Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Lantern of Wyv

This month's adventure is also my entry to the One-Page Dungeon Contest, one of the things that got this whole ball of wax rolling in the first place!

The Lantern of Wyv is actually an adventure that's been in the back of my mind for a couple of decades, back when I was coding on Angalon MUD. Text-based adventures are pretty static affairs, and I thought it would be pretty awesome to whip up something real time, a white-knuckle ride you had to be ready for.

The basic idea is this: a wizard's tomb is floating in the sky, and the only way to get there is her funeral barge - it's endlessly repeating her final journey, complete with farewell tour around her watery estate.

Only problem is that the area is infested with wyverns, which are suckers for brightly colored things. Like people.


Assuming players can make it to the "lantern", a number of nasty surprises await.

A couple of usage notes:

1) This adventure requires some engineering. The middle of it is a thrill ride, but getting on board isn't easy. They'll have to construct something, bring magic, or be willing to lasso a fast-moving boat at sea in order to get on board. Once they reach the lantern, the problems are just starting: it's not designed for easy access.

Players may require several trips up to the lantern to bring what they need, which might even include hirelings if the game/campaign doesn't provide parties with gravity-defying magic or similar tools.

2) There's no treasure in the lantern, the lantern is the treasure. It's a device whose usefulness plays out over a regional scale. If your players won't be delighted to have a bird-infested, radioactive flying castle, this isn't the adventure for you.


This is the one-page version (one-page dungeon contest and all); a two-page version with more detail is coming soon!

Also, the Big Freaking Map has been updated.  The Lantern of Wyv is in the north west!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

In The Care of Bones

For this month's adventure, I collaborated with the inestimable +Sean Winslow.  He handed me a sheaf of hand-drawn sketches of the site some months ago, curious to see what I'd do with them. His halo of margin notes was very inspiring!

An underground shrine at the center of a grassy plain was once a widely known destination for pilgrims in search of miraculous healing.

Now, with no pilgrims about, the energies of the place have been directed toward a clan of velvet spiders, who have grown to great size and ability.


I'm pleased with the result. I had fun grounding it in prairie details, but there's a hefty dose of whimsy mixed in with the usual deadliness.

+Tim Groth has already come up with several ideas for how to weaponize vain hope!

As usual, this is released under CC-BY-NC. Feel free to pull it apart and do your own thing with it so long as it's non-commercial.

EDIT: Graphics!



Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Destroying your Dreams for Fun and Profit

When I start creating something (or planning to), I usually have a vision. I'm going to write, draw, paint or program this really cool thing.

The more I sit and think about it, the more awesome it gets.  Yet, as soon as I put pen to paper, the pain starts.

I start sketching, and .. I dunno, it doesn't look quite right.  I keep going and before long I'm holding my head in my hands. What is this ill-formed monstrosity that's emerging on my paper?

This isn't coming out right..
This isn't how I imagined it..
What's going on?
This sucks!

All that's happening is my blundering efforts are doing nothing but failing to live up to my vision. Aaugh!

This can last an uncomfortably long time. Sometimes, I quit.

You're not what I had in mind

The Trough of Creativity

This has happened to me enough times that I noticed, and named it the Trough of Creativity.

Things start awesome, then soon degenerate into a wilderness, and feelings of regret that I ever started.

'Trough' - like a low place, with potato peelings. And mold. Not the sort of mode that feels like 'art happening here, man.'

If I persist, however, something interesting happens: a new thing begins to take shape. It doesn't look like my vision, but, I dunno, that bit is sorta neat.

Before too long, I'm happily clucking away, adding detail to something that I'm happy with. Something unexpected. Something real.

This is the trough of creativity - for an illustration, I can get out of the trough in about an hour of steady work. The main problem is that psyching myself up to begin the descent can take weeks!

Visions are Empty Lies

The main problem is that my 'vision' of my project is deceptive. I think that I've got a clear picture in my head of how it's going to look. The more time I spend thinking about it, the clearer that picture gets.. or so I think. All that's left is to draw it, write it, right?

What I really have is a clear picture of how awesome it's going to look. How awesome? Really awesome. I can totally imagine myself, looking at the finished artwork, feeling like a million bucks. The figure's stance? Out of this world. My grasp of lighting? Divine!

Just like in dreams - I'm reading a book, but when I wake up, I can't remember what it said. This happens because the book didn't say anything. All the parts of my brain that process language were happily asleep; the part that knows what it feels like to read a book was dreaming.

My daydreams are just the same - exciting, tantalizing, but almost entirely devoid of useful detail.

