As a technology enthusiast – computers are both my job and (one of) my passion(s) – I’ve experimented for years with the blending of digital and analog tools to both make my time at the table a bit easier and maximize the players’ experiences. I’m a strong believer that D&D is best played around a table as an analog game, but I’ve long used tools like Photoshop, OneNote and PowerPoint to create content for the table and organize my game. I think I’m ready to take the next step… a leap of faith and an experiment with hardware/software.
As I prepare to kick off a new D&D Next (playtest) inspired campaign I went looking for the community’s ideas on alternative character sheets. The one in the playtest packet gets the job done, but I tend to dislike the one-size-fits-all approach to record sheets. More after the break… but this is a snapshot of what I’ve come up with:
Creating high-quality maps for our encounters seems to be an almost universal quest amongst DMs. Everybody has their favorite approach: from Chris Perkins’ Map Fu with the venerable wet-erase battlemat to published poster maps and Dungeon Tiles. Recently, Mike Shea released a short video in which he demonstrated the benefits of sandwiching your dungeon tiles between black toolbox liner and an acrylic sheet. I’ve been using the acrylic sheet for awhile now and can vouch for it’s awesomeness… more on that later.
But I don’t use Dungeon Tiles or poster maps… I’ve always wanted to, but the limited selection of settings and pieces always leaves me wanting more. In the past I’ve played with creating some of my own tiles but, after a lot of work, I had that same “locked in” feeling. What I needed was an almost infinite source of high-quality maps that I could tweak or re-purpose as needed.
Enter the D&D Insider Map Gallery…
I love to hear how people run their game or their character at the table and recently read Dixon Trimline’s post, The One-Page Character Sheet, on Critical Hits. Last year I played a few games of D&D Encounters and quickly found that I really liked the half-page, two-sided character sheet (card) the pre-generated characters came on. As I am always looking for ways to tweak the bits in my game, I sat down to recreate the same look and feel in a full-page, custom character sheet for one of my players.
I set out to create a single-page sheet for a heroic tier character, but was ultimately unable to get the aesthetic I was going for and keep it all on one page so I settled on front & back. I’m sure this could be condensed to one page if I gave up some artwork… but what’s the fun in that? Obviously, continuous care and feeding would be required here as the character levels up and gains more powers and magic items.
I used Microsoft PowerPoint because it provided a pretty good mix of control over the layout of components on the page and ease of update. It’s also installed on every PC I sit down in front of. 🙂
Clearly one’s character sheet is an intensely personal choice; some love cards cut out and slid into protectors, some play with the CB sheet as printed, and others spend time to create a custom view of their in-game alter ego. It would be really nice if there was a template-friendly character export from the CB that could be fed through a style sheet transformation to generate custom sheets.
Here’s what I propose: In addition to the full XML export the CB provides today, I’d love to see a simplified XML snapshot that just saves the attributes that define my character right now (abilities, feats, skills, powers, etc.). If such a thing was available, I have no doubt that we would see a wide variety of CSS templates, Excel files, and other custom sheet generators pop up on the Internet. I would think that it would also offload the WotC team from developing new character sheet options for the CM print dialog, while maintaining control over the actual character generation function.
Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 Downloads
I’ve just released my first app for Windows Phone 7. I’ve been a programmer for years, first as a student, then professionally and now as a hobbyist. This, however, is the first time I’ve seen a project through to official release (aside from a few things released as open source). Needless to say, I’m pretty psyched.
Compendium is a companion app for your D&D Insider subscription for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. With this app, you can use your Insider account to lookup game classes, races, powers, and rules right from your Windows Phone. Version 1.0 provides class, power, glossary, and race browsing and searching.
If you have a Windows Phone, you can check it out in the App Marketplace.