Monday, January 31, 2011

Fantasy Mapping from outside of Our Little Corner

I was recently pointed to a site that contains a multitude of really nice cartography--of a certain style.  It reminds me a lot of Tony Dowler's work.

As far as I can tell, the artist has no connection to D&D whatsoever, which in my mind makes it even cooler.

It is called the The Interimaginational Institute for Fantastical Exploration and Cartography.  A bit long-winded, I suppose, but who cares?  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Awesome Cave

As several other (real world) projects are taking up my time right now, I might have to back off of my Map Roundups for a few weeks.  That probably upsets me more than it does you, but taking the time to wander far and wide over the blogosphere looking for map-related posts does take a little more time than I have available right now.

But I did come across a nice post this morning that I HAD to link to.  Thanks to Trey over at The Sorcerer's Skull for posting this about some caves in Viet Nam and Mexico.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Campaign Concept: Afloat in the Fleet (Part 1)

Back here and continuing here, I wrote about Chinese treasure junks, massive ships from the fifteenth century (Good article here.), and how their existence gave me some ideas for roleplaying. Another good article is here, but I’ll just include the relevant portion:
Expedition of Zheng He
The largest junks ever built were possibly those of Admiral Zheng He, for his expeditions in the Indian Ocean. According to Chinese sources, the fleet for He's 1405 expedition comprised nearly 30,000 sailors and over 300 ships at its height.

The dimensions of Zheng He's ships according to ancient Chinese chronicles are disputed by modern scholars (see below):

• "Treasure ships", used by the commander of the fleet and his deputies (Nine-masted junks, claimed by the Ming Shi to be about 420 feet long and 180 feet wide).

• "Horse ships", carrying tribute goods and repair material for the fleet (Eight-masted junks, about 340 feet long and 140 feet wide)

• "Supply ships", containing food-staple for the crew (Seven-masted junks, about 260 feet long and 115 feet wide).

• "Troop transports" (Six-masted junks, about 220 feet long and 83 feet wide).

• "Fuchuan warships" (Five-masted junks, about 165 feet long).

• "Patrol boats" (Eight-oared, about 120 feet long).

• "Water tankers", with 1 month's supply of fresh water.

Some recent research suggests that the actual length of the biggest treasure ships may have been between 390–408 feet (119–124 m) long and 160–166 feet (49–51 m) width, while others estimate them to be 200–250 feet (61–76 m) in length.
When I read the above, numerous ideas spring to mind. Just to simplify, say that you have a fleet of large ships, two to three hundred of them with a total manpower of twenty to thirty thousand people. What could you do with that?  Here are a bunch of possibilities that come to my mind.

One possibility is that the fleet of ships is controlled by a maritime power in your world in order to (pick the goal).  Perhaps it is conquest of surrounding dominions or perhaps it is exploration.  Regardless, the fleet is military in nature.  The PCs are mercenaries in the employ of the government, either in possession of their own ship or based on one of the many barracks ships that are accompanying the expedition.  Or maybe they are spies of a competing power, trying to thwart the aims of the fleet.  This idea could work for any level of PCs.  Low level PCs could interact with the common soldiers (or marines--seaborne infantry), the masters of the smaller ships, and the daily "normal" happenings throughout the fleet.  High level PCs could interact with the Admirals in charge of the fleet and the governing council.

Adventures could be event-based based upon the politics and situations that the PCs find themselves in as part of this massive fleet.  Adventures could also be location-based as the fleet visits various strange locales and the PCs have to explore the lands or islands that the fleet encounters. 

Another possibility is that the fleet of ships is not attached to any land power, but is, in fact, its own political entity.  A literal floating city made up of numerous ships, housing all of the normal functions of a city, but in a collection of moving vessels whose position changes relative to all of the others over time and whose makeup changes as some ships (or groups of ships) leave the main body and others return to it over time.  It would obviously include (much) smaller vessels that taxi passengers between the larger ones.

