Role-playing design notes

Random notes on the design of Gods & Monsters, and maybe even Men & Supermen if I can remember what I was drinking when I wrote it.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Real character sheets

Jerry Stratton, January 31, 2010

Several years ago, I wrote an article about making custom character sheets using downloadable fonts and any modern page layout software. I used Apple’s AppleWorks package to make the examples. I updated it later for Scribus.

It’s fun designing things like that. But when I decided to include these custom character sheets in the downloadable set of gaming sheets for Gods & Monsters, it wasn’t a joke when I added a third, “advanced” sheet that is just a blank page of ruled paper.

College rule, wide rule, graph paper, or just a blank sheet from a sketch book. In my opinion, those are the best custom character sheets.

This is why, even though I’ve started using the “professional” looking character sheets to portray NPCs such as Deanna Carmen in Helter Skelter, I never updated the sample characters in the main rulebook. Those are player characters, and as such they should be scrawled out on whatever paper you’ve got handy. Just like the Moldvay Red Book example. So I left the example characters in boring table format, hoping to someday do them up as if they were on normal paper.

Well, I finally got around to it last week in Scribus, using some downloaded fonts from Abstract Fonts. They look awesome, as you can see on Sam Stevens’s character sheet (PDF File, 293.6 KB). And each one uses a different font, because, of course, each player character is made by a different player.

I considered doing them by hand, but that would have meant either them all being in the same handwriting, or getting my friends together and then being unable to make changes when necessary without trying to match their handwriting. Also, it would mean scanning them as images rather than as text, which makes the documents less useful for alternative readers.

The only problem with the EPS files is that for some reason, Word really doesn’t like EPS files. Besides not displaying them onscreen, it also makes the RTF file size huge—about 90 megabytes uncompressed, and 36 megabytes compressed. None of the individual files even reach a megabyte; the math there is way off. A quick test with Nisus indicates that when I switch to Nisus, the compressed file size will drop down to a more manageable 13 megabytes. (The PDF, of course, is even smaller.)

The sample character sheets are also a part of the resources file—including the original Scribus document if you want to muck around with it.

Your assignment is to pull out the old Canson sketch book at the bottom of your bookshelf, or your original marble cover notebook, and roll up a new character—Gods & Monsters, Moldvay, AD&D, or your favorite OSR rewrite.

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