Feb 27, 2010

Empire of the Domains mini-game

One of the things I miss from the early days of playing role-playing games is the sense that your hero was becoming important in the world. I don't mean just saving the world or traveling to other dimensions and slaying demi-gods. We played for the goal of your character eventually becoming "name level" and earning a castle and land to rule.

Another thing I enjoy is when your character can make a permanent change in the world. Once an evil tyrant was deposed that nation would be changed by the leader who replaced the tyrant, or sometimes that replacement leader would be you! This is often referred to as an "end game", and it seems that fantasy RPG's have very much lost their end game. Nowadays it's all about gaining levels and getting more powerful stuff. Cool things to be sure! But where is the satisfaction of completing a campaign? Maybe in this day and age it is too hard for a majority to keep their gaming group together long enough to play through a whole campaign. Or maybe rpg's are so fun nobody wants the campaign to end. Whatever the reasons I think there is room for this style of play to return.

With the Dungeoneer RPG being able to have a regular meeting time is less of an obstacle. Much like how a boardgame is played in 1 session, Dungeoneer RPG can be played in a single session, or generally as few as 2-3. But still maintaining the satisfaction of a campaign. This makes the end game an imperative.

The end game for Dungeoneer RPG is a little mini-wargame called "Empire of the Domains". Your heroes accomplish world domination one nation at a time by defeating evil tyrants, slaying horrible beasts, even by leading armies to victory. Eventually your hero will be a king, a clan leader, or rule a wizard's guild. This progress is tracked on the world map where the side your heroes choose will slowly take over the world one region at a time as you succeed in your adventures. These sides can be classic good, neutrality, or evil, or whatever factions your gaming group chooses to come up with.

Upon achieving 10th level your hero will join the immortal ranks of great heroes before him or her, and the world will be forever changed.

Feb 16, 2010

Dejah Thoris Action Figure

I haven't seen too many high-quality action figures based on Edgar Rice Burrough's Mars series, but this Dejah Thoris looks pretty good, and bears a striking likeness to Lynn Collins don't you think?

Feb 11, 2010

Dungeoneer RPG layout

First I want to thank all of those who send emails encouraging me to complete the Dungeoneer RPG. You don't know how much your emails mean to me. If you have any Dungeoneer questions don't hesitate to ask: tldenmark at gmail dot com

Dungeoneer fan Michael Klein asks "Hello, I am writing to inquire about whether or not the Dungeoneer RPG project was still alive."

Thank you Michael for your question. It is an important one. The Dungeoneer RPG has been in development at least since 1995, and a beta version was available for a few years through Lulu.com. It is no wonder that 5 years later Dungeoneer fans may wonder if a published RPG will ever be released.

Each Dungeoneer expansion I have ever made has been a bit like giving birth, okay, that's hyperbole. But, creating 55 or so unique pieces of art in addition to a well designed card set that is fun is no easy task. But, I've complained enough about the challenges of game design on this here blog. You want results, not excuses!

With each Dungeoneer set I like to convince myself that I am increasing the quality of the design and art. And the RPG is the ultimate expression of that philosophy. Is that true though? It is easy as an artist and designer to sit here in the shelter of my studio and tell myself I'm making this better than any Dungeoneer set, but I know when this is published the various forums and blogs will tell me the truth whether I have succeeded in making a compelling game experience or not (Den of the Wererats, great job Thomas! Epic: Call of the Lich Lord, not so much. At least you redeemed yourself with Wrath of the Serpent Goddess.).

I love designing and illustrating this game. I love it so much that I keep spending more time creating art, designing, and laying out pages. But eventually it has to get out the door and to the printing press or all the work is for naught. So I want to say emphatically that yes I intend to publish this game. I don't have any illusions about revolutionizing the industry or making a hit game, this is simply a labor of love and all I hope for is that others have fun playing it.

So, to give this post something substantial, worth your precious time to peruse, here is a layout test I recently did. This is the chapter heading for Character Races in the Player's Guide. Enjoy.

Space Gamer

One of the fortuitous things about living in our times is that the internet, eBay, and used book stores provide a cornucopia of all those treasures we might have missed growing up.

I was not aware of Space Gamer, or The Fantasy Trip RPG it prominently supported until somewhat recently. I haven't explored TFT much, except to note that stats are provided for it in the original Thieves' World campaign boxed set I happily acquired not long ago.

