How do you define a human being: their traits, their personality what they want, what they need? How do you define them to the point where you might reasonably guess what they do next?
It gets worse: How do you codify such a definition in writing, so that people can read and understand it quickly?
People who are not you?
This has tormented writers for centuries and gamers for decades, and now it torments me. But first we have some announcements:
That’s in Lake Havasu City, right on the river between I-10 and I-40. I expect to have new (and signed) copies of both Beanstalk and Beyond and Go Action Fun Time Basic Rules for sale along with our bewildering assortment of other treasures out of time.
The Leprecon gaming went well, for what it was. The trick to doing these sort of things on Zoom is to remember you can other programs open at the same time, like Owlbear Rodeo, and by switching back and forth you can see player faces, or the game map, as you need.
I also learned, because somebody shared their screen, that it is possible to have 40+ tabs open in your browser. It’s not efficient, and we’ll make sport of it, but it is possible.
And I am never serving as head of anything for the local cons again. I’ll participate, moderate, or vend, but if I have to sit through a meeting, don’t even ask me.
Before I go off the deep end about character sheets, let me update you on my previous obsession in this space. I did indeed have to move the hot tub outside. It took 1200# pounds of additional sand and a length of wire rope. I plan to soak in it before the night’s end.
Also, I have a fillable PDF version of the Go Action Fun Time Cast treatment.
This took me a week. Some of this delay was the philosophical problem of distilling a human being into written form. In all honesty, though, I’ve had a system for that for some time. The problem is that nobody else will understand it.
For a role-playing character, I have to take that base information about a person, layer over it with game stats, and then render it in some way that people who are not me can understand it.
I learned long ago that forms that make perfect sense to me baffle anyone else. Even so, at some point you have to stop second guessing yourself and do it.
Then you discover that Word is terrible for this application. I had to do most of it as text boxes – because they will stay where I put them – sort of. Regular text re-distributes itself every time you hit the space bar.
I played with Canva, the layout program I used to format my cover. This worked much better in terms of putting boxes and shapes where I wanted them. But it doesn’t do tables, and I need tables.
But it exports to PDF, as does Word, and you can mostly copy and paste tables around in Acrobat Distiller (which I pay for monthly), as long as you don’t want to change them.
And the more I gazed upon my share-ware graphics from Canva, the more I hated them. So I ditched that whole approach.
Inkscape actually turned out the better tool for graphics, and also imports/exports into PDF. I had abandoned it as my means of lettering webcomics. (This was a thing). But once you update it to this decade it works well for graphics. That would have been my answer, except for fillable forms.
Inkscape graphics (as I used them) distorted the tables by the time they were sent back to PDF and thereby gummed up the Prepare Form function of Distiller. When you have as many text boxes as I do (Skills, Stuff and History of Play are all 5×12+ tables) it is out of the question to do all of them manually.
Friends, I ended up back in Word with text boxes everywhere because Word does tables with reasonable rigor, and exports to PDF with a minimum of surprises. Word Art isn’t anywhere near as cool as what can be done in Inkscape, but this is a character sheet. A little décor catches the eye, but too much makes the thing hard to read.
Prepare Form got 80% of my empty boxes, and you can get a box to add or average other boxes if you want to take the time. It’s not Excel. It will not do complicated Excel things like, say, subtraction, but I can wring some convenience out of it.
Distiller won’t, for some reason import graphics, even though it has tools to do that right on the bar. What it really does is make the buffering circle spin long enough for you to refresh your drink before announcing it cannot import this file type. What file type? Any of them. So I have to do that in Word before I import it.
How players – who would presumably only have the PDF, will do that I cannot as yet say.
But if you can live with that limitation, the Go Action Fun Time Cast Treatment PDF is ready.
I also have a regular, blank PDF you could print out and fill in by hand if you are an old school gamer, but those guys are all playing D&D clones.
I can’t sell these things. Sites like Drive-thru RPG flatten PDF’s with a broad hammer, and none of that formatting would survive. But you can have one for the low price of getting pasted into my email list.
I was trying for a two page document. It ended up being seven.
Now we know.