30 March, 2014

Real Oriental Adventures

I've long been a fan of Asian inspired settings, I've written a few games with Asian inspired setting myself. But it's great to see someone from this part of the world giving us the lowdown on how these settings should be done right.

Alexander Osias over at Hari Ragat Games has started a series of blog posts about Building South-East Asian Settings, and I hope this post is the first in a long series. [EDIT: It's actually Dariel Quiogue at Hari Ragat Games...Alexander just shared the link]

The first post is pretty comprehensive and a great grounding point for the concept.

Good work, Alex Dariel.

(P.S. To answer the opening question in the post...the reason I haven't written more South-East Asian inspired gaming material is because of all the people screaming "cultural appropriation" in recent years.)

29 March, 2014

Back on the Hottest List

It's always nice to be on the RPGNow Hottest Titles list.

It's been a while since I've had a product there, but then again it's been a while since I've released a product. I hope that this means the experiment is working, even if it isn't then there should be a few people seeing the new mechanisms that drive this game and that might help inform further game designs in future.

Now it's just a case of waiting until the first batch of reviews come through, hopefully the game makes sense to other people and it's not just an incoherent jumble of crap.

28 March, 2014

The Experiment Has Gone Live

I don't know how well this idea will work, but unless you try something new, there's no way you can ever advance.

So, as an attempt to push the envelope, I've launched my new project over on RPGNow.

You can choose to pay a cheap price up front to help support the development of the product, or you can wait until a more polished version of the product becomes available (and pay a bit more once it's ready). I won't say too much more here, just go over there and have a look.

26 March, 2014

An Idea that needs an Application

I was driving the car today and an idea struck me...I have no idea what to do with it, or how best to implement it. So I'm throwing it out there as a concept that anyone can take.

The basic concept is that a player has a hand of cards, they play a card from their own hand and the GM draws a random card from their hand. If two characters are going up against one another, each player draws a single card from their hand, and then draws a random card from the remaining hand of their opponent.

What happens now?

I'm not sure, it's just a kernel of an idea.

Maybe a player compares the cards in some way. An action might have a difficulty, and the player needs to select a higher card to beat that difficulty...if the random card is higher still, they get an extra degree of success on their action...or maybe, if the random card is higher, they get a success but don't have to sacrifice something in the process.

At this stage, it's just something else to throw in the toolkit when I need to work on another game.

Maps, Character Sheets and Fun for "Tooth and Claw"

I've just added a few new accessories to the Vulpinoid Studios RPGNow store, character sheets and other play aides for "Tooth and Claw". They're free downloads (but you might need to spend a coup,e of dollars on the game to make them useful).

Visit it here.

24 March, 2014

There's no excuse for Bad Art

A quick look through some of the home brewed RPGs shows a mix of great artwork, but there is also some terrible imagery.

I know that a lot of independent designers are one-person operations, and there are only a very few people can be a great at all aspects of publishing (writing, editing, layout, artwork, marketing), but this doesn't mean artwork has to suffer.

Even if a game designer doesn't have artistic talent, or a doesn't have a budget to hire someone for the job, there is some awesome public domain art available.

I've done a quick search for "public domain fantasy images", and found enough links to get anyone started...as well as a few forum posts that link to new avenues for research.

The Google Search Result
(EDIT: A quick look at some of these images shows a few that I recognise from various sources and are probably not public domain...but you can narrow down the search with Google, perhpas limiting the results to those with "labelled for resuse", or "non-commercial" if you are planning to use it with a free game.

13 Art Sources

A couple of responses on Stack Exchange

The RPG Site

Even that terrible site RPG.net

...and that's just a cursory glance because I like to illustrate most of my own products.

A quick look at book layout ideas generates just as many results, but this topic requires a bit more work than just copying an image an sticking it on the cover of a book or adding among the words.

Inverse Bell Curve

There has been a tendency to produce games using bell curves recently. Roll 2 or 3 six sided dice and add the results together, you end up with a pattern where there is a higher probability of getting central values, and a lower chance of getting outliers (either high or low). The FATE system is similar, using dice that generate results of "+","-", or "0", you roll a bunch then end up with values centred around zero, gradually getting less chance of extreme positive results or extreme negative results. 

