Tag Archives: campaign

“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.

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Campaign Wikis

After checking out at least a dozen free wiki sites, I made my first campaign wiki five years ago for my HackMaster campaign, but that site was far from ideal. Despite its flaws, I made do for several years, and even prepped it for my steampunkish Warehouse 23/13-inspired GURPS campaign, but never actually used it due to how annoying it was adding things to the site.

Two years ago, after again checking into every free wiki site I could find, I finally found a better one (by which time we had converted it to 5e), but my Depression kept me from actually setting it up until last week. Now all that’s left is to get it updated (which, naturally, I’ll leave mostly to the players).

This whole thing has gotten me thinking about what I really need from a campaign wiki:

  • Easy to set up – getting the first wiki’s files arranged, including parent/child arrangements, took me at least a week; wikidot let me create parent/child connections as I went along, streamlining the process greatly.
  • Easy to make templates – While learning the process on wikidot I knocked out a fairly simple one for character pages in a couple of hours. I never did get the template to automate on PBworks.
  • Tightly controlled access – Thus no wikia. PBW went so far as to let me control who can edit a specific page, meaning the players can’t edit each other’s character pages. So far my players haven’t had time to join the new one, so I’m not sure exactly how much control I have, but I do get to manually approve all uninvited applicants (and I’m the only one who can send invites).
  • Easy for my non-wiki-geek players to edit – PBW uses standard HTML instead of wiki code, but has a WYSIWYG, so it’s great for less techie players (even though my job of setting up the documents in the first place was a major pain). Wikidot, on the other hand, \uses a mix of standard wiki and HTML markup that isn’t terribly intuitive. Thankfully, it too has a WYSIWYG of sorts, but doesn’t give non-coders you the option to hide the code, so they might still get confused.
  • Customizability – PBW is aimed primarily at classrooms, so the only customization it offers is color scheme. Wikidot, on the other hand, wants people to upgrade to their premium service, so they offer all sorts of bells and whistles. In some ways I actually have more control over my wiki’s appearance than I do this blog (although upgrading on both sites lets me write my own CSS, giving me complete control over their appearance).

Over the years I have looked into just about every free wiki site out there (all of them unless I overlooked one), and at the moment wikidot fits the bill best, but its wonky markup and lack of a proper WYSIWYG for non-programmers is a big problem. If all of your players speak HTML and Wikipedia then wikidot may be perfect for you.

One especially exciting feature wikidot has but that I haven’t tried yet is the ability to post comments on pages. I’m hoping that will let the characters talk to each other during down time, adding to party cohesion. It looks like those comments are even threaded, making it easy to track conversations. I’ll edit this as soon as I know one way or the other.

Naturally, I tried Obsidian Portal, but many of the features that where free on every other wiki site were premium upgrades there, and none of its actual premium services were anything I need (it’s been a couple of years so I don’t remember any specifics). Now if I were running a play by wiki instead of just using a wiki to organize a table game, then OP may well be worth the upgrade.

So the question is, do you use a campaign wiki? Why? Would you recommend your host? Why? If you don’t use one, are you considering it, indifferent, or think it’s totally pointless?

Assuming I don’t change wikis again, my next step is adding my GURPS game, and the Pokémon game I run as a pick-up when we can’t run the scheduled game for whatever reason. After that I’ll add campaigns I’m planning so those wikis will be filled out and ready to go as soon as we need them.

Not a wiki, per se, but another campaign management tool I employ is Lino, a virtual corkboard. As an example I made a now very dated public copy of the board for my first HM5e mini-campaign (we put my 4e campaign on hold long enough to try out the new edition to see if we wanted to convert). Simply looking at that will explain Lino far better than I can, but I’ll give it a go.

Lino is, as I said, a virtual corkboard. Each board’s creator can set it as private, public, or limited to certain people; you can even create groups, as we did, and everything posted in it is automatically accessible by everyone in the group. We have found it mostly useful for campaign planning, but it can remain useful during the game as well.

In my example above, I describe the world and starting location, and sort of the concept, but it was known by all the players so i didn’t explicitly state it. Since it was primarily to learn the new edition, we took inspiration from the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games and started the PCs as members of an adventuring company. People with problems that need solving submit their requests to the AC, along with contact info and the reward offered. Since those requests are then pinned on a bulletin board in the AC, a virtual corkboard seemed obvious.

