Manual Madness

I give up. I’ve tried. I’ve tinkered with font sizes until I’m seeing spots, I’ve ordered samples of fresnel magnifiers, I’ve specced super-thin paper, you name it. And it’s not working. I just can’t put ten pounds of manual into a five-pound bag.

20 years ago, TableMaster was smaller (it now has 13 new commands, more options for the existing ones, and more than 20 new output formatting codes). The manuals were wider and taller — they were a half-sheet, 5.5 x 8.5, instead of the 4.75 x 7.125 necessary to fit in a DVD box. And I didn’t have any restrictions on the length; TableMaster was in an inch-thick box, so there was plenty of room for however many pages the manual needed. None of those is true anymore — the command set is bigger, the page size is smaller, and the box is much, much thinner. It. Just. Doesn’t. Fit.

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Everybody into the Boole!

There are three flavors of User Variables in TableMaster: ones with no variety specified (they were the originals), which are integers; Decimal variables, for floating-point numbers; and Text variables, for strings. There is actually a de-facto fourth kind, essentially Boolean variables.

George Boole was a 19th-century mathematician who formulated what came to be known as Boolean algebra, which dealt with variables having values of “true” and “false” rather than numeric values, usually represented as 1 and 0. If that sounds familiar — like the fundamental nature of digital electronics, from your watch to TableMaster — you’re right: it is. Most computer languages have some sort of Boolean variable. Delphi (which is basically Pascal, named for another mathematician) certainly does. And so does TableMaster … sort of.

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GM Horde: Zombies!

As everyone who has looked at some of the TableMaster basic tables knows, I’m an invertebrate punster — I’m spinelessly unable to resist a pun. In this case, the Hoard is definitely a Horde, specifically of zombies.

If you’re running a game set during and after a zombie apocalypse, sooner or later the players will ask just what, exactly, those zombies moaning “braaaaaaaains!” outside the walls actually look like. What kind of condition are they in? Who were they, if you can tell?

WARNING: Some of the descriptions produced by the zombie table and listed here are, in a word, gross. If you don’t really want to read that sort of thing, do not continue!

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GM Hoard: People in a crowd

All too often, it seems like the adventurers are the only people in town. If anyone else exists, it’s only to interact with them, anything from giving them directions to the nearest inn to mugging them in an alley.

But, of course, any urban area is full of people. Those people all have their own lives, and are doing their own things, with no connection to the adventurers at all. The new Fantasy Table Pack 3, which contains all the tables that relate to people, such as names, descriptions, etc., contains a table for that.

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GM Hoard: Mystical Pools

A mystical pool or spring might be in the depths of a monster-infested cave, or in a remote valley, or far into a trackless forest. Wherever it is, you know something will happen if you bathe in the water (or, if it’s too small for that, drink some). Just what that thing is, of course, can vary widely.

But the description … oh, the description. You don’t want to have to say “It’s, um, some kind of a pool. It’s got water in it. The water looks kind of magical.”

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GM Hoard: SF Mercenaries

Today we move on to the SF Table Pack, and to another brand-new table. This time it’s interstellar mercenaries.

Anyone running an SF campaign knows about groups like Hammer’s Slammers and Falkenberg’s Legion. When you need a bunch of merc companies to throw into a scenario, whether recruiting and hence offering possible employment, or involved in something the players are also involved in, or maybe just there in the background, you need these guys.

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GM Hoard: Cartomancy

Today’s Hoard is just a single item, but it’s a long one: a card reading from a stereotypical elderly fortuneteller in a dark little room on a nameless street. This is included in Fantasy Table Pack 2.

After I put together the tarot spread generator that’s part of the basic package, I thought about expanding it with the meanings of the cards, etc. However, I wanted those readings to be more keyed to the needs of a fantasy RPG. This would be problematic with the real tarot because the cards already have meanings — just not necessarily the ones we need.

So, in a burst of insanity, I designed a whole new deck. It has 46 cards, all individual like the Major Arcana, with meanings that can be worked into an RPG campaign. It came out better than I ever hoped; in fact, now I want an artist to draw me the real cards!

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Some new Hoards for the Gamemaster

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in tables. Upgrading old tables, writing new tables … I think I’ve started dreaming in TBL. Plus several days of code debugging occasioned by finding bugs manifested by some of those tables. The basic package has, at present count, 51 tables, and each of the Table Packs over 30. I’d guesstimate that from the punny Regret-table to the Zombies description table I’ve written at least 40 new tables, maybe more, and substantially many revised others.

To showcase some of the new and upgraded tables, I’ll be doing another batch of Gamemaster’s Hoard posts here on the blog. Just like last time, every day for a week will have a new set. Remember that this is all raw TableMaster output, not prettied up at all.

So the Hoard for today: Isolated Houses from the Zombie Table Pack.

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Cover art!

While I’ve been dealing with all the insanity of getting the manual to fit in the box (note: a package of nice little fresnel magnifiers arrived yesterday) I’ve also been working on the other problem: the fact that I can’t draw. And there’s only so much you can do with clip art. So I’ve been looking for an artist. Not just any artist — I needed someone whose style would be right for TableMaster, and who would “get” what it was all about. So, I’ve been checking out artists, and art. When I found Rick Hershey, of Fat Goblin Games, I knew I had the right artist.

If you’re an old TableMaster customer, you’ll remember this bit of artwork from inside the manual:

The original

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