Sunday, 14 December 2014

I am more productive writing with a pen than a pc.

About a year ago I bought this really nice leather bound notebook with hand made paper sheets. It was a perfect size and weight, it just felt right in your hand. If you are a stationary junkie you will probably understand. About the same time I had a craze for cheap chinese fountain pens, I bought about 120 of them. I love writing with ink pens.

You can see what's going to happen.  I started writing notes for an idea I had into my new notebook with my new pens, and I was inspired. Since then I have completed my map (see previous post) and I am on the last page of my notebook, which is now full to the brim with ideas and notes and details of what the new map is going to be all about.  I live in fear of losing my notebook because there is no backup other than my memory... and that is poor.

Now that the map is done (except for the colour which I will add next year), and the artwork is coming to a close, I really have to sit down and write up all those notes into files... only I have writers block the instant I sit at my computer.  It's really quite frustrating. I cannot seem to be able to convert from the pen and paper mode to the computer file.

I sit there and fiddle with chapter titles, I put in some dot points, a write a paragraph and then I load a game and play that for 2-3 hours.

It really is quite annoying.

I have a two week break for christmas and I'm not going anywhere so lets hope I can actually do something with the thing.

In the meantime I have bought 3 more of those notebooks... I might start a new book with a new idea... (although the book may have changed in size since I bought mine, and the paper may be different).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The map is complete

The map is done, at least the black and white version.

There are 6 pictures still to come:

The Ice Sheet (top of the map)
San Lando - City of Pirates (an island in The Abyss)
Helles - City of Walls (nw of the Sink)
Eret Nor - The Watchtower (north of the Redlands)
The Great Glacier (far north, looking down the valley)
The Chaos Vine (middle west).

This map shows where all the pictures refer to.

Once the pictures are done my plan is to incorporate them into the map somehow to create a travel poster style image.  That will be for the new year I suspect.

In the mean time I will be writing down the background story for the world, working out how it will all work, making it attractive as a place to play in.  The world will be systemless and probably as broad in scope as possible.  So with a starting adventure I will frame the scene for the GM and players, then suggest options. The framing however will be the important path, I am a strong believer in GMs conceptualising their own stories, developing their own interpretations of events and adjusting on the fly.  Putting down hard and fast details, for me, interrupts the flow between you and your players.  I'm not good at using pre-written adventures, if it didn't come from my brain I find it difficult to improvise.

Map credit: Monkeyblood
Art credit: Jeff Brown

Friday, 7 November 2014

Approaching completion of the Map

So things are moving along pretty quickly.  As a side trip here are two images done by Glynn of the map laid out in 3D representing how they would look on a ringworld shaped object.

The bottom one is the actual positioning but you could use either view.  I am using the bottom one as in the long term I want to do maps to the east and west as part of a set.

So where are we upto now?

This is the almost finished map. There is one adjustment I have asked for to a city icon, and there is some fill for the right side empty area of The Abyss.  Added in this map is the Sarmarkand logo (which I really like), the legend and the credits.  On this particular view there is a 50km square grid laid over the map.

So this part of the map is coming to a close and I must say that I am extremely happy with how things have turned out.

The next stage of the project is to get Jeff to complete all the artwork, probably by the end of the year. Looks like I will have 12 pictures rather than the 10 I originally thought I might need.

Following are a series of images of the latest artwork Jeff has been working on. This particular image was troublesome as I had problems describing it (which can be a common problem). But what we ended up with makes me happy.  You can see some of the changes that occur as we develop the concept. Some times he does thing that hadn't even occurred to me and I adapt them into my background, just to use the image he has created.

This is the city of Viriconium, City of Towers.

I wasn't sure if this image was going to be as interesting or striking as some of his others, but when I saw the red river in the second image I knew it was going to be good. The river is actually red in the story as red dust comes up from the Redlands to the south and covers the mountains that are the source of the river.  In the background you can see the city of Antioch, and to the right side you see The Sink, a depression in the land.

Map credit: Monkeyblood
Art credit: Jeff Brown

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sarmarkand progress...

The next version of the map was an impressive one.... v2.

The colour fill addition to the sea and Abyss areas really brings the central map out a lot.

The King&Queen bridge, linking the twin cities of King and Queen over the Abyss. The bridge is very long and made of Abyss Vine. I haven't exactly fitted it into the history as yet, I suspect it will end up being fairly new, maybe 50 years old, maybe even less.  It is a wonder of the modern world.

The Styxian Jungles of the south west. The ruins of the ancient lizardmen empire (Aztec model) remain 600 years after The Hammer's first strike. Giant mesa promise an undiscovered world, and pterodactyls suggest what you will find.

