Bob Portnell's Web Page

Hi! I'm Walter Robert Portnell, Bob to most. Welcome to the drabbest webpage I've ever made. At least it loads fast, eh? I'm nerdily proud to say it's all hand-coded, just like my original site in 1997.

Ugh, the page has gotten long enough to merit navigational links.



Here's where I am on the more social parts of the web. I'm not actually there much.

Service Link Comment
MeWe See Me This is basically the only social media site I post to any more. And not much at that.
FitBit See Me Yup, still trying to make my health better. Shall we suffer together?
Google (no link) I only keep this account because I've tied it to so many other activities on the net. But you can use my nvdaydreamer mail to reach me, probably.
Facebook See Me I only keep this account to be able to view content that somehow only ends up on FB. I post very seldom.

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Self-Care and Inspiration

My biggest challenge is managing my time and focus to help me "do what needs to be done." (No Powdermilk Biscuits available in my area.) But here are some things I'm trying that I wish to share.

Site Link Comment
Bullet Journal Link People can go totally nuts designing spreads for their journals, but I'm called to stick to the basics and that should be more than enough for me. It will feel good to keep things out of my head and on paper.
Berin Kinsman Link Not only does Berin write clear and interesting material on roleplaying games and on writing itself, he philosophizes about what's really important in life. I find his opinions often coincide with my own.
The Black Box Manifesto Link Daniel M. Perez proposes a set of rules for RPG production that significantly overlaps the features I like in a game. I just have to give myself permission to let go of things like graphic imagery, and make sure I'm laser-focused on what needs delivering (96 digest-sized pages go fast!).

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Virtual Tabletops

More and more I like gaming by computer. This is different from computer games. For instance, take Ticket to Ride, the wonderful railroad games by Days of Wonder. I love the games. I would love them less if I had to keep care of three actual decks of cards and dozens of actual train car markers. So I play through my screen, with virtual components that can't, say, roll away into an unreachable place.

Title Link Comment
Roll20 Link If RPGs were the full-time hobby it used to be for me, I'd be in here often, even though there's so much to master. I'm Bob P. with the Snoopy the Author user icon. It's mostly free, with two subscription tiers if you need more features.
Tabletop Simulator Link to Steam Store This one is by no means cost-free, but it's the one I chose to pay for. I'm still trying to figure out what I'd use it for.
RollGate Link Text-based gaming is so slooow. But maybe I should be giving play-by-post more attention. I'm Bob_P in time zone GMT-8. You'll have to sell me on this one, 'cause it seems too crowded and chaotic.
Rolz Link I'm very fond of a make-it-yourself attitude, and Rolz has that. Every created campaign gets its own chat room, forums, wiki, and private space for GM notes. It's pretty much everything I'd want in a chat-based gaming environment.
VTable Link This was my first VTT program. It still works fine, though the current caretaker is looking for coders to liven up the project again.
VASSAL Link Last but not least, the original play-by-email engine. I wrote a module for it! And you can even fake pass-and-play with it.

The problem with any virtual tabletop is content. For the games I want to play, few publishers have made VTT game assets available. I have made my own, but I will not (illegally) share them when they contain copyrighted content. I'm still exploring how to get to the gaming I want to do.

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Current Roleplay Game Stuff

These are the RPG things that occupy my mind the most right now.


Here's where I try to put all my loud-mouthed opinions about roleplay games to the test.

Title Link Comment
Essentials Edition 2.9 MB ZIP of PDFs Roleplaying basic rules, with updates to latest popular Fudge practices and revised fight scene rules.
Final Frontier (Essentials) 1.1 MB ZIP of PDFs Yet another of my homebrews for classic Star Trek roleplaying.
Fantasy (Essentials) (in development) Rules for magic and fantasy peoples inspired by the original RPG
Ultimate Edition 6.3 MB ZIP of PDFs Roleplaying basic rules plus classic Star Trek setting rules and way too many printable doo-dads.

The Fantasy Trip

The first RPG I loved, and I'm over the moon to see it back in print and well-supported. Most of my roleplay these days is the solo sort using this game.

