Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Solo Gamer Companion

It has been a little while since my last update. I have an excuse!

I have been working on this program for a couple of weeks now. A lot of effort has gone into it, and I will probably never be able to let anyone else use it. I have (so far): a fully featured Mythic interface, including adjustable event focus, a notes page, a dice roller, the Universal NPC Emulator, an Instant Game generator. All of these things integrate with the primary text window, which is meant as both an output for the various solo aids, and as a place to write my own prose / interpretations. It lets me save and load the sessions, and supports a special export dump to text with all of the relevant information (for archival, or whatever).

Many features to add, and lots of graphical adjustments to be made. The 'art' is all my own, using The GIMP, so it's slow going on that stuff (I'm not the best artist in the world...)

When this program is complete, and I have something more to show, I will post an update.

Why am I doing this? For fun and for experience programming. All in all, having a good time with this one. A challenge, but worth it to me!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pocketmod evolved, my contribution

In my last post I talked briefly about a cool thing called PocketMod. The thing is, I hate waste. If you go through the process and make a pocketmod booklet, then you will realize that you are only utilizing half of the paper, with an entire side going unprinted and wasted. I wanted more from my pocketmods, so I went looking around for some ideas.

I stumbled on this interesting "instructable", where someone has constructed a notebook of 16 lined pages by printing an image of lines on both sides of one piece of paper. You then go through a simple folding process, ending with two staples and two very simple cuts. Try it! It's easy, fun, and useful! Who needs to buy mini notebooks for those great ideas you have on the run when you can make your own in a minute.

Of course, I still wasn't satisfied. We now have a process for making a 16 page booklet (or 32+ if you nest them together!), but it only has lined paper. I want RPG rule-booklets! I want Mythic tables and charts! I want plot/world/adventure generators! All of that in my pocket wherever I go! (okay, maybe not everywhere...) So, I made it better.

Through a long and painstaking process of applied logic (whatever that means), I have constructed a MS Word 2010 template to produce a 16-page "booklet" of arbitrary content. Once you get all of your 16 pages formatted perfectly, and you have printed out your new booklet on the paper in duplex (following your printers instructions for manual or auto duplex; it can be done with any printer!), you follow the same process as in the instructable above, with two caveats.

First, you should trim the excess paper from the margins before you start to fold, including the outside lines if you want (really, this is true of pocketmods in general). Second, when starting the folding process, make sure that you have the paper laying flat with "page 6" and "page 3" cells facing up and closest to you (they are the topmost cells in the template). Then you fold that end of the paper over to the other side (away from you), and continue as normal in the instructable. You should end up with a perfect 16 page booklet.

You can download the template here. (Depending on your printers minimum margins, you may have to adjust the template slightly. Because of that, and the formatting of the content for each cell of the template, you should have a decent grasp of Word if you don't want to pull your hair out.) When playing with the template, you should do some test prints at low resolution to make sure you can actually read what you are putting on these pages.

Comments, ideas, questions? Let me know!

Pocketmod insanity!

So, there exists this thing called PocketMod, which in and of itself is very useful and cool. A pocketmod is basically a miniature 8-page booklet that you construct out of one piece of paper by folding it a certain way and making a single cut;  no adhesives necessary. You can learn about it at, where they also have a pdf-to-pocketmod converter for making your own.

Why is this so cool? RPG's! As an great example of what you can do with this simple idea, I will turn you over to another blog briefly -- over at RisusMonkey (which is an awesome site, by the way) there exist DungeonWords and WilderWords, both great tools for creativity and both pocketmods. For an even more extreme example, you can get the condensed-and-mostly-complete rules for the Risus RPG in pocketmod format here.

In my next post, I will show you my own evolution to the format. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Delays and updates

I "am" working on more content to fill up this blog, but the whole "Dad by day" bit is what prevents a lot of progress in that regard. I have two awesome and high energy children, ages one and three-and-a-half. The boy is very physical and the girl is very intellectual, so they have not only different age related needs, but also my approach to playing / educating has to change dynamically. As a result of all of that (and cleaning the house, cooking the meals, etc, etc), I am mentally and physically exhausted by the end of any given day. (It doesn't help that my one year old believes that 3:30am is "I'm up for the morning!" time)

Anyways, excuses, blah blah... expect "something" to be posted soon. And this update holds me accountable to that. Right? I'll consult my daughter and get back to you... ;)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Inspiration Pad Pro

Tavern name generator
    Since my last post was full of resources that featured rolling on tables as their highlight, I figured now would be a good time to talk about a program that I stumbled upon recently.
Treasure generator (w/ options)
     Inspiration Pad Pro 3.0 is a Windows application that lets you, after some amount of reading the supplied pdf, craft intricate tables and generators that will do all of the rolling and randomizing you could ever want, all at the push of a button. No fear, for the programing disinclined they include a bunch of pre-made generators built right into the program, any of which can be freely configured. This is a great way of having the resources you want with you, without the problems that creep up when you are having to reference tons of charts mid-session.