If you scroll to the right of the setting info, you will see the actual AC job board. Blue jobs are completed, and have notes on the results. Red jobs are in progress. I used another color for available jobs, but I don’t remember which since it was years ago.

Where it becomes really useful is demonstrated by my wife’s sticky on one of the in-progress jobs. As the job progresses, players can stick on their own notes about clues, relevant NPCs, their characters’ reactions, and anything else that seems relevant to the job. More general info can be posted on the left side.

Since my current campaign is partly an experiment in cooperative world-building, we could devote one entire board to the world, so players can brainstorm ideas together. The wiki can do the same thing, but the benefit of Lino is that the whole thing is visible at a glance. Another board can be used for various rumors, threats, and clues they find along the way.

So far they have found:

  • a summoner hiding in the sewers of the starting city, who groused about having to report to his boss before teleporting away. As yet nothing is known about his boss.
  • that the country a few hours west of that city is beginning to amass troops near the border thanks to the presence of the adolescent dragon the PCs rescued and befriended.
  • the steampunky city in the middle of the nearby desert was invaded by Silurians, but the PCs brokered a peace. What’s not known is who woke them up, and why. Also promising to be interesting is what will come of the combination of the city’s technomancy and the technology of the Silurians.
  • and so on.

Shortly all of that will be listed on the wiki, but it will be much easier to see the big picture on Lino, even if it’s just covered with short notes that link to fuller details on the wiki. Trying to keep all those separate threads together with just a wiki could well be impossible if the game ends up running for years, but even known it’s getting a bit tricky.

(Note to fellow writers: Lino is also excellent for world-building, and keeping track of plot threads, threats, solutions, and minor characters.)

So that’s both of the online tools I use for campaign management. What about you?

Literature and Gaming

Note: As many of the books I will be discussing are in the public domain, their titles link to where you can download free ebooks of them from Project Gutenberg or MobileRead, the online community that provided the vast majority of the books on my ereader.

Both as players and as GMs, we get our inspiration from a variety of sources. I’ve always been a fan of classic literature, but lately I’ve been reading even more than usual. As I was working my way through volume 3 of Tarzan, the next story in the book sounded like it might be a sort-of sequel to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Interior of the Earth. As that was also on my reading list, I decided to read it first, especially since Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is one of my favorite books.

One thing I love about roleplaying is that it makes me relate to books in new ways – even books I don’t otherwise enjoy!

I’m sad to say that the book was rather disappointing (prompting me to read The Mysterious Island, over which I have lost sleep since I can’t put it down), but it still inspired me to run a sci-fi or sci-fantasy campaign set inside a Dyson Sphere-inspired planet with a small artificial sun, but the population has no idea that they are inside a man-made sphere, because millennia ago something happened that knocked civilization back to the Stone Age. One thing I love about roleplaying is that it make me relate to books in new ways – even books I don’t otherwise enjoy!

That got me wondering how many other roleplayers are literature buffs. I assume that most, if not all, are at least familiar with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, even if they haven’t read them, but what about other classics?

So here’s what I’d like to know:
1) What is your favorite work of classic fiction?
2) What is your favorite work of classic fiction to use as gaming inspiration?

I’ll get us started:
#1 has to be A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the only really old book I read at least once a year. Time travel stories have always been among my favorites, as are any that star engineers (at the time of my accident I was studying Mechanical Engineering, with my sights set on being an inventor; now I instead invent games and stories) – Yankee has both. In a very rare occurrence, I even like every adaptation of it I’ve ever seen (especially Bing Crosby’s rom-com treatment), despite the fact that I have yet to see one that is even remotely close to the source material, especially in tone.

#2 is tougher. Tolkien’s writings, especially The Silmarillion, have always determined what I think of when I hear “elf” when talking about roleplaying games. Oddly, even though I hear people repeatedly say they are tired of all the Tolkien elves in trpgs, I have yet to see one that actually has Tolkien elves. Tolkien’s elves mostly look like humans, but are more beautiful and imbued with more innate magic.

That last aspect inspired the three different types of humans in one of my books (elves have more magic potential, and that tends to make them have strangely-colored eyes and hair, but they are otherwise exactly like other humans). For the past several years that world has been my default setting for each new campaign (although I don’t always stick with it), so I think it’s safe to say that it is from Tolkien’s books as a whole that I have derived the most gaming inspiration, from The Silmarillion most of all.

So what about you? What are your favorites?