Computers and paper-based RPGs

As I’ve been playing NWN over these last few months (I’ve owned a copy since mid-summer of 2002.), I’ve been thinking of ways to tie it into paper RPGs. Simple examples of this would be a tool that exports a snapshot of a NWN character into an XHTML document for printing and use in your table-top game or exports maps along with notes on the critters stocking it to a paper format. Another hack that I would like to see in NWN is to make it turn-based.

Why do I think about such things? Because I originally had the misconception that the game was something of a tool to handle all the accountancy of characters, physics and combat in paper-based RPGs. I don’t know how I got the idea, but I had this vision of a tool that would render a map and all the critters and player characters on it and people would just input their numbers (Or better still, have the computer generate them.) and it would step through a combat turn by turn. The GM would have the power to fudge numbers, replay a turn differently with different conditions or totally change anything that she didn’t like. I haven’t yet played NWN on a server where there were live GMs adjusting things and making things more real and flexible so, maybe I am speaking out of turn, the fact that NWN has no turn based mode is a little annoying to me.

I wanted something that would handle the physics so I wouldn’t have to. I wanted something to keep me free to deal with the plot and the background creation as opposed to micromanaging hit points, knock back and encumbrance. I wanted something to just sit next to me in a meatspace game session and act as my admin.

I have been slowly trying to get all my game notes and such into digital format so I can manipulate them on a computer. For example, I’ve been taking old NPC’s and painstakingly typing them into a database–Oh! For the want of handwriting recognition! Recently there have been tools from Wizards of Coast that are supposed to help GMs computerize their records, but the problem is that they keep all the files in proprietary binary. I want text files, CSV and XML so I can port or grep them into whatever I like! I’ve been searching around on the web recently and have rediscovered old tools that have been around since the days of ADVENT and Nethack. I may start using those.

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