But is it possible to come up with the exact opposite? A method of randomising results that has a lower probability of generating these central values, and more chance of extreme outcomes (whether positive or negative)?

I've been contemplating this for a couple of hours and haven't been able to come up with a good solution yet.

"Why would you want this?" I hear you ask.

There are a few reasons.

Firstly, because "middle of the road" is safe and boring. The extremes are where the fun lies, the critical hits and the critical misses are the events that make an anecdote interesting. They may not be good for survival, but they really drive a story to interesting places.

Secondly, because it's different to everything else out there...this is probably an over-generalisation, a flat d20 roll is pretty common in a lot of games, and there could easily be games that I haven't considered. What I'm looking for isn't a game mechanism that drives conformity, but something that instinctively pushes the envelope.

Thirdly (and this is where my true motivations lie), because I'm trying to work out a hit location grid that tends to produce hits in the outer parts of the grid rather than the centre-mass. The basic concept is a robotic AI that can suffer damage as the body is hit...the core of the AI is in the middle of the grid, and the less valuable parts of the programming radiate from it. When a hit is scored, I want it to have a better chance of hitting those areas on the outer edge (the skills and upgrades) rather than the inner core (where the true AI sits)...but there still needs to be a chance of hitting that inner core, otherwise there's no risk.

Just toying with the idea at the moment, too many other things to focus on, but any suggestions would be appreciated.

20 March, 2014

What the hell is happening to D&D?

Since yesterday's post regarding Apocalypse World basically went ballistic (400-odd views and over 30 comments in less than a day), I fugured I'd have a look at my other successful posts over the years.

Number One on the list is an innocuous post entitled "Obligatory 5e Post", looking back on it in retrospect I guess that it was a bit of a clickbait thing as well...but it was posted in January of 2012. That's got me thinking...it's over 2 years later, and I still don't know what's happening to the elusive new edition of D&D. I've designed games, abandoned them, designed new games, and then revisited abandoned designs in that period. The thing that slows me down is typically the fact that I'm only one person and I can't spread the workload. What can be holding up a project that is meant to be the quintessential flagship product for our hobby? Surely, WotC has more than just a single person working on the product...frantically typing away at a laptop between sessions of self illustrating and laying out the work. Maybe it's been released and I just haven't been paying attention.

Anyone got feedback on this, I'm curious.

(For those who are interested, the next most viewed posts are the ones where I start the process of designing my rollerderby game "Hell on 8 Wheels", one about using pocketmods to develop a goblin-centric game, and the first of my map tutorials).

19 March, 2014

The Ten worst things about Apocalypse World

I seem to be the only one in forums who casts a critical eye on certain "Indie darlings"...maybe I'm just someone who likes to tip over sacred-cows in the middle of the night...maybe I've just got a thing about sacred cows at the moment.  It's not that I don't appreciate what these games are trying to do, it's not that I think they're rubbish; it's just that I think people should get over them...they aren't the be-all and end all of gaming existence for the whole world. They don't need to be hacked, re-hacked, appended to other settings, praised for their incredible versatility (even though they may have been only designed to do one thing well). I just think that people get lazy when they see something cool, the same could be just as easily directed at "FATE", "Burning Wheel"...pretty much any of the games that have had half of the posts on the front page of Story Games dedicated to them at one time or another.

People need to stop hacking, and start designing.

Hacking is just lazy cut-and-paste.

(No, I'm not going to go through 10 things that I really hate about Apocalypse World...this was just my attempt at a "Click-bait" style of heading, just to see if it worked.)

18 March, 2014

What do you do with the corpse of a sacred cow?

If we work on the analogy that a game is a body. There are certain fundamental concepts in the game that could be described as its skeleton, these are the immutable parts that hold everything together and give the game structure. Then there are parts that could be described as the muscles, they allow the game a degree of flexibility, and configure the bones in ways that allow work to actually be done.

