So I've sent The Heart of Fire to a few people who volunteered to edit it; I haven't heard from them in a few days, so either I've stupified them with my awesome writing or my writing is soi abysmal that I compelled them to jump off a bridge. You can never tell with these sort of things...
In the meantime, inspired by Thick Skull Adventure's upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure "Attack of the Frawgs!" (which I help edit), I had an idea for a level 0 mini-adventure. I would have written it for the DCC ruleset, but all I have for now are the "beta" rules. I could have waited, I know... But I'm impatient. Once I get an idea in my head I need to get it done and out there.
So I decided to create the module using the level 0 rules for D&D 4E that were documented by the "A Hero's First Steps: Rules for Level 0 Characters" article by Philippe-Antoine Menard (a.k.a. @ChattyDM) that was published in Dragon magazine #403 (DDI subscription required). Here is the intro, in all its vague glory:
For years you have followed in the footsteps of your master, watching his every move and learning through observation and study. You longed for the day when you might actually be able to follow in his footsteps and become an adventurer yourself, basking in the fame and glory that comes with such an honor.
One day, during what should have been a normal expedition for your master and the other members of his group, everything changes. You suddenly find yourselves alone, the only hope for a city in desperate need of salvation, and you must put what you have observed in to practice. Can you step up and become the hero you were destined to be?
It's very short - less than 20 pages - and really only has a couple of encounters. I designed it with roleplaying in mind, where the players can really get in to character when their simple level 0 characters are thrust in to danger and must deal with forces beyond their understanding.
The hardest part of this module was coming up with names... The city had three different names - an online random name generator seriously suggested the name "Cloverclover" - until I settled on the name Feldspar. It's a strange name I know, but I'm sure someone can come up with a good reason for it to be called that? And I also had to find a name for a pirate ship, and even though the online "pirate ship name generator" are far from appropriate, it did help me come up with the ship name as The Red Barnacle.
While I was creating the adventure, I ended up creating a tactical map that I really liked: the entrance to an underground crypt. So I decided to make that in to a high resolution image (200 DPI) and release it as a map pack. This new map pack, brilliantly titled M3: Crypt Entrance (I suck at names... sue me) is also available at Drive Thru RPG.
Once I feel comfortable about The Heart of Fire - which will hopefully be soon - that will be released.
A few days ago, on a whim, I decided to try and create a custom compass rose for my maps. I have a few available in the clip art I yanked from Campaign Cartographer 3, but I still wanted to have one of my own.
Also, it was sort of a challenge to myself. I repeat over and over again that I can't draw, and do all my maps solely through the creative manipulation of existing art. When it comes to create an object from scratch, freehand if you will, I cave.
So while I was in the process of putting stuff on my new DeviantArt page, I went exploring and found this tutorial that describes the basics on how to make a neat little compass rose. I figured I'd give it a go.
The result is the image you see to the right, which I am now making available to anyone who wants to use it.
The worse part of the whole thing that, unbeknownst to me, Cartographer's Guild was having a "mini" challenge that was exactly this: create a compass rose. I decided to create mine on the very last day of the contest, a mere three hours after the contest closed and all submissions were locked. Since that dismayed me a little, I'm giving it away for free instead.
There are two files provided below: one is the flattened, raster image and the native vector PNG created in Adobe Fireworks CS5. You would think that the raster image would be a thousand times larger than the vector one, but for some reason the vector one is a behemoth at about 1Mb in size compared to the 250K raster file (don't ask me why). Both image have a transparent background.
In any event, if you use these things anywhere or have any suggestions I'd love to hear about it.
Here ya go!
Download: Original Adobe Fireworks CS5 vector file (approx. 1Mb)
Download: "Flattened" raster PNG file (approx 254K):
A few weeks ago I decided "this was the month I was going to do it," and by "it" I meant participate in the monthly Mapping Challenge posted by Cartographer's Guild. Kind of thankful I didn't think that way last month; it involved making an actual, physical diorama.
So today this month's challenge was posted:
This months challenge is to take an existing board game and give it an update and maybe a cool twist as well. Battle Ludo, Orkish Chess, Steam Punk Monopoly, Lizards and Stairs - what ever fun idea you can come up with - just remember to use an existing game as "base".
I was worried for a bit, but I decided to roll with it... And have decided to use the game "Clue" (or "Cluedo" to you non-Americans) as the basis for my version of "Dungeon Clue". I assumed it existed - actually, while I was writing this very post someone pointed out the existence of Clue: Dungeons and Dragons - but that's not stopping me.
My goal is to try and document the process in some sort of tutorial format as the map progresses. It will not be easy since I do not have any drawing ability, so the map will have to be created entirely through the use of ProFantasy Campaign Cartographer 3 clip art and whatever visual effects I can pull off inside of the Adobe CS5 Master Suite (Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc...).
