Screenshot of Sidhe Woods Grove app

This is an altogether different beast. As a hoarder of both physical books, and PDFs, I have come to see the relevant pros and cons of each. Especially with regards to PDFs, sure, they’re cheap, don’t take up any space, and are searchable, but there are also so many drawbacks:

  • they look pretty, but internally they’re a mess, and even something ostensibly as easy as extracting text is pure guesswork - their content has no logical structure, only visual structure;
  • they can be quite complex and thus hard on the processor, making them slow to navigate through;
  • they don’t take advantage of any of the other benefits of being displayed on a computer—they’re still dumb documents.

None of which is surprising, given what they were created for. They are a high fidelity representation of an eventual physical product.

But I was sure that we could do better with the web. Not that I was the first to publish RPG material as web sites, that had been done many times before. Except: it was still generally ugly, or at least worse than the graphic design of a PDF, and also didn’t really take advantage of anything the web could offer us.

So, I decided to make a publishing platform that took markdown files, applied a beautiful theme to them, and created online books with all the graphical bells and whistles of print design. Things like text flowing around the shape of an image (any shape, not just rectangles), backgrounds beneath images that spread out under surrounding text, PNG image masks with JPG images that show their full image on click, and more. Plus web specific hotness, like full responsiveness for excellent viewing on any size device, the ability to grab individual paragraphs, images, or tables for saving in one easily accessible “inventory”, and much more in planning. And things you get for free of course, like countless tabs with fast switching between them.

As a proof of concept I used the player’s guide for a large 5E campaign I had written and that my players and I were adventuring in. I took it to a couple of publishers to get feedback, which gave me extra insight into its potential strengths, should I spent a bit more time on it.

But then Brexit happened, and my wife and I moved from England to Germany to escape some of that total madness, and the project got put on the backburner. It’s still fermenting in my brain, though each time I think of developing it further I want to start over with a new technology stack. Go figure.

Check out the sample Grove book