The Tavern Keeper Blog

Well, it’s been an interesting week. Spending yesterday morning scrambling to get Tavern Keeper up, after an AWS update triggered some bad things.

Anyways, I’ve been thinking of Tavern Keeper for the past couple of months despite the fact that I’ve honestly have very little time to put into it. After talking with Kristi, we’ve come up with a rough plan.

In short … open source.

We’ve seen all the stuff that you guys have requested, and it’s stuff we want to do as well. But with both of us working (beyond) full time jobs, and only being able to do things on an off and on basis for the past 3 months, to say it’s been difficult has been an understatement.

That said, Tavern Keeper is more or less something we’ve realize will never be profitable. Honestly, that’s not a bad thing. But, as matter of openness – Tavern Keeper currently costs us about $150 / Month in server costs.

It was started not as a business, but as a solution to our own problem (all the other RPG sites suck! ;) ), and something that we’re not planning to let go just because the workload is larger than the profit (because, well, the other RPG sites still suck!).

So at the end of the day we’re going to be borrowing a page from Wordpress, and release the source code, while still providing a publicly available version of the site. This will allow us to do something no other site of our kind has done before – which we think in the end will make us better, stronger, and ultimately make a more significant impact in the community.

To give you guys a bullet point list of our plan as we see it at the moment.

  • ​Tavern Keeper (As in https://www.tavern-keeper.com) will continue to remain 100% free, and you’ll never lose features.
  • Our plan to separate the Front End from the Back End is still in play.
  • Each will be open sourced once the transformation is complete
  • Likely, you guys will see the front end before you see the back end (for security reasons, at this point)
  • This will also open the opportunity to offer in other formats beyond a website, such as mobile apps and extension tools that connect to the database
  • We will be eventually implementing (tasteful) Advertisements (which can be removed for $12 / Year, as we’re mostly looking to cover server costs at this point)
  • We may also open up the opportunity to access to our API server (for a fee) to connect to your own hosted version of the static site (or app, or extension, or whatever you create)

Exactly when we open source Tavern Keeper, I can’t really say. I do know that we’ve got a lot of technically inclined people, who have offered to help on multiple occasions. It is my hope that by open sourcing Tavern Keeper we can provide the world with the first class RPG platform that it deserves for free (or $12 a year…)

I want to give you guys … … well everything you want, and the reality is this is the only way that I can see to do it; without loosing my own sanity.

I know there’s many options out there for people looking to bring their games online. I know most of those projects suffer from the problem of a single developer, who ultimately vanishes, for months if not years. It has always been my goal to make sure Tavern Keeper isn’t one of them.

Hello everyone! This State of the Tavern comes to you a bit late, and as a text-only update this time. We went a bit silent in March, and we wanted to give you guys a little update as to what happened and where we’re at with the updates we discussed in February.

Where the heck did we go?

In a word, work. If you didn’t know, Tavern Keeper is run by only 2 of us, a hubby/wife team. We moved from CA to NJ this December, and Bill had been full-time on TK as we settled in, and I (Kristi) took on a full time job to pay the bills in January.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and wasn’t working out very well, and Bill ended up also picking up a full-time job in March.

With both of us working full time, it has become a bit harder for us to crank out features like we were. Additionally, we went at Tavern Keeper full-speed-ahead since last June, which has honestly taken a toll on us, and we were frankly just a bit burnt out and needed a little break from coding all the time!

Status of Updates, What’s next.

So where does that leave TK? Well, right where it is, actually. The truth is TK was started to solve our own problem – a great cross-device-friendly way to RP and collaborate with our gaming groups, and that hasn’t changed.

However, updates will be coming a bit slower, and support will be handled as soon as we’re able, and we ask folks to understand that it’s just 2 of us working on it part time for no profit, and to be patient. :)

Campaign Search

… Is nearly complete, and almost ready to launch. Bill wrapped up the back-end, and I need to plug-in and test the front end, so you should see that soon.

Privacy Controls

Are also nearly finished, this is still being configured on the server-side by Bill (which is most of the work), and will be the next thing to go in.

Crowd-Sourced Character Sheets

I’m working on a tool that will allow anyone to create character sheet forms using a “toolkit” that would require a bit of HTML knowledge but not much else. We’ll be creating our own templating guide and style guide to assist people in creating their own character sheets to be submitted to TK for everyone’s use! This way we can support many systems without folks waiting for us to release them.

There will be a submission process, and a series of guidelines to follow to ensure the look and feel matches that of TK, and ensures forms are cross-device friendly.