The Twin Dust Rivers of the Fire Craters, the Redlands visible on the right, and the Storm Mountains in the background left. The Dust Rivers are made of super fine dust flowing like water across the super dry desert lands of the Fire Craters.

Map credit: Monkeyblood
Art credit: Jeff Brown

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Progress Report on Sarmarkand.

Work continues...

The addition of the side fills certainly starts to make it stand out better. We are currently working on a details layer, putting in the fill, adding cities and roads and such. Also spotting things we missed, a few cities here and there.

Artwork for the world continues as well:

This is the Redlands, a very desert setting with two great chasms torn into its surface (quite visible on the map in the SE). Red Orcs live at the bottoms of the chasms and periodically emerge as a teaming mass of maurauders.  The name of the region comes from the iron oxide dust that is prevalent everywhere. Giant iron nodules erupt from the ground in some places and are used by some of the locales as homes (once you cut into them). The red dust blows north over the Iron mountains and falls there, to be washed down into the Red River Valley (quite literally a red river).

This is Dragon Pass, visible on the map just south of the Spike. A rocky desolate high mountain pass dominated by the corpse of a massive dragon. The south end of the pass is four giant escarpments that fall down toward the Styxian Jungle. A Helms Deep type structure can be seen in the background, but most of the dwarf city is underground.

The Spike. An asteroid strike through the back of the world (its a ringworld), that has erupted through the far side. Something bad is still happening here as a toxic black fluid keeps bubbling out of the ground, turning everything it touchs a shade of black.  Visible in the background is The Cube. No one knows what this is, but it emerged shortly after The Spike was created.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Well I am obviously not a good blogger.

So in an attempt to generate enthusiasm on my part I thought I might talk about my current major project - SARMARKAND.

Sarmarkand is an rpg world, not a game, just an environment. It will be system-less. It will present a full expanded fantasy world with a steam-punk look and feel. Magic will be variable, and based on either the classic style or using super advanced technology.

The world itself will be a slice of a ringworld, from one rim to the other. Events in the real world have resulted in two disastrous strikes on this region of the ring, that have left monumental marks, as well as nearly wiping out two intelligent races.  The after effects of the strikes are more likely to cause problems however.

So I started working on this project this year. I had bought this really nice notebook with a leather cover and hand made pages within. I was also going through a phase of collecting fountain pens at the time so the two events came together and I started making notes in the book with my new pens.  I can't recall why I thought of a ringworld slice to start with, but the first page of the notebook had my initial sketch of the world, and that has mostly remained pretty true.

I have almost filled the notebook with ideas and thoughts about this world, which I will expand on in later posts. As part of the whole process however, different to many other worlds I have created, an serendipitous event occurred just at the right time.  to-wit, I saw a post by Jeff Bridges, an artist, offering to do concept artwork for $200 a pop.

I had been looking at professional artwork off and on over the last couple of years and the general feeling I got was that you will pay $200-500 for commissioned works, depending on a lot of things. So $200 was an attractive price, plus I had a look at his other work it they looked really good and fitted the style I wanted to use. Jeff is really good at landscapes, and most of the images I wanted would be exactly that as I tried to create the right image in peoples minds of what my world was actually like.

So I bite the bullet and decided to 'don't think!do!'. So I got in contact and commissioned the first work to see how we went.

This wasn't exactly how I pictured things, but it is very close. Plus it added a whole pile of features that I hadn't yet imagined that I really liked.  I really liked this image.  My only reservation is that the tree was meant to be bigger, really really big... So now it is a picture of one of the smaller trees, and the big tree is nearby.

This picture was the result of maybe half a dozen exchanges where Jeff sent me a rough image and I asked for changes or suggested options.  I was, and am still unsure how far I can take this... how many revisions do you get on one work? Does it annoy them?  Ah well we are still doing business so I can only assume I haven't passed some unwritten boundary.

Since that image I have ordered 6 more, and I have another 5 to go.  I'll talk about those picture in another blog.

What I did want to talk further about is the map. Once I got into the grove of getting artwork off Jeff I underwent a subtle change in attitude toward getting things done, professionally. This developed over six months, the effect of this was progressive.

I started by doing my own map to improve the image I had and work out a better scale. The following map was the result:

I like making maps, and for myself I like this map, although I can see many problems with it, not the least the colours I chose... purple ice? Anyway.  The map helped to galvanise my image of the world and what it was going to be. A lot of things were added during the making of this map, like The Sink and some of the Abyss islands, but mostly it is true to the original, if slightly re-scaled in some places.

So armed with this map, and mentally comfortable with paying for professional work, I took the next step.

