Posts Tagged ‘cartography

19
Dec
12

Landscape Painting Around Dwimmermount

DwimmermountWilderness_Sample2

The Opening of The Starfall Desert

In the midst of relocating across the country and becoming a first-time father this Fall, I had been asked by the esteemed Tavis Allison of Autarch to put some of my hedge-wizard illustration skills to work for one of their projects. I had the pleasure of being asked to develop a colored hex-map showing the region around James Maliszewski‘s infamous/legendary Dwimmermount.

James had already enlisted the mapping mojo of the influential Rob Conley of Bat In The Attic to create a play-reference black and white map for the region around Dwimmermount proper, but Tavis called for a large colored map that could be printed on durable vinyl. It was to be sans locations and named areas so the map could function for mysterious player exploration and utilitarian play at the table much like the old wilderness survival map.

I had my earlier methods for making colored hexmaps, similar to the style of the Judges Guild Wilderlands map sets and detailed in my overly long series of posts on this very blog, but I wanted to stretch the process some more and see if I could move the technique into more of a hand-made affair. (At least in appearance, anyway.)

I decided to make the thing entirely of scanned watercolor paint-strokes. If it was going to be in big printed color, I thought I would savor the opportunity and forgo using the color black for creating outlines or details and try and have it look like everything was painted on in color. A lot of published game maps start life in digitized B&W and can have a “coloring book” feel to them. I wanted to see if the whole thing could be done with hand made colored strokes and textures.

In the end you can still see the digital-ness of the whole affair, and I used black for putting the hexes on, but the intent is to have it organic/quirky enough that the machine qualities don’t register to the viewer.

Hills, Mountains, Grasslands, Forest

Hills, Mountains, Grasslands, Forest

The raw painting used to create a "big" mountain pattern for use in GIMP.

The raw painting used to create a “big” mountain pattern for use in GIMP.

The steps were numerous and I won’t detail them unless there is substantial internet begging, but they involved much tracing, painting, scanning, buying a recycled socialist computer, pattern creation, GIMPing, Hawkwind, Ice Dragon, and beer.

My goal next time is to create 4 inch sized hexes with oil paint on a wood panel.

30
Apr
12

One Page Dungeon: The Vault of Illusion and the Cube of Power

This is literally the only piece of the map I could post separately without giving away any important dungeon secrets!

I never seem to get my schedule matched up with the One Page Dungeon contest. In 2009, I drew up a dungeon, “Hilduin’s Vault of Illusions,” for the very first contest, but I got distracted and failed to turn it in by the deadline. Luckily the effort didn’t go to waste, since I was able to run my players through it for two sessions. And in 2010 and 2011, I completely lost track of the contest, finding out about the deadlines only after they’d passed.

But this year, fellow Mule author Greengoat posted his own doubtless-brilliant entry this past Friday. (I haven’t read Devil Gut Rock in hopes that I’ll actually have a chance to play it someday.) This gave me three whole days to produce my own entry! Fortunately, by recycling and updating my original entry — and with a brilliant artistic assist from Red Box New York player-cartographer Josh Krause — I’ve made the deadline and unleashed a horrid little package of tricks and traps onto the old school gaming universe.

For your gaming pleasure: The Vault of Illusion and the Cube of Power.

The Vault sums up, for me, a specific thread of old school play. It’s mean and unfair, but not in the sense that the referee has any personal animus toward the players. Rather, it’s structured to trick the players into getting themselves into trouble. While it’s not as vicious or deadly as the Tomb of Horrors, the same principles apply: the guy who built the place in-game (rather than the module writer, who built it out-of-game) did not have the adventurers’ best interests in mind!

27
Apr
12

One Page Dungeon: Devil Gut Rock

This is cross-posted from my illustration blog last night. I’m sorry if this is bad form, but no one reads my illustration blog anyway and this is a free goodie for you loyal readers. I gotta do something to make up for my lack of talkie-talkie on the mule blog. – das Goat

So, in the interest of triggering more rpg game-playing in my recalcitrant friend, I challenged him to make an entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest this year. Although he is well versed in the nature of dungeon adventuring and RPGs from way back in his youth, he balks at currently playing for various reasons of time commitment and free time. However, he is quite keen on the study of structures and the creation of “game play objects” like miniature painting and particularly making war-game scenery. I knew he would be up for some dungeon design.