In FUBAR (and by extension, Walkabout), the skeleton consists of the "otherkind" mechanism where players roll or draw a series of random outcomes then allocate their results to different categories before applying the result back into the story. That's clever, it's not mine (and credit has to go to Vincent Baker for that one), and a lot of people love that about the games. Another bone is the pool of tokens that represent the challenges to be overcome as the characters work their way to the climax...this one is mine, and it also stays.

The bits that cause the dilemma are the "forced scene and act structure" of the game, and the flowing economy of trait cards. Both of these are specifically linked to one another, and while they connect to the other parts of the game via other flexible rules (muscles in the analogy) they can be modified.

One of the problems with specific designation of acts and scenes is that it can be hard to determine when one ends and another starts...this applies to the transition between scenes, as well as the transition between acts. I've found that making a definitive break point between scenes can be jarring...and more often than not, a long period goes by during the course of play and I look at the traits built up by players, I see that I've neglected certain traits that have completely lost their relevance because I've forgotten to specifically declare an end to a scene or an act...sometimes I miss it completely, and a player specifically says to me "I got injured a while back, does it still affect me?"

The game structure is fairly minimalist in its design, and little things like this shouldn't be happening. So there is obviously something wrong.

I'm thinking that the best way to fix it is to take a leaf from the game "Agon" by John Harper. This game has influenced a few of my designs over the years, it's got a lot of clever tricks in it. Specifically, in this situation I'm looking at the idea of taking breaks during the course of the story.

The players decide when a break is to be taken, and when they do this they overcome some of their penalties...but so do their adversaries. It's something I use in "Tooth and Claw", and it makes an appearance in "Voidstone Chronicles".

With this in mind, I'm going to streamline the traits in FUBAR/Walkabout. I stead of allocating them values according to story duration (situational lasts a scene, short term lasts an act, long term lasts the story, permanent is self explanatory), I'll now allocate traits a bit differently and reduce their number of levels. Situational traits will be eliminated as a concept. Short term traits last until the players decide to take a rest (or can be countered by opponents/action sacrifices). Long term traits last the rest of the story. Permanent traits are still self explanatory.

This puts the control of traits into the hands of the players. They decide when they've accumulated too many penalties, and need to weigh up a decision about whether it is worth losing their beneficial traits. 

This also means that instead of a rigid act structure, the story now follows a more natural progression. 

Like everything, this is a work in progress. It's a fundamental shift in the underlying mechanisms of the game, and theoretically it makes sense...the only way to know if it works is to see it in play.

Killing your Sacred Cows!

There comes a time when a person has to bite the bullet. An idea that seemed really good when it first arrived needs to get tweaked when it hits the real world, perhaps it doesn't integrate with the other ideas it is linked to...perhaps a few extra tweaks make the idea no longer resemble its original incarnation.

I've come to this point with FUBAR (and by extension, Walkabout). A single concept in the rules seemed really elegant at the time; but when the game is actually played, the rule tends to be ignored because   it's too fiddly and breaks the flow of the game.

After dozens of play sessions at conventions and at home, I realised that there was a problem with this core aspect of FUBAR, and I generally tended to avoid it. Most players didn't notice the difference (or didn't say anything to me), probably because they didn't understand the idealised version of the game that was floating through my head...they only knew the experience I was providing at conventions. The game seemed to flow reasonably well without sticking to this part of the rules and it was just the nagging feeling that "I wasn't running my own game correctly" that kept gnawing away at my conscience.

I was actually aware of the problem when I developed Walkabout, so I tried to overcome it with a patch in some other parts of the rules. But having played a couple of Walkabout sessions at home with the same group of players, the issue is still there and certainly hasn't been fixed at all.

I guess that means I've reached that critical moment in a designer's life...the moment when I decide that an earlier idea I'd based the game around is simply flawed. Time to rip it out...kill the sacred cow.

The rule

The part of the rules that I'm thinking about is the trait system and how it links into the storytelling structure of actions, scenes and acts. 