If one accepts the literal floating city as a campaign idea, what is the nature of that city's voyages?  What are their origins?
- Perhaps it just voyages from place to place with no discernable rhyme or reason (at least to the commoner aboard one of its many vessels).  The PCs would just be along for the ride, and their adventures are determined merely upon the circumstances of the cruise.
- Perhaps the leadership of the city are searching for a particular place, object, or person.  The PCs are actively involved in the search, whether as mercenaries or otherwise.  Or perhaps they don't give a hoot about the overall reasons for the voyage and are out for themselves.
- Perhaps the city voyages to discover its past.  How many science-fictions stories are about humans in space trying to find the mythical 'Earth'?  Translate that idea to fantasy and an ocean voyage, and it works as well.

I'm sure there are other ways that this basic idea could be used in a campaign.  If you can think of any, I'd love to hear of them.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Map Roundup - 21 January

If there is one thing that doing these roundups continually proves to me it is that there are so many blogs out there doing interesting, and often amazing, things.  One of the things that I love most about the blogosphere is that I can click on a link and then from there follow another one and then another one and then find myself someplace that I've never been before and reading or looking at something that I never otherwise would have.

I have a lot of fun putting these things together; I hope that you enjoy reading them.

Axe & Hammer, 17 Jan: In our last map roundup we had several 'one-hour dungeon' posts.  This one is a half-hour dungeon post. 

Axe & Hammer, 18 Jan: This is that same dungeon starting to be turned into a 'one-shot' adventure.

Axe & Hammer, 19 Jan: The one-shot commenced above taken a little further...

Quickly, Quietly, Carefully, 19 Jan: Another take on the 'one-hour' dungeon.

Quickly, Quietly, Carefully, 20 Jan: Another one hour dungeon.  I like this one better than his first above.

Aeons & Augauries, 20 Jan: A hand drawn dungeon map.

Sickly Purple Death Ray, 19 Jan: A map of caves.  I love maps.  Of caves.  I love this cave.

Sickly Purple Death Ray, 05 Jan: A map of a sunken temple.  Nice old school look to it as well.

And then I take a look at the archives at SPDR and realize that there are a whole lot of maps there that I absolutely dig.  Which really shouldn't be a surprise considering who it is that writes the SPDR blog.  So now I'm going to have to delve into them.  BUT I don't have time to link to them all here; perhaps I'll do that in a future roundup.

Sorcerer Under Mountain, 20 Dec: A nice little hand drawn map of a continent, The Continent of Terror!

Gnumerous Gnomes, 31 Dec : A tiny write-up of a city, Sparrowton, but placed on a nice looking hex map.  This is a new blog to me, but I've come across several map-related posts.  Here goes:

Gnumerous Gnomes, 05 Dec: A write-up of the nation of Anders, and a nice hex map to illustrate.

Gnumerous Gnomes, 05 Dec (#2): A write-up of the nation of the Steampine Dwarves, and the obligatory hex map.

Tower of the Archmage, 21 Jan: Another one-hour map, hand drawn.  Everybody's doing it.

A character for every game, 21 Jan: Hand drawn map of The Lost Crypts.  This guy can map!

A character for every game, 14 Jan: Hand drawn map of Peridane's Tomb.

The Alexandrian, 19 Jan: A really nice post containing a map (linked) and a detailed discussion of playing in a megadungeon and his thoughts on DMing it.  A new blog to me, but if the quality of the posts continues to be at this level, I can see myself spending a lot of time here.

The Alexandrian, Halls of the Mad Mage: A one-page pdf detailing a relatively small dungeon.  I've linked to it, because I like the clean, simple look of the included map.

Greyhawk Grognard, 06 Sep (2010): I don't know if I've linked to this post before or not--I can't remember and haven't taken the time to research it.  Anyway, a poster sized map of the Castle of the Mad Archmage--in old school cyan blue!

Telecanter's Receding Rules, 21 Jan: A map in this post, but the main draw is not the map--it is the content.  Telecanter expresses the desire for a "How to Host an Empire" similar to Tony Dowler's "How to Host a Dungeon" that would serve as "an abstract, generative system for developing world history".  This is actually a FABULOUS idea and something that my older brother and I have often considered.  Our original idea grew from the tables in AD&D's Oriental Adventures to determine events in a realm over time.  It is something that I would love to work on.  Perhaps some day...

Forgotten Runes, 15 Jan: Mapping the world in hexes.  Good post.  And I really dig the background on this blog.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'll take a stab at it

So lot's of people have been posting 'One-Hour' Dungeons.  Dungeons that they sat down and drew in one hour.

And I decided that I would take a stab at it.  After all, I love maps, right?

