The 2018 Caster Level roadmap
I always knew that people who play tabletop RPGs were passionate about their characters and worlds. But I didn’t realise how much that love would extend to the tools they use to enhance their gaming!
It’s been 6 weeks since I released my revamped version of Spell Tracker: Pathfinder Edition. Since then, I’ve received an incredible amount of feedback and input from the Pathfinder community. The only promotion I’ve done is a handful of Reddit posts, a couple of Facebook posts, and few tweets. In response, the community has given me more than I ever imagined!
I’ve had 150+ Reddit and Facebook comments giving me a mixture of feature requests and love, I’ve enjoyed over 500 likes and upvotes, I’ve received over 80 ratings on Google Play with an average score of 4.5, over 180 people have joined the Caster Level community, and tens of people have emailed me direct feedback to email@example.com. It’s been incredible. Thank you all so much! ❤
So today, I want to talk about what’s coming next in 2018 – and what you can do to help.
Reaching new users and supporting my work ?
Before I get to the good stuff, I want to talk about the dirty topics of marketing and money.
More users, more feedback, more love
Let’s talk about marketing first. Spell Tracker has seen awesome growth in a very short time. When I relaunched it in December, I had around 500 active installations on Android devices. Now I have just over 1700, and around 1500 active monthly users. On a good week, over 500 players use the app. But so far, almost all of them come from Reddit or Facebook. I haven’t yet found a good way to reach the wider gaming community. This is going to be a key focus in 2018, and I’m going to try a ton of new things to reach more players including blogging more, working with awesome podcasts and YouTubers, and joining more social media communities. But I also need your help.
Reaching new communities and new players is hard, especially when you haven’t got an advertising budget. So I’d like to ask all of you: please tell your friends, share the app on Facebook and Twitter, and introduce me to your gaming buddies. Just CC me on an email or add me to your chats. I’ll be there!
All we need is love! Well, almost…
The hidden costs of app development
Which brings me to the next dirty topic: money. Since I relaunched Spell Tracker, I’ve realised that there are a lot of hidden costs to building and shipping apps. For example, registering to release an app on the App Store costs $99/year. But you also need a Mac to build the app (over $500 used) and an iPhone to test the app (about the same – if you get a super old one).
A ton of people have messaged me to ask if they can donate to support my work. So far, the answer has been no. But I’ve decided to change that. If I’m going to keep making apps, I need to make sure it’s sustainable. That’s why I’ve set up a Patreon community. Now my most passionate users can make it possible for me to keep making awesome apps, and get rewarded in the process. Join the Caster Level community on Patreon now!
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the cool stuff: new features and new apps.
The 2018 Caster Level roadmap ?
In the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to prioritize next. Some of the early feedback for Spell Tracker was clear: people wanted more spells in the app, they wanted an iPhone version, and they wanted bugs to get fixed. That all got done. Now what? There are a few clear themes, and I want to talk through each one individually.
Improvements for Spell Tracker: Pathfinder Edition
The community has been really generous with feature requests and feedback on Spell Tracker, and it’s become clear what new features need to get added to the app next. They fall into a three categories: improvements that make the app easier to use, support for advanced casting abilities such as metamagic, and new features to track more than just spell slots. These are all going to come to the app over the rest of the year.
Pick your sources and add custom spells
First, I’m going to address the topic of spell coverage. Some people found it overwhelming to see over 2,000 spells from over 130 sources and would prefer to limit the app to the core rulebooks. Other people want absolutely everything (including support for homebrew and third party sources). I’m going to solve both of these by adding the option to enable/disable sources, and the option to import custom spell lists from spreadsheets. This should make the power users happy by enabling them to add spells from other sources – or to tweak/adjust/fix spells in the built-in database. Meanwhile, it should make the app a little more welcoming by hiding some of the vast number of spells by default.
