March 7

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 22: Perfect Gaming Environment

For some reason this post was scheduled to appear last year but it appears to have been stuck in my queue after it missed the publishing date.

When I started gaming, I always wanted a gaming room of my own with; dice, miniatures and a library of gaming books all within easy reach of me and the players.

As technology progressed and after seeing the gaming room with an overhead LCD projector I wanted one so I could display maps and combats in much better 3d environment.

I have also done some gaming with Roll 20 and this is getting close to my idea of a perfect gaming environment.  I have my battlemaps, books and custom macros to make things run that much smoother 🙂


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August 2

Catalogue update #8

I’m really making progress now with the catalogue, all my false starts have been mostly overcome and the Calibre library is growing.

I have found using Calibres main strength in maintaining a library to be a huge advantage of a directory listing of poorly named files. Once the book is imported, Calibre can also extract the stored metadata of the book and add it to the collection as well as being able to supplement it with on-line lookups.

When I started this journey I was only interested in using the ISBN as the primary way of identifying a book, now I have come to realise that embedded metadata is just as important to maintain an accurate collection.

I just wish game publishers would take this into account when creating their pdf files for distribution to the general public.

At the rate I’m going I may only have one or two updates left in this subject.

July 30

Catalogue update #7

After some more wrangling with Calibre and Book Collector I have managed to come to working arrangement; rather than trying to follow the advice given to me by the Book Collector technical support team I’m having much more success using Calibre’s create a catalogue file of my selected gaming eBooks as a csv file and then importing that into Book Collector.

I have taken the steps of exporting my library as a .mobi file which I sent to my Kindle and this has far more information than I could get into Book Collector without spending a serious amount of time making it work.  Using Calibre’s tag function you can create quite the hyperlinked and cross referenced document.

With any luck this will be my final entry on sorting my catalogue out and making it available to my players.

It’s also worth mentioning that adding the Search The Internet and Goodreads plug-ins are worth adding to Calibre as well to expand the meta-data search functionality.

July 4

Catalogue update #6

It has been a while since I wrote about my struggle to catalogue my gaming pdfs mainly because for each breakthrough I make, another two setbacks present themselves.

I found a useful plug-in for Calibre that is able to extract the ISBN from an ebook and then I have been trying to use the Download Meta-data function look the information up on a number of book sites.

Where I’m having problems is the ISBN can often refer to another book as either the publisher has entered the wrong one or recycled an old one.

The latest struggle has come about in trying to export from Calibre into Book Collector, something that isn’t easy to do as all Book Collector wants to do is use ISBN, Publisher and Author and not the other summary data.

So I find myself stuck again, not quite at square one but getting closer to it; I suspect I need to roll a 6 to get the game started again.

Why am I bothering?

I’m doing this so I can share my gaming collection with my friends so they have an idea of books in my library using Book Collector’s cloud library and also to take advantage of Book Collector’s loan facility something that Calibre doesn’t have.  If I wasn’t going to use either of these functions I would have kept everything in Calibre and managed it that way.


March 21

Catalogue update #5

I’ve made a lot more progress in cataloguing my game collection as it turns out I can search by titles in the package and while this has been working well, there are a few omissions in their core database.  To fill in the holes I found an excellent website that allows you to look up books by ISBN and I’ve been searching the game books I’m looking for, then copy and paste the numbers in the database before looking it up.

I can finally say that it looks like I’m starting to win the battle and the tides are turning in my favour.

December 27

DM Minion

In my last post I talked about gaming with an iPad and those astute readers will have noticed that I failed to mention anything about combat management.  I used to use an app made by a company that no longer appears to exist and while functional it was a bit buggy and prone to crashing at the most inappropriate moments. So I decided to see what was available since I downloaded it about 18 months ago.

My interest was piqued by a paid for app called DM Minion Pathfinder by Goathead Software, it looked like it did everything I wanted and a bit more to boot.  Where the product shines is the integration with Hero Lab, the ability to upload portfolio files from Dropbox is amazing.


This is the first screen you have to work with, here you define the name of the adventure.

Adventure creation screen
Adventure creation screen

Then with that defined you can import characters from Dropbox.  Any of the pcs here can be imported without needing you to do anything special with the stat blocks.

Player character selection
Player character selection

Then you can add monsters to the adventure either by manually creating them, importing a Hero Lab character or by using the PFSRD monsters already in the software.

Monster picker
Monster picker

Here is an example of what is displayed on the monster list; you will add these adversaries later on when you build an encounter.

Monster options
Monster options

Now we move onto creating an encounter.  You will still need to refer to the guidelines for the XP budget for the encounter.

