Summary: fixing links
< * MyCampaigns -- games I'm currently involved in
> * [[MyCampaigns]] -- games I'm currently involved in
This page lists the most recent journal entries related to role-playing games (RPG). There are some more pages on the related German page (Rollenspiele).
My Character Sheet Generator is also a very general tool to parametrize SVG sheets. I use it as part of my Campaign Wiki. For my Greyheim campaign I generated a bunch of characters and most of the time, my players just pick one of them. No rolling of dice and purchasing of equipment before you can get started. If you click on any of the characters listed, it will take you to a page that integrates an SVG graphic.
name: Aurora str: 9 dex: 16 con: 13 int: 9 wis: 11 cha: 7 level: 1 ...
This gets translated into an URL for the image: https://campaignwiki.org/halberdsnhelmets/en?name=Aurora;str=9;dex=16;con=13;int=9;wis=11;cha=7;level=1;... You can bookmark this URL and that’s your character sheet.
This is what it will look like:
If you want to edit the parameters, that’s easy to do. The SVG contains a link at the bottom. Or you can simply add
/link to the URL: https://campaignwiki.org/halberdsnhelmets/link/en?name=Aurora;str=9;dex=16;con=13;int=9;wis=11;cha=7;level=1;... Edit the parameters, submit, and update your bookmark.
You can provide your own character sheet. One of the parameters you provide is the URL to the character sheet. Here are some examples:
Let’s start with the basics.
If you want to create an SVG character sheet by hand, you can read the W3C Recommendation and the Jenkov Tutorials. Documents created using Inkscape are usually quite bloated. I still prefer using Inkscape.
Let’s look at this id business. Consider the default character sheet. We’ll be using the “name” parameter. Look at the source code of the document (
cmd u on my laptop using Firefox) and search for
id="name". You’ll find the following:
<text sodipodi:linespacing="100%" id="name" y="-11.724363" x="178.12579" style="font-size:24px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:300;font-stretch:normal;text-align:start;line-height:100%;letter-spacing:0px;word-spacing:0px;writing-mode:lr-tb;text-anchor:start;fill:#000000;fill-opacity:1;stroke:none;font-family:Purisa;-inkscape-font-specification:Purisa Light" xml:space="preserve" inkscape:label="#text3505"><tspan id="tspan3507" y="-11.724363" x="178.12579" sodipodi:role="line">_________</tspan></text>
This is a lot of bloat. This would be enough, I guess:
<text id="name" y="-11.724363" x="178.12579" style="font-size:24px;font-family:Purisa"/>
When our URL now contains
name=Aurora, the text element with the id “name” will contain the value “Aurora”.
You can actually use the Character Sheet Generator to show you what the ids are:
Multi-line fields such as “abilities” or “property” are simply text elements with at least two lines of text, two tspan elements.
My guess is that what you’d actually prefer is to convert an existing character sheet PDF. Let’s take the One Seven Design character sheet for Stars Without Number. John Harper did these character sheets. You can find his other character sheets on his blog. He also runs a patreon which I currently support because of the many cool game he has created (Lady Blackbird, The Regiment: Colonial Marines 2.5, World of Dungeons 1979 – note the b/w variant – and many more).
alex@Megabombus:~$ brew info inkscape homebrew/x11/inkscape: stable 0.91 (bottled), HEAD A professional vector graphics editor https://inkscape.org/ /usr/local/Cellar/inkscape/HEAD (983 files, 120M) * Built from source with: --with-poppler From: https://github.com/homebrew/homebrew-x11/blob/master/inkscape.rb ==> Dependencies Build: boost-build ✔, intltool ✔, pkg-config ✔ Required: bdw-gc ✔, boost ✔, cairomm ✔, gettext ✔, glibmm ✔, gsl ✔, gtkmm ✔, hicolor-icon-theme ✔, little-cms ✔, pango ✔, popt ✔ Optional: poppler ✔ ==> Options --with-poppler Build with poppler support --HEAD Install HEAD version
So, now we’re set. We have Inkscape. It has Poppler support. This will allow you to open PDF files using Inkscape. You’ll have to pick one page:
Let’s say you picked the Warrior page. Load it into Inkscape. This is what it looks like:
Click or double-click on an element such as the letter “E” in “NAME” in order to select it.