My interest in Space Gamer came when I was researching John Carter of Mars and how it had been translated into roleplaying games. The only notable RPG was John Carter Warlord of Mars by Heritage Models Inc.. Which can only barely be considered an RPG by its cursory and impenetrable descriptions of how to play the game. Though I guess it is inline with the original D&D which required the prospective player to be familiar with wargaming in general in order to understand how to play.

The only article, or supplement, I have been able to find for JCWoM was a brief 3 pages in Space Gamer issue #24. I have scanned in the entire article and posted it here for your enjoyment.

I have little doubt that Warriors of the Red Planet will be a superior treatment of the genre, in every way imaginable. :)

Feb 6, 2010

Lavivrus: Place Names

In my early days of gaming creating maps was one of the greatest joys - next to making and drawing characters, and arguing over rules interpretations (the High Gygaxian dialect didn't exactly help settle any issues). Learning how to create fantasy names for places was a natural result of the many world maps made back then.

I would create multiple lists of syllables, number them, then roll dice. Getting results like: dol + mar + anth + uz = Dolmaranthuz (a name still used in my world of Dungeoneer). This tedious method has been replaced by great fantasy word generators online like this. So nowadays I'll just generate a couple of lists, edit them down to my favorites and get to the fun of writing up descriptions and illustrating characters, places, and things.

This isn't a completely random method though. I do try to get words that sound similar and assign them to the same race/nation/place/thing for some semblance of believability. Also it helps to use real world cultures as a guide, if something sounds Nordic for example I might give it Viking or Norse properties.

For the world of Lavivrus though I'd do something special. Since this is an homage to Greyhawk and Blackmoor, and those early days of yore, I thought it best to generate place names using anagrams of names of those who helped define the hobby. I went through several of my old books and wrote down many of the names of creators and collaborators. Then took those names and pulled out letters & syllables, and twisted them around into some interesting sounding fantasy names. Yes, the tried and true old school method! See how many of the names you can recognize in this list.

Char Rebstor
Loka Dranel
Vidok Coda
Well's Gorge
Xa Renset
Yarg's Rest
Yave Eslew

Note: this version of the map has been revised from the last one I posted. I wasn't happy with how garish the colors had turned out on the textured map, so I did a polishing pass on the colors and textures before placing these names.
Next: nations and cultures

Feb 1, 2010

Lavivrus: Terrain for a Fantasy World Map

In the previous installment we looked at a technique to create interesting land masses for your fantasy world map. Now we'll see how we can put terrain textures on our map using Adobe Photoshop and Google Earth.

First I traced the shapes of the terrains on the Outdoor Survival map and filled each shape with a base color, matching closely the colors on the original map. The result came out like this:
One thing a noticed on a vacation to Kauai was how the eastern shore was lush, green, and moist, while the western shore was dry and desert like. This is also true of the continental US. I wonder if other parts of the world have a similar climate configuration?

I chose to use this climate model on Lavivrus, making the eastern shores greener than the western shores.

Now that the shapes of each terrain are defined I would like to add textures to them. I like the illustrative look of the original, but doing a map like that is time intensive. So instead I crack open Google Earth and scan the world for interesting terrain textures. Here is a sample from the Sierra-Nevada mountains I really like:
So I paste this into the mountains layer of our Lavivrus map in Photoshop. Then I scan Google Earth for other textures to get everything we need:
You'd think water would be the easy one, plenty of that on Earth, but I actually had to do an image search on the web to find a nice top down shot of ocean I liked. Google Earth worked great for everything else. For Plains I scroll over to Mongolia and find a nice little chunk of plains to grab. Desert I get from Utah, Swamp from Louisiana, and Forest from the Amazon. I thought a little frozen wasteland at the far north would be nice, what better place for that than Antarctica? Using these as overlays on each of the terrain layers I end up with this:
I softened the edges a bit on the terrain shapes, unfortunately this lost some details like those nice little forest paths, so these textures need some clean up, but it's not a bad start. Note: in describing my process I abbreviated quite a bit, because I do a lot of stamping, tiling, and fiddling with each of the textures to get them to look right. But this is something that just takes time and practice.

Next: generating fantasy names for places on your fantasy world map