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Module Making Manual

Module Making Manual

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Published by soulofthereaver
A little primer on how to make library modules in the Fantasy Grounds II virtual tabletop software
A little primer on how to make library modules in the Fantasy Grounds II virtual tabletop software

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Published by: soulofthereaver on Aug 12, 2010
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Module Making Manual v 1.0-
 by SoulOfTheReaver 1 Intro1.1 Stuff you'll need1.2 XML Primer 2 FG2 general style Tags3 The module3.1 The structure of the Module3.2 The libraries section3.2.1 Library header 3.2.2 Library Entries3.2.2.1 Window Classes3.2.2.2 Links3.2.2.3 The referencetext class3.2.2.4 The referenceindex class3.2.2.5 The npc and item classes3.2.2.6 The feat class3.2.2.7 The skill class3.3 The reference section3.4 The image section3.5 Adventure module sections4 Final thoughts1 - IntroSo you wanna make a library module for your favourite game system, but don't know whereto start? Well you've come to the right place.Fantasy Grounds 2 makes good use of a rather intuitive and human readable method of defining and storing everything from its user data to the very windows and rules of the software inthe form of XML (extensible markup language) files as well as a bit of LUA scripting for therulesets. This makes it extremely customizable, as the many community rulesets available standtestament. If you have a knack for programming there is ample documentation on making and changing rulesets on the FG2 website. Making adventure modules to store and transport encounters,items, NPCs and tokens is not a mystery either thanks to Xorne's excellent video tutorials foundhere. Now many rulesets also come with a library that can have anything from game rules tomonster manuals or lists of feats or magic items, either for free (like Complete SRD) or for sale onthe FG2 store. But what if neither of these is the case for your ruleset? FG2, while otherwiseadmirably well documented (as shown above) has little to no information on making librarymodules. Information on this subject is scarce and available only as snippets of information that youmust hunt down on the forum. Failing that you have to learn to do so yourself by poking around in amodule's guts. Having done that, I've decided to write this little guide to make the life of those thatwould do the same a bit easier.As I'm sure you've noticed by watching Xorne's videos you can easily export adventuremodules from within FG2 itself, building them with the game's internal text editor and NPCcharacter sheets and whatnot. This is not possible for Library modules. Fret not however, you CANmake them, you just need a bit of patience, a bit of info(found here) and a few simple tools; this brings me to our first order of business:
 
1.1 - Stuff you'll need
Technically all you'll need is notepad, but these tools help make your life a bit easier:
Any archiving program that can open ZIP files. I use WINRAR .
A dedicated XML editor likeXML Marker . Get it. You'll thank yourself for it.
A basic HTML editor to help with writing reference pages. You can technically use FG2'sinternal editor but that one doesn't have support for making tables, and those are a bother todo by hand.
Basic knowledge of writing HTML. This guide assumes it. If you don't have it,learnwhatan HTML tag is, and learn to properly use the most basic ones. Now let's get down to business.
1.2 - XML Primer (skip to the next section if you know XML and/or Kung Fu)
eXtensible Markup Language is a machine-independent, human readable way of 
 storing 
and
transporting 
data. It is very similar to HTML in concept but where HTML's purpose is to formatand display data, hence well-defined tags, XML is designed to organize and store it. This means thatit has no predefined set of tags, those are up to the software reading it, in this case FG2. This alsomeans that
 you can make up your own tags
where appropriate. It does however have a few rules thatyou should know about and keep in mind. I'm listing them here in order to avoid common mistakesand make sure your modules work as intended:
-
All XML files start with a declaration that looks like this
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
It mentions the XML version and the character set (in this case Latin-1/West European)Don'tforget to include that if you're building a module from scratch.
-
The first tag that comes after the declaration is the root element. The XML must start andend with that tag. In FG2 the root element is simply <root>, which should be the second lineafter the declaration(empty lines don't count). Conversely the last line should be </root>,ending the tag.
-
That reminds me – make sure every tag is properly closed. XML marker will scream at youif you leave any open ones by the way. While you're at it make sure that:
-
All tags must be properly nested. Simply put
<b><i><u>text</u></i></b>
is correct, while
<b><i><u>text</i></b></u>
is not! Close child tags before closing their parent tags. Don't let them overlap.
-
When naming tags – you can use letters and numbers as well as special characters. Stayaway however from the characters ./:$& for obvious reasons. Also don't
start
the tag namewith a number. Finally, be careful when giving tags names so they don't conflict withdedicated FG2 tags, more on those later 
-
When giving tags attributes don't forget to quote the value, like so:
<name type="string">
-
If you need to type & within your text, use &amp; which is an entity reference, to avoidconflicts. There are more. Google them. While you're at it Google XML Tutorial for moreinformation
2 - FG2 general style Tags
While XML has fully customizable tags, FG2 uses some in common with HTML where textformatting is concerned. That said it doesn't use all HTML tags, and of those it uses, some work differently. Furthermore it has some of its own custom style tags. I'll reference each here:
 
Tags that function like their HTML counterparts:
<p> - simple paragraph tag. Nuff said.
<b><i><u> - Bold, Italic, Underline.
<table> - limited compared to HTML: The border attribute doesn't work. Use thedecoration="underline" in the <tr> tags to draw the table lines. Colspan works but rowspandoes not.
Tags also found in HTML but with a different function:
<frame> - syntax is like that of <p>. It makes a chatbox with draggable text.
<list> opens a bulleted list like <ul> would in HTML. Each item must have the <li> tag asnormal.
 FG2's custom formatting tags:
<h> is a paragraph tag with a different font. Heading basically.
<listlink> is the link tag from within text windows. Very important tag. More detail here.
3 - The module
OK now we're getting to the juicy part! What's in a module? that which we call a .mod byany other name would smell as sweet; which is to say not at all because all a .mod file is, is basically a ZIP archive renamed. To open them just rename them temporarily to .zip or even better get your archiver to be the default software to open .mod files, well unless you're into old-schoolmusic formats, but don't worry about it if you don't get that.Inside a module you'll usually find two files, possibly three. One is called
definition.xml
,which is basically a label for the module. It looks sort of like this:
<root><name>Complete SRD Monsters</name><author>Digital Adventures, LLC.</author><ruleset>DarkHeresy</ruleset></root>
First is the <name> as it will show up in your library. <author> is self explanatory, and<ruleset> is what ruleset it will work with. Must be exactly as the ruleset's folder name. Casesensitive, as is all XML by the way.Another file you may or may not have is
thumbnail.png
. It's a small graphic that will showup next to the Module name in the browser. Make it square, no more than 100x100 for best results.Just put it in the archive and it will show up. Now the most important file, the one that
holds most of the module's data
, will have one of three names. It will either be
db.xml
,
client.xml
or 
common.xml
, and what name it has isimportant because it will alter the behaviour of the module. If you name the file client.xml, it willonly load for your players if they have the file on their computers. A common.xml file willdownload the data to the players even if they don't have it, useful for the lazy. Finally db.xml willonly show up for you, the players won't even see it. Use this for stuff like monster manuals whichthey don't need to see.If the module is an adventure module you may also see other files like tokens and stuff but thosethree files are the most common.Speaking of adventure modules, people separate them from library modules but theseparation is false. You can put adventure data and library data in the same module. This is useful if say you're building a campaign module which also includes special rules or new feats and such thatyou want the players to easily reference. Keep that in mind.

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