Encounter creator
Encounter creator

The final step, an enc0unter all built and ready to run using the intuitive combat manager.  Running the combat is painless, you can roll the players initiatives if you want or use the slider bars to select their infinitive scores and the app will roll all the monsters initiatives as well as their hit points.  If you really want to be hands on with it then you can roll the monsters hit and damage rolls yourself; something you may have to do as there appears to be a bug in rolling to hit when the weapon being used has a different critical threshold.

Combat manager
Combat manager



Is the program worth less than £3?  I would have to say yes as there is a lot of options packed in under the hood to make it worth buying.  It would be good to have the attack bug resolved but it is a highly usable combat manager and a useful tool.

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November 24

Catalogue update #4

I think I’m on the verge of a breakthrough.

This morning I was relaxing in my bath, when I had that Eureka!  moment.  What if it was possible to scan a directory of pdf files looking for the word ISBN and then extract the 13 character string that followed it?  I could then export all the results to a file and import it into my Collectorz database.

I guess the next step is to try and find out how to accomplish this task.

November 17

Catalogue update #3

So I asked and people have been suggesting all sorts of different ways to handle my collection.

A very good friend outlined a method by creating a new folder structure on my drive and then creating symbolic links to point to the files.

Over on rpgnet  there were some very creative solutions from; a reference management package like Mendeley, LibraryThing, Goodreads, using ISBNs from Zotero and creating a recipe using Calibre to scrape the data I need.

I currently use Collectorz Book Collector program to handle my needs and now I think I’ve managed to wrangle it to do what I want, I should be able to look after the vast majority of my eBooks.  I also managed to read the manual for the new version of the program and it will scan folders and add books to the database but you still need to update all the data manually to cover genre, author and the other really useful fields that would enable me to quickly scan my collection or allow one of my players to see what books I have.

The other useful thing with Collectorz is the fact that there are apps available for it on both iOs and Android as well as being able to access your stored collection via their website.

November 14

Cataloging a collection

After trying to work out if I had a particular book in my collection I was wondering if there was a software package for my PC that would allow me to track my pdf game collection.

I have am excellent program for my printed books but it doesn’t appear to handle electronic editions as they don’t have the barcodes or ISBN references.

I can’t be the only one in this situation so can anybody suggest anything?

April 26

Random generators

Back in the pre-internet days one of the things I struggled with was trying to come up with  plausible sounding names. The only reliable resources I had was to be found in gaming  magazine and Dragon used to have the more interesting small ads.

It was through Dragon I learned of the Judges Guild product the Revised Treasury of Archaic Names and I managed to acquire the new reprinted edition; at last I had the means of creating realistic sounding names by rolling on the tables but there was a catch and that was it took some time to get a name that didn’t sound silly.

So I sought another method and Dragon provided the answer once more a program called TableMaster and with ad text like this it had to be good:

Do you need the time to be a good gamemaster — and the power to be a great one? You’ve come to the right place for unique RPG gamemaster’s aid software and other cool roleplaying game goodies.

Using this program you could generate all manner of things using the language of the program, the problem I faced was it was shareware and so limited in functionality; twice I tried unsuccessfully to send my registration fee to the author and after a few emails she told me that she’d moved from that address.  After chasing her for a while to try and figure out what happened to the International Money Orders I had sent she stopped answering my messages and I gave up.

I did manage to cancel both of them after telling her I intended to do so and that she needn’t bother trying to investigate.

Not long after I heard about a program called TableSmith another shareware program which not only looked good but was still being maintained and the author does accept registration fees. I tried it but found the scripting language somewhat daunting and after a few abortive attempts to figure out how to make it generate tables I gave up.  There is a support group for this package and the author is still developing it but it just wasn’t for me.  TableSmith can be found by following this Hyperlink:

It was only when I stumbled across NBOS softwares offering Inspiration Pad Pro that I ventured back into the realm of table creation and I had more success with this application than any of the others I had tried before.  The main selling points of the program for me is the integrated table editor which automatically highlighted the correct syntax of the scripting language, the portable version which doesn’t require installation and there is also a web version available.

With this tool I was able to create some awesome tables and my Pulp Adventure Creator which I based upon several other lists that I had acquired.  With a few clicks I could create a three act pulp adventure complete with; plot twists, heroes, villains, supporting cast and all manner of exotic locations.

I intended it for use for Spirit Of The Century but that game is on a break at the moment, I suspect that someday I shall craft an adventure for my players and see what they think 🙂

Inspiration Pad Pro 3 can be found here:

With a little time and effort it can be a worthwhile project to hand craft some tables that you can roll on and give your players some interesting results. If however you seek some top notch random tables which can be rolled on via a web page I humbly direct you to The Seventh Sanctum Codex, which has links to other random generators as well.