"In het verleden behaalde resultaten bieden geen garanties voor de toekomst"
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These are the ramblings of Matthijs Kooijman, concerning the software he hacks on, hobbies he has and occasionally his personal life.

Most content on this site is licensed under the WTFPL, version 2 (details).

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My old blog (pre-2006) is also still available.

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Uses and requirements

Okay, so I'm gonna build a system to do administration tasks in our LARP club. But, what exactly are these? What should this system actually do for us? I've given this question a lot of thought and these are my notes and thoughts, hopefully structured in a useful and readable way. I've had some help of Brenda so far in writing some of these down, but I'll appreciate any comments you can think of (including "hey wouldn't it be cool if the system could do x?", or "Don't you think y is really a bad idea?"). Also, I am still open for suggestions regarding a name.

General outline

The general idea of the system is to simplify various administration tasks in a LARP club. These tasks include (but are not limited to) managing event information, player information, event subscriptions, character information, rule information (skill lists, spells, etc), etc.

This information should be managable by different cooperating organisers and to some extent by the players themselves. We loosely divide the information into OC information (info centered around players) and IC information (info centered around characters). OC information is plainly editable by players or organisers, where appropriate. IC information is generally editable by organisers and players can propose changes (but only for their own characters). These changes have to be approved by an organiser before being applied.

The information should be exported in various (configurable and/or adaptable) formats, such as a list of subscribed players with payment info, a PDF containing character sheets to be printed or a list of spells for on the main website. Since the exact requirements of each club and/or event with regard to this output vary, there should be some kind of way to easily change this output.

See more ...

0 comments -:- permalink -:- 15:26
LARP administration system?

Ever since I have been involved with LARP organization, I have been thinking about some way to properly administer subscriptions, events, characters, etc. This administration is mostly done in excel or text files, with the user visible part (who has subscribed and has their payment been received already?) in a forum post that was continuously edited and updated. Character administration is a similar story, with paper administration of character sheets not being uncommon.

As you can imagine, this is not quite optimal. Apart from being generally a lot of work, this approach is error prone. Also, all administration has to be done by the organization themselves and requests from players ("I want to upgrade this skill or that" or "Here is my updated background") have to be manually entered into whatever system is used.

Existing systems

Cauldron, the club I have been working for before was the first club (I know of) that used an on-line system to manage player characters (dubbed "chargen", for Character Generator). Players of various events could register their character, with all their skills, attributes and background. On the other side the organization can approve characters and changes to characters, assign experience points to them, etc.

While being a big improvement over previous manual administration and greatly reducing the workload, there were still a couple of drawbacks. Most significantly, the system did not track who was registered for what event. To prevent people from creating characters for random events, subscribed players would get an event password. In addition to the login/password needed for the chargen, this makes a whole pile of extra login info.

I once planned on reducing these problems by (proposing to) integrating an event subscription system into chargen, so it knows who is subscribed to what events. This has the added advantage of simplifying the event subscription administration and being able to generate a list of subscriptions and possibly payments dynamically. Shortly after formulating this intent, I stopped working for Cauldron, so this never saw any work from me.

Another "drawback" of the chargen was the focus on rules and skills, the actual character and its background were just an extra. This makes sense for big events with lots of characters, but seems wrong to me now...

I've also heard that the folks at Enneade were busy on a system for doing administration of subscriptions and perhaps also characters. I haven't seen or heard this myself yet, but I will investigate this a little further. Perhaps something can be gained from cooperating with them.

A new system?

As you will probably have concluded from my last few remarks, I have been thinking about also creating a system for performing miscellaneous LARP administration tasks. Right now I'm involved with Evolution Events, a relatively new LARP organization mainly founded by a number of former Cauldron crew members. We have recently had our first event. For this organization there is need for such a system.

One can wonder why I would want to create a new system instead of using one of the existing ones. Main reason here is that I want to create something which is generally usable. I personally like software that is general and reusable by nature and encourage open source software. Besides that, EE will be running different types of events with different rule systems. The rules (and therefore characters) for Lextalionis will be completely different from those of our upcoming Exodus event.

Though the Cauldron chargen does support multiple rule sets (from different Cauldron events), these are all similar and follow the same basic rules. Besides that, I do not expect Cauldron to just give their work away to other clubs, probably not even for future cooperation.

For the Enneade system, I haven't seen it yet, but since Enneade currently runs only one event with one rule set, I expect that modifying their system to support multiple rule sets is probably more work than starting from the ground up.

Having said that, I will probably look at both systems carefully to see which features and things worked, and which did not.

Building it

I have recently had a few conversations with Simon, organizer of the Symbols event. He was planning to work on a similar system. Since our ideas about this (both regarding the actual system as well as about making it shareable with other clubs) mostly matched, we decided to team up. Since then, I've also received help offers from Rene and Sna, within EE. I can probably use their help somewhere along the road, for the moment, I'll have to figure out what exactly we are supposed to build.

Though this post originally started out as a general description of what this system was supposed to be doing, this small introduction turned out to rather large already. I'll stop here, saving my plans for the actual system for my next post. Still, I'm going to end this post with the same thing I was going to end the original post with: This new system needs a name! If anybody has a nice suggestion, let me know!

3 comments -:- permalink -:- 22:15
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