EpicTable Legacy of Fire, Episode 4: First Session

Posted in EpicTable Blog on February 5, 2012 at 12:36 am

GenieLampWithSmoke-150Enough prep!  This post covers our first gaming session.  In this post, I’ll discuss:

  • Checking your EpicTable version
  • Dealing with hidden opponents
  • Tracking initiative without an initiative tracker

Awards

Before we go any farther, I have an award to pass out.  My friend and EpicTable booth cohort, Jeremy, wins the award for “Most Out-of-Date EpicTable Installation”!  While the rest of us were on beta 14, Jeremy was on beta 1.  To put that in perspective, we were showing something between beta 10 and beta 11 at Gen Con.  So this was way out of date.  It had me reeling to see problems of a sort I hadn’t seen in months. 

Now, this wasn’t entirely Jeremy’s fault.  Beyond the fact that the bugs in beta 1 were, after all, my bugs, Jeremy actually had installed beta 14.  

Here’s what had happened.  Back around beta 4 or beta 6, the installer technology I was using wasn’t letting me do what I wanted to do, so I switched.  I also made EpicTable 64-bit compatible.  This was a change that the auto-updater couldn’t accommodate (the first in a series of such changes, which eventually led me to turn off auto-updates until I can replace the third party component I’d been using).  As a result, everyone was instructed to uninstall and then install the latest EpicTable.  I believe that was the only upgrade which required an uninstall.  Since then, my instructions always tell you to just run the new installer. 

Jeremy had missed a couple upgrades, so he also missed the bit about uninstalling his beta-1.   This lead to his having both beta 1 and beta 14, and the shortcut he was using to launch EpicTable was launching beta 1.  After my near heart failure at “beta 14” behaving like beta 1, we moved past that. 

The moral of this story is:  make sure you have just one version of EpicTable installed, and that it’s the one you think it is. 

By default, EpicTable is installed in C:\Program Files\EpicTable.  This is the case for both 32-bit and 64-bit machines.   Early betas were installed under C:\Program Files (x86)\EpicTable on 64-bit machines.  If you have this directory, just get rid of it.  

I know some people who have installed EpicTable outside of C:\Program Files\EpicTable.   That’s fine—just don’t get yourself confused as to which version you’re running if you end up with multiple versions on your machine.

Checking Your EpicTable Version

EpicTable-FindVersionInside EpicTable, you can check the version through the About EpicTable… item on the application menu.  (That’s the little round button at the upper-left.) 

 


EpicTable-filedetailsFrom Explorer, you can select EpicTable.exe in C:\Program Files\EpicTable, (watch out—Windows, by default, hides file extensions, so you won’t see “EpicTable.exe”, just “EpicTable”), right-clicking and selecting “Properties” and then the “Details” tab. 

Dealing with Hidden Opponents

One of the first combat encounters we had was in the cactus forest mentioned in the last post.  In this encounter, we have an opponent that no one is very likely to see.  There are all sorts of feature requests out there for handling scenarios like this—all variants of hiding and revealing tokens and other objects.  I don’t have anything against these features.  I plan to implement hide/reveal, but I haven’t yet, so what’s a GM to do?  Well, it’s actually pretty effective to just create a private character, and then later drag them from the character gallery to the map.  I know, it’s low tech, but it worked well for us.  Of course, you have to deal with the fact that different characters see different things and now all the players see the new opponent, but I’ve never really had groups with much trouble separating player knowledge from character knowledge. 

private-character

Tracking Initiative without an Initiative Tracker

This one was actually an innovation of one of the beta testers.  I really want to add an initiative tracker (though that’s probably not making it into the 1.0 release).  However, this works so well that it’s changed my thinking a bit—not about whether I want an initiative tracker, but about what I think an initiative tracker should be like.  Because the tabletops and maps let you do essentially anything you’d do on a physical tabletop, one of the beta testers started dragging down additional tokens to the map—somewhere visible but away from the action—and using a coin or map pin to track whose turn it was.  It’s ingenious in its simplicity.  Here’s a screenshot of the “initiative tracker” we were using.