So I gathered all of my supplies: a black Pilot G-1 0.7mm gel pen, a Fine Point black Sharpie, a straight edge, and a sheet of graph paper.  I had (so I thought) set aside one hour of time in which to draw.  Conditions were perfect.

Conditions were perfect.  (Inside joke--anyone know 'Flight of the Concordes'?)

That is, except for the sleeping baby in the other room.  But she was going to sleep for a lot longer than the one hour that I needed, right?

I sat down to start and this is what I came up with in 43 minutes.

(Why did I stop at 43 minutes?  Well, the sleeping baby woke up and started to cry.  Stop, calm the baby, scan the above picture, and put it away.  I put it away, because I felt that it would be inappropriate to look at it until I was ready to finish it.  (It's a one-hour dungeon isn't it?)  Several hours later, I pull it out and draw for the last 17 minutes.)

Here is the finished dungeon:

Overall, I gotta say that I am happy with it.  I really like how it looks visually--aesthetically.  It's also a lot better than I thought that it would turn out considering it is all in ink--no way to make changes, erase, or revise.  Definitely not the normal way to draw a dungeon.  From a dungeon design standpoint, however, I don't really think that it is that good.  I don't particularly like the layout of it all that much.  And frankly, I think that the ample use of caverns was a cop-out.  They are much easier (for me) to draw when hurrying.

One last thought.  In this case, I didn't really have an idea of a 'backstory' for the dungeon.  I just sat down and started drawing, stream of consciousness.  I wonder if it would have turned out any differently if I had any ideas about it before I started.  Something to think about for in the future.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Map Roundup - 19 January

Time for another roundup.

Aeons & Augauries, 13 Jan: A hex map in 3D.  Pretty nifty.

Aeons & Augauries, 14 Jan: More cool 3D hex mapping.

Planet Algol, 16 Jan: A dungeon map in one hour.  Really nice idea, and some thing that I'll have to try sometime soon.

Aeons & Augauries, 17 Jan: A one-hour dungeon map inspired by the above post, this one using Adobe Illustrator.

Aeons & Augauries, 17 Jan (#2): Another one-hour dungeon, this time build with geomorphs. 

Aeons & Augauries, 17 Jan (#3): Yet another one-hour dungeon, this time hand drawn.

I See Lead People, 15 Jan : Three "quick and dirty" city-section maps.  I like these for their simple style.  They're nice to look at.

And now I'll delve into the map archives at I See Lead People as I don't believe that I've linked to this blog before:

I See Lead People, 09 Nov (2010): A really nice hand-drawn, black and white, hex map of a large region.  I really like this map.  It's of a place called Elwyren.

I See Lead People, 23 May (2010): Some fantastic maps from the old Imagine Magazine.  A castle, dwarven complex, an inn, and a temple.

I See Lead People, 22 May (2010): More of the above from Imagine.

I See Lead People, 22 May (2010) (Again): Still more.

Old 4 Eyes Den, 10 Jan: I love wandering across new blogs for the first time.  Here's a new one (to me).  The post has a map of a little dungeon called "The Training Dungeon" and a playing session recap.

Old School Heretic, 15 Jan: No maps visible in this post, but about maps nonetheless.  Node maps, even.

The Mule Abides, 18 Jan: A cool map of NYC, and the announcement of an art show in NY about fantasy mapping.

The Mule Abides, 11 Jan: A post entitled "The Post Where I Give You Awesome Map Graphics."  And IT ROCKS!  Especially if you like trying to create outdoor regional maps on your computer.

The Mule Abides, 21 Dec: This is actually part 5 of a series of posts on creating a sandbox campaign map.  Parts 1 - 4 were posted on Dec 8, 10, 14, and 16 and can be found here.

The Mule Abides, 25 Dec: Part 6 of the series mentioned just above.  Really nice work here.

Fantastic Maps, 15 Jan: A nice color map from Jon Roberts, cartographer extraordinaire.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Map Roundup -- 13 January

I know that I missed a bunch of map-related posts over the holidays.  I'm also continuing to realize just how many great gaming blogs there are out there.  Anyway, here is the first map roundup of the new year.  Enjoy.

Havards Blackmoor Blog, 10 Jan: A post containing a map of Castle Blackmoor and links to a nifty little project--for those of you who dig Blackmoor.

