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 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool

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PostSubject: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Thu Jun 12, 2008 11:42 pm

After a brief conversation between Patrick and I, which you can read here, and an even shorter converstion with Jon, I decided I'm going to go ahead and start seriously exploring the creation of a tool that will help us make combat more streamlined and simplified. Assuming I decide to go ahead with this, once it gets pretty far along in development and we've had the chance to play test it for a while, I might even put it up as a public web service and charge a one-time fee of $5.00 or something to gain access to it.

My plan is to build this as a web application in C# ASP.NET 2.0 or later, and host it initially on one of the web servers that I am already renting for several purposes. Then, at game time, those of us that are interested can go to the URL that I will host the tool on, log in, and use it.

4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool: Initial Outline

Multiple Access Levels

This allows for different interfaces and options

  1. DM / Admin
  2. Player


Combat Features

These will all be dynamically tracked, applied, altered, used, and totaled as appropriate.

  1. Initiative
    a. Delay Initiative?
  2. Display Current effects on PCs and NPCs
  3. Surprise rounds
  4. Mark Beginning of NPC and PC turns
    a. Ongoing Damage
    b. Regeneration
    c. Other Effects
    d. End Effects
    e. No Actions
  5. Action Types Available/Remianing
    a. Standard
    b. Move
    c. Minor
    d. Free
    e. Opportunity
    f. Immediate Action
    g. Substituted Actions
    i. Standard, Move, Minor
    ii. Standard, Minor, Minor
    iii. Move, Move, Minor
    iv. Move, Minor, Minor
    v. Minor, Minor, Minor
    h. Extra
    i. Delayed
    j. Readied
  6. Action Points
  7. Mark End of NPC and PC turns
    a. Saving throws
    b. Check Actions Spent
    c. End effects
    d. No action
  8. Conditions
    a. Blinded
    b. Dazed
    c. Deafened
    d. Dominated
    e. Dying
    f. Helpless
    g. Immobilized
    h. Marked
    i. Petrified
    j. Prone
    k. Restrained
    l. Slowed
    m. Stunned
    n. Surprised
    o. Unconscious
    p. Weakened
    9) Ongoing Damage
  9. Durations
  10. Combat Advantage
  11. Cover and Concealment
  12. Flanking
  13. Opportunity Attack
  14. Second Wind
  15. Total Defense
  16. Movement
    a. Terrain


Interface

The controls (buttons, panels, checkboxes, etc.) that will make up the graphical user interface.

  1. Information Panels
    a. Initiative Order
    b. Beneficial effects summary
    c. Harmful effects summary
    d. Available Action Points
  2. Checkboxes
    a. Actions
    i. Grayed out if unavailable
    b. Conditions
    c. Cover and Concealment
  3. Droplists
    a. Players
    b. NPCs
    c. Monsters
  4. Buttons
    a. Initiative
    b. Start turn
    c. End turn
    d. Use Action Points
    e. Opportunity Attack
    f. Second Wind
    g. Total Defense
  5. Dialog windows
    a. Surprise round
    i. Select those that are surprised
    b. Substitute Actions
    c. Flanking
  6. Notes/Comments


Admin/DM Interface Options

Additional options, features, and controls available to DMs / Admins

  1. Add/Remove players
    a. Initial player setup
    i. Enter necessary player information
    ii. Abilities
    iii. Racial adjustments
    iv. Class adjustments
    v. Etc.
    b. Remove players
  2. Extra controls used to work with monsters and NPCs
  3. Account changes, such as passwords
  4. Pre-build Encounters
    a. Name for encounter
    b. Enter/Edit Monsters
    c. Enter/Edit NPCs
    d. Terrain
    e. Other modifiers
    f. Notes/Comments
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Wed Jun 18, 2008 4:11 pm

The next step in planning this project is going to be sketching out some protypes for the interfaces that the tool will have. Also, I'll be sifting through the PHB in order to see how many effect types there are from the various powers and class abilities, in order to see if I can get a handle on various categories and/or groups of things, just to see if there is anything else I need to account for.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jun 20, 2008 8:47 am

Here is a glimpse of the very very beginnings of the tool itself. This is really just enough to give a glimpse into the tool's look and feel.

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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:17 pm

So, is anyone actually interested in this at all? Turthfully, I'll probably continue working on this regardless, since it is a fun way for me to practice what I have been learning, and what I am learning now. BUT, it would obviously be more neater if ya'll had an interest in it as well.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jun 20, 2008 1:11 pm

This is really cool but like so ambitious I cant wrap my mind around it. If you got this working I would trip out but would never EXPECT you to do this. Kinda like you said if its for you then go for it and I would love to use it but I dont want to put any pressure and say DO THIS NOW TROY!
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jun 20, 2008 1:31 pm

It is going to be a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it in the end, not to mention the fact that I'll have fun doing it. The only part I'm not looking forward to is the data entry part. My plan now is to first create a means through which effects, characters, monsters, npcs, etc. can just be manually entered. Once this stuff is entered it will be stored in a database so that we can use them later. BUT, in order to make this application truly useful, eventually I'll have to enter as much of this stuff ahead of time as I can, such as the powers, monsters, effect groups/categories, etc. Once this is done, building an encounter will be as easy as selecting Orc, specifying that you want 3 of them, selecting a terrain type, and BAM! the encounter is done. Then, during combat, you'll just have to click on X power, select the enemies, PCs, or NPCs that will be affected by it and BAM! the system keeps track of the rest.

However, until all of that data entry is done, the manual entry things will have to suffice. The Manual entry things will allow you to fill out all of the details of the characters, monsters, effects, etc. This will work just fine, it just won't be as simplified and streamlined as I want this to eventually become. Once the data entry is done, these manual entry interfaces will still be available for one-off circumstances that aren't covered under the pre-entered stuff.

I suppose one good thing about the data entry portion of this will be that anyone of us will have access to the interface that I am going to develop in order to allow the monsters, powers, etc to be entered into the system. So, I might solicit you guys to enter a couple of these things for me every once in a while Smile
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PostSubject: Awesome McAwesomeness   Fri Jun 20, 2008 2:06 pm

I think this will be an excellent tool especially if as play testers we don't have to pay for it! If I haven't told you lately Troy you are a genius!
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jun 20, 2008 2:57 pm

Well, I'm not gonna lie. I don't really get it. I'm too dumb to understand computer stuff like this.

Is this meant to be like a maptools add on? A separate program that we log onto instead of maptools? A program for the DM to use for his own convenience? I mean, obviously you have this planned to be totally comprehensive. I'm just not sure how it fits into the whole tabletop experience.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:07 pm

Ideally, this would be an addition to MapTools. However, I don't have access to MapTools source code, and I'm not entirely sure I'd know how to manipulate it well enough even if I did. So, this Encounter Tool will be entirely separate, but designed to compliment MapTools such that the two of them together will offer a more complete automated game experience. My overall idea is that I'd like to create this so that we (and possibly the public) can use this along with other free tabletops like MapTools instead of having to fork out a billion dollars for the D&D Insider tools. It will be web-based, will require us to log in, and it will support multiple access levels such that the DM will have more cool stuff than the standard player will have, such as the Encounter Builder, for example.

As for the Encounter Tools app itself, think of it as a really smart whiteboard, like the one we used to use in the old days to track various modifiers, initiative, and other details during encounters.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Sat Jul 05, 2008 12:32 pm

Okay, after a couple weeks of planning, setting up the database infrastructure, and laying out the site itself... *Drumroll Please* ... the Encounter Tool is ready to use! YAY!

Granted, this is just the beginning, I've got big plans and lots in the works beside what is available now, but the essential functionality is in place. At the moment, the functional portion consists of two Grids that display effects, one Grid for Bonuses and another for Penalties, along with a small interface in which the Bonuses and Penalties can be entered.