SimpleInitiativeTracker

True, there’s a lot more that an initiative tracker can and should do, but I thought this was pretty clever.  It certainly does the job.  It’s kind of like Paizo’s Combat Pad, which lets you move wet-erase widgets around on a magnetized pad.

In addition to the map pin to tracking who’s turn it is, we’ve also used things like red stones to track wounds, and talked about other objects to track various conditions.  It’s something my group intends to use until there’s an initiative tracker built in to EpicTable.

One thing this has taught me is that it’s really nice to have an initiative tracker that’s much more low-profile than what I’d been envisioning.   I’d always assumed I’d leverage the portrait bar, but since using this, I want something much smaller and something I can move around freely and reorient with respect to horizontal vs. vertical.

 


 


This is one of a series of posts about the Legacy of Fire campaign I’m running for my old gaming group on EpicTable. For the background on this series, check out the original EpicTable Legacy of Fire post, or you can access the entire EpicTable Legacy of Fire series, where I’ll be discussing our game, how I prep, how I run the game, and all the interesting things we run into using EpicTable.


EpicTable Legacy of Fire, Episode 3: Cactus Forest Map

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm

GenieLampWithSmoke-150One of the early encounters takes place around a cactus forest. There are plenty of cactus, rocks, and a ravine providing an opportunity for falls. I could have drawn this ad-hoc, during the session, and that’s probably what I would have done with my physical battlemat. However, I’ve many times wanted to be able to prep a battlemat ahead of time–it’s just that the ink tends to smear when I roll it up. Since digital battlemats don’t tend to smear, I decided to prep the encounter map ahead of time.

I started by creating a private map (private because I didn’t want it shown to players immediately). I backed it with a texture–sort of a death valley looking wasteland texture. It’s one of the ones that ships with EpicTable. For the ravine, I used the drawing tools. I made myself a nice, thick black pen and painted in a ravine. I could have just drawn some squiggles and circles and said, “these are cactus, those are rocks”, but as long as I was prepping…. I went out to the Dundjinni “user creations” forum to search for cactus and rocks. This is an excellent place to find images for maps, as well as advice on making maps. My chief complaint is that every time I go out there, I get distracted and wind up looking at images way too long. (Dundjinni’s also my preferred map making tool, but this was just a quick-and-dirty battlemat, so I just wanted to plunk some images down on the EpicTable map.) And that’s exactly what I did. I downloaded a bunch of rocks and cactus and put them all under “maps” in my campaign folder. I then went to my map and inserted an image object for each cactus image I downloaded. Then I just duplicated each of these objects a few times and changed their size and rotation. In no time I had a cactus forest! I did the same thing with rocks to give the area a little interest (and to create some hiding spots!).

Cactus Forest Drawn with EpicTable

Cactus Forest Drawn with EpicTable


I was pretty pleased with how easy it was to do this. Two negative things struck me though. One is simple—the current implementation of texture backed maps (and tabletops) in EpicTable doesn’t scroll. I know—it’s a crazy oversight. In my head, at the time I implemented that, a texture was like a gas—expanding to fill the available space…which was the window size. Ironically, I named the class responsible for texture backgrounds, “InfiniteTextureBackground”. One part of my brain clearly “got it”, but the other was just not listening. I’ll fix this before release (the texture backgrounds, not my brain).

The other negative thing was that, with all those cactus objects, it was pretty tough to grab the character that I wanted to have positioned in the cactus forest. The real solution to this is (as some of you on the forum have suggested) to have a separate layer for background objects. I never wanted to interact with the cactuses, I just wanted them there in the background, and dropping in image objects was a convenient way to do it. While I’m not trying to make EpicTable a full-blown map-drawing tool, I’m pretty convinced adding layers like this to EpicTable’s map feature set is valuable. Since I don’t have that functionality right now, I took a screenshot of my creation (I used SnagIt, but you could just Alt-PrintSceen and paste it into any image editor. I replaced my texture+objects map with a new one: an empty map backed with the image of a ravine and cactus forest that I’d just created. Essentially, that’s equivalent to what I want to be able to do with layers. If you do this, make sure you turn off the grid display before you take your snapshot, so the grid isn’t part of your background.