In the basic FUBAR rules, when you succeed on an action, you get a situational trait that can be used to gain a bonus in a future action during that scene...or you can make the trait last longer (one success lasts the scene, the next one lasts the act, then the story, then permanent). Negative traits work the same way. It seemed clever and elegant. Traits gradually build up during the course of play, and characters become more powerful as they approach the final confrontation. At the end of a scene, non-relevant traits are discarded so they don't clutter up the characters, at the end of an act's confrontation, the characters rebuild. It's a series of snowballs.

The problem comes from the idea that any scene didn't build up enough inertia to get the game escalating...and constantly giving out or reclaiming traits just slowed down the flow of the story and interrupted the proceedings too much.

In most games I just stopped giving out and reclaiming traits as frequently as I should...players didn't know better, the story flowed more easily, and the game was enjoyed. 

In Walkabout, I tried to overcome this issue by giving all of the characters an additional series of traits to ramp up the speed from the start of play (these traits come in the form of character equipment). But this solution just didn't improve things very much...players just didn't get the idea. Perhaps I wasn't explaining it well to them, either way something continues to feel wrong and there needs to be less tweaks and twists...more of a complete paradigm shift is needed.

I'll get to that in the next post.

13 March, 2014

Religious Symbolism in Fantasy

What kinds of symbols would religions use to signify themselves in fantasy settings?

I guess it would be much the same as the assortment of symbols found in our world. Some religions might use stylised weapons to represent the martial prowess of their deities (a hammer, a scimitar, a bow), other religions might use symbols that embody the virtue of the religion (a feather, a sun, a mirror) or provide allusions to the way the religion views the path of it's practitioners (a wheel, a footprint, ladder).

More literally minded religions (or naturally based ones) might find a commonality in using animal symbols to represent totem spirits, or reflect the virtues traditionally attributed to specific beasts. Or they might use ideograms representing holy places (mountains, waterfalls, trees).

More esoteric religions might work to obscure their symbolism in highly stylised forms (spirals, geometric forms), and eventually those symbols might become so stylistic that they lose any affiliation to their original meaning.

I'm not sure where I'm leading with this, just thinking in public...

11 March, 2014

A new game format - The Pocketscroll

I'm thinking of doing something small, but not in the pocketmod format.

The basic idea at this stage is printing out an entire game on a series of small scrolls. It's probably going to come in three parts: a player's guide, a GM's guide, and a setting text. Each of these would be printed together on an A3 sheet, cut into thirds lengthwise. You would then roll up each of these strips into a little scroll about 10cm wide, and 40cm long. 

The whole idea is to create something that's a bit more evocative and immersive than a booklet.

What do you think?

For the right game, it might be a winner.

10 March, 2014

Map of the Little Ones

"Tooth and Claw" is a little game I wrote at the beginning of last year. It's a game about ferrets and since the characters call humans "Big Ones", it only makes sense that they'd be called "Little Ones".

One of the things missing from "Tooth and Claw" is a series of easy access play aids...maps, trait cards, character sheets.

But what would a ferret map look like? What important things would it include?

Here's the first idea for a ferret map, vaguely based on my own home.

Inspiration Image

I love this juxtaposition. The idea that something which is the "finest" is thrown away as rubbish.

When I saw it, I had to get a photo of it.

I want to use it for something, but I just can't think of anything at the moment...besides, I've got a few other unfinished projects that need attention before I should start anything else.

08 March, 2014

Cards or Booklets

For Voidstone Chronicles, the majority of the rules are contained in a series of pocketmod booklets.

Players also get a small range of cards for easy reference to their equipment, their conflict actions (attacks, defences, spells, prayers, etc.)

At the moment this means there are a LOT of cards, and most players won't get to see even a quarter of the available options. I'm wondering if it will be easier to compile this information into booklets, or leave them as cards. If I was to take the booklet option, there might be a "Book or Imperial Weapons", a "Book of Armour", a "Book" for different cults and religions containing the relevant prayers, a "Book" detailing the spells available to a certain school...etc.

The idea is to make it accessible for players, but maybe this is just confusing things.

That's my rant for the moment.

07 March, 2014

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 4)

The last entry in this series about map colouring showed a process for applying depth to the passages and chambers of the map.

