Our community blogs
As people put up more content for Canis Minor, I thought breaking down a Pugmire adventure might help people who are struggling with their own creations. So let’s talk about The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb. There will be some spoilers!
Elements of The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb came from a playtest adventure from way back when I started designing Pugmire (particularly, the tomb itself). When I rewrote it for the jumpstart, my goal was to showcase to potential Pugmire players how each of they key systems worked. But that’s also all-around good adventure design. I went for at least one roleplay or intrigue scene, one interesting combat or action scene, and one exploration or investigation scene. There’s actually a couple of each of those, and they’re not balanced (for example, there’s some overlap in “combat” and “exploration”). But if you have at least one of each, that’s a good start.
Next, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. A lot of players have remarked that Pugmire has a lot of “white space,” areas of the game world that aren’t detailed or explained. That’s absolutely intentional! The whole concept of Vinsen Pug having a secret tomb was largely just so I could write this adventure. And the adventure itself leaves more open space, leaving open the question of why a demon wants to destroy Vinsen’s sword and shield. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to use loose threads for future adventures — Derry Lurcher’s story comes from the existence of Rondo Border-Collie (another demon-possessed mercenary), and while they don’t directly connect, there’s clearly some elements in common between the characters.
Another strong tip is to use the scene questions in the books. I have those at the top of every scene not only so the Guide has a sense of what the scene is trying to accomplish, but also to help designers know what the scene’s about. I know I used them myself to make sure each of my scenes was on track! If you don’t remember, the questions are:
- How did the player characters get to this scene?
- What do the player characters need to accomplish in this scene?
- Who or what is keeping them from accomplishing it?
- What scene or scenes should logically happen next?
Related to that, one tip I try to give to each of my adventure writers: Make sure the players have something to do in a scene! If the whole point of a scene is for the characters to show up, hear something from the Guide, and move on, that’s not very exciting. Let the players make a hard decision, roll some dice, or get into some action. If nothing’s happening, it may be that what you think is a “scene” is actually part of a later scene where something actually does happen.
- Make sure everyone has something to do
- Don’t be afraid to reuse
- Push the boundaries
- Use loose plot threads
- Answer the scene questions
- Make sure each scene has something for the players to do
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With the current setup I feel we are more then ready, teachnically, to meet the demands of a great community again in 2018. The basis has been there for many years of course, but with some additions we now have a very capable platform to stand on:
The forums are state of the art and the best community forum software out there. It has all the features needed to make sure we have an engaging experience. With good membership functions such as user groups, private messages and all the editing tools needed this is a strong foundation to build from. New views can be chosen depending on how you want to see the forums: list view which is the old view, block view give a different approach to that view and then topic view that should you the updated topics based on your selection of forums to keep track of.
Clubs is a new standard function and it allow for creating your own little space on Shadownessence. Its perfect for creating communities inside communities such as your own gaming club, a RPG chronicle club, an art club or a writing club to mention a few versions. Every club can have their own discussion areas, galleries, download, blogs and calendars of course. Clubs can be open to anyone, private so no one even can find them without invitation or public but you need to be invited.
An old feature that is maturing a bit with features such as RSVP so you know who will join or not. You can even set up a RSVP limit if you have an event with limited seats. You can create venues if you have frequent events in the same location, like your gaming HQ. I have added a community calendar for pretty much anything and also a special calendar for events. This allow you to add your events so you may get some attention to your events.
A much appreciated function has returned and we now need to rebuild it again. I have reached out to our old patrons and will contact the artists I have on my personal social networks as well. We have a lot of good artists in the community so hopefully some of them will add their creations from Deviant Art and other places. I will contact the V5 art director Mary Lee as well to see if I can lure her in here as well with her great art.
It's in a terrible shape, but the function is there. I have contacted @MrGonev5 to ask permission to add his extensive collection of character sheets as we had in the past. I will also see if we can get some permission for the WoD fonts and other things that can be of use for you. Eventually the plan is to create a few skins for these forums as well that can be used for creating your own community. It's work in progress though and it will take a while to beck into shape.
A new section with two purposes: List every single book available to purchase from drivethrurpg.com and to let you sell and buy items you are missing from your collection. I have added sections for some optional categories as well, such as books, magazines, games and of course art for our talented artists. As this is a very new section for Shadownessence we'll see how this will evolve and how we should set it up. Right now it's setup with a $1 fee for each transaction to support the site, but that might very well be removed if we see that it's hurting the users in any way.
The Videos section (with Twitch support)
Another rather new feature where I was amazed over how much content there are out there! I found some great video creators, and not just the official ones, and I think this can be a fun feature to have. It's fast and easy to add new videos and for those that are active on Twitch we have support for live streaming as well. As the new video games come out I am sure we will see new streamers and with this we have a good place to showcase them.
The blogs allow anyone to write, not just management. You can create group blogs, which is great for news and articles that you share with others. You can create your own blog for any number of reasons, like expressing your opinions on the upcoming V5 material, report on events or why not make it a character diary of sorts? In the World of darkness news blog I am using the RSS import feature to grab the latest news from WhiteWolf and Onyx Path so you always get the latest news with links t he original article.
The Raffles and Give Aways
If you remember a long time ago, we had Raffles to support the site and we got so much support from the WhiteWolf authors that donated books and other items. This funtionality is now back and it's open to anyone if you want to host a raffle or give away. I am looking into the best ways to use this to give away some books and other items together with for example drivethrurpg.com and WhiteWolf themselves. I think this can be something fun and hopefully we can get some traction on the old "Month of the" feature that we had a long time ago where we featured a certain system for a month.
