December 7, 2012 John Arcadian , , , , , , , 9 responses

Ripped From The Headlines

dragonslayingnewspaperadYou’ve probably seen this dragon slaying ad circulating around the internet. It ran in the classified section of the Oklahoman newspaper on December 1st. While some theories believe it as a prank or a joke, and some theories say it is probably a coded message about a drug deal, they are all missing the best thing about this ad – it’s a great hook and prop for a role-playing game.

One of the things we often talk about in regards to gaming is the immersion level of the game. How much the players are engaged and feel that the things they do matter. How into the game world they are. Using things like headlines or ads from newspapers to help bridge the reality of the game world and actual reality are great ways to enhance immersion.

But, depending on your game, you might not get things that are as appropriate as our dragon slayer ad when you need them. (Although, wouldn’t this be a great introduction to a modern game where the PCs find out the supernatural is real?) So, if you find yourself needing to make headlines, you could always try one of many newspaper headline generators. Or, you can try this little trick:


Fake Hack Websites To Make Your Own Headlines

Open up the webpage you want to edit, then paste this line of code into the URL bar.

javascript:document.body.contentEditable='true'; document.designMode='on'; void 0

That makes the local (and only the local) copy of the website editable. You can then type, delete, replace, and drag images into the website, enabling you to make an adequately convincing fake, like this one:

NewspaperHack

Pop on over to the New York Times website and see if this screenshot doesn’t look incredibly convincing. Now, you can’t save this edited version, but you can replace the URL to it’s original location (Left click in the url bar and hit ESC, this resets the URL. But don’t hit enter again or it will reload the non-edited page) and then flip your laptop for the players to see. Or you can take a print screen and display this to the players as well. Just replacing the URL after you’ve edited will make it look more realistic though, but it will still be in edit mode.

Doing this can help you get a smidge more immersion in your games, and you don’t have to be an expert at web coding or photoshop to do it. Just type and change. Do you have any other ways you create headlines or in-game props? What other tools or tricks do you use to make in-world props or provide immersive interaction in your game?

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John Arcadian is a writer, gamer, art director, web designer, crafter, and kilt-wearer. You can find more of his writings on gaming over at http://gnomestew.com. For web-design projects, check out http://beezenwebdesign.com.
Comments
    1. Gord Hatt     | Reply

      Firefox: Tools -> Web Developer -> Web Console and then use this, without the “void 0”
      javascript:document.body.contentEditable='true'; document.designMode='on';

      Can’t help you with IE.

  1. John Arcadian - Post Author     | Reply

    Hmmm. I’m not sure why that isn’t working for you. I used firefox, but it was the most recent version. It should work on any browser capable of running javascript, but the older version might not have an editable mode in it. I know it also works with chrome and opera.

    Pretty much, the trick is just a bit of javascript that allows you to turn on an edit mode. The issues I’ve encountered are with noscript turning that off and having to re-toggle it. Here is a web search that brings up a bunch of articles about how to do it.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=edit+any+website&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-beta

    1. Scott Martin     | Reply

      Very cool! I was going to mangle your article as a fun playback… but I was thwarted by no-script. So that was a good guess.

      (I could have persevered, but I thought I’d just give you props instead.) This is a great, fun idea–thanks!

      1. John Arcadian - Post Author     | Reply

        Thanks! Things like no-script block stuff like this because of the possibility that you could use it in a social engineering attack. I.e., fake edit a bank’s web site, screen capture that, then use it to make a fake login. However, you could do the same thing by doing a complete save of the webpage and just uploading it to your own server. Que sera. For every security measure there will be 5 ways to get around it.

        To disable just that factor of no-script in firefox.
        * type about:config in your bar.
        * Click the I agree and will be careful button.
        * In the search for options bar above all the settings, type:
        * noscript.allowURLBarJS
        * This should narrow the options down.
        * Make sure it is toggled to true

        After that, you should have no problem.

  2. paddirn     | Reply

    Running a Cthulhu campaign and using a crap-ton of props like this. I think it not only helps with the immersion factor, but when you’re playing an investigative game like that, props help to jog the players memory about certain key objects or bits of information.

    You can just tell the players that they read a newspaper article that says that so&so was caught by police doing such&such out at the Smith farm, and most likely by the next time you play they might remember bits and pieces your next game session, but if it’s a crucial piece of information, you want them to be able to connect the dots without prodding them along. At the beginning of the session you can bust out the props and give the players a quick refresh and hopefully prod them in the right direction.

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John Arcadian