Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Curves in Isometric Mapping

A recent post in a G+ map-making community highlighted how difficult it is to draw curved objects in isometric maps.

Here's a typical, challenging object: a curved chute that drops from a trap door into a lower level.

This is a worthy attempt at a complicated shape, but as you can see it doesn't look quite right; it looks a bit twisted, like licorice.

The main problems seem to be two-fold:

1. How the $#*@! do you draw a nice curve?

2. How do you take that curved surface and extude it into a three-dimensional shape?

Drawing Isometric Circles

I've taken a stab at this before, but I've found a couple of ways that are a lot easier.  Here's the basic structure, taken from this excellent blog post by Douglas Flynt:
That blog post spends a lot of time on subdividing the original square, but on isometric graph paper it's a lot easier. I'm drawing the outer curve of the chute, which has a radius of five squares:

Next step is to draw the inner curve, which has a radius of four squares:

Erasing my construction lines, I'm left with this shape:

Extruding the Shape

Now I need to extrude this into a three-dimensional form. The trick to doing this is to draw exactly the same curves one square over:

With a bit of practice you can manage this freehand, until then, you may need to set up the curve-drawing framework you used for the original lines.

Once you've got this, follow the northwest-southeast axis to "tie" the two sets of curves together. In the lower left, you're drawing a tangent across the two sets of curves:

Then, trace the lines that will be visible to get the outline of the final form:

It's still a little bit wonky; as always I recommend doing all your construction work in pencil (or better yet, with blue pencil/marker so you can pull it out with Photoshop), so you have lots of tries at the freehand curves.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Project Coma v0.2

Here's a slightly revised and updated Project Coma. There are some tweaks to the moves, a few formatting minor changes, but the main addition is the GM's pages which has suggested effects as static climbs, GM moves, and guidance for choosing the NPC's simultaneous counter-mission.

I have a chunk of this written up as a gaming text (as opposed to just a bunch of reference sheets) but holy crap is there ever a difference between some skeletal mechanics and a document that explains itself. I'm pretty sure the latter isn't worth tackling until the game is quite far along, it's an entirely separate task from just presenting mechanics.

This is all as free from playtesting as a field of fresh-fallen snow. I have the feeling I'm going to need to rip the basic procedures apart to cover a bunch of ordinary espionage situations a bit more economically.

Having said that, I'm super interested which of the playbooks (if any) grab you, and which look like duds.

I'm also interested whether you feel that there's enough structure here that you could comfortably run this, or whether you look at it all and wonder how the heck you'd get started.  (I'm aware that the sample missions just trail off in incompleteness.)


In unrelated news, Dropbox is ditching its public hosting, which kinda blows, so at some point I'm going to have to shuffle a zillion files and links to another location. Yay!

Veil of the Once-Queen

Deep in the forest is the citadel of Tanibel, once the capital of Martoi. Although their time has passed, they have found a way to cling to the world by straddling the veil between life and death.

In my home campaign, the three Lords of Tanibel have ridden out and poisoned entire watersheds with the black draught, leading to the terrible undoing of society hinted at in the Unmended Way.

Even if you don't go quite so apocalyptic and campaign-defining, Tanibel is still easy to slot into any forested region of your campaign world. Treat the Martoi like a fey court with a particular obsession with treachery.

The gray proctors are probably my favorite part of this one, if players haven't figured out what's going on with the veil by the time they get to the gates, I think there's potential for a truly horrible realization.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Project Coma

For something completely out of the blue, here are the player-side documents for v0.1 of 'Project Coma', a scribble of an RPG.

It's heavily inspired by Lacuna Part 1 by Jared Sorensen, but with an Apocalyse World-style rule set and playbooks, with a sprinkling of Amber, Night's Black Agents. Or, to put it another way, imagine if John le Carre and Kafka teamed up to rewrite Inception.

Having said all that, this document is super thin, as much an invitation for a playstorming session as anything.

Project Coma v0.1 PDF

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Which Way to the Sun?

File this under "perspective is weird". Last summer on a camping trip, we were stargazing just after sunset. I remarked howbizarrely—the lit region of the moon appeared to point above the horizon, despite the fact the sun was below the horizon.

What the heck is happening?

A recent blog post by Randall Munroe (which I can't find right now) asserted this was impossible, which made me question my memory.  I have, however, just seen precisely the same phenomenon tonight, which makes me confident it's a real thing and perspective is just plain weird.

Here's a couple of stills out of a video I shot to prove it.  Some things to notice:

1. The moon is way higher in the sky than the sun is. (The moon is perhaps 30 degrees above the horizon, the sun is setting.)

2. Nevertheless, the lit portion of the moon is the upper right quadrant.

3. Without any other markers to suggest what's going on, this is pretty weird.

Fortunately, there are some other markers I didn't realize until I was annotating the photographs: the horizontal lines on the long hardware store that appears in both images.

In the first picture, the roof lines appear to go "up" to the west, in the direction of the sun, but in the second picture, they go back down again. In fact, the horizontal roof line in the first image makes it clear that it's not really the "upper" portion of the moon that's lit at all: the line to the sun is straight south, following the roof line. It's just that in that linear perspective, horizontal lines which are above you appear to go "up" as you get to the edge of your field of view.

Since we're "below" the moon (at least from my Earthen reference point) we can see the partially unlit 'bottom' of the moon and none of its partially unlit "top".

The root error in thinking this scenario is possible is assuming that these lines are straight. You'd actually need a fish-eye lens to see both at the same time, which would force "straight" lines to be curved:

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Call of the Light

As some of the others have done, this adventure started out as a stubborn visual I couldn't get out of my mind: a massive heap of automaton parts under the baleful light of a lamppost.

What brought them there? Why, the call of the light.

As always, thanks to my generous patrons, the art and text for this month's adventures are free for non-commercial use under the CC-BY-NC creative commons license. Enjoy!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Isometric Dungeon Tutorial #3 - Village Well

Short little post today to point people to a third isometric drawing tutorial, this time a village well.

After a long dry spell of suffering with OS-basis video editing, I'm back to using a real editor, so I can make the whole thing go by much faster, while still stopping to call out a few things I've breezed by in the past, notably freehand circles.