Switch to the text tool using F8 and create a text field where you want the name to appear. Put some text into the text field – I like to use a bunch of underscores: “___”. You can remove these at the end by editing the SVG file in a text editor. If you remove them now, Inkscape will delete the empty text field. Also, once you have removed the text content, you shouldn’t edit these files using Inkscape. That’s why I like those underscores.
In this example, I’m going to write “Alex” into the text field. Basically, that’ll be the default value if you don’t provide a name parameter.
Use F1 to switch back to selecting objects. This allows you to move the text around. I like to use the arrow keys at this point.
Use Ctrl-Shift-O for object properties and set the id to the parameter name you want (i.e. “name”) and delete the label (we have no use for it).
If you want, you can take a look at the XML of the text element you just created using Ctrl-Shift-X.
Repeat as necessary. This is tedious job.
I’ve done it for three fields. This is the SWN Warrior SVG using three default values:
And here’s the same file with three parameters set:
If you want to edit it, use
/link in the URL to edit the parameters.
You can debug it using
/show in the URL:
Now all we need to do is add the remaining fields and do it for all the character sheets…
New settlement icons: thorp, village, town, large-town, city. And some religious buildings: shrine, law, chaos.
Text Mapper also includes a random wilderness generator using Erin D. Smale’s algorithm (Part 1 for the terrain, Part 2 for the encounters). Currently I’m only supporting major encounters 1 to 3: settlements, fortresses and religious orders. Please note that these will be rare. Not every random map will contain one of these.
I also added agriculture. If a settlement is built on a plains hex, that hex is colored like soil or light soil. If the settlement is not built on a plains hex, or if it is a large town or a city, then a neighboring plains hex will be changed to soil or light soil colored fields.
Also note the black & white random map option…
À propos random maps: A few days ago I added this random maps feature. It allows you to keep reloading the page until you like what you see. You can always save the result as a
.svg file and keep editing it using Inkscape. If you want to tweak it online, however, you need the actual map data. It’s available from the page source. At the end of the SVG, you will find the map data in a comment like this one:
<!-- Source 0101 light-grey grass 0102 light-grey grass 0103 green forest ... 2318 green forest include https://alexschroeder.ch/contrib/gnomeyland.txt -->
You can copy and paste the map data (without the
-->) into the Text Mapper text area, submit, go back and make change to it until you’re happy with the result.
Oh my god the rabbit hole of old Russian maps… I was looking at the Gnomeyland icons by Gregory B. MacKenzie – as one does! – thinking of adding a few icons. So then I start looking for old Russian map symbols. I’m looking at an old article on trees and forests. But how to find more examples? I’m not interested in just trees and forests! So, next stop is Old Maps Online and searching for Leningrad. After all, wouldn’t the rich old Russians be mostly interested in maps of the areas they already knew? That’s the 1% for you… OK, found something! So, who’s this Matthäus Seutter dude? Sounds German. And he has a Wikipedia page. I love the Internet. Look at all those extra links! I love the sound of “Digitalisierte Ausgabe”. So now I’m clicking on one: Transylvaniae, Moldaviae, Walachiae, Bulgariae nova et accurata Delineatio, Magnam Partem Hodierni Theatri Bellici ob oculos ponens / opera et fumtibus Matthaei Seutteri, ... Who doesn’t want old maps of Transylvania!? Too bad the resolution isn’t too good. But wait! I also love the sound of View item at National Library of France! This is awesome because you can really zoom in!
OK. Now I just have to create those damn icons. Or fix myself some lunch.
What I want to do is implement Erin D. Smale’s Hex-based Campaign Design (Part 2): encounters. The first step will be to add more settlements to my Gnomeyland library for Text Mapper. Click that Random map link to get a random terrain using his process described in Part 1.
The map Historia Imperii Romano-Germanici has little pictures galore, including little camps instead of towns.
Ryuutama is one of the unplayed games on my disk which I really need to take a longer look at. The first thing I like about it is the positive background. The art, the colors, the premise (traveling and exploring) – I want to know more.
Zak S. wrote an excellent post on his blog regarding the role of violence in role-playing games. Violence in games is important because violence is important outside of games. It’s all around us. There’s systemic violence, there’s physical violence, there’s psychological violence, there’s fear of violence. Role-playing games give us agency in the face of violence, and that’s important.
