiny at 74.7 MiB, while OpenOffice weighs in at 376 MiB, and LibreOffice a slightly heftier 401 MiB.

As I said before, on my computer LibreOffice is far faster, so I spend less time waiting on the software itself, so it lets me get on with my writing or designing. On the other hand, because so much of what I make gets uploaded to my Scribd library, and because I use a free DropBox (af) account to keep everything backed up, and especially because my hard drive is nearly full, file size is also important.

Granted, my OpenOffice installation is highly modified, and LibreOffice is to some extent, so clean installs are likely smaller. Those modifications may also affect memory usage, which I also compared while each program was running a single instance with no files open. Free Editor wins again at 7.8 KiB. OpenOffice uses 36.3, and LibreOffice 58.3; only three processes currently running on my laptop are using more than LibreOffice*.

Further muddying the waters are that both ‘Offices have quirks that annoy me and unique features I love, so what it boils down do is: use whichever one suits your needs.

If you have a netbook or other low-powered computer, and don’t need extensive Styles support, then Free Editor may be for you. For high-powered machines, try both ‘Offices and use whichever one you prefer – unless you do a lot of sharing of files. In that case, If LO is your choice, then I’d recommend keeping a copy of OpenOffice or Free Editor (depending on the complexity of the document) around and use it to re-save the document into a smaller file.

For those of us closer to the middle of the the power scale, you may need to consider whether you can more afford the additional memory or drive space. If neither is an issue, then, again, try both and use the one you prefer.

* Except when World Community Grid detects that I have enough idle resources to help with some charity distributed computing, since the whole point of it is to use as much of my computer’s idle time as it can. If you ever, as I do, have significant chunks of time where your computer is on but not doing much (for me it’s whenever I’m writing), then why not donate those resources to a good cause by visiting the link above. The client itself takes almost no system resources while monitoring them, so even a relatively low-powered computer should be able to run it with no performance loss.

To date I have helped find new ways to provide water for third-world countries, and was part of simulations that tested new drugs to cure both AIDS and cancer.

Rebirth of a Monster

Here, at long last, is the flash fiction version of the origin of probably the most beloved of all of my recurring NPCs, Manny the ogre chef. In the present day he’s a pacifistic tavern-keeper who is well-renowned for his kitchen prowess. But he wasn’t always so friendly…


As the sun rises over the Mountains of Ayel, the remains of the village of Woodston continue to smolder. Among the ruins, five ogres feast upon the villagers they roasted in the flames of their own homes. As one of them raises a leg to his slathering jaws, liquid fat dripping from the leg to the ground and tusks ready to tear off a mouthful, he is suddenly overcome with revulsion and nausea.

Lowering the now revolting hunk of meat from his mouth, Manny looks around, confused, yet clear-headed for the first time in his life. “Why you not eat?” asks one of his warband, using his tusks to rip a large chunk of meat from a child’s charred torso. Then he adds, spraying bits of manflesh through the intervening space, “this meat good.”

After taking a moment to spit out some errant bits of flesh that were caught in his teeth, Manny finally replies: “The smell makes me sick.”

His companions’ faces cycle through expressions of confusion, shock, disbelief, and finally horror. “We help!” one yells as he pounces. They grab Manny, pin his arms and legs to the ground, and attempt to beat out of him whatever evil spirit has possessed him. Since nothing like this has ever happened in all of ogre history, their simple minds cannot fathom any other possible explanation for Manny’s behavior.

As blow after blow rains down upon him, Manny revels in the pain as a respite from the nauseating smell of roast villager that permeates the air. Finally, just before he surrenders to welcome oblivion, the blows stop as one of the ogres picks up the discarded leg and offers it to Manny with a grunt. He turns up his generous nose at the proffered morsel, and with a final punch to the nose, embraces blessed unconsciousness.

When he finally regains consciousness, night has fallen, the embers are cold, and he is all alone – except for the squad of rangers stealthily emerging from the woods on southern edge of town, their bows drawn, and their steps silent. As he sits up, head spinning and stomach churning, Manny’s brain is so rattled that he doesn’t notice the silent approach of impending death. His nose eventually draws his attention downward, where he sees the fateful roast leg of hapless villager. Sneering at it in disgust, he flings it away, then lumbers to his feet. Seeing this, the astonished rangers melt back into the woods and vanish.

Creative Commons License
Rebirth of a Monster by Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.