28 December, 2013

A new sequence for a new year

I traditionally start every new year with a new sequence of articles for the blog...I rarely manage to complete a whole year worth of articles, but I always try to give it a good shot. Often the first couple of weeks get regular issues, then a week might get missed every now and then, I might try to catch up with a few weeks seeing double posts for the sequence...and if I get too far behind, I just give up.

I did 52 articles for my "Game Mechani(sm) of the Week" series, I worked through the development of the "Hell on 8 Wheels" board game, but most other attempts just haven't seen it through.

At the moment, I'm pondering what to do for my intended sequence for 2014. 

Any suggestions?

26 December, 2013

A new generation of LARPers

As a PS to my last post, I thought I'd just share our efforts to create the next generation of live-action roleplayers...we'll start them in the superhero genre and move on from there.



Now to find a good system to teach them.

Maybe, like the costumes, we'll make up a system from scratch.

25 December, 2013

Happy Whatever Festival You Partake In!!

I don't have much to add today, it's been too busy over the last couple of days with a combination of work and family stuff...still, I thought I'd take the time to wish everyone well.

21 December, 2013

A Preview

Here's some images for something to be started in the near future...




...it's taken a while so far, and this is only the start of the project.

To Patreon or not to Patreon?

There's a great new funding platform called Patreon. It basically uses people to fund an artist to continue their work, to keep the motivation happening, and so that the funded artists no longer need to rely so much on day jobs...they can focus on their art. There are already a few great game designers who've taken to it, and a few map illustrators as well (i'm looking at you Dyson).

I'm thinking that it might be a good way to keep motivated about map tutorials if I take on a Patreon account for myself...map tutorials will be released for free here on the blog, and maybe over on the Vulpinoid studios website. Any accumulated Patreon funds will go towards getting a print run happening for the final collection of tutorials.

18 December, 2013

Map Tutorial 19 (Part 1): How Settlements Begin

Throughout the development of the Walkabout roleplaying game, I've been seriously considering how settlements start from a tiny encampment, then gradually tend to grow larger and more prosperous, or dwindle and fade away (many settlements go through multiple phases of growth and contraction throughout their histories).

Since I've been drawing a lot of maps depicting post apocalyptic settlements, it has led me to develop certain patterns when building up an outpost of civilization for the characters to encounter in the game. Such outposts may begin as single buildings, but if people wish to remain in such locations they need something to keep them there...this might come in the form of trade, local resources or strategic importance for the settlement. This has basically been the way many villages, towns, and cities were founded.

Tutorial 16 vaguely touched on the way settlements might be located in the grand scheme of the local region, but it didn't look at how the town actually develops within itself. Tutorial 4 gave some ideas about how to draw specific buildings based on their roofing styles. But a bit of theory in social development might help to make the layout of towns more realistic and contextual for the setting in which they are found.

Like every other tutorial in this series, consider the theories here to be new tools to add to your cartographic toolkit. You can choose to use them, ignore them, or use them as starting points to develop something new of your own.

17 December, 2013

Sharing a Commission

I was working on this commission over a month ago, when my scanner went down. As a result, I've had to wait until now, when I'm using my parents' scanner to digitize a whole lot of recent imagery.


I'm not really happy with the way this one has turned out, so I've performed a few tricks to make it a bit better.

Firstly, the image was drawn at A2 (420mm x 594mm) I had to scan it in four A4 passes, then use Photoshop to reassemble the final image. This always causes problems.

Next, the edges of the A4 quarters became dimmed, dulled and slightly blurred along the middle joins because the excess paper caused the image to bend away from the scanning plate. To cover this, I've used stock footage of folded and slightly crumpled paper and a multiplied background for the image. Hopefully this gives it the vibe of a military map that might have been found in the pocket of a soldier and unfolded before characters go in for the mission.

I wanted to add some colour to this, but I didn't quote it in my original commission, and this map has taken me too long already. I've probably already put in twice as many hours as I originally intended, and it's well overdue for the person who originally requested it.

I hope he likes it.  

My old notebooks

Sometimes I find one of my old notebooks and it has an illustration that inspires me in some way. Sometimes it's an illustration that I've looked at many times over the years...something that I really want to do something with, but something that hasn't found it's appropriate place yet.

I just found one of those illustrations that I keep coming back to...and I still haven't thought of a project to attach it to...so I thought I'd share it with everyone.

I feel like it should be connected to a game about conflicted realities, people who exist in the real world simultaneously with a dream world, or maybe a game about faith and insanity. I'm still not sure.

16 December, 2013

Map Tutorial 18 (Part 2): A bit more river theory

(Not sure why this one has gone so dark...)

