A rule system is similar to a GUI...

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I'm pretty much wasting my time and talking out my butt, but I thought I would write this anyway.

They say the best GUI is one that you don't even notice, one you don't see, one that is transparent. Of course, I think this is also the case for a good rpg rule system.

Whatever rules are published in books are nothing more than a suggestion, at the end of the day. Why worry too much about what wotc may or may not do with 4E. 4E is just another set of suggestions.

And, if wotc really screws up big and people quit buying their products, then rpg'ing will simply mutate into a giant open system, constantly changed by people like us typing away on forums like this. There will be no such thing as "official". In a way, this thought makes me want wotc to become nothing but greedy capitalists so that they put the final nail in the coffin of an ailing system. Or perhaps they will make a fantastic system, blowing away all previous notions of good game play. (I also do not want to denigrate capitalists, I'm a died-in-the-wool liberal capitalist pig).

The one AND ONLY thing that I am really looking forward to in 4E is the computer aid factor. Using software to make prep work and actual play faster is MUCH needed and a huge asset. But, honestly, any company can do that, well any company with time and money to invest in development, I suppose.

Well, one other thing which I find interesting is the prospects of mechanizing social interactions similar to combat. But again, I or anyone can come up with some house rules which have the same affect. Plus the potential problems with this are many. But it would add a balancing factor for DMs who have both role-players and roll-players.

I look forward to seeing what wotc suggests for good game play in their new 4E books. Maybe I might actually use some of their suggestions.
I run a mediawiki server on my laptop. Not very hard to setup even under windows if you get one of the pre-packaged Apache setups they suggest.

Keeping all your DM notes in wiki format with links back and forth and all around wherever you need: It rules.
I run a mediawiki server on my laptop. Not very hard to setup even under windows if you get one of the pre-packaged Apache setups they suggest.

Keeping all your DM notes in wiki format with links back and forth and all around wherever you need: It rules.

I cannot believe I never thought of this. You rule.
For the less computer literate of us, could you link or show where to get the software nessasary and maybe a few hints on how to set it up? thanks!!
Yeah, wikis are nice - I'm porting my campaign world into a wiki and the crosslinks will be a great help. I'm using www.wikispaces.com to keep mine; don't know what offline tools may be usable...

Back to the original topic: 3E is a system that is so complex now that its difficult to get anything out of it without a computer. Character, monster and adventure generation go a heck of a lot smoother with a computer; until I had mastered the system I wouldn't have attempted to build a 3E monster without the aid of a computer program I found on the web. Likewise, without character generators like e-tools, its all to easy to forget things like synergy bonuses, slot restrictions, feat requirements and like. And with the vast library of options, trying to track what's all available is almost impossible without a computer. (While e-tools is nice, unfortunately it's got a lot of errors as well, so you end up double-checking anything you do, saving no time...).

If WotC is smart, they will slim the game down so you don't need a computer to build a character or monster - you can do it quite easily by hand (I'm talking less than 15 minutes to make a new character by a newbie).

Also, WotC better get the computer support right if they expect to make a buck with DDI. Right now, the freeware community can put out computer aids that are a whole heck of a lot more correct and stable ...as well as actually having something in existance instead of being vaporware.
I use TiddlyWiki, myself. You don't even need to set up a server or anything - it's just an html file with some javascript and CSS. Pretty sweet.
For the less computer literate of us, could you link or show where to get the software nessasary and maybe a few hints on how to set it up? thanks!!

Well, you'll have to ask Stormonu about signing up for an online wiki. The one I have is only viewable from my home network or directly on my laptop. If you play an AIM game or something then you'll probably do better with an online wiki you can direct players to (assuming you want them to be able to see it). Even if your wiki is configured for your locally, you can still save the pages and email them to others whenever you need, so I don't find it too inconvenient. The upshot of setting up your own wiki on a laptop instead of an online wiki is mostly that you can use and edit it even without any kind of network connection required.

