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FLApp - XML Format - Introduction

A few brave souls have asked about the format by used by FLApp to encode the books, out of curiosity or because they want to create their own content. In this and in the accompanying tag list is a fairly complete dump of the necessaries. If something is unclear or missing, tell me about it and I'll attempt to clarify. Good luck!

To begin: you'll want a text editor with some sort of support for XML formatting. I use Vim, which provides me with syntax highlighting and indenting; there are probably (definitely) other, better, editors for this purpose. Someone with more skill in macros and templates may be able to create a more appropriate environment for writing in this format, but it won't be me.

Maybe this would be easiest if I describe how I go about converting a section from one of the available Fabled Lands books.


First off, I create a file for that particular section, named <section number>.xml, in the book directory that the section belongs to (I'll get to that). Each visible document is in its own file – every section, as well as each playable character description and the (readable) rules.

Next, I copy and paste the text for that section from the PDF. Add a <section> tag at the beginning, with the name attribute giving the section number (as displayed at the top of the page). General HTML rules apply here – extra whitespace (spaces, tabs) and new lines are ignored. To break the text into paragraphs, use the <p> tag at the start of each paragraph (and the matching close tag, </p>, at the end). If there is only one paragraph (besides the list of choices or outcomes at the end) you can leave these out.

Oh yes, this is XML, not HTML. You can get away with badly formatted HTML, but XML is less forgiving. Every start tag (<tagname attributes>) must be matched by an end tag (</tagname>). Empty tags are indicated by a a slash at the end of the tag, eg. <tagname attributes />. So when I mentioned the <section> tag before, it goes without saying that the file also needs to end with the matching tag, </section>. Attributes can be supplied in start tags and empty tags, and are of the form attributeName="attribute value".


Within the section you'll need to identify 'actions' – the things that are generally underlined and can be clicked on (if not greyed out). These are indicated by enclosing the action text within the appropriate tags, <tagname attributes>action text</tagname>. There are various action types available, each with their own attributes that will make the action even more specific. For example, the most common is probably the <goto> tag. The most common form of this is

<goto section="I"/>

which will produce the action turn to I. Notice here that I used an empty tag, without any action text. Most of the tags have their own default text which will get used in this case; this can vary depending on the attributes present. This default text will start with a leading capital, if the program thinks a new sentence is required. To provide action text, do the following eg.

<goto section="J">return to J</goto>

which will produce the action return to J. Notice that the section number is bold here; this is one of those automatic conversions that that the program does, and which I'll try to remember to document. In the same way, codewords can be automatically italicised, and items automatically displayed in bold. Also, an ability name given in uppercase will be automatically formatted. To supply your own style to the text, the standard tags <b>, <i> and <u> can be used (to indicate bold, italics, and underlined text respectively). These can be used within the action text as well as within the regular text (though not in attribute values).

When the section is 'read' by the player, these actions are generally activated sequentially. If an action would have no effect, or can't be activated by the player, it generally stays disabled (greyed out) and execution continues to the next action; otherwise, the action 'blocks' the program until it has been activated. There are exceptions all over the place – eg. the <item> action, which defines an item that the character can pick up, is generally enabled (if the character has room to pick it up) but doesn't block. The 'blocking' behaviour can be specified by using the force attribute in the action, with a value of "true" or "false" (or "T" or "F"). For example, the action <tick shards="100" force="t"/> will create the action 100 Shards and block further execution until it has been clicked on.

Which actions get 'reached' can be changed by using the <if>, <elseif> and <else> tags, which will be familiar to any programmers. If the conditions defined by the <if> attributes are met, then the actions within that block will be activated in turn. Otherwise the text and actions within the <if>: block remain greyed out. The <elseif> and <else> tags can be used after an <if> block, and are activated if the conditions of the <if> are not met (and their own conditions are). These tags can also be nested, although the program gets confused if the <else> and <elseif>s are used at different nesting 'levels' in close proximity.
This explanation is probably less useful than just poking about in one of the files for examples.