The worst part is that I can't tell. I think my vision is all worked out but for the doing. This is the ghost's lie.

To Begin, First Kill Your Dream

This is painfully obvious once I start the business of actually creating. I can have a vision of holistic beauty without imagining any actual details. For a real-life piece of art, however, the holistic impressions only come from the parts working together: there need to be parts, or there's no whole!

What keeps me from entering the trough is this:

I believe the vision is real, and I don't want to damage it.

I'm scared, because my unconscious knows that as soon as I start, my precious daydream is going to be blown away like a puff of smoke.

And yet, this is the only way to begin.

The Will o' the Wisp

I think the proper use of vision is as motivation.  The hunger to create shows up like a will o' wisp; the only thing it's going to do is lead you off the path and into the swamps. But that's as far as it goes.

If you want to go any further, you're on your own.

Better keep moving.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Quick Dungeon Method

I've been wanting to do this for a while but never made the time. Here's a video of my process for making an 'old blue' map.

I made a couple of mistakes on the video, notably setting the recording framerate to "ass", but there you go - better luck next time.


My process for making these is completely different from my hand-drawn maps, which should be obvious immediately.  The Photoshop template I'm using has a bunch of useful layer effects all ready to go.

Instead of drawing walls, I'm painting floor space.  I'm literally just grabbing basic shapes for brushes and painting in white, and the outlines grid and get added automatically.

It's a shame I didn't manage to record my mouse cursor, as I think that would make it all a bit clearer - instead of rooms appearing, you'd see me dragging a square brush around for corridors and rectangles, and then using circles and hexagons to make the various notches.

What's fun about this is that I can build up a complex outline a bit at a time (see 1:30 to 2:30) instead of knowing in advance what the outline of the room is going to be.

 Architectural adornments like this don't do anything for grid-based fights, but I hope they convey an baroque impression that would affect the GM's description of the place.  Room #6 is clearly not a crude stone room.

The texture I lay down from 7:40 to 8:15 isn't lost, I just hide it and bring parts back with a chunky 'boulder' brush. (You can then see me go around twice with a 'pebble' brush.)

The final product is a bit simplistic; it's not as lovingly crafted as hand-drawn ones, but it's really, really fast.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Blue Maps are Twice as Good

A recent online discussion got me thinking about nostalgia, and the power that holds for me.

When I see an awesome fantasy map, I get this visceral bolt of pleasure that just makes me want to squeal like a seven year-old, opening Keep on the Borderlands for the very first time.


The sensation is twice as strong when the map is blue.  Go figure.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Anaglyphic Isometric Map

A little while ago +The Gorgonmilk mentioned the idea of anaglyphic isometric maps. How fun would that be?

I immediately leaped to Amazon to buy myself a ten-pack of cheap anaglyphic glasses.  This morning, they arrived in the mail.

Here's a prototype - there's only one "plane" (except for room 24 if you look carefully), so it's not much of a feat, but I am now quite excited about what's next.  Quite excited.

(Click to enlarge.)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Unmended Way

At the apex of a mountain pass, high in the Strielwall Peaks, stands a ruined fortress. Once a Seree garrison, it is now occupied by a peaceful band of giants and the assortment of people devoted to them.

Inside, the giants work to perfect a ritual of tea making, a task they see as essential to the well-being of the lowlanders.

Also, they abduct people.


Here's the portion of the Big Freaking Map that shows the view southward from the split peak. (The distance is based on what I wrote in How far can you see on a hex map?)



So, some liner notes!

This release is somewhat autobiographical (at least metaphorically), which it seems can happen to me when I'm listening to powerful music while writing. My first clue was a weird tickle in the back of my throat; I figured if I could get through explaining it to my wife without cracking, it was my imagination and I was in the clear. Nope, she saw right through it instantly.

Also, Splitpeak House is not a self-contained "adventure", for two reasons. First of all, it works best as a doorway to Tealwood which I plan to develop more, although you can of course replace Tealwood with anything you like.

Secondly, there's no obvious threat to be overcome, unless you play the giants as villains (as would be the case if you reduce the threat implied by the Sidhe).

There's a weird project afoot, and it looks bad, but in a sandbox campaign the giants could become extremely useful allies. Not only is the skill they impart a vital survival skill in Tealwood, but (more mundanely) because of its location: the giants are guarding a mountain pass along a useful route, and have a reason to feed and shelter passers-through.

I hope you find it useful!

EDIT: Here's the map art. As always, it's CC-BY-NC.