I will of course have to make some adjustments. For example, I don't know of many dungeon lairs that will have a "Billiard Room" (then again, I'm sure one of you out there has had one at least once), so I will be choosing rooms to fit the theme and decorating them accordingly. I don't know what they will be yet.
Whether I go as far as making actual game mechanics I cannot say, but if I do I will try to make said rules game neutral: they won't be D&D, Pathfinder, etc... I don't want to start a whole new wave of Edition Wars for a board game.
Now, in and around all the other crap I have going on these days, let's see if I can pull this one off...
I am currently developing another module titled The Heart of Fire. In a style that seems to be somewhat typical of me, it's another big one - 116 pages at current count - but I think this module might actually be more usable because of the way it's designed. It's not a linear path... It's effectively a dungeon crawl where the players can take multiple paths to their primary objective, or deviate to do something that has nothing to do with the primary objective, or just wander around and kill stuff. There are several roleplaying options, lots of traps and lots of monsters. Should be fun!
The module is about 90% done, and all that remains is the design of three different rooms and for me to write a whole lot of fluff for the rest of the module (as I've said many a time before, I'm no good at fluff).
Recently, as part of the "RPG chat" that occurs every Thursday, the discussion came up about how one goes about creating a campaign. A lot of people mentioned how they have a hard time with the "nitty gritty", putting together the mechanics on how things work, and have a much better time just coming up with stories or descriptions of things. I am the complete opposite: I guess it's because I've been a computer programmer for thirty years, but I have a tendency to do all the mechanics first and foremost, and then fill in the blanks and make the story around that.
Case in point: in The Heart of Fire, the first thing I designed was the full stat block and tactical encounter map for the endgame boss. I had no idea what his motivations were, or why he was a "boss" in the first place for that matter. I had no clue what environment he would be in, or what would be involved along the way in order to get to where he is at. In the module there is currently a group of zealots known as the Blackfire Order that worship said boss, but at the time I created the boss' stat block that cult didn't even exist; I hadn't thought of it at all. I had a fully documented Level 12 Solo Controller with an arsenal of traps and devices around his lair, but I didn't quite know what to do with it. Everything leading up that didn't exist, and at the time I had no clue what it would be.
Over time I built a world around it, but I built it one stone at a time. Whereas some people may have a vision of the story from beginning to end in their head, I didn't have the faintest idea where it would go. Eventually I created the Blackfire Order (the aforementioned zealots), and another group of antagonists that get in the way, and the maze of tunnels inside the volcano that the boss calls home, and the island on which the volcano stands, and the small fishing village at the opposite end of the island where the encounter starts. Actually, I didn't even get that far yet: the page on which I am meant to describe Serpent's Cove - the village where the party begins their adventure - is completely blank. I haven't written a thing about it.
But every creature, trap and hazard has a stat block. I know exactly how much XP every room has, and I know exactly what level the PCs will be if they take certain paths. I have 36 encounter areas with detailed mechanics, ranging from every unique monster's stat block to the hit points and defenses of the average temple door... but every single one of them has a "read aloud" section that currently blank.
That's just the way I am, I guess. I'll deal with it sooner or later...
In the meantime, I thought I'd try an experiment and see if anyone out there will bite. After I created the boss and his lair, I created the following map:
At the time I didn't know what to do with it, or where it was going to go, or what's in it. Now I have a vague idea, but still nothing concrete. But like I said above, I know every mechanical detail about the encounter that's just outside the door to the North (7 monsters, EL 11, 2,950 XP) and the specifics on the trap that secures the door... but that's it.
I made the map using the "OK, let's see what looks cool here" school of design. A massive pile of coins lying in wait underwater? Let me mess with the transparency and color contrast to make the water look weird... Lit braziers? Let me see how putting an aura around the flame looks...
All in all, a neat little map... That's devoid of content.
So I leave this to you: using the map above, design what the contents of the room will be. Put in as many death traps as you want, pile it full of enough monsters so that they can't move, devise some sinister puzzle or contraption that makes it difficult to get so much as a coin out of this place. The room could be a real treasure vault, or a place of watery doom. Use your imagination!
Conditions: The only condition is that you do not alter the structural content of the room. You can add all the creatures you want, but you must not change the appearance of the room by adding objects. At least not initially, that is - objects might appear after the room is interacted with, such as things popping out from the walls, rising out of the ground, or simply appearing out of thin air - but when the players enter the room must be as it appears above. Again, monsters are the exception: put whatever you want.
Game System: The design could be of any level, and preferably for D&D 4e although I will accept other game systems with D&D mechanics (from 1st Ed D&D to Pathfinder). You can even "fourthcore" it, if you're so inclined.