Natalie also wrote an excellent post about death. Not many things have value if you die, even if some people would like to tell you that there are in fact values worth laying down your life for. I’m not so sure and I sure as hell am happy that I’ve never been asked to do it.
Anyway, Zak Smith. Violence. Natalie. Death. Important things.
At the same time, the Burning Wheel family of games or the Apocalypse World family of games have us roll dice for things other than combat. A duel of wits, a play book with other moves, all of these things make me wonder whether we can make non-violent things interesting and tense moments at the table. So, Ryuutama: can travel and exploration be tense and interesting without dungeons and dragons?
And what prompted all of this:
For a while now I’ve noticed a strange fact:
OneBookShelf operates digital download marketplaces such as DriveThru RPG, RPG Now and D&D Classics. Today I got an email for the two sites I’ve been using in recent months:
I regret to inform you that one of our servers suffered a security breach which may have compromised your credit card information.
You are receiving this email because you made a purchase (or attempted to make a purchase) on our site using a credit card between July 6th, 2015 and the morning of August 6th, 2015. There is a 50% chance that hackers were able to collect your credit card information. We recommend that you contact your credit card issuing bank and ask them to replace any cards that you used for charges on our site, and also look over your most recent statements for any suspicious charges.
Ouch, that hurts.
More information at the Credit Card Data Breach Q&A.
Recently, somebody asked the following on G+: “If you use monster books, or even monsters from blog posts, what does your workflow look like?”
So here’s how I did it for The Crown of Neptune. Some doodling and brainstorming yields the following. I see a shark, a lamprey or moray man, and an aboleth. And I see a first table of random encounters on the right. Spider crabs, squids, sharks, mermaids, dinosaurs, wales. This dungeon is going to be about sharks and dinosaurs, and as you go deeper it will turn into underwater horror. Or so I think.
This is what I ended up with:
How do I arrive at the table in the middle of this sheet?
I start at the beginning and think about the environment. My adventures are almost always locations on a greater hex map. That already gives me some monsters from the surrounding area. In this case, that would be the plesiosaurus. Looking for dinosaur stats leads me to the Rules Cyclopedia and aquatic dinosaurs. The entry is disappointing.
The dungeon is underwater. So I’m thinking of monstrous animals. Sharks, obviously. Sharks have a nice stat block in the Labyrinth Lord book. I feel better already.
Not sure about wales. They seem pretty boring. Perhaps a creature to talk to, or to charm? The Labyrinth Lord book has stats for killer whales and they’re in the range I like right now: 6 HD.
And I want simple, humanoid, intelligent monsters that players can interact with. Some sort of nixie, or merfolk? Nixies and sirens can charm people and I’m thinking that this is a more brutal environment. Let’s pick merfolk instead. I remember something about tritons but they’re not in the Labyrinth Lord book. Merfolk will do.
OK, further down. Let’s start bringing that horror feeling. My campaign features neogi. Eel headed spider slavers. This reminds me of morays. Morayfolk! Or Lampreyfolk. Once they hit, they keep drawing blood without needing to attack. A classic special ability and easy to add. Think giant weasels or stirges. I’m not sure where I get that HD 2+1 from.
Spiders. Crabs. Spidercrabs. They look a lot like the giant crab monster from the Labyrinth Lord book. AC 3 instead of AC 2, 1d10 instead of 2d6. Trivial changes.
The kraken is a giant squid from the Labyrinth Lord book. My players know I love the kraken. In my mind, this kraken was huge. 50m long arms! It should have had a gazillion HD. But seven attacks is good enough, I though. Let the monster look tougher than it is. Labyrinth Lord, giant squid. Works for me! HD 6. Ideal.
Not sure where I got the giant clams from. Since they can’t move, that looks more like an obstacle to me.
And now for some unterwater undead. Kraken made me think of ink, and that made me think of dark clouds. Wraiths? And some more variations on the crab and on the lamprey themes. Simple variations in numbers. Things get tougher as you go down.
An astral spider is an intelligent planar spider from the Rules Cyclopedia, I guess. Or a variant on the aforementioned neogi and giant spiders. Giant jellyfish is a variant on the kraken theme but with paralysis instead of multiple attacks. I imagine them being soft targets which is why they don’t get eight attacks or more.
