Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tomb of the Prophets - A Ready Made Real World Dungeon

While researching a talk for the 5th, I followed a link in Wikipedia and found this neat little article.  The map alone could be a goldmine for a DM.   have to say it beats any of the random dungeon entrances from the 1e DMG.

Tomb of the Prophets

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Building Campaign Maps with Google & GIMP 8 - Adding Symbols with GIMP

 Own of the issues I've struggled with in GIMP is drawing regular shapes, much less complex shapes like concentric circles or stars. After all it's image manipulation, if I wanted to draw shapes I should use Inkscape. But I have worked out a way to import and add any map symbols I want using GIMP. The key is in the Brush tool, Section 9.2 of the GIMP instructions provides the steps required to create your own brush. And in GIMP, a brush can be any shape or pattern.

Section of Tablua Peutingeriana

Start by drawing or finding an image with the symbol you want to use. Because of my opinion of my artistic talents, I am using a section of the Tabula Peutingeriana from a copyright free image  on Wikipedia.  The +British Library also has a section of the map in it's Flicker stream, but didn't contain all of the images I wanted to use.

Here, I've take the section with the image I want and blown it up in GIMP for easier image manipulation.  I've selected the symbol I want to use in  my map and copied it to the Clipboard.

Tip: When using the Selection tool, the size of the selected area is displayed in the bottom bar of the GIMP window, in the message area to the right of the cursor position.  This is important for the next step.

Next I create a new image (File -> New), with the dimensions of the selection and under the Advanced Options, set the Fill to Transparency.

I've pasted the selected area from the Tabula into the new image.  Pretty, isn't it?  But I only want the city, not the land, roads and sea around it.

Again, I've increased the View to 400% actual size to make image manipulation easier.  Now I use the Erase tool to delete all of the drawing I don't need.  Because I set the background to Transparent, the square image can be placed on any background without obscuring the layer underneath.

Here's the important bit, even without Saving the image, I export it to my personal Brushes sub-directory.  On Windows 8.1, it's ../Rod/.gimp-2.8/brushes.  Your installation location will vary. I select to export it as a GIMP brush (.gbr) file. Then click Export.

Click Export on the dialogue box.

Now when I look at the Brushes Dockable Window (Windows -> Dockable Dialogues) in GIMP I see my new Brush (the highlighted square)  Note that GIMP automatically made the Clipboard selection into a temporary brush.  It's built in and can't be cleared, don't worry about it, it disappears the next time you open GIMP, but your new brush remains!

Re-size your brush to produce the size of the symbol you want to appear on your map, place the cursor and click.  You've successfully added it to the map.

I hope that this will be of use to some people, the other campaign cartography posts are collected below.

Building Campaign Maps with Google and GIMP series One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven
Mapping Pavis (Inkscape) series - One, Two

Thursday, May 21, 2015

This is not me

Very strange to see my name in the Google feed.  I had no idea there was another one of me running around playing D&D.  Of course, the other me got to work on RPG's rather than driving ships and writing code.

Goodbye Rodney Thompson

Monday, May 4, 2015

Star Wars Night

Watching the Twins and A's play what should be baseball, but seeing the As booting the ball around the infield (can't believe they've only been charged with one error), it's obvious that the Twin's starting pitcher Phil Hughes is using the Force to keep the home team in the game.

They even gave away a Hughes the Force bobblehead.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Three Thoughts on Carcosa

I've been aware of the unofficial Carcosa supplement for some years, but never saw it in the wild.  A couple weeks ago I picked up the version put out by and for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

1.  DriveThruRPG keeps it behind the Adults Only barrier due to it's disturbing nature.  Well, if you're a 13 year old with an over-active imagination it might be disturbing.  The fact that almost of of the magic in the book involves sacrifices of sentient beings, some with very specific requirements as to sex and age - well it's not something I would have come up with but nothing nightmare inducing.  It will make SJWs howl, so keeping it where you have to log in and look probably saves them some bad press.  And the names given to the rituals ate fantastic, who doesn't want cast "Geometries of the Labyrinthine Spaces" instead of Maze?

2.  If my players came to me and asked to me to run it, I would.  But contra my thoughts in 1. above, I wouldn't do it around kids.  I don't need blow back from the players spouses - or my own.  Also, the villains would always be working on a ritual demanding a sacrifice that could be fulfilled with one of the players.  Players characters with real skin in the game with a vengeance.

3.  The mashup of Cthulhu Mythos background with space aliens and their weaponry is like the love child of Sandy Petersen and Dave Arneson's imagination.    Very cool and if I don't run it directly, I'll certainly incorporate pieces in my gaming.  You could very easily incorporate as written in RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu or any other BRP derivative.    Other Old School systems would require more work, but nothing too extensive.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mapping Pavis II - Building the Neighborhood

Here I will demonstrate building out an area of the Big Rubble using the blank grids I built in Mapping Pavis I.  The area where I want to set the adventure is west of Griffin [sometimes Griffen in the setting] Gate.  On the City map, it's square C9.

I'll start by taking the blank 5x5 square GIMP drawing and exporting as a PDF, which I'll then import into Inkscape and save as an SVG (scalable vector graphics) file.  Opening the Layer menu, I'll add three layers to the SVG, 'Grid', Infrastructure' and 'Subsquares'.  Select the 5x5 grid, and select Layers->Move Selection to Layer, choosing the 'Grid' layer in the dialogue box.

