Software Review: Scrivener

OMSFSM, Scrivener! I love it so much!

I wrote War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus on LibreOffice and it worked well enough, but by the time the manuscript got to about the 50% mark, it started being a real chore to revise and restructure. By the time I finished, it was 221 pages that we were passing back and forth between writer and editor to handle in LibreOffice and MS Word, and it was rather unwieldy.

Towards the end of the process I downloaded Scrivener but I was too far along to try converting the document. However, when I worked on the Open Content materials from War of Ashes later on, I tested a variety of more advanced writing tools (mostly distraction-free editors and LaTeX-based power tools), with the most promising being LyX and Scrivener.

In the end I decided that Scrivener was a good option for me. It was powerful, flexible, inexpensive, multi-platform, easy to learn thanks to its great tutorials and manuals, and supported by a vibrant community.

When I say inexpensive… The macOS, Windows, and iOS versions go for $40, just enough to cover minor support costs, and you can download a free trial version. The Linux version (that’s the one I use) is free because it’s unofficial but the user community is very helpful, and I ended up sending my $40 as a donation because it was worth every penny.

It has so many features and so much flexibility to work the way you want. I use it right from the planning stage to create my structure and outline, and to gather my writing resources: publisher’s guidelines, references, examples, cheat sheets, lists of names, notes I jotted down, etc.

I use its metadata features to add notes to each section such as keywords, actions needed (“Write examples of play,”) references cited (“Top Secret, TSR, 1980,”) status (“first draft”), or who will be a collaborating author on this section.

I have Scrivener set up to save the draft in my working folder and create a backup on Dropbox, in addition to using iDrive for my regular computer backup. On top of that, every time I stop working for the night or reach a significant milestone, I compile an export version of my draft in .docx format and post it for my publishers on Google Drive so they can follow my progress, and have a work product in hand if anything happened to me.

But I kind of got used to its ease, and I forgot what an improvement it was! Except that when I stopped to take stock of my progress tonight, I looked at the page count and realized what a chore the current drafts would be to handle on a basic word processor. In addition, I had reworked several individual sections of the Tianxia Rules Companion this weekend and instead of being a major hassle to locate the sections to edit in the middle of a manuscript, it was a breeze. So I just had to say a word for useful software!

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Ups and Downs and Ups

Thrilling news for me: A couple of weeks ago I received the green light from Evil Hat Productions to be creative director and primary author for a new Fate Toolkit focusing on espionage, heists, and confidence jobs. For now we’re referring to it as the Fate Infiltration Toolkit, but the name may well change along the way.

Not so thrilling: A week ago I got a terse note from my employer informing me of termination. Later that week I learned that other people had been let go as well, I’m not sure whether the entire office is closing. It was a miserable job for a short-sighted company, but it was a safety net — if a flimsy one. I had already been sending resumes around but I have to step up the job search.

Thrilling again: In the same batch of emails, I received one from Vigilance Press offering me a chance to write the next Tianxia book! It’s going to be a rules compendium that will present the Fate Core rules (based on the SRD) for people who are new to both Fate and Tianxia, along with game-master advice, optional rules, and so forth. We don’t have an official title yet for that one either, so I’ve been referring to it as the Tianxia Rules Companion.

Two books! Wow! I’m so excited about this.

 

RPG a Day: Ass-kicking Kickstarter…

Tianxia Front Cover2. Kickstarted game you’re most pleased you backed
No contest, it’s Tianxia: Blood, Silk and Jade from Vigilance Press. I have high hopes for a number of games that are in progress, but among the ones that have been delivered Tianxia continues to be the shining star after a year. I love the setting, the writing, the wuxia rules, the art, the layout, the quick-start characters, and the style of adventure starters. Plus, the stretch goals were great: it made it into hardback form, we got several nice supplements, and arcana for the Deck of Fate.

#RPGaDay2015

Writing Projects

WoA cover mockupI’m so happy about my current writing projects, I want to share what’s going on.

