Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Gamemaster awards two extra skill points

The GM is kind; the GM awards two extra skill points.

There never seem to be enough skill points in the game for everything I want to do as a player.

Granted, I want to try some pretty strange things as a player. One of my characters wanted to make his own weapons. A second character wanted to build up the Profession: Gambler skill. Yet something like Perception gets used in almost every session, but not every session has gambling.

Now, as a GM, I have an opportunity to change all of that for my players when I run my campaign.

In the character guide I put together, A PC Guide to County Playground: The Grand Grind, the newest version provides a boon to my players:

I intend to place more emphasis on skills and contacts. Each player is given two bonus skill points at first level; these have to go into a Profession skill, a Craft skill, or the Survival skill. The intent here is twofold: First, the Profession or Craft should help "round out" who the character is and what the character is interested in, making for a more interesting character. Second, the GM will use those interests as plot hooks. For example, a character with ranks in Profession (Sailor) will know other sailors; the GM will use those other sailors as plot hooks.

To get two bonus skill points at first level in PC Gen, go to "Feats & Abilities" > Misc > GM Awards and choose "+1 Skill Rank" twice

A screen capture of setting this value in PCGen version 6.0 is shown below:

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Friday, 12 May 2017

Battle Stove Spectacular

I am over the moon with excitement to announce that my newest novella Battle Stove Spectacular is available on both iBooks and Amazon for purchase.

Battle Stove Spectacular: Description

Battle Stove Spectacular is a short novel of adventure, comedy, fantasy and event planning.

Years of cultivation and negotiation are about to bear fruit. To seal a treaty between the fieldfolk of the Dominion of Cede and his people the elves, the Captain-King of the flying castle Battle Scar asks the greatest chef in the world of Poem to prepare a banquet. A Spectacular banquet. But the old king dies, and young king Corys has other plans for the elves....

Who will help Chef, and who will oppose him? The silver-tongued maƮtre d' who disappears when you need him most? The shy gnome who loves complicated toys? The dwarf with every reason to hate the elves? A demon named Sunshine?

How will Chef defuse the tension and complete the banquet? With skill, friends, and spectacular style!

Background to the creation of the novel

I first announced this title in my 2016-12-16 blog post "How To Build A County Playground: One Book At A Time." I started the work much earlier, in fact; in March of 2016, while I was trying to find a way to avoid completing course work for a BCIT course in iOS Application Development. (Still completed the course, got my 'A').

The bigger truth, though, is that this work has been mulling around in my head for a long time, along with nineteen or so other stories. Most of these form the background to a Pathfinder Role Playing Game campaign setting I run for my friends, called County Playground. My intent is to sew the best twenty of those stories into The Twenty Tales of County Playground.

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Thursday, 11 May 2017

I Support the Down Syndrome Research Foundation

For 2017, Standard Eyre Digital Services will donate one hundred percent of all profits to the Down Syndrome Research Foundation.

The staff and volunteers at the DSRF do incredible work to ensure people with Down Syndrome live full and fulfilling lives.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Distinguishing GM Info from Player Info in Vimwiki

I write up notes for encounters in my campaign within Vimwiki.
Some notes are intended for the Player Characters.  The majority of the text is intended for the Gamemaster's eyes only.
My understanding is that the text intended for players is called Boxed Text. Here's an example of Boxed Text intended for the players:
"You awake in a room. There are two doors. A hidden voice asks, 'What door will you choose: The Lady? Or the Tiger?'"
The following note is intended for the Gamemaster only:
"Behind each door is a female tiger. Bad Gamemaster! Sneaky Gamemaster!"
I found it a challenge to keep each type of note distinct within the Vimwiki file. In the paper modules I bought as a teenager, the notes to the players were set off from the rest of the text. A light shade of grey filled the background of these text blocks, the text was indented a small amount, and a black box surrounded this text.
To recreate this effect in Vimwiki, I tried two things.
The first thing I tried was to set the text off in a Vimwiki table.
| First Announcement      |
|-------------------------|
| You enter a             |
| place filled with       |
| twisty little passages, |
| all alike.              |
This works okay as long as you are viewing the information within Vimwiki. The problems I had here began when I converted the table to HTML (and from HTML using Pandoc to any other format). Vimwiki treats this table as four separate rows. Each line of text gets its own row.
First Announcement
You enter a
place filled with
twisty little passages,
all alike.

