Firing Squad Welcomes Liz Theis discussing Wolf Lair’s Realmworks

Gaming Ballistic’s Firing Squad was joined by +Liz Theis from +Lone Wolf Development to discuss their soon-to-be-released campaign management tool, Realm Works.

I was introduced to Liz and Lone Wolf through +Ed Healy and +Joey Turco of +Gamerati, who saw my notes about interviews for the RPGBA March Blog Carnival on VTTs and Computer Gaming aids.

I knew of Hero Lab, but honestly didn’t make the connection from Hero Lab to Realm Works to Lone Wolf Development until my interview with Liz was nearly over. Bad interviewer, bad!

Still, I will admit that I was skeptical of the value of the program going into the interview. After I was done, I think it’s worth more than a hard look for anyone who might be contemplating doing either fiction writing or any sort of game with many relationships to track. The way the system is laid out, your game prep, all the notes you take, can be revealed, or not, to the players line by line if you like. The same ability exists for maps.

But don’t take my word for it, watch the interview. I think you’ll be persuaded that this tool has a useful place in your gaming quiver.


MP3 Audio File

Text Transcript

Douglas Cole (Gaming Ballistic):
Good evening and welcome to Gaming Ballistic’s Firing Squad. This is the continuation of a series of interviews with virtual tabletop, online gaming computer aid, content creators, and boosters. Tonight, we are joined by Liz Theis, developer for Lone Wolf, and we will be talking about Realm Works: a campaign management and planning facilitation tool.

Which is not a virtual tabletop, but seems really neat for structuring, running, and remembering what the heck you are doing in any given campaign.

So Liz, thanks for joining us this evening.

Liz Theis (Lone Wolf Development):
No problem. I do want clear the record though: I’m not actually one of the developers, but I work closely with the developers to communicate what Realm Works has to offer – and I’m a game master myself so I think I have enough cred to share with you what Realm Works is all about.

Doug: Absolutely. You’re one of these evil marketing types.

Liz: Yeah. It’s true.

But like I said I am a GM, I’ve been playing role-playing games…I think I was three when I played my first game. I was a unicorn. I was awesome [laughs].

Doug: What is not to be awesome about being a unicorn since only yesterday my daughter told me that I was . . . Evil Darkside Moon or something. Something from My Little Pony.

Liz: Oh. Very nice.

Liz: So that was my introduction to role-playing, and I’ve been able to be behind the virtual GM screen with Realm Works as well, so it’s been fantastic.

Doug: That’s great. So tell me a little bit about Realm Works, and walk us through and what it can do for you.

Liz: So Realm Works is a game-system-neutral campaign management tool. We like to talk about Realm Works as having three major benefits for GMs.

You can immerse your player in the story with Realm Works.

You can create a richer world if you are a world builder, or content creator, with Realm Works. You can streamline your session prep.

If you’re someone who wants to engage your players more at the table: If you have maps or visual aids that you want to share, you can easily share them through Realm Works. My favorite way to get my players involved in the story is to use maps, because it helps them visualize the world around them, and forget that they are sitting at a table.

You can use Realm Works to not only show the map, but also show them only the parts that they’ve seen. So for people who use virtual tabletop tools, it is similar to a virtual tabletop in that the players will only see what they’ve explored, but it’s not a virtual tabletop system. I want to make that clear as you pointed out.

Instead it’s really just a compliment to a virtual tabletop program. If they wanted to, they could see the various places that they explored, and have that for context for the game.

If you’re someone who’s a world builder, Realm Works will not only help you create and store text about your world, but also allow you to add documents, PDFs, Hero Lab portfolios for people you might meet or monsters that you might encounter, images, sound files, video files, anything that will help flesh out that world.

Doug: So you could theoretically add the sound of a monster crunching bones or something, and every time a player character gets eaten you could go [makes crunching noises].

Liz: [both laugh] Exactly.

When I was playing with Realm Works for the first time, I had this character  – Malcolm the Mad – that kept popping up in my head.

Of course Malcolm the Mad had a maniacal laugh. So here I was going on the interwebs to find a maniacal laugh for Malcolm the Mad. Immerse your players into the story that you’re telling them.

And if you’re someone that is trying to cut each and every minute or second that you have to spend on session prep, Realm Works really helps in that regard as well.

There is something we call the reveal history, one thing that can be really difficult for GMs, especially in-between game sessions, is remembering “What happened? What did the players learn?”

Players go off the rails and do something you aren’t expecting. You might have your layout for what you expect them to do, and then they do something completely different and it’s hard to remember what exactly they did.

You can go into Realm Works and see what they learn. It’s a nice little list for you to see, so you can see what they learn and when they learn. You can see the date and the time that they learned a single piece of information.

And of course we have full text searching and user notes so you aren’t scrambling to write a note on the back of a pizza box that you’re going to throw out.

Doug: I’ve got a entirely pretentious little game book that I try to keep my name in. It’s actually kind of funny because I would carry this around when I started blogging because I’d have a ideas “Oh I want to do a blog post about this idea thing.” I remember taking it and I did a blog post about it, I called it my “+5 Book of Pretentiousness.” Anyway, that is entirely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

But it is a little bit relevant, to your point: if I’m taking notes in this thing [holds up Tome of Vile Geekness]. What I’m not able to do easily is to move things around or rearrange them or brainstorm or edit. It’s hard to edit 40 bond paper with pen because of course you can’t write in a book like that in pencil [laughs]. That would be just wrong.

Liz: Of course.

Doug: Of course. It’s much less pretentious if you’re writing in pencil because that says you might make a mistake.

So let me ask a question. It sounds as if you can control the reveals, you can talk about stuff, how amenable is the Realm Works program to winging it? ‘Cause it sounds like if you’re doing things on the fly, you’re going to be doing a lot of typing.

How is it for winging it as opposed to “I have this great story all done out and I’m going to pick pieces of it to record.”

Liz: If you’re winging it, you’re still going to benefit from what Realm Works has to offer.

One, it’s very easy to add people places and things. If your players, or you decide that you’re players are meeting this innkeeper, it’s very easy to add a innkeeper real fast. Click, type, save, done. And then, as you’re writing notes, if you wanted to, you just have to mention that innkeeper, let’s say his name is Bob. You mention Bob, and it will link your note to Bob that you just created in Realm Works.

Doug: Everywhere that you see Bob the Innkeeper you’ve got a mind-map being formed.

Liz: Correct. You can even see the map, you can visualize the map, we call it a link web. You can see where Bob is linked to throughout all your other pieces of content.

So it’s quite easy if you’re just doing a sandbox, on-the-fly approach to do that. If you’re a visual person, maybe you don’t want to type a bunch of notes, you can use our storyboard, which is basically a plot diagram. So as your players are doing various things within your on-the-fly game, you can add little plot notes so you can link them to together and reference them after the game.

Doug: Cool. Is there a capability, I’m just thinking you know depending how quickly you can type, or how disruptive it is, use, for example, the iPhone’s speech to text feature to do some of those notes, is that something you’re doing, planning on doing?

Liz: You know, that’s a great idea and I don’t think that’s something that we’ve specifically talked about, but one thing that we are very verbal about to all of our users, and will continue to be the case after its release and out of beta, is “Share your ideas.” We might implement it down the road.

There were a couple of features that when we did the Kickstarter we didn’t have implemented and the Kickstarter backers all screamed for these various features and we said “wow, that’s a great idea,” and those features that are high up on our priority list that we otherwise wouldn’t have thought about.

Doug: Could you give me some examples?

Liz: Yeah, so to be able to give the example I have to explain a little more what Realm Works can do.

Doug: Feel free to share your screen and walk us through stuff. That worked very well in a previous instance. Absolutely. Bring it on.

Liz: I think this is the perfect time to do so. So I’m going to share my screen. OK, perfect.

So what you’re seeing right now is what we call a topic in Realm Works.

This is actually the wizard I talked about earlier – Malcolm the Mad. See ? I love the concept so I had to make it.

And what you might be able to see – it might be a little small depending on how the screen is sharing – are these green little orbs.

Any piece of information with a green orb next to it means the players know about that particular piece of information. Any grey orb is something that they don’t know.

For instance, the players know Malcolm the Mad. They know he’s male, they know he’s human, they know he’s commander of the Shadow Armada, they do not know that he hopes to one day rule all of Onessa which is a region of my made up world.

Doug: But seriously if you have Malcolm the Mad as a wizard, you <i>know</i>

he’s going to end up ruling something.

Liz: Yeah, I guess players can figure it out. [laughs] But in this case the players don’t have conformation, they may <i>suspect</i>, but they don’t have confirmation of his grand plan.

Doug: If you were named Malcolm the <i>Mild</i>, or Malcolm the Slightly Wimpy… I’m just teasing [Liz laughs].

Liz: What’s really cool about Realm Works, let’s say they’re meeting Malcolm the Mad for the first time. We have this picture, which is the piece of artwork that I got from Adventure a Week. Yay Adventure a Week! It’s a really nice piece of artwork. There you go, now you see all of it.

Doug: I just wanted to say that is truly a mighty beard.

Liz: Right? I think…I see Malcolm the Mad when I see that.

My players are meeting Malcolm the Mad, and I want to show them what he looks like so they can actually feel like they are there meeting him. So we’re going to shot it in our player view. If I was playing in my game I would have the player view set up on an external monitor. You can always just keep it on your computer and flip the screen around to them. When I played with Realm Works recently, I had my laptop and, of course, I had it extended to a ginormous flat-screen TV just because it’s more epic that way.

Doug: That sounds pretty cool, because that’s the kind of thing it’s up, and in the background, he’s right there in your face and entirely awesome.

So you’re looking over your shoulder so you’re seeing this crazy fracking sorcerer and you think “Bad things are about to happen to me because this creepy dude is looking over my head.”

Liz: Exactly. Let’s say that we had this set up to an external monitor I would saw as a GM show and Player view. Hurrah, it’s showing in Player view for the GM, so I’m going to reveal it to my players ,can you still see the Player view?

