I'm starting to play Ars Magica 5th with my group and I would like to play around with making some tablet app for helping keeping track of Ars Magica stuff, not just character sheet but also ability/spell information, easy to access formulas, tables and other useful information.
Having some experience with this from other systems I know that the first major obstacle for such an app to get to an useful state is to get all the data/information into it (the second major obstacle being it having a decent UI/UX). So with that in mind I was wondering if Ars Magica has something like the SRD that DnD and Pathfinder have or if someone else in the community has compiled into a computer readable format all the information.
Hopefully with the data at hand we would be able to eventually even release something to the community But before promising anything we would have to see what we have to work with! (We are programmers by trade, so the actual coding doesn't scare us, that's the fun part )
The only tool of this kind I found is a pretty decent excel character sheet (here: http://www.chaomancer.net/blog/?p=304) , but it doesn't do everything we want and it's a bit clunky to use on tablets.
I think the closest thing to the SRD or anything like that is the small collection of pdf's on Atlas's site that a few of use write to collect general extensions to rules (shape/material bonuses, virtues/flaws, spell guidelines, etc.) for the community.
Consider something like the following. You want to cast a spontaneous spell. You select the Arts. You get a drop-down list of guidelines. You select Range, Target, and Duration. After selecting that you are informed of expected requisites and can select them. Then you have some options to add magnitudes for complexity, requisites, etc., including some standards (like moving images in Imaginem). In the end it provides you with the result. To me that seems a lot more pleasant than looking up the guidelines in books or a pdf and trying to search for the various information.
Sure, I can see that, but then you have the issue of how was the character entered into the app. Is it just a monkey punch operation, or does it assist with development? The rules for development and advancement while useful in play become unwieldy in play (determining what spontaneous effects are possible) so splitting these into a develpment/data entry mode and a player aid mode would be really important. It's one of the things that I wish MetaCreator did a better job of, and if I had more time, I'd figure out how to write in it's language to make it better...
Before getting into the problems surrounding the usability and usefullness of such app, I would just like to know if there is any data around for the app to use. If there isn't, it's a shame, as it greatly reduces the likelihood of us doing something... Inputting lots of data by hand isn't very interesting...
Does anyone know how Metacreator gets the data? It does seem to be a decent tool, but it's not really what I am imagining.
What data are you looking for? The data set of the spell guidelines? Those are pretty easy to copy and paste from PDFs of Ars Material already published. There is also a PDF list of supplemental guidelines, I think a link is hosted on the Atlas Games home page. Spells? Again, they'll have to come from Ars Magica source material. But I will just say that this begins to approach discussing infringing on copyrights, so I'm going to pull back a bit.
The biggest hurdle here is not the data, but the rules set for handling the data, since it's implicit to any project like this that the users supply the data, and the application handles the implementation of the rules. Even the Virtues and Flaws aren't really data, they're rules to be implemented. So, I'm not really sure I understand what you're asking...
An app (or multiple) to help with enjoying Ars magica would have both system helper functionality (like calculating spell level, xp costs for abilities, etc) and quick-reference functionality (like having easy ways to access the data regarding character creation, or regarding specific types of spells, or quick lookup on abilities and their descriptions).
So what I mean by data is a structured file that contains, for example:
Flaw name: Bla
Flaw Type: Major, Supernatural
Flaw description: BlaBla
Flaw Effect: Characteristics: Intelligence +1 Soak +2 Other effect: "Turns your pinky red"
Some of this data would be used for system helper stuff, other just for quick lookup.
But you're right that this would probably infrige on copyright, depending on what Atlas games has done in this area. Which is why I asked if there was something like the SRD, which has a specific license (the OGL) that it's published with and clearly states the rules governing it. Even if there wasn't such a broad license for Ars Magica, even something that would allow for non commercial use of the data would be great and a good way to reinforce the community, imho.
Anyway, it seems like what I was looking for isn't available. Thanks for the replies.
I would personally love a tablet app that access MetaCreator data files and displayed this information. Most of the data already resides in MetaCreator, they just need a handy app for accessing it outside of the development/advancement framework, IMO.
To the best of my knowledge, there are two broad classes of data formats in widespread use in the Ars Magica community.
