16 November 2014

Manuscript theme

From my own experience, and from reading around places like BoardGame Geek, one of the charges levelled against less highly-regarded games is that they don't implement their theme consistently. Whether it's modern slang in a game about the Ancient Greeks, or art nouveau illustrations in a game set in the Napoleonic era, these things break the immersion and therefore reduce the enjoyability of the whole gaming experience.

Blueholme looks like a great set of rules, btw, have a look at their G+ pages



One of the aspects that some OSR (Old School Revival/Renaissance/Resurgance) roleplaying retroclones do so well is that the publications mimic those of the time they are emulating - the 70s and early 80s. Using fonts that look like mimeographed text, consciously including drawings in that early b&w style, having solid colour backgrounds (usually blue)... it all adds to the feel, focusing the mind and tapping into the great wellspring of nostalgia so that the tone is set without requiring great screeds of exposition. It both provides a shortcut to a given aesthetic and style of play, and then maintains it - if consistently applied.



How then do I achieve such a consistent aesthetic, using design to clearly describe and maintain the setting in which I envision the adventures of Knights' Quest taking place? How do I tap into a sense of nostalgia (that apparently key ingredient of the success of OSR retroclones' design) for a game that isn't trying to be an updated rendering of an older, much-loved, game? [Yes, I know, there's only so much originality possible in a dungeon crawl]

Fortunately, the setting I wish to evoke is that of the medieval romance. Fortunate, that is, for two reasons aside from my own personal taste. Firstly, illuminated manuscripts are instantly recognisable and something whose written form is inextricably bound up with chivalry as well as, thanks to its bizarre marginalia, monstrous beings. Secondly, and of great use to a one-man-band publication like this, the stylised graphic approach of the monastic scribes has a distorted sense of scale and perspective - much like my own penmanship!

I couldn't really write about the imagery I intend to use in Knights' Quest without sharing some of it. First off, there's the title image itself:


Based on the idea of an historiated (filled with a story, people, creatures, related items) capital, simplified so that it would double as a recognisable logo at different scales.

Then, there's the logo for Round Table Games (which is... erm... just me, but mighty acorns and all that):


whose green and white segmented circle with red and white centre is based upon the glorious round table in Winchester:

This is my photo - it's such an impressive artwork to visit and stand before
And then, finally for today, is the first piece of character art for the Character Cards (more on them in a future post). It had to be a knight, really, so here you go:


I started with a pencil sketch, inked it a little, scanned and then coloured it. I'm still not sure whether I prefer it coloured or not; the only feedback I've had so far (thanks, JB!) is in favour of the line drawing. I really would appreciate opinions from others as well, so do chime in with your preference below, please.

Right, I'm off to bed to try and stop this 'lurgy in its tracks ahead of classes tomorrow.

Rab

23 comments:

  1. I love everything so far. One thing I try to do is create the look of a little ink bleed into the parchment. I don't know if you ever saw my Talomir tales logo for the last battle report I did. I also did a Gaussian blur and lowered the opacity of the colored area to make it look like faded water color

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    1. Glad you like it, Sean :)

      Good points on the fade and bleed. I'll have a play with filters (and a closer look at the Talomir tales logo, of course)

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    2. Hey Sean, that Talomir logo is nice! I shall be "taking inspiration" from it ;)

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    3. In case I am as lazy as I feel right now here is the method for ink bleed on the "line art". I got this technique from the cartographers guild from a tutorial by Gidde.

      Make three copies of your original ink layer. (For our purposes ink refers to the black line drawing or text.) All the layers in my Talomir Tales logo were left visible. The Original was on the bottom, each copy was the layer above. Another thing to remember is that the white background has been made transparent by setting White to the alpha channel. Or you could just set the layer to transparent when you draw or type.

      Copy #3 Layer Mode: Multiply; Opacity: 64%
      Copy #2 Layer Mode: Grain Merge; Opacity: 55% (it has had a Noise > Spread 5px, then Blur > Gaussian 2px filter run on it)
      Copy #1 Layer Mode: Grain Merge; Opacity: 50% (it has had Blur > Gaussian 5px, then Noise > Spread 3px filter run on it)
      Original Layer Mode: Normal; Opacity: 100%

      For the color layer I think I used an airbrush tool or just a soft, feathered brush. I wasn't too careful. I don't remember the settings, but I'm sure I ran another guassian blur, probably 5px. The layer mode for it was also normal but the opacity was 70%.

      To see the image here's the link.

      http://seanswgcorner.blogspot.com/2014/07/new-talomir-tales-post-and-welcome.html

      Clear as mud?

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    4. That's great, Sean. Thank you for taking the time to post all that. I shall have a play this evening.

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  2. Sounds like a good idea, looking forward to seeing what else you do.

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    1. There's more to come, don't worry :)

      Which bit sounds like a good idea? Sean's suggestions?

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    2. Sean's suggestion. And the idea of using period art.

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  3. Great artwork and ideas- I look forward to seeing it move forward...

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    1. Very kind of you, tgm, thank you!

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  4. Great ideas! I think I´ll go with the coloured one...
    Looking forward to see more!

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    1. Lots more to come.

      Thanks for mentioning this on La Armada, by the way :)

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    2. Always a pleasure to spread the word!
      I hope to start playing with my child soon, so count with us as playtesters!!

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  5. For the very purpose of consistency you mention I do prefer the black and white one. The other one's colours do look like computer coloured. I really don't mean it as a judgment because in all honesty it looks fab but the colours and effect say "computer" to me when they should say "faded pastels" if you get what I mean. Since drawing all of these and then colouring them the old way would be a hassle, I believe a good compromise would be to keep most "in text" illustrations as black lines like the 1st picture and throw a little more effort with the title pictures (why not illuminations with some containing hidden puns).

    Just my thought on this, I hope this doesn't puzzle you and proves constructive enough ;)

    Btw : here's a cool link to a good illumination bank : http://www.enluminures.culture.fr/documentation/enlumine/fr/

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    1. I should have read myself before hitting "publish" but the drawing is really great and apart from the superb abolition of persepctive it really gives the flavour you intend.
      Sean's Talomir Tales logo is really nice but as good as i is it can't beat real water colours for a genuine look.
      The way I see it, illuminations and illustrations should be the bass line of the rules, it doesn't make the meldoy nor the lyrics but it's what's giving the groove... A few well designed and delicately hand coloured with some rich details (got to have snails ...) will be the whipped cream and cherry on the cake.

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    2. I think we may have a very similar aesthetic! I want to strike a balance between simplicity and the vibrancy of medieval manuscripts. I do NOT want the images to look computer generated and if I can't get the colouring right I will stick with line drawings. Decisions, decisions...

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    3. I feel confident in you making the right ones ;)

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  6. Looking at the picture of the jousting horsemen, the drawing is colored, but not completely. It looks like the artist water colored just within the lines, but not fully, leaving some of the parchment showing. Perhaps you could try to mimic that look and see if it works for you. Seems like halfway between colored in and just a line drawing.

    In any event, it looks great either way, thanks for sharing the work product as you go!

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    1. That's really useful observation - funny how you can spend hours looking at an artwork (or type of artwork) and not notice things. I'm trying that out now and it's starting to look how I want it to. Cheers, TB!

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  7. I really like the two versions of the Knight card, I like the one with colour but it looks too crisp, it needs aging in some way.

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    1. Thanks Chris - T agree on the crispness and I think I've sorted that, or got near to doing so. A very brief update post to follow this evening...

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