Spell loadouts, un-cast and un-prepare
Next, I’m going to tackle usability. Many players have asked for the option to un-prepare or un-cast spells – either to adjust their daily spell loadout without resetting everything, or as a way to use Pearls of Power and other items/abilities. Both of these options will come soon.
I’m also going to add “spell loadouts” – the option to have a set of common prepared spells that you can prepare in one click. If you have your go-to spells for dungeon crawling, or city life, or travelling, or fighting, you’ll be able to prepare them quickly and easily.
Metamagic, spell DCs and magic items
Finally, I’m going to add support for more advanced features. For example, a ton of players want to use metamagic and other abilities/features that result in your character casting and preparing spells into higher-level slots. A bunch of players are also asking for the app to calculate spell DC automatically. And of course, there are myriad ways in which spell duration or DC can be affected.
The other big request I get is support for wands, staffs, magic items, spell-like abilities, and other ways to cast spells beyond the usual spell slots. That’s all on the roadmap too.
I want to handle this stuff within the app in a way that doesn’t compromise usability. Let’s make it happen. ?
A new version of Spell Tracker for D&D 5e
Since the New Year I’ve been GMing a new D&D 5e campaign for my buddies, set in a homebrew world of my own creation. It’s the first time we’ve tried D&D 5e instead of Pathfinder, and it’s been super fun to have such a streamlined gaming experience. But within minutes of starting, one of my players asked if they could use Spell Tracker with D&D – and they almost went into catatonic shock when they realised they’d have to go back to pen and paper spell tracking.
The demand is definitely out there for a slick, easy-to-use spell tracking app for D&D 5e, and I’m hoping I can re-use a lot of the existing Spell Tracker: Pathfinder Edition code to build it even faster than the Pathfinder version. Let’s see how it goes.
New apps to reduce friction at the gaming table
The gaming table is still full of friction, admin, busywork and distraction.
Spell tracking was one area we used to find particularly painful in our gaming group, but there are others. It’s still harder than it should be to track initiative. It’s still harder than it should be to create characters on iPhone. It’s still a pain in the ass to track how players interact with the game world – to record what the players get up to, how they’ve changed the world, who they’ve met and what they’ve done. It’s still challenging to track consumables, to generate NPCs, to create maps, and to build dungeons. It’s still hard for the GM to track which spells his party have used, which spell effects are still active, and who’s affected by each spell.
Too much time is spent recording trivia and minutae, when we should be focusing on the storytelling, on the combat, and on the world we’re building together.
I think there’s a lot of opportunity to improve this state of affairs – to build apps that remove and reduce admin and friction, reduce tedious preparation or followup, and allow everyone to spend more brainpower playing the games in front of them. What problems will I try to solve in this space? I’m still figuring that out based on conversations I’m having with many of my most active users. (And I want to hear from you!)
The first experiment: a better way to track campaign history
As I mentioned earlier, I’m building my own homebrew campaign world now. Creating a new world is cool, it’s fun, it’s thrilling. And there are tons of tools out there to help with worldbuilding. But none of them focus on the important part: what are the players doing in your world? How are they changing it?
Tracking campaign history over time – not just the background of the world, but the events and actions that the players take in that world – is a real challenge. Some people take notes on pen and paper, only to lose them. Others use wikis, only to find that it takes more time to maintain the wiki than it took to play the game.
This is the first big problem I’m going to play with after Spell Tracker: making it easier for players and GMs to track player activity without getting in the way. More to come on this in the future.
What do you think? Send me your feedback!
I have two goals for 2018: keep building on the success of Spell Tracker, and expand Caster Level into new areas. More than that, I want to figure out how to turn this hobby into something I can do full time. How am I going to do that? I’m going to make sure I reach as many RPG players and DMs as I can. And I’m going to make something that they need and love. The most important gift I can receive from any of you is feedback.
What do you think of the roadmap? Does it hit the right notes? Does it cover what you wanted to see? What other amazing tools and apps could I be building, or would you love to see in the future? As always, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. And don’t forget to join the Caster Level community on Patreon!
Keep on rollin’!