Welp, that’s it for now. Thanks all for your patience with us as we settle in to our new life, and deal with being full-time code monkeys for the man while we also slowly build TK. :)

Best, Kristi & Bill

This Month’s Big Updates

ConTessa 2014: The ConTessa Online Convention by women for everyone, happened early this month. There was a lot of smaller updates / features that made it into Tavern Keeper because of ConTessa. Things like the Waitlist, Next Session Date, Campaign Reminders. While some of the features (like the events page) vanished until the next convention, they’re all still there and we’ll be improving some of the rough spots when we can. We’re happy with the changes that the convention brought to Tavern Keeper.

Hangout App: It arrived a bit closer to the start of ConTessa then we would have liked, but the App seemed to roll out smoothly. While it’s a bit limited in it’s current form in that it can only manage the invitation process for our campaign members. Launching a hangout from the TavernKeeper site will give the GM added flexibility of the moderated hangout tools. Beyond that we’re also looking at bringing more features from the site into the hangout as time goes on.

Gems: We’ve added in our on-site currency, and opened up the ability to purchase them through our shop. In addition to the ability to purchase them, we’re providing up to a 25% bonus to anyone who orders them before midnight tonight. As we’re not going to be implementing subscriptions gems will be used for one time purchases for both Players and GMs.

What you can purchase …

Enhanced Privacy Controls: While we mentioned a while ago that private campaigns were going to be a subscription only feature (back when we planned on using subscriptions).  It is part of a much broader set of controls intended to allow you to finely control your campaigns privacy. The unlock includes:

  • Ability to make your whole campaign private (Hide it from the searching and public lists)
  • Ability to control what tabs show up to non-players (Wiki, Characters, Roleplays, Discussions)
  • Ability to control what Wiki entries, Roleplays, and Discussions show up (Everyone, Players, GMs being your three choices) on an individual level. Entries will inherit Everyone/Players based upon the campaign setting above by default.
  • Note: Campaigns that don’t have any players, and are not looking for players will be in ‘Development’ mode. Which functions similarly to private campaigns today. This will allow you to create and build out a campaign before you invite players.

Co-GM: Co-GM allows another (or as many people as you’d like) to be added as a GM to your campaign.

GM-Character Customization: This will allow you to customize the name and image the ‘Game master’ character. The control is on a post-by-post basis, so you can easily post as whatever you’d like without having to build out an NPC for them.

Inventory Management: Allows you to help keep track of both player and group loot, the details are still light as it’s in the design phase. However, the intention is to help the various loot-heavy games out there seem a little less daunting when it comes tracking who has what, where it is, and what it does.

Other Things Coming Soon …

Roleplay Tagging: The ability to tag characters in a roleplay is going to happen before the inventory management.

Here’s a preview of what that might look like, taken from our original wireframes back before we launched the site:


Privacy Overhaul: Along with Enhanced Privacy Controls, we’re going to be changing how the privacy options function for existing items that have them (Characters, and Wiki) and make sure things are consistent across the old and the new.

After a month of discussing, planning … and building. We’re finally happy to announce Gems have arrived!

We’ve added a new link to the menu called shop… which will take you to the new Gem purchasing page.

This is a pretty large departure from what we’ve been talking about of late. Last month’s State of the Tavern there was a large amount of talk about Subscriptions, and Pre-Orders. 

Over the course of the past couple months, we’ve seen a lot of different types of people use Tavern Keeper for all kinds of gaming uses. We love it, but one of the things we realized is that not everything we build is going to be useful for everyone. For core features (the things that are free), that’s not a big deal. However, in our minds… when it comes to paying for things; that’s a huge deal. 

If and when we offer a subscription, we want to make sure that it has a significant value regardless of how you want to use Tavern Keeper. 

While we’ll be detailing our first couple of gem-unlocked features, and how the whole process works during the coming State of the Tavern next Friday, at 9pm EST. 

Gem Sale

Between now and friday’s State of the Tavern, we’ll be giving away up to an additional 25% of your purchased gems, as a thank you for helping us test the new feature. 

Terms of Service Update Coming Soon

Obviously with the addition of Gems and money transactions, there’s going to be some changes to our Terms of Service. We’re still ironing them out, but wanted to give you a few key points;

Credit Cards / PCI Compliance - basically, long story short … our payment processor (Stripe), takes your payment information directly. It never touches our servers, we don’t store it anyway. All interactions between You and Stripe are secured with SSL, as are all your interactions with Tavern Keeper… as well as all interactions with Stripe and Tavern Keeper. 

Refunds - They’re available, you can request them through Email, Private Message, or Bug Bucket. Or any other support mechanism that we use.

Chargeback / Charge Disputes - Obviously, we don’t like them and much prefer to deal with a refund. That said, they do happen… regular chargebacks will gem-lock your account (make it so you can’t get gems).  Additionally, if a charge back drops your account to a negative gem balance your account will be subject to additional limitations. 

Thanks, everyone! Let us if you’ve got any thoughts or idea.

~Bill and Kristi, The Minions

For those who have booted opened a hangout from within the Tavern Keeper Site, may have noticed you get promoted with a somewhat odd dialog box when entering the hangout, despite the fact the hangout isn’t on air. 

