Kids RPG Journal – #46 Character Sheets

I finally designed character sheets and monster sheets that I am happy with. It includes seven sections to help me role-play the characters from one sheet.

  • Profile: the character’s name, overall concept, and portrait
  • Role-Playing: the character’s motivation, appearance, voice and mannerisms
  • Keywords: Just a list of keywords to keep in mind while playing the character
  • Health
  • Custom Moves: key actions the character can take
  • Gear: anything cool that they carry on their persons
  • Thoughts: Short quotes in the character’s voice about key topics

The format will allow me to quickly scan things at a glance, so I don’t miss a key characterization and focuses on creating a compelling and memorable character. Now that the design was completed, all I had to do was create a sheet for all of my NPCs (non-player characters).

The main problem with designing my various game materials with Clip Studio on the iPad is that adding and updating text is kind of a pain. The popup keyboard takes half of the screen and maintaining font styles can be inconsistent. I wanted to find a better flow for the kind of sheets I plan on putting out with lots of text and styles.

crowded view on Clip Studio Paint for iPad when editing text

To test things out, I built out a NPC sheet in Affinity Publisher to see if I could get something that would be easy to templatize and make multiple characters with minimal design work (outside of the character portrait). The template was more manageable than Clip Studio, but I still had to manually click into each field to update content and that would get tedious pretty quick.

affinity publisher character sheet template

Publisher, Affinity’s competitor to InDesign, is still in beta and does not have the full range of features that it will hopefully have later on. One bit of functionality that InDesign has that Publisher is currently lacking is the ability to import data into a template. 

Unfortunately, this was kind of a deal breaker for me. And I’m not about to go back to Adobe’s products.

I work with lots of data in my day job and I enjoy building out data systems. I knew if I could find some way store data and import it into   a template without messing with design, I would have an ideal setup.

So I went back to the drawing board and back to my comfort zone, building it in HTML. I created all of the data tables and input a good chunk of content into the database, so I could test out the template and started building the web pages. This wasn’t a small task and I’ve spent about three weeks putting everything together.

harrowlands.com character web page - plunk

And I’m finally finished with the basic template for NPCs on the upcoming Harrowlands website. The three characters I have completed are:

Plunk

Momma Yrla

Gurla

Having everything online and in a database has many benefits: I can access with any device, everything is easily indexed, and of course the more content I can put online, the better the search rankings become. And most importantly, I am getting started on building the knowledge base for the Harrowlands game.

The one place this is lacking is when I want to have a copy of the sheet in hand.

Which is why one of my next steps is to edit the print CSS styles to give me the ability to print a single page directly from the browser. It may lack a little of the nuance of a custom designed sheet in a graphics program, but I won’t need things to be super pretty for games. Besides, I’m confident I can get the stylesheets to print out something quite nice.

Career Day

Career day on Tuesday with 72 kindergartners was crazy and exhausting. The whole thing lasted about three hours and we cycled through the children in groups of 4 or 5. I wasn’t quite prepared to entertain the children for as long as I had them, so I had to make things up for the last five minutes or so with each group.

My poor introverted self was wrecked, but it was a good time. In preparation for the career day, I made a quick illustrated piece with the school mascot, the bobcat and turned him into a wizard. The process was fun doing something a little different from the more muted pieces in the game.

bobcat wizard final for career day

I thought the kids might be interested in seeing the process of how I made the picture, so I printed those out. What they were most interested in was how I colored it in, and a number were sure that I printed it out in black and white and then colored it with markers, no matter what I said.

bobcat wizard process

Definitely will sign up to do it again next year, but will be much better prepared for entertaining small groups. As always, I have unlimited respect for our teachers.

Kids RPG Journal – #45 Depression and Delays

Typically, I wouldn’t talk about a highly personal subject like depression, but since it is something I’ve been dealing with and has affected the work I’m doing on the game, it seemed appropriate to put into the journal. I want to include the problems along with the successes here as I make my way through the creative process.

For those who suffer from depression, the symptoms and effects can vary wildly. It took me the longest time to understand that I dealt with depression and not simply being lazy when I could not bring myself to do work, or even get out of bed. Even doing little things was overwhelming. Blaming myself would drive me into a deeper spiral that seemed impossible to get out of.

Since recognizing the symptoms as depression, I can remain somewhat functional when I am down. The last few years, I have found a number of ways to minimize the effects when depression hits and the bouts are fewer and farther between. 

Recently, I fell into a depression that I could not seem to shake off. Doing anything creative was a huge struggle and all I wanted to do was sit around and watch Netflix. Being there for the kids was never an issue, but all of my remaining energy went to surviving the day job and getting the bare minimum done, meaning that there wasn’t anything left to work on the Harrowlands game and the kids RPG journal. I did a couple of drawings, but couldn’t get anything more than that out. Illness and constant rain didn’t help much.

Two methods I typically use to “snap” out of my overwhelm – music therapy (curated playlists that make me feel things other than helplessness) and deep-dives into folklore research (inspires me and gets me excited to create again) – did little to help me this time.