This is the kind of stuff that most people don't really need to know when they draw maps. But if you think about the map rivers carve their way into the landscape, you begin to understand the terrain a bit better.

The landscape isn't completely random, it is a developing ecosystem. Rivers carve into the continental landmass, creating valleys according to the types of rock they cross. Soft rock might allow for deep gorges (or it might allow for wide floodplains, depending on the speed of the water)...hard rock might push water in other directions as it tends to follow the path of least resistance. Harder rock might push water around it, possibly forming islands in the course of a water-stream before it reforms on the other side.

Consider the type of rock and the speed of the water, using these we can offer hints about the land (in the case of dwarves, there might be an indication of the minerals typically found in the area...in the case of elves, there might be more of an understanding about the plants and greenery).

Map Tutorial 18 (Part 1): Rivers

Let's get a bit more theoretical.

The next two tutorials focus on rivers, because I've seen far too many maps where the waterways just don't make logical sense in the context of their environments.

A little bit of thought goes a long way...and another thing that might be useful to keep in mind is that traditional borders often follow rivers, don't make rivers follow unnatural borderlines (channels carved by intelligent societies are another matter for another tutorial).

Map Tutorial 17: Isometric Dungeon


There is so much potential when it comes to drawing maps. You can draw straight plans, isometric style, perspective, mixed-perspective...these can be combined with varying types of shading, hatching, colouring...and can then be applied to a huge array of subject types...ships, urban areas, landscapes, regional areas, underground complexes...and there are so many more possibilities. I can't hope to complete a fully comprehensive guide to every style of map, so the ongoing aim of these tutorials will be to produce my own version of various mapping styles, maybe provide a bit of theory that could help make maps "more realistic", and add a few ideas for any cartographers to add to their toolkit.

This tutorial adds more ideas to the earlier lessons. Not so much new stuff, but a series of ideas for combining some of the earlier techniques into a mapping style that might be a bit different to what you've already seen. (If you have already seen stuff like this, it might provide some hints on how it was accomplished.)

[You may also notice that the tutorial numbering has been dropped at this stage...that's because I'm considering compiling the tutorials into a book, where they will be organised by theme rather than by order of presentation.]

15 December, 2013

Map Tutorial 16: A wider perspective

Since we've missed a few weeks, there will be a couple of map tutorials each day over the next few days to help clear out the back log. I hope you don't mind.

This is my attempt at replicating one of the common styles of map found in plenty of RPGs and fantasy novels in the 80s and 90s. It plays with perspective, where the bottom of the map provides the close detail for the area where the action takes place, while the further territories gradually get less and less detailed and the context of the setting is placed in the wider world.

I drew plenty of maps like this is the mid 90s when I was running a few fantasy campaigns, but as I moved toward tales in modern settings and urban environments I stopped drawing in this style. It's nice to get back to it.

These maps aren't meant to be accurate for scale, towns are typically drawn much larger than they should be, individual trees depicted in forests are also enlarged....but it certainly gives a distinct feel for the region being portrayed.

I might do a few maps like this in the near future. Maybe drawing up a few of my old campaign worlds for people to share/    

Map Tutorial 15 (Part 2): Isometric Mapping

It's taken over a month to get things back in working order, but finally the tutorials are back.



12 December, 2013

Putting things in perspective

I generally get 5000 views a month on this blog. I though that was a pretty healthy viewer count, some months (especially recently), I've received 10,000 views. I'd have thought that this would be enough to make a minor blip on the radar.

So, when a list of 200 odd blogs is posted, with a quick review on each, I thought I might get a mention.

Nope.

Obviously not getting enough viewers ...oh well, back to work. I'll keep writing in cult-like obscurity.

09 December, 2013

What happening with Rajah Spiny Rat?

Several years ago, I wrote a game about sentient animals in a caste system, vaguely inspired by the early myths and caste system of Hinduism.

It is called "Rajah Spiny Rat". Highly experimental and probably not very playable, but filled with great ideas that have filtered through into my more recent work.

It has basically sat available in a few locations with neither promotion nor revision...but for some reason, every couple of weeks someone somewhere downloads a copy. It would be nice to think that there are other people around the world breathing life into this text, or maybe using it to inspire their own games.

Curious.

A bit of exploration

We have an abandoned brewery and distillery near my house.

Sometimes, while looking for post apocalyptic inspiration for Walkabout, I go exploring.

Here are a few shots I took on my last exploration of the site.







04 December, 2013

El Casador

A game where teams of fragile pilots use giant humanoid weapon platforms to fight against abominations from beyond the outer orbits of the solar system. No dice, no numbers (maybe minimal use of numbers would be better), psychodrama and intrigue galore. Just like an anime, just without the annoying character who everyone hates.