The first, and by far the most common, is Metacreator. It is a proprietary program, for Windows only. I have never looked inside a Metacreator file to see the contents so I can't tell you what the format is, but it may not be anything universal like XML or JSON. I would suggest you inquire on Metacreator's Yahoo group. I would be happy to send you some sample files of characters from my Saga so you can try to reverse-engineer them, but I think you might end up having a hard time unless you have a copy of Metacreator yourself (in which case my characters won't help you much). Also, you should probably get the blessing of Metacreator's owners, Bruce and Peggy Kvam, if you want to take this approach.
The second class of data that's out there is various spreadsheets. The problem there is fragmentation: not everyone uses the same spreadsheet, and probably there are dozens of different spreadsheets for ArM characters, each with a small user base.
I have long been meaning to develop an XML schema for Ars Magica characters. Haven't gotten around to it yet. If you are interested in collaborating on such a project, PM me, please. That schema would enable one to write Ars Magica characters in standard format for converting them between different spreadsheets, for example.
Ask Atlas if they can help? If you are producing an app for personal use only they may be able to point you in the right direction: and if you plan to distribute the app at all you may well run in to IP and Licensing issues, and will need to talk to Atlas Games anyway? I'd ask Atlas first, and see what they say?
No known existing handy electronic collection that I know of.
The first big hurdle would be establishing/agreeing a standard for the format, such as your JSON keys or XML tags. Probably the best approach there is to simply make the rules as your own needs require; trying to get agreement on that from the community would be an epic thread that will probably crash and burn. Too many computer geeks in these forums.
As Andrew says, there are likely some permissions issues to address - though simply firing an email to Atlas and asking will probably get you a long way. They're sane people and will respond both fairly quickly and personally - though do email rather than just posting here.
I would LOVE to see a convenience app for Ars Magica that runs across multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Ubuntu, Mac, PC) - with bonus points if you can set a server. UI/UX would be the big challenge IMO. Sounds like a fun challenge, though.
Probably has a profitability rating of very low, but as a hobby project with easy data extensiblity it could well result in an app that gets ongoing support.
My guess is that you have to frame clearly what you want to achieve. Here are some specific application:
to assist players during play with spontaneous casting & fast casting - fairly limited application, but I would see great benefit as it could smooth the game flow with players... err how to say... mathematically challenged ? The player has to enter is character scores and spells and some indication regarding relevant flaws & virtues, the app assist him in calculating is spontaneous totals and what he can reasonable achieve;
to assist player in creating their character, quite challenging I believe. Tracking characteristics points, virtues & flaws drop down menu, talents, Arts (making the life easier to compute those pyramidal point system), then spells selection with automated casting total calculation. I tried a last century (litterally ) to use Filemaker as a tool for character sheet generation, I stopped whentrying to have the system calculates casting total for spells with requisit;
to track character progression - the most challenging of all, since it includes the second option, with the ability to make the character ages. Between Twiligth, initiation and so on, I have no clue where I would start.
I wrote a batch of macros for excel ages ago (2? Campaigns), that semi-randomly did NPC downtime.
Semi-random because it wouldn't do a LR unless there wasn't one, wouldn't attempt to get a familiar if there was one, would automatically marry apprentice training to the apprentice, etc.
Absolute nightmare, silly things that players won't do, it did as a matter of course, like instilling vis into a talisman for 20 seasons, then initiating something that kills your talisman.
As I recall, the major issues with the actual mechanics are things that are basically downtime only, mystery initiations, true research, experimentation. Basically anything that really needs SG examination.
Don't let me put you off! I'd love to have an application that could do the spont help described above.
I too have been thinking about a program to do this sort of thing.
I eventually decided on a web server that I could connect to from any device. It would have covenants, associated characters etc. full SG integration, everything a group needed to run a campaign (as long as they had the books).
I did some basic work on it, then found meta-creator. I still occasionally look at my old designs, but I never got as far as asking permission.
I would really like a quick and easy to use piece of software for Spontaneous Magic.
I know Metacreator can sort of do this, by using "Design Spell", choosing Tech and Form and looking up the guidelines, and adding R/D/T...but still