InDesign novice?

indesign2013_RPGNcoverIn my (now defunct) career as a freelance graphic designer, I had occasion to be an instructor at Everett Community College, where I taught courses in the Adobe Creative Suite applications (InDesign and Acrobat most specifically). Recently, I have had a few instructors (located variously in Australia, California, and London) request to use my course materials in their teaching curriculum. This has spurred me to update and continue developing this material for casual and new users of InDesign.

The PDF and required exercise files can be purchased at RPGNow.com for just $1.00*.

Table of Contents

Lesson 1: Interface Overview

The Quickstart screen and Creating a New Document
The Control bar
Customizing your Workspace(s)
Customizing Menus and Panels
Saving your Workspace(s)
Exercise 1: Starting a new project template

Lesson 2: Working with Text Styles

The Paragraph Styles Dialog
The Character Styles Dialog
Exercise 2: Creating and editing text styles

Lesson 3: Working with Tables

The Table Styles Dialog
The Cell Styles Dialog
Exercise 3: Creating Table and Cell styles
Other creative uses for Table Styles

Lesson 4: Working with Objects

Formatting Objects
The Object Styles Dialog
Importable Graphics
Exercise 4: Creating and editing object styles

Lesson 5: Working with Master Pages

Creating and Organizing Master Pages
Basing Master pages on other Master pages
Exercise 5: Creating and editing master pages

Lesson 6: Working with Editorial Controls

Working with the Story Editor
Working with Search and Replace Routines
Dynamic Spell Checker
Exercise 6: Creating search and replace routines

*price subject to change without notice.

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Revolvers & Wizardry update

RnW_bugWork progresses, albiet slowly, on the OSRIC Weird-West expansion that is in preparation for the Door of Infinite Portals update.

The most recently completed development milestone, is the line art for the firearms that will be featured within the expansion; a selection of pistols, rifles, and shotguns (which I have termed ‘scattershot’). Also, in the development of rules descriptions for these weapons, I have gone into some small amount of history to explain where these items originated. In this, the expansion will feature four specific historic groups of warriors; Union Knights (gunslingers), Confederate Marauders (frontiersmen), Myrlunds (doctors), and Minotaurs (as PCs).

Firearms to be featured within the Revolvers & Wizardry Weird-West Expansion for OSRIC
Firearms to be featured within the Revolvers & Wizardry Weird-West Expansion for OSRIC

Other recent additions to the R&W expansion;

  • New weapons; bull whip, boomerang, Bowie knife, slingshot, military saber, bayonet
  • New combat options; one-shot kill, showdown, using two firearms simultaneously, firearms versus undead
  • New creatures; assassin bird, carnivorous cattle, desert raider (inspired by the sand people in Star Wars™), gummersaurus (a three-stage creature inspired by the Tremors movies and TV series), frontier hag, hyenawere, nameless stranger (undead creature inspired by Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter character), prairie lobster (inspired by the lobstrocities from Stephen King’s Dark Tower books), titanic rattlesnake, titanic tarantula, gargantuan tarantula hawk
  • New magic; grasses to provide healing, summoning, poisoning, ESP, and hallucinogenic spell-like effects (still in-progress)

Good gaming,

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OSRIC ebook RC1 (release candidate) ready for testing

OSRIC 2 ebook cover
OSRIC 2 ebook cover

eBook is complete! Having combed through the thing one last time this morning, I have posted the RC1 (release candidate) on the Usherwood blog. At this point, I need as many people as possible, on as many different devices as possible, to go through and bash the content for anything and everything. I think I caught all the issues, but that’s the thing; I *think* I caught everything.

Here’s a (partial?) list of what I was specifically looking for in my last pass;

  • A numerical indicator is not separated from its unit of measure by a line/paragraph/page break. For instance “100 gp” or “90 ft” always appears on the same line, no matter what line length you are viewing it at.
  • All quotes and apostrophes use typographer’s (curly) quote marks, not vertical “hash” marks.
  • All in-text references are hyperlinked.
  • The longer measurement (height vs. width) of all images is 400 pixels.
  • Hyphenations in tables that indicate a null value are set as em dashes.
  • Spell names and magic items referenced in the narrative are italicized.
  • It should always be “to hit”…not ‘to hit’ or to-hit or “to-hit” or any other permutation when discussing an attacking roll specifically.
  • A multiplication symbol is used when indicating multiple quantities of something. We (I) had a mixture of multi symbols and “x’s” occurring throughout the narrative and treasure notations.
  • If a paragraph starts with NB:, it should be formatted as footnote (small) text with a bold lead-in. If a paragraph starts with Note:, it should be formatted as a normal paragraph with a bold lead-in.
  • When a spell is reversible, the word “(Reversible)” is smaller and roman appearing next to the spell name in its description.
  • When used by itself, “HD” appears all caps. When preceded by a number, it is lowercase (i.e., 2+1 hd). The same rule applies when denoting hit points.

