7 April 2011

sed VS the Hypertextual DM

So, continuing with the theme of my last couple blog posts.

One positive thing about 3rd Edition D&D was the Open Game License, which made sites like this possible: an online, hypertext version of the d20 System Reference Document, which contains most of the core D&D 3.5 rules. (However, there are some major restrictions, namely the absence of rules for character creation and experience. To me it feels not unlike a crippled demo or shareware version of a computer program. It's a handy resource, but to really be useful you'll still have to buy the expensive rule book.)

When I first saw this site, my first thought was, naturally, wouldn't it be cool if there was something like this for AD&D 2nd Edition? A little Googling didn't uncover anything of interest, which isn't surprising, of course, since 2nd Ed wasn't released under an open licence like 3.5.

However, back in the 90's there was an AD&D Core Rules CD-ROM, which contained electronic versions of the rule books. I'm not too keen on even trying to make the software work on a modern GNU/Linux machine, but digging around the contents of the CD (2.0, expanded version), I actually discovered html versions of the books.

These of course look really ugly, black on white with bright red headlines etc. None of the modern elegance of the above 3.5 online version. And the html code itself is... Well, obviously software generated and not created with later editing in mind. A real nightmare, in fact. Even so, I decided to try to spruce it up a little. I finally managed to make a fairly big difference by replacing the explicit font tags in the code with span tags, so that I could easily modify appearance with an external style sheet. Seeing as there were literally hundreds of files, this took a little scripting, and was an excuse to learn a little about the sed tool for Unix.

So, even though there's still a lot of room for tweaking, I now have a hypertext version of AD&D 2nd Ed, which is fairly functional and more aesthetic than the original 90's product. The question, of course, is why exactly, and what will I do with it? I guess this was done mostly for kicks, as an exercise and (let's face it) blatant procrastination, since obviously this is copyrighted material and I can't distribute it anywhere. Of course it could theoretically be of use if I ever run another D&D game, but, as I've said before, the odds don't quite seem to be currently in my favour on that one...

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