Judging: Depending on how many entries we get, I will either judge them myself or find judges to take a look. We'll see.
Prize: These days I cannot guarantee retail prizes like I've done before as I don't have the resources to buy them, but I could guarantee prizes I myself have created since they're free to me.
So the winner - or winners, if there is a tie - will get a voucher from Drive Thru RPG for all the products I have listed there (CC1: The Complete Collection, retail value $13.96):
- The Endless Winter
- The Dragon's Master
- The Heart of Fire (once it is completed)
- M1: The Wayside Inn tactical map
- M2: The Ring of Stones tactical map
And, to be honest, if your design knocks my socks off maybe we can work something out to include part of all of it in The Heart of Fire. Of course, you will get credit for the creation in every way possible. No guarantees, but I like to keep my options open.
Deadline: All entries must be in by midnight December 18th, 2011.
So if you're up to it, show the world what you can do!
I guess it would help to add the email: send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
This is a continuation of Mapmaking for the Non-Artist, Part 1.
Been so busy that I didn't realize how much time had passed since the last installment. So here ya go with part two!
Before I continue, a few of you suggested the obvious thing I should have mentioned in the first post: you can create a grid once and simply use that file as a basis for every other file you make.
Well, I do just that so I figure I'll share mine: here are the two base files I use for all my maps, a large 50 DPI grid and a small 50 DPI grid. Hope these are useful!
PART TWO: SETTING THE SCENE
In this installment we are going to start to make the physical aspects of the room: walls, floor and doors. We'll deal with all the cosmetic stuff in the third installment.
Defining Your Goals
Before you start drawing, you need to have an idea of what your objective is. It does not have to be that specific; honestly, most of my better maps were thought of during the process. For example, I had no idea what Whiteforge was going to look like on the inside but I knew the rooms I wanted.
Throughout this tutorial I thought it would be best to have a specific goal in mind. So, in honor of his return to Wizards of the Coast, our goal is to create a map for use in Monte J. Cook's very own "The World's Shortest (Yet Technically Complete) Adventure: The Orc's Pie Room".
In order to make this room, we need the following:
- A 10' x 10' room. For argument's sake, let's make the walls stone and the floor brick.
- One door (currently closed) leading in to the room.
- Let's assume that the room is inside a dungeon, so the other side of the wall is solid rock.
- A table on which to put the pie and, clip art permitting, an actual pie.
- A medium-sized orc.
So let's get started!
If we give the map a 1 square cushion on all sides that makes the map 4" x 4". Let's keep it at 50 DPI for simplicity's sake (and so the images fit in this post), so we're talking about a 200 x 200 pixel image. Using either the guidelines mentioned in Part One or by cropping one of the files listed above you should be all set with a blank 4 x 4 grid.
Here we turn to Profantasy's clip art. Searching through the "Terrain" folder we find a file called "Brick Grey H_LO.png", which is a 100 x 100 pixel image of a brick floor. Perfect!
Ensure that the "Floor" layer is active and all the other layers are locked. Drag/drop the terrain on to your active document and there it is! Now depending on how you drag/drop it, it might not be in the exact position you want; the best way to adjust that is using the arrow keys and looking at the "X" and "Y" values in the left side of the "Symbol Properties" area. They should be 50 and 50, which means the tile will span the 2 x 2 grid in the center.
Here is where I point out that the leftmost "Symbol Properties" is going to be your best friend FOREVER! You may be able to eyeball positions, but there are certain cases where if you're off by so much as a pixel everything goes wrong. The "Symbol Properties" allow you to look at and explicitly set the width, height, X and Y values of the object in question. Let's show you how to use that...
We need to create a hallway for the door entering the room, so we take the tile we've already dropped (that's at position 50/50) and copy/paste it. Now, with that new object selected change the "X" value to 150 and make sure the "Y" value is 50; the result would be that the tile moves to the right side adjacent to the original tile.
But the tile's too big! Right-click on the tile and choose "Edit" -> "Crop Selected Bitmap". A black marquee will appear around it. Now you can either move the top edge down 50 pixels by hand or do it the easy way: manually change the numbers in the properties (see image) and hit Enter. Done! You now have a 5' wide hallway in the Southeast corner heading East.
Over time you may get the hang of doing this cropping with the mouse (once you get enough pieces in a map, Fireworks automatically snaps to existing X/Y boundaries of other objects), but in the beginning (personally, pretty much all the time) I manually enter the values for positioning and cropping. The math's not all that difficult; it's always multiples of the DPI.
Also do remember one thing: now that you have this one piece cropped and sized, you can copy/paste it as many times as needed to extend the hallway.
First, remember to lock the "Floor" and unlock the "Obstacles" layer. Now comes fun part #1: making a complex path for the walls.