This is one of a series of posts about the Legacy of Fire campaign I’m running for my old gaming group on EpicTable. For the background on this series, check out the original EpicTable Legacy of Fire post, or you can access the entire EpicTable Legacy of Fire series, where I’ll be discussing our game, how I prep, how I run the game, and all the interesting things we run into using EpicTable.


EpicTable Legacy of Fire, Episode 2: Raiding the Adventure PDF

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

GenieLampWithSmoke-150As part of my prep for our first session, I wanted to get some important NPCs and upcoming monsters setup as NPCs. Game mechanics are mostly managed outside EpicTable (though see post on character sheets in EpicTable). I didn’t want character sheets for any of the NPCs or even any of the monsters. I just wanted character portraits so everyone would know what the NPCs and monsters looked like.

I considered fishing around for top-down tokens. EpicTable lets you specify a separate image for a map token…but I don’t always like using top-down tokens. Unless you’re very familiar with the thing(s) your fighting, it’s tough (for me at least) to get a sense for who’s who from the top-down token. I actually kind of prefer the pog-style tokens, and EpicTable will make a pog-style token automatically from the character portrait.

Abandoning my thoughts of top-down tokens, I went through the first part of the PDF, looking for character portraits. It would be incredibly helpful if Paizo provided these as PNG images, but they don’t. So, I started with a screenshot…only the portraits aren’t exactly isolated. They have the page background, and some of them have text wrapped around them. I can maybe—maybe—ignore the background, but I can’t ignore text in my character portraits. So, I started cleaning them up in an editor. It struck me that there must be a better way. There is. There are various tools out there that let you extract images from PDFs. They’re not all created equal, and the result isn’t what you’d think. They don’t all just tumble out as ready-to-use PNGs. Extracting images from a PDF is a topic unto itself, so for now, lets leave it as: I pulled images for several characters from the PDF. If you’re interested in how I did that, let me know.

While I was at it, I pulled, not just character portraits, but a full-length character image for one of the characters that seemed especially imposing or worthy of attention, an image of the caravan in the midst of the adventure’s first encounter, and some maps for the ruined monastery that I figured we may or may not get to this first session.

I made shared characters for the important NPCs, filling in nothing but their names and portraits, and made private characters for the first couple adversaries I’d spring on the group. The difference is, the shared characters were in the portrait bar, immediately visible to the players. As with the shared NPCs, I only bothered with names and portraits for the monsters and adversary NPCs.

I added handouts for the full-length character shot and for the picture of the initial encounter and left these unshared, so I could pop them up on the players’ screens at the appropriate moment.


This is one of a series of posts about the Legacy of Fire campaign I’m running for my old gaming group on EpicTable. For the background on this series, check out the original EpicTable Legacy of Fire post, or you can access the entire EpicTable Legacy of Fire series, where I’ll be discussing our game, how I prep, how I run the game, and all the interesting things we run into using EpicTable.


EpicTable Legacy of Fire, Episode 1: Creating a Campaign Folder

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm

GenieLampWithSmoke-150Anytime I run a game online, I have a set of resources that I want to have at my fingertips. So, I have, on my hard drive, a folder called "RPG Campaigns", and under there, I have a sub-folder for each campaign I’m running.

In this case, I created my new folder, "Legacy of Fire". Then, I immediately created sub-folders under it: characters, maps, handouts, books. In campaigns where we use character sheets, I end up with a "sheets" sub-folder as well, but we’re not using character sheets for this one (yet, at least).

I copied the PDF adventure, "Howl of the Carrion King" into the books folder, along with the "Legacy of Fire Players Guide", so both these are where I can find them quickly. I also put the Pathfinder core rulebook PDF there, because this is the only Pathfinder game I’m in right now, and having it all together is worth more to me than the purity of having a separate "game systems" folder somewhere.

Note that none of this is in EpicTable. It’s just on my file system. But by organizing it this way, I make it easy to find the files I want when I’m setting someone’s character portrait or setting a map background or something in EpicTable.


This is one of a series of posts about the Legacy of Fire campaign I’m running for my old gaming group on EpicTable. For the background on this series, check out the original EpicTable Legacy of Fire post, or you can access the entire EpicTable Legacy of Fire series, where I’ll be discussing our game, how I prep, how I run the game, and all the interesting things we run into using EpicTable.


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