The HTML for that looks as follows:
<table>
<tbody><tr>
<th>
First Announcement
</th>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>
You enter a
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>
place filled with
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>
twisty little passages,
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>
all alike.
</td>
</tr>
</tbody></table>
 
That's not what I wanted.

I made an edit to Vimwiki. I forked the project on Github and added a toggle so that a table with a single column would treat all rows as one single cell.

The end result was that the HTML when converted looked like I wanted:

First Announcement
You enter a place filled with twisty little passages, all alike.

<table>
<tbody><tr>
<th>
First Announcement
</th>
</tr>
<tr><td>
You enter a
place filled with
twisty little passages,
all alike.
</td></tr>
</tbody></table>
My pull request to add this feature was not accepted by the current maintainers. So it goes.

I looked at the existing features of Vimwiki, and I realized I can achieve a similar effect by writing the text in a blockquote. The indentation sets the text off within Vimwiki. The CSS could set the text off when rendered to HTML.

This block of text in Vimwiki:

    You enter a    
    place filled with 
    twisty little passages,
    all alike. 
becomes the following
You enter a place filled with twisty little passages, all alike.
The HTML for that blockquote looks as follows:
<blockquote>
You enter a 
place filled with 
twisty little passages,
all alike. 
</blockquote>
The file vimwiki/autoload/vimwiki/style.css contains the following line:
blockquote {padding: 0.4em; background-color: #f6f5eb;}
That helps provide the background shading in the HTML.
So, in the future, GM info will be the default Vimwiki text. Text intended to be read to Player Characters, by contrast, will go between <blockquote> tags.

If you like what I've written here and want to help support future posts, please:
Thanks!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

An Extremely Thin Overview On How I Created And Sold An Electronic Book

In 2016 I created, edited and sold my first electronic book, A PC Guide to County Playground: The Grand Grind. The sales were not astronomical, but they were above zero. I consider that a success. I am enthusiastic about creating and promoting more books.

One of my friends recently asked me: "I was wondering if you can share some wisdom and experience on how to get a book published."

I'm happy to share what I know.

I divide up the work into three categories:

  1. Creating the manuscript: From idea to completed text
  2. Crafting the book: Cover, ISBN, Editor
  3. Promotion of the book: Marketing, finding your audience, making it as easy as possible for people to discover you and to buy your book.

I'm going to go into more depth on all three of those topics in future blog posts.

Until I get my own experience updated here in mind-numbing detail, I will recommend APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. They have made a thorough, honest and (in my opinion) encouraging overview of what it takes to write a manuscript, turn that manuscript into a book, then promote the book.

Physical and Electronic Books

I'm interested in both paper books and digital books, also called electronic books, ebooks, or iBooks.

Much of what I did, I followed from the examples and recommendations in APE. Some specifics:

Creating the manuscript

  • Set a specific goal for what the finished manuscript should look like. For me, I wanted a book that was 30,000 words. My finished book was 35,000 and change.
    • The reason this is important is: it helps you know when you are done. Sometimes you write and write and write and it never feels like the work is done, complete, good enough. It really helps to have a clear vision of your ending in sight. This helps you reach the ending.
  • Build a routine that helps you to finish the book. For me, this meant finding a time of day that (a) I was most productive and (b) I was not likely to be interrupted.
    • I tend to write between 05:00 and 06:00 each morning. That may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

Crafting the book: Cover, ISBN, Editor

  • I created the cover myself for my first electronic book. I do not recommend this. It costs money to hire a professional graphic designer, and that person is worth it. APE has suggestions on how to find a designer for your book cover
  • I found an editor through the Blue Pencil offerings at the Vancouver Public Library. The editor I found is associated with Editors British Columbia
  • The Canadian Federal Government provides services for a publisher to get an ISBN. This includes self publishers. For other countries, I point you again to APE.

Promotion of the Book

I would say I still have a lot to learn about this area. My initial target audience for my first book was very small, as I was more interested in the mechanics of publishing rather than volume sales.

Here I would turn to The Internet, particularly the Meetup part of the Internet. I know of at least one Group of Writers who have organized a "Self-Publishing and Book Marketing Support Group." Chances are, someone in that group knows someone who can help you find the next step to building an audience for your book.

If you have created a manuscript, turned it into a book, and/or promoted it, I would like to hear about what works and what does not. Please leave a message in the comments or contact me through this blog.

