Re: [nbos] Campaign Manager
"Christopher Rodrigues Macias"
Fri Mar 14th, 2008
Hi Ed,

I'd be looking for something that provided a more convenient way to do the
things GMs have to do all the time. To state the obvious, GM-ing a campaign
involves several different activities, including:

1) Recording the key information about the player characters that you need
to have easy access to.

2) Preparing adventure material, including NPCs, 'monsters,' settings
(including maps and descriptions of what's there), and perhaps 'plot trees'
or other aide memoire that help you remember what was supposed to happen if
the PCs do 'x'.

3) Actually running a session, where the key function of the tool is to
allow you to quickly retrieve all the material you've stuffed in to it in
(1) and (2). Well, and perhaps use some dice rolling tools to help determine
results.

Those are the 'must have' features, IMHO. In addition, there are a couple of
other things that most GMs would like some help with, and perhaps skip
entirely right now because it's just too time consuming. I'd nominate...

4) Recording what has happened during a session for later reference. This
doesn't necessarily mean writing things down during actual play, as I think
most GMs a far too busy to have time to serve as recording secretary as
well. However, it's nice to be able to create a write-up afterwards. The
session log then becomes another set of info that you want to be able to
link-in to everything else and easily search/retrieve during preparation and
during play.

(My 'ultimate fantasy' version of this feature allows you to create a custom
calendar for the campaign and then link the adventure records to this
calendar in some way. E.g. you click a link on Godsday on the calendar for
Darkmonth the Imperial Year 2124 and it pops up your text describing what
happened in the game on that day. You can have this ready by next week,
right? ;-)

5) 'Publishing' some or all of the information recorded in the tool to make
it accessible to the players. Ideally there would be options for printing,
producing PDFs, and publishing as web pages. Alternatively, it just spits
out RDF format documents including the required info, and we have to import
that into a third-party tool (e.g. Word or a web design package) to pretty
it up for publication as desired.

All of this is a big ask, but I'd be happy if the first version supported
the three 'must haves' reasonably well, with a commitment to try to
implement the other two in future versions.

The important 'non-functional' requirements for the tool, IMHO, include:

* Ease of input.

* Ease of retrieval.

Those are all about UI design, of course, and here is where I've felt that
previous attempts at creating GM management tools have fallen down. Input is
usually cumbersome and restrictive, forcing you to work the way the tool
works rather than the way you want to work. And the GM usually has to use
the same interface for both putting in data *and* running the session, even
though the requirements of those activities are very distinct.

For input, I personally like the task-oriented 'ribbon' interface that MS
introduced in Office 2007. I have mixed feelings about Microsoft in general,
but the ribbon has proven to be a really nice and inspired piece of UI
design. Again, I know that's a tall order. But, hey, you asked what we
wanted! ;-)

As for retrieval... to my mind, the need for rapid retrieval implies either
something like the Mac 'Spotlight' feature (or the analogous Windows desktop
search tool) and/or something like Web 2.0-ish features such as 'tagging'
and wiki-like hyperlinking of the data.

I'm not suggesting that the tool has to have a web UI, although I wouldn't
object to that. I'm just saying that, in a GM support tool where rapid
search for trivia is a 'mission critical' feature, traditional
folder/hierarchical organisation of the data just doesn't cut it (again,
IMHO). Folders are just a replication of the severe limitations of paper
storage inside the computer. Which kind of misses the point of using a
computer at all, if you see what I mean.

On another point: I haven't used Screen Monkey, nor have I looked at the
original 'Keep'. I have a nagging suspicion that you'll tell me that the
(hypothetical) Campaign Manager software is intended to be just the
'development' side of the GM-ing equation, and that Screen Monkey is aimed
at actually running a session. I'll pre-empt that possible response, if
you'll allow me, by saying that that kind of split would make the tool much
less attractive to me. It's kind of pointless to have to use one tool for
all your prep work, then another tool entirely for the actual session.

I don't mind having distinct UIs for 'prep' versus 'run' (in fact, I'm
arguing in favour of that approach). But I would much rather see a unified
product that supported the entire 'GM-ing life cycle' as it were than to buy
two separate products that each only do half or less of the job (and which
might not be as well-integrated as I would like).

Not sure how clear--or how possible--any of that is, but it's what I'd be
hoping to see, one day!

Cheers,
Christopher


-----Original Message-----
From: nbossoftware-bounces-at-nbos.com [mailto:nbossoftware-bounces-at-nbos.com]
On Behalf Of NBOS Support
Sent: Friday, 14 March 2008 3:54 PM
To: nbossoftware-at-nbos.com
Subject: [nbos] Campaign Manager

Hi All,

Some of you old timers on the list may remember the prototype of a campaign
manager I released a few years ago called "The Keep". Basically it kept
track of game notes, fractal mapper maps, character sheets, etc, all in a
hierarchical structure. It also had a built in dice roller, was integrated
with inspiration pad pro, and could import/export so you could share
content.

hypothetically ;-) ... lets say I was in the midst of rebuilding that into
an actual product.

If you were looking for such an application, what sort of functionality
would you need?

Ed

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