“Features” you might notice;

  • Some (but not all) top-level heads are forced to the top of a new page. This usually has to do with where I broke the XHTML files in order that the content will load faster.
  • All tables should be set to 100% of the column width. A few tables have content that will span more than your viewable window.
  • Hyphenation may appear within headings, and other awkward situations. I cannot figure out how to control hyphenation zones, or how to turn it off in an ebook CSS. If you know how, please enlighten me; hyphens in headings really piss me off. (I know the rules for controlling this in CSS for web pages, but it doesn’t seem to carry through into ebook formats. But, maybe it’s a just a quirk of ebooks we have to live with for right now.)

Given all this, as far as I can tell, I am ready to release this upon the World! But, I want to make sure it really is as 100% as I think it is. So, have a look at the  epub and/or the mobi which you can download from the Usherwood Adventures website, and let me know anything you may find.*

If you alert me to performance issues (slow loading, missing/non-displayed content, over-lapping content, whatever) make sure to let me know what device you are looking at it on. I have been testing the file on Adobe Digital Editions 2 on Mac, iBook on an iPad 2, Kindle Viewer on Mac, and Kindle Previewer on Mac.

I would like to give credit to all ebook testers on the Contributors page. So anyone who has provided feedback from the Alpha version on will see their name under the listing “ebook Testers.”

* I may choose to let some things go.

Good gaming,

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OSRIC ebook ready for Beta testing

OSRIC 2 ebook cover
OSRIC 2 ebook cover

Beta 1 ready for you to download!

Cruise over to the Usherwood Downloads page, to download the file(s) and get the info on this latest release.

Note about the ebook cover: I wanted to indicate visually that this ebook serves both the Black Blade Publishing hardbound book, as well as the Usherwood Publishing POD A5. Thus, the combined images. Feel free to comment on that as well if you wish.

Good gaming,

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OSRIC eBook ready for Alpha testing

The alpha eBook is ready for downloading and testing. The file is content-complete, and the primary navigation is working. However, as some of you may be painfully aware, tables in ebooks remain…well…somewhat less than user-friendly. So, I have converted three of the tables to graphics (leaving the remainder as normal HTML tables). The tables in question are the Strength and Dexterity tables in chapter 1, and the Nighttime Encounter table in Chapter 4. All other tables exist as exported out of InDesign.

Have a look and let me know your preferences/observations (with the tables specifically, but with the ebook as a whole if you wish) before I go through the task of converting them all to graphics (which will take a bit of time). When providing feedback, please let me know what device you are using it on.

You can download the files from the Usherwood download page. The file is available in both ePub and MOBI file formats.

Good gaming,

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Revised OSRIC 2nd Edition eBook in the works

OSRIC A5 cover
OSRIC eBook

I’ve been lax in getting a conversion of the most recent version of the OSRIC SRD converted for eBook readers. However, I am now actively working on this now. As with the previous edition, this will be available in both *.epub and *.mobi file formats and will be a free download. This version will contains all edits and treasure values included in the last Black Blade and Usherwood Publishing editions. The files should be available by the end of August 2013.

Good gaming,

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Lest we forget Revolvers & Wizardry!

The Gunslinger PC class for the Revolvers & Wizardry supplement
The Gunslinger PC class for
the Revolvers & Wizardry OSRIC supplement

…[sigh]…after an energetic start getting the Revolvers & Wizardry supplement started (for the planned Door of Infinite Portals re-boot), I kind’a got stalled over the summer. However, work continues (even if slowly) and artwork begins to come in. Here, I present the first piece to be completed (from the pencil of Peter Szmer); the Gunslinger.

Update (08/14/2013): Also just in; the Doctor and the Frontiersman (previously; the Highwayman).

The Doctor PC class for the Revolver & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.
The Doctor PC class for the
Revolver & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.
The Frontiersman PC class for the Revolvers & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.
The Frontiersman PC class for the
Revolvers & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.

Good gaming,

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Oh, I cannot express how sick of seeing this I am…

So, many of you out there are probably unaware that your Usherwood Publishing editor-in-chief/publisher has been engaged in a lengthy job hunt (16 months and counting, though a couple opportunities have made me aware of themselves this week, such that by next week the search may actually come to a happy close). Be that as it may, I continue searching as though there’s nothing immediately that may come to fruition.

I am a client of several head-hunters, and receive daily job announcements from them. It never amazes me to see what a prospective client/employer expects you to do, and what they expect to pay you to do it.

And today’s job announcements are no exception. Take this announcement for example;

…Position: Photo Editor (Photoshop Whiz!)
Location: Seattle
Status: Freelance
Estimated Duration: Weeks, possibly ongoing
Starts: Next week
Rate: $13+/hour DOE

Job Description:
Our client, a high end fashion retailer, is in immediate need of 2 photo editors to work onsite.

To qualify, you must have exceptional skills using Photoshop CS 6. Candidates who have strong experience in Illustrator CS 6 will be at the top of our list!

