Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An XML spell list

Today, I got to thinking about XML. Last night I was poking a bit more at the z20 spell list, slowly importing/converting things from d20, and realized what a hassle it was. I'm doing way too much formatting and linking by hand in HTML. Instead, I should probably be making a separate XML document, which I could then format differently for different needs. I'm comfortable with the theory behind XML documents, but I've never created and reformatted one of my very own. So I got to wondering if anyone's come up with a standard DTD or schema for d20 spell lists. Some searching ensued, with the following results:
The biggest name/site I found in regards to still-active d20 XML. In the latest version (zipped XML+SQL bundle), the XML includes markup of spell details, but also a fulltext section including a table-based HTML view as well.

I was more interested in his "obsolete" version (2004) of only spells and monsters, which includes only XML markup of the spells. The OGL licence suggests this came through the PCGen Character Generator project somehow.

The oldest version of all (2003) includes an XSLT as well, for decent formatting. This is what I have in mind for z20--a nicely marked up XML backend with different formatting options through XSLT (or similar tools). The content isn't itself quite a clean as the previous option though.

The site also has an XML markup of the whole SRD, though this XML simply marks tables, rows, cells, and paragraphs.
From John Kim's more general SRD page, this page includes a zipped XML file of the spell details. This is from the 3.0 version of the SRD though. Sadly, the online CGI options to search through it don't seem to work.
A Yahoo! Group that ran from 2000 to about 2006 working towards a complete d20 XML schema for character creation and possibly even gameplay. I did not read more than a few of the first posts and the last posts. Different people were working on their own projects, and no consensus or central DTD was apparently formed.
A personal d20 XML project--spinning off from the d20-xml group--to get an XSchema for all the d20 content. The focus is on having the XML usable by software tools, so machine-readable is preferred over human-readable. (I agree with that approach, since you should be using XSTL if you want truly human-readable output.) However, the project focused more on characters and monsters and the rules logic than simply data storage. The project ended in 2008 (or, rather, rolled into a different approach using Lua).

Conclusion: There is no readily available XML schema for d20 content because everyone has different needs. PCGen and OpenRPG are doing some XML stuff backend, but that doesn't really fit what I'm going to do. So I'm on my own... which is probably just as well.

My current thought is that it'd be fun to play around with the different d20 XML versions I downloaded, and to try generating a HTML snapshot page of each spell pulled from different versions of the SRD. Then I could build a z20 spell list, and pull those into the same snapshot pages for comparison. I've been meaning to learn more about XML, XSchemas, XPath, XSLT, etc. for some time. But I really don't need a new project right now! So we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

History of z20 and Zludge

As the last couple posts have hinted, my z20 project has been quietly resurrected, despite earlier posts suggesting this is a doomed endeavor. I started wondering at this--where did z20 come from? How did I get here, and where do I think I'm going?

However, in digging for the answer, I found that z20 is intricately tied to the history of Zludge. Pouring through my archive of Sent email messages to S. and B., I was able to reconstruct the following chronology:

Jun 2007: I become intrigued by Fudge and Fate 2.0 (effectively a specific flavor of Fudge). Fudge in particular is filled with good ideas, but in a very "...and here's another good idea" style, leaving the GM to roll these ideas into his own perfect system. I start my own Fudge derivative named Zludge: a mixture of Fudge, Fate, d20, and GURPS ideas.

Jul 2007: I finish an early version of Zludge largely shaped for a sci-fi campaign (including psi rules, for example), though still intending to be a largely universal system.

Dec 2007: After repeatedly being frustrated by the slow rate of D&D combat--particularly the modifier tracking and rule details--I consider a possible simplification project. Zludge comes to mind as a base, and so I begin a document to blend Zludge and d20.

Feb 2008: The Zludge-d20 project grows beyond a simple hack document and becomes its own system: Drudge.

Mar 2008: After playing around with Animal Ball's Instant Game, one day S. and I just sit down and play a rules-lite system I come up with in an hour based on bare-bones Zludge. Originally named Fluff, this soon becomes Fluffy.