Perfect, that’s how the players would view it on that external monitor. They see Malcolm the Mad. Pretty darn cool.

If you wanted to you could share the information that they’ve learned about Malcolm the Mad. We’re going to show this information in player view as well. I’m setting it up for the players so they can see it, and now there’s Malcolm the Mad and information that they know about him.

You saw that there was a ton more text on the Malcolm the Mad topic, but they don’t see it, they only see what I reveal.

Doug: So only the things that have the green orb displayed will be displayed when you drag that window over?

Liz: Exactly. So that’s a little bit about Player view, now I completely forgot what you question was that made me go on this little loop back then.

Doug: Tangents are an important part of the role playing game experience. The only way that would make this more perfect is to segue way into a Monty Python joke [laughs] or Doctor Who or . . .

As you were joking about earlier “I want to show you my gaming cred” or something like that, honestly, the only cred I want someone to have is the credibility to sit at the table and eat pizza.

Liz: I have that cred [laughs].

Doug: Again, that’s not a challenge, I guess it was that long ago – it’s been more than four years since I had a face-to-face group.

I’d have anywhere from 6 to 20 people in my basement and a lot of them would come join me from martial arts group or whatever, because I had a lot of college students and a couple older gamers – ancient like me – (and I used to have this great grey streak in my beard. It was really thin and white and then I just go all old and grey and it’s not dignified).

The thing is people would come and go “Oh, what is this gaming thing?” “Come and try it.” If people were like “What are these funky dice stuff?” “It’s kind of a bit of randomness that tells you how cool you are and the bigger this number the more opportunity you had to be cool.” “Oh, okay!”

If you have to whip your nerd out in front of people every time you sit down with people, that’s not going to make the hobby popular enough to support the content creators. Whether it’s stuff like you or people like myself who blog or write articles or you know, even Paizo or Wizards of the Coast are small relative to the subset of tabletop gaming in which they exist.

You got Paizo and Wizards, you got D&amp;D and Pathfinder, and then way down there – you got to use a telescope to see it – you got everybody else. I guess FATE is doing quite well, but beyond maybe those three…I’m missing one, I think. But beyond those three it’s pretty rarefied air.

But if every time you come and sit at the table you’re going to say “Oh, what’s your creditability.”

“How about that I’m <i>interested in it</i>, dorkbrain?”

Liz: What we’re really excited about when we talked about building this, a lot of people were thinking that it was going to be a tool that was going to be for those most popular systems, because I think a lot of times people that are interested in the less mainstream games are used to their system not being supported.

Which is why it was so important to Rob, the company owner and founder that this be a game system neutral tool, whatever your approach is.

Whether it’s fantasy, something like D&amp;D or Pathfinder or maybe something sci-fi if you’re into the new Fantasy Flight Star Wars game. So whatever your cup of tea is it’ll work with it well.

Doug: It also seems to me that if you are a fiction writer, this would be an ideal tool to keep track of whatever ideas you have, the relationships.

You could easily see, for example, George R. R. Martin needing something like this or Robert Jordan – Rest in Peace – or Brandon Sanderson, trying to pick up the pieces that Robert Jordan left him, needing this kind of tool to say “I’m now writing a book…” I think Mr. Sanderson started at book 10 or 11 or 140 . . . but could you imagine having to come in and pick up those pieces…and credit to him, he did it awesome…

But can you imagine having to come in, or having to trade the GM spot or to say “I’m in the middle of book 11 of something…” Dresden Files for example. Is a great example, where you got this history, and every book is sort of standalone, but there is a lot of back story and “Oh did this character ever meet this before?”

If you do Ken Hite’s Night’s Black Agents VamPyramid, the ConsPyrmiad, you need a tool like this to keep track of that sort of thing. So it seems to me that Realm Works is a great tool for anybody who is creating an intricate story.

Liz: Right now, we have about a thousand people in our beta/early access team. And we actually had one of those users post on our forums that he’s been able to use it for fiction writing, and he sees a lot of potential with it. We think that writers are going to find Realm Works beneficial for building their stories.

One thing that – when you were talking about George R. R. Martin I was thinking specifically “Oh my gosh, there are so many people connected and it’s really relationship driven, all of the different parts of his stories and that’s going to be a great segue for me to talk about how you keep track of relationships in Realm Works.”

Doug: I live to provide straight lines to my guests.

Liz: [laughs] Perfect. So to do that I’m going to talk a little bit about the royal family that I built into my story, you can see my screen, correct?

Doug: I can…yes, now I can. For a while I just saw you frozen.

Liz: Uh-oh.

Okay. So this is the queen of Mureena, one of the royal families in my made up world, we’re going to look at how she’s related to everyone. Keep in mind this is a much smaller family than you would see in a George R. R. Martin book, but you can see how the queen who is up here…

Doug: I’m sorry, just to break in, the actual British Royal family is smaller than what you’d see in George R. R. Martin’s books.

Liz: [both laugh] That is quite possibly true.

