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Mad Irishman Publications FAQ

Updated Thursday, May 21, 2009

Here you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning Mad Irishman Productions' publications!

  1. When I try to open your sheets, I get an error message or the sheet looks garbled. How do I open them?
  2. Your sheets look great on my screen, but when I try to print I get a bunch of blank areas on the sheets. How do I get them to print correctly?
  3. What's the difference between your "sheets" and your "forms"? I've downloaded a sheet and can't seem to type anything on it.
  4. Those forms are really cool! Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to save my character's info once I've typed it in. How do I do that?
  5. Given that you can't type in the data and save it without paying Adobe a lot of money, why don't you just do your sheets in Microsoft Word format (or RTF)?
  6. Are you planning on releasing a form version of your Dungeons & Dragons character sheet 2.3?
  7. Are you planning on releasing a 2-page version of your Dungeons & Dragons character sheets?
  8. What's the story with the LUGTrek Netbook?
  9. What did you use to make these sheets?
  10. Why don't you add a list of Feats in the appropriate spaces of your d20 character sheets?
  11. I want to do <insert something alternately very cool or very boring> with your sheets, but I need the password to bypass your protection. Will you send it to me?
  12. How can I help with translating your sheets into an another language?
  13. It's cool that your sheets will let me select a graphic file of my character to insert in the PDF. Why can I only insert PDF files there?
  14. Why haven't you made a sheet for Game X? Don't you have it? What games do you own, anyway?

When I try to open your sheets, I get an error message or the sheet looks garbled. How do I open them?

Your sheets look great on my screen, but when I try to print I get a bunch of blank areas on the sheets. How do I get them to print correctly?

I can't provide tech support for Adobe Reader, but I can give you some things to try. Make sure you have the most recent version of Adobe Reader from Adobe's web site. The latest incarnations of my sheets require Adobe Reader 6.0 or later.

You may also need to reinstall Adobe Reader, or allot more memory to it or your printer for better performance. Finally, it's possible that your copy of the sheet is corrupted. Try downloading it again, especially if you got it somewhere other than here.

Sometimes I think it's a conflict between the PDF and the web browser you use to download it. Try right-clicking (Windows) or control-clicking (Mac) on the download link and use the Save As option to download the PDF. Occasionally that clears up problems.

What's the difference between your "sheets" and your "forms"?

This issue threatens to become more complicated now that layering allows me to release combination sheet/forms, but the short answer is that the sheet you're using is not form-enabled. I believe that prior to my release of my d20 Modern/Future/Past "sheet," I released no form-enabled works that did not bear the word "form" in the title. Anything listed as a "sheet" is simply meant to be printed out and filled in by hand.

Only slight cosmetic differences exist between the two versions. The "sheet" version is typically designed to be used like traditional RPG character sheets: you print it out and write your character's data on it. The "form" version is a PDF Form, allowing you to type your character's data directly onto the sheet and then print it out. The cosmetic differences stem from the nature of multi-line fields in PDF Forms; instead of lines for things like 'commendations and awards' you have one big blank.

So for example, on the D&D page, it says:

"Download D&D 3rd Edition Character Sheet 2.2 (4 pages, 235 K) - updated 8/16/03
Download D&D 3rd Edition Character Form 2.16 (4 pages, 1244 K) - updated 7/25/03"

The former is meant to be printed and filled in by hand; the latter to be typed on.

The "Form" layer in the PDFs is produced by InDesign and I used it for form-only graphic elements when I produced the Form 2.16 above. It really doesn't have anything to do with forms other than the fact that I named it "Form" to help me identify it as needing to be visible in form versions. The form fields of a PDF are independent of the layers. I left this "Form" layer in the newer incarnations of my PDF sheets because I figure with them being released under the Creative Commons license, some enterprising individuals would add their own form fields to them after toggling the correct set of visible layers.

Those forms are really cool! Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to save my character's info once I've typed it in. How do I do that?

You make sure you're using something that will let you save form data. This includes the full commercial version of Adobe Acrobat (formerly Acrobat Exchange), which costs about $249, or Acrobat Approval, which is only $39. Adobe Reader, the free program available from Adobe's web site, does not allow you to save changes made to a PDF form. You can enter your data and print it out, but you can't save it.

Unhappy about having to pay at least $39 to do this? Me too. I understand why Adobe wouldn't want you being able to create new PDF documents with their freeware program, but it would seem relatively easy for them to allow you to just save changes to forms or at least let you save form data (which is a far cry from letting a user manipulate all the PDF document's text and graphics). We should all let Adobe hear about it.

Workarounds? A couple of options seem to exist short of forking all that money over to Adobe. If you're a Windows user, you can pop over to the PDF Zone and download a freeware program to print to PDF for free. That should allow you to save your PDF form with data on it. If you are using Mac OS X, you have an even easier option. OS X allows you to print to PDF from any application. So if you view the document using Acrobat Reader 6 or something along those lines, when you go to File>Print, choose Output Options and then check Save as PDF File. Mac OS 9 users should be able to do the same thing with Adobe's free PDF Printer Driver Plugin or the shareware program PrintToPDF. Ghostscript is a program available for Mac and Windows that should theoretically allow you to work around the forms problem as well.

Given that you can't type in the data and save it without paying Adobe a lot of money (but see above), why don't you just do your sheets in Microsoft Word format (or RTF)?