If you still want to setup a wiki on your home computer, here's the quick and dirty path for windows:

1) http://www.apachefriends.org/en/xampp-windows.html - use XAMPP to get a web server setup on your computer. You have to have admin rights to install the stuff, obviously. If it asks, say that you do want to install the programs as services. That means that they'll start up as soon as the computer is turned on, without you having to do anything. Test your success by going to "http://localhost/". It should have a page like "It works!" in huge black letters. Be sure to install both Apache and MYSQL. Filezilla is not required.

2) http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Download - On this page, to the right and a little down there's a sidebar with different versions. Click on a link for one of the versions, such as: "mediawiki-1.11.0.tar.gz". Windows can't extract this kind of compression on its own. You'll need a program like winRAR or 7zip to do it. There's two layers of conversion, Gzip and then Tar. The programs should detect this automatically and sort it out for you.

3) Place this folder into Xampp's "htdocs" folder. If you used the default install location, this should be "C:\Program Files\xampp\htdocs". Name the folder something shorthand if you want, the exact name doesn't matter too much, but it's part of the address you'll remember to get into your wiki.

4) Go to "http://localhost/FOLDER", or instead of FOLDER, whatever you renamed the wiki folder to, like "wiki" or "dnd" or something. It should request that you Setup the wiki first, with those words forming a link. Use that link. It'll take you to the configuration page.

5) This page needs to be filled out with the proper information. It's split into 3 parts.
  • "Checking environment..." - This consists of several automated checks and their results. If the last line is bold green and says "Environment checked. You can install MediaWiki." you don't have to worry about anything else listed here. Alternately, it'll list a test that failed, and you'll have to resolve that first. If you installed all the XAMPP stuff you should have everything required already, but post back if you have any errors you can't solve on your own and I or someone else can probably point you in the right direction.
  • Site config - Wikiname will be displayed a lot as part of pre-generated text on pages, so don't pick anything you can't stand to see. Contact email, language, and license are all unimportant if this is just for you. Admin username will be the top account for the entire wiki, and you'll have to login to make changes to any of the important pages. I just stay logged in as my wiki admin account all the time, since you can revert most any accidental edit anyways. Give it a password, any password. Remember it. Below that you can select "No caching", since it's just for you so you'll never get a heavy load in the first place.
  • E-mail, e-mail notification and authentication setup - Nothing here needs to be set if this is just for personal use.
  • Database config - Your database type should be MYSQL and your database host should be "localhost". Next, since your not using MYSQL for anything else on your computer, you can just check "use superuser account". Don't input a superuser password if you just installed MYSQL with xampp; Xampp doesn't set a default password, so it's correct to leave the field blank. You might have to enter a password for the wiki account, I'm not sure. You don't have to remember this password, the software does it for you.
  • MySQL specific options - There's a big orange options box you can skip past. All the defaults should be fine.
  • Install Mediawiki - Double check all your entries and press this button.


6) It should go to a new page, and then this should say that the install was successful if all your entries were correct. If not, I'll keep the good info and say in bold red which parts were wrong. Fix the entries and hit the install button again if you need to. Once it says that it's good, go back to the wiki folder in windows explorer, inside the config folder there is a file called "LocalSettings.php". Cut or copy that file and paste it into the main wiki folder.

7) Using your browser again, go back to "http://localhost/FOLDER". If all has gone well you're looking at the main page of your new personal wiki. You'll have to login as the admin account you specified earlier or make a normal user account, then you can start editing pages.

8) Be sure to read Mediawiki.org whenever you need help. Particularly, they've got some great sections on how to use special formatting, creates tables, change the wiki's sidebar, and other useful things.


If you're not using windows, you either probably know how to get mediawiki running on your own through your package manager or just manual installation (linux folks), or you'll have to get someone else to help you because I don't know enough about your OS (Mac folks).