So I emailed him the link to the One Page Dungeon contest on a lark, realizing that we had just over a week to go before the submission deadline. But it would be fun to goad him into a competitive effort and the process would be good for my infrequent DMing as well.

After he took the bait and started discussing ideas with me, I started to look through the OPDC webpage in earnest and saw that there were actual prizes awarded and I got even more excited. And then I looked through the winning entries from the previous years and got a bit nervous. There was some good stuff, both from a visual standpoint and play-wise. It would be some stiff competition.

Oh well, I figured. I told him we should blast through the process, try and get them submitted and then take turns playing each other through the dungeons one night. (Maybe shouting over to Mrs. Greengoat about how much fun this was.) That would be the best part and I could use my entry for a future session with the notorious NY Redbox Crew.

So after too much time spent on inking my isometric map and cramming as much text as I could decently fit on a sheet of paper I was finished. I wanted a good playable dungeon and kept my visual extravagances limited for readability and clarity. Or maybe I tell myself that because the map is kinda bare.) It has inspired me to get into more isometric cartography in future endeavors.

Tools used: I inkjet printed an isometric grid straight onto Borden & Riley Paris Paper and penciled in the rooms. I used india ink with brush and pen straight over that and added the keyed numbers digitally. Wrote the text in Open Office and did layout in InDesign with free fonts. I should start using all open source software in the future. Adobe habits are hard to break. I listened to the Melvins.

Use and Enjoy:

OPD_DevilGutRock_Greengoat

25
Jan
12

The Real DIY Deal: Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord

This “recent and amazing donation to the Play Generated Map and Document Archive (PlaGMaDA) project: A beautiful, hand-made homebrew addition to the classic TSR Against the Giants series” is not news to Boing Boing readers, but it bears repeating.

Image from PlaGMaDA, courtesy of Tim Hutchings and The Scribe.

I had the pleasure of seeing the original (thanks Tim!) and it is indeed a thing of beauty! You can download the whole module thanks to Rended Press, whose awesomeness (like that of retro-clone creators) is in no way diminished by depending on the earlier contributions of the as-yet-untracked-down GJC Modules, The Scribe who donated it to PlaGMaDA, and Tim who thus made it what to our wondering eyes should appear.

Some things that have newsiness:

The first rule of Games that Can’t Be Named is that we don’t talk about Games that Can’t Be Named. No, wait, that’s clearly not true. Maybe it’s that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Anyway astute readers of the comments to that Boing Boing piece will note that Tim mentions that tonight’s Games that Can’t Be Named will be happening in partnership with PlaGMaDA. What does that mean? Will Tim be there and will he have the original “G2-squared” module with him?

Sometimes the veil of secrecy conceals the fact that even I don’t know for sure! What I can say is that we will be at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art on 137 Sullivan St. tonight; next Wednesday, February 1st, we’ll be inaugurating the Brooklyn Strategist‘s new location at 333 Court Street and another game that can’t be named.

Also newsworthy: PlaGMaDA needs your help to bid on an auction of awesome DIY adventures and character sheets from the distant past. Having recently and very entertainingly been schooled in the ways of collectors, I won’t link to the auction itself, lest that drive up the price. However, below is a picture of the goodness in which we will all share if your donation allows PlaGMaDA to make the winning bid.

Tim says the donations page is mostly for people wanting to contribute their gaming maps and documents to the archive, but it does have an email where you can contact him and pledge the financial support that PlaGMaDA needs to make acquisitions like this.