Many sections will end with a series of choices (a description and the section destination), or outcomes (a range of dice results and the section destination). Outcomes are more difficult and may illustrate some other features, so I'll describe them. To start with, a set of outcomes need to be grouped with the <outcomes> tag. Then each possible outcome is given by a separate <outcome> tag, which supplies a range attribute (giving the range of dice results it will match), a section to turn to (and possibly a book as well), and possibly a description (between the start and end tags). The description can actually include actions (eg. <lose stamina="1d">1-6 Stamina</lose>), which will need to be clicked by the player before the destination is enabled. In fact, the section can be left out entirely.

Outcomes can also be used like <if> tags, containing some amount of text and actions which can only be activated if the outcome is matched.


Now, the dice result that the outcomes work on are generated elsewhere, usually by a <random dice="I"/> action. When activated, this action will simulate rolling a number of dice, storing the result into a variable. Variables can be kept with each section, and are only kept while that section is the current one. To specify the name of the variable, the var attribute can be used (here and in various tags). If it's missing, an 'anonymous' variable is used. Most sections won't need more than one variable, and in these cases you can leave out the var attribute. So after the dice result is stored in a variable, the <outcome> actions are reached; each of them checks the value of the variable for a match with their own range. Variables can be used for other purposes, holding the results of calculations and used to hold the result of calculations, and to compare against in if blocks.

To store a value directly into a variable, there's the <set> tag. This can be hidden in the text, being automatically activated when it's reached. Alternatively, it can be used like any normal action if some action text is supplied. Generally it's used with the var and value attributes, the latter supplying the value to be stored in the variable. This value can actually be in the form of an expression – ie. using plus (+), minus (-), divide (/), multiply (*) and parentheses ('(' and ')'). As operands within the expression, you can use a variable name, an ability, 'stamina', 'shards', or a few other possibilities. This has made it rather useful for when the authors come up with another unique test or calculation. A more common usage is shown by this example, book 1, 275:

<if god="Alvir and Valmir"><set var="cost" value="5"/></if>
<else><setvar="cost" value="20"/></else>

This determines the price for a blessing paid for later in the section, where the variable is referenced directly by shards="cost".


Codewords should be familiar – the set of words kept by the player to track which quests they've done, who they've annoyed, etc. Within the program codewords have a more general use as variables that are maintained between sections. A codeword is 'set' if it holds a value other than 0 (usually 1); a codeword is 'missing' if it equals 0 or is absent. Ticked boxes are also recorded as codewords, with the number of ticks stored under the name book #'/'section #. Thus, 2 ticks at section 10 in book 1 is recorded as '1/10=2'. Similarly, the ticks recorded by a 'town-house' option are stored as codewords. It's quite easy to use codewords to track the progress of the character, though it's advisable to make codewords fairly unique (eg. by including the book and section number), since once created they continue to exist across all books. For example, in book 5 your status at court is kept by the codeword 'UttakuStatus'.


There are four basic item types used within the program: weapon, tool, armour and item. A weapon is anything that can be wielded, and usually gives a Combat bonus. Armour is any item which can be worn, giving a Defence bonus. A tool is an item that gives a bonus to one of the six abilities (excluding Combat); the tool that gives the best bonus for a particular ability is automatically used. An item is anything else (for the programmers out there, Item is the superclass of Weapon and Armour; Weapon is the superclass of Tool).

To include an item that the character can pick up, buy or sell, a tag corresponding to the item type should be used. Other attributes further define the item. A few examples:

<item name="bag of pearls"/>
<weapon name="enchanted sword" bonus="1"/>
<tool name="golden compass" ability="scouting" bonus="2"/>
<armour name="ring mail" bonus="2"/>

You can also match items in the character's possession by using the same attributes in another tag, with the item type taking the place of the name attribute. For example:

<if item="golden katana">
<choice item="lantern|candle" section="100">Continue into tunnel</choice>
<lose weapon="*" bonus="0">lose all your non-magical weapons</lose>

The if tag here tests whether the character has an item with the name 'golden katana' (it could be a weapon, tool or even armour type). The choice tag, which is used to give the player a set of choices to follow, will only enable if the character possesses an item with the name of 'lantern' or 'candle'. The lose action will remove all weapons with a bonus of 0 from the character's possession. The wildcards '*' and '?' can be used in many attribute values, with the first meaning 'match all', and the second meaning 'match one'.


