Gavin Greig (ggreig) wrote,
Gavin Greig

Writing Styles and Tools to support them

Things I put on hold about three months ago are starting up again. In particular, flybynightpress has twisted my arm into naming a new date for running a steampunk game.

With that in mind, I have a bit of writing to do, to get things to the stage where I won't be sat in front of a handful of players going "Er... Ummmm..." while they wait patiently to get started generating characters.

Since I'll substantially be using the Forgotten Futures rules (author: ffutures), a fair bit of this work consists of copying - at least initially - but I do want to do some things my own way, and have my own flavour to the game, which means thinking about what is there and choosing when to make changes or add information.

I started off with Microsoft Word, but found that it encourages a very linear style of writing which can be a bit of a blocker. Even if I use Outline mode, I'm still thinking of what I'm writing as a document that will be read in a particular order, and which needs a certain amount of introduction and build-up as a result.

While that may be true for some players, and I think it's valuable to have that sort of material available, I expect that most will want a quick reference for character generation and subsequent lookup.

I have been spending too much time on getting a small amount of introductory prose just right and not spending enough time on the actual substance.

Remembering that flybynightpress has been singing the praises of Voodoopad, a Wiki-style notepad for Mac OS, I thought I'd have a look for something similar on the PC. I came up with WikidPad, which seems rather more basic than Voodoopad, but might do the job.

It's not the world's most accomplished app - for example, you can't install it or its databases to paths containing anything as exotic as a space character, which rules out "Program Files" for a start. Still, at least that avoids the errors when it finds it can't write to "Program Files" when you open its "help" wiki. I also found I had to change well-established paths on my machine just in order to put the databases where I wanted them. Sigh.

However, once I'd discovered those issues and addressed them, it seemed to work OK. I am now flicking between Word and WikidPad, copying and pasting, using them alternately to produce brief, to-the-point structured data and also to work towards a single, printable document.

Working in WikidPad does encourage more focussed writing, as it encourages breaking information down into topics and linking between them. While this is possible in Word, it's a pain and WikidPad is better suited to the task. I can always copy content back across to Word once I know where I want it to go.

WikidPad is a bit like having a less visual (and more useful) version of a MindMap. It's much better for building up informal thoughts into a useful structure than Word is.

As I don't own (and therefore don't GM with) a laptop, I won't be able to use WikidPad to make or extend notes during a game, but it does have that potential if the hardware is available. Maybe sometime.

I will also have to take a look at the possibilities of using FlexWiki (a real .NET wiki I've played with before and which I might just be able to host on a web site at some point) and FlexWikiPad (FlexWiki's equivalent to WikidPad). Between the two of them I might have a more powerful and flexible solution than WikidPad currently gives me, but WikidPad seems like a good starting point for now, from which I can always export what I've already done.

I would have looked at MediaWiki, the other really obvious candidate, but it's not an option for any hosting solutions I might be interested in.
Tags: game design, roleplaying, steam elephants, thought

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