Switching to the Infrastructure layer, I'll add in the city wall, which starts near the bottom right and exits about half way up the left side of C9.  A simple rectangle for the Griffin Gate itself and then a straight road leading out from the gate.   There needs to be other major streets in the town, so I'll add one in branching off of the gate road and going through C9.  It roughly parallels the wall, but I don't want it to be straight, as my conception of Pavis is that, unlike Greek and Roman towns, it was laid out haphazardly.

I'll start with the block four down and three in from the left and map the buildings with in the bock on the 10x10 square drawing I made earlier.  Again export from GIMP as a PNG file, open the PNG in Inkscape and save a an SVG file.  I only need two layers on this drawing, 'Grid' and 'Buildings'.  Again, I move the background grid to the Grid layer and add the wall section so guide my layout.  I'll need to leave a gap for the street cutting across the corner of the square too.

Now to generate the buildings, of course I built a generator, I always do.  It's linked over on the sidebar.  When I built the generator, instead of setting to always build a 100x100 meter block of buildings, I set it so that it randomly selects a 'Nominal block size' and creates contents until it meets or exceeds the nominal block size. I'll just run it until I have enough buildings to fill the area.  In this case twice, I've reformatted the numbers to make a combined list for the block.

The area is covered with tall weeds.
The cellar is made of field stone and has 3 levels. The cellar can be accessed by a open stair inside the left rear corner of the building site. The access has been hidden by brush and weeds.
Any cellar floors in the building have a 10% chance of collapsing the first time they are stepped by any individual character. Any stairs or ladders found in the cellar have a 15% chance of breaking the first time they are used.
The front right corner foundation of yellow brick remain behind to mark where a building once stood.
The rear left corner and right wall foundations of brown brick remain behind to mark where a building once stood.
The area is covered with brush, a small tree grows within.
The cellar is made of packed earth and has 1 level. The cellar can be accessed by a hatch without a stair outside the right rear corner of the building. The access is hidden by debris.
The front right corner , rear wall and left wall foundations of yellow brick remain behind to mark where a building once stood.
The interior is a shallow pit covered with weeds and bushes.

The area is covered with brush, a small tree grows within.
The broken front wall and rear right corner of adobe remain standing to mark the building.
The area is covered with thorns.
The cellar is made of packed earth and has 1 level. The cellar can be accessed by a trapdoor with no means of descent inside the right front corner of the building. The access has been hidden by brush and weeds.
The front right corner foundation of yellow brick remains visible to mark where a building once stood.
The left wall foundation of adobe remains behind to mark where a building once stood.
The interior is a shallow pit covered with weeds and bushes. A pool of water has collected at the bottom. Check for wandering monsters.

Building Types paraphrasing from Pavis and the Big Rubble.
    'A' - Intact and inhabited; 'B' - Open to the weather, but inhabitable; 'C' - Shell of the building; 'D' - Foundations poking up through the grass; 'E' - No remains above ground, may still have intact cellars.

Going back to the drawing, it's easy to place the building outlines on it and add labels.

The final step is to turn off the grid (Shift -Control - L) Then click on the eye icon next to the Grid layer in the right sidebar, so that the eye closes.

Click on the drawing, Select All (Control-A), then reducs the scale of the drawing by Object->Transform.  Click on the Scale tab in the Transform dialogue on the right sidebar.  Set the scale to 20% of the original and apply.

Copy the reduced image to the Neighborhood drawing for the C9 block.  Then using the cursor controls, slide it into position in the square 4 down by 3 from the left.  Delete the wall segment that was copied over, tweak the building locations to align at this level, including editing the Path for the main road transiting the square and you achieve this.

Repeat for successive sub-squares.

Now I'm not planning on mapping all of Pavis at this scale, just the pieces where the adventures are.  I'll keep a couple of generic areas for random encounters.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mapping Pavis I - Setup

I've been fascinated by the Chaosium RuneQuest Pavis and the Big Rubble setting since I first read the saga of Rurik the Restless in the rule-book. A year or so ago, I went out to DriveThruRPG and bought the PDF version. It's a huge setting, 25km2 of ruined city, now inhabited by trolls, broo and other two and four footed vermin - like adventurers. Sealed off for hundreds of years, it was forceably re-opened by the dragonnewts, then re-colonized by Sartarites, and now conquered by the Lunar Empire. I'm considering setting my next campaign there and wanted to start mapping out the ruins. The small scale map included in the PDF being evocative, but not terribly useful for game play.
The first step was to import an image into GIMP and overlap it with a grid. I started with a hex grid, but as I started drilling down, I realized that a square grid would be easier to use.  I took a screenshot of the PDF page, then in GIMP, I opened the image as Layers, edited out the scale given on the image, created a new 'Grid' layer on top of image layer and then used Filter->Render->Pattern->Grid to draw the lines. I set the distance between the lines at 65 pixels. That gave me a little over 100 half kilometers squares inside the walls. Since the PDF says that the walls contain "about 25km2" of land, that's good enough for my work.  Labeling the top row and left hand column provides me with an easy reference system.

The next step is to be able to drill down to individual buildings.  Again I used GIMP to create a large square, first divided into a 5x5 matrix of smaller squares.  The large square at this scale represents on of the squares on the Pavis map, which I'll refer to as a neighborhood.  The 25 squares inside are 100x100 meter 'blocks".

The final layer is another large square, subdivided into a 10x10 matrix.  The large square represents the 'block' in the neighborhood map and is subdivided into 10m2 'lots'.  Or about 30x30 feet - not coincidentally the size of the house I owned in the Chicago suburbs fifteen years ago.

Next I'll demonstrate drilling down to the building and block level.