Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fantasy World Map Made with MacPaint c. 1994

From out of a huge poster tube in my basement comes the map I used for my D&D game world in the 90s. It was printed on dozens of individual sheets taped together, and colored by hand. Cutting edge technology in 1993!
Huge world map with cat for scale.

Detail of island in upper left corner.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

David Trampier, 1954-2014

The gaming world has lost the illustrator who, along with David Sutherland, defined the look of Dungeons & Dragons for a generation of gamers, including me. Cruelly, Mr. Trampier's death comes as he was apparently testing the waters for a return to the public eye via convention appearances. Now his artwork is "all" we've got.

I while back I sang his praises here and I don't have much more to add except that I'm sorry for any hardship and sorrow this brings upon his family. He had been out of the public sphere so long that I feel I've been mourning his loss for years already, as so often happens when the art stops and the man goes on. We all hoped he would jump back in the ring but there are far worse legacies for a man to leave the world than a meteoric streak of creativity followed by a long silence. I hope he knew how beloved his work was and that he had found a measure of peace and comfort since leaving the gaming world.

I would love to see his work collected in a hardcover volume, with the proceeds going to his family. Also would love to see a benefit auction with some big names in illustration donating original works in homage to DAT's style.

I'm going to end with a post of one of my favorite DAT illustrations. It's a universe of invented textural marks and masterful use of negative space as light source and reflected light  I always imagined that the skeleton would come to life as soon as that sword is pulled from its ribs by one of those greedy adventurers!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

[Hex Map] The Ramparts

Another page from the dungeonteller atlas. Each page is a self-contained node that you can connect to the other maps in any configuration you choose (although I will include a default configuration). In addition to the hexes with unique features I will probably include a generic hex representing each common terrain type (sea, desert, hills, etc.).

Sunday, March 2, 2014

[Big Hex Map] The Iron Sea

This is a prototype for the maps that I'd like to see bundled with Dungeonteller.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Have you done some awesome world-building? Good. Now wreck it before the PCs show up.

I used to write a lot more about world-building on this blog. Now it's all pretty pictures. Really, I do still think a lot about campaign design...

Memo to self: if you're planning a fantasy campaign, consider checking your world design against these rather broadly-asserted maxims:

1. Balances of power are only interesting in the past.

Don't establish a balance of power between powerful entities in the game world unless you are going to remove it immediately as a way of drawing the players into the story. Here are some premises that you should probably change from "might happen" to "just happened" as a way to have the PCs hit the ground running:

Two hostile superpowers which are only a spark away from igniting a planet-wrecking war.

A web of alliances between nations or groups of nations that could unravel over a minor dispute between two parties.

A supernatural or divine balance between two sets of deities that is foretold to collapse and bring about an apocalypse.

I'd like to play in a campaign that starts with the PCs' home city being burned to the ground just as they're about to hear the location of the nearest dungeon from the friendly barkeep. Or maybe it starts in a refugee camp, or with the PCs wandering through an apocalyptic landscape.

2. Kill Gandalf on page 1. 

Leave some ridiculously large boots for the PCs to fill.

Don't have NPCs who are more capable of solving the world's problems than the PCs are. I recommend axing your Elminster/Gandalf/Dumbledore as soon as you've established how wise and beloved he is. If you don't, sooner or later your players will be asking you "Why can't Dumbleminster fix it if he's so freakin' powerful?"

3. Don't waste time with micro-level world-building.

By all means, do some general campaign planning on a global scale.Sketch out a node-based map of the world with maybe a paragraph about each area. But don't waste your time fleshing out the world much beyond where the campaign starts. By the time the PCs get there, you will have better ideas, trust me, most of which you've stolen from your players' wildest guesses. I run into this every time I've played an extended campaign -- your ideas will suck unless you are in a panic that your PCs will be exploring the place sometime in the next gaming session.

Thursday, February 20, 2014