05
Oct
11

Your Zork Map is Art and It’s Needed in Copenhagen

Map from the PlaGMaDA collection

Timothy Hutchings is known to White Sandbox players as the dwarf Mallo Beer-bane and to others as (among other things) the curator of the Cursed Chateau exhibit, the editor responsible for the animation wizardry in the Kickstarter video for Adventurer Conqueror King , a panelist in the Dungeons & Dragons in Contemporary Art discussion, and one of the Doomslangers artists. In the latter context he was described as

a gamer and visual artist who often betrays the viewers’ sympathies and trust while delving into the history of film, minimal aesthetics, and chance based conflict resolution. He has shown work at the Kunsthalle Wien, The New Museum of Contemporary Art and Socrates Sculpture Park.

Since I am passing on a request from Tim for help, I feel obliged to say that this thing about betraying trust must be some of that “not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good” art-world lingo; Tim’s sympathies lie with all things awesome and trusting him has always worked out well in my experience.

The request comes from beneath Tim’s hat as the archivist of PlaGMaDA, the Play-Generated Maps and Documents Archive:

I need more maps made for video/computer game play for the FACT
exhibition
.  The latest incarnation is being shown at a contemporary
art museum in Copenhagen
.  I would need the maps in hand by Oct 25th
at the latest, and will reimburse for shipping.  I will return the
maps within four months or so.   Interested parties should contact me
at ozark1@hotmail.com, with FACT MAPS in the email title.

What are you waiting for? Museumgoers and/or those looking to find Flood Control Dam #3 are awaiting your handiwork!

02
Sep
11

Hexomancy: Making the perfect maps for Adventurer Conqueror King

Using the ACKS hexmap format for my personal campaign mapping. If you can squint, you can notice the random village names from Judges Guild tables like Duck Oracle and Concealed Van.

More so than most other tabletop rpgs, “wilderness travel” and hex mapping of the sandbox world is integral to the resurgent old school style of play. In a game where the players can possibly take off in whatever direction they desire, geography holds an even footing with elements like story threads as drivers of fun at the table. Having an easy and logical way to record that visual geography is a key to verisimilitude in ongoing play.

Having been tasked with cartography work for Autarch’s new Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS), I found myself in the delightful position of organizing the game’s hex mapping format that we would use in published material. On one hand, I knew that I would use a type of hex-map among the many used by sandboxing players out there, but I also felt that my method should lend itself to play as best as possible. In short, I wanted to make the type of map sheets I would want to fill up and detail myself if all I had was just a pencil and an eraser and not the crazy gadzooks of watercolor, scanning and photoshopping that I sometimes overdo maps in (see above).

Another concern that I had was with ACKS’ increased emphasis on the middle and high end of play for an OSR fantasy game, the need to “zoom” from local geography to regional and continent geography was self-evident. The higher the character levels that the PCs achieve, the more of the surface of their world becomes their concern. The high end campaign would begin to rely on hex maps as much as the low end adventures would rely on graph paper for dungeon mapping.

So knowing that campaign-usability weighed heavily on my shoulders and also reminding myself of the fact that I was sweating over dinky hexagons of elven glades, I lifted design heavily from previously published campaign maps (Traveler, D&D Gazetteer, Judges Guild) and set about making three different hex maps for use in a campaign that featured three different levels of play.


The first type of map would be the smallest “local” scale containing a grid of hexes that are the traditional six mile size in diameter. This scale would be familiar to most people playing OSR games as the standard wilderness travel hexes that you could get lost in while navigating and encounter nasty wandering monsters in. I wanted these hexes to fit on a letter size page for publishing and also be used by GMs to print and use in their own campaign so I went with a map that was 25 hexes wide and 16 hexes tall. This would make hexes that were roughly half an inch across on the printed page and allow players and GMs to draw their own details in as well as give some room for some pretty map art to be published in any future ACKS campaign or adventure books. Readable details at the local level is what is needed. I also added a larger 24 mile hex-grid over the top to provide an easy way of zooming in and out of the larger map scales shown below. I put coordinate numbering on the small hexes similar to the Judges Guild/Traveler sector maps so any text reference could point to an exact 6 mile hex in the game-world. This resulting “local” size map is roughly 90 miles tall and 150 wide, giving a surface area that can encompass of a couple US counties.