Check it out and lemme know what you think: www.EncounterTool.com
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Sat Jul 05, 2008 5:34 pm

Cool. I won't pretend that I really understand how to use it. Maybe give us a quick tutorial next time? (Or the time after, when I will be there too.)
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Sat Jul 05, 2008 6:38 pm

Yeah, np. There's really nithing to it yet. The only parts that actually do anything worthwhile at this point are on the White Board page, and even it could use a fair amount of tweaking. The rest of the stuff there are basically placeholders and rough sketches of features to come.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:25 am

As you guys get a chance to play with what is available now, and give me feedback on it, here is what I'll be working on...

1) Add ability to create and modify accounts (Player, DM, Admin), as well allow login via the accounts.
2) Add simplified interface to add PC, Monster, and NPC names. (just names for now, more detailed PC, Monster, and NPC records will be available in the future)
3) When disignating a Target for an effect, choose from a dropdown list of PCs, Monsters, and NPCs instead of simply typing a name into a texbox.
4) Enable Start/End turn button, which will automatically decrement remaining effect durations associated with your PC (or in DM's case, for the chosen Monster/NPC)

I hope to have this done in 1 - 2 weeks, most likely 1, ideally intime for our next session.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:45 pm

Okay, step 1 above is completed...mostly.

I have added user account and login functionality to the site, so it will now require you to log into the site in order to use it. For now, this only serves as a security measure to keep other people out of the application, but soon I will also be using the login info behind the scenes to keep track of rounds and effects that you create.

I have sent each of you a personal message with your user account info.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:13 am

So, after using this last night, it is clear that I've got some work to do before this tool will really be useful, even on a basic level. The challenge is making it automated and smart enough that using it will be a time saver instead of a hindrance, and currently that is not the case. Right now, it would be more practical to just write stuff down on paper. Anyway, I intend to spend more time on this, since it has been fun for me so far and I have learned a lot of things that I want/need to know regardless. Having said that, it would be best if the creation of this were a little more interactive though, so that I can create something that will be useful and used by others, or even if only to discover that this sort of thing just isn't really needed or desired. So, if you guys get a chance to take a look around what I've already got and let me know what you think, that would be nice. I know there might still be some confusion on what the whole thing is for or what the point of it is, but perhaps that is because I am trying to make something useful that just isn't really needed. Then again, there's also a chance that there is a need for some sort of tool like this in our campaign, and if so it would obviously be better for us if I built it for us based on feedback/requests, etc.
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PostSubject: Feedback   Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:05 pm

The biggest feedback I can give is what I imagine we need the white board to do.

1. Display what the current condition of our characters are. (perhaps even with a picture and the basic stats shown hp,AC, etc.)
a. I have -2 to my Fort, Reflex, and Will defenses because some stupid rat bit me.
b. I have +2 to my AC because the cleric used his shield power on me.
c. I am currently bloodied.

2. Automatically calculate what my attack rolls and damage rolls are.
a. I have +2 to hit and +4 to damage on one monster because I used Villains Menace on it.
b. I have -2 penalty to my ranged attack because we stirred up too much flour.
c. I have a +1 to attack rolls because I am a bloodied Dragonborn (I forget this like every time!)

3. Show the current condition of enemies we are facing.
a. This enemy has been marked by Brack.
b. This enemy is in a Cloud of Daggers and will take damage when it starts it's turn.
c. This enemy is prone giving combat advantage to anyone adjacent to it.


I hope this helps clarify what I envision this tool to help us with. If we can get this working I see us using the tool to roll attacks and damage and basically using the Maptools for just skills rolls and chatting and moving our characters around on.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:08 pm

Um. I don't mean to pee pee on the parades of others, so feel free to ignore this comment. But I have heard several folks in our group thus far comment that 4e is very much like a video game in design and feel, and this observation has mostly been offered with a pejorative connotation. Doesn't this whole automatic calculation thing just complete that transformation?
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:47 pm

I suppose it definitely pushes things in that direction, but I think it was all designed this way on purpose. I seriously think the D&D Insider tool that costs $15 per month will do all of this stuff and more eventually, if it doesn't already.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:33 am

By the by, I think you two have convinced yourselves this is "like a video game" and are making a self fulfilling prophecy out of it. I think there are things and ideas they borrowed that are similar and whatnot but like I said in the combat post this is way more methodical and strategic than most video games. I think they just adapted new ideas and it's hard to get used to for you guys. I don't know maybe I am off base but I think the internet rambling and WoW jokes have partially ruined our experiance for you guys so far.

