Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Gygax Challenge Week II: To Be Continued... Later...

So, Dundjinni can be very, very slow on an old computer - which was one of the reasons I started using my less reliable G5 Mac to plan the work - but yet retain that stubborn resistance to planned obsolescence. 

I finished the map work above fairly early in the day - but rendering it in full definition proved to be very, very difficult. Since I have the map saved, I can come back to this later (week 5). This is at approximately 72 DPI - and the rendering as a JPG took a minute or so at 1600x2000. 

The program defaults to 200 DPI at 8000x6000 or thereabouts - which was taking hours, and crashing out during the finalization of the BMP format. I may have to tweak Java or my GPU settings to do this (the latter is a crippling feature, considering I had the best PPC AGP card in the G5).

The physical dimensions of a canvas that size is like 32"x40" and gives a truly detailed result - I haven't given up yet, but overland maps are much, much more crowded than the average dungeon map. Some of those tree symbols were put down one at a time...

Nonetheless, I want to be into Week III, so I did some manipulation on the lower resolution image with Photoshop. Basically I highlighted edges, faded the overlay of them, posterized the image, used auto contrast/color/tone, and applied a basic canvas texture very slightly...

As you can see I muted the color a little bit, and posterizing took care of some of the more jagged mouse drawn lines. I'm not looking to layout material in Photoshop - but it made it easier to smooth the image out and make it a bit more 'organic' looking.

Since I stated one of my inspirational sources was horror comics of decades past - I wanted a bit more blend with that style...

I will be doing all of my map labels from within Comic Life, which is a somewhat limited program but captures that comic book feel. It's not perfect, and I'll probably revisit this technique when I have the full resolution BMP.

Over the next few days, between real life work, I will start putting together some names of places and the first few concepts of the dungeon design. I think I will wrap the random encounter tables into stocking the dungeon, since I will need to find a suitable layout for the charts.

I'm thinking of some forgotten crypt-temple beyond one of the copious marshlands that tend to well up around the mountainous regions. The town nearest will be a palisade walled fort town like you'd imagine fur traders in the 17th century using... or, easier still, Sleepy Hollow from the Tim Burton movie.

Until next time... Stay creepy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Gary Gygax Day 2020: Challenge Week II Coming Together

The Bear's Maw
I had actually forgotten that Gygax Day would fall within the first couple of weeks here, and it made me smile, a lot, to realize that I was doing this during this sacred geek holiday.

Dundjinni is a slog sometimes - especially on a computer from the 2003-2004 era. But, again, I am not unhappy with the progress. I hope to have this labelled by tomorrow, and be properly on 'schedule' - and the ideas are definitely leaping to mind.

I can't believe how meditative this is, honestly - I've drawn many maps, but this one is catching my interest more - probably because I have to take my time, saving often. The currently offline G5 PowerMac would have torn through a lot of this, but my G4 has to think about it a bit longer. So do I.

I can't wait to get into the dungeon delve part, it's just a matter of which idea I'm going to plunge into first. I've had a lot of ideas but nowhere to put them (because my cats love physical maps with pen and paper - a lot... and they were always too big anyways).

When the hexes get put down they are likely to 6 mile hexes - this is the runoff of a mountain chain to the ocean. I wanted it rugged and wild, because that is sort of the setting - isolated civilization with copious terrain that is under explored. And savage. With remnants of refugees who came before.

In the name of the Silver Goddess, even the tame shall be wild when the stars are right. Nothing shall quell the storm of time. Ia! Ia!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Gygax Challenge Week II: In Progress

Mapping like it's 2008 on a rapidly aging platform. I was hoping to be further, but Dundjinni was never meant to be a terrain mapping program as much as a battlemap creation tool (which we'll get to). I'm going to be tweaking this for a few days, but here's a portion of the map - I'm working with the default size (which is larger than this, but smaller in scope than other projects I've attempted).