There are now three flavors of Zludge going: the lite Fluffy, the original Zludge (which I start calling Zludge Prime), and the relatively rules-heavy Drudge. The idea comes to make Zludge a roll-your-own system. However, instead of just being a jumble of ideas, it would be a system of clearly-defined, compatible modules. GMs could define a "zenome" document for their particular instance of Zludge that would specify which rule modules they are using. Thus, the rules could be lite or heavy depending on GM preference or the particular campaign. Furthermore, when I found a good mechanic idea in another system, I could port that single idea into the framework of Zludge, thus being able to experiment with small pieces here and there while still keeping the bulk of my gaming system constant.

I begin surfing more and more RPG test drive rules and indie RPG system for neat ideas.

Apr 2008: I start this blog, whose name is even inspired by Zludge.

Jul 2008: Fluffy (and its basically synonymous incarnation Huffy) sees some action on a long car trip with B. in a Heavy Metal Atomic Wasteland campaign setting. (Sadly, this never got documented properly here on SludgePit.)

May 2009: After 18 months of work (not 15), I call an end to Drudge. Essentially, Drudge had wandered too far from d20 to be at all useful. It would have been easier and faster to just completely reimagine the d20 content in a Zludge system. Intrigued by True20, I instead consider a d20-True20 blending named z20.

Jun 2009: I essentially realize the differences between True20 and d20 are too minor to be bothering with a synthesis. In short, I'm simply bastardizing d20 without significant advantage. I decide to end z20 in favor of d20house, which is just a handful of house rules for d20 and an digital DM's screen to speed play.

Aug 2009: I discover Microlite20. This is d20 streamlined! I think my own strength is streamlining--making simpler rules that are still effectively equivalent to the source. But I suck at actually trimming and drastically cutting away the fat (and even some of the meat, if necessary). Microlite provides the core I've been looking for.

However, there are a number of things I don't like. For instance, the core rules are so lite and streamlined, but the equipment lists are so long and detailed, spells are still straight from d20 (and so too detail-oriented), translated monsters have no special abilities at all--essentially just attack bonuses, AC, and hit points. In short, it feels like a hodge-podge.

I start pulling Microlite20 into a single document and tweaking what I don't like. Of course, I find myself adding a lot of old Drudge ideas, etc. It grows beyond the Microlite core, so I call it mini20.

Sept 2009: mini20 has stopped being even "mini". But it seems to also be close to my original goal way back with Drudge: a lite version of d20. In short, its the d20 that I always wanted to play. I resurrect the name z20.

So that's how I got here. As to where I'm going... maybe in another post soon I'll talk about some of the things I proud of in z20, and see if I can ever answer that still-haunting question: "Why convert or change d20 in the first place? Why not just play d20 as is, or else start a new system from scratch?"

Monday, October 19, 2009

z20/Omri: Shroom

Got in some more of The Amazing Escapades of Omri Buckle & Co. this evening. Omri had a bit of a mishap (no GM karma point expenditure required after all: S. missed the Reflex save DC by 1 point), met Shroom the goblin, and made it back to her party again.

In related news, I've been poking at z20 combat actions this weekend. I was flipping through my True20 books (Blue Rose and Mutants & Masterminds) and started thinking how all these different systems really have the same set of actions you can perform in combat: grapple, disarm, charge, etc. Even my work a couple months ago on a Zludge version of Dark Heresy has most of the same actions. So I decided I should compile my own list with simple, standardized rules to use across all these systems. This list is currently in z20, though I think the same list will end up in Zludge Prime eventually.

S. and I also went looking for some colored pipe-cleaners this weekend, but no luck at Office Depot. I have a little condition-tracking idea, but I'll share that another time...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Korgoth of Barbaria

This is mostly just a ping to show I'm still alive! Too busy for much gaming the last couple weeks.

I ran into this months ago, but remembered it again this evening after a week or so of reading Conan short stories:

Korgoth of Barbaria on YouTube
(first part of 3; others parts available at the end of the clip)

It's an awesome show originally made for Adult Swim. Very sadly, this was the only episode made. Still, possibly good inspiration for a beer-and-pretzels sort of game.