The giant anglerfish was supposed to be a building that can bite. I don’t know where I got the 36 HD from. It was basically a huge trap.
Further down! A gibbering mouther? An elf encased in an evil mech? I must have been thinking of the Goons in the Caverns of Slime:
3d6 Goons (HD 5; AC 3; Atk 1 slam +3 (1d6+3); MV 6; in combat the poor creature locked inside will be begging for forgiveness and cry for help even as it fights) are alerted to the party’s presence by imperceptible sensors embedded into the walls and ceilings of the building.
More kraken. And my version of an aboleth, since I couldn’t find one in the Labyrinth Lord book.
Basically the whole adventure is nothing but a map, random monsters, some of them with an obvious lair, and if a lair exists, then with treasure, and some traps or curious things to investigate – such as the dead diver I added because I had listened to the story of how David Shaw died.
Back to the initial question, though. How do I use monster books?
Yesterday I learned that Trademark Law Does Not Require Companies To Tirelessly Censor the Internet. I didn’t know that. Bioware does have a choice. And in this case, as far as I remember it, Bioware still hasn’t contacted anybody, so it’s all happening between EN World, the Ennies, and the Don Mappin, the author.
Also, the PDF has a disclaimer at the very beginning:
What This Book Is Not
To be clear, this is not a licensed Mass Effect property. Mass Effect is the property of Bioware, a division of Electronic Arts. This is a work of fiction and done without their permission or involvement. No attempt to challenge their legal authority is intended in the publication of this material. Instead, it is our hope to expand the outreach of the Mass Effect property to another segment of games—role-players—who have long coveted a way to bring the events of Commander Shepard to life at their gaming tables. This product comes with one very important and unconditional stipulation:
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MAY THIS PRODUCT BE CHARGED FOR OR RENUMERATION EXCHANGE HANDS. IT MUST REMAIN FREE OF CHARGE.
As the sole property of Bioware/Electronic Arts, only they have the rights to benefit from the Mass Effect Universe. As such, this work is the result of countless unpaid hours and volunteer work to make it possible to bring to you. Why? Because we’re gamers too and we love Mass Effect just as much as you do!
I guess I'm mostly interested in outcomes. I really like the US constitution in this respect: “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. I want more useful stuff as fast as possible. Having the Mass Effect RPG out now, fan made, is great. It’s better for the gaming public.
What about the artists? The way I read the artist attribution page in the Mass Effect RPG, all those images were available on the Internet, on blogs of concept artists, on Deviant Art. So, without considering copyright law and just considering outcomes, these artists made things available for free, and now what they made is more available, for free. The author of the Mass Effect RPG doesn’t charge money for it. Presumably he’d share his gains with the artists in some way, if he were to make any money. But he isn’t, so he doesn’t. So, it’s still better for the gaming public, and it’s better for the artists, too. Yes, they had no voice, there was no negotiation, this doesn’t consider copyright. All I’m looking at is outcomes.
As far as I’m concerned, I’m with Don Mappin, here. I wish that copyright law was different. I wish that the fair use exception to copyright were clearer. As it is, it’s incredibly hard to tell whether something falls under the exception or not. That’s not good.
I'm not a lawyer, and I’m looking at the points one ought to consider:
Reading through the Wikipedia page and following along, as a layman might be expected to, I guess:
The use was not really educational – or can a game be educational? Maybe? It teaches you how to run a Mass Effect RPG using Fate rules? Does it help “fulfill the intention of copyright law to stimulate creativity for the enrichment of the general public”? It sure looks like it to me. To me, the process of turning the video game into a set of rules for Fate is transformative, not merely derivative.
Nothing in the nature of the game seems to warrant more or less protection than usual. It doesn’t rightfully belong to the public domain. All the artwork the author used had already been published, even if not intended for use in the game, so we don’t need to consider “the aspect of whether the copied work has been previously published”.
