Tidying up LARP character sheets: an app in progress

So. I LARP. Twice a month, I go out of my house dressed like a nurse and stand around acting like I see ghosts and have an extra-special creepy ghost of my own on my shoulder.

Yeah, so if I’m late to your Saturday afternoon picnic this summer, this is likely why.My Geist LARP character
I LARP in White Wolf‘s Geist system, which is very new in the LARP world — the worldwide game just started in March. There’s one person that has taken it upon herself to create and maintain (sorta) Excel character sheets, and the sheets for the Vampire game seem up-to-date and fully functioning. The Geist one isn’t so much, alas.

Instead of mucking with Excel files — which don’t work in OpenOffice or GDocs very well — I’m going to move this whole idea online. The idea’s in architecture/design, but the core idea is simple: a place where people can make, save, and print World of Darkness character sheets. It’s going to be tailored at LARPing in the Camarilla for the moment, including fields for member numbers and such. It’s designed so as to be easy to add other World of Darkness games — those of a certain version adhere to the same formulas, by and large.

The initial release’s functionality is simple, too. Folks create an account in a very slim process — username and password, with a (re)CAPTCHA to cut down on spammage. When you create a character sheet, you pick which game you’re playing. Initally, that’ll be base World of Darkness or Geist.

At this point, you’ll enter the Creation Mode with the standard White Wolf 5/4/3 dots for attributes, 11/7/4 for skills, etc. Once all those dots are used, you move into Edit Mode.

Edit Mode is where complications have to be reduced, because XP needs to be redistributable and every use logged. The purchase of dots should be customizable; maybe your GM ST let you buy that dot at half cost. The XP log needs to be easy to get to and easily edited. If you delete one too many attribute dots, too, you need to end up back in Creation Mode until that dot is spent. Add in custom starting XP and the ability to add custom merits (etc.).

At any time in this process, you can enter character name, your name, your Archetype, Vice, Virtue — all that stuff that would be at the top of a standard character sheet.

Simple enough.

Problem is, I don’t have a solid feel on the interface I want. My first thought is to mimic a paper sheet to hide the complexity that’s going on behind the scenes. This is all stuff that players don’t really think about, and I don’t want to force a change in their model.An example paper character sheet
Another approach would be a tabbed interface that split up the “sheet” into major blocks — attributes, skills, powers, etc. Much harder to skim, less flexible in terms of making sidebars useful. Plus, the D & D character building software takes a tabbed approach, and I found pretty annoying. I’m not a normal user, though.

Other than those two options…?

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