As in real life, the walls are a collection of rectangles that are simply welded together, or "joined" if you want to use Fireworks terminology.
For a 50 DPI image, I go with 10 pixels as the wall width; that equates to about a foot, so it works out. For a 200 DPI image that would be four times the size, or 40 pixels. But, since the walls are supposed to be right on the grid lines, they take up space equal to the grid line +/- half the wall thickness.
So now we create a bunch of rectangles. The way I tend to do it is to just draw them freehand in a reasonably close position to where they're supposed to go, then manually adjust the values in the Symbol Properties. In our example, we need a total of five rectangles. The rectangle that makes the Northernmost wall will be 110 pixels wide (100 pixels for the base size, plus half the wall thickness at the ends), 10 pixels high and positioned at 45/45 (offset by half the width). The image on the right shows the rectangles with a slight transparency just so you can see their position relative to the floor below.
NOTE: For any wall that extends off the map, ensure that you make the rectangle larger so that it does go off the map. If you leave it at the map's edge, when you give the rectangle a border it will be visible.
Once you draw all the rectangles, select them all and choose the menu option "Modify" -> "Combine Path" -> "Union". This will create one contiguous polygon.
Now at this point they don't quite look like walls. Might as well pretty them up now! The "Properties" window at the bottom of Fireworks is divided in to five sections. Here are the settings for three of them:
Section 2 (from left): Fireworks comes with a collection of fill patterns, one of which looks pretty good for walls. While the polygon is selected, choose "Pattern" -> "Moon" for the fill category. It will apply it to the texture, but in its native format is rather big for our taste, so with the mouse grab one of the black squares that should now be visible and - while holding the Shift key - drag it so that the "L" becomes smaller. Also, in order to make it appear less repetitive, you can choose to rotate the pattern by clicking and dragging the line between the "L"'s endpoint and the center dot.
Section 3: As for the stroke (the border), I always choose Black, 2-3 pixel width, "Basic" -> "Soft Rounded" as the stroke category and 100% as the edge softness. If you want to give it a slightly rough look, you can set the texture to "Grain" and the amount of texture to 50%.
Section 4: Click on the "+" sign and choose "Shadow and Glow" -> "Drop Shadow". The default values are fine at 50 DPI, but you can mess with them at your discretion.
For reference, here are the values I normally use:
There are a variety of ways this could be done, depending on the complexity of the map area that the players could actually navigate. One method is to simply create a bunch of rectangles and join them together (which is the method I will use below), while another is to create one massive rectangle and "punch" pieces out of it.
Before we continue, ensure you are in the "Obstacles" layer and turn all the other layers off.
Because of the effect we intend to use later we want the rectangles to be larger than the map's physical canvas, so I'm using our DPI (50) as a cushion and start drawing rectangles; if you don't do this, the inner glow we will apply later will be visible along the edge of the map. I draw the rectangles fairly roughly and close to their positions at first, then edit the numeric values in the Symbol Properties like I did above to make sure they line up perfectly.
Then select all the rectangles you created and choose "Modify" ->"Combine Paths" -> "Union". This will join all the rectangles in to one contiguous object (see image to right). There is the possibility that some of the points will appear redundant, such as the ones along the edges, but that may not matter. You can usually leave them there at first, but as the map gets larger you may want to selectively delete some of these points (using the Subselection tool) in order to decrease the complexity of the polygon.
At this point ensure that the object is at the bottom of the layer, which you can ensure by selecting the object and choosing "Modify" -> "Arrange" -> "Send to Back".
Now it's time to texture it... I use the either "mountain light_hi.jpg" or "mountain light_lo.jpg" from the ProFantasy collection, which you can choose by selecting the new polygon and going to "Pattern" -> "Other..." in the Fill options and choosing your texture through the file browser. In order to make the texture repetition less obvious, I like to rotate the texture slightly after it is applied (see image to the right).
Finally, it's time to give it a little bit of effect and show why you created the polygon larger than the map's area in the first place. In the "Filters" section on the bottom, choose "Shadow and Glow" -> "Inner Glow". For the "Width" and "Softness" values, I've found that setting them both to half the DPI (25, in our case) works fairly well.
The result is what you see: an outer area that looks like solid stone.
And there ya go... The orc has his room!
If you wish to see the Fireworks PNG with all the components, you can download it HERE.
Over time you'll begin to realize that this style of mapmaking feels more like mathematics and geometry than actual artistry. I find myself calculating coordinates and dimensions with a calculator and manually entering the values in to the Symbpl Properties more often than not; I hardly ever freehand draw anything, unless I want it to be badly drawn (like natural cave walls).
In the next installment we're going to put a little more decoration: doors, furniture and an actual orc.