viernes, 19 de septiembre de 2014

How to create cards with Strange Eons: Instalation and basic use

There are 2 methods available to those who want to create player cards, adventures or campaigns: use Photoshop templates by Tom Howard (available in BoardGameGeek) or use Strange Eons and a plugin for the game.

Strange Eons is a program written by Christopher G. Jennings to create paper based game components. This includes cards, rule sheets, tokens or boxes. But Strange Eons only provides the tools to create the components, and plugins are needed providing graphics and specifications of the components to be created. The Lord of The Rings: The Card Game plugin supports both official and unofficial components. There are plugins available for games like Arkham Horror or X-Wing.

The plugin development was started by HilariousPete (for Strange Eons 2), using the templates of Tom Howard. Then I (Daniel Tello) carried the update for Strange Eons 3 and the inclusion of new features and components. This plugin is the result of putting togheter the work of several people around the world: Tom is from the states, Chris canadian, Pete german and I am spanish.

One more thing, before begginig with the guide. There is 1 plugin to be used with Strange Eons 2 and another one to be used with Strange Eons 3. Both Strange Eons 2 and the plugin for LotR are no longer maintained. It's not advisable to use this old version because of the lack of support and because it's functionality is much lower than the new version. Also, components of both versions aren't compatible. It's still available only for archive reasons here (with the name TheLordOfTheRingsLCG_2'51.seext).

Installing Strange Eons

On Windows:
  1. Download Strange Eons from it's webpage and begin installation.
  2. During the install, it may ask you for the location of Java on your PC. If it does so, let it download and install Java for you. You can also download Java from it's official site.
On Linux:

  1. Download Strange Eons from it's webpage and unpack the file. Inside, there's a README file where the process is explained. It's recomended to download and install Oracle's Java Runtime Environment.
  2. It's possible to automate the installation using a script available here. Open it with a text editor to read how to use it.

Installing the plugin

Once install process is finished it's time to install the plugin. There are 2 methods: a manual method for Work-In-Progress versions, and using the Catalogue for Stable versions. The Catalogue method is the one to go if you are in doubt.

Strange Eons catalogue

It's a site maintained by Chris where he keeps all latest versions of the plugins, ready to be installed. Also, with the automatic updates on, the program will offer us the opportunity to update the plugins when new versions are available here.
  1. Run Strange Eons, when it opens, press shift+F12 to access the catalogue.  
  2. In the opened window, select all 9 different The Lord of the Rings LCG files and press "download and install". You may go on without selecting HD plugins if you don't plan to print your components. Strange Eons will download and install the files. Several windows will open confirming the installation and reporting new features or notes.

  3. You should also install some plugins that provide usefull features to Strange Eons: Bulk Export, Pickman's Portrait Studio, Picture Thief, Synchronize Project Selection, Zip Tools, Core Typefaces and PDF Support.
  4. When finished, close the window and Strange Eons will ask us to restart the program. Now you can create The Lord of the Rings LCG components. 

Manual install

Sometimes I'll publish Work-In-Progress versions including new features or quick bug corrections. For these versions, you can use the following secure method to install the plugin manually. You can get info about latest version of the plugin in Fantasy Flight Games forum post about the plugin and in the spanish Edge forum post.
  1. Latest versions of the plugin can be downloaded here. Both WIP and STABLE versions are available. Inside the zips every needed file is included along with this guide. Unzip wherever you want.
  2. If you haven't installed Strange Eons before, jump to step 3. Otherwise, run Strange Eons, and press F12. In this window, for each TheLordOfTheRingsLCG file, select it, and press “Uninstall”. Every file should appear strikethrought. Close the window and Strange Eons.

  3. Run Strange Eons. Drag and drop all the .seext files found in the zip file to the main window of Strange Eons. You can also select File>Open, select "All files" in the file type filter, and look for the .seext files in the file explorer. Accept all the messages and restart the program when you are asked for it.

Configuring Strange Eons

Once installed, you can configure several options of the program and plugin. Preferencer are found in "Edit>Preferences" menu.

Automatic updates: First thing to do after installing and running Strange Eons is setting on automatic updates. This can be done on the menu ToolBox>Updates. Is recommended to check weekly for new versions. Also, a manual search is recommended the first time Strange Eons is installed.

Languaje: Strange Eons uses 2 languajes at the same time: one for the interface, and another for the components (game languaje). You should select the game languaje depending on the languaje you are writting your components on. The plugin automatically changes some texts depending on this selection. For example, if English is used as game languaje, "HERO" will apprear as card type, but "HÉROE" will appear if Spanish is selected.