 Inspiration Pad Pro is freely available for download here.

Tools of storytelling and solo gaming

Warning: this is a long post. It isn't necessarily meant to be read straight through, though you are free to do so. This is intended to be a central knowledge bank for interesting tools and systems that I have found in my research. It is also far from finished.

There are many interesting and useful tools out there to help an aspiring writer or gamer jog their imagination or to help them improvise when at the gaming table. In my opinion, the best of these are system neutral, in that they don't 'belong' to one intellectual property or game (such as the d20 system), but even products belonging to one family of game can be very useful.  Many of these products focus on fantasy, some on science fiction, but most can be applied to different genres with little adaptation. I will cover actual RPG systems in another post.

Here are some of my favorite storytelling tools and a little of why I think that they are awesome (in no particular order):

* freely available resources are noted as such *

Mythic GM Emulator and Mythic Variations by Word Mill Games -

    These have got to be some of the most useful tools in my kit, as I mentioned previously. They have helped me come to a greater understanding about the history and characters of a particular story that I am working on, as well as being an awesome way to cast off the shackles of GM-hood and allow all players to participate in a game. The Mythic RPG is a fully functional game system, but the Mythic Gm Emulator is all of the useful probability and event generating stuff stripped out of the RPG and re-packaged as a separate product. The Variations book is a great tool to expand your Mythic experiences with new ways to use the system and tips on how to effectively integrate the product into your game.
    There is a community of gamers with a passion for the Mythic system over at the Mythic Role Playing yahoo group. They have tons of useful tools and information on how to get the most out of the system; in particular, Tom Pigeon's alternate description tables are wonderful additions.
    I still feel as though not enough has been said on Mythic. Expect more in the future!

Instant Game by Mike and Kyle Jones (FREE) -

    Instant game is a world building tool, setting and plot generator, and all around useful. It accomplishes most of this through the use of charts, so rolling and interpreting are used again to great effect. It also has a complete game system included, but it can safely be ignored if you already have a system that your using as all of the generating happens at the beginning of the document (and doesn't assume that your using their system).
Random Fantasy Adventure Generator by Adamant Entertainment -

    A simple product with a great idea and well worth the price ($2). It does what the name implies: it helps you generate adventures. You make a series of dice rolls to determine the scope and nature of the adventure, with 1,073,741,824 possible combinations. All of that on a short five page pdf, using five simple charts. It also gives you advice on how to utilize the information. They make other generators for different genres, but this is the one that I purchased.

The Creature Crafter by Word Mill Games -

    Another great offering by Word Mill Games, Creature Crafter is a system neutral way of generating an endless variation of unique and memorable 'monsters' and entities for your favorite RPG system. Yes, there are tables and charts to roll on, and there is interpretation required, but there is a ton of useful advice and a walk through of the entire creation process.

OSRIC by Knights-n-Knaves (FREE) -

    The Old School Reference & Index Compilation  may seem like a departure from the theme of this post thus far. Indeed, the OSRIC is the essence of first edition Dungeons and Dragons. However, the forth chapter of the compilation is all about random charts of things, from the smells and assorted trappings of a dungeon, to random dungeon generation, to wilderness encounters and travel through various environments. Some very useful charts and ideas to be utilized in a fantasy setting.

UNE (Universal NPC Emulator) by Conjecture Games (FREE) -

    Much like Mythic, the UNE is an incredible  tool for creating and playing interesting and memorable NPCs. The entire thing is only twelve or so pages long, so it isn't overly complex. You can generate random characters with personality and motivations. It can help you figure out how helpful an NPC is toward a particular character based on a range of factors, like their attitude towards the player's character, and their own emotional state. Also like Mythic, the whole process is fairly intuitive and easy to understand. I would say that this is probably the second most useful tool in my kit given it's length and potential depth of application.
    The original host of the UNE went down recently, so I contacted Zach Best (the creator of the work) and he was generous enough to send me a copy. He also gave me permission to upload the file through Dropbox for this blog; let me know if the link ever stops working so I can re-upload it. To get the file, just click on the name of this entry or click here. Enjoy!

Gm Gems by Goodman Games -

    This product is fairly simple: it is chock full of random tables and a few other odds and ends. But each of those tables contain a narrow range of (potentially) great additions to any game, in any system. As an example, one particular table is called "Empty Rooms Worth Describing", and after a simple d100 roll your characters aren't just entering another randomly empty room in a dungeon, but instead are greeted with the number "37" scrawled in six foot tall figures on the walls. Or, having just decided to pick the pockets of some completely random and unmemorable NPC, your character finds 'a “thank you” note written in Gnomish' care of the table titled, "What’s In Those Pockets?", instead of some bog standard silver pieces. I mean, who wants currency when you can find 'an odoriferous piece of cod fish wrapped in paper.' Admittedly, you could instead have found an extremely valuable gem, so there is that. It's all part of the magic!

Ultimate Toolbox by Alderac Entertainment Group -

    This beast of a tome is much like the Gm Gems above, in that it is full of tables. Unlike the above product, the Ultimate Toolbox is just that: a comprehensive world building and idea generating tool. It covers a very wide range of subjects over a vast 390+ pages. A great review for the toolbox over at can be found here and does a good job of explaining how useful this thing can be.

The Big List of RPG Plots by S. John Ross (FREE) -
    From the creator of Risus comes this distilled generalizing of common themes in adventure plots, along with potential ways to twist them around. It is a quick read, its free, and it might just save you a lot of trouble the next time you are stuck for ideas. If you want this in pdf form, just go to the bottom of the linked page to where it mentions a printer friendly version.

Content on this blog in the near future

I am currently working on a few different posts that I will be releasing in the near future. Some of the things that I am working on:
  • Collecting a central resource for what I call "story tools", which are basically play aids, world/plot/setting generators, random tables, and the like. This will be an organic and growing list, and will attempt to be system neutral as much as possible.
  • List of some of my favorite or recently discovered rpgs, with an emphasis on indie and storytelling focused games. There are some real gems out there and quite a few of them are free!
  • Recounting my experiences thus far in introducing the concept of rpgs to my three and a half year old daughter, and some examples of the kinds of role-playing we have actually done.
  • Talking about solo gaming and why it isn't as scary and socially awkward as you might think.
Stay tuned for more info. If there is anything you would like to see me talk about, just let me know in the comments!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No external affliations

Just an FYI for those who may be wondering: no, I am not affiliated with any of the companies or products that I may mention on my blog. I am simply trying to bring attention to games and supplements that I think are awesome. This whole thing is for my personal enjoyment. If someone else gets anything out of this, I will be happy; if not, I will still be happy :)

"Story" gaming

Lately, I have been obsessed with the "indie" side of pen and paper game development. Of particular interest to me are the role-playing games that enable a much deeper shared experience among players. Many of these newer games seem to have a more story and character driven approach than many of the "old school" offerings. They create a space where players -- and (if needed) a referee or game master -- can communally tell a story.

More tactically minded games like D&D "can" allow for deep characterization, assuming that the players are all on board for such an experience, but it is not really encouraged. The focus on miniatures and specific rulings for every contingency seem to take the players out of the story environment and into a board game environment, each with a very different feel and set of goals. Many people, including myself on occasion, enjoy this kind of tactical exercise. However, I think that the other side of the coin, the actual role-playing, doesn't get as much credit as it deserves.

Some of these story games are very rules light, which allows the rules to take a back seat to the storytelling process. There are various levels and depths to any system, of course, with some being significantly more involving than others. There are a vast spectrum of games out there. As an example (while not strictly an "indie" game), check out Risus: The Anything RPG by S. John Ross. Go to the 'Freebies' page and scroll down. It's a complete RPG and the pdf is only 6 pages long. It takes all of 20 seconds to create a character and yet the system allows for any genre or character type you could want to play. Another great example, and a system that adds a slight bit more 'crunch' (read: complexity), is called PDQ (prose descriptive qualities) by Chad Underkoffler. The core rules are free and you can get them at the linked site under the 'Freebies' section (I'm abstaining from going into depth about a particular game to keep the size of this post down). Check out both the original and the PDQ# (sharp) rules to see how the game is evolving over time.

It would be remiss of me not to end this post by mentioning my new favorite role-playing tool, the Mythic GM Emulator by Word Mill Publishing. I can wholeheartedly say that if you are a gamer or a writer, then you need to check Mythic out. I have heard it referred to as a more complicated magic 8-ball for gaming, but I call it my probability engine and story generator. Mythic allows players to play "any" RPG without a GM, or for a GM to come to a gaming session with almost zero prep. You can use Mythic to answer yes/no questions with a d100 roll, the probability of any result being moderated by how likely you think a thing is and how out of control the situation is becoming. Random events can happen any time, also based on some simple rolls. Everything you get out of Mythic needs to be integrated into the story through logic, context, and interpretation, but the whole process feels very intuitive and will often times surprise you. I can and should write a whole new post just to cover Mythic, as it is just that amazing. Really, my description doesn't come close to doing it justice, so click over to their site and check it out (while it may not be free, $7 is very much worth the price for this thing).

(I will be sharing many more of these games, and other interesting resources, in a separate blog post.)

First post!

So, blogging. I have been tempted to start a blog for a long time, but have abstained due to various reasons. I have come to the point where I feel like sharing my personal passions and hobbies with a wider audience (even if it is just close friends and family) in a format that makes it easy to relate information. Emails, texts, and phone calls all have their place, but some of the most interesting things that I have learned about my  hobbies have come from blogs.

This blog won't be focused on any one topic, even though it may at times (read: nearly always) seem to favor role-playing games (of the pencil and paper variety). As with many people, my interests fluctuate: I tend to obsess about one thing for a period of time before moving on, usually having learned something new in the process. While I do occasionally integrate new interests, they are largely cyclical and I do revisit topics frequently.

I reserve the right to edit this post! You have been warned. :)