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I’ve used Storium for awhile now, playing in a handful of games and narrating a couple. While Storium norms are still in their early stages, I’d like to offer some preliminary ideas about what’s worked for me. Naturally, YMMV. After all, the background of player groups on Storium vary wildly; some come from RPG backgrounds, while others come from PbP games and still others from fanfic writing. Those player groups have different styles which work for them. That being said, though, here are some things that make sense to me.

Define the Level of Player Autonomy Before You Begin

Some Storium games are more collaborative than others. In two of the games in which I play, the narrators describe the setting and let us do whatever we please, creating situations within those spaces as we see fit. Those games are a little like free-form LARPs. In another game, the narrator expects players to take moves and wait for feedback about what the NPCs do and how the world changes in response; she’s got a scripted game and we play to find out what she’s written, much like a tabletop RPG. My own Warhammer game runs somewhere in the middle: I have a scripted idea of what’s happening on the largest level, and I tend to start scenes with strong direction from NPCs. Yet I have invited my players to speak for NPCs, add events, and complicate scenes as they see fit.

Not all narrators are comfortable with the same level of player input, and the same goes for players. Advertising your expectations clearly and reinforcing those expectations early on makes for better game play, as everyone knows what types of moves are expected and allowed. Can players speak for NPCs? Can players drastically change the plotline? Can they solve problems with magic or other mechanics you haven’t explicitly introduced?

Where you fall on this scale will drastically change how you approach planning for and responding to your game. If you’re going to ask players to wait for your feedback, you’ll need to check your account and respond often so that players aren’t sitting and waiting on you to tell them what an NPC thinks or how a magic spell worked. You’ll also have to have a clear sense of what’s happening in your world. If, on the other hand, you mean to allow players to alter the course of events and speak for NPCs, you’ll need to roll with the punches and be willing to change your story–perhaps drastically–at the drop of a hat, perhaps re-envisioning your main characters through the lens of the players’ understanding of them.

Personally, I’ve had a great time rolling with the punches. The beauty of Storium is that you don’t have to respond right away like you do in a tabletop game; I can see what my players have said, mull it over for awhile, and come back to them with something that suits them. At one point, for instance, my players were infiltrating a cult of Nurgle. In the Commentary section, one of my players made a crack about wanting “balloons” in the scene. I had originally planned a fairly straightforward cult, but the balloons idea resonated with me, and I crafted a whole scene around a Nurglish birthday party ritual. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a game, and it was great to have the opportunity to respond to a player idea (even if it was just a jest!)

Use the Commentary Section

As a narrator, I’ve found the commentary section invaluable. It’s the best tool you have for explaining the expectations you have about player behavior in a given scene, about a piece of lore, or about how you want players to use the mechanics. If you’re a player, it’s a great place to ask questions.

In my Warhammer game, there’s one NPC I don’t want the players to speak for; he’s been in a couple of my Warhammer games, and I have a very clear sense of his character. Plus, he’s incredibly powerful, and putting his power in the hands of my players might unbalance the game. So what did I do? I used the comments at the first mention of his name to let them know that I didn’t want them to speak for this particular NPC. I reminded them when I introduced the next NPC that they could speak for him–just to reinforce the overriding expectation in my game–but the Commentary gave me a great place to underscore the one exception that proved the rule.

In another game in which I play, my narrator had a dangerous NPC lock us in a room after storming out. A challenge card for her character remained, though. I wanted to know if he was envisioning the challenge associated with that NPC as being “gone” since she wasn’t in the room, or whether I could still play cards on her challenge and count those cards as representing our making a plan to overcome her when she came back. The Commentary gave me the perfect space to ask about his understanding of the rules and let us discuss it before I made my move.

Give Players a Focus

If everyone in the group has a strong LARP background, a clear focus might not matter, as players can entertain themselves through RPing with one another. In most groups, though, games tend to grind to a halt when players aren’t sure what to do, and challenge cards don’t always give quite enough direction. In your main narration, keep the tension high. Give your players a problem to solve or an impending threat to overcome. Make it clear, present, and obvious. Is that thing about to explode? Is someone ill? Are guards on the way? Is there a monster outside? Books don’t quite work like this–not every scene is high-tension. But writing games often should work this way, just to give players a sense of urgency about their moves.