Now I turn the other layers back on, integrating the newly rendered passages into the map.

The depth of these passages certainly makes them stand out in comparison to the other flat areas of the map. That's what I wanted, so things are going well.

But things are looking a bit dreary. I think that the map needs something to lighten it up a bit, so that means a new layer for lighting effects. I still have the passages selected (or I select them again using the magic wand tool), I choose a light orange/yellow colour to give the impression of torchlight. This layer will be applied over the lower layers with a "screen" effect. Using a small airbrush tool, anywhere that I want torchlight in the map, I do a quick spray of colour.

That's about it for the map at the moment.

On a new layer (this time right on top, even above the drawn map layer), I use the layer effects to create an inner glow around the outside edge of the map. Just a plain white border that allows the image to blend away int the background at the outer edges. I do this once with a precise edge...

...and again with a soft inner glow (on another layer).

This basically leaves us ready for labelling the map. Once again, I'm starting to wonder how much detail I want to keep adding into the final product, but this is looking pretty good.

I've got hundreds of fonts on my computer including a few that looks suitably "pirate-y". A simple name in the bottom corner, done in black with a white outer glow to bring out a bit more contrast. When the title bleeds over the edges of the map, it adds a bit more interest to the final result.

There is only one thing missing from this map, something that I had considered along the way but hadn't really added in.

There are some great shots of a beach (I think it's in Mexico), with a beach in an open cave. There are holes in the roof of the cave...that's the kind of thing I was thinking about with this secret cove, an enclosed watery bay where pirates can hide their ships.

Using a few of the techniques previously described, I select the areas that will be enclosed by the cave, apply a black fill to them (and soften some of the edges with a soft eraser tool). The whole layer is turned to a 50% opacity. To highlight the holes in the roof (currently depicted with dotted lines), I use the lasso tool to roughly draw shapes matching the voids depicted. The selection marquees are dragged in the direction that the light is falling (as determined by the passageways we gave depth to). I hit delete, and the 50% opaque black is removed from these areas.

To give these lit areas a more aquatic feel, I use the lasso tool again. The area is distorted using the "Filter -> Distort -> Ocean Ripple" tool...playing with the sliders until I get something that I like.

That's where I leave things.

I might add a few more tutorial ideas later to show where else I could have taken this map...but as it currently stands, that's the final product.

Trenchcoats and Katanas

I'll just leave this here...

As someone who really got into the 90s gaming scene, this strikes so many chords with me...

05 March, 2014

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 3)

So far everything has just been flat layers of colour, often blended in some way. I'm sure that most people would be able to adapt the ideas I've presented in their own graphic programs (as long as they are capable of handling layers). Adding specific depth might be a bit trickier.

In Photoshop I use the "Bevel" layer style in combination with some of the techniques already discussed.

(Oh, before I go much further, I forgot to mention that the wood texture of the boats and piers had a rough monochromatic scratchy texture applied to it. A bit of texture always stops things looking too flat.)

To focus on the technique for the tunnels, I'll strip away all of the other colours that have been applied so far.

First, I apply a new stone texture to the corridors.In this case, it really doesn't matter what the texture is, as long as it's a bit jagged and rocky looking. A new layer is added (on top of all the other textured layers, but beneath the drawn layer), then each room is selected with the magic wand tool...(when you hold the shift key down with the magic wand tool, you can select multiple areas). Like before, I use the "Select-> Modify -> Expand" tool to increase the selected area by a pixel or two.

Once the relevant area is selected, a paint bucket fill can be used to give all of these areas a distinct colour...I just use black because it's easier. The layer style has a "spiky bush" pattern overlay applied to it.

 This is a bit green, and while that might be suitably thematic (after all, there would be a bit of moisture and mildew in a subterranean island hideaway), I've decided that it doesn't look rocky enough. A colour overlay of a dark tan colour is applies to the layer style. The colour overlay is turned down to 50% opacity so that the texture can be seen through it.

