Bulette Storm


-- Download post as PDF --


It’s been a lot of work, but Bulette Storm – my first Patreon-funded free adventure – is now available on DMs Guild.

On Friday I put up quite a lengthy article in which I discussed the issues I see with the current state of RPG publishing, and the few innovations I was hoping to bring to the table. It sparked a lot of discussion. I’m not going to respond to any of that here, because frankly I’m exhausted. Instead I’m going to briefly talk about what I’ve learned from putting the interactive version of Bulette Storm together.

The first thing to say is that without a significant improvement to my workflow for putting these things together, it isn’t really feasible to do something like this again. I wish I’d started with a much simpler site-based adventure – a basic dungeon crawl, for example. That kind of adventure would work perfectly with what I’ve attempted to do; the investigative parts of Bulette Storm presented soemthing of a challenge.

At a conservative estimate, I’d say I’ve spent about 30 hours putting the interactive version this adventure together. That doesn’t account for time spent writing the thing in the first place, or producing maps, sourcing other artwork, and laying out the A4 and Letter-formatted versions. That’s an obscene amount of time to spend on producing a 26 page adventure. I’m very confident that the next project I attempt like this won’t take anywhere near that amount of time, because I had to learn a lot about Acrobat and InDesign while I was working on Bulette Storm, and I had to lay out each page from scratch.

Now that I’ve done one project like this, I know what kinds of things will and won’t work. I still don’t have page templates set up for myself – I’m not sure that’s feasible for this kind of layout – but the next time I come to do this, I’ll be able to start thinking about page layout as I’m writing (and writing with layout in mind, too). I think one thing that will greatly speed up this process is by designing templates for types of encounters. I have some thoughts on that, but I’ll wait until I have a bit more time to experiment with them before I talk about them.

The final interactive document for Bulette Storm is functional, and it looks pretty good, but it doesn’t do everything I envisioned. Part of the reason for that is that the more advanced things I wanted to do required a skillset that I just don’t currently have (I’ve forgotten all of the Javascript I once knew, for example). These are skills I can learn, but that’s going to take time – and if I’m going to relearn Javascript, then I might as well move away from PDFs and embrace HTML completely. I think there’s a lot that can be done with web pages/apps to present adventures in a more screen-friendly format. I’m excited to experiment with them, but – as I just said – currently I don’t have the skills to do it.

Bulette Storm is free, and I’d really like it if you’d download it and at least give it a look to see if you think this kind of formatting is of any use to you. If you don’t like it, that’s fine – the adventure is presented in a traditional format as well. Feel free to get in touch about it, either in the comments here or the discussion tab of DMs Guild (or via email), and if you feel like leaving a review I’d appreciate that, too.

Patreon funding has dropped below $100 this month, so there won’t be another free adventure until we get back up there. And honestly, that’s fine – this was an exhausting process, and I need some time to decompress from it.

Oh, and the normal Monday Map will be up either tomorrow or Thursday, depending on when I get the time to do it.

  1. Congratulations are in order! You’ve put together a fantastic adventure, achieved an impressive Patreon goal, and have pushed the envelope in an exciting direction regarding adventure design.

    As with all things new and exciting, I hit a couple rough patches with the interactive PDF. Most notably, its interactivity was quite limited outside of Acrobat Reader. I tend to view PDFs in one of three places: In the Chrome browser immediately after downloading, in Google Drive where I keep my D&D documents organized, or in SumatraPDF on the desktop. Unfortunately, the PDF’s interactivity was inhibited in each of these places. In particular, the tabs (e.g., Foreword / Adventure Information / Credits & Legal) did nothing upon clicking.

    This is a problem I’ve actually had in other highly interactive PDFs, so I wasn’t surprised. I downloaded Acrobat Reader to see if the PDF worked as intended in there, and sure enough, it worked just as intended.

    The bugginess with the interactive PDF wouldn’t even be a problem, though, because your print layouts are more than a graceful fallback. They’re functional and look great, too.

    I don’t know if the interactive PDF is the inevitable future of adventure modules — not least because of what sounds like an exhausting workflow for the author! — but I think the thoughtful design and your willingness to depart from the status quo says a lot of good things for your future modules. I’m always impressed by design that considers how the product will actually be used; in this case, by the DM. What you’ve produced here is the kind of innovation that I’m hoping makes waves in the D&D community; I think it could be really influential.

    Anyway, that’s a lot of hot air to say thanks heaps for the free adventure, and thanks even more for the exciting work you’re doing. I’ve only been following your blog for about a month, but I’m already a huge fan. Keep it up!

  2. I applaud your efforts in making it easier for a gamemaster to read and run an adventure on a screen. I hope you don’t mind a few comments in the spirit of constructive criticism.

    I would have liked a linear method of reading through the adventure. That is, the text you can reach by clicking on various parts of each page should also be reachable by paging down. Having a linear path through the adventure would also help me orient myself as to where I am in the adventure.

    This is an issue I also have reading ebooks. With a real book you know if you’re about half-way through, or near the end, etc. Pages of PDFs help when reading online, but the interactive format erased that information for the reader.

    The text in the interactive PDF was too small. It also appears on a textured background which also hurts readablility. (Strangely your colour letter version was not as bad.) This was exasperated when trying to read it on my mobile phone. I think in this experiment you forgot one screen: the mobile screen. The interactive PDF is unreadable on mobile.

    Of course the standard 2-column PDF is also a pain on mobile. I’ve found the most readable PDFs for mobile are those formatted for printing at 6×9 inches. These are usually formatted in a single column layout, which makes reading on mobile much easier.

    I think a quicker and possibly easier way to make adventure PDFs more screen-friendly is to provide a single-column version (optionally at 6×9 so that text is larger) in addition to (or instead of) the letter/A4 version.

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