If you want a pure RP or planning scene, first, use the Commentary to make sure the players know your plan. Second, give them a good backdrop for their RP. Add in some entertaining scenery, an animal or child, or a shiny object. If the conversation flags, the players can pick up on the background cues to keep things moving. Use those props to give information about your game world. If you want to give hints about what’s to come without having an NPC tell the players too much, put it in the scenery and let the players discover it. Just don’t cover the important detail with so much verbiage that they miss it!

Use the Mechanics Only When They Suit

Currently, there are some odd things about Storium mechanics. For instance, settings can never be challenges, but NPCs are always challenges. Roll with these punches, too, and only use challenges when there’s really a challenge to overcome. Generally speaking, I introduce the NPCs and setting (usually at the end of the previous scene) and let things heat up before I throw out a challenge card to open the next scene. That gives me a chance to know where the players want to direct their attention. If the players enter the catacombs and ask questions of the head cult member, that’s a cue to me to throw out an NPC challenge that relates to him. If, on the other hand, they enter the catacombs and immediately take interest in the bodies buried there, that’s an obstacle challenge that represents their investigation, and I might never use an NPC card for that cult leader at all.

For me, NPC challenges tend to represent persuading or incapacitating. Obstacles represent anything else.

Define Outcomes Creatively

It’s tempting to give your challenges yes/no outcomes: if the challenge is completed successfully, you kill the monster; if not, you don’t. It doesn’t have to be that simple, though. First, you might want to give your players more autonomy. What if they want to know something about the monster that they can’t find out if they chop off its head? You might have a successful outcome be “if the challenge is completed successfully, you kill OR incapacitate the monster.” Now they can choose. I use many EITHER/OR outcomes in my challenges to give players choice.

At other times, you might offer players degrees of the same choice. Right now, there’s an NPC in one of my scenes that I don’t want killed. He’s being a pain in my players’ asses, but I just don’t want them to kill him. Still, they should have the chance to do something to take his questionable behavior down a notch. My outcomes for his NPC challenge look something like this: SUCCESSFUL: you quiet him down and keep him happy. UNSUCCESSFUL: he’s still here, but he’s freaking out and will be less easy to control in the future. There’s still a choice about how much effort they want to put into making this NPC calm, but the outcomes aren’t quite as drastic as dead/alive.

Finally, think about uncertain outcomes. When players hit an uncertain outcome, I tend to think of it as a chance to give information without moving the story substantively forward or backward. Let’s say the players have a challenge to climb a mountain that looks unstable; their outcome on that challenge winds up uncertain. I might tell them that they think they could do it successfully with rope (which they don’t have,) adding a further complication to find rope. Or I might tell them that it looks so unstable that they wouldn’t climb it until the rain stops, then give them a challenge relating to killing time or keeping dry until the rain stopped if they wanted to give the challenge another shot. For NPC outcomes, it’s a bit easier: they don’t impress or upset the NPC, but the NPC tells them something they didn’t yet know.

Reward Player Cues

Hopefully, you have players who read carefully and pick up on the little details in your prose. If so, reward them by returning the favor. If they describe a particularly interesting bit of their character’s clothing, let an NPC notice it–perhaps it’s how the guards recognize that PC later on. If they bring up a relationship with a character who isn’t a PC, bring that character in as an NPC and let them have some meaningful interaction with her. Not only will you keep your players engaged, but you’ll also encourage them to read your text more carefully and use your details creatively.

When playing, do the same. There’s nothing more rewarding to me as a narrator than seeing someone run with one of my little details and turn it into a bigger part of the game. Tell your narrator which parts of the game interest you; encourage her to give you more of that. That’s not to say that you should ignore the things your narrator has staked out as major plot events, but interacting with the details you find intriguing is a useful form of feedback for your narrator.

 

Hopefully these thoughts will help others as they hash through their own preferences and playstyles as both narrators and players. I’ve had a great time with Storium thus far, and I hope that others will keep telling awesome stories with it!

If you’re a member of Storium, stop by and visit my Warhammer game! Click here.

Yay! Rodeo games announced recently that they are developing an iOS version of the classic board game Warhammer Quest. I played the original version during a session in which a local board game collector pulled out a whole bunch of his “classics”; it’s a quirky and fun little game, partly because it’s so hilariously perilous. I’m looking forward to seeing it again in an electronic version, and as always, I’m delighted to see more Warhammer products for iPad. Here’s IGN’s scoop with a bit more info. A detailed description of the original board game can be found here on Board Game Geek.

Those sponsoring the Warhammer FRP 3e Scenario Contest (see my entry on it here and the thread on the FFG forums here) have announced a submission date of October 15. I’m hoping that we’ll see some new writers and some fresh ideas. (I even hope for some clever new uses of the standard rules!) As for me, that’s a week before I’m running a half marathon, so if I’m going to get an entry written, it’ll have to be sooner rather than later.

If you’re on the fence, do try to hammer something out. Emirikol has offered to help new writers with editing and formatting their material, so there’s little to lose!

After mouthing off about how the Dreadfleet Captains POD expansion wasn’t stupid or useless back here, I passionately put off buying it for several more months. We recently passed through our favorite gaming store on the way home from vacation, though, and that gaming store has a Seductive Wall of Fantasy Flight Things with FFGTV. Seduced by the Wall, I threw a whole bunch of FFG stuff into our basket that I didn’t need, and the Dreadfleet Captains expansion made its way in. Having now made time to take a look, I thought I’d say a few words about it.

First of all, to its critics: yep. You’re not going to use this one often, so there’s no need to pick it up unless you have a specific idea about how to work it into your campaign or you’re a completist like me. In the box are ten quirky NPCs from the Dreadfleet ships, ten new sailing/pirate-related actions such as “Conjure Wind Spirit” or “Fysh Bite,” six location cards for places on and around a ship, and ten standee cards.

I’m impressed by how much info about the game mechanics FFG crammed onto the playing-sized cards; you have everything you need to run the NPC in a fight right at your fingertips, plus a small portrait. Turn the card over to reveal a slightly larger picture that you can share with your players. Each of the Captains has a couple of special abilities to make him a more challenging combat opponent. The action and location cards are standard stuff, although I’m very fond of the Overboard card with its jaunty octopus tentacles reaching up menacingly from the sea. I am also rather amused by the standee cards. Although I use miniatures, FFG has gone out of its way to ensure that players have a (relatively) inexpensive alternative with the cardboard standups generously provided with each set. Flattening those and providing them in card form cleverly continues this trend.

What’s sorely missing in this set, of course, is the fluff. Who are these guys? What’s their story? What are they like? With the sheer strangeness of the captains and so much existing lore, it’s a shame that you have to go elsewhere to find out, but there’s no lack of material out there. You can pick up the Dreadfleet battle game or read the Black Library Dreadfleet novel. (It’s available on iBooks!) Games Workshop will be delighted to sell you more stuff, have no fear.

Overall, FFG’s Dreadfleet Captains is a vaguely interesting but quirky expansion that nobody needs to play WFRP. If you’ve got some decent reason to feature the captains or would like fifteen location and action cards that have to do with ships and pirates, though, you might find it a good use of your $10.

Emirikol, one of the most active members of the FFG Warhammer community, recently started a thread to gauge interest in a 3rd edition scenario contest. He’s going to sponsor the prizes himself, and the submissions will likely start a new little library of convention scenario content on the Liber Fanatica site. Although there’s currently some discussion about what the final submission requirements will be, Emirikol’s hoping to give us GMs a choice of convention scenarios that we run at local cons to widen the fanbase–something we’re currently sorely lacking.

I’ll probably enter if the competition goes official. If you’re at all interested, see the proposed details below, then throw your hat in the ring by responding to the thread here.

Proposal: 3rd Edition Convention-Playable Scenario Contest:

PROPOSED Deadline: November 1st, 2012

Assumptions: It is assumed that GMs running the scenario have access to the Core set, Winds of Magic, Signs of Faith and Adventurer’s Toolkit (i.e. everything included in the Player’s Guide and GM’s Guide). References beyond those should be summarized in a sidebar where possible.

Minimum Scenario Content: Scenario must be all-new/original.  Not including pre-generated characters, the length should be from 10-40 pages or between 5000-13,000 words and be playable in 3.5-4 hours. Part-II should be added as a separate entry if scenario is expected to go over this time with additional expected play-time listed (shoot for an additional 4 hours). Adaptations to previous editions may be included in a separate appendix.

Submission Formatting Recommendations: 11 or 12 point readable fonts 2-column except for appendix, maps or handouts, and 1 inch margins maximum.

Pre-Gen Character Formatting: If pre-generated characters are included the following format is recommended: Section 1 – Character sheet, Section 2- summary of cards needed, Section 3 – Attitudes towards other PCs. It is ok to instead reference specific Liber Fanatica 7 pre-gens rather than including new ones, but you may wish to include attitudes towards other PCs section.

Formatting layout: Page 1 – Title Page with Blurb, Author(s), and legal disclaimer.  Other minimum formatting requirements: rank/career minimum expected to play, course of expected play (scenario synopsis), background, content (by Act and Encounter). It does not have to be a railroad, but it does require a “most common course of expected play.”

Stat Block: It is assumed that all GMs have the Core Boxed Set, but not the Creature Guide or Creature Vault. Monsters found in the Core Set may simply be referenced, otherwise more complete information or summary side-bar. NEED STAT BLOCK FORMAT

Judging: Liber Fanatica and anyone who wants to help, including writers who submit (can’t vote for your own).

1e, 2e adaptations: Appendices with 1e, 2e, or Zweihander adaptation stat blocks, etc. do not count towards word count.

Prizes : Each author that meets at least minimum content standards get a copy of DLSS (official print copy, max 1) and hosted on Liber Fanatica website. Runner up gets the printed J2BFP.  Winner gets: Journey to Blackfire Pass (with cardstock pregen’s- official copy) and some gift certificates or dice or something (TBD).

I’ve been away on vacation, so I haven’t had much time to update–in fact, I’ve been backpacking, so I’ve been away from wifi or 3G range for days at a time. Naturally, as soon as I got back to civilization, I dove into a sea of emails, texts, and Google searches to answer random questions that had popped up during our hikes that we hadn’t been able to solve immediately. (Makes you realize how dependent you are on the internet to answer your “idle questions.”) Once I’d finished with my first internetting frenzy, I decided to grab some new reading material for the last few days away. Just out of curiosity, I typed “Black Library” into the iBookstore to see if there was any Warhammer content.

Quite awhile back, when iBooks were relatively new, I’d looked for BL content on the bookstore, and there hadn’t been much. I went over to the official BL website and ordered some etexts there, and while it wasn’t a terrible pain to import the etexts to my iPad, it was just enough of a hassle that I hadn’t bothered to go back. All that’s changed–significantly. Now there are over thirty-three screens of English BL content on the iBookstore and several more of French language content! Delightful. Now I can satisfy my need for trashy Warhammer reading and expend as little effort as possible.

I also notice that Games Workshop has put up the Codex: Necrons; it does look as though they’re going to make an effort to put all of the Codices onto iBooks. As I said here, I do think the format’s promising, and I’m glad to see they’re continuing. I just hope other RPG publishers decide to go the same route!

Overall, I’m glad to see more of this type of content on the iBookstore. I tend only to buy books I need for work as physical copies. I already have such a huge library from grad school and for work that I don’t need to fill it out with tons of other texts that I’m unlikely to annotate. It’s nice, then, to pick up a few Warhammer books in ebook format, and if it’s easy to do at 2am when I’m already on my iPad, all the better.

This week, my husband and I are vacationing at my in-laws’ place. They live in an area of the Adirondacks that one might describe as “remote.” It’s not quite shack-in-the-woods remote, but the nearest townlet, about fifteen minutes away, consists of a bank, three or four stores, two gas stations, and lots of Burma Shave-style signs with religious slogans along the road. While I enjoy my time here spent hiking, swimming, and boating, it does always confirm that I’m a city girl. On the other hand, I always see some hilarious things that would make awesome adventure hooks. Today, I present you with four things I’ve seen so far that would make stellar Warhammer FRP adventure hooks:

  • A man burning the corpse of a horse in the front yard of his house. One of the horse’s legs sticks out of the flames at a jaunty angle.
  • A tiny shack with barely enough room for one man to sit suddenly appears in an unowned part of the woods where there was no shack just a few months ago. My husband and I happened upon a charming bench near a pond in a previously uninhabited part of the forest, and just when I was about to sit down, he suddenly whispered, “Stop! There’s a hut behind you.” I thought he was making a Star Wars joke, but the reality was much creepier.
  • A live dog strapped to the top of a car, (or in Warhammer, to the top of a carriage.) I could see my PCs stalled for half an hour of hilarious roleplay trying to figure out if they should save the dog, or if they should set the carriage on fire because the dog’s likely a demon and the people in the carriage follow some lord of Chaos.
  • A group of stern-looking children striding purposefully towards a stand of trees in the middle of nowhere carrying nothing but a long chain.

And really, there’s the real joy of vacationing: the stories you bring back. Most people want to tell those stories to their families and friends, but some of us twisted souls want to get together and retell slightly more violent versions of our vacation tales as we sit surrounded by piles of dice, stacks of cardboard scenery, and sets of miniatures.

 

Unsurprisingly, I went ahead and coughed up the $42 for the Codex: Space Marines just to see how Games Workshop managed the iBooks format. My willingness to do so is entirely inexplicable, by the way; I don’t play 40K, and I don’t have a Space Marines army. I did enjoy the fluff in the book, though, and if I ever get around to running Rogue Trader, I suppose it will come in handy. Also, it’s almost my birthday, so why not? It’s not my intention to critique the book’s content; instead, I’d like to say a few words about Games Workshop’s use of the format itself.

If you go to iTunes and look up this book, you’ll see more than a hundred reviews that give the book one star. Many of these thoughtful, honest, ethical reviewers haven’t even bought the book–they’re just complaining about the price point. Apparently they feel as though an electronic version of a book shouldn’t cost the same as a print copy, and that’s enough for them to give the book one star. What we’ve learned here is that iTunes shouldn’t allow you to review a book you haven’t bought from them. After having spent some time with the text, I think GW’s implementation of the Codex is a wee bit flawed, but very promising as a whole; it’s not yet five stars, but it’s certainly not one star, either. Many complaints say that much of what the iBooks version accomplishes, a PDF also accomplishes, and that might be true. Still, as far as I can tell, the only PDF versions of the book available are illegal copies, so I’m not wholly swayed by comparing the functionality of a legal copy of an item to the functionality of an illegal copy.

Here’s the scoop on the details of the iBooks implementation:

PROS
Players will likely find the iBooks copy very useful during actual play, and the interactive visuals make it a delight to sit and read.

  • The hot-linked sections of the book will make it easy to find the information you need with a click. For instance, long fluff descriptions of individual units in the “Forces of the Space Marines” chapter link to the crunchy details in the “Army List” at the back of the book and vice versa, so you can get from fluff to crunch easily.
  • Standard iBooks navigation features allows for you to move from chapter to chapter easily, and GW has made the solid design choice to make each new chapter start with a visually distinctive page so you can quickly navigate to the section you need.
  • The searchable glossary has all the game terms you need. If you don’t play a particular army or unit all of the time, you might easily forget how to use a specific skill you’re seeking. It’s faster to do a search for it in a digital glossary than to look it up in a paper copy. I’ve found that it’s also much faster to search the iBooks glossary than to do a search in a whole PDF, but perhaps that’s just me. You can also click on individual special rules within an Army List entry and have the glossary entry for the rule pulled up automatically.
  • The iBooks built-in notes feature allows you to include house rules, refinements, and tactical information near the units and/or rules they modify right in your text without ruining the look of the book.
  • The high-resolution graphics and pictures of miniatures look great on a Retina screen. For once, I could actually get close enough to see that not every ‘Eavy Metal painter is flawless. That gave me a +15 bonus to my Self Confidence.
  • The Citadel 360 (or 360 Citadel?) models are kind of neat, and let you see how the painter has managed all of the details of a particular mini.
  • You can re-use the graphics. Games Workshop probably won’t be thrilled that I point this out, but of course, you can take a screen shot of anything you see in iBooks. That means that you can grab included graphics, put them in your own graphics program, and use them for your own scenarios, RPGs, etc. For a GM like me, this may be one of the most valuable things about the Codex.
  • You can’t lose or damage this book, since you can always re-download it once you’ve purchased it. Your iPad is also significantly smaller and lighter than an actual hardcover GW Codex.

