Wednesday 31 July 2013

A Quick Update

I had planned on getting some serious work done on this during the past couple of weeks...

...however, thanks to a nasty cold/flu-like bug, I've barely managed to do anything.

Anyway, now that I'm starting to feel a little better, I'm back to work on it - though I have to admit that converting my simple (sometimes cryptic) game notes into fully fledged encounter/adventure scenarios is far more work that I'd like to admit :)

That being said, the first draft of the three main encounter/adventure areas are almost complete, and work on a possible forth one has begun.

I'm also thinking of including a slightly reworked version of Mathgar Ruins in the booklet (with better maps etc.) an added bonus - though I'm not sure if this might be mistaken as an underhanded way of increasing the product's page count with content that's already available for free (even though it's inclusion would have absolutely no impact on the cost of the product whatsoever) the jury is still out on that one.

And that's about it for now, though I will add that I'd be intrigued to know if anyone would be interested in doing some additional play-testing of these encounters (with their own gaming group - using the Age of Shadow RPG) ...and if so would a free pdf copy of the final product (along with a play-testers credit - if desired) be adequate compensation for your time?

 - Kris -

Friday 19 July 2013

Purple Mountain - Battle-Map 5

A little earlier on in the week, Purple Duck Games released the latest instalment of their Purple Mountain mega-dungeon (for the Pathfinder system) - the maps for which were drawn by yours truly.

As is usual, CSP also provides an accompanying battle-map (or in some cases multiple battle-maps) for each level of the Purple Mountain ...and, as you've probably guessed, today sees the release of those that can be used in conjunction with level 5:

However, I think it's worth noting here that these 'battle-maps' are simply enlarged versions of those maps found within the adventure itself - blown up to miniatures scale (i.e. 1" per grid square), and spread out over several A4/letter size pages for ease of printing.

- one of the maps in action -

As such these maps are not intended to be comparable to high resolution dungeon tiles (which can consume a lot of ink and look best on glossy paper) - but are instead meant to offer good results when using cheap 'photocopier-style' paper and the low/ink-saving/economy mode of your printer.

The battle-map for level 5 of the Purple Mountain is available from

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Drawing old-school dungeon maps (part 3)

Note that for this next part you will need some form of image manipulation software (like photoshop for example). However, seeing as how this tutorial is meant to be something that anyone can try, I'll be using GIMP (a free image manipulation program) in order to carry out a few minor tweaks to the dungeon map.

* * * * *

In the example dungeon that I have drawn, the size of the whole map is 15 squares x 20 squares.

I also stated at the beginning of this tutorial that, when exported, each of these squares will measure exactly 70 pixels x 70 pixels in size surely the final image should measure 1050 pixels x 1400 pixels right? why is it's actually 1053 x 1403 ?

The reason for this is because of the thickness of the 'stroke' on the grid we created ...for example, if you look at the image below it shows a blown-up version of a rectangle (on the left) and our grid (on the right).

As you can see, the width of the line extends past that of the rectangle - therefore increasing the overall size of our map).

For most people, this will be a non-issue, but if you want to get rid of this extra pixel or two (for example, if you want the image to line up perfectly with the inbuilt grid of a Virtual TableTop) then there is a relatively easy way to go about it.

* * * * *

While you're still in Inkscape (but before you export the image) use the 'Create rectangles & squares' tool to draw a rectangle a full square larger (in each direction) than the map itself. Once you've done that, send that rectangle to the bottom 'layer' of the image ...and you should end up with something that looks like this:

Note that the colour of the rectangle doesn't really matter at this point (as we'll be getting rid of it in GIMP a little later on) but it is imperative that the rectangle itself has no 'stroke' or we will have the exact same problem as before.

Once that's done, we can export the image at 300 dpi (selecting File > Export Bitmap from the menu bar) and it should give us an image with a size that is divisible by 70 in both directions (in this case 1190 x 1540).

However, we've now got an ugly black border around the edge of our image - so to get rid of this, the next step is to open the exported .png version of our map in GIMP:

Then (while in GIMP) you'll need to select (from the main menu) Edit > Preferences and change the 'Default Grid' size to 70 wide and 70 high (i.e. to match that of our image).

Now, when you select View > Show Grid from the main menu, you should see a grid appear on top of our map which lines up with our own blue grid perfectly (note that this is very similar to what most VTTs do).

Before continuing any further you first need to make sure that the View > Snap to grid option is selected, and then using the Rectangle Select Tool (which is the very first tool in the tool bar) simply select the area that you want to keep (i.e. just the blue part of the map ...which the tool should automatically snap to if everything is going according to plan). Then simply choose the Image > Crop to Selection option from the main menu to crop the image to the correct size.

This should leave us with an image that looks something like this ...and also an image that is exactly the right size for a '70 pixel per square' VTT.

However, I'm not quite done yet, as looking at the image I think that the blue I have chosen is a little too bright. So what I'm going to do now is go to Colours > Hue-Saturation (from the main menu) and put a value of -25 in the saturation box:

Which I think gives a much better shade of blue.

