A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer


25Jul/21

Everything Is Better With Tentacles – Planning

Several months ago, this happened...

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At the time I considered it kind of a joke response, but then I thought about it... I mean, let's face it: if I saw a title on DTRPG or the DM's Guild with the title Everything Is Better With Tentacles, I and many others would probably buy it on the spot, sight unseen. So I got to thinking... why not make this an actual product?

So I began the project...

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Thing is, well, it's a little more complicated than that...

Executive Dysfunction

For almost two years now I've been complaining about my battle with a massive amount of Writer's Block. I'm late on my last Kickstarter and haven't written a whole lot in the last two years, presumably because of that. But then I realized... I don't have Writer's Block, I have something else.

The way I see it, Writer's Block is when you are willing to write, are able to write, but cant put words to paper. You don't know what to say or how to say it.

I, however, *know* precisely what I want to write... what I lack is means and opportunity.

My life is chaos right now, spending the majority of it working my ass of, tending to personal and family needs, and just trying to survive day to day life. So when I do have time away from that, time I could theoretically use to write, I lack the willpower to do so. When I get a break from the chaos, all I can think to do is nothing at all. The chaos is so draining - physically, mentally, emotionally - that I become a useless shell of myself, incapable of taking action to do the non-chaotic things I'd like to do that bring me joy. The easy solution is to mitigate the chaos perhaps, but that's unlikely to happen soon. So I wallow in inaction, and get depressed because of it.

Apparently there's a term for this, or at least something similar to what I'm describing... Executive Dysfunction.

What I feel I need is a breakthrough, accomplishing something that will inspire me to do more, but that accomplishment needs to be within the bounds of what I'm capable of right now. Maybe that will spark change?

Chicken or the Egg

At the same time I was having these thoughts, I had another problem: I have several projects that are nearly done, but they are devoid of art. And, to me, one of the hardest things to do in anything I publish is to not only decide what the cover should be, but tell the artist "this is what I want" in such a way that they can actually do that.

Many say "just use stock art!" ... That's easier said than done, I think. DTRPG and the DM's Guild are full of stock art you can use for your adventures - for example, I've been dying to use some of Dean Spencer's Art, which is amazingly cool and very well priced - but I could never find matching art. You see, I'd written an adventure already; I know what it is. It is very unlikely to find stock art that comfortably matches something I've conceived out of thin air.

But then I thought... why does the adventure have to come first?

I decided to plan for an experiment: get the art FIRST, then build the adventure around that art. This way, there is no doubt the art would match. Let's face it... look through Dean Spencer's Art and tell you can't think of a half dozen adventure concepts for each major piece of art he has on his site.

There would be some dialog back and forth between author and writer so everyone's on the same page, but the goal is that no words are written before the art is settled. So when the writer gets chosen, he already has an image that defines one aspect of the adventure he's meant to write. I can imagine that to be a little challenging, but it sounds like the sort of thing I would like to do personally.

Bring Forth the Tentacles

So, all that being said, I have begun to formulate plans for my next major project: Everything Is Better With Tentacles.

  • The compendium would have 8-or-so one shot adventures somehