Pie in the Sky

edited June 2009 in Story Games
So, one of the many things I do with my day at work is develop solutions for content delivery, so it is almost always on my mind. It is an unfortunate hazard of my occupation. However, lately I have been thinking about it in regards to games. The how and why of our interaction with game content.

I subscribe to DnD Insider, and it does some interesting things with content delivery, and some things that suck. But it is also the only example of an attempt to utilize the strengths of the delivery method for the content it is providing. But, like I said, it is pretty fucking weak-sauce still.

So that begs the question, what would work better? What features would engage you? If the mode of delivery is electronic, what pie-in-the-sky ideas do you have for that delivery mechanism? I can think of a few things, but I want to hear of what other people think.


  • What does DnD insider do for those of us who don't frequent...
  • I wrote a Trail of Cthulhu character generator. Not completely release-worthy, but it lets you design characters online, share them with other people, and create a PDF out of them, printed on the game's character sheet. It'd be relatively easy to adapt for online play, too.

  • I've used Graham ToC generator for all my convention games. It's a great labour saving device. The pdf printer, linked to the character sheet from the manual is a particular boon.
  • Posted By: ValamirWhat does DnD insider do for those of us who don't frequent...
    Well it provides a mix of textual content in either browser based formats or screen ready pdfs (which are laid out more for screen resolution, but without leveraging the interactive possibilities of the format), provides some online, flash based GM tools (monster maker, encounter builder) and a downloadable, Win only, character generator. It is a mixed bag, and misses the mark on a lot of things. Like they provide a production schedule calendar, which is good, but it is hidden from plain site, which is bad.
  • I think a downloadable, Windows-only character generator is rather silly. It's pretty easy to do one that works on a web page and then outputs to a common format, such as PDF.

    The problem is that most of my pie-in-the-sky ideas are actually doable. They'd involve generating characters and play materials online and then letting you play, with online interaction, over Skype.That's all possible. I could program it, if I had the time.

  • Posted By: GrahamI wrote a Trail of Cthulhu character generator. Not completely release-worthy, but it lets you design characters online, share them with other people, and create a PDF out of them, printed on the game's character sheet. It'd be relatively easy to adapt for online play, too.

    Character generators are definitely a feature, but clearly one that has been around for some time. I am talking about pie-in-the-sky ideas. At my office I will run meetings where I ask for what people want, stressing not thinking within the constraints of what we have now, but what would be great for the future. That is what I am asking here. Chuck off the book centric, old hat ideas and think about the ideal.
  • Some quick thoughts:

    * Customizable games. Setting components X, Y, but not Z and setting elements A, B, but not C.
    * E-texts designed for mobile devices. Play wherever, and just flip the iPhone a bit to check Rule X. Keep your character there. Send texts to other players, maybe even things like "conditions" -- like a flag that "you're bruised" or whatever.
  • edited June 2009
    EDIT: I was thinking more along the "delivery" angle, basically a DDI for other games, which is why I was thinking "it's hard/it's a full time job". I'll think of some content in a bit.

    Yeah, I was doing a little thinking, but in the end I think part of the problem is that delivering good content is hard work.

    Like, solid content updates are basically a full-time job. A year or so of solid content, and you've basically written a full game's worth of material, plus some.

    The problem with content delivery is that it's so much work above and beyond writing the game, it simply is untenable. It's a full time job.

    Maybe a pie in the sky idea would be on how to make content delivery less work.

    For now, I think that internet forums, a community of voices and ideas, serves as most of any game's Content Delivery. It's chaotic and silly, but better than the author being forced to do it himself.
  • edited June 2009
    I'd like it to move seamlessly from web to table. So the rulebook, in electronic form, would let us prep the session and design characters. An attendance thing would then let people say whether they were coming to the game session or not.

    At the game session, you'd either print out character sheets for everyone attending or use laptops to display character sheets at the table. There would be an electronic dice roller that would not only display the dice but, by interacting with the rules text, tell you the result of the die roll. For example, for Poison'd, it would keep track of the three levels of escalation and then tell you the consequences.

    There would sound effects and music, too, which you could play on demand or at a given mechanical cue: for example, someone dying. There would definitely be looped sound effects, like birdsong and dungeons. In fact, you could add acoustic effects, such as reverb, when you played in a dungeon scene.

    Obviously this would all be at the touch of the button: the GM clicks the "Brogroth's Lair" scene, for which she's chosen the "Dungeon" ambience, and the dungeon sound effects and music kick in, while the stats for Brogroth appear on the screen. The die roller interacts with those stats, of course. There'd be a little slider for increasing the tension of the music, although prolonged combats would automatically increase tension.

    You could also record the session, which would be automatically archived and transcribed along with the die rolls. It would be possible, too, to participate in the session remotely, via Twitter, Skype or similar. The session would be automatically streamed and made into a podcast.

    Errata to the rules would be downloaded and installed automatically and there'd be little micro-additions, like scenarios or pregenerated characters, which you could buy for a dollar.

  • Graham's pie-in-the-sky idea is also where I'd like to see it go, only on something less obtrusive than a laptop. Like a Kindle or something -- and some way to add your own tags and notes as you went. But, yeah, super-duper-deep relational links baked into the content for maximum at-the-table utility.

    And that, unfortunately, almost certainly breaks Andy's excellent idea of taking some of the load off the content-creators. Unless...hm. Unless you had a way to crowdsource the relational links: as the # of people who feel item A is useful in connection to table X, that link rises in prominence in a sort of voting fashion (like how Amazon connects books you're looking at to "people who bought this book also bought..."). I'm not smart enough to know how to guard against shenanigans, other than relying on the good will of the users to not muck it up.

    RPG rules/materials have been presented in linear fashion for so long that imagining a non-linear version is sort of mindblowing, actually. How could you ensure that you'd read all the rules? I suppose game design itself would have to adapt to the tool.

  • For something like D&D Insider, it would be neat to have some way to assemble PDFs of interesting content. e.g. a single PDF of all new rituals or a package of all material relating to icy environments. So you can basically make your own supplements for your campaign that have all the material you want and nothing more. Or even rules packages for each player, e.g. everyone gets only the list of feats available for their class.

    That's not really pie-in-the-sky though. More along those lines would be an update-able book / character sheet. So normally it only shows you the powers available for your character at their current level, and you can ask it for the ones available next level or way down the line. And when you hit paragon or epic level you tell it your new class and it updates its view. Then there's a character sheet mode toggle, which shows a list of your character's powers with short or no description and adds record-keeping for number of uses, HP, XP, etc.
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