Full Size Sheets [Available Here]
Pocketmod Rules and Playbook [Available Here]

This is a pre-release beta, only available on the blog. If anyone has any feedback on the game, it would be much appreciated.

A refined version will hopefully be available by the end of the year over on RPGNow.

28 November, 2013

So tempting

In case I don't get around to writing up a series of modelling and terrain tutorials, it looks like there might be another option available.

Some talented Spanish designers have launched an Indiegogo project for a beautifully illustrated book about figure modelling and terrain building. If I can fit this into budget before the funding project closes, I might try to get this added to my Christmas stocking.

Modeling Stories In Miniature

At the time of writing, they've already reached a couple of stretch goals. It's certainly worth a look.



24 November, 2013

Possible Terrain Building Tutorials

The map drawing tutorials were generally well received. There are plenty more of them ready to go, as soon as I have a scanner working again.

One of my other game related hobbies covers the field of miniatures. I've been building terrain for years, but a move of house caused me to lose a decent amount of my terrain, and I haven't been playing miniatures for a while, so the desire to build new stuff hasn't been a high priority. In recent weeks, the house has gotten back into skirmish games and tabletop miniature scenarios...that means new terrain is in order. 

Would anyone out there be interested in a semi-regular series about building terrain for effective use with miniatures? These would possibly be a weekly thing (one article describing the creation of one terrain element). 



23 November, 2013

Sanity and Insanity

Warning...this is going to ramble a bit...

What is sanity?
What is insanity?

If we hide behind a wall of "faith" are we still sane? Is this a method of legitimising insanity, in such a way that it becomes socially acceptable (at least within a certain segment of society)?

(A post from an old schoolhood acquaintance in my facebook feed)

If I was to walk down the street claiming that I was hearing voices I'd probably be treated as an outsider, certainly as someone who needed to stop believing in imaginary friends and childhood fancy. If I made mention of hearing these voices while in a doctor's office, I could probably expect a quick psyche assessment...if I stuck to my story, a visit to a special hospital might be in order. As long as I kept the belief about voices hidden within my head, and it didn't impede my ability to interact with society...everything would be fine. But it's the whole interface between our mind and our world where things start to get messy. I could describe my views of the world, but how would I know that my perspective would be understood. I could relate tales in allegory and parable, but there would be some people who'd take that allegory at face value, there might be some who'd understand what I was aiming at, but there would be others who would interpret the ideas through their own filters of perception and understanding. If I was a prophet 2000-odd years ago, my parables and allegory might become confused even more...some might claim that my words were appropriate to the time when they were spoken, some might claim they are eternal concepts for the ages. Some might claim to follow my words, some might tell others to follow my words so that they can reap the benefits.

If I was to find a few people who believed in the same imaginary voice(s), or who held the same ideas about the way the world worked, we might be designated as a cult. If there were thousands who followed the same ideas, it could be dangerous, especially if they followed the tainted words of an ancient prophet or cherry-picked their beliefs (claiming that some of the old parables were indicative of eternal constants, while others were only valid to their time and context, and others were misinterpreted at the time of writing).

Lots of things have been contributing to my thoughts in this regard recently.

The antics of the Tea Party in US politics.
The same sort of thing happening with the election of neo-conservatives in Australia.
The current era of Globalism and the previous era of Colonialism

Then I thought about the possibility of life on other planets. We've recently been told that there are millions of planets with a chance of harbouring life in our galaxy alone (one of which might be as little as 12 light-years away).

What are religious fanatics and the current neo-conservative ruling class going to say when we encounter alien life?

It's going to be an amazing time, but I predict that the same old patterns of human history will repeat.
 
I foresee...

A group of people who will try to exploit the new world. Any life we might find there will be considered primitive and ignorant, requiring human intervention (regardless of how deep or ancient their history may be). We've seen this time and again when "civilised" nations have "conquered the great unknown". It will be colonialism all over again.

A group of religious fanatics who will claim that the alien life are "demons" who need to be destroyed, and a contrarian group who believe they are "lost angels" or something similar worthy of worship.

A new translation of the Bible, where the people dispersed across the world after the tower of babel are now dispersed across the worlds (perhaps even dispersed across the universe)...and similar changes to all religions.

A new understanding of class, where humanity may become the underclass, or perhaps as inherent predators a ruling class.

When certain members of our race try to expand our consciousness through the understanding of aliens cultures, others will claim alien-appropriation.

The paradigm will shift. The notion of sanity and insanity will be twisted.

That's enough rant for now. Sorry, I just had to get that out.

50 Years of Dr Who

This kind of stuff is all over Facebook and Google+ at the moment, but maybe that's just due to my circles of friends in both social networks (one of the girls at work was complaining today that all she ever sees on Facebook these days is pictures of penises and other forms of porn).

I'm a fan of well told stories, and Dr Who has its share or great stories...it has also had its fair share of bad stories, but for a show that's survived 50 years that's to be expected.

We're running through a marathon of the most recent season as I write this, in preparation for the 50th anniversary special. It makes me think of the elements necessary to a good Dr. Who story, it needs genre elements from two sources (from the Dr. Who mythos, and from the setting currently being explored by the Doctor and his companion), these genre elements need to come into conflict early in the story and then they need to combine into an elegant solution as the story reveals its inner workings. The other important factor is that the Doctor always wins, the world might suffer dramatically as a result of his victory, it might change in unexpected ways if things go awry, there might be collateral damage in order to achieve the victory, but the Doctor always wins.

Naturally, this leads me to think that this would make a good game. But not in the way it's been presented in RPGs so far...I don't just want stat blocks for Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Slytheen, Adipose, or the Master...sure, those are the elements from the Doctor's Mythos that make the story distinct, but there needs to be something about the inherent danger and timeline transformation, the way the world changes when the Doctor wins.

In this style of story, the Doctor is not a playable character, he is a force of nature. Instead the players are companions, trying to channel the doctors will in a direction that will cause the least devastation. They try to pick up the pieces of the world once the Doctor has won. They provide the Doctor with his conscience, they give him the clues necessary to make logical leaps, they are instrumental in the achievements, they provide focus.

+Nathan Russell's Space Rat, might be a good place to start when developing a Dr. Who games that sits more closely with the genre material. I've thought this before (and may have even posted about it). I must get around to working this out some day.

21 November, 2013

Bug Hunt Works

Despite submitting the board game "Bug Hunt" as a university assignment over a month ago, the game didn't get a proper playtest until tonight. I'm glad to see that the game works as well as I had hoped. It takes the abstractness of Zombie Dice and grounds it in a more interactive format that keeps more players interested in the proceedings of play.

With this in mind, it might be time to take the game toward the next stage of development (getting a formal playtest prototype created), or considering twists to the game (such as genre twists using goblins or other settings I've developed over the years).

19 November, 2013

12pm-2pm Pocketmod Conversion

I've run the game through the pdf to pocketmod converter.

But now I've been called in to work, to cover someone else's shift.

So I guess this is it.

The Mandala of All Things is also finished...between that and the indicated components required, the game should be good to play.

It's outside the 24 hours, but the game will be uploaded to 1km1kt when I get back from work.

10am-12pm Preliminary View

Here's what I've been working on.

I might try to do a bit more tweaking, but this might be it.

The Bodhisattva's Smile pdf

8am-10am Playing with Graphics and Layout

I think I'm generally in a good place with this game. The simulated runs have felt right, I just need to hope that I've explained it well in the rules.

So I've spent the last hour or so engaging in some basic layout. Nothing too fancy, just enough flavour to inspire, but not enough to detract. It's a balance I am for in many of my games, sometimes aiming for a bit more flavour when the setting is a bit obscure, sometimes aiming for more simplicity when the setting is obvious.



I've got a good title-page image, now I'm currently looking for a good title font.

I've also spent half an hour or so posting my updates on 1km1kt since that's where the competition is focused...I should have done that earlier.

2am-8am Actually slept and had breakfast

I've actually had some sleep now, I'be had some breakfast and I've looked through my notes from last night.

I'm about to start reorganising the notes into a specific play sequence. It's looking very structured and regimented at the moment. I'm not sure if that's a good thing. Let's see how it looks in a couple of hours.

12am-2am Can't Sleep

There are ideas floating through my head that I have to get out. It's turning into the Bodhisattva's smirk.

New structure of the game splits each pilgrims journey into three steps. The first step assigns the pilgrim a bodhisattva. One play takes on the role for the pilgrim, another takes on the role of their spiritual advisor, and the other players take on the role of the pilgrim's troubles. This make the bidding a bit more competitive.

The second step is a question and answer session, in which the bodhisattva tries to offer advice as they delve to the heart of the pilgrim's trouble (while other players act as a distraction).

The third step determines how successful the pilgrim has been in their quest for Nirvana.

To pull in the mandala, I think we need different types of problems. 4 or 6 types, named not numbered. These are general ways for the pilgrim to ground in the world, and give ideas for the types of problems the pilgrim might seem to possess. Perhaps two layers to the problems...the issues that the pilgrim thinks they have and the issues that are actually holding them back.

There's potential in that. A bit like the old White Wolf Nature and Demeanor system. There is the deep issue at work and the surface presented to the outside world.

Maybe the surface problems are endemic to specific types of pilgrims, warriors are linked to fighting, courtiers to lust, bureaucrats to greed...while the players can write the deeper problems, and these are randomly assigned to pilgrims. This adds more complexity to the pilgrims, which is a good thing.

The pilgrims should be more complex than the bodhisattvas, because they have more ties and obligations to the outside world. The bodhisattvas have only a tenuous link to our reality, and they only maintain that link as a chance to serve as spiritual guides to those who seek them.

 Hopefully, now that these ideas are out...I'll be able to sleep.

10pm-12am Testing and Retesting

I think the bidding mechanism is basically sound.

Every player gets a range of tokens in a variety of colours from a limited pool. They offer their to tokens for the right to address the pilgrim. All tokens go into a central pool once the bidding is complete, then they are evened out and passed back.

If everyone has 3 tokens of 3 colours (9 total)

Player A bids 6 tokens (left with 3), Player B bids 4 tokens (left with 5), Player C bids 2 tokens (left with 7).

Once the bidding is complete, 4 tokens are distributed back to each player (A ends up with 7, B with 9, C with 11).

In this way the tokens fluctuate around the group, players might choose to play strategically, offering a low number of tokens for the chance to build up...then launching a massive bid when they see a pilgrim they really want to interact with.

I'm now thinking of a single bidding phase for each pilgrim, because a bid for each question is slowing things down in the test runs I've done so far.

It's getting late, time for sleep. Maybe I'll think fresh in the morning.

18 November, 2013

8pm-10pm Refinement Stage One

The basic ideas still seem to hold...

...but now I'm running at twenty pages of background notes and five solid pages of game ideas.

To fit the whole thing into a pocketmod, I'm going to need to strip this back down to three or four pages of specific game instructions...perhaps even two pages with a third page dedicated to world building data. Or I could overflow this stuff onto another booklet.

I'm really trying to keep to the single pocketmod format this time.

There is a bit of a dilemma in my head about how players address the pilgrim. I think there should be some kind of bidding mechanism in place, but I'm really not sure about the best way to do this.

Perhaps this is where the tokens come into play.

Time to do some simulations.

6pm-8pm The Basic Ideas

I like cards...but the 24hour RPG challenge says no numbers.

I like communal storytelling, so that works.

I like tokens.

I look through my old posts on unexploited RPG resources and find sme fun ideas. Notably the one about magic eight balls. I seriously consider how to get some of these ideas into a game.

I google a few images relating to Buddhist and Hindu mandala, because this could make a really interesting centrepiece to the game.



The basic idea for the game at this point involves a group of players inquring about the problems in the pilgrim's mind. They take turns trying to help the pilgrim overcome these issues and achieve nirvana.

The player who helps the most, gains the opportunity to achieve nirvana also (or simply gets a step closer).

...perhaps the pilgrims answers are defined by the magic eight ball.

I've started compiling notes on bodhisattvas, buddhism, and nirvana from around the web in a hope that there might be some inspiration.

Basic gameplay notes are in flux, there are three solid pages of them.

6pm Live Design Begins

It's now just after 6pm (6.30 because I've had some internet troubles...not an auspicious start).

I've had two ideas floating in my head.

El Casador and The Bodhisattva's Smile

The next 24 hours will be dedicated designing a pocketmod game about the latter.

The basic theory...a group of highly enlightened, nearly-divine beings live in a cave that is horrifically difficult to reach. Only the most dedicated pilgrims attempt the journey and only the most worthy reach the sacred grotto.

This is the story of those beings, the bodhisattvas. They hear the tales of the approaching pilgrims, carefully consider the truth of the situation and offer advice to help in the attainment of nirvana.

These mercurial beings are generally benevolent, but to them life is a game. Some pilgrims are worthy of nirvana, some need to spend more time facing samsara before they are ready to ascend.

17 November, 2013

Drawing Maps the Campbell Way (part 1)

Here's my first map drawn in a style inspired by the thought process chart of +Kevin Campbell.



It was a ten minute map. A bit of fun while the scanner is still down.

It has inspired a few new ideas (one of which is a crystalline structure floating through the astral plane...perhaps some kind of transdimensional prison or stronghold).

16 November, 2013

Other Mapping Techniques

I've been running a few tutorials on mapping techniques, and they seem to have gotten a bit of attention. If you've been following RPG mapping lately, you'll probably also be aware of +Dyson Logos and his work (Have a look at his Patreon project here).

But there are plenty of other folks producing some great maps.