Of course, old Havard has many map-related posts in his archives, so I'll link to them here (in chronological order):

Havards Blackmoor Blog, Oct 06 (2009): A B&W map whose style I enjoy and a link to an interesting theory regarding the history of Blackmoor maps.

Havards Blackmoor Blog, 21 Dec (2009): A very nice map of Blackmoor during the Age of the Wolf, which, if you are fan of Blackmoor, you will understand.

Havards Blackmoor Blog, 05 Apr (2010): A color hex map of a region of Blackmoor by one Dave L.

Havards Blackmoor Blog, 08 Apr (2010): More Blackmoor maps by Dave L.

The Tao of D&D, 20 Dec: I know that Alexis over at Tao has been working a wiki based on his campaign world and including maps and such.  I have been remiss in not linking to any of his stuff before now, but here goes.  He talks a little about and links to some of those maps in this post.

The Tao of D&D, 03 Jan: A really old real-world map and some maps from Alexis' world.

The Tao of D&D, 10 Jan: Maps from the 3rd updated a bit.

Lost Papers of Tsojcanth, 10 Jan : A link to some town maps and a link to some of Dyson's maps.

Aeons & Augauries, 10 Jan: A sketched campaign map in black and white.

Dreams in the Lich house, 12 Jan: A nice hex map of a Gothic Greyhawk.  But even better, I like the idea that he proposes in this post.  It is something that closely matches some of my own thinking.  I definitely see the topic for a post of my own here.

The Book of Worlds, 03 Jan: Harald, the writer of this blog, complimented me in the comments section to one of my posts recently, which led me to jump over to his blog.  Some really great stuff in it, and I've only read those posts visible from the front page.  This post includes a map of New York City, but even better, it links to an article and pictures about urban spelunking.  Awesome topic!

The Book of Worlds, 28 Oct (2010): I'm doing a little digging into Harald's past posts, looking at his Realms of Argos.  What I like about his blog is that he uses photos of real world things to depict gaming locales and objects.  His descriptions are also fantastic.  This is a handdrawn map of his island of Cora.

The Book of Worlds, 22 Oct (2010) : Another high quality post.  This regards the Kingdom of Pendrell.

The Book of Worlds, Atlas of Argos: Harald also has a flickr page where he houses some of his maps.  Nice.

The Book of Worlds, 06 July (2010): No maps in this post, but a Metaphysical Topography of his world.  (Basically, a map in words.)

Tower of the Archmage, 09 Jan: The title of this post is 'Megadungeon Map - Level 3.'  It REQUIRES that I link to it.  And it's a sweet looking map as well.

Tower of the Archmage, 12 Jan: Maps of outerspace are cool.  Especially when they look as nice as this one.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Argh! OGRE!

I have been scratching my head for about five weeks now, trying to remember the name of the armored warfare game where one side is played by many small units in battle against a single, large tank.  Turns out--it's name is OGRE.  Thanks to James M for posting about it.

My cousins owned it when I was a wee lad, and we played it several times.  I really enjoyed that game.

Recently, when it popped into my head, I immediately thought of a game idea that, to me at least, is very similar.  My idea is a small, hex based game where one player plays an assortment of footmen, soldiers, archers, etc. and heroes (slightly stronger versions of the previous) [the conventional vehicles, artillery, and troops of OGRE] and the other player plays a single dragon [the gigantic, artificially intelligent tanks in OGRE].

It would be a point-buy game where the one player can "purchase" whatever assortment of combatants he chooses while the dragon character purchases abilities for the dragon or characteristics of his lair (terrain obstacles that benefit him).  Combat then goes down, and the winner wins.

(For all I know, this idea has already been done.  I don't know of it if it has, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.  So if there is such a game in existence already, would someone please tell me?)

Assuming it hasn't been done, it is an idea that I would pursue if only I had the time to devote to it...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Terrible Admission

This post is going to be an admission, but before I get to that, I have two points to make.

First, I typically don’t get too worked up by what I read in the blogosphere. You occasionally come across vitriol and bitterness in flame-wars and such, and my response is to usually laugh at that stuff. Yes, hurtful things occasionally get said. Yes, some people reveal themselves to be total pricks. But most of it just rolls off—at least for me personally.