Next we add an "inner shadow", it basically gives the appearance that a hole has been cut out of some paper and you can see the material underneath. In this case the "material underneath" is the pattern texture we just applied to the rooms and corridors. For this map I've made the drop shadow 15 pixels deep and have softened it by 10 pixels. For your own maps, you might want to play with the sliders on these values until you get something that you like. The bigger the bevel size, the deeper the walls will look; the lower the softening, the harder the lighting will look for the map. I went for something that conveyed the wall depth without overwhelming the image, and softened it to the point that the walls look a bit more worn and "cave-ish".

Now for the bevel. This is a simple technique in Photoshop, it's just another layer style to add to the others already in place. I simply add an "inner bevel" because we want the effect to be applied inside the selected room and corridor areas. I make it "chisel hard" so that the contours of this bevel will specifically follow the contours of the walls, it is marked as a depth of 100% and has a direction of "down". These last aspects don't really make much difference except to change the strength of the highlights and shadows about to be created.

For the size of my map, I make the bevel 10 pixels wide and soften it by five pixels. This accents the walls where the shadow lies, and provides a subtle highlight to the un-shadowed walls (giving the illusion that a light is reflecting off these walls and back into the chamber/passage).

It's a pretty simple effect that doesn't require too much thought about where to put shadows and where to put highlights...everything is basically automated.

If I was to do the map again, I might modify this technique to get shadows on the beaches...but the important thing for this map is the hidden passages and cool stuff embedded within the secret cove, so that's where the detail stays. Extra detail is nice, but we don't really want too much detracting from these dungeon tunnels.

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 2)

We left the map at the end of part 1 at an adequate state; but the image was generally a bit flat.

So, I decided to add a few more layers into it. Each of these providing a bit more information and visual stimulus.

First, immediately below the "sandy beach" layer, I add a "wet sand" layer.

When a material is wet it tends to be a bit darker, and a bit richer in colour (I could get into the properties of physics that determine this...things like diffraction of light and scattering of reflection from rough or smooth items, but just trust me on this for the moment). The layer style follows cues from the sandy layer, with a pattern texture of "yellow mums" at an opacity of 100%. To draw this layer I use an airbrush style of brush, big diffuse and black (colour doesn't matter because everything is going to be overlaid with the texture).

I spray along the coastlines where the beaches are, giving a vague impression that the sand continues down from these areas an into the water. I make sure not to spray near the rocky outcrops, because these are more jagged rocky drops rather than soft sandy borders to the island. The beach to the maps west is done with the size of the brush dialled up even more and the opacity turned down to 25% or so...it takes a few sweeps to get a look I'm happy with.

Using the same vague technique (new layer, new texture, airbrush to mark out the layer), I create the deep water around the island. There is a "waves" pattern overlay and that comes pretty close to what I want for this map, but the colours are a bit too harsh compared to everything else on the map. Instead of turning down the opacity of the pattern overlay (which would expose the colour I've been using to mark out the layer), I turn down the opacity of the whole layer. This blends it in better, and allows some of the colours from the shallow water layer to seep through.

Toward the south of the island, I make sure to indicate deep water heading into the secret dock of the island, that's the safe passage for Isabel's ships to get in or out.

Next I move away from the water and focus on a new material for the map...the wood. This applies to the ships, and the piers running across the islands interior waterways.

In a new layer just under the drawn map I mark out the wooden areas using the polygonal lasso. Each of the wooden areas it bucket-filled with a woody brown colour. I'm in a hurry here and it give a bit of contrast...so it works at a pinch. Using the same colour I spray a few clusters of wooden items that have been drawn into the maps (I promptly forget about these later...I had intended to make these items stand out in their respective rooms, but something didn't quite work and they just ended up getting covered by other textures).

That's about it for the flat layers of colour. The map is looking a bit more interesting, but still a bit flat...and that's where a distinctly different technique comes into its own.

04 March, 2014

A Colour Mapping Technique (Part 1)

The following few posts use Photoshop, it's what I use, it's what I know. If you can use layers and filters in GIMP, then these techniques might work there as well. I don't know, I don't use it.

