23 October 2012

Striving for hex-actitude

With my painting table even more covered in non-gaming stuff than usual (small matter of a leak from the roof through into our bedroom, requiring the moving of about a hundred and fifty books onto my desk but fortunately no long term damage other than slight discolouration of a ceiling I was going to repaint in the spring anyway), I've returned this evening to mapping Averaigne, my nascent Swords & Wizardry sandbox - see previous posts for details.

I wasn't entirely happy with how things were progressing, to the point where I was actually avoiding working on it, so took to the wilds of the interwebs for sage advice. I found a great philosophical discussion which made me rethink a bit how a semi-open environment in an RPG could or should work most effectively, which then led on to a very helpful 'how-to' post about creating a hex map from scratch. I already had the tools (the template for Illustrator and the map hex icons) but was coming at it rather ham-fistedly. Now I have a plan of action to follow. Obviously, with a large scale map already roughed out, the same level of random free-flowing creation isn't what I want but I think it will be helpful none-the-less.

Having digested, pondered, procrastinated and dawdled over the advice in the links already mentioned, I've just spent a rather mindless and therapeutic half an hour creating a new Layer for the Illustrator template I have which has the large scale 'atlas' hexes which sit over sets of the pre-existing 'sub-hexes', to use the terms from Welsh Piper's instructions.

Without further ado, then, taa-daaa! Some blank hexes!

Ok, not exciting. However, as I've gone to the trouble, if anyone wants a copy of my update to Thorfinn's original Adobe Illustrator CS template with the atlas hex layer included then drop me a comment and it's yours for the asking.

Happy geeking,

20 October 2012

Don't like goblins. Do like jewels.

Having bought each of my boys (C, aged nearly 5 and E, aged 2 and a half) a set of gem polydice in the summer, they've each been asking to play a proper game with them. C can just about manage Song of Blades but it's way beyond E still so I was in a quandary. Polydice just shout 'dungeon-crawl' to me so today I grabbed a bunch of miniatures and some dungeon tiles and made up some very basic rules:

  • All players and monsters have a Maximum dice
  • Combat is by opposed dice rolls
  • If you lose a round of combat, you 'lose' the dice you rolled (damage/HP/fatigue)
  • Once you lose all your dice, you're out/down/dead
  • If you defeat a foe then you regain the 'smallest' of your lost dice (levelling up equivalent)
  • Movement is by squares, d4 per turn
  • No moving if you're in combat
  • Bashing down a door is attempted at one down from your max remaining dice
  • Each door has a total which must be reached (over consecutive turns if necessary) to break it down
  • Multiple combats are split if more than one on each side
  • If it's 2:1 or worse, the score for each side is the SUM of the values rolled for each side
  • Knights start at d20, goblins at d8 and the giant at 2d20 (can lose two rounds at each dice level before going down)
Now, this was more for me and my desire for internal consistency in a game; I only shared it with them as needed. I'll admit I wasn't prepared for how upset they got at 'losing' one of their dice, but otherwise it went really well. Apart from anything else, E came up with the best proto-gamer comment ever, which I used as the title for this post "Don't like goblins. Do like jewels." That's my boy - XP is always easier to get from treasure than combat!

The plot was that some wicked goblins had raided the king's treasure house and two of his knights (Sir C and Sir E) had to retrieve the stolen gems.......

"Right, you go and get that goblin, and I'll pick up the jewel" "Ok, brother"

"Take that, goblin!"
Things got a little hairy when they encountered the giant who had masterminded the theft and the goblins broke down the doors that had been locked by the knights to encircle them.... "This game tricky, Daddy" according to E.

"But Daddy, I don't want the giant to kill me."
Fortunately, some blinding dice rolls from the boys (two 20s, a 19 and an 18 from four rolls in the critical rounds) meant that the chamber was soon cleared and the treasure retrieved.

And, out of the dungeons, the knights make good their escape. Hurrah!
And then home for feasting and medals for everyone!