One of whom is +Kevin Campbell, who has been kind enough to let me show an image of his mapping process here on the blog.


It's really different to my regular design process, so that intrigues me. I think I'll try out this technique to produce something. It's only fair that I try mapping according to other techniques now that people are linking back to me with maps they've drawn based on my tutorials.

14 November, 2013

Sneak Peak part 3

I've actually been given permission by the commissioner to show images of the work in progress...

...so here's the next one.





Just fixing up the planes and runways, then I need to find an eraser to get rid of the pencil lines, and a scanner to digitise it before shading and colouring can be applied.

I'm pretty happy with this one.

Sneak Peak part 2

Here's the update for the work I've been doing.

More detail than I've put on a map for a long time...

...and more to go.

13 November, 2013

Sneak Peak at a Map

I don't know how much of this I should be showing, but it's turning out to be a really fun project that I'm pretty excited about.



It is one of the commission maps that I've been offered through the exposure gained from the tutorial series. I won't say anything else, for fear that I may have said too much already.

Crazy idea for a game

Outside of time and space, an entity exists...if something can be said to exist in a void without place or temporal measure. But as soon as the entity of the void comes to underrstand its existence, it also understands that there is something beyond it. It is not everything, and thus it begins to perceive the outside world. Perception brings definition, the observer defines reality. Reality coalesces into a stable form at the speed of sight and imagination.

The vast infinity of the entity means that it views things on a macro scale, it understands galactic forces like gravity, atomic action and reaction, magnetism, geochemistry, the fundamental principles for building self replicating organisms.

With each thought, the entity fractures it's concentration. Avatars spin off in fractal form, each an observer and definer of reality in its own right, each subservient to the original entity. These Avatars were not created consciously by the entity, and thus their identities were not distinct from the entity. Incomplete in their awareness, they were able to observe and moderate the aspects of reality under their purview, but not define and control it like the progenitor of their forms.

Perhaps the entity was lonely, perhaps it sought change beyond that which it was capable of.

The entity fractured its essence deliberately, shifting infintessimally small fragments of its raw primordial nature into the most promising of the self replicating organisms. Some of its avatars (unable to realise that this thought was not their own) followed the entity and shared their essence among the organisms of the physical realm.

That's the grand world-building level of cosmology...but what does it mean for a game.

Reality exists in a state of flux. It is basically defined on the most macro level by a grand creator (consider it the demiurge, or some such thing), and at a more meaningful level by the avatars of the deity (consider the largest avatars as Archangels or Titans, and their fractured essence/avatars as Angels or Gods). These are beings that regulate reality, keeping it stable and coherent.

Humans and Mortals have been imbued with the true creative essence of the demiurge and they are able to recreate reality according to their dreams and desires, but most are unaware that this is possible. The vast majority of humanity simply stabilise reality through their consensual belief in specific paradigms.

The basic structure of reality might be viewed through string theory...Where each string is a line of perception originating outside time and space in the mind of an avatar. The commonly followed paths of perception manifest in the physical world as points of immutability and lines of power (ley lines), these are places where humans feel most comfortable because these are places where it does not tax their spark of divine energy to maintain the status quo. People congregate at these areas and along these paths, thus cities are born and trade routes established. In the wilderness outside cities, things are less known...they need to be percieved to be stabilised, or those who a willing to break with the established order might use the lower stability to work changes to reality through their own desire.

Consider reality to be a spider's web...then consider the gaps of the spider's web to be filled with tiny webs of their own. Now consider two spider webs, one woven by the entity and its avatars, one woven by the mortals. Where these spider webs intersect, reality is at its strongest...where the entity's web is strongest, reality follows strict patterns and rigid forms...where the web of mortals is strongest, reality is subject to consensual reality and miracles may happen...away from all webs, or where conflicting paradigms of consensus oppose one another, the darkness and chaos thrives.

This sets the tone for Lovecraftian horror, where hidden towns of cultists bring their beliefs into being far from the eyes of the civilised world. It provides possibility for the tales of William S. Burroughs, notably things like The Naked Lunch in a truly foreign city like Interzone, where the beliefs of age old civilisations conflict in alien conspiracy and nightmare surrealism. Exploration into the unknown might awaken half conscious avatar fragments, almost like demigod aliens horrific to the mind of mortal man. It might allow stories akin to The Adjustment Bureau, where avatars struggle to maintain the status quo while humans make decisions capable of ripping the entity's fragile reality apart...one step off the observed path of the avatars shows a side of reality that was never meant to be seen.

These are tales of a war in the shadows, where reality is nothing like it seems to those unwashed masses who never choose to step outaide their comfort zone. It is a world whe the belief of a zealous lone individual can change the very nature of reality, while the accepting consensus washes over the weak like a neverending tide. 