Items (and curses) may also have additional effects. These are either attribute modifiers, or actions that occur when the item is used. These are defined by additional tags nested within the item tags. For example:

<weapon name="sword of wood">
  <effect type="aura" ability="scouting" bonus="2"/>

<weapon name="Jade Defender" bonus="3">
  <effect type="wielded" ability="defence" bonus="3"/>

<item name="potion of restoration" verb="Drink">
  <effect type="use" uses="1">
    <lose poison="*"/>
    <lose disease="*"/>

<item name="Black Diptych">
  <effect type="use" verb="Read" text="Court of Hidden Faces 410">
    <desc><i>Court of Hidden Faces</i> <b>410</b></desc>
    <goto book="5" section="410" hidden="t"/>

The first item uses the 'aura' effect type, which means that it will give a bonus of 2 to Scouting while carried. The second item uses the 'wielded' effect type, which means it only applies while the item (a weapon) is wielded; the sword is listed as Jade Defender (COMBAT +3, Defence +3). The third item is one that can be used once to restore all Stamina (the <rest/> action, lacking all attributes, does this), and cures any poisons or diseases. The last item is one that can be used repeatedly to jump to section 410 of book 5. The desc tag here supplies the description of the effect, so that the item will be displayed as Black Diptych (Court of Hidden Faces 410).


Curses are similar to items that have ability effects. Poisons, diseases and curses are the three types here, behaving the same way. To define a curse that will be added to the character, use one of these types as the tag name. For example:

<curse name="Curse of Donkey's Ears">
  <effect ability="charisma" bonus="-2"/>
<disease name="Ghoulbite">
  <effect ability="sanctity" bonus="-1"/>
  <effect ability="combat" bonus="-1"/>
  <effect ability="charisma" bonus="-1"/>

Like items, curses can be referred to by in other tags by using the type of the curse in place of the name attribute.


I should explain how the overall file-system is organised. In the root directory of the program there is a file called 'books.ini', which contains details of all the known books. The first few lines are as follows:

1.Title=The War-Torn Kingdom
2.Title=Cities of Gold and Glory

Each known book has a key that is used to refer to that book. For the original books I've used the book number, though any name (comprised of letters, digits and underscores) would be OK. The books that the program is aware of are all listed by their keys in the 'Books' line. The book keys are used in the XML whenever a book attribute is used; for example, the action <goto book=”1” section=”100”/> is shown as The War-Torn Kingdom 100.

Then each book has two entries, combining the book key with '.Path' and '.Title'. The second obviously gives the book title; the first is the location of the files for that book. This can either be a zip-file, or a directory locating the files (more useful when developing the book).

For each book, there is a main 'book.ini' file which gives further details about the book. The program will only decide that a book is available if this file can be found.

Map=Violet Ocean.JPG
Map.Title=The Ports & Anchorages of the Violet Ocean

The first two lines here give the filename of the regional map, and the title to use for that map. 'Death' is the section used when the character dies in that book. The list of official codewords is the last thing here; this is the list shown in the 'Codewords' window. Note that the backslash '\' can be used for a run-on line.

'Adventurers.xml' gives the details of the starting characters. Rather than describing this, it would probably easier to look through one of the existing ones, and changing the relevant parts. Book 5 has one in which each profession starts with a different weapon. Finally, there's a 'New.xml' file which is used when starting a game in that book, and a file for each of the starting characters giving their histories. Again, these should be self-explanatory.

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