I've learned to save often, as this is taxing to a computer of its time - at least with a Java application.

Haunting Season 2019

I failed to upload this previously, in hopes that I would assemble a more 'traditional' haunt video from footage. That moved slow, and with Covid, even slower. Much thanks to Madison Moreau who produced this video - it is a great capture of the spirit of Halloween in our Vermont homeland.

As this page hosts both my RPG and Haunting hobbies, I only felt right to upload this after my first post in over a year and a half. 2020 will mark a different direction for us, but we will be haunting as best we can.

Your's Ghouly,


Monday, July 20, 2020

Lamentations of Gygax '75

Gygax '75 Challenge Booklet

The Gygax ’75 challenge is a direct to RPG roots method of campaign creation, and I sincerely hope it is a wrecking ball to the stumbling blocks I’ve had over the last thirty odd years.

Rather than navel gazing at where I’ve failed in the past, and the reams of incomplete concepts – I think my best course of action is to just do this. I initially started this process a couple of months ago – only to be plagued by real life workload and computer failures – I will probably end up combining weeks one and two into a single week. Without further ado:

□ Get/create a notebook.

Over a year ago, I began putting together a vintage computer setup to just function as a TTRPG design system. I am a proponent of the ‘right to repair’ community, and have fairly strong opinions on what is and what is not necessary to accomplish routine tasks. I’m also a huge fan of the somewhat defunct map making program Dundjinni, which has run very poorly on newer operating systems.

For those interested, the computer is a dual 1.33ghz Apple Mirror Drive Door FW800 model, running OS 10.5.8, with a 22” original Apple Cinema monitor (or dual 17” Apple Studio Monitors, I keep switching). I have upgraded this system with an SSD drive, and the CPU was originally intended for the server model;  the original dual 867 motherboard was modified to run at the higher bus speed allowing the upgrade. I did have a dual 2.0ghz G5, but I ran into some problems and this MDD has been fairly solid since I tinkered it into existence. I hope to resurrect or replace that model because performance was significantly better, whilst still being the sort of retro-computer vibe I wanted to work on.

This is a matter of comfort, and practicality, for me – often designing can take hours, and the main computer in the house is shared by all of us. I can use this particular computer at any time I’m home, and it still allows relatively safe internet access with tweaked Firefox browser, TenFourFox – making it possible to craft media and upload it.

That’s the notebook. Next…

□ Develop your pitch.

  • The Old World settled new shores, but retreated from governance when both natural and supernatural forces challenged their settlements. The dangers of oceanic travel are only compounded their lack of willingness for risk, and after decades of absentee landlord behavior – the ships stopped arriving, save those of refugees or exploring adventurers. Communication with the Old World is very difficult, to say the least.
  • Those things that rational minds dismissed as folklore and superstition, remnants from previous cultural collective subconscious, reside in the wilds. This has created a bizarre tableau of Colonial American inspiration and independent city-states not seen since much earlier times.
  • Atypical Early Modern Era Fantasy – blackpowder and dungeons, a rejection of vanilla humanoid races in D&D canon, demi-humans re-skinned with minimal changes to core rules. Real world inspiration, low fantasy fictional backdrop, completely different circumstances leading to different results. Embracing the aesthetics of Urban/Rural Fantasy and Folk Horror within a fictional milieu.
  • Elves as outcasts from prior millennia – driven west at the cusp of recorded history and oral tradition, somewhat immortal and linked to an outside world forgotten by even themselves. Dwarves as elemental, chthonic, remnants of a prior age, largely extinct in the Old World. Halflings as various ‘animal folk’ and ‘nature spirits’. There were no human inhabitants of these new shores until colonists arrived. Elves only exist in the Old World in ancestry, and as humans and elves begin to communicate again, new relationships emerge – though this may be heresy to the Cathedrals of the Silver Goddess.
  • Magic is dangerous, specific, and largely forgotten. There are provisions for modified early-D&D druidic magic as an offshoot of both clerical and Elven classes. There is a corollary to the religious tensions in the emerging real world Early Modern era that comes into perceptions of magic and blasphemy.
  • The dungeon as mythic otherworld – built by ancient settlers, repositories of memory and lost influence over the natural world. Each culture that existed here before has left some sort of fortress against or within the savage supernatural wild, and many of these are haunted by their roots and subsequent failings. Some dungeons may bridge gaps between realms/planes and have inconsistent physics or logic.