It is inspired by thoughts and hints I've been hearing about Demon: the Descent. I'd like to think that the game goes in this direction. If it doesn't, I can always write this game myself.


09 November, 2013

NaGaDeMon is looking good this year

Thanks to the 1km1kt contest this year, there have already been some good things released this month. If I get a chance I might review a couple of them...

...especially that one with the bullets.

07 November, 2013

The 24hr Design Challenge

1km1kt is running its annual 24hr game design challenge. It runs with an honour system, with participants making a general sportsmanly promise to complete their entry over the course of one full solar day.

I'm going to do things a bit differently. I've got a couple of full days available in the next week or two...so I'll dedicate one of them to designing a 24hr game. Over the course of the day, I'll blog my progress live. Hopefully 5 or 6 entries over the period. The first one setting the starting point for the challenge, then a post every two hours or so to provide some ideas on my progress...no posts while I sleep...but then the posts will resume the next day.

It will be an interesting experiment to show how my brain thinks while I'm thinking about a game design and refining it rapidly.

Does anyone think they'd be imterested in reading this sort of thing?

05 November, 2013

A change of pace

One of the things I hate about my Epson multifunction centre is the fact that when it runs out of ink, it not only doesn't print...it also doesn't scan. That means no new tutorials until I get a new cartridge for it or until I find an alternate method to get images digitized clearly (cameras keep giving me blurred images).

So, it might be time to start posting some NaGaDeMon work.

04 November, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 15 (Part 1): Isometric Mapping

This one's a bit more complex, so it's time to up the ante a bit and move to our first two-part tutorial.

A lot of people use formal grids when they draw up isometric or perspective maps. You may note that drawing maps "the Vulpinoid way" doesn't use proper grid paper at all (there will be another tutorial addendum coming soon with some ideas along these lines). For this style of map, we draw a basic grid with pencil to get the placement of buildings basically right...then we basically ignore it, and erase it at the end of the drawing process.

An isometric or perspective map can be used to give players a better sense of place, sometimes providing details that a flat plan simply can't portray, sometimes adding elements of depth in a more meaningful way that spatially-challenged players might have problems visualising, and other times just because it looks cool. This style of mapping really starts to blur the line between cartography and scenic illustration.

03 November, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 14: Small Castle or Fort

I knew there would come a time when the tutorials started slowing down. Now we've reached that time.

It's not that I've run out of ideas, it's more a case that I've had to start fulfilling some other tasks, and my map tutorials have seen me offered a couple of commission pieces. Paid work comes first.

This tutorial is a bit of a follow on from previous ideas. Once again it builds on a lot of the concepts previously described, it doesn't go into minute detail about specific rendering styles, instead it just jumps over those aspects of the drawing.

Castles and forts are a common setting for adventures in a fantasy game, so it seemed appropriate to designate a tutorial to them. One of the first role-playing resource books I bought (and one I still own), is Palladium's "The Compendium of Weapons, Armour and Castles"; and some of the fortress illustrations in it are beautiful. Some aren't so great, but the good ones have really inspired me to draw some fun castles over the years. If you can find a copy, I seriously recommend it (I believe they released a series of separate books; one each for weapons, armour, and then castles at one stage...these might be the ones now available).

 

29 October, 2013

NaGaDeMon is coming around again

It's coming up to November again, that means novel writing for the NaNoWriMo crew and game design for the NaGaDeMons. It kind of snuck up on me with all this map making over the last couple of weeks. I have a few brief ideas that could work, but the moment University exams and map making are a bit more prominent in my mind.

One of the ideas I've had for NaGaDeMon is basically old school anime style...effectively Pacific Rim in the asteroid belt. You play a crew of mind linked latent psychics, plummeting through deep space on a massive weapons platform, aiming to intercept giant horrors from beyond the solar system before they get the chance to devastate the Earth. Since the giant robots in Pacific Rim are called Jaegers (German for "hunter"), I'll call mine Cazadors (using the Spanish variant).

Otherwise I'm hoping to refine my bug catching game...perhaps a goblin variant that's been playing around in the back of my mind.

27 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 13: The Bunker

Lack of proper thought is one of my pet peeves when it comes to maps.


  • Castles filled with treasure rooms, great halls, royal bedrooms and maybe a kitchen, but nowhere for the servants to work.
  • Interstellar starships bristling with weapons and hangar bays, but without bathrooms or fuel storage.
  • Cities without the necessary buildings for civic infrastructure.