I think you can see a little bit the different relationship trees. Here’s the queen at the top, and her parents, the queen’s sister, the queen’s daughter, the queen’s husband and his parents. So you can see how the family tree is laid out.

Something that I added, that you can add is an overlay to that tree is “How does everyone feel about each other?”

You can see that the queen likes her daughter, and her husband, and her daughter likes the queen’s husband, but the queen’s sister…not so much.

You can not only see how everyone is related, but you can see how everyone feels about each other.

Right now I have it as Ancestor/Offspring, but you can set it up as, you know, to view just attitudes. You can view it as a city if it’s in a region. You can see all the cities, you can see all the different possible relationships between your content.

Doug: So one of the interesting things is I’ve played in a game – very briefly because sound problems and doom and gloom and disaster. Very briefly I played in a game that was very political and the game master Christian Blouin, he called it “Reclaiming Khazad-dum” It was Tolkien-based, and the dwarves are going back to Moria to kick all the orcs and goblins out, the Balrog as already dead, but they want their cave back.

Liz: That sounds awesome.

Doug: It was a great campaign, it was really neat. But he had all these factions. The dwarf king wanted certain things, and you had other factions that wanted other things, and he created this social interaction framework . . .  but a lot of it had to do with this relationship map, but what you have here is a pre-built tool to do exactly what he was forced to invent.

Liz: Right. What’s great is if you as the players all know that information, all he has to do is put that relationship tree up on the player view the whole entire game. It’s a reference for you, for everyone at the table throughout the whole entire game. I don’t know if in that particular game you know all the political factions, but if you did that was an option.

Doug: The thing is what it allows is for the game master to have, and keep track of, hidden agendas, and keep them hidden.

Liz: Yep. So the attitudes that I showed you were the public attitudes, there is a separate option for private attitudes.

Doug: I was just about to ask if you could have <i>multiple</i> feelings. If you’re like “This is the attitude towards the person in a certain context.” The person is friendly disposed when they’re proposing military action, but they’re not friendly disposed when they’re proposing diplomacy. Because this is King Barbarous, the Warmonger or something.

Liz: Right now, Realm Works can’t get that specific. But that’s a great suggestion, so if anyone agrees with that, post it on our forums.

What you can do, is my queen is very duplicitous. She’s very friendly out in public, but she really hates half of them in private. In public, she is friendly towards everyone, but if you look at her private attitudes, she hates most everyone.

Doug: Right. Although it seems like that would be fairly straight forward to implement – it sounds like you are drawing lots of arrows between things. So if you could label them. “This is a public attitude” and you just do another connection, and this is a private attitude if they propose something aggressive, this person really likes it. This person is secretly lusting for this other person and that’s something that George R. R. Martin would need. It all ties back to HBO-central casting in the end.

That’s a conversation my wife and I have had about True Blood and George R. R. Martin, is that to be accepted into HBO’s central casting  you need to have a particular set of attributes, male or female that are apparently only found in a small percentage of the population – but they are all found on these shows.

Moving on…a little bit, I don’t want to move on because it’s not interesting. I think the relationship mapping is a neat tool, the structure…you can relationship map cities, you can relationship map people, can you weave multiple maps together?

Liz: You mean be able to go from one map to another map?

Doug: I was actually thinking you have a city map, or a political map, you’ve got countries and stuff, but the countries attitudes towards each other . . . Like England and France went to war with each other all the time, but it was the same fracking royal family ‘cause they all had to marry each other, right?

So they had these very complicated interpersonal relationships, but the relationships between the countries themselves were both influenced by these personal relationships, but very different because of the polities involved. So I was wondering if you could have two co-existing maps that actually crossed over into each other.

Liz: So you can create relationships between places. If you have a place, a regional section of the world that is at war with another region, you can differently mark that in Realm Works.

Doug: Okay. So I want to take a step back to one of the things you said originally. I will admit when I first – I’m interviewing anybody who has something to do with the computer gaming with the virtual tabletop or not – I was thinking “I don’t know if I’m going to buy into this.”

But the more that I here, the more that I actually am interested in it. Especially because I’m creating a campaign, I want it to be interesting, I want it to be multi-level and I want to keep track of all this crap.

And a email thread with literally 89 emails in it right now, with house rules, and what about this, and oh here’s a character and whatever, so I just created a wiki to do that – or I started to create a wiki. But this [Realm Works] has this capability, and it may be a little more automated for the kinds of things that gamers do.

Liz: So I lot of people when they look at Realm Works they say “Okay, how is this any better than a Wiki?” Because wikis are very popular for gaming groups, my online game that I play in, our game master has a wiki and the poor guy has put so much time into it, and we don’t look at it [both laugh]. Sorry Tony!

What’s nice about Realm Works is it does a lot of the features of a wiki that people are drawn to. You can do the links between articles.

So you can see with Malcolm the Mad, he has a bunch of links in his topic right here. So say that players are meeting Malcolm the Mad, you can just click the link and it’ll bring you to . . . the empty topic because I was just trying out Realm Works . . . because it brings you to the topic that you link to. How do you create those links?