You will be working on photographs involving models and fashion, so please understand how to work with skin tones, models, etc. Responsibilities also include color correcting, resizing, batching and creating web ready graphics and doing background extensions…

So check it out; you want a Photoshop ‘Whiz’, who possesses ‘exceptional skills’, as well as ‘strong experience in Illustrator’. You want me to ‘color correct’, create ‘batch routines’ as well as ‘doing background extensions’. And you’re willing to pay me a whopping $13 an hour!…as a non-benefited freelancer? Seriously? And this is a ‘high-end fashion retailer’? Nordstrom maybe? (Their headquarters are here in Seattle.) And they can’t afford more than $13 and hour? To a non-benefited freelancer? I am dumbfounded. I am absolutely underwhelmed by your understanding of what these skills cost to develop and master. I am even more appalled that a recruiter of professional creative talent would let this go out to their talent pool. ‘Insulted’ does not even begin to express how I feel about this. If you’re a graphic designer also, I am sure you ‘get’ exactly what I am talking about.

The rate of pay offered would seem to indicate a more entry-level person would be more appropriate; say, a newly graduated youngster, or someone with a certification as opposed to a degreed and experienced designer.

BTW: I posted this commentary here at Usherwood Adventures, because it would be incredibly unprofessional to post it at my design/portfolio blog while engaged in a job search. However, I just had to get this off my chest somehow…it’s just so…ridiculous.

Good gaming,

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…awe, you make me blush

“Kramer is seriously a nut job.”

I love this comment by one reviewer of the Valen’cya’s Horde adventure; by my interpretation, the comment is in regards to my continued efforts at making all Usherwood products as detailed and topic-appropriate as possible (though specifically, I believe the reviewer is addressing the execution of cartography).

Read more of the review here.

Reviews for the rest of the Bone-Hilt series can be found at; Yrchyn, the tyrant, The Shattered Skull, The Shadowed Keep, In the Halls of the Mage-King.

Good gaming,

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In response to reviews…

Well, not all reviews. Ordinarily, I try real hard not to troll reviews of Usherwood products. However, I came across one that I feel I must comment on. However, I feel that to do so directly on the site where the review was posted would be highly unprofessional. So, hopefully putting my thoughts on the Usherwood blog will seem slightly less unprofessional. I wont call out the reviewer personally, but I will break the review down into its constituent parts here.

So, without further ado, let’s get started;

Foray into the Wilderness is a free product, and there’s a good reason why. It is a horrible product not worth the money.

Sorry you feel that way, but actually it’s free because it is a novelty product, just as all the other adventures that appear within the High-Adventures from Middle-School product line. ‘Novelty’ meaning, it’s intended to be a quick read of nostalgia for how were playing back in the late 70’s through early 80’s.

The artwork is mediocre (and that’s being generous). The font used simulates handwriting and makes it illegible. The document tries to simulate being written in a notebook. Instead of being quaint, it makes it doubly difficult to read.

Heya, if I am not making money on a product, you can bet I wont be spending too much in the way of artwork. The cover art (by Daniel Lorentsen) is stock art available through RPGNow.com, and I felt lucky to find it. Simulating handwriting in the font and on notebook paper; yes, an intentional design element. The original intent for all these products is to simply scan what existed at the time we created it. Unfortunately the author’s handwritten originals were in a pencil so light as to be completely unusable. Thus, the use of a hand-writting style script.

The content itself seems to have been written by a 5th grade munchkin player. From what I can see, we have a few notes on what could possibly be the start of a properly written adventure.

A 7th grade munchkin player actually.

Essentially, there a badly drawn map with 7 encounters. The encounters themselves provide just the barest of information on the type of monster and treasure. There are no proper descriptions or background information.

Refer to the marketing verbiage that is included with all the HAMS projects; Usherwood Publishing has spared all expenses to present to you this line of ‘classic’ First Edition and OSRIC™ compatible fantasy-based roleplaying game adventure modules. We haven’t even bothered to type-set the manuscript, because really, why bother? These adventures may not be good for your matured sense of high-adventure, but they should be good for a laugh or two.” I am not sure I can make it more clear than that what you should expect from these products.

After that, there’s a GM Adventure log, with an empty Notes page, an empty Module Title page, and empty Summary Matrix, Weapons Matrix, Combat Matrix, and Spells Inventory pages.

Well, you got that much correct anyway.

It almost looks like the author took old notes from when he was 13 years old, scanned them and tried to pass them off as a proper module. If that is the case, either keep it to yourself or complete and polish the module properly.

Again, refer to the marketing verbiage that is included with all the HAMS products.

The module ends with advertisement for additional products from Usherwood Publishing. Here’s a tip. If you include a sample of your products, make sure the sample is at least of some type of quality, not the junk you provided.

Not sure if you’re commenting about the quality of the HAMS products, the map making products, or the Bone-Hilt Sword products here. However, I stand by all Usherwood Publishing products, and it saddens me to see them categorized as ‘junk’.

I, for one, will not purchase any products from Usherwood Publishing.

I really don’t know how to respond to this final sentence of the review. I wont try to convince the reviewer of the value of the HAMS products. He obviously thought he was getting some other kind of product. I can only say, next time, read of the whole description of what you are downloading before downloading it.

Good gaming,

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