The WoW jokes are just that, jokes. It's funny seeing similar ideas lifted to something else but I mean to me it's the same as D&D lifting stuff from like LoTRs or whatever. I am sure people could sit and complain how it is to similar to that or whatever but it's basically sounding like an excuse to not like something.

Anyways I guess my real question/comment is that say it WAS more like a video game; is that the worst thing in the world? More to the point if it's more fun to play or equally (if you give it it's fair shake and dont bias not liking video games...) then is that really a bad thing?

The more I read the more I see an internet forum "I Hate WoW so I hate 4E".
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:43 am

The Sarge wrote:
The more I read the more I see an internet forum "I Hate WoW so I hate 4E".
Huh. Did I really give you that impression?

I actually don't think that 4e is like a video game. If there is any particular shift in a discernable direction, it's towards a tactical wargame (like D&D minis, or, I don't know, maybe Magic or something). The videogame thing is mostly something that I've been hearing from you guys.

In any case, I don't dislike 4e. I have yet to decide if I prefer this version to the old one, but so far I think that most of the changes have had a positive impact on the overall game. If I've been unduly focusing on the negative aspects that I've found, it's largely because I look to see if others have the same impressions that I do, and to possibly see if there's a way to remedy the situation.

However, I still hate WoW. Razz
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:07 am

It is absolutely true that this version is more like a videogame, or war game, or non-RP strategy game, thus it is tailored less toward character customization and non-combat mechanics than it's predecessors. Obviously, it does still support non-combat situations and it does still support RP, but less so than it did before. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends upon personal preference. I don't exactly think it is a coincidence that Matt and I seem to be a bit more vocal about some of what we view as negative aspects of this edition, and that we are also the ones that play WoW the least. In any case, I'm sure future 4th edition products will try to smooth all of this out a bit and I'm personally neutral toward this edition overall, though my posts may not reveal it.

...Reverting back to the topic at hand in this thread: Encounter Tool.
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Thu Jul 10, 2008 3:22 pm

Baern wrote:
I don't exactly think it is a coincidence that Matt and I seem to be a bit more vocal about some of what we view as negative aspects of this edition, and that we are also the ones that play WoW the least.
I also think that it has a lot to do with me not sleeping, studying French for six hours a day, and consequently being cranky for several weeks. Y'all may have noticed. Mad
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:14 am

Alright, so... I'm hoping you guys can help me with something...

Maybe I'll eventually finish this Encounter Tool, or maybe not. It partially depends upon whether or not we end up using the D&D Insider virtual table top and what it offers. BUT, I actually got all excited about this in the beginning and bought the domain name as well as the web host space for an entire year... So, I am hoping we can come up with SOMETHING that I can make that will be usefull and that will get used, even if whatever it is ends up being something very simple.

So... any idea at all?
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PostSubject: My Idea   Fri Jul 18, 2008 2:50 pm

Yeah I have an idea. You and I will just sit down and finish the damn encounter tools I know it can be fuckin awesome you just need someone who is good at design (like me) to compliment your uber 1337 programing skillz. So yeah when do you want to sit down and get this thing rolling?
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PostSubject: Re: 4th Ed. D&D Encounter Tool   Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:12 pm

I actually figured out what I am going to make. I actually had the idea while I was thinking about some suggestions Jon made. Without going into a ton of detail, I'm basically going to make online Combat Cards for PCs and Monsters, just like the ones in the back of the DMG.
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