If you’re building a wiki you have to manually create those links, which it can be easy to maybe forget one by accident. We actually automatically will create those links.

So let’s say that we’re building his professional life, and we want to say that his base is…it would help if I spelled it right…is on Shipwreck Isle. And I just created this snippet so hopefully it will automatically…

His base is on Shipwreck Isle, and it says “oh wait Liz, do you want to create that link?” And I say “Yes, Realm Works, I do.”

Now if you do want to you can manually create those links, but it’s just so easy to be able to have Realm Works do the heavy lifting for you. And it’s easy if, say, your character is Malcolm the Mad like this, but for some reason they call him Mad Hatter or something like that – other places are going to reference the Mad Hatter. You can create things like aliases, so you can say Mad Hatter is his alias. So if you mention the Mad Hatter anywhere, it will pick up that you are talking about Malcolm the Mad, and it’s really easy to make sure links don’t get missed through Realm Works.

Another part of wikis that people like is that you can see links that are inbound from other articles, but Realm Works does both inbound <i>and</i> outbound links, so if you look over here to the right where my pointer is, you can see that Malcolm the Mad is referenced by Fredrick du Meres and also Celeste du Meres, and also the Shadow Armada, but in his article he references the Dark Wings, Onessa, and a bunch of other topics. So you can use those links to also navigate to other topics. So I was on Malcolm the Mad and now I’m going to Celeste because she was related to Malcolm the Mad and here she is.

One thing that we wanted to make sure we did differently from wikis is not be dependent on the Internet.

We know that a lot of our users go to conventions, and run games at conventions, and Internet at conventions is expensive. Very expensive. And it’s not really any cheaper to get your phone to be a hotspot.

After you create your initial realm you can run the game, you can build content offline. So you don’t need the Internet to run your game or work on your realm if you’re at a convention.

Doug: Can every player who…is this really something that…sort of from my marketing and sales perspective. Every player can? or should? or doesn’t need? to a have a copy of Realm Works to benefit from it?

Liz: Players do not need Realm Works. If you want to just use the player view on an external monitor or a laptop like I showed you, you can do that.

In the future we are going to have player accounts, so if a player wants to have a player version of Realm Works to be able to see the content that their GM has shared with them. They can do that. They’ll have a lot of the features that you see in the GM version in the player version. So they’ll be able to do full text searching, user notes, fun stuff like that, and they’ll see all the information that the GM has revealed to them with the player version of Realm Works.

We’re also, in the future, going to be creating a web-based player access so this is perfect for players that want to bring up what they learned during their game on their laptop or iPad or Android Tablet, or any other web-supported device in between games. And hopefully it’ll be a lot easier instead of the GM having to type up all of their information into a wiki that a player may or may not look at. It will be information that’s already in there from your prep work and the players will have access to it because the GM <i>reveals it</i> during their game so it’s a lot more work for GMs between sessions and it’s a lot more accessible for players.

Doug: It would be very interesting to have a set up where you could either do peer to peer locally. You don’t need the Internet. You could use some of the inherent networking capabilities of a bunch of guys with tablets, for example.

But also, to put everything up in the cloud, Realm Works could effectively create a wiki for you[makes tapping sounds]. It’d be interesting to sort of say “Share with GM, but the GM’s character doesn’t know this. Or this is just a private note to me.” And have it something where the player could be taking notes about the character, about the game or whatever. Although they may not be aware, so the player does stuff and “Oh yes, I do whatever to Malcolm the Mad” and on the GM’s screen, it automatically links to the Malcolm the Mad thing.

The player may be creating linkages <i>that they don’t know about</i>.

Liz: The Player accounts when they initially come out, they will be specifically for viewing information. The player accounts aren’t necessarily going to allow players to create the content, it’s mainly going to be viewing it in the beginning.

We have received a lot of feedback like the stuff you are suggesting from our users, and it’s something that we’d like to look into possibly implementing those ideas, but it’s definitely going to be down the line. We want to release the player versions of <a href=”” name=”OLE_LINK4″></a><a href=”” name=”OLE_LINK3″>Realm Works </a>and the web-based player access first.

We also are going to be focused heavily on releasing our content market which I don’t even think we’ve talked about yet.

Those are kind of our focus right now and then we’re going to start taking some of those awesome ideas from our Kickstarter backers and some people waiting anxiously on Realm Works to just make the products that much better.

Doug: So (he says cleverly) what kind of content will be available for your program?

Liz: [laughs].

Doug: I can feed you a straight line with the best of them, given the right banana pellet to make me salivate. Wow that was a mixed . . .

Liz: Excellent. The content market is something that we first talked about on our Kickstarter, which was back in 2013.

The content market is going to be perfect for the GM that just wants to run a pre-published, pre-created adventure. So people like my dad “I don’t have time for that! I just want to grab a adventure path, or created adventure from a publisher, and run and go!”

We are currently working with some publishers to get their content into Realm Works, and make it available for sale through our content market. Users will be able to go online, say “I want to purchase that particular adventure,” and put it into Realm Works, and once they have it in Realm Works they can customize it to their hearts desire.