CONS
GW has made a handful funky, bad, or just weird decisions that detract from the overall experience. I suspect that eventually these things will get ironed out as companies like GW come up with standards for publishing iBooks documents, but I was surprised that a company with such a solid design team would make some of these mistakes, even on their first try.

  • The designers use the slideshow function inconsistently throughout the book. It’s not a big problem–or a problem at all from a useability standpoint–but it’s rather offputting. Some galleries have thumbnails of included images at the bottom, while others simply have dots that indicate how many images are in the current slideshow. I found the differences distracting, as I ended up trying to figure out if the logic behind the choices.
  • Similarly inconsistent is GW’s use of the Citadel 360 feature; I couldn’t always figure out why they’d decided to allow me to see some of the models in 3D and not others. If, say, they’d done 360 models of every commander and flat images of lesser units, I’d get it, but their choices didn’t seem so straightforward.
  • While you can go to full-screen for some of the graphics, allowing you to see an individual item on a plain black background, you can’t zoom in to get a better look at the details of the images in the book. For a company that prides itself on detailed miniatures, I thought this was a weird decision. Some of that may be limited by iBooks; when I’ve played with it, I haven’t had many images that needed zoom functionality, so I’m not sure whether or not it’s possible within the iBooks structure itself.
  • GW didn’t use the change page-orientation feature. I realized when creating my own iBooks that it’s kind of a pain in the arse; the engine doesn’t let you look at certain page elements when you have your iPad in portrait orientation that you can see in landscape orientation. Still, it’s often more pleasant to read long blocks of text in portrait orientation, so it would be nice if GW had given readers the choice. On the other hand, perhaps they were thinking that you would primarily use your iPad propped up on its SmartCover in landscape orientation as you played the game itself.

FOR FUTURE TEXTS
Here are some things I’d like to see in future Codices and other RPG/miniatures rulebooks. I realize that these high-tech details can add quite a bit to the digital file size; perhaps companies could release both a bare-bones and a digital Collector’s Edition of their books.

  • Sound. I’m a sucker for gimmicks, so I’d like to hear some sound. Have one of the Black Library voice actors read us some of that fluff at the beginnings of chapters.
  • More color. Companies cut back on color when printing because it costs so darn much, but it doesn’t cost in a digital copy. Go ahead and color in those little details at the top of the pages. Make it look more like a Fantasy Flight or an old-school White Wolf book.
  • Video. Gameplay tactics, miniature painting tips, or fluff delivered as video would take digital manuals a significant step ahead of paper copies.

OVERALL VERDICT: LET’S SEE MORE!
Quite honestly, I’d repurchase most of my RPG/miniatures manuals if they were re-released in this format. I think the search, glossary, and notes functions alone would make them far more useful at the table than a printed copy of the book, and being able to yoink graphics from rulebooks for my own personal use fills me with joy. Further, I’d much rather carry one iPad to my local gaming store or to my friend’s house than a whole stack of hardbacks, especially if I’ve also got to carry a box filled with minis. Let’s face it; I’m probably going to take the iPad anyway, so why not cut back on other stuff I have to carry?

I will give all of the one-star reviewers the fact that there’s some sticker shock; it made my heart skip a beat to push the PURCHASE button on my iPad, since I’ve never bought any single item that expensive before. Yet I think we have to move beyond automatically valuing paper copies over digital copies. When I pay for a digital copy, I consider the unlimited downloads and the green factor, both of which are worth money to me; YMMV. In fact, if GW included video and sound not included in the paper copy, I’d highly support its costing the same as the paper book. At the moment, though, the former isn’t where we are in our cultural assessment of the value of etexts, and the latter isn’t where GW is in its iBooks production values, so they should probably offer a modest discount over the hardcover copy until digital copies become more commonplace.