And now that's done, the only thing left to do is export the image as the file type of your choice (usually a jpg or png file), and you're good to go.

Anyway, I hope this little tutorial has been useful ...and if you decide to give it a go and draw some of your own old-school 'blue maps' using this method, then I'd very much like to see what you come up with :)

* * * * *

Note that the final png file for this map can be found HERE ...and if you want to download the Inkscape file for reference ...then that can be found HERE.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Drawing old-school dungeon maps (part 2)

OK, now that we've got the background and grid drawn, lets start adding a few rooms and passages (note that we're not changing the colour of the grid right now as we won't be able to see it if we if we do - so we'll do that later).

However, first will need to change the grid-size within Inkscape (i.e. the dots that our lines snap to - not the grid we have drawn), as not all of the shapes we draw will be perfect 5ft squares. To do this we'll once again select File > Document Properties and click on the 'Grid' tab. Now, we'll change the values to those listed below:

Note that all we are doing here is dividing each of our grid squares by four (with regard to the guide 'dots' that our lines will 'snap' to), while at the same time retaining a darker reference 'dot' at the corner of each square (as shown below):

Next, we want to create a couple of basic rooms and passages in our dungeon - so in much the same fashion as we drew the background rectangle, we'll use either the 'Create rectangles & squares' tool (which I've identified with the letter E on the tools diagram below), or the 'Create circles, ellipses, and arcs' tool (G).

(note that you can also use tool K for more extravagant shapes if you wish, as shown at the beginning of part one).  

As before, we'll hover the mouse over one of the grid points (i.e. where we want our shape to begin), and hold down the mouse button while we drag the shape to another grid point - thus defining our shape.

Note in the above picture I've used different colours to better show the different shapes that I've used. When drawing these yourself, you'll probably be drawing them in white (making sure that they have no stroke/outline), meaning that the resulting image should actually look something like the example below:

Once you're happy with the way it looks, you can click on the grid we drew earlier (with the select tool (A) ), and instead of sending this 'layer' to the back, we'll hit the 'Rase selection to top' button (which I've highlighted in red on the image below) to bring our grid to the foreground.

Then, while we've got the grid selected, we'll change its colour in much the same way as we did with the blue background (using the 'Fill and Stroke' menu) - except that this time we want the 'Fill' tab to have the 'no paint' option selected, the 'Stroke paint' tab to be given the same blue colour as the background, and the 'Stroke Style' tab to be given a line width of 1 px.

Now that that's done, we need to add a few little details here and there to help finish things off - so we'll go ahead and add a few more shapes here and there ...which can be used to represent additional walls or pillars - or to simply to give one of the rooms a slightly different shape.

In the example above I've included several such shapes - though I've shown them in red to better identify them; whereas in the example below, I've changed their colour to blue to illustrate how it should actually look when you draw them yourself (using the correct colour).

Now we'll take a little time to add a few final details (like doors) to complete the dungeon:

In the above example, the doors are simply white rectangles (2 x 1 'grid-dots' in size) with a blue 'stroke' of 2 px. Similarly, the large statue icons are just white circles (with a 2 px blue stroke), and a star shape (tool H) at their centre. Obviously, you can go to town and create as many different icons as you like - but for the purposes of this tutorial, these two examples should hopefully suffice.

And that's the dungeon pretty much finished!

All that's left to do now is to got to File > Export Bitmap (in the menu bar), change the dpi value to '300' and hit the export button (though there is a couple more additional steps to complete if you're planning on using these maps in something like Roll20 or any other VTT - but I'll discuss that in part 3).

And here's the finished dungeon:

Drawing old-school dungeon maps (part 1)

I have been experimenting with Inkscape (a free 'vector graphics' program) recently, and although I still prefer my old vector graphics software (which unfortunately has a few issues with windows 7 and widescreen displays), you can't deny that, for the cost (i.e. FREE), Inkscape is a great piece of software ...and one which I'm going to try to get to grips with over the coming weeks.

As such, I've posted one of my first experiments with Inkscape over on my G+ page HERE ...and seeing as how I've often thought about creating a basic map-making tutorial using only free software (and also because a few people have started to ask for such a thing) ...I thought that now would be a good time to attempt just that :)

However, before I begin, please be aware that I've only had the software a couple of days - so I'm hardly an Inkscape expert (though I am reasonably familiar with vector graphics in general). In addition, it's also worth noting that if you stick to the exact values that I've listed in the tutorial, the end product will be a 300dpi dungeon map - with each individual 'square' being 70 pixels in size (making it suitable for use with many of the virtual tabletops out there).

PART 1 - Drawing a square grid.

When you open Inkscape you will be greeted with a blank page - and it's worth noting that for the purpose of this tutorial I am using the 'wide' setup for all the icons/tools/etc. (note that this can be set by clicking the View option in the menu bar).