Edit: Elessar, I like what I see there from a quick glance, but my HTML-fu is unfortunately weak.
I run a mediawiki server on my laptop. Not very hard to setup even under windows if you get one of the pre-packaged Apache setups they suggest.

Keeping all your DM notes in wiki format with links back and forth and all around wherever you need: It rules.

Do you happen to know of a wiki with "hidden" areas?

Specifically, one where the DM can mark portions of articles to be visible to players and parts to be invisible? Thus, allowing players to add their own notes to the campaign world without allowing them access to the DM's side of the screen (so to speak) or requiring articles to be maintained in parallel?
I particularly like TiddlyWiki, its simple and easy. I like the GTD colors if you can find it. Saves to your hard disk (or pen drive). But you have to upload it somewhere or carry with you to access. You can follow Lokathor's suggestion, but I don't see a benefit to that over using TiddlyWiki. TiddlyWiki saves itself in one single html file and has all the essential features of any wiki. Put it on a shared drive and you can access it from any computer in the house. Or upload it to a web server and access it from anywhere.

Lokathor, if you haven't already, I think you would find TiddlyWiki much simpler.

Online wikis are nice too. As for keeping players from snooping into the DM's section, perhaps have two wiki's. One for players and one not.
Do you happen to know of a wiki with "hidden" areas?

Specifically, one where the DM can mark portions of articles to be visible to players and parts to be invisible? Thus, allowing players to add their own notes to the campaign world without allowing them access to the DM's side of the screen (so to speak) or requiring articles to be maintained in parallel?

Well, each page has a "discussion" page as well. You could just ask that the players not read those ones. You could also make a separate namespace for DM notes and it wouldn't come up with random-page. But, they'd still be able to get to it with the "all pages" special feature. I don't think there's a way to restrict a page to viewable only to some people, just editable only to some people.

Kaane: The advantage is tabs. If you're a big fan of tabbed browsing, Tiddlywiki won't work as easily; you can't open one of the links to another page directly into a new tab. You've got to open the tab to the main page then go to the page you want.
Kaane: The advantage is tabs. If you're a big fan of tabbed browsing, Tiddlywiki won't work as easily; you can't open one of the links to another page directly into a new tab. You've got to open the tab to the main page then go to the page you want.

Well, if you open the page in Firefox, you have both TW and tabbed browsing. Also, the use of Tiddlies sort of supercedes tabs, since you can organize your own "tabs" within the page you've written and then summon and dismiss those tiddlies as freely as you would open tabs.
Well, each page has a "discussion" page as well. You could just ask that the players not read those ones. You could also make a separate namespace for DM notes and it wouldn't come up with random-page. But, they'd still be able to get to it with the "all pages" special feature. I don't think there's a way to restrict a page to viewable only to some people, just editable only to some people.

Yeah, that's just not the same. Placing the info on separate pages and relying on an honor system are exactly the two major things I want to avoid.
Well, if you open the page in Firefox, you have both TW and tabbed browsing. Also, the use of Tiddlies sort of supercedes tabs, since you can organize your own "tabs" within the page you've written and then summon and dismiss those tiddlies as freely as you would open tabs.

But then they take up vertical screen space as well as horizontal screen space. Also, when you just middle click on a link (which is the way I open 80% of all tabs) it doesn't work properly. I like that I can leave a tab open on a page scrolled to a picture or paragraph while I can quickly jump back and forth to another page with other info. Or even, on very long pages, several tabs of the same page set to different spots.

It's mostly a matter of style I suppose.

Valdrax: I understand the concern. I've played with the kind of player that would just read everything anyways too. Nothing really fixes spoiled notes except for a new adventure, which is usually not so easy.
Dokuwiki will let you set read access as well as write access. In terms of access control, I think that's basically the best you're gonna get, since wikis aren't really designed to filter information on a highly granular level (most aren't supposed to filter information at all -- goes against the ethos). It's lighter than Mediawiki and doesn't need MySQL, but doesn't have built-in discussion pages, as deep a level of searchability and cross-reference, or the same kind of support for template/extensions.

