31 May 2019

DEM Cloud Cover

Discovered this NACIS talk and wanted to do some experiments

I applied this technique to my old DEM from the 490 project; it turned out all right, though not nearly as pretty as John Nelson's examples.

If anything I feel like this emphasizes everything that I think is wrong with this DEM, very dimply, and not really realistic contour grades, the river systems should stand out from the mountains more I guess. An interesting way to look at things

28 May 2019

Fiction vs Fantasy

I was watching some more nacis lectures and came across this one by David Nuttal and wanted to just comment on something he said in passing.

I think his work is amazing and tend to empathize with a lot of what he says, yet I couldn't help but cringe when he said he makes fictional and not fantasy maps. First off his example of the LOTR map, while maybe the most recognizable, is not the end all be all of fantasy cartography. Also while it has been severely criticized is not as bad as many seem to think, you just have to realize that it is made in a certain stylistic manner; I may go into a deeper review of that particular map at a later date.

My real issue is the statement that he makes fictional and not fantasy maps; this is based on a false dichotomy. Not so long ago science fiction, traditional wannabe LOTR fantasy, sword and sorcery, and standard modern fictional stories were all lumped together under the label of fantasy. Arthurian legends were considered Fantasy. what separates the Oddyssey or the Illiad from Fantasy? Most scholars agree that much of the events described in those works probably didn't happen. Many of these older myths and legends are not considered 'fantasy' simply because of their date and their origin, not because of the stories they tell.

Definition of Fantasy from the 1963 Webster's Illustrated Dictionary
 - an erratic or fantastic mental image(fantastic references fancy and fanciful which both reference imagination and something that is 'not real')
Definition of Fiction from the 1963 Webster's Illustrated Dictionary 
 - something imagined or made up

Fantasy is fiction and fiction is fantasy. Categorizing works of fiction into all these uber specific genres may be useful for libraries and catalogs, etc, but let's not forget that these are all works that came out of our of the imagination. When making these fantasy worlds we should doing the same kind of research that Nuttal is doing with his 'fictional' maps. This is part of the reason no one takes fantasy seriously, because we treat it as just a fantasy. Maybe do some research, put in some hard work and we can hope to have something as good as Nuttal. Make your fictional worlds as well researched and presented as the real thing.

27 May 2019

Map K Redux

So after my last post about the map from B10 I was looking at some other maps from modules which Geoff Wingate was credited on. Then I noticed on some maps from UK1 All That Glitters that both ridges/peaks and valleys/passes were shown in the same manner.
Then I began to second guess my earlier decisions and was all confused. After some research I found Geoff Wingate's contact information and emailed about my quandary and with an explanation of what I was trying to do. To my surprise I got a reply.

"Hi Lance... I had to google DEM... that's cool what you've done and I'm flattered you've used my old D&D illustrated maps as inspiration... it's true my drawn lines representing mountainous  ridges and valleys are the same... and where mountains meet a flat plain... I guessed people would 'read' that a ridge line ends in a stick-out headland and a valley line ends in an inlet... if you know what I mean... to be honest, I really think I sort-of invented this graphic technique because I can't remember copying it from anywhere... I had studied architecture and architectural graphics standards and I also loved drawing in art nouveau style or folk-like Celtic style... when I started freelancing for D&D in Cambridge... I found existing rpg maps diagrammatic and abstract so I wanted to draw a more pictorial illustrated map... more fun, more expressive but still scaled and accurate... I'm proud of those maps and pleased players enjoyed them... I was proud of my 'Eye of the Serpent' map where I managed to combine a flat map within a perspective landscape... I don't think I've particularly answered your questions... maybe my response a bit vague... but anyway, thx for your email and nice to meet you... GEOFF"

So from this, we can conclude that both ridges and valleys are represented and we can identify each by the overall shape of the mountains. Using this principle as a guide I have revised my previous outline:

25 May 2019

The Expert Amateur

Alan McConchie has some interesting things to say about the work of so called amateurs; I recommend watching the whole video.

I think these ideas are also applicable to the RPG hobby, specifically the idea of the expert amateur. So much product in this hobby is put out by people who are basically amateurs; they haven't been trained in writing or publishing or game design or cartography. Despite this lack of training, many of these individuals are the best possible people that could be chosen to produce the material they work on because of their expertise. It is because individuals like Thorfinn Tait and Daniel Collins and Jon Peterson and Anna Meyer, among many others, are experts in their respective areas of interest that such great products can be made. It is through the work of these amateurs who are also experts that this hobby continuously expands and pushes new boundaries. You don't need to be a professional to be an expert, and sometimes the lack of training can be beneficial, giving the opportunity to see things from different perspectives.