Microsoft certainly doesn't need any more money, and while Word may be more commonly installed, such a solution would still require purchase of a commercial application. But the primary reason I don't use anything other than PDF is to maintain strict control over the appearance of my sheets.

We've all downloaded character sheets off the web in RTF or Word formats, opened them, and found that there are weird page breaks, columns don't line up, you don't have the right font, etc. More often than not, the designer just didn't put much work into his sheet, but sometimes you figure the guy who made it poured his soul into it only to have its format destroyed by differences between his machine and yours. That's where PDF files shine. They allow me to maintain exact control over my sheets, and guarantee it looks almost exactly the same on your machine or mine. No font problems, no weird wrapping or bad page breaks.

*I'm surprised more people don't embed their TrueType fonts in their Word character sheets, which Word allows you to do to share your fonts. Sometimes people at least zip a copy of the font with it. These solutions wouldn't work for me, though, for several reasons: I use a lot of PostScript fonts, it doesn't help at all with breaking and positioning, and I can't really go around distributing commercial fonts to everyone on the web (how Microsoft doesn't get in trouble for basically making commercial type freely available via Word files I'll never understand...I guess it's because they're Microsoft).

Are you planning on releasing a form version of your Dungeons & Dragons character sheet 2.3?

I may get around to doing another form, but 2.3 exploits the new layering feature of Acrobat 6, and I know of no way to have any form layers beyond 1. So one could create forms for one of the "iterations" created by toggling off and on layers, but the form would not fit any other iteration, so it would be pretty useless.

Are you planning on releasing a 2-page version of your Dungeons & Dragons character sheets?

I have done several 2-page D&D sheets, notably for Necromancer Games generically and as a Judges Guild version.

What's the story with the LUGTrek Netbook?

Basically, as I understand it, Paramount thought my Netbook looked too damn good! Since it was designed to print out nicely, they saw it as a potential challenge to their copyright.

I was alerted to a pending "cease and desist" letter, so I voluntarily pulled the Netbook and no longer updated it. I never intended to challenge anyone's copyrights, but rather sought to promote a great game. To me, the role of the Netbook was an important one; it filled a void in the early days of LUGTrek, when there were no supplements to appease a ravenously hungry fan base. Now, LUG has given us many great products, and fan-created material is available in vast quantities, so the Netbook isn't really necessary. But the moral of the story to everyone else is: don't even think about doing a Netbook or anything similar where you compile Trek info for printout.

With the demise of Last Unicorn's Star Trek line, I have reposted the now aged Netbook. Enjoy it until I get a cease and desist letter...

What did you use to make these sheets?

I started doing my graphics in Deneba Canvas 6, and used Adobe PageMaker 6.5 to do my initial layouts. I switched to Adobe InDesign 1.5 (now CS2) for my page layout, and converted all my graphics over to Adobe Illustrator 8, then 9, then 10, then CS, and now CS2, format. The PDF files were made using Adobe Acrobat; earlier sheets using Acrobat 4, then Acrobat 5, then Acrobat 6, and currently Acrobat 7 Professional. They were all created on one of my Apple Macintoshes. You can find out more about my computers at my shrine here!

Why don't you add a list of Feats in the appropriate spaces of your d20 character sheets?

I have had many requests for adding Feat lists to my various d20 sheets, but I am extremely reluctant to do so for two reasons. First, every time WotC or any d20 publisher comes out with a new product, they include new Feats. It becomes virtually impossible to stay on top of these/include them all, and some people will not use any or all of these anyway. Second, instead of having a list of a lot of Feats I don't have taking up valuable real estate on my sheet, I like to use the space to actually record what the Feats I do have actually do; that is, I prefer to jot down notes after each Feat to indicate its effect in game terms.

I want to do <insert something alternately very cool or very boring> with your sheets, but I need the password to bypass your protection. Will you send it to me?

I have started releasing most of my new work with a Creative Commons License, allowing other people to build off my work, so long as I am given credit for the original and a link is provided back here. I hope this allows me a good balance between service to the gaming community and maintaining some branding control of my own.

I have in the past password protected (and continue to protect some of) my sheets because I have spent an immense amount of time constructing them, and some unscrupulous sorts out there have in the past tried to modify my work and then distribute it as their own. If there is something really cool that you want to see on a sheet, email me about that, and I may be able to accomodate you.

How can I help with translating your sheets into an another language?

Please read the instructions on this page.

It's cool that your sheets will let me select a graphic file of my character to insert in the PDF. Why can I only insert PDF files there?

As far as I can tell, this is a limitation of Adobe Reader. Adobe Acrobat 5 and 6 (although I'm using Professional and I'm not sure about Acrobat 6 Standard) allow you to choose other graphic formats like JPEG to insert. We'd be in great shape if Adobe would let you save form data and insert JPEGs in Reader! In the meantime, you could find a graphics program that will let you save files in PDF format. (Mac users, I highly recommend GraphicConverter for this purpose.)

Why haven't you made a sheet for Game X? Don't you have it? What games do you own, anyway?

Well, there are a few games I own that I haven't made (or more likely, released) character sheets for, and although I own a lot of RPGs, there are a lot I don't own, either, which makes making a sheet for them somewhat problematic. If you want to check out which games I do own, take a look at my current list.


This page last modified Sunday, June 15, 2008 5:10 PM

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