A 3-Month Retrospective

I’m sitting in front of the computer right now, getting ready to start on the print formatting section of TableMaster, and thinking back on the past 3 months. It’s been an interesting trip.

Last fall, I had no inkling I’d ever touch TableMaster again. But you know how some people google their names? (when I last worked on TableMaster, Google was a little startup nobody had heard of) Well, on a whim, I googled my old software. I found that people were still interested, and had kept up that interest for a decade and a half. I was, frankly, surprised. I got talking with them. I got talked into writing a new version.

So here I am. More important, TableMaster is here too. In three months, it’s come from a fond memory to an actual running program, as the output I post now and again demonstrates. Aside from the “why is it doing that?” moments that lead to the detection of another bug, it’s just plain fun being able to run off a couple of dozen inns, or a few miles of caverns, or anything else I can dream up, and watch it work like it used to, only better.

I’m really looking forward to the Kickstarter funding, so that I can set up the test forums and get the preliminary version of TableMaster into other players’ hands. I’m having all kinds of fun with it — after all, if I wasn’t a table geek, I wouldn’t have written it in the first place! — and I can’t wait to see what other people think about it, and what other people can do with it. It was insanely cool meeting several old TableMaster customers at Game-O-Rama — people who were still gaming after all these years, and who came looking for me because they missed TableMaster.

So, it’s very close to feature-complete, at least if I stop adding new features! I thought TBL was mature 16 years ago, but I’ve added .SQUARE, .SQUAREROOT,  and .BLANKLINE , plus the format-setting capability of .NUMBER, and I’ve taken advantage of the massive amount of power available on modern computers — the average smartphone can blow the doors off my first development machine — to allow almost anything that wants a number to use expressions instead. I just checked my list — there are 9 commands out of 73 still to go, and several of them are trivial ones like .CLRSCREEN (what should that even do in Windows?) and .INDENT.

I’ve been reading back through some of my old blog posts … “old” from 3 months ago. (note: the February date on that one is something broken in WordPress; I hadn’t even registered the domain name then!) In three months, I’ve gone from laying out the basic UI and having TableMaster print out “Hello World” to making that UI flexible so it can adapt to everything from that yard-sale netbook to my big desktop screen, and running virtually all of the old tables, though of course many need a bit of editing, such as the system variable name changes. Has it really only been three months?

One of the things that is so cool: I bought a computer for $39 at a yard sale. Not that I need another computer, of course — there are currently six of them on/around my desk, no, seven, I forgot the Raspberry Pi — but it’s a computer I picked up at some random yard sale somewhere in a semi-rural area of South Carolina. To put it in perspective, I bought that used computer, a computer that can run TableMaster very well, for less than the price of the 5th Edition DM Guide. It’s smaller than the DMG, too, except in thickness where the battery bulges a bit at the bottom. Smaller than the Pathfinder core rulebook even with that bulge. Nowadays, the only reason a GM wouldn’t have a computer at the gaming table is they don’t feel the need for one, not because it’s financially or physically impractical.

So: Three months down the line, TableMaster is very nearly ready for testing. And I can demo it on a computer that fits in a large pocket. (okay, a really large pocket, but I’m an amateur photographer — I’ve got one of those vests….) How cool is that?