Colouring a map requires a starting point, in this case that starting point is a hand illustrated map. I drew up this map for the recent "Dungeon of Lost Coppers" event hosted by Dyson Logos. It was my second attempt at the event, so I wanted to do something dramatically different.

I decided to make the map as open as possible given the existing pre-defined sections of the dungeon. As I continued drawing, I couldn't decide between ruins or an island...I went with the latter.

The basic mapping style is the kind of thing I'd normally do (which coincidentally is pretty similar to the type of map that Dyson normally produces). I didn't want to add too many extra rooms to it, instead opening up the environment as much as possible within the constraints given.

Since there had already been a few entries by the time I started on this map. I wanted to make it a bit distinctive, different to the entries already in the mix. Hence colouring it, and twisting the map a bit so that everything wasn't just horizontal and vertical.

(This image is a plain black background, with the scanned image of the map tilted and applied to it. The original scan is the white rectangle, the grey rectangle is an added border area I had intended to use before tilting it, and the black is the deep background layer.)

Once adding it into Photoshop, I duplicated the scanned layer image. One of these duplicates had a threshold applied to it so that everything darker than a mid-grey was turned black, and everything lighter was turned white. This tends to make a pretty harsh and stark image, so it is turned down to 50% opacity (the true reason for the grey border on the above image). Both the original image and the modified one are turned into "multiply" layers, that darken anything beneath them.

Next we start adding some textures...first the general texture of the rock. This is done on a layer beneath the drawn maps. The whole layer is filled in with a flat colour, it doesn't matter what the colour is, it's just a placeholder to be manipulated by layer styles. There are a few standard textures that photoshop can apply as layer styles; since I was in a hurry, I just used the pattern overlay called "purple daisies" and then applied a  colour overlay of brown with a 50% opacity. It gives a vaguely rocky appearance. I could spend longer on it, trying to get an accurate colour, but something vague is fine to give the rocky impression I need. (Besides, I'm colour blind; if I obsess too much I might make it worse).

Next I use the magic wand tool to select the island's beaches. I create a new layer beneath the drawn maps, but above the rock; I fill it in with white and add a new layer style. This time the texture is "yellow mums" applied at a 50% opacity, this makes it a lot lighter (and I think it looks more sandy).  

There's one bit of the map that just doesn't seem right (circled above), the sand leads up to a secret door on the map, and I don't like it, so I use a large faded eraser to softly remove some of this layer away from the door gradually fading into the sand of the beach as the intact parts of the layer remain.

Next we do the same to get a water effect for all parts of the map that aren't land. (New layer beneath the drawn images but above the beach layer...magic wand selects the wet parts...result is filled, filled area is textured with the "carpet" layer style and slightly colour adjusted to look more watery).

Starting to look more like an island, and certainly getting closer to what I had originally envisioned...but it's not there yet.

Helpful Hint: When selecting areas with the magic wand tool, use the "Select -> Modify -> Expand Tool" to increase the selected area by a pixel or two. This means that the areas being coloured have edges underneath the drawn lines rather than butting up against them. Anti-aliasing does some strange things when colours are up against one another, so it makes a better transition when the colour spreads underneath the drawn lines.

Voidstone Equipment

Not sure how well these images will translate when posted to the blog, but here's where things currently stand with the images for equipment in Voidstone Chronicles.

The images are meant to be pixellated, but every time I expand them, they just end up blurry.

02 March, 2014

Map Tutorial 21: Roads

It's been a while since we've had one of these.

This has been sitting on my pile of things to scan in and add to the tutorials.

I think that the next set of map tutorials will go through the processes I used for the Pirate Map in Dyson's challenge.

Cartographic permutations

If you weren't aware of the cartography contest run by Dyson Logos, it's all over now (except for the random "winner's" announcement). There were dozens of people who entered their interpretations of completion for an incomplete map drawn by Dyson...a total of more than 60 entries.

All of those entries are now posted at...


One of mine is included (I've just asked about whether the other entry of mine will be added to the mix).

There is some awesome work among them, some great ideas that I wouldn't have ever thought of. If you want some mapping inspiration, go over and have a look.