And again this was serendipity.  I had been watching a growing number of cartographers posts in G+ and one that stuck in my mind was because of a project they did, more an experiment with 3D mapping - Neath 3D for SketchUp.  These 3D tools looked really nice so I decided to ask about getting a map done.

And this is a draft copy of his work so far.

This still requires a lot of work, there are forest fills, cities, roads etc to go in. And sometime later  I will get a colourised version as well. I have seen the map a few extra steps after this version and it is looking really nice.

My ultimate aim is to combine the artwork by Jeff with the cartography by Glynn and produce a really nice combo map.

More to come.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Card Maze.

Just a quick idea.

Card Based Maze - Savage Worlds.

Take a 54 card pack, take out the Black joker and give it to the GM. Give 4 cards to the players as their starting Hand. Set the remaining 49 cards face down in a 7x7 square. Take your player/s tokens and set them on a card where they start, turn that card face up.

Alternate player action, GM action etc.

Player Actions:
Move to a new face down card and explore. If you have more than 5 cards in your Hand you must play one of them into a vacant spot face down.
Move all players to one adjacent faceup card.
Group spread out - players may all move to any adjacent face down card or remain where they are. Turn over all cards at once and conduct one round. At the start of each new round any players not in combat may make a Notice roll to move one card.
Take up the card your are on into your Hand.

GM Actions:
Swap any two face down adjacent cards (you cant look).
Swap a card in your Hand to a face down card on the table.
If more than 5 cards are face up, turn one of them face down as long as it isnt adjacent to a player.

Card Results:

Numbered Spade - trap
Numbered Club - Trait test or suffer a Wound or Fatigue point.
Picture Card - Monster encounter.
Black Joker - The Minotaur (if the players win GM takes the card up and can replay it).
Red Joker - Take up and give to GM to allow everyone to make a VG roll to cure Wounds or Fatigue, not both, OR take into your Hand as a wildcard.

To win the players have to make a Hand of 4 of a Kind or a Straight Flush.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

I'm on leave currently and I had actually done up a list of things to do, as I have nothing in particular in mind for this leave. There were 7 things on my list:

  1. Complete extras decks for Swift Swords Underworld.
  2. Create more shelf space for my games in the games room
  3. Do up a very literal fun dungeon
  4. Do Gobbos cards
  5. Print my collection of geomorph tiles
  6. Rewrite SSU rules
  7. Swap my painting table around for the computer table. 

So far I have actually done a few of them. I did 6, a rewrite of the SS Underworld rules book, and its a lot better now. I also did 1, but in the process redeveloped the whole game.  Instead of having a fairly big initial game package I stripped out all but the basic decks and made the others into expansions.  It seems a much better method to me.  I got so into it that I created two whole new decks as expansions - Potions and Enchantments.  You can find them as at if you are into PnP files.  I made the base game free, and the expansions Pay What You Like, will be interesting to see what happens.

As part of the process of updating the whole thing I also got to send emails to everyone who had looked at the old game, to tell them it had been updated. That seems to be working pretty good too as I am getting a lot of people re-downloading.

I need to redo the Gamecrafter files (physical product), but that will take longer as you have to proof every card. It did mean that the price dropped a little, from $70 to $60. Thats still too high but nothing much I can do about it. Be interesting to see what the expansion decks come out price wise.

Thats all I have done from the list however... but I still have some time left to go.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Sudden creative urges.

Time flies since my last post.

A month ago I got a sudden urge to be creative, writing and proto-type wise. So initially I started work on my Savage Worlds campaign/rule set - Aegyptvs.  Obviously set in ancient Egypt, but with a lot added in.  I ran the campaign that goes with the rules set a number of years ago and it was probably the best one I have done, even my players said so.  Anyway work progresses on that.

Then I got a sudden urge to do a boardgame, and the best materials I had lying around was a map from one of my old Play-by-Mail games - El Mythico. In its day it was a very good game, but PBM was mostly killed off by the internet... so enter a completely different creature:

El Mythico the Boardgame.

I put a lot of thought and effort into this one, and I am pretty happy with it. We had a playtest last weekend with 3 friends, of various skill levels in boardgaming, and this was pretty good. The mechanics worked well, which is a good start. So I am encouraged enough to move forward with it.

Below is the current incarnation of the game map:

It actually looks pretty good if I do say so myself. We got a professional artist to paint the original map (back before digital), and then had a bunch of maps printed. I got the maps scanned and spent a lot of time playing around with Paintshop getting a nice colour and feel.  I then used MS Image Composer (my god this is a useful tool, why on earth did MS drop it?) to put all the components (area boxes) onto the original map.  The original map had a hex grid, which is visible still, although I have de-emphasised it. I like the hex grid, it reminds me of serious wargames. ELM-TBG however uses an area based system.