Announcing Rollon!

I am pleased to announce that after countless hours in my secret underground labs, I am ready to release my creation on an unsuspecting world!

I give you…. Rollon!
Rollon Plugin – a plugin for rolling randomly on tables

The goal of Rollon is to make creating and rolling on tables as easy as editing a wiki, or cutting and pasting from a blog or web page.

Rollon is a TiddlyWiki plugin designed to let you roll randomly on tables, such as you might find in roleplaying games. When we talk about “tables” in Rollon, we don’t mean an HTML <table> , just a list of entries such as a Wandering Monster Table or Treasure Table might have. To Rollon, any tiddler containing a list is potentially a table, whether the list is an unordered list, an ordered list, a dictionary list, or even just text where each line starts with a number. This gives you a great deal of freedom in designing lists, or cutting and pasting them into your TiddlyWiki from other sources.

The basic idea of Rollon is that you create a very simple table of results, just a list really, and give it a name.  In TiddlyWiki terms, it’s just a tiddler.  Think of it as a page in a wiki, or a 3×5 card, if you will.  Most of the time creating a table is as simple as cutting and pasting from a blog post, web page, or other document, or just typing in a bunch of numbered lines.

You can then create a button in another tiddler (wiki page/card) just by typing <<rollon “The Table Name”>>.  When you save that, it will create a button in that tiddler.  When you press that button it creates a new tiddler, with a random element of the list.  Every time you press it, you get a new tiddler of the result.

But that’s not all!  If the line of the table you created itself contains a rollon macro, <<rollon “Some Other Table Name”>> then if that line is chosen, a random result from that table will be returned.  That means that you can have tables that refer to sub-tables… but more than that, you can have tables that contain text, where part of the text is a look-up into another table.  This lets you do things like :

<<rollon “Character Names”>> has <<rollon “3d6 * 10”> GP, and  <<rollon “Magic Items” 1d2>>

and so forth.

There are various parameters you can pass to roll multiple times, to roll different dice, to prompt the user for input, to change the separator character, and so forth.

Rollon requires TiddlyWiki, which I’ve mentioned before, but all that means is that you have to download an HTML file containing TiddlyWiki and the Rollon plugin to your local disk.  If you already have TiddlyWiki, perhaps because you’ve been using Uncle Bear’s TenFootWiki or World Building 101, then you can just import the Rollon plugin and go.

The version I’ve hosted at TiddlySpot includes instructions, and example tables such as the Powers and Perils Special Events table from Jeff’s Gameblog, the Grim’s Swords & Wizardry Random NPC chart, and A Rust Monster Ate My Sword’s Captcha-inspired Character Names. Rollon itself is licensed under a the Artistic 2.0 license.  That means it is free.   Free!  You are free to copy it, use it, distribute it, alter it and distribute that (with certain provisos about credit and naming), whatever.  (The example tables are copyright their respective authors, and are linked and credited in the examples.)

So what are you waiting for?  Check it out!  The link is to a live version that you can play around with (though you can’t save it back to the web, you can save it to your hard-drive).  Let me know what you think, and whether you find any bugs or can think of enhancements that you’d like.  Planned enhancements include some helpers for capitalization, pluralization, number and gender agreement, saved variables and things to make text read more consistently (e.g. you could make is so that it would correctly say “1 Orc” or “2 Orcs”), as well as a more lenient format for tables that contain ranges (something like 1-2 Nothing, 3-6 A monster, 7-9 A monster and a treasure, 10 treasure currently has to be formatted as a dictionary list; it would be convenient for it to also just accept that if the start of a line looked like number-number it was a range and the rest of the line was the entry).

I’ve set up a Google Group for discussion, help, and to share tables you create.

Google Groups
Rollon Plugin
Visit this group

Randomness Rules!  Get Rollon today!

update: note that I changed the license from the CC 3.0 NC-SA to the Artistic 2.0 license…entirely because in order to use Google hosting for the bug-tracker I had to use one of their approved licenses.  The major difference between them is that while you can now charge for distributing Rollon (good luck with that), if you want to distribute modifications you have to fork or send me the changes to include in the core.

Scribefire

While I’m on the topic of useful software for RPGS (though more for RPG bloggers than GMs and players), I find Scribefire really useful.  It’s a Firefox plugin that lets you quickly highlight something on a web page or blog post and write and publish a blog post to your own blog quoting it.  I used to use Diigo for that, but it’s too many extra steps.  (Diigo is a web service that lets you highlight and annotate other people’s web-pages in a way that persists for you when you return to them, and it’s really quite neat as a research tool–but overkill for just posting in response to something you just read, and you have to delete a bunch of the boilerplate it inserts every time.)

There’s a bunch of other functionality in Scribefire (like when you are actually looking at your blog’s homepage it gives you a toolbar to quickly write posts, upload images, etc.) that I haven’t really explored, but for the basic function of swooping a highlight on somebody’s post, composing a reply and publishing it I couldn’t be more satisfied.