First, the layout of War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is in its later stages and looks so darn good! Dale Horstman is doing a fantastic job. If you think this cover looks nice—and it does!—just wait until you see the whole thing.

Sisiutl_mask

Second, I’m under contract for more writing for Evil Hat Productions: a Fate World called Sisiutl’s Children. I feel tremulous because writing about other cultures is fraught with danger, but I’m going to give it my best shot and ask for cultural review by knowledgeable people of these cultures. Here is the blurb:

“If you will stare fear in the face, I will be at your back. Together, we will stand up to the Devourers.”

The great spirit Sisiutl has taken it upon himself to help humankind grow in wisdom and strength. He sees light and dark in each soul, and coaxes out the light or punishes evil. Those he finds worthy become heroes — protectors of the Coastal People and mediators with the Spirit World. Bonded with the great water dragons that are Sisiutl’s progeny, they will fight monsters, arbitrate disputes, harvest knowledge, and face the darkness in their own souls.

Sisiutl’s Children is a Pacific Northwest fantasy setting based on the coastal Native cultures — Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth and others — mixed with the dragon-riding tales of Naomi Novik and Anne McCaffrey, where the heroes battle supernatural threats to protect their clan. Will you ride the dragon into battle or will you be the dragon?

And thirdly, I’ve also lined up an assignment for Vigilance Press, an as-yet unannounced project in their Tianxia line. This is all so exciting!

Credits: War of Ashes cover mockup: art © 2015 ZombieSmith, layout by Dale Horsten, coming out soon from Evil Hat Productions. Sisiutl mask photo licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia—carving by Oscar Matilpi.

Saying Yes: Tianxia – Blood, Silk and Jade

Tianxia Front CoverIn recent weeks I wrote a series of posts on game-masters who say “No” to player ideas, and how GMs can dramatically increase everyone’s fun at the table by learning to listen and say “Yes.”

Then came Big Bad Con 2014, where I was scheduled to run events using three different games: Atomic Robo RPG, Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade, and Firefly RPG. Let me be honest: after all these years, I’m always jittery about my convention games right before I run; but this time, I had just increased the pressure by kvetching about bad habits of GMs, and how it should be done instead… Thankfully, Big Bad Con is particularly notable for the incredible calibre of players it attracts. Three tables full of superb players was just what I needed to restore my nerve, and we had great adventures. I can proudly say that I successfully stuck to the advice I’d been giving, and things worked out magnificently.

So I thought I would turn the experience into posts where I would share mini-reviews of the three game systems, step-by-step examples of my game preparation and GMing, and my original game notes for anyone who might want to use them.

Tianxia: To Live and Die in Băo Jiāng

1 – Prepping

On Saturday afternoon I ran my first game of the wuxia fantasy Tianxia: Bood, Silk & Jade from Vigilance Press, which builds on the Fate Core system from Evil Hat Productions. I believe this was the only Tianxia event at the convention. I decided to expand on one of the story starters provided in the book, setting it during a big Moon Festival for colour and action. Here is what I wrote for my game summary in the program:

To Live and Die in Băo Jiāng
Forgery, theft, treachery, ambition. Diplomats, courtiers, and Imperial scions. A holy day and a parade. And kung fu. All of Băo Jiāng is topsy-turvy when a secret treaty is negotiated under cover of the Moon Festival — while daring thieves plan to rob the Imperial Seal. And did we mention kung fu?

The scenario in the book includes a premise (the imperial seal which is in the hands of Princess Ju, travelling incognito, will be “borrowed” and counterfeited by a master forger), suggestions of ways to entangle the player characters and possible consequences, and the stats for the two main non-player characters (the princess and the forger). While I liked this beginning a lot, I needed a backdrop that would incite to action as well as additional story hooks, because I had to drive all this to have lots of action and some sort of resolution in a four-hour time frame with a group of relative strangers at the table. Hence, adding the secret treaty negotiated under cover of the Moon Festival. Continue reading “Saying Yes: Tianxia – Blood, Silk and Jade”