The Hard Way

So one of the things I’ve been doing, as part of my ongoing efforts to ruthlessly exterminate any and all free time I might have, is working on the Anime Heroes delve for the Tekkoshocon RPG room. This is sort of a big deal for me, as I tend to not really focus on combat in my own campaigns, but rather prefer to keep things on a more intellectual and RP-centric level. That doesn’t work so much when your players’ characters are modeled on Ash Ketchum, Toph Bei Fong, and Ichigo Kurosaki, three characters not exactly known for their inclination towards talking things through. So they have to fight it out, and I need to give them a decent shot at doing so.

To this end, I’ve been elbow-deep in the Dungeons and Dragons Compendium, which is a great resource for the average DM. There’s just a few hiccups, and that’s that, for the most part, there aren’t really a whole hell of a lot of variety of monsters available to players at Level 1. More immediately, getting data out of the compendium and into a workable sheet for use at the table is not exactly the easiest thing in the world, particularly if you need to adjust a monster’s level down a notch or two in order to make it a fair fight. (And yeah, there’s gonna be one encounter that just plain won’t be a fair fight, because what’s life without a little risk?) To date, I tried setting up an OpenOffice template for that purpose, arranging the carefully-constructed stat blocks and going from there.

The Cheshire Cat, in American McGee’s Alice, said: “There’s a nasty name for people who insist on doing things the hard way.” To that end, I snagged a couple of utilities that make life much, much easier.

The first is a bookmarklet found via NewbieDM that turns on editable mode within the browser window. Basically, once you find the monster you want in the DDI Compendium, right click it and view the frame in a new window or tab. Then, click the bookmarklet and start editing. In Firefox 4.0 you don’t get to see the insertion marker, so be sure you click before you start typing– or better yet, highlight only what you want to edit. It’s nondestructive, so you’re not twiddling bits on WOTC’s servers or anything. The only downside is that it doesn’t play well with javascript-heavy pages, which is why you want the monster in its own, disposable tab. Great, so you can alter monsters, but what about copying them to an encounter sheet?

That’s where the Pixlr Grabber add-on comes into play. Pixlr can specify a region of the browser window, and either save it to disk as a PNG or copy it to your clipboard. From there, you can paste it into your favorite word processor or page layout tool and arrange it as needed or desired. Make sure you do a test run to see how big/small the text needs to be.

Those should cut down a TON of the manual labor needed for me to get the encounters ready. At this point the hardest part is figuring out how to avoid sending my players against yet another kobold horde.


I have a lot to get caught up on here on the blog… Beyond Madness & Genius prime among them. There’s also the extreme flu I’ve had for the past two weeks, the coming start of the 2011 convention season (and it opens with a bang, let me tell you that), the announcement (and subsequent release, and further subsequent coveting by me) of the iPad 2, complaints about the bus schedule shakeup, rants about games and food, and just a general load of life stuff that needs to be addressed. With any luck this weekend I should have the presence of mind to get to it all.

But first, a complaint and and advisory. Most of you know I’m a rabid Pokemaniac, and when the fifth-generation games (Pokemon Black and White) were released last week I was all over them. I discovered, however, an interesting “freezing” phenomenon. When using the game’s instant-start communications tool, the C-Gear, starting it up in the field caused the game to mysteriously stop accepting button inputs. The game appeared to be communicating– the wi-fi light started flickering– but the screen didn’t respond at all. I just now learned through some forum posts that the only way to proceed was to touch the touch screen– which at no point are you prompted to do, in a bizarre break from Nintendo’s usually rigorous standards of always telling you exactly the next step. This isn’t just a bad oversight, this is an outright atrocious design flaw that should have been addressed weeks before the game hit North America.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the rest of the game, and I’m still of the opinion that this could have been the greatest Pokemon game to date. But given that issue, and the other things introduced in HeartGold and SoulSilver that are oddly missing here, that title is still firmly in the hands of 2010’s remake set.

Ciao, folks– hopefully I’ll get to you guys tomorrow instead of next month.