Thanks, and I wish you success on your book journey.

Friday, 16 December 2016

How To Build A County Playground: One Book At A Time

Back in 2005 I started a Role Playing Game campaign with friends that grew into what we call County Playground.

Today, County Playground continues to grow in two directions:

  1. I'm building a campaign setting designed to work with the rules set from the PFRPG, an extended multiverse.
  2. I also have written a series of stories set in that multiverse.

County Playground: The Grand Grind is the name of the latest campaign set in the multiverse of County Playground.

I'm enjoying immensely the process of building a campaign multiverse "One Book At A Time."

The first reference work for County Playground is done and on sale. A PC Guide to County Playground: The Grand Grind is available exclusively through the iBooks store. The guide is intended for players of County Playground: The Grand Grind. It provides both guidelines for building player characters, and an overview of tone and history.

The first adventure story set in the multiverse of County Playground will be on sale in the first half of 2017. I'm working with an editor and an artist to produce an e-book that has both a cohesive tight story and a fine cover. The working title is Battle Stove Spectacular.

Both works will be published by Standard Eyre Digital Services.

For 2016, Standard Eyre Digital Services will donate fifty percent of all profits to the Down Syndrome Research Foundation. The staff and volunteers at the DSRF do incredible work to ensure people with Down Syndrome live full and fulfilling lives.


Friday, 30 September 2016

Just Enough Prep

As a creative person, I like preparing a campaign for a Role-Playing Game. Characters, backgrounds for those characters, motivations and histories behind those backgrounds, maps that detail those histories... I'd happily spend all the time I do not have building those details.

There's only so much time in the day, though.

As a game master who wants to run this campaign one day (and as someone who wants to stay sane), I found it helpful to draw up a Just Enough Prep target list. My intent is that once I had completed everything on this list, I'd be in a position to at least start the campaign.

The campaign is not a static story. It responds to the decisions and actions of the Player Characters. So, a secondary goal here is to have enough prep to be ready for the curve balls that the PCs throw. There's no conceivable way to prepare for every possible PC action.

What made the Preparation List

Some items on the list I found hard to quantify at first. I decided to prepare for these items by creating one or two items per player. I have six players in my gaming group.

  1. A name for the campaign
    • The campaign is called "County Playground: The Grand Grind"
  2. A guide for the campaign setting should be ready for the players
    • Concise details on the campaign, to help the players generate PCs.
    • I have this ready. My ebook is titled A PC Guide to County Playground:The Grand Grind
    • It's on sale now at iBooks
  3. A wiki with ten items per player
    • The players need something to work with.
    • I actually have two wikis: a public one for the players and a private one for Gamemaster Eyes Only. The public one is copied to the County Playground Grand Grind Mediawiki site.
  4. A logo for the campaign
    • The logo ties together all the above items. I put the logo on the ebook PC Guide and the Mediawiki.
  5. A tool to push updates from my player vimwiki local on my computer to the Mediawiki installation accessible on the Internet.
  6. One blog post per player
    • Part of the job of the blog is to keep track of what works. I'm not planning to have to redo something in two years. If I have to, nice to have a record of what I did initially. Ideally, through the comments, someone might suggest a better way of doing things.
  7. A conflict web for the major NPCs
    • For this I found three large pieces of paper, 11 by 17 inches. I mapped out which NPCs are the masters and which are the servants, who is in love and who hates each other. Each NPC gets at least one relationship; some have several.
    • The idea here is that if the PCs suddenly go somewhere I have not thought of and encounter the NPC in a setting I have not expected, I'll at least have a starting point of what will motivate that NPC in that situation.
  8. Sketches for the first several encounters
    • Two encounters per player
    • Rough out what the encounter requires: NPCs and monster names, from the characters, maps, key turning points in the campaign as a whole that the encounter will set up.
    • Some of these are more sketchy than others.

What did not make the Preparation List

  1. Stats for every Non-Player Character (NPC)
    • The NPC Codex has my back here. There are also NPC stats in the Gamemastery Guide. Besides, why spend an hour giving detail to a NPC that the PCs are going to interact with for only two minutes and/or kill off? The ones that stick around will be fleshed out with stats.
  2. Monster stat blocks
    • Exceptions will be lovingly created by hand. I have several books with monster stat blocks already; I can reference those in my notes.