The next standard map would be the “regional” map comprised of four of the smaller “local” maps at. This size map gives a good feel for the DM planning of the relationship between local areas and for mid-level journeys by player characters. The 48 x 32 hex-grid fits precisely into the suggested “starting” sandbox area that many DMs create at the outset of a sandbox campaign. The GM just has to provide the rough geography or fill the hexes with quick icons reminiscent of the old Basic D&D Gazetteer and then pick out one of the quadrants for mapping out the level 1 character’s home base and dungeons at the local scale. This regional map is 192 miles tall and 280 miles wide, giving the total surface area of a typical US state.


The last and grandest map is the “continent” hex-map made up from 24 mile hexes in a 48 x 32 grid. This map is It is roughly 768 miles tall and 1152 miles wide and has the surface area of roughly half of the continental United States. It contains 16 of the region size maps and 64 of the small local maps. It features a coordinate grid so you can effectively specify any small 6 mile hex location on your continent by listing the coordinates of the local map and then the numeric hex coordinates. For example:
Dungeon of Pain – C7-0535
Very nice in a Traveler UPP sort of a way.

In the end, It is all a very modest organization on a simple convention used by players over the last 30+ years but the little extras made a tight system for zooming in and out of the campaign world and it also gave the the right hex sizes for drawing pretty maps for both publication and the play table. It all might be a bit too obsessive by some player’s tastes but we all know in the OSR that rules and standards are there to help player and not hinder fun. So please use and abuse them hexes as you will, they are free to download from Autarch’s website here.

11
Jan
11

The Post Where I Give You Awesome Map Graphics

That is, if you think that by awesome I mean a recreation of the art and design methods of late-seventies RPG game maps. Awesome in a way that Red versus Blue of the generic cold war armies on a Tactics II game board are awesome.

If you will recall from my last stint of map posting, I explained the whole process of generating a random and unique regional hex map for use in a starting sandbox style campaign. It was a homage (copy) of the same style of region maps that were put out by Judges Guild in the late seventies for their Wilderlands of High Fantasy series.

Towards the end of the process, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t exactly replicate their graphic style in my final map iteration. The designers at Judges Guild used a combination of hand-inking on a full size sheet and screen tone to produce their textures and shapes on their large 48″ x 36″ maps.

Photo-mechanical printing to capture a full size drawn map seemed a little severe for my purposes and screen-tone is generally only used in Japanese manga as a carry over from pre-digital illustration days. I had already found some digital textures on the internet that someone had lifted off of old wargame designs that would take care of my forests and rough patches. Those were good, but there were still a bunch of tone patterns that were impossible to locate, to say nothing about the mountains and hills that were hand drawn directly on the old JG maps.

So to satisfy my own obsessive sense of needless design (it is a DM eyes only map, no one will get to see it.), I created a bunch of repeating digital patterns to simulate the inking and screen-tone that I could find on the old maps and loaded them into my imaging software for my personal mapping enjoyment.

And the good news is that I am giving them all to you.
They include such top hits like:

  • Forest
  • Grasslands
  • Coast and River Rough Patches (sand)
  • Rolling Hills
  • Rough Hills
  • Mountains
  • Swamp
  • Desert (I am quite proud of all the little palm trees)

And a couple different encounter symbols for :

  • Villages
  • Castles
  • Lairs
  • Ruins

All the patterns are scaled to perfectly fit the 48″ x 36″ 150 dpi hex region map that I am also including in the attached zip file.

Here is the link.

Or try here.

Or maybe here.

See the included readme for further instructions about how to use them in your graphics program. However be forewarned, it still takes a lot of fiddling with layers and brushing and erasing hills to get it to look good. It is no Campaign Cartorapher. It looks particularly good when you lay the whole business over your enlarged watercolor painting. But it also looks just fine in B&W like the old Judges Guild maps.

Enjoy and map-on through your 70’s fantasy lands. Listening to Hawkwind helps the process along.




Past Adventures of the Mule

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