Secondly, I know that some people really DO NOT like what he has to say. There is a vocal minority that seems to really resent his opinions and believes that he is a pompous A-hole. I am NOT one of those people. Typically, I am in agreement with James M on what he says; Grognardia is a site that I visit without fail. But his point here is one that I do not agree with.

So here it is:

My Terrible Admission

Currently, I am not playing any rpgs. In fact, I haven’t played any in years.

There, I said it.


I don’t have the time. With a career, three small children, and a wife who has interests of her own, I cannot support the time expenditure required. Does that mean that I should just hang up this blogging thing?

For me, I blog (and try to be involved in this online community) specifically because I don’t have time to play. Of the two, blogging takes up less time than playing would. If I made the decision to play, I certainly couldn’t play and blog at the same time. It would be impossible.

I am envious of those of you who play—more envious of you who write amazing blogs and still have time to play. But that is just not going to be me anytime soon.

Needless to say, I disagree with James’ assertion that people who write about playing should be playing as a prerequisite to writing about it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

To Win Boriscalion

Back in the late eighties and early nineties, I was trying to get myself published in Dungeon magazine. I sent them several query letters, most of which were politely declined with their standard rejection letter. Then, finally, after six or eight attempts, they sent me the "your idea sounds intriguing, why don't you send us a completed manuscript" letter.

The adventure was called "To Win Boriscalion". It was a single player vs. DM adventure for a 1st - 3rd level fighter. A fairly straightforward dungeon crawl, the fighter was to enter an abandoned keep and search for any treasure he might find. The big treasure was "Boriscalion", a magical sword with orc-slaying powers. The idea was that it would be the first magical sword the PC would obtain. Basic concept I know, but I thought that it worked.

I thought that until I received the rejection letter from Dungeon--signed by none other than Wolfgang Baur.  The points that they raise are valid, although with a little tweaking they could be fixed.  The reason that I didn't fix them is that, at the time, Dungeon was no longer looking for AD&D adventures.

For posterity's sake, here is the rejection letter that they sent me:

And since this is a blog mainly about mapping, here are the maps that I submitted with the manuscript.

Perhaps I'll take the time to rewrite "To Win Boriscalion" and offer it as a free download--or maybe even as a product for sale.  Yet one more example of "If I only had more time..."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

One Year

So 2011 is off to a slow start--for this blog.  But I can at least say that it is now One Year Old!!

A year and a day or two.  It all started here.


What is it about people that makes us want to commemorate essentially pointless dates?

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Our EPT?"

Interesting post from the Windy City Wiz, but I'm wondering if I agree with him.

I think that there are new and original things being done that haven't been done before.  The Wiz claims that Raggi is an ass but respects him for what he is doing with his products.

How about Al's Warriors of the Red Planet?  (Yes, I know I linked to the blog, but, in case you are not aware, that blog is supporting a game that Al will be releasing (hopefully) this spring.)

I know that there are others out there, and a few are mentioned in the comments following the Wiz's post.

My feeling is that there is a lot of stuff going on that is interesting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Yes, it has been for several days now.  Crazy, how that works.

But since the last time that I posted (over a week ago), Christmas came and went, New Years came and went, and my latest birthday came and went.  Yup, a year older.

During that time, I checked out of the blogosphere almost completely.  Not only that, I was on my computer only a little bit each day.  AND there were days when I didn't check my email at all.

Usually, when I sit down to write a post, I do so after reading throughout the blogosphere.  I get good ideas; I get inspired; I find good maps.  I haven't done that today.  I'm assuming that there were a lot of 'resolutions' posts from various bloggers about the new year, so I'm going to offer some of my own:

- The Fantasy Cartographic will release at least two new products this year for sale.

- I'm going to jump on the geomorph bandwagon and begin posting geomorphs here on the blog in the same format as Dyson Logos, Risus Monkey, and Stonewerks.

- I'm going to work on updating 'My Daily Read' (which you'll find if you look to your right) so that it actually again matches the blogs that I follow on a daily basis--and includes ones that actualy post with some regularity.

- I'm going to work on a few other writing projects, that have been sitting on the backburner for WAY too long.

And that wraps up my first post of 2011.  A few more days will mark the One Year Anniversary of this place.  Perhaps some sort of retrospective is in order.  Then again, perhaps not.