I tried to find anything that would help me get some wins even though I wasn’t able to focus creatively. Everything I wanted to do involved too much work. My process for making the monster and character sheets was difficult to layout and would require modifications every single time I wanted to make something. So I switched gears and instead of trying to make content for the Harrowlands game, I focused on more technical methods I could make my processes easier.

I wanted to create a knowledge-base website for the game, but wasn’t planning on doing it until I had a sizable amount of content. For over a decade, I’ve worked in web development and system architecture. Doing the planning for this didn’t seem scary for me, so I started dabbing my toe into designing the structure.

First came the database and all the tables I’d want to make. Then I got all the server work done on Google Cloud. My momentum started to pick up and instead of mindlessly consuming media, I found myself opting to work a little more on the site.

Changing directions worked.

I built character pages online and started doing a little bit of writing to populate them. I am creating once more. I still have a ways to go before I’m back into a regular flow, but I’m getting there and the game is moving forward.

Remember to go easy on yourself and keep doing your best, even if your best at the time seems to be incredibly small.

Kids RPG Journal – #44 Exploring Publisher

For a number of reasons, I haven’t been able to work on the Harrowlands game much over the last week or so and I feel like I’m falling behind a bit. We have a game scheduled for this Saturday and I won’t have a whole lot of extra prep done. One thing I have been working on is designing the sheets for the NPCs (non-player characters). These are primarily focused on how to role-play and not on combat, but I’ll go over that in a later post.

While I would normally have made the NPC sheets using Clip Studio Paint, I wanted to make them so I could more easily swap out text and assets. Instead, I took the time to wrap my head around the Affinity Publisher beta, which I hope will take the place of InDesign for any publishing needs.

I’ve been using InDesign since the PageMaker days, and it is the last Adobe product I still use on my personal computer.

Last night, I was toying around with how to get text to wrap around an image in Publisher. I wanted to be able to place a small image next to a quote the NPC would give about it, but wanted it to wrap fairly tightly around to be mindful of page space.

First, I created a block of text with the Frame Text Tool. To have an image the size I wanted, I used the Image Frame Tool to get the size and then populated it with the Place Image Tool. It took me a little toying around to figure out how to adjust the image size and placement within the frame. The method I ended up preferring was to select the image within the frame from the Layers panel and then using the Move tool to adjust it.

Affinity Publisher: selecting the image in the Layers panel.

I had my image on top of the text, but it was falling behind the image in the frame. I tried adjusting the frame shape on the text, but that wasn’t giving me the results I wanted, so then I switched over to the image and found the Show Text Wrap Settings at the top of the screen.

Affinity Publisher: text falling behind the image

I set the Wrap Style to tight and adjusted the Distance From Text boxes until I had the look I wanted.

Affinity Publisher: text wrap settings panel

Now the text wraps nicely automatically and when I swap out the image or text for other NPCs, I won’t have to do any additional adjustments.

Affinity Publisher: text now wrapping around the images

Kids RPG Journal – #26 Installing Fonts

In an effort to improve my workflow for the kids’ RPG project, I needed to add some fonts to my iPad so I could access them in Clip Studio Paint, instead of having to overlay text off of my desktop after exporting jpegs. Since I couldn’t remember exactly how I’d done this in the past, I decided to track my steps here in the journal.

For this, I need two programs: Dropbox (both on the desktop and laptop to sync files), and All Fonts on the iPad.

Copy font files to Dropbox

First, you will need to sync up a folder on Dropbox between your desktop and iPad. This is incredibly useful for nearly everything and is the only way to make file management halfway usable on iOS (but that is for another blog post).

I have the fonts already installed on my Mac, so I opened Font Book and right-clicked on the font I wanted and selected Show in Finder.

select Show in Finder within Font Book


This shows me the folder the font is stored and makes it easy for me to copy and paste into my Dropbox sync folder.

folder location of fonts for copying to Dropbox


Once the files are copied over, they are automagically synced on your devices, so I switched over to the iPad.

Transfer fonts to iPad using All Fonts

All Fonts application for iPad


All Fonts makes the transferring of fonts super easy once they are in your Dropbox.

All Fonts transfer fonts view


Open the app and click on the little cloud download icon in the upper right corner and select Browse.

All Fonts transfer view - select browse


Make your way to the Dropbox sync folder and find the font you want to transfer.

go to Dropbox sync folder to locate fonts


Click on it and it will give you a popup saying it is imported. After a minute or so, the font should show up in your Transferred Fonts view.

All Fonts: transferred fonts view

Install transferred fonts

Once you see it on the screen, click on the font and it will show you a font preview.

All Fonts: font preview


Click the Install Font button at the bottom. Follow the instructions on the dialogs. If the profile is not signed, you may need to confirm you want to install the font a few times before it shows up. Repeat the process for all fonts you want to add.

Check font is in Clip Studio Paint

If I already have Clip Studio Paint open, I find that I have to restart my iPad in order to get the new fonts to show up in the text tool.

Clip Studio Paint on iPad - text tool property to locate your new fonts


After that, you can organize your fonts by creating custom lists and they will be available for all applications.