A little thought goes a long way when drawing a convincing map. Think about the things that the people in the area might need, think about why they may have chosen this area in the first place, and what else they might have brought to the area or built over the course of their habitation. What does this tell us about the area?...the people?...the stories that might be told here?

Not every map needs to be immersed in "realism"...as an example, magical towers might transform themselves to accommodate for the needs of their inhabitants. If you deliberately choose not to include something in your map, what does this say about the location? If you accidentally neglect to put something in, and your players pick it up during the course of play, how will you ad lib elements of the story so that this becomes a point of interest rather than a stalling point for the story?

Map Drawing Tutorial 12: Changing Elevation


Sometimes a map depicts an environment split across multiple levels, and in these cases you often need ways for people to get from one of those levels to another. Common ways of doing this include steps, ladders, and spiral staircases.

This tutorial focuses on a few of those methods for changing elevation.

24 October, 2013

Another Cartographer of Beautiful Maps

I'll always be someone who appreciates good work, and when I find something good I love to share it with others.

I've just been alerted to the work of +Heather Souliere. She seems to do a lot of similar stuff to me, with pen-and-ink and a variety of other mediums.

Here's a few images, but seriously, have a look through her blog if you get the chance.





23 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 11: Cross Sections


Sometimes a top down view just isn't enough, it helps to provide an additional view of the scene in order for players to help visualise the area where their adventures are taking place. One way to do this is with cross sections.

This example could be an underground bunker for a military group on the borderlands, or maybe a bandit hideout in an old burial barrow.

As a bonus, I've included my quick method for drawing a variety of tree elevations/profiles.

22 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 10: Embellishments


Once the basics of a map have been drawn up, there are ways to make it look more professional, or ways to integrate it more carefully into the world it describes. A little bit of attention to detail provides a heightened sense of immersion for the players, attending to the right details can implant story hooks into maps.    

21 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 9: Old School Wilderness

 
In the past week, I've only posted one map tutorial (the one about the boat)/ I've been too busy worried about the bush-fires that get ever closer to my house. Today I received an alert, that the fire might be heading our way, and that we need to get our things ready to go. So Leah and I stopped our studied, headed straight home and packed the car with what we could. 

That doesn't leave a lot to do, and we can't leave the house because we might not be allowed back (if it gets declared as an evacuation zone). So, to keep my mind off things, here's a new map tutorial.

It's based vaguely on the old maps from fantasy novels and games of the 80s and 90s...but with the Vulpinoid Studios signature style applied to it. There are a lot of ideas in this tutorial, and plenty of options to add to your cartography toolkit.

19 October, 2013

Local images

I just thought I'd show a few images of the apocalypse currently unfolding in this part of the world. Hopefully, a new map tutorial tomorrow.







Nothing like living in an apocalypse to set the tone for writing a post-apocalyptic game.







17 October, 2013

Fire

There may be a hiatus in map tutorial posts while my part of the world is currently on fire.

16 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 8: The High Seas

After the earlier tutorial on islands, I was inspired to create a tutorial about the ships that explore them. It's not a particularly complex ship, but it gives enough pointers to help a GM render their own ships for campaigns.

Most notably, we introduce the concepts of wood grain, crates and barrels. These are details that I love to add into my maps, providing points of interest for players to latch onto.

I've fiddled with the contrast on this one to show the pencil lines a bit more clearly.

15 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial Question

These tutorials have been doing pretty well, they've seen triple the normal traffic come through the blog and I've been seeing quite a few people linking to them. Thankyou.

So, my question to everyone is...

Are there any particular types of maps you'd like to see me offer a tutorial on?

I'm currently working on a castle, a ship, an elven tree fortress, and a series of tutorials about laying out a logical kingdom or empire for a fantasy game.

13 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 7: The Blasphemous Mine


I like maps to tell a story, and I like them to have little details that draw you in. In this particular map I play with a few techniques to produce something a bit different, a mine that has dug into something that was better left alone. Perhaps a lost underground shrine has been revealed and the miners were killed, or perhaps the miners converted to become cultists for the blasphemous forgotten spirit.

The basic details from this mine are inspired from some mineshafts and underground ruins I explored a few years ago...before you ask, I didn't see a strange occult shrine down there...It's probably inspired a bit by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well.

12 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 6: Shading and Hatching


There is more to making maps than simply outlining the locations. Good shading can really mean the difference between an average map and a good map (or a good map and an awesome map).

I like to shade my maps in a style that reflects the cartographer who might have drawn the map within the setting. An elf would probably have a different style of shading than a dwarf or an eldritch spawn of an unnamable being, each would focus on different elements that the consider to be important within the context of the map.

Future tutorials will show how to use these hatching and shading techniques to give maps a specific "feel".