Arguably one of the most powerful features of Grapevine is the ability to customize its output, such as character sheets and character rosters. You may want to do something as minor as add the name of your Chronicle somewhere on each character sheet, or you may want to do something as complex as creating a report of the renown of all werewolves with Pure Breed in the game. While it can’t do everything, Grapevine has flexible and varied output capabilities.
Template files are the blueprints Grapevine follows to construct its sheets and reports. You can find these files in subfolders under the Program Files\Grapevine\Templates folder.
- The RTF folder contains Rich Text templates. While these can be viewed and edited in either the simple WordPad program or the more complex MS Word, using WordPad is recommended. Grapevine cannot understand some of the features that MS Word incorporates into an RTF file.
- The HTML folder contains HTML templates. These can be viewed in any web browser, and edited in either a text editor like Notepad (for those who know HTML) or in an HTML editor like FrontPage, Dreamweaver, or even MS Word.
- The Text folder holds plain text templates. These can be viewed and edited in plain text editors like Notepad.
Upon viewing a template, right away you notice it doesn’t look exactly like the character sheet or report that it generates. A template is littered with keywords that tell Grapevine where to insert information into the file, and what to do when there’s more than one value to insert. A keyword is a word appearing between square brackets [ ], sometimes followed by a space and a parameter or two — additional values separated from the initial keyword by a space.
The simplest kind of keyword is one that Grapevine replaces with information. In the template Vampire.html, for example, the keyword [Clan] appears in one cell of the table: when Grapevine reads the template to turn it into a character sheet, it removes the text [Clan] and replaces it with the actual clan of the Vampire being printed.
Other keywords set certain options in the character sheet. In an RTF template, the keyword [Landscape] will instruct Grapevine to print the sheet in a Landscape orientation. In a plain-text template, the keyword [Wrap n] will turn on word wrap to a length of ncharacters. These keywords affect the output but never appear in it.
The keywords most challenging to understand are those that divide the template intosections. These keywords appear in pairs: [repeat] and [/repeat], [option topic] and [/option], [report topic] and [/report], and others. When Grapevine reads a section, it follows special rules to decide what to do with the part of the template that appears between the keywords:
- [repeat]. A section between [repeat] and [/repeat] is copied and pasted over and over until the data keywords it contains return no more new values. [repeat][Physical][Mental][/repeat] , for example, would write a Physical Trait, followed by a Mental Trait, followed by a Physical Trait, and so on, until there were no more Physical or Mental Traits to write.
- [option topic]. A section between [option topic] and [/option] typically corresponds to the options you can select on the Dates & Options tab of the output window. [option] sections are only used inside character sheets or special character reports. The value of the topic parameter makes each [option] section behave a bit differently. [option Notes], for example, simply marks a section of the template that should be removed if the Notes option is not selected. [option Items] is more complicated: the text inside its section repeats for every item in the character’s equipment list, making it possible to include a character’s detailed item cards on his sheet.
- [report topic]. A section between [report topic] and [/report] iterates through a set of entities you select in the output window. A [report characters] section can create specialized character rosters, a [report players] section can create specialize player rosters, a [report plots] section will go through all the selected plots, and so on. The text inside the section is repeated for each entity until there are no more to report.
The art of placing the right keywords in the right places is best learned through experimentation. Try making small changes at first, and as you get the hang of it begin to try more complex experiments. Make a backup copy of the template you want to edit. If you edit the original, you’ll see your changes the next time you print or save the corresponding document. If you create an entirely new kind of sheet or report, you can get quick access to it by choosing “Choose a Template…” from the output window dropdown, or you can go to the Templates tab to add it to your game file permanently.
You may also find these resources helpful for template editing:
- The Template Keywords Reference included with the Grapevine installation. This document should be included in the Grapevine group accessible from your Windows Start Menu. It’s stored in the Program Files\Grapevine\Templates folder.
- The Grapevine Forums teem with users like you who also like to tweak the programs for use with their MET chronicles. The Templates and Menus forum there is devoted to this topic. Go to the Grapevine homepage athttp://www.GrapevineLARP.com/ and click on the Forums link on the left to visit the forums; registration is instant and free and doesn’t put you on any mailing lists.