Context bar: Context bar appears when editing text around the control. It's used to format the text and insert icons. Here, you can add The Lord of the Rings LCG icons (like Attack Strength) to the bar to easily insert them in the text.

Drawing: Here we can change the redraw frecuency of the component. If you experience slow downs, rise this control to 1000 ms.

LotR LCG plugin options: Several options specific to The Lord of the Rings cards are available. For  example "Text alignment" option for different text types and cards.

"Default values" determine the initial value of newly created components. This is usefull to have common text for related cards (like those from an adventure) without typing it on every card. Also, default collection and encounter set icons can be selected.

Creating projects and components

Components can be managed through a project, as shown in the first picture. This allows easy access to needed files and performing bulk operations.

Creating a project

  1. In the main menu, press "File>New Project".
  2. In the next window, insert a name for the project and select where to keep it. Press Make Project.

  3. A file tree will appear on the left side of the main window. There you can manage your files and create new components, folders and tasks (explained in a future article).

Creating a component

Finally, here is how to create cards. Both the "File>New" menu or "New>Component" project menu will open the same window. Here you can select the component to create. In the upper right corner you can set a game filter, and in the left there's another filter for component groups. If you select Everything, every component available will appear in the right selector. Choose the component type you want and press "Create" or "Create in project". In any case, the component edition window will open.

Portrait selection

In this control you can select the picture of the card. You can search it with the folder button or drag&drop from the project tree. The picture will appear in the box representing the picture scaled to fill the box. You can move around the picture and scale it with the mouse wheel. Everytime that's possible, fill the artist box. For respect and reconigtion for his work.

For fine adjustments (most interesting for scale), use the controls in tab at the left of the portrait (the arrows). Your picture should fill the box completely, always. This must be done to avoid white lines on the edge of the portrait zone. Sometimes, it may be difficult to see if it's filling the box. In that case, make it a bit bigger than the box.

Template selection

Most componet types of the game come in different flavours,  like spheres or difficulties, called templates. Components with several templates availbale will have the template tab available to change it.

Several components have a "Custom Sphere" or "Custom difficulty" template available. These components will have several controls in the template tab that will work only when this kind of template is available. For example, for a "Custom Sphere" template, you can select the colour of some elements of the card and insert a custom icon.

Text editing

Most of the text of the card can be modified in the "Rules" tabs. Close to every text field, there is a blue button including some help, like tag suggestions for text formatting or game keyword and trait lists. Specially interesting is the <fullname> tag, used to include the card title into the text boxes.

It's possible to include pictures in line of the text, usefull to insert custom sphere icons, from the "Markup>Image..." menu. Select the image and it's size (usually from 5 to 8 points) and press enter. This will insert a tag in the text control with the form <image "D:\lotr\Sphere-Mastery.png" 6pt>.


Statistics tab has very simple controls to set the numbers of the card.

Exporting components

Once the card is finished, you can get it's image from "File>Export" or select several files or a folder in the project tree and select "Bulk Export". This will open the export options. There you can select the file format and quality. I recomend using JPEG at 90% and 300ppi for very good results.


There's an option called "Add bleed margin to game components without one" to export the images with a safety border. This will synthesize a bigger card. After printing the card, we can cut it to the correct size without fearing the printed scale being smaller than the card size. This is how printing services like PrinterStudio work and exporting with this option will output a card with the correct size and scale.


I hope this article will have explained most basic stuff on using Strange Eons and the plugin, and will encourage you to make your own cards and adventures. In a future article I'll delve in more advanced stuff around editing and obtaining cards and complete decks.


2 comentarios :

  1. I would like to create some cards that help me to show to the players (mi kids) some illustrations of what I am telling (as GM), to avoid the need to go into the manual to show a creature, a weapon, a planet, etc. I couldn´t find a plugin to help me with this game system Edge of Empire, an Star Wars RPG from FFG. Could you guide me to create a plugin or to use the LOTR but changing some stuff please. Thanks a lot. Eduardo.

  2. Hi Eduardo,
    First, you need programming knowledge. Plugin is written in JavaScript programming language, but if you know any other you should be ok.
    Second, you need to know how to work with graphics in an image editor like Photoshop or the free Gimp.
    Third, you need time. Is not very hard to write a plugin, but is time consumimg, specialy for complex games with many different components like LotR LCG.
    Fourth, you have to plan what you want to do and how will you do it before the actual programming or drawing. One of the biggest problems is redoing stuff: doing one thing and then changing it.
    Finally, you can expose all your doubt and get help in the Strange Eons forum. Open a thread there, and we will discuss this further: