Realm Works: First Impressions

I’ve used Realm Works for 12 hours or so.  It is a complex program, so 12 hours isn’t a lot of time with it, so season how well you care to trust my opinion accordingly.

Update: The font problem mentioned here is relatively recent in nature and it has been suggested that it was introduced via a 3rd party library.  I am certainly aware that bugs can come from the tools your rely upon and it appears that this may be one of those cases.

When I first got Realm Works, I quickly discovered that it cannot handle jpg images much over 4mb in size (it warns you – then it crashes) and it has memory issues when you have a lot of fonts installed.  Neither one of these things left me feeling very good about the software and honestly I considered just writing my $50 investment off and allowing the program to mature.  I can forgive the large image size problem, but the font problem – that is just bad coding.

Someone is doing it wrong at Lone Wolf

When I went to discard around 100mb of fonts, I still had Realm Works running.  I could not trash any of the fonts.  I shutdown Realm Works – now I could delete the fonts.  That means…. Realm Works had every font on the system open.  Now I am not much of a programmer, but maybe, just maybe, you might open only the fonts the software is actually using?  I have not had a font problem since the days of Windows 98, so clearly someone is doing it wrong at Lone Wolf and this is a scrub-level programming problem for which there is no good excuse.

Font warning text
Font warning greeting me when I start Realm Works

I am bit more forgiving of the image-size problem.  I mean, we are working with a program speaking about ‘fog of world’ as long it is a small world.  Otherwise, we just get ‘fog of a small part of the world’ which is far less impressive.  So, they need to fix it, but this is much more of a real programming dilemma than avoiding opening every font.  But if you cannot keep up with “Windows Photo Viewer,” the default app for viewing images and hence a fairly low bar for measurement, you might want to eventually invest a little bit of time in overcoming the problem.

My initial impression after 60 minutes was not at all favorable

So my initial impression after 60 minutes was not at all favorable.  A part of me just wanted to wait and check out the software after 3 or 4 months to see if it had improved.  But I had seen enough glimpses of what it offered that I decided to press on – and I am glad that I did.

I started by entering in the GM’s section on the ‘Dread Sea Dominions’ which is GRAmel’s campaign environment for Beasts & Barbarians.  I’d gotten the GM and Player’s guide for Fantasy Grounds.  I also had picked up 3 or 4 other books from DriveThruRPG – almost all of my Black Friday expenditures for gaming went to GRAmel.

The more you do, the better things get

One of the first things, and maybe the coolest in my opinion, is that the text in Realm Works starts to light-up with links.  As you enter more topics, the interconnections between topics start to appear.  Realm Works is a campaign content management system and what it can give you starts to become apparent.  It connects and interconnects everything so it can be at your finger tips at the click of a mouse button.  It is also addictive in the sense that the more you do, the better things get.  The reward for the effort is self-evident and that carrot of making additional links keeps you plugging in more and more topics and text.

History of the World
A section with custom headings that match GRAmel’s organization of the topic. The links in the body of the text were auto-created.

Let’s look at a campaign map…

rw_world_map
Campaign map with linked pins – the map is fan made by the good people at  https://woolshedwargamer.com

The map is contained in a ‘Geographical’ Region which contains multiple ‘Political’ regions.  It is also a ‘Smart’ map which means that I can utilize the ‘fog of world’ feature and reveal just the parts of the world that the players have visited.

You are able to place pins on the map which links back to the various map elements that I’ve created.  I am a long way from done here, but I am pretty happy with how it works.  I greatly prefer mapping systems which use a pin system to provide information and this is good stuff.

And that is about as far as I have gotten in 12 hours.

My assessment of Realm Works is that it is in-freaking-valuable if you are working with a large, very well developed setting.  The more material you have to plug in, the richer the experience will become.

Realm Works is in-freaking-valuable if you are working with a large, very well developed setting

And notice, that I am not addressing the player client or the cloud connectivity of it.  I personally don’t care about those features.  The campaign integration and central management are enough to recommend the software IF you have the time and energy to get it all organized.

Lone Wolf is also about to open their market and presumably you’ll be able to simply buy content if inputting it is not your thing.  I will almost certainly be onboard with getting the Savage Worlds game mechanics materials.

Realm Works is THE standard for campaign management.

Realm Works is in development and constantly improving.  If you really want to integrate a large, complex setting that spans multiple documents, I don’t think that there is a better tool for the job.  Realm Works is THE standard for campaign management – and it will only get better with time.  If you are working via VTT, you will have some duplication of effort, but I don’t see any way to avoid that.

-Kilgore

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Author: Kilgore

Long-time gamer, alpha techno-geek, and former infantryman

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