I can’t tell you if you should purchase this item. If you’re a tech junkie who’s attached at the hip to your iPad like I am, then it’s a no-brainer. If you already own the paper copy of the Codex and happily lug it everywhere, then it might not make sense for you. I can say, though, that I hope other gaming companies leap on the bandwagon and use this technology, since I think it could really take gaming books to a whole new level of useful interactivity.

…and if that doesn’t prove my loyalty to Games Workshop the Emperor, I don’t know what will.

After poking around the Profantasy Software site the other day to look at something or other, I noticed the Dioramas Pro module for Campaign Cartographer 3 and picked it up. I’m not a master craftsman of cardstock scenery, by any means. After all, I started this blog by talking about my love-hate relationship with glue. Still, I like to make scenery for my campaigns, as I find that my PCs find it easier to tell the story at hand if they have a shared visual space on which to base the narrative. In my head, I was going to craft highly evocative Warhammery scenery to match the prewritten modules and/or strange and bewitching buildings to match my upcoming Skaven scenario. How cool would it be to have a building for the Garden of Morr that actually had little black rosebushes all around the building? How neat to have buildings that had been heavily “modified” by Skaven engineers (who, of course, don’t exist)?

For full disclosure’s sake, I should say that I only played with DP for one afternoon. Like everything else from Profantasy, DP has a steep learning curve, but it hardly seems impossible; I could easily figure out how to use the tools available, and the quickstart guide helped immensely. I could quickly make a series of different types of buildings that would stand up serviceably when I glued them together. It’s also very easy to change the scale of your building to accommodates different games. What’s less exciting, though, are the visual details provided within the program for decorating the buildings. Bleech. Simple line windows and doors–nothing like the buildings I would want to create. It’s possible to export the skeleton of your building and put it into Photoshop or Pixelmator so that you can do some graphic manipulation there. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll use DP to do. Still, it would be nice if it were easier to export the images, and even nicer still if the graphics sets in DP were a bit more elegant.

I’m not sure I’m pleased with this purchase. I like the flexibility of crafting any kind of structure I want, but honestly, I’m not sure how often I’ll use it. Part of me wishes I’d just bought some blank cardstock building skeleton files that I could manipulate in Pixelmator. (Those must exist, right?) Still, I think that’s more of a failing of my not really considering how the product was designed than a failing of the product itself. DP seems quite powerful if you’re into the “engineering” side of things. It’s just that I’m more on the “put funny visual jokes on the side of the buildings” side of things instead. Lesson learned about rampantly consuming things I don’t need, I guess. At least until the next intriguing thing I don’t really need comes along. 🙂

Awesome! I talked awhile back about how RPG scenario writers might put iBooks Author to good use, so I was excited to see the announcement on Twitter today that Games Workshop plans to release a line of iBooks supplements for its wargame. GW plans to release a handful of texts each month, and the company has obviously dumped some real money into making their initial offerings both useful and beautiful. The official video shows some of the etexts’ innovations. 3D images of their models that readers can rotate to view from all sides seem like a good way to get a sense of whether or not you really want a particular miniature, and videos and slideshows that explain how to paint models so that they look like the ones shown in particular scenarios will help those who want to learn good painting techniques. The video also goes out of its to point out that the search functions and the notation functions of iBooks will make using rules from these texts easy mid-game.

I’m really glad to see some gaming companies jumping onto iBooks and using the Author tools. I do wonder how much crossover there is between the GW crowd and the Apple crowd; they wouldn’t have struck me as quite the same people, for the most part, but I’m glad to see gaming companies make use of this technology. I’m going to wait until the Codex: Space Marines hits the virtual shelves, and then I’ll do a review of it. I can’t wait to see what it’s like! In the future, I hope that companies like GW expand their use of the functions of iBooks to some of their fiction offerings, and I’d love to see Fantasy Flight jump on the bandwagon and release some of their WFRP3e materials in this format, too.

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