PAX Prime 2011 launched today. After briefly walking the floor, I marched to the Games on Demand gaming room (Room 306) to get my game on. Another gamer filled me in on the GM-Less Gaming Workshop led by Ben Robbins that was going on a few rooms down. I figured I go check out the talk.
You may already know Ben Robbins as the debonaire heir to the Baskin-Robbins family fortune. Between parties with the jet set on the Riviera and counting piles of money while sitting at a desk constructed entirely from piles of money, Ben finds the time to design games. He is the author of Microscope, a popular GM-less game.
In his talk, Ben goes over the role of the game master, defines GM-less games and goes over several examples including Fiasco, Polaris and Shock. The discussion was excellent and I came away learning something new.
I apologize for the crappy audio. I wasn’t planning on recording and just slapped my phone on the table to record the session.
Download PAX GM-Less Gaming Workshop with Ben Robbins
Last year, I started heavily using video projection in my games. I began by displaying maps and handouts, but after a time I came up with the idea of keeping track of combat initiative with a scoreboard I could project on the wall. I discovered a cool little programming language called processing that let me rapidly prototype the system. It worked well for my needs at the time, but what I really needed was a full-featured combat tracking application. Then my campaign died out after six months and I shelved the idea.
Fast forward to a month ago. I was evaluating several combat tracking applications and discovered DnD4E Combat Manager. Though it seemed a little less polished that other applications, it had a very interesting feature; an integrated webserver. I dug out my old combat tracker code and started trying to hack the two systems together. I eventually arrived at CMVisualizer.
CMVisualizer provides an alternate player display for Combat Manager’s web interface. Before you can use it, you need to have installed DnD4e Combat Manager 1.8.1 and processing 1.5.1. Then download the CMVisualizer_Beta.zip and follow the directions in the README.txt.
Once the processing sketch and Combat Manager’s web server have been started, use combat manager as normal. CMVisualizer will display the data. You can setup CMVisualizer to display on a second monitor or video projector. With some minor modification of the code, you could even run it over the internet.
The coolest feature of CMVisualizer is the ability to display custom portraits for players and monsters. The sketch comes with a generic portrait, but its easy to add your own. Every time CMVisualizer actives a monster or player, it looks in the data folder for an image file to display. If determines the filename by stripping all spaces from the name and appending “.png” to the end. For example, the file name for an “Abyssal Ghoul” would be “AbyssalGhoul.png.” The image file MUST be in PNG format and be sized 304×278 pixels. If the image doesn’t exist, a generic portrait is displayed called “generic.png.”
Future versions of CMVisualizer will use menus or config files to ease use. This release is definitely for the hardcore geeks that have been bugging me to give them the source. The code is pretty simple. Making changes to the placement of elements, fonts and colors should be easy even for novice programmers. Check it out and drop me a line with your thoughts.