That looks like this:

Google’s API allows us to launch what is called ‘moderated hangouts’, a feature that isn’t readily available when you launch them from normal means. 

This means that you can launch a standard hangout, and still have access to all the control that a hangout on air gives you.

Like hangouts on air, all the moderation features are available in an app called ‘Control Room’…

Open the app, will give you the moderation interface…

We’re very proud to launch Tavern Keeper’s own Hangouts App!

This app ties right into Tavern Keeper and allows you to start a hangout game right from any campaign you own!

Start a game by going to your campaign’s dashboard. You’ll see a new section to the left column that looks like this:

(If your campaign is private, you’ll only see the green button.)

Once you click on either the green or yellow “start” buttons, A Google Hangout will start and you’ll be prompted to accept the app. If you’ve connected your G+ account with Tavern Keeper, it will log you right in. Otherwise you’ll have to log in with your TK creds.

Once logged in, you’ll be directed right to a confirmation window like so:

Your players will receive an email telling them your game has started with a link to join the hangout right in the email!

Tavern Keeper also keeps tabs on games in session, so if one of your players visits the campaign while a game is in session, they’ll see a giant green JOIN NOW button on the campaign dashboard, like so:

Please let us know if you run into any issues with using this new feature, or if you have ideas on how to make this even more awesome. 

Thanks again everyone for your amazing support and enthusiasm for Tavern Keeper! This is just the first of many kick-ass features we have in store for you this year.

Loves,
Your TK Minions

The Countdown Roundup of Goodies

Just 11 more days to go and nearly 50%! Don’t miss out on the chance to get discounted subs and credits for your favorite systems!

Summary: – A recap of all the systems and sourcebooks we will be releasing with – Backer goodies offered in addition to the original perks – One last chance to get FREE custom portrait art, drawn live ON-AIR!

Here’s a recap of all the systems and sourcebooks we’ll be releasing with to start:

Fate Core Core Dynamic Character Sheet

All of the mechanics of FATE Core, plus a listing of all skills, stunts, and edges in the most recent edition.

FATE Sourcebook Add-Ons

We’ll also be releasing a few sourcebooks along with the Dynamic Character Sheet:

Fate Worlds, Vol 1 & 2

All of the available skills, stunts, and edges will be available to you within the Dynamic Character Sheet when you unlock these sourcebooks for your account!

Savage Worlds Dynamic Character Sheet

All of the mechanics of Savage Worlds baked right into a great looking, mobile-friendly character sheet design! Don’t forget you’ll also be able to track your power points, bennies, and fatigue using our GAME MODE feature!

In addition to the calculations of the Dynamic Sheet, you’ll also have access to all the Edges, Hindrances, Skills, and Powers available in the Core Rulebook (latest edition).

Savage Worlds Sourcebook Add-Ons

Here’s just a few sourcebooks we’ll be starting with right out of the gate:

Deadlands: Reloaded

When you unlock the Deadlands: Reloaded sourcebook for your Account, you’ll gain access to the unique features of this game, including all of the Powers, Skills, Stunts, Edges, Hindrances, etc from the Sourcebook!

Deadlands: Noir

All of the awesome goodness of Deadlands in the 1930’s.

Accursed

Melior Via’s own Accursed will be launching with our Dynamic Character Sheet engine! This amazing dark fantasy setting is one you won’t want to miss. Tavern Keeper’s Dynamic Character Sheet engine will be the ultimate compliment to this sourcebook based on Savage Worlds.

Additional Goodies

In addition to offering discounted subs and credits to buy all of the great stuff listed above, we’re offering Randomocity subscriptions and limited edition Tavern Keeper “Minion” T-shirts!

Randomocity Subs

  • $25 & up – 1 year Digital PDF subscription!
  • $100 & up – 1 year Digital AND high quality print subscription!

That’s in addition to all of the other backer perks you’ll get at that tier.

Minion T-Shirts

For an additional add-on pledge of $25 you can also get a limited edition Tavern Keeper “Minion” staff T-Shirt! Backers $100 and above will get this as part of their pledge!

This week saw a lot of minor changes and fixes to Tavern Keeper. We’re spending a lot of time on some behind-the-scenes work with regards to Campaign events and administrative tools for our partner, ConTessa.

Most notable this week was the addition of Google+ integration and the long-awaited Categories for Site Discussions!

For some ungodly reason I don’t quite understand, I’m hopelessly addicted to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, especially the UK version of the show.

Aside from Gordon just being a handsome devil, it’s the morbid fascination with the kind of people that start restaurants, and how Gordon applys the same formula over and again to every restaurant, with great success (provided the owners don’t f**k it up afterwards).

Here’s the main things I’ve taken away from the show and applied to my own startup company: