Sunday 28 November 2010

How to make your own Fantasy Googlemap with MapLib without needing to be a code monkey

NB: I've since written an update to this article which details my thoughts about MapLib 6 Months into a mapping project of my own.

I've seen a couple of campaign world maps which use the googlemaps api and wondered how easy is it to make your own.  The answer very hard if you're not a bonafide javascript code monkey.  I then came across, a free service which allows you to build your own maps with custom overlays.  This is far too useful to keep to myself so here goes:

You'll Need:

  • A JPG, PNG or GIF of your campaign world.
  • A MapLib account (they're free)
  • Plenty of patience

Add your map to

Once you're logged in, go to the "My Pictures" section and upload an image. If you want a 4:3 ratio map use the settings below.  Place a map pin to define a location and type in it's name in the pop-up box.  You can add descriptions (see the example below) to the pins and include hyperlinks.  If you have them upload your own custom icons (or use the ones that other users have uploaded) and attach them instead of the bog standard pin.  If you've got lots of pins to manage you can create categories for Capitals, Cities, Towns or what ever takes your fancy. If you need to mark out an area or a line use the polygon or line tool.

Embedding Tips

Make your iframe at least 500px wide so your users can close any map pin pop-ups you create.

After much trial and error I came up with these settings for my 4:3 ratio (2046 x 1536 pixels) map:

Zoom Level 7


WIDTH: 512px, HEIGHT: 409px, LAT: -53.750, LNG: 36.558, Z: 7

Zoom Level 8


WIDTH: 512px, HEIGHT: 409px, LAT: -53.750, LNG: 36.558, Z: 8

Zoom Level 8


WIDTH: 512px, HEIGHT: 409px, LAT: -53.750, LNG: 36.558, Z: 9

Saturday 27 November 2010

Dragonmeet 2010

This post comes to you live from Dragonmeet 2010.

10:00 - And it's the usual mad dash to the sign-ups table for the morning session.

10:30 - Playing Dead of Night, and being DM'd by one of it's authors Scott Dorward.

13:15 - Just finished Dead of Night, an excellent horror scenario set in an abandoned church in 1920's Islington, London.  I loved the "Tension" mechanic, a sort of timer which advances when PCs spend survival points to affect the plot, I can see this being used in my SBA games.  We all had a lot of fun, great job Scott.  Now off to buy C&C at the trade stands.

14:00 - Sadly no luck picking up C&C will have to look online.  Spot of lunch required.  Missed out on sign-ups for afternoon RPG session.

Leo Marshall
Leo Marshall
15:00 - Back gaming in the main hall.  Playing Le Cardo with it's author Leo Marshall, a fun little crossword card game with lots of replay factor.  Enjoyed it so much I had to buy it.  Thanks Leo.

15:30 - Playing Pitch-car in the foyer

16:00 - Goodbye Dragonmeet see you next year.


Here's a short clip of the Trade Hall full of gamers.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Castles and Crusades: What do I NEED to buy?

I'm at a nexus.  My mac had an update crisis at the weekend and ate my campaign world.  After a little bit of a cry, I came to the thinking that within this dark cloud lies the silver lining of opportunity.  I've been dissapointed with my experiences of DM'ing my campaign world with D&D 3.5 for a while so I'm off to Dragonmeet 2010 to buy Castles and Crusades.  I know I'll need the Players Handbook and probably Monsters and Treasure but is there anything else out there for C&C that I should definitely buy?  

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Troll Hunter

Caught this movie trailer on The Book of Worlds.  

Released in Norway on 29 Oct 2010, but so far no details on when it will be scheduled for release in the UK, I expect it will be straight to DVD.  Enjoy...

I can see this having lots of potential for a modern horror scenario, perhaps Cthulhu Now, Delta Green or Conspiracy X. How about mixing in a bit of Kaiju, Godzilla vs Grimetosser perhaps?

Update: This film was fantastic and everyone should see it.

Monday 22 November 2010

Tintin and Lovecraft Cover Art

I stumbled across these wonderful Lovecraft inspired imaginary Tintin covers by Murray Groat this morning thanks to BoingBoing and needed to share them.  I think this would be a great crossover genre with little or no modification.  In fact I think my next CoC character should be a boy detective.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Sin? or is it just Karma

Thanks to Jeff Rients for his thought provoking post Sin and Sin Points draft as I've been struggling with a way to explain how my Evil races exist.

Back in the day I playtested a friend's game about fairies (it was self published and even though I'm a credited playtester, I can't remember the name of the system... Answers on a postcard to the usual address please) which utilised a Karma system to manage Alignment.

The fun thing about the Karma system was that if you were essentially Good and did bad things you became Evil and vice versa. The whole game was wrapped around this concept.. The scenarios were based around the eternal struggle between the Good and Evil Fairies, Brownies, Redcaps, Pixies and Unicorns of Englis folklore. The task of the PCs was to convert the Evil fairies by not just foiling their plans but making them do Good things and making them gradually less Evil.

One of the most fun aspects of this Whenever you lost Karma (or gained it) your physical appearance would gradually change until you eventually changed into your Evil variant. This led to a little subterfuge on the players parts as the GM might make you grow a wart, one of your eyes would change colour or you'd get Evil eyebrows overnight!!

I thought that this physical change might work in my world so thinking cap on, my thoughts are thus:

Every race has it's Evil counter-race. Except Humans, 'cause every rule has to have an exception, each Race's diametrically opposed race is the antithesis of the Good. So for Elves who are very cultured and graceful it would have to be Goblins, who are crude, vulgar ugly creatures. This could take some time to put together but once the different factors are weighed up I should be able to come up with some nice transitions for the 6 or so common PC Races and the more common evil monsters.

The Alignment wheel has potential. As a mechanism to gauge the transitions from Good to Evil it's crude so maybe sub divide it a little to make the shift more gradual and give the player time to repent.

My pantheon needs more Evil Gods - I've always thought that my campaign world's Pantheon was a bit loaded towards the Neutral or Good sides. It will force me to be a bit creative and there's more opportunity for plots which take place in my teutonic setting of Wulfschlossen where the boy King's army is led by a bunch of Bishop Generals.

It would give the Paladins a bit more colour. I've always thought that they were a bit too shiny and needed a few shades of bent copper added to the mix. Historically the Templars became tarnished when Pope Clement V abolished the order claiming that they were not Holy Defenders but Heretics.

Death is not the answer. However, when a PC gets to zero hit points and falls unconcious they should have a near death experience. As a result they could come back with a slight Alignment shift towards the darkside and maybe that wart or slightly greener shade of skin.

or I might be completely bonkers. You decide... BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

There's a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna do?

Well, over here in Blighty the nights are drawing in and the temperature has dropped, consequently I am now sharing my home with at least one field mouse.

I have to admit that, when we came face to nose, I did go a bit girly and shriek like Mammy Two Shoes when she sees Jerry the mouse.

It got me thinking about the classic movie scene when the heroes are going through a tunnel or sewer and a horde of rats comes writhing towards them and how whenever I've set the same scene in my game my players never react like I did when I saw the mouse?  The D20 SRD says that a rat swarm will cause

"Distraction (Ex): Any living creature that begins its turn with a swarm in its square must succeed on a DC 12 Fortitude save or be nauseated for 1 round. The save DC is Constitution-based."

The problem with this is that I want the players to suffer the effects before they are in the swarm and I want a fear condition not nausea.  Fear also escalates with exposure so a character who fails a fear check (Will save) is Shaken, fail twice and they're Frightened, fail three times and they're Panicked.  I just want 1 roll so I'm going to try:
  • Fail by 1-3: Shaken
  • Fail by 4-6: Frightened
  • Fail by 7 or more: Panicked
This should prove entertaining...

Dragonmeet 2010

Anyone going to Dragonmeet 2010 this year?  I know I am and will definitely blogging about my favourite UK Con on here.  Maybe I'll even meet a few fellow bloggers on the day (look on the con message board), maybe I'll blog at the con.

For those of you who don't know Dragonmeet 2010 takes place on Saturday 27th November at Kensington Town Hall, doors open at 10:00am.

Whilst I'm there I'll also be:
  • looking to pick up copies of D&D Essentials map tiles The Dungeon and The City after seeing Thaseus C's wonderful unboxing video on his blog "This is My Game".

  • playing a few con games (lots of choice for morning and afternoon RPG game sessions are scheduled)

  • supporting the traders by buying Castles & Crusades rulebooks to use as the system for my upcoming The Lands of Dual campaign

Hello Whirled! ...grr... Hello World!

Just had my case for membership of the network approved, so woot! is me.  Sadly the first of my posts which was visible was an abortive mobile blogging attempt via BlogWritter app on my 3GS.  Damn unintuitive GUI!! I've just worked out that if you're in the "New Post" screen you can save a post in draft format just by tapping "Back".  Lesson learned...

"What was your first post then!" you ask

It was an instructable on how to make a scroll case from a Pringles can.

Let me explain, I'm looking through my old copies of Dungeon to get a few scenarios to link together to form a new plotline for my campaign world The Lands of Dual and I came across the scenario "A Race Against Time" (Issue 81 Jul/Aug 2000).  The scenario features a nice 3 hour timed plotline which calls for the delivery of a message in a scroll case delivered via juvenile winged snake courier.  The message is the cornerstone of the scenario and will be poured over ad-infitum by the players, so I thought it would be nice to give them a nice handout to look at.  The theatrics are very important for the message's punchline so I need to make a scroll case to hold the message.  The campaign starts in Jan 2011 so watch-out for more posts about the make and a session report.

Thursday 11 November 2010

I Want... Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency for Xmas

Stephen Mangan
Sadly there will be no new adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel on the telly this Christmas.  Instead I'll have to enjoy the BBC's adaptation of Douglas Adams Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency...yes!!

Scheduled air date is 11 December 2010 on BBC 4 and stars Stephen Mangan as Dirk Gently and is directed by directed by Damon Thomas who directed the excellent BBC 4 adaptation of HG Wells' "The First Men In the Moon".  Rumour has it that if this pilot episode is well received it may become a series.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

What's in your DM's bag?

Whilst writing the article Trouble with Torchlight I thought it would be neat to share pictures or descriptions of the contents of your DM'S bag.  Bags can be SPECIFIC (the one you use for your favourite game or the one you're currently using, GENERIC (containing all the things a DM just can't be without) or FANTASY (a bag you wish you owned or could even exist in this dimension)

In my GENERIC DM's Bag I have:
  • Dice - I've forgotten these and then borrowed a players dice and blamed them for lucky monster successes.
  • Munchies - gotta keep the DM awake somehow.
  • Grid Paper - for drawing off the cuff maps when you're too lazy to
  • Note Paper - for writing secret notes when you're too lazy to take the player out of the room.
  • Adventure - yes once or twice I've forgotten to pack this, with hilarious consequences.
  • Character Sheets - Some players don't like giving back their characters at the end of the night, but I find it makes it easier to cope I have to NPC a player's character in their stead when they can't make it to a session.
  • Pens, Pencils and Markers - At my regular Friday night game we have a box of club resources such as dice and stationery.  We also use club battle mats (kitchen lino) so OHP pens come in handy for drawing walls and doors etc.
  • Beverage - My beverage of choice is mineral water.  It doesn't exacerabate the sugar rush of the munchies and keeps me alert and hydrated.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Trouble with Torchlight - Part 1: Ideas

A session of a recent Diamond Throne game I played involved a short dungeon crawl.  The age old problem of lighting for the non infravision equipped players reared it's ugly head.  This got me thinking about ways to show the limit of torchlight in different ways, without turning this into a massive maker project.  I thought I'd brainstorm the options and jot them down here and then produce a few prototypes and document how each one works in a game.

2D Templates

The simplest (and perhaps most obvious) of options to make is a flat template:

Pros & Cons:
  • flat and therefore easy to transport in a flap or a pocket in a ringbinder.
  • easy to make, print on OHP (Over-Head Projector) film and cut out.
  • cheap.
  • can't simulate the height of anything
Idea 1: Single Zone - this template is the simplest to make, just use a compass to scribe a circle of the appropriate diameter on a sheet of stiff transparent plastic.  A good source for the plastic is packaging windows, you know the ones, the boxes from those toys you bought for Christmas with the big plastic windows so you can see what you're buying yourself.  There's no need to print anything on, but if you make lots of different ones for different effects you might need to write effect names on them with Permanent Marker. 

Idea 2: Multiple Zones - Slightly harder to make, and you might need to design something on the computer and then print it out onto OHP film.  Another way is to stack them on top of one another, pin or fix together with glue to show different effect zones.  If you can't get hold of coloured transparency film then colour with careful use of permanent marker.  The zones don't even have to be for the same game, the possibilities are up to you.
A 2D Multi Zone template

3D Templates

Same as 2D but with the added dimension of ... height. 

Pros & Cons:
  • They're 3D so probably won't fold and therefore difficult to transport
  • Harder to make or find suitable component
  • More expensive
  • Bulkier in play, do they interfere with other miniatures, move them
Idea 1: The Dome or Tub - Finding suitable components for this will be tricky but I should have at least 1 by the time I write Part 3.  Some options are plastic soft drink bottles, CD drums, caps from Frappucchino or smoothie cups.

Idea 2: The Ring - a simple ring of stiff transparent plastic which stands on it's rim.   This I will definitely try to make.  A more advanced design would be adjustable like a belt so you can expand the ring for different sized zones.  The width of the ring can be made to simulate the height of an effect.  I'll make the belt style and try it out.

A Ring
Idea 3: The Cone - A cone of transparent plastic which can be placed over a miniature.  Cones stack inside each other for transport.  They can also be made out of a flat sheet of stiff transparent plastic like OHP film.

A Cone
Idea 4: The Cube - a transparent box which can be be created from flat sheets of stiff transparent plastic.  Sounds like papercraft to me, let me at it.

The Weird & Bizarre

A combination of 2D templates with a stand or something totally different.

Pros & Cons:
  • clumsy to use in play
  • expensive
  • hard to make
  • hard to store
Idea1: Tripod & Torch - Use a length of stiff wire or a wire coathanger and a pare of wire cutters to make a rudimetary tripod and a ring over which you can hang a small torch.  If the torch has a beam focus you could use it to give different size effect areas.

Idea 2: Tack and String - Less of a template and more of a measuring device.  Push a pin into the base of a plastic miniature then knot lengths of string to the pin.  Trim the string to the appropriate length or if making a multipurpose string add coloured tabs to the string.  Each miniature then has a handy radius measure

Idea 3: Radius rod.  Using a thin brass rod, dowel or heavy gauge wire.  Thread a 2D template onto the rod through a hole in it's centre.  A step or a blob of glue can be used to stop the template falling off the rod during use.  Templates can be removed for storage.  I'll have a go at this one.

If you've got some ideas that you want me to explore in prototype, feel free to comment below and if they pique my creativity I might just make them.  If you've got any prototype pics you've made yourself feel free to add links.