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


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".

10 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 5: Islands

It's time to get stuck into some of the specific themes found in fantasy maps. This tutorial focuses on the high seas, and the islands that are frequently infested by pirates, natives and buried treasure.

This tutorial is very general, islands come in all shapes and size, often combining the geographical features described. If you want to draw convincing islands with natural looking coastlines, load up google maps or look at an atlas, take notice of how beaches tend to form in the concave contours, and how the convexes and peninsulas tend to form around rocky outcroppings.

Don't stick to rectangular forms, don't feel the need to fill every part of the page with mapped out detail.

09 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 4: Towns and Urban Areas

Based on a request from a reader, we move back to the urban environment. This time focusing on a variety of roof types, and how they might be depicted in a map. A lot of fantasy cartographers limit themselves to the outlines of buildings when they draw maps for their towns, but I find that adding in roof lines creates a sense of depth and detail. I could easily add more detail regarding towns and urban environments, but for the moment this will do...the next few tutorials will move back to nature.

I might even get to sewers, catacombs and dungeons eventually. 

08 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial Digital Addendum 1: Parchment

I often like to digitally add my images to a parchment background to make the maps look more like props from the in-game world.

Here's how I do it.

07 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 3: Jungle Trails

This tutorial looks at a few techniques for depicting more natural terrain; forests, cliffs, and beaches. It also shows how cartographers can start to develop their own style with the tutorial techniques presented. In this way we see two methods for shading forested areas, and a new technique for rendering water (especially suitable to beaches).

For those who read through the tutorial, and wonder what I mean when I say "dyson hatching" have a look at the mapping tutorial by Dyson Logos connected through this link.

06 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 2: Villages

For this tutorial I've decided to shift my focus to slightly more urban environments, with some ideas for how to draw simple buildings, roadways, fields and specific plants that might be significant (such as orchard trees). The elements of this tutorial build on those from the previous post, and the further elements in later tutorials will continue to build with new ways to hatch and render, variant architectural styles, and specific types of features.

I'm hoping that this series will build up into a cartographers toolkit, where readers will be able to pick and choose a variety of techniques to develop a mapping style of their own.

Thanks for reading so far.

04 October, 2013

Map Drawing Tutorial 1

Here's something I've been working on...inspired by the recent work of +Dyson Logos.

(Awesome, I can stick google+ links in my blog posts now.)

Click the image for a larger view, or to download it.

03 October, 2013

Time to develop something special

Now that a few university assignments are over, I get a short break to work on some of my ongoing projects.

Which projects take priority?

That's going to be a tough call.

Hopefully some new developments will be revealed over the next few days.

01 October, 2013

Living on the Edge of Sanity

These are pictures of the area where I live...including religious retreats from a variety of faiths, sheds made of street signs, abandoned railway lines, and dirt roads stretching through the bush. 

When the apocalypse reaches us, we probably won't even notice it.