□ Gather your sources of inspiration.

  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess: The core of this campaign, Bramble and Thickets, is based upon the rules of LotFP, though it would easily adapt to other old school RPGs or even more modern iterations of D&D. Most of the rules from Eldritch Cock will be used, though to what extent will vary. I highly encourage folks to consider these rules, especially if an early modern era feel is desired – they are extremely streamlined, allow easy cross genre adaptation (it is a horror RPG, but well suited to traditional ‘OSR’ fantasy by default).
  • Northern Crown RPG Setting: A very unusual 3e D&D era setting – using a folklore inspired revision of American History, with plenty of nods to traditional RPG tropes like demi-humans and magic systems. I discovered this setting when it was still online as Septentrionalis in the later TSR days, some of which I have retrieved via the Wayback Machine.
  • TSR’s Historical Reference Series (HR series): Perhaps the most under used 2e products, released remarkably early in that era of books.
  • Ravenloft/Masque of the Red Death Campaign Setting (2e/Arthaus): Ignoring the often hodge podge nature and quality of releases, this is an important D&D crossover to horror roleplaying. I feel that if you are wanting to run a Lamentations campaign in a more traditional fantasy environment, but retain or adapt horror themes, then this is an interesting, arguably important, roadmap. If this campaign needs outside pollination, I am as likely to look here as the above sources.
  • Horror Comics/Bernie Wrightson: The feel of what I want in a campaign setting, artistically, is best seen in Wrightson’s work. Throughout these blog posts, I will pepper visual inspiration from horror comics –as I formalize documents I will be using Comic Life for layout, nodding further tribute.
  • Folk Horror: As a general aesthetic, I wish to use themes that are very common to this genre – alienation, occult underpinnings, forbidden cults, validations of superstition, rural traditions/secrets, and a distinctly darker focus within folklore. The Wickerman and Harvest Home are both good examples of this feel. There is a certain Hammer Horror element that I see as quite complimentary, especially within RPGs – Captain Kronos jumps to mind, for example.
  • Urban/Rural Fantasy: Shares a certain lens with Folk Horror as the mundane and horrific/fantastic rely on real life concerns and context. Very much at odds with much of High Fantasy, these genres stress that the supernatural or weird lay within our vision, but we fail to notice it for various reasons. Though his writing is a bit less ‘grim’, Charles de Lint has certainly had a bit of influence on me – and I feel that I will explore this more than my general themes might indicate. It will also tame the ‘grimdark’ aesthetic with a bit of levity and breathing space.
  • Early Colonial American Era Locations: Places like Old Sturbridge Village give a visual feel to what I want to be ‘normal’ human settlements in this historical dystopia. I will be using photography from this place specifically throughout for inspiration. 

There are numerous other influences – some of which are software (Dundjinni, Comic Life), music (progressive rock, folk metal, psychedelic/occult rock), occult studies, and various periods of real world history. The goal is to produce a very cohesive and well presented campaign setting, more limited in scope than what I’ve tried for in the past. I’m not really entertaining any concept of publishing this other than as a blog, but I intend to run this setting as a series online (possibly with YouTube support, obviously not using the retro setup – though I have investigated VTTs on vintage machines).

□ Assemble a mood board

Throughout this project I will fold in plenty of representative art for inspiration, rather than separating it into a separate document. I will try and produce aesthetic layouts for the material once it is finalized, giving a thematic skin, as I truly enjoy layout work.