We are also going to be getting other assets from other publishers so it’s possible we might sell maps or particular people, places, it’s not necessarily just a adventure.

And if you’re a GM that loves to create content and share your content with others, you can do that with your content market. You can build an adventure and choose to sell it through the content market, or just make it available to other Realm Works users.

You can do that with adventures or maybe you’re someone who really likes to make interesting taverns or encounters or people in that tavern. You can make as many as you want, and make them available to other Realm Works users.

Doug: I can really see something like that being very compelling, in that you could build a town fairly quickly by saying “Oh I need a tavern” or there might be a map or the tavern might be seedy tavern, or high-end tavern, or restaurant, or brothel or whatever, right? The high-end tavern that’s actually low brow. Where the elite go to let their hair down, so to speak.

And you could just drag that in, you could either drag it into a physical map or a relationship map and all of a sudden you have all these different ideas.

The only thing, and this is sort of where GURPS gets into trouble, but also where GURPS is awesome.

The town has to be somewhat generic if there are preexisting links. If you are assuming you are in the world of Golarion, or you’re referencing polities, or relationships that only exist in that particular world. “Limiting” your world to Golarion isn’t exactly limiting.

Did I <i>actually</i> just do air quotes? I apologize for that.

If you’re doing…what am I calling it . . . GURPS Alien Menace is my campaign, if I’m doing something very specific to that, well, there will only be four people interested in that – that’s me and my three current players.

Liz: Right. I have a feeling that there are going to be people who create content for specific worlds or specific game systems, but what’s great is if you like the overall concept of whatever you’re grabbing, you can just take that down and edit out all out the information that isn’t applicable to your world or your game. [crashing sounds].

Doug: Sorry. Sorry, I’m having a little problem here.

What is that noise? That is everything that needs to be cleaned off my desk, cleaning itself off spontaneously [Liz laughs].

Liz: Spontaneously?

Doug: I have a professor at Rice who said whenever he walked into the lab he had glassware that used to through itself off the shelf. That was a experience that I was just having.

Moving on to something that is actually relevant, which is most of what I just said and nothing of what you just said.

It sounds like the content market is neat for sharing <i>pieces</i> of a world, and it doesn’t really put the burden on one game master to create the entire world, he can borrow fairly freely from the idea base at large.

Liz: Correct. One example that I like to use a lot is that your spending all this time preparing for your game and you remembered “Oh darn, I think that my players said they were going to a Tavern, I completely forget to create a tavern for them to go to.”

Content Market. Get a tavern. Okay I’m done. And then you’re on your way, instead of spending another few hours preparing for the game.

Doug: I have had the situation where . . . we referred to it as the player’s going off the rails, but that’s not really fair, right? They’re interested in part of the world that you’ve created for them it’s just that you can’t anticipate there every move. I’ve definitely had situations like and you’ve just done something that I think is so cool that it requires actual thought, which I haven’t had time to give you . . . let’s go watch a movie.

Liz: [laughs]. Right. Exactly.

Doug: but you might be able to in this content market that’s interesting, not interesting, applicable enough (I swore to myself I’d stop saying “interesting” so damn much), that’s applicable enough that you can just drag it in and have your players start interacting with it in a useful way that keeps the game moving.

Liz: Right. I think what it has a lot of potential for is you grab down somebody else has created and it might inspire you to give you that foundation for something really cool that you wouldn’t have thought of if you had not grabbed it down from another user and used it as your spark. I think that there is a lot of potential for on-the-fly decisions, and supporting your players’ choice to explore a path that you might not have necessarily prepared for.

Doug: I still think it would be interesting…you’ve done this right? I haven’t used Realm Works. You’ve used this in play: how well does it integrate with the spontaneous “Oh we are doing this” “Oh, we are doing that?”

It seems like you could get into a situation where you are spending a awful lot of time at your keyboard typing trying to play catch up. How does this work at the table?

Peter Dell’Orto, who is a friend of mine and a collaborator, his best blog post ever, the most looked-at and the most referenced, was “Does It Work In Play?”

You may think you have a great rule or a great concept, and it may just not work. And, actually this happened to me once, or you may think you have a weak rule, but you try it out in play and you know what? The emergent behavior for this rule works in play. We ran into that in the technical grappling manuscript.

But how does it work at the table? How does it work in play? Where is it useful? Where do you think it might get in the way, as opposed to facilitate?

Liz: I actually use Realm Works recently with a game system I had not actually even run yet. I had two things that I was trying out. I was trying out this new game system and I was giving Realm Works a go with a group I hadn’t used it with yet. So it was a lot of new.

I honestly, I felt so confident because I had all the information at my fingertips. I am one of those people that if I had been shuffling through papers, I would have had a anxiety attack, because I’m one of those super nervous people. So knowing that I could get to the information pretty quick was just so incredibly reassuring for me.

Doug: I see that, because one of the things…Steve Jackson Games gets a hard time for not publishing a lot of hardbacks, but one of the nice things about the PDF model that they’re using, is you can find anything, at any time, with a couple of keystrokes.

Liz: Right. You can just quick do a search.

I felt that way when I was using Realm Works, because even if I couldn’t necessarily find a topic really fast, I knew I had the search function right there.

For me I remember specifically one instance in the game where my players were considering totally not doing what they were “supposed to be doing” – I did the air quotes to, so now we’re even [laughs].

I didn’t feel panic, because I saw the rest of the story laid out in front of me – I’m a visual person so I was using the storyboard feature to keep track of where they were in the story – and I felt confident that I knew enough of the world and the area that they were in, that if they decided not to do what the next step in the plot was that I was running for them, that’s fine. I knew I was going to be able to roll with it and it had enough context for the situation to either steer them back to the story I wanted them to be on, if I wanted to do that, or support some new story and still be able to use some of the content that I put in there.

So I didn’t necessarily have experience of completely going off the story and having to fly with it, but I feel like I would have been able to manage well if they had.

Doug: It does seem that the strength of it, is if you have a detailed world, you can keep track of it.

But if you’re really making it up as you go, it seems like that would not be the sweet spot.

There is always going to be something that a computer aid – we just talked about that with John Lammers – there are certain things that if you are coding rules into the system if you all of a sudden you have to break the rules, you just can’t do.

In this particular case it seems like one of the places where if you are truly playing an improv game, but you’re basically making crap up, that would be…you can do it, but you better type fast.

Liz: You can do it. But you would need to do clicking and typing…if you’re doing that sort of game I don’t know if you’d necessarily want to have all of that information there for reference. If you do, I would recommend you giving it a try to type or point and click.

I don’t know if you’d necessarily want to have all of that reference for your past games, and that’s where you’d benefit from using Realm Works is being able to see what happened.

I think that yes there would be typing involved and clicking here and there. I don’t think it would be impossible, but one thing that would benefit is being able to see how the story fits in within a world and within a story, so if you’re making it up as you go along you aren’t necessarily seeing all that happen. I still think that there would be some benefit.

Doug: It seems like there would be. I almost wonder – I’m just thinking out loud, is there a feature within Realm Works or can you conceive one where you click a button and dump your entire campaign file into HTML for a wiki so you could just upload it and say “Click one-button and instant wiki.”

Liz: From what I understand that would probably be very complicated to implement, I’m not saying that it might not ever happen, we’ve had a couple of users request that, and you be able to print out the information.

Doug: Ooo..yeah. I can see where a multi-level interactional file, with links, would be challenging to print out in a linear fashion.

Liz: Right. I think that the future that we envision . . . is the web. We want is to take what I showed you, and move that over to the web. So you’re going to get a lot of the benefits that you’re talking about if we were able to port it over to the wiki.

It would be within our system, but if you have access to the Internet, and you’re running a game for people, there are definitely benefits for being able to run it from the web. You can run it from you laptop. You can run it from your tablet. You can run it from a lot of different forms.

Doug: What kind of interactions do you foresee between your program and other programs that might exist, other virtual tabletops, other map programs, other wikis or whatever.

Liz: So Realm Works, like I said earlier in the beginning of our conversion, Realm Works compliments virtual tabletops. We are not trying to get into the virtual tabletop industries. We are friends with and support a lot of virtual tabletop companies.

We’d rather say “Alright, you do what you do best, we’ll do what we do best and let’s work together.” We’d like to talk to some of those companies about creating some tighter integration.  How that’s going to actually turn out is sort of a…it’s not decided right now because we still have to talk with those companies, and see what we can do to create that integration between our two systems.

For maps we love to use maps within Realm Works, but we are not a map creation tool. So if you have a map creator, or you like to purchase really high-quality maps, you can add them really easily and use them within Realm Works.

I’m actually going to take this opportunity to show you one of my maps within my realm, because I think it’s pretty cool.

So here’s Realm Works. All right. Actually, I think I already had it up. I’m going to go to Shipwreck Isle. Shipwreck Isle is another map that I got from Adventure a Week, and you can see that there’s a bunch of pins on it. These pins didn’t come on the map, these are pins I placed to mark certain locations within the island.

So you can see that this is where a event takes place called “The Spirit Guide” and I can actually use this for navigation during the game – so if you are a visual person, like me – here we go.

The players end up going to the Kobold ruins . . . oh, hey! there is the Kobold’s ruins. I have all the information for the players when they come to that location. So it’s really quite nice for viewing stuff.

Now let’s go back to Shipwreck Isle as a map. I want to point out again so you’ll notice, that this section is light and this section is all darkened. This is because only the light part is the section the players have actually explored. So we’ll show it in the player view.

So if the players see this in the players view, it will only be this light part, and it will center it so they don’t see all this darkened area because one thing that…when I play my virtual game I’ll admit when I see a dark area it’s “Oh, GM, can we explore that dark area to the right?” And she sort of gives me the evil eye, “Yes Liz, you let’s explore that dark area to the left.”

Doug: “Thank you for using your meta-game knowledge. By the way, that area is currently spawning <i>Liz-eaters</i>.”

Liz: Exactly. So it really – I think I might have mentioned this, but Realm Works development team is made up of game masters, so they’re thinking of all of those annoying player quirks and problems that they encountered when they created this…


Doug: Surely our players are never annoying or ornery or contrary or rules-lawyers or anything like that.

Liz: Never. Of course, never. I’m sure I’ve never exasperated my GMs at all..mmm never [laughs].

It helps in terms of meta-gaming and specifically for stuff like maps to make sure that players don’t go off and explore the big dark area.

Doug: It’s really interesting. Dammit I said interesting again, I hate that.

Liz: [soothing and encouraging]: It’s OK, it’s OK.

Doug: It’s very player-centric in a way. Effectively it’s a lot like you’re looking at a navigation app, and the world is always centered on you. That’s not necessarily narcissistic – it is from a certain point of view – but the map is centered on the character’s perceptions and the players are viewing the world through those character’s perceptions, and their core…you are centered…it is a character centered map.

Liz: Exactly. Exactly.

One thing that I really love about Realm Works, and was really excited about it when I got interested in it. It’s not just for the GM.

It’s a tool that I think a lot of players will see the benefit of. It’s sounds so corny, to say that this will help engage your players at the table, but I think that is an accurate assessment for what Realm Works has to offer, in terms of how it can be used to get your players more involved in who they are as a character, and the world that you’ve built or your running.

Doug: It really seems like that would be a interesting thing to do, because not only can you structure a game in the background, you can do a little bit of  real timing it: if you have a cool detail or interacting with a character you can bring it to the forefront “Oh, by the way, the character has foot fungus” Or whatever, right? It becomes a relevant detail right?

Or Malcolm the Mad’s brains are particularly non-tasty to zombies if that became an issue.

You can add details like that where certain things that notionally would have shaped an encounter. You can’t remember everything, maybe <i>you</i> can remember everything, but I’m old and with kids and stuff, so any time you go the toddler running around, or preschooler in my case, you’re a little frazzled at any given time.

It’s something like “Oh yeah, this character detail that I need to be on the…” I want the players to know, but there are a couple of cues that will be right up in front of me every time I click on it. It really seems like a useful thing that prevents the plot equivalent of flipping through a rulebook.

Okay, so I think you’ve laid it out for myself and hopefully for anyone who might be watching. We had three real viewers that had logged onto the conversation.

So I always give my guests the last words, as we do the parting shot as I call it, it’s a ballistic theme. What do you want people to walk away with as we wind down?

Liz: You know, actually, what I just said about it being a tool not just for GMs, but also for players. I think that’s something that’s really important for anyone interested in Realm Works to understand. It’s not just for someone who’s really big into world building – if you are, that’s great! But if you want to put in an Adventure Path or once the content market is available grab one from there, check Realm Works out.

We have a lot of information up on our website and also a virtual tour video, Douglas I think you went through [I did!], which gives you a nice overview of what you can expect to get out of Realm Works, take a look, it’s on our website <a href=””>www.getRealm</a>.

Realm Works will be available this month, depending on when this becomes available its either already out, or will be out soon, so to keep up with the latest news, I encourage you to “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Google+ or Twitter, and if you want to we have a monthly newsletter that goes out so you can get the digest of all the news from the previous month, so you can sign up for that on our website.

So really, if you are a GM, this is <i>the</i>

tool for you, go check it out.

Doug: One last question because you brought it up, and it occurs to me. How much? Is this $10, $20, $30? What’s the price of entry? First born? Seven goats?

Liz: It’s $49.99, that will get you the Realm Works tool for as many computers as you want. People that are used to our other products, Hero Lab and Army Builder, we had a different licensing model where you have a certain number of computers you can use it on. Realm Works you can use on as many computers you want.

The $49.99 not only includes Realm Works, but it also includes 6 months of cloud service, it’s what’s going to allow you not only to store your content out onto our server, but it’s also going to allow you to access and share data from the content market in the future. It’s what’s going to allow you to make your information available to players via the Player Accounts that we talked about, and it will allow you to easily transfer your information between computers.

So you can do a backup for your files and restore it to a computer without the cloud, but it’s definitely just a click and go if you’re using our cloud. Those six-months are included, they are if I remember correctly they are a $24.99 value, so it brings the cost of the Realm Works software itself down to an I think not a first-born child value. I think it’s quite reasonable for all of what you’re getting out of a tool.

Doug: First born children are notoriously expensive, so . . .  [Liz laughs] especially if they are hard to come by like mine was.

And certainly as an employee of one of the major disk drive manufacturing and development companies, I highly encourage everybody to buy <i>lots of cloud stuff</i>, because that’s how I can afford the first born child. [Liz continues to laugh].

I want to thank you for your time, you’ve articulated the value of the program I think pretty well. Or even if I don’t think you’ve done it – which I think you have – the merits to both content creation, and content sharing, and content communication, I think are pretty interesting and I would not have necessarily leaped into that pool, but you’ve made a compelling case.

Liz: Well thank you, that’s my goal.

Doug: All right, thank you for joining me this evening.

Liz: No problem.

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