Listen Now!

Since all the cool kids are doing it (see below), and I actually have a blind friend who might someday stumble across this blog even though he’s not much of a roleplayer, I’ve added Odiogo’s text-to-speech reader to the blog.

Stargazer’s World » Listen to this blog!

Odiogo is a service that provides an audio version of your regular feed. The text-to-speech technology used is quite decent, so it turns your RSS feed almost into a podcast. You can also subscribe to this podcast using iTunes, so your readers can listen to your posts while commuting to work for example.

I’m still not jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.  No sir.

Tiddle Your Mind… With TiddlyWiki!

Since Freemind and other such mind-mapping tools are getting some RPG Blogosphere loving (such as FreeMind Tips for Game Masters, and Free Your Mind…With Free Mind), I figured I’d give another plug for my favorite light-weight GM note-taking and campaign planning software tool: TiddlyWiki.  I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again, since not everybody who reads this blog assiduously combs the archives looking for the pearls of wisdom that might lie buried there.  Plus I think it was posted before I joined the RPG Bloggers Network.

I’ve tried mind-mapping software before… heck I used TheBrain back when it was a DOS program…  but I’ve never found it a great fit for the way I like to do campaign planning and notes.  Basically I tend to think in “bags”, rather than “graphs.”  I have a bunch of thoughts and notes all related to each other over here, and then another bunch of thoughts and notes related to each other over there.  They’re all in heterogeneous clumps of things like all the PCs, NPCs, rooms, traps, setting, clues, for one particular location or adventure.  They’re not naturally organized into parents, children, and siblings, at least by my notion of natural.  If I try to draw all the lines that might make sense to me, it becomes a mass of little islands with everything in one island directly connected to everything else in that island and then another island of stuff with no bridge in between unless I deliberately add one just to keep my mind map connected.  What can I say, my thoughts are very clumpy.  It’s not that I can’t get anything done with mind mapping software, it’s more that I feel like I waste a lot of time deciding where something goes in the web or moving it around, while not finding a lot of added value in setting up those vertices or using the software to follow them.  I end up clicking too much and writing too little.

Wikis are much more my style.  Lots of text, and just drill down on whatever terms you like to elaborate on, ad infinitum.  But wikis can be a pain to set up, particularly if you want to be able to use it while you’re not connected to the web.  Enter TiddlyWiki.

The implementation is a wiki, but it’s a wiki that requires no back-end or host.  It’s just a single HTML page with javascript that lets it update itself dynamically; all you need to use it is a place to store it (such as a thumb drive or your hard drive) and any modern browser.  You want a new TiddlyWiki?  Copy the HTML file and rename it and you’re good to go.  Change the contents of a couple of pre-defined entries and you can personalize the title, subtitle, and so forth.

TiddlyWiki bills itself as a “reusable personal web notebook” , but conceptually it’s more like a stack of virtual 3 x 5 cards,  3 x5 cards that can wiki link to each other or to anything on the web  and be tagged arbitrarily, much like blog posts, and text searched.  You want a new 3 x 5 card, either click on a link in an existing card, or click on the New Tiddler button (for no real reason, they call a card a “Tiddler”), and start editing.  You can hide or display multiple cards at once, search the wiki for terms that occur anywhere in a card, add or delete tags on a card, and so forth.  Like with blog posts, there’s no real organization or hierarchy other than things being tagged with keywords.  It’s that simple.  Other than learning the specific wiki markup, there’s almost no learning curve unless you get into customization.

Speaking of which, it’s possible to customize TiddlyWiki quite extensively, from redesigning the whole graphical look of it, to adding plugins for new functionality, to writing macros, or even writing your own plugins.   For instance, Berin Kinsman, of the Uncle Bear RPG blog, has two TiddlyWikis available for download, specifically customized for use in RPGS: Worldbuilding 101, and TenFoot Wiki.  The Worldbuilding101 TiddlyWiki is a great way to think about a new setting, and is worth looking at even if you’re going to use mind mapping software or even (gasp) paper and pencil.

I really like TiddlyWiki quite a lot, and have been using it extensively for my games.  Many of the posts you see here about Elves & Espers started their life as Tiddlers in the TiddlyWiki I carry on my keychain, and I’ve been fiddling around with writing a plugin, which I’ll talk about some other time if and when I finally get it done enough to share.

Special Purpose Wikis

I’m a fan of wikis for organizing and letting you search for game information. I’ve got the main Haunted Realm campaign wiki running on my website using MediaWiki, but that’s for public consumption; I still need a place for working on all my campaign notes that the players aren’t supposed to see.  I’ve mentioned TiddlyWiki before, a lovely little all-in-one-page portable wiki suitable for sticking on a thumb drive, but now Uncle Bear has two nice enhanced versions specifically for campaign notes and world design: TenFootWiki and WorldBuilding 101. Quite spiffy.