I worried at one point that I'd have to cheat for them to survive when the numbers started piling up against them, but their dice rolling! Jeepers creepers, I wish I could roll like that. They finished with only one dice 'lost' each but had felt that they might get beaten for large sections of the game which I reckon means I (by luck) got the challenge level absolutely spot on.

An hour of geeking with my two boys, playing a game they enjoyed and want to play again. Now that's treasure :)

Happy geeking,

17 October 2012

In the beginning was the Picture

Although, as seems traditional in my family, I started reading rather early (The Hobbit by 5 and plenty of Arthurian myth as well as The Lord of the Rings by 6) and remain a voracious reader, there are images from history books and fiction which are almost as much to blame for me being the fine upstanding geek I am today. I've picked just one for this post from Michael Foreman's evocative illustrations for Terry Jones' "The Saga of Eric the Viking". The viking's are outnumbered and ankle deep in the freezing, breaking surf as Fear itself threatens to sweep them away under the cold blades of alien, dog-headed warriors.

I could have included almost anything by Alan Lee (Tolkien-related or otherwise) or Cor Blok or....

Actually, I lied: one image isn't enough. Here are two more; both covers from books I loved as a boy. The Hobbit (Tolkien's own drawing) and Dragonworld by Byron Preiss and Michael Reaves (worth a read if you haven't), cover by Joseph Zucker.


So, your turns now - what images inspired you? Share the wealth!

Get reading,

10 October 2012

Hex marks the spot

After a slow couple of weeks, geek-wise, I sat down yesterday evening to put mouse to screen and start making my GM level map of Averaigne. I wanted to keep with the old-school feel of the whole project and produce a hex map. Now, a brief scan of the tubes of the interweb throws up gazillions of hits of varying usefulness: some lovely examples, several competing programs (each with their critics and devotees), and some mindblowingly complex cartographic arguments over the precise representation of various fictional worlds.

Fortunately, there was a clear voice which rang out amidst the clamour, that of Thorfinn (or more succintly Thorf on several OD&D mapping fora). As part of his labour of love (the complete mapping at all scales) of the game world Mystara, he has produced a marvellously useful set of tools for the budding hax-mapper to use in Adobe Illustrator CS. I have CS4 thanks to school, so they've worked like a charm.

You get a hex template like so:

You have to add the symbols that come with the download to the correct folder for your installation of Illustrator, but that's a really quick bit of copy and paste. The template consists of half a dozen layers so you have rivers on one, roads and settlements on another, map hexes (trees, mountains, good pasture, volcanoes) on another and so on. The map hexes are done by selecting a hex and choosing to replace it with one of the symbols from the palette. Roads and rivers are done by painting a line and choosing the appropriate style from the included set (major river, track, road etc). Seriously, this is a great piece of kit and a fantastic gift from one geek to the geek world!

Once I'd worked out that pressing 'shift' and clicking allowed multiple selection of hexes, I found it really quick and knocked this up in about 35 minutes. Thirty of them were before I found out about the shift button thing, and five after: I got the same amount done in both sets of time!

It's my first draft of the border marches of Averaigne. I'm learning a LOT about how I want to set things up so that there is a sandbox type experience for the players, but also there are key elements of the history (and therefore likely encounters) of the region that fit with a pseudo-medieval, medium magic, Europe which is my desired outcome. It might not look it, but plenty of thought, pondering, noodling and staring out of the window went into what little is there so far. Unfortunately for non-affected parties, both of the chaps who I hope will play this at some point check in on this blog from time to time, so I can't give spoilers, but shall just leave the teasing note that there is good reason to be afraid of the dark in the Marches. Mwahahahaha...

Anyway, the hex stuff. Thorf's site is: http://mystara.thorf.co.uk/cartography.php

He has a good explanation of the way you can use the layers in his template here: http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=2057

And there are plenty of other pointers scattered around that site. I also found loads of youtube videos for how to use Illustrator, which is something I'd never done before yesterday. It really is that straight forward.

Happy geeking,