My First PAX
From the moment I entered the convention center, I felt immersed in a massive chaotic swell of gaming culture–unreleased video games, photos with cosplayers, shiny new board games, walls of slick videos, back to back panels with gaming legends, creative indie games, marketers trying to shove useless crap in your hand every ten steps and everywhere you look, throngs of unapologetic gamers. Trying to soak it all up was like drinking from a firehose with a sippy straw.
PAX DM Challenge
The high point for me was finally getting to complete in the DM Challenge. Ultimately, I didn’t win the Challenge, but I had a ton of fun running the game for five unsuspecting victims.. um.. I mean players; contact me if you were one of my players and give me some feedback please. If you haven’t played in one of my games, I like to use video projectors, speakers, lighting and props. Boiling that down to something portable is difficult. I settled on mini usb speakers, a video projector on a tripod, a PS3Eye video camera and my laptop. I almost had to bow out at the last minute. During the pre-flight check in the office, my laptop video card decided to stop working. The main display kept turning off and all my windows would show up on the projector display. Not good. Luckily, I was able to transfer my tools to my desktop computer, but that meant I had to add a desktop computer, keyboard, power strip, power cables and a monitor to my “portable” rig. Even worse, the camera drivers refused to work on my desktop machine. I had to disable all the camera calls in my code at the last minute.
My presentation seemed to go over well. I created a short introductory video in After Effects for my adventure entitled “Secret of Neverneath.” Check it out at the top of the post. I tracked combat initiative with a tool I created to reformat the web browser display of 4E Combat Tracker. I’m including all the materials here if people want to hack the visuals for their own games. I have to warn you though; you should probably be already familiar with a programming language or willing to spend a little time learning one. The code is not enduser friendly. If you still haven’t been scared off, download NWVisuals.zip and follow the instructions in README.txt. An example encounter file for 4E Combat Manager is included: “Encounter – Gnolls.xml”.
Tips for hacking the code
The display code is written in a language called processing. Processing runs on OSX, Windows and Linux. Combat Manager only runs on windows; however you can connect to the Combat Manager webserver over a network. Non-windows users aren’t out of luck. You could run the display on another machine connected to a projector or TV and run Combat Manager in a VM on your laptop. The camera code is still included but disabled with the ENABLE_CAM flag. If you have a camera and want to experiment, set the flag to true. On Windows, the use of the camera code requires you to install quicktime, camera drivers(for PS3Eye, I use the CL Eye Platform driver) and WinVDIG.
Changing character portraits
Changing character portraits is actually pretty easy. For each monster or player in your encounter list, you can create a PNG file sized 305×278, set the name of the file to it’s name in the encounter list without spaces–for example “Deathjump Spider” becomes “DeathjumpSpider.png”, then place the file in the data folder under the NWVisuals folder. Players can additionally have a PlayerName-Dead.png image if you want to show a funny picture of a dead player.