Friday, June 30, 2006

Dragonlance Movie in the Offing

In a move sure to inspire strange mixtures of anticipation, nostalgia, and aprehension among older gamers everywhere, the production of an animated Dragonlance movie has been confirmed, after being hinted at by DL creators Weis and Hickman for quite some time. Check out the news here.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Filesharing and the RPG Biz

The news that Wizards of the Coast is planning to throw nearly their entire D&D catalogue into eBook format (discussed earlier) got me thinking again about the topic of filesharing/P2P/piracy/what have you.

So far, the publishing world has not gone into hysterics over the P2P problem the way that the RIAA and MPAA have with music and movies. One reason why this is the case... is that there is still no paper-slayer hardware device. iPods, CD & DVD burners, RCA & S-video output jacks on computers, and high-quality computer speaker rigs have meant that the transition of the family (or more likely, dorm room) computer into a media center has been a quick and easy one.

More D&D eBooks on the way

As reported here on (it got a mention on Slashdot, too), has announced that Wizards of the Coast is going forward with a scheme that will eventually see almost all of the D&D library available in eBook form.

There are several interesting ramifications of a decision like this. The first thing that pops to mind for most folks is one word: ...

Piracy. It's one of the more controversial aspects of the plan to a lot of people, and doubtless part of the argument that was going on behind closed doors at WoTC. The new D&D eBooks will feature some of the same watermarking and protection technology used with the current batch of official D&D PDFs. Of course, anyone who has ever poked their head the least bit into the wild and wonderful world of file sharing knows that all of the titles that DriveThruRPG is going to be adding to its offerings are already available on the Internet through BitTorrent sites and other P2P sharing systems.

That gives consumers an interesting choice. Players and DMs who want to support WoTC's eBook scheme can now pay the same price as buying a hard copy of their books for a PDF that has fewer features than the PDF that they could get for free off of their favorite file sharing service. It's hard to say who is going to bight; while I'm sure that there are a lot of folks who would like to have electronic copies of their books in addition to their hardbacks, I doubt many of those folks want to pony up the full price of a book for the privilege. Meanwhile, the size of the market for electronic-only books seems to vary according to who you ask; some gamers are ready to go laptop-only starting yesterday, while others are pointing at their laden bookshelves and screaming "from my cold dead hands!".

Mixed into all of this is more bad news for the small hobbyist shops of the world. Rest assured, retailers don't like it when their "partners" in the publishing biz decide to cut them out of the equation. WoTC's eBook publishing scheme- which can no longer really be called an experiment- means that the nickel-and-dime counting division at WoTC has decided that the potential gains from online-only eBook sales more than offset the consequences of the bruised relationship with retailers. Wizards has the small hobbyist shop market in the worst possible position: D&D & D20 are much too big for any sane RPG retailer to ignore and kick out of the shop, meaning that retailers have little means at their disposal to show WoTC that they don't like being cut out of the equation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tiddlywiki: The GM's Friend

While poking through the Treasure Tables GMing Wiki, I stumbled across this little gem: a 'program' (sort of!) called Tiddlywiki that gives you a quick and easy way to create what is essentially a low-tech Wiki that you can contain in a single file.

Cutting through the technical jargon, the bottom line on Tiddlywiki is this: it's a really nifty high-tech HTML file that uses some cute tricks with JavaScript and CSS to turn itself into a document that allows you to quickly create little bits of named text content, and then quickly link between them. Editing, linking, and formatting are all a snap, and the result is a single HTML file that can easily be thrown onto a thumb drive or onto Gmail to make a totally portable Wiki.

What has this to do with gaming, you ask?

If you're a GM for any RPG, you make notes. As games get longer and longer, and particularly if you're interested in creating an immersive and complex world, keeping track of all the little details that get thrown into a game can quickly overwhelm your memory. What was the name of that inn by the docks where the PCs got into a barroom brawl? What's the name of that shady shop owner who can quickly get ahold of 'special orders'- and did he have a hunchback, or was it a lazy eye? Keeping track of details like this can be even harder with online/play by post games, where weeks or months may pass between visits to a particular location or interactions with a specific PC. Not to mention the fact that you want to jot down notes about plot points, have quick access to the stats for PCs and major NPCs, and try to remember all of the various relationships between characters and organizations that exist in your world.

Tiddlywiki isn't a perfect solution for this problem, but it is a damn fine one. After an evening of playing with Tiddlywiki, I had converted my notes for my WFRP campaign from a flat text file (that I was always flipping back and forth through) into a Tiddlywiki document that included:

  • Day-by-day summaries of previous action in the campaign
  • Stats and background information for all the PC's, as well as a number of NPC's
  • Notes about important locations
  • Plans for the future

Best of all, all of this information could quickly be linked together, and sorted into logical chunks without losing the ability to look at any piece of information quickly. Anything that referenced anything else (for instance, a mention of an NPC in a PC's background information) linked to the relevant info, meaning that anything that you needed could be pulled up with a single click. Instead of a flat file that I was flicking back and forth through, I had a file that mirrored the web of interactions and relationships between people, places, and things that actually existed in the campaign.

With a little more fiddling, I had turned my copy of Twiddlywiki into a personal WFRP Wiki, containing some of my house rules and homebrew material, ideas and NPCs for a future campaign I've been thinking about, and a number of extra bits and pieces that I've either written myself or downloaded off the web and found to be useful. Most of the effort in incorporating this material was just copying and pasting text over, adding a couple labels, and then making links where I thought they were helpful. It's made it much easier to find what I'm looking for, and I daresay even made it easier to develop new materials; instead of having to keep a half-dozen files open, I can just pop between Tiddlywiki 'twiddlers' when I need to refer to other info.

At any rate, if you're looking for a convenient way to keep track of a lot of campaign information, Tiddlywiki is a great choice. It has nowhere near the overhead of more conventional Wiki solutions (no web server, no database server, no real configuration work to speak of), but still allows some customization (in the form of JavaScript macros and presentation tweaks using CSS). Play with Tiddlywiki and see for yourself.

The Long Drought

It's obviously been a long time since I updated anything here. The long and the short of it is that I have 1) been somewhat busy, and 2) lost access to my laptop for several weeks due to a slight motherboard problem. Rest assured that both problems are now essentially under control, and there should be some updates in the next few days and hours here.