Usually when I get to the point where I give into the desire to talk about a project I know for a fact that I’m dooming it to abandonment. This has been my M.O. for so long that I can set a watch by it (if I wore one, and if watches still needed to be manually set) yet I still do it anyway. Why? Excitement, really, because I never get this feeling until I am at a point where just enough of the project has been going well enough to believe that this time is going to be different and there might be a light at the end of this tunnel. I’m also going to be honest: I do enjoy and seek out encouragement at certain points of a project to ensure that I’m on the right track and that my efforts are completely exercises in a vacuum. Things don’t always pan out that way which may or may not contribute to leaving a project by the side of the road, but one of these times it’s going to be different, I know it!
This latest project is tentatively called “Adventure Outliner” because I am a practical man with delusions of creativity. It is a tool for writing tabletop RPG modules. It’s also a hub for sharing content and working with the community to create adventures for tabletop RPG players, regardless of game system or physical location.
I’ve got a few mock-ups done of the homepage and the workspace, so let’s take a look at this work in progress.
Really, I didn’t have a homepage idea until this morning. Originally it was going to look like one of those bazillion WordPress templates you see out there, with the edge-to-edge blocks of vertically stacked advertinfo (?) that explains what the site does, some testimonials from people who don’t hate it, a pricing structure, and a site-map footer. But when I thought of the features I wanted to include, I realized that I had never made a provision to accomplish those features, so I took inspiration from other TTRPG product sites out there like DMs Guild and Drive Thru RPG.
So the header banner is merely for nav purposes. It’s got the standard items like a link to the homepage, your library, an “about” link which heads to the aforementioned advertinfo (??) page. It’s also got a search and the ubiquitous login link. Please ignore the Star Citizen banner. I needed some content and that fit the bill in size and concept.
Sharing content on the site has always been one of the central ideas to this project; as cool as it is to have a place where a person can write up his or her homebrew adventures, it’s even cooler if people can make them publicly available for other users to enjoy. The homepage will feature various works by site users. Off the top of my head I figured it would be useful to show the user’s choice of module “cover art” (which is a placeholder here from various TTRPG game core rulebooks found on the web), the name of the module, how many players it is suited for, and the game system — I didn’t change the text between examples, so imagine that each section was actually a different module for a different game system. Really, this is the “throw it against the wall to see what sticks” phase, and I already realize that maybe the site should have a rating system or something.
The “default sort” is currently envisioned to be the most recently added modules, with the option to re-sort the list by newest, most popular (again, with that rating system), or a “surprise me!” which might choose a random module, possibly giving more weight to modules which aren’t as popular or which aren’t viewed as often.
Next up is a sidebar for site information. Somewhere up-front I’d like to post a video explaining what the site is, what it does, what the benefit is, and how it can be useful to GMs. Other times there might be a specific module featured in this space because it’s super popular, or maybe post about a site-wide contest here. This could continue down the page as the user scrolls, or this could be it.
In the main body of the site I figured there’d have to be some actual meat to the page. Starting at the top the site might offer indirectly related content talking about GMing, creating modules, game systems, etc. That implies a blog section of the site which means that I’d need to get other folks who are interested in writing about TTRPGs to maybe provide content. We’ll have to see how that goes.
Finally, the rest of the site body could offer a few more module suggestions by game system, recency, alphabetical…I dunno. There would be a link to open up a new page which offers the ability to search all of the public modules so GMs can find the products that suit their needs. Honestly by the time I got to this part of the mockup I was getting sleepy and was also running out of space, so…
The actual point of the site is to allow GMs to take their ideas and organize them in a way that allows them to return at a later date and run their game from the UI. I’ve spent a lot of years looking for solutions for my own TTRPG projects and each time I take up the search I find others who are asking for advice on good tools for organizing their adventures. The most frequent answers? OneNote, old-school notebooks, and even Google Docs. Google Docs? How the hell does Google Docs afford the kind of split-second data retrieval that matters when the party pulls one of their patented hair-brained 180s that sends the GM scrambling for a bridge between the carefully crafted module adventure and whatever the heck the party has set their minds to?
That’s been kind of the central idea here: making content accessible. The workshop is a canvas of floating, mobile windows. Each window contains what I’m calling a “scene”, and these scenes are organized into “modules”. A single scene might be “At the Warehouse” or “Investigating the Sewers” and contain all the descriptions, conversations, and secret info the GM needs to present to the players once they reach that part of the adventure. Each module, then, can contain links to other content in the module so when a GM has to bring up info on an item or an NPC, she doesn’t need to dig through other pages; a link to the popup panel containing that info is easily accessible.
A module contains not only scenes, but panels for images (such as maps or locations), items (for reminding oneself exactly what the “Sword of Gyheiydnsh” does), NPCs (with stats!), encounters (because combat happens, and sometimes happens a lot), and tables of data that the GM might need to reference.
All of this is designed to allow the GM a quick way to organize information, to quickly access that information, and to arrange information in a way that doesn’t require a lot of page flipping or the use of search forms that require a lot of bookmarking and back-and-forth scrolling. There’ll be more items of note here, such as a “notes” section for game-day recording, and I’m hoping to include a form builder to allow users to create registers for NPCs, items, and other bits of information that are better served beyond paragraph form.
There’s a whole lot of planned features and reasons that have been left out of this post simply because I don’t want to over-do it. If you have any specific questions or feedback, please leave it below or ping me on Twitter. I can (and probably will, unbidden) write additional explanations here or elsewhere.