Once you are ready to start, the first thing we'll need to do is to set up a grid that will act as guides that all of our lines and shapes will 'snap' to when we're drawing the dungeon. This is done by selecting File > Document Properties and clicking on the 'Grid' tab. Then simply change the values to the following:

(note that you don't have to select the 'show dots instead of lines' option - but I find it easier if I do. Also ensure that you change the grid units box to 'pc' this can be easily missed) 

Once this is done, simply hitting the '#' will show or hide this grid (note that during the course of this tutorial it is assumed that grid is always displayed).

Next we need draw a phyical grid to represent the 5ft. squares of our dungeon floor. To do this, simply decide on how large you want the dungeon to be (in this instance I'm going to draw a small 15 squares x 20 squares dungeon) and then use the 'Draw Bezier curves and straight lines' tool (i.e. the one denoted by the letter K in the image below):

However, before we go any further, take some time to familiarise yourself with this tool and make sure you know how it works. For example, to draw a single straight line you simply need to left click (once) where you would like the line to start, and double click where you would like it to end. Other options include left clicking (once) to start your line (as shown at location 'a' in the diagram below), left clicking again (once) to denote the second point of your line (as shown at location 'b') and only double clicking to end the line when you are finished (in this instance at point 'c').

As you can see,  you can keep left clicking (and changing direction) as many times as you like (e.g. starting at point 1, then clicking at point 2, 3, and 4), and if you hover your mouse over the starting point, a little red square will appear around that point indicating that you can close those lines to form a basic shape (in effect joining point 4 and point 1 together).

In addition, the beauty of vector graphics is that once you have drawn a shape/line like the ones pictured above, it is very easy to change that shape/line if you so desire. To do this all you need to do is select the 'Edit paths by nodes' tool (the one I've indicated with the letter B in the tools diagram), click on the object/line you want to edit, and hover your mouse over the point/node that you would like to change (which will turn red shown at point 3 in the diagram below). Then left click (and hold) that point/node, and simply drag it to a new position.

OK, now we're familiar with how we can draw straight lines (note that we're not going to worry about curved lines at this point), let's get on with drawing our dungeon grid. As I said earlier, for this example I'm going to draw map that is 15 squares x 20 squares in size, and to do that we'll be using the same 'Draw Bezier curves and straight lines' tool as mentioned above. We also need this grid to be made up of one continuous line (to make selecting & editing it easier) ...and to do this we simply left click on the point where we would like to begin, and then simply go back and forth (as shown in diagram A & B below), and then up and down (as shown in diagram C & D) until we have one continuous line/shape forming our entire grid.

(note that if you're planning on creating multiple maps, it might be worth creating a grid that fills the entire page, and then saving that as a template for future maps)

Next, we want to create a blue background for our map, and this is done by using the 'Create rectangles & squares' tool (which I've identified with the letter E on the tools diagram above). Once you have the tool selected, left click (and hold) on the top left corner of our grid (note that a little 'x' should appear when you are hovering over the exact point), and drag your mouse down to the lower right of our grid.

Don't worry that this had created a rectangle that has obscured our grid, as another beauty of vector graphics is that each shape/ line is essentially on its own separate layer - so our grid is still there's just underneath our newly drawn rectangle.

Anyway, now that the rectangle is in place, we need to change its colour - and to do this we first need to make sure the shape is selected (i.e. simply click on it with the select tool ...the one I've labelled 'A' on the tools diagram), and then choose Object > Fill and Stroke from the menu bar. This will bring up a new set of options which will allow you to change the colour of the object (called 'Fill'), the colour of its outline (called 'Stroke paint'), and the thickness and style of that outline (called 'Stroke style).

For this shape we don't actually need an outline or 'stroke' so we can click on the 'Stroke paint' tab and make sure we have the first box (i.e. the one marked with an 'x') selected. But seeing as how we want the box to be blue (rather than the default black) we need to click on the 'Fill' tab, and (after making sure we have the second 'flat color' box selected) we can alter the sliders to select a colour more to our liking (note that for the purpose of this tutorial I'm, always going to be using the values shown in the above diagram when I make reference to the colour 'blue').

You'll also notice, that while you have the select tool active, you will get the following 4 icons appear beneath the menu bar -  and it is these four icons/tools will allow you to move shapes/lines into positions above or below each other. 

For example, our grid is currently sitting at the bottom of everything we've drawn so far - with our blue rectangle sitting on top. So if we make sure that we've got the blue rectangle selected, and then hit the first of these icons (the 'Lower selection to bottom' one), it will send the blue rectangle to the bottom - thus revealing our square grid.

And that's it for drawing the grid and background. In part 2 (which I hope to get around to later on today) we'll add a few rooms and passages, and get this little map finished.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Dungeon Monthly (July 2013)

Here's this month's dungeon map:

And, as always, unnumbered versions of the map (suitable for use with virtual tabletops) can found in the following G+ albums:

Thursday 4 July 2013

Summer Campaign Sale

Just a quick heads up to say that CSP is one of the many publishers taking part in the Summer Campaign Sale over on WargameVault

So if you're interested in getting 25% off all THESE products ...then why not take a look!