18 May 2019

Rethinking Sorcerers

I'm thinking of changing the rules for both elves and sorcerers. Keep the rules as they are for spells known, but change the spellcasting method. Why can sorcerers only cast so many per day? I'm thinking of changing it from spell 'casting' to more of a spell like ability. Whenever a spell is cast it fatigues the caster in some way, maybe spell level increases the fatigue potential.

Going off of the rules I already have for casting those 'extra' spells; every spell requires a saving throw against spells to be cast with a penalty equal to the spell level. Maybe the INT modifier, or whatever ability score being associated with sorcery, allows the caster to not have to make this check for spell levels equal to the modifier. Also rolls that are equal to the saving throw would result in some wild magic effect, maybe reuse wild magic effects from 3e or 5e. A failure just has the spell fizzle out, and a success has the spell work normally. The hp penalty, or maybe some other fatiguing effect, would apply to every spell cast whether successful or not. So the sorcerer would be limited to spells per day not by an arbitrary number, since they no longer have to 'memorize' them. but by their hp. HP damage could also be tied to spell level.

I'm also thinking making the sorcerer have less spells known than elves. Maybe have sorcerers with an innate number of known spells determined at the beginning of character creation. This could also apply to elves. Elves are naturally born with certain spell like abilities, and some can gain more spells through study and meditation. The standard elf would be more like a ranger, a fighter with a few magic abilities. The standard elf class could still exist following the standard spell progression, but these would be the elves who pursued the study of magic. I also want to update the elven, and sorcerer, spell list to differentiate it more from the wizard. maybe look at some of the spells in the Alfheim gazetteer.

I'm also looking at ways to revamp the spellcasting methods of the standard magic-user to make it more vancian/in line with the fiction. A post about that should be coming soon.

16 May 2019

Elevation Data from Map K in B10

After finishing my poster and webmap at CSUN, I grew dissatisfied with the DEM I had created. First of all the plateau effect at the base of the mountains diminished the slope to the peaks.This particular quirk was caused by me placing a uniform value at the base of the mountains (I think it was 3200 ft), where the line on map K differentiates between mountain and hill. Also despite all my efforts to smooth the map out, it turned out a little too dimply to appear aesthetically pleasing or realistic in my mind. Therefore I determined a better way to move forward was to create a more detailed contour map and abandon the randomization method I used for the project; along with this I reevaluated how I had interpreted elevation from mountains displayed in map K.

So after some conversation at the the piazza, and looking at some other art pieces that Geoff Wingate  did to get some perspective on his art style, I came up with a satisfactory interpretation of the map K from B10. Basically I see it as a series of mountains with branching arms that collide into each other creating these north/south ridge lines.

I am planning on determining the elevation of each ridgeline more meticulously than last time. last time I picked a high point and generated a steady progression of numbers down to the bottom of the mountain range that I applied to a set of points along the ridge. this time each point will be individually evaluated, and I may have to introduce points in the spaces in between the ridges to get the valley/ridge dichotomy that I want from the spline interpolation.

12 May 2019

Keying Dungeons

This One Page Dungeon made me realize a few things about dungeon design and map layouts. I find that most one page dungeons aren't something that I have an urge to to run, they may be creative and seem to be good ready to use tools, but it just doesn't get me fired up. It occurred to me, this has nothing to do with the content of this specific dungeon, simply the layout. I mentioned here some of the issues with maps associated with RPGs. Now I'm beginning to form a clear picture of what a good presentation for modules might be. 

The format of these one page dungeons should be reversed. The map should cover most of the page and the text descriptions should appear as footnotes. Maybe something like Courtney Campbell's key method. The Map should not be keyed with numbers, there should be a descriptive name label on the map in addition to symbols or labels denoting inhabitants and features that can be interacted with. the result of those interaction should be what is in the key below the map. This should all fit on one page, but the main feature should be the map.

This can also apply to more complex dungeons. The dungeon can be split into suites or zones; a large dungeon is simply an interconnected series on one page dungeons. Each page shows a section of dungeon, sort of like b2 with kobold and goblin and gnoll lairs all connected to each other in different ways, each lair would have its own page. Maybe also a include a general description of each lair on a separate page and an overview of the entire dungeon at the beginning. But the single page map and key is what should be used while running the game.

Maybe I'll try to create this with a an old TSR adventure; the main problem I see going forward is how to symbolize interactive features and NPCs.