Chat has always been a big deal as Shadownessence was created out of the old Dark City RPG chat created almost 20 years ago now. We have a Discord server setup thanks to @Amaranth and you can see a Discord Widget on the forum start page. I have added the user groups there so you should have the same user group there as on the forums. For now we are just having a good time chatting in the void, but we will for sure have game related sections soon and I also hear some whispers that we might have some IC RPG chat happening in the future....
That is just the beginning....
Visually these forums are using a purchased theme and as time permit I will look into making a custom skin for it. For now I will simply adjust the things that is already here and then time will tell when a new layout will be possible.
In the coming weeks we will get several new features in the 4.3 update from invision Community. These are coming with regular intervals as they have done for the past 15 years or so, but expect the blogs to have a much needed visual update and that the clubs functions can be seen in the forums and so on after that update.
- We now support Elasticsearch which is a search utility that allows for much faster and more reliable searching.
- The REST API now supports search functions.
- Both MySQL and Elasticsearch have new settings for the admin to use to set search-defaults and default content weighting to better customize search logic to your community.
- Visitors can now search for Content Pages and Commerce Products.
- When entering a search term, members now see a more clear interface so they know what areas they are searching in and the method of search.
- Commerce can now send a customizable account welcome email after checkout.
- You can whitelist emails in the spam service to stop false-positives.
- REST API has many enhancements to mange members.
- Ability to join any OAuth service for login management.
- Invision Community can now be an OAuth endpoint.
- Wordpress OAuth login method built in.
- Support for Google's Invisible ReCaptcha.
- Groups can be excluded from Leaderboard (such as admins or bot groups).
- All emails generated by Invision Community can now contain admin-defined extra promotional text in the footer such as recent topics, Our Picks, and more.
- Admins can now define the order of Complete Your Profile to better control user experience.
- Option to make a Club visible but invite-only
- Admins can set an option so any Club a member is part of will also show in the parent application. So if you are in a Club that has a Gallery tab then those image will show both in the Club and in the main Gallery section of the community.
- Club members can now follow an entire Club rather than just each content section.
- There is a new option on the Club directory page for a list view which is useful for communities with many Clubs.
- If you have Commerce you can now enable paid memberships to Clubs.
- Admins can set limits on number of Clubs per group.
- If a group has delete permission in their Club, they can now delete empty containers as well.
- Members can ignore invitations.
Moderation and Administration
- Unrestricted moderator or administrator permission sets in the AdminCP are visually flagged. This prevents administrator confusion when they cannot do something as they will be able to quickly see if their account has restrictions.
- You can choose to be notified with a new Club is created.
- Moderators can now reply to any content item with a hidden reply.
- Download screenshot/watermarks can now be rebuilt if you change settings.
- Support for Facebook Pixel to easily track visitors.
- Moderators can now delete Gallery albums.
- Automatic moderation tools with rules to define when content should auto-hide based on user reports.
- Totally new member management view in AdminCP.
- More areas are mass-selectable like comments and AdminCP functions for easier management.
- Commerce now has full Stripe support including fraud tools, Apple Pay, and other Stripe features.
- Commerce packages can now have various custom email events configured (expiring soon, purchased, expired).
- Full Emojii support in the editor.
- Setting so when someone is typing in an editor, other members will see a "Member X is typing..." status in the editor view.
- Complete overhaul of the Gallery upload and image views.
- Announcements system overhaul. Now global on all pages (not via widget) and new modes including dismissible announcements and top-header floating bar option.
- Many new reports on traffic and engagement in the AdminCP.
- Blog has new view modes to offer options for a traditional site blog or a community multi-member blog platform.
- The content-starter can now leave one reply to Reviews on their item.
- Commerce now makes it much easier to do basic account-subscriptions when there is no product attached.
- Forums has a new widget where you can filter by tags.
- If tags are not required, the tag input box now indicates this so the member knows they do not have to put in tags.
- Member cover photos can now be clicked to see the full image.
- Any item with a poll now has a symbol on the list view.
- Twitch.tv embed support.
- You can now update/overwrite media in the Pages Media Manager.
- Mapbox as an additional map provider to Google Maps.
- Direct support for Sparkpost has been removed. Anyone currently using Sparkpost will automatically have their settings converted to the Sparkpost SMTP mode so your email will still work.
- Your cache engines (like Redis) will be checked on upgrade and in the support tool to ensure they are reachable.
- Third-party applications will now be visually labeled to distinguish them from Invision Community official applications.
- The queued tasks list in the AdminCP is now collapsed by default as queued tasks are not something people need to pay much attention to during normal operations.
- When upgrading from version 3 series you must convert your database to UTF8 and the system saves your original data in tables prefixed with orig. The AdminCP now alerts you these are still present and allows you to remove them to reclaim storage space.
- On new installs there are now reasonable defaults for upload limits to keep people from eating up storage space.
- Categories in all apps (forums, gallery albums, databases, etc.) no longer allow HTML in their titles. This has been a concern both in terms of security and usability so we were forced to restrict it.
- Large improvements to the Redis cache engine including use for sessions.
- The login with HTTPS option has been removed and those who were using it will be given instructions to convert their entire community to HTTPS.
- Images loaded through the proxy system now honor image limits for normal uploads.
- We now consider BBCode deprecated. We are not removing support but will not fix any future issues that may come up.