Title Link Comment
TFT: Bob's Option Helper 0.0 MB PDF. A quick reference making it easier to see the relationships between options and movement in TFT Legacy Edition. Designed to be folded into a two-sided half-page card. (Don't tell anyone, but what I like to do is pick the movement on the initiative step, and then pick a valid action. Sssh!)
TFT: Bob's DX Modifier Helper 0.0 MB PDF. A quick reference for common combat DX modifiers. Two identical half-sheets on the page.
TFT: Thoughts on Personality Web Article Two alternatives to the Personality rules in The Fantasy Trip.
TFT: Superhero 0.5 MB PDF. House rules and design notes for how we played superheroes in the '80s using TFT Classic. Contrary to the article contents, I probably won't revise this for TFT Legacy Edition ... but y'all can figure things out if you want. I've been pretty transparent.

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Classic Roleplay Game Stuff

Here are the more popular things I've made in the roleplaying world. I add new things now and then, or revive old things on request.

Risus: The Anything RPG

I love Risus so much, I stole ideas from it for EZFudge. And I'm (twice) a member of the International Order of Risus, so I can completely testify to its utter grooviness.

Title Link Comment
Stuff! Risusiverse I've written a few rules tweaks and designed some variant character sheets. They're in the Risusiverse somewhere, along with many other, much cooler, things.


I spent many, many years immersed in GURPS, even managed to get published a time or two. I wouldn't have the time for it these days, but that doesn't make it bad.

Title Link Comment
Final Frontier 0.4 MB PDF Roleplaying rules for the Star Trek universe, rather minimalist by GURPS standards. Requires GURPS Lite (3e)
GURPS Lite (3e) 0.4 MB PDF "This is the boiled-down 'essence' of GURPS: all the fundamental rules, but not the options and embellishments that often confuse new players."

The Black Hack

A wild and fun take on THE classic game, light, quirky, and flavorful.

Title Link Comment
The T22 Hack 0.2 MB PDF A rules hack for The Black Hack to make rolling higher always better. Supports any version of TBH including the spanking new Second Edition.


Steffan O'Sullivan's roleplay game to be played outdoors.
Here's my house rule to make Sherpa higher-is-better: For unopposed tasks, add the trait to the random number (and modifiers). The total must meet or beat 11.

Title Link Comment
Play Aids 0.1 MB PDF Character, Reference, and GM scene cards

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Board Game Stuff


The classic space war game by Marc Miller, now ably published by Steve Jackson Games (and nearly out of print again).

Title Link Comment
Basics of Space Flight Web Article Useful tips (I hope) for the novice interplanetary traveler.


The Looney Labs card game that's never the same twice.

Title Link Comment
Fluxx Playmat 0.0 MB PDF A little one-pager I made to help me keep the tableau tidy.

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Stargazing Stuff

Yes, just "stargazing." Maybe someday I'll put more investment into it, but for now I'm content learning and discovering via naked eye or binoculars. I've had two telescopes that didn't get used, so probably no point trying that again.

Being a nerd, I'm overprepared. I have grab-and-go bag with all my stargazing supplies: binoculars, basic star atlas, dim red flashlight, and a copy of Sky & Telescope's annual guide to sky events, Nightwatch. I don't use electronic tools in the field — I need my night vision! I just do a lot of prep, and here are some of my favorites.

Title Link Comment
Navigational Star Chart at the U.S. Naval Observatory Web Site My first goal is to get acquainted with the five dozen stars that for centuries have been the navigators' guides in the night sky. These are even visible from my light-polluted backyard. When I want a better view, I can drive to public land a half-hour north.
Michael Shepard's Star Deck Web Site Then I can add the constellations. The Star Deck puts them on free printable cards and includes a guide to their legends and lore. On my cards I've hand-marked the navigational stars. These are great fun, even though I find the problem of scale distracting.
Star Wheel from Sky & Telescope Web Article The formal name for such a device is planisphere. This one is good if you enjoy craft projects. I also have this one, which I like a lot. However you spin, this puts constellations into their context on the dome of the sky.
NAVSTARS Web App in ZIP file When I wanted to know where to look for the navigation stars from a place and time, I wrote a self-contained HTML/CS/JSS program that will run in most any browser and print as a one-page table. Directions: Unzip the file, but don't open it with the browser yet! First, use a text editor to edit the location and time fields in the source code where indicated. Save, and then view it in the browser.
Data Services at the U.S. Naval Observatory Web Site The moon and the sun happen to be sky objects, too, so I use the USNO tools to print timetables for rises, sets, and twilights.
Weather Underground Web Site My favorite site for weather. No point in planning a stargazing outing if it's going to be overcast.

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