-- Alex
Well a discussion on wikis wasn't what I intended with this post, but I suppose my first sentence turned out to be precisely true. Cheers to a spiraling away of more valuable time, effort, and energy!
Thank you guys very much. Tiddlywiki is the answer I never knew I was looking for.

So even if this wasn't the discusion you were looking for, you at least generated some useful results.
So even if this wasn't the discusion you were looking for, you at least generated some useful results.

Aha! Victory is mine! (tho, in being proven wrong)
On Wikis, TWiki is another heavily used one. I use it for my groups. It has quite flexible access control on a per-page and per-web granularity.

Back on topic:
They say the best GUI is one that you don't even notice, one you don't see, one that is transparent. Of course, I think this is also the case for a good rpg rule system.

An intuitive ruleset is quite different from a non-existent ruleset.

It's entirely possible to role-play without formal rules. Just as it's possible to do stuff without using a computer. But that's orthogonal to discussing rulesets or GUIs.

The goal of a GUI is not to be unnoticeable, but rather unobtrusive. Translation from intent to action should be natural, rather than interrupting flow to think "now, how do I achieve X using this tool?". The GUI needs to be easy to learn, easy to predict, and easy to execute. And it should be optimised to accomplish the tasks the user wishes to accomplish.

The same goes for a ruleset (for any game, not just RPGs). Quantity of rules affects ease of learning, but quantity and complexity (and consistency) are not necessarily the same thing. A ruleset with strong, clear underlying principles can have many rules, but they'll all work in a predictable and consistent manner. In contrast, if you have only a few rules but these are poorly written you end up with a very difficult game to play, because you're never quite sure how things are supposed to work.

"Rules-lite" and "streamlined" are not inherently the same thing.
Translation from intent to action should be natural, rather than interrupting flow to think "now, how do I achieve X using this tool [rule]?". The GUI [ruleset] needs to be easy to learn, easy to predict, and easy to execute. And it should be optimized to accomplish the tasks the user [player] wishes to accomplish.

I think that you and I are in complete agreement.

Similar to writing, there is being clear and there is being concise. One more thing that appears to boil down to a difference between two poles. (tho there is some nuance involved, I'm sure).

I guess I'm left at a point where I question where the value (profit), i.e. money to be made, is left in the industry. At some point, rulesets are going to be a commodity. The OGL has greatly perpetuated this reality. The other side of the coin is that eventually content (fluff and crunch) will be commoditized too, but to a lesser degree since that within content there are finer, more differentiable bits as opposed to rulesets.

My prediction is that rules will continually be massaged over time, and each group will have their own mutations to the norm. WOTC will probably make some money from selling books and DDI subscriptions, et al. But more than anything, what would make me super-hyped about 4E is if it could somehow sell a super-DM with each book. IOW, a game is only as good as the DM (and its players to a lesser extent).

The one fundamental change in the 4E ruleset needs to do something to "up a DM's game". I don't think this can really happen with the rulesets alone. But the rules will create a foundation from which to work. After that, I suppose it is more a matter of getting every DM to better understand the nature of DM'ing and what makes a good one vs a not-good one.

The one reason that I do not play as much as I want, and correspondingly don't buy all the books/minis/whatever that I want, is b/c I don't have a good enough DM who also has the time to get enough material together for a session. I would even be willing to pay a DM if he were good enough to warrant the money. Oh how I so wish there was a way to be a professional DM.... Nonetheless, I think that it is apparent to most ppl that DM-ability is the bottleneck in tabletop gaming. And I think this is what needs to be addressed more than anything else, but how? I know not. Anyone else know???

This is probably nothing new, but I wanted to say it. And I appreciate everyone for their input here and elsewhere.

-T