As for the amount, I think that the material taken from the game itself is definitely not major. We’re talking some of the background material, the description of things in the game. But the games are about so much more. Characters, plots, levels, graphics. The material taken from artists is major, however. Basically the entire picture was used. I started making a little survey by searching for the first ten items on the artists credits page of the Mass Effect RPG:
Looking at the numbers. Fan art: 15. !BioWare: 3. Others: 1. Continuing the analysis of “amount”, I’d say that the amount of art-work taken from the Mass Effect series out of the copyrighted material by !BioWare isn’t so big: 3 pieces out of a huge work. As for fan art: If they are not violating !BioWare’s copyright because of the fair use exception, then another piece of fan art reusing them should not be violating !BioWare’s copyright, either.
So, what is fan art? FAQ #572 has some information: “Original fan art are those works in which the submitting artist has done 100% of the work but the work itself depicts characters, scenes or other themes which were properly created by another creative person. […] Fan art may be copyright infringement and you may be forced to remove it by the copyright owner who may also choose to initiate other legal action.” I’m not sure that !BioWare is interested in going after fan art in this respect. Therefore, my understanding of fair use and fan art leads me to suggest that we’re in the clear, here.
That leads us to the last point in the fair use examination, the effect upon the work’s value. Does !BioWare and it’s Mass Effect based revenue suffer? Not at all, because they’re not selling a role-playing game. Now, if they were, perhaps they’d be justified under the law to go after the existing game. Now you have to argue that a company wanting to make money making a licensed game is being deterred from entering the market because the existing free fan-made game is so good, taking it down will produce a lot of bad blood. But from a customer’s perspective, that’s OK. We have copyright in order to promote the useful arts. If the useful arts are being promoted without copyright, then that’s even better. This is not an outcome to dislike, at all.
I’m still with Don Mappin.
I think we need to be careful, here. The copyright lobby is so strong, it keeps extending the copyright protection time window, it keeps bombarding us with annoying messages as we play a DVD or go to the movies. This is a war being waged about our hearts and minds. And they have all the money to run their campaigns and we have nothing except our will to share everything because we’re nice and willing to help our neighbors. That is why I don’t like people saying: “I hope that Don rebuilds and reposts the files, this time only including his work.” If we have a fair use exception to copyright, then this exception is our right. It’s a mess to figure out and and it’s hard to be sure, but if we assume that everything Don made falls under fair use, then he should not have to repost the files, and he should be free to include the works of others. That’s how we build on each others’ work. That’s how progress is made. We don’t create ex nihilo. Fair use is our right.
What about the ENies? I understand their decision. The entire thing was a hot potato. They had to make a decision, fast. And I’m guessing they don’t have legal defense funds and lawyers at their disposition. That’s how the scare tactic works. We’re afraid to exercise our right, the associations we build are afraid to exercise our right. How will we learn to claim what is ours except by pushing the boundaries and arguing for our rights?
Comments here or on Google+.
If you want to run longer campaigns, this is what I’m doing: My campaign world is infinite. Planes, other continents, from dinosaurs to lasers, it’s all there. And even if I want to combine two settings, I’ll use Planescape ideas to connect them, bend a little here and there, no problem. Then, players have an effect on the setting, change it. This is cool. It can be a short campaign of six sessions (that’s not what I do, though). The next campaign will be somewhat related. It takes place nearby. A few years in the future. In an alternate plane that involved the old campaign somehow. And that’s how the campaign transcends characters and rules. Use D&D 3.5 for a bunch of characters. Then use Solar System for a bunch of characters. Then use Labyrinth Lord for a bunch of characters. Then move to the Astral Sea. Then play some first level characters doing jobs for the high level characters. Then switch to the high level characters again. And if that gets boring, let’s see about marriage and children. Let’s play the kids!
I just read an interesting blog post called Thoughts on Philosophical GameMastering by Vb Wyrde. He says: “I would argue, […] that whether they know it consciously or or not, every World is an expression of the innermost convictions of it’s !GameMaster.” He illustrates the point by referring to a friend who felt “that the Universe is really just a gigantic eating machine”. And the campaign he ran illustrated the point.
Now I’m wondering which of my personal convictions players will find in my Five Winds campaign.
I need to think about this some more!
To be sure, I don’t really care that much about in in-game philosophies. I like Planescape and therefore there are factions in my campaign following doctrines inspired by schools of philosophy. What I care about is reflections of my own opinions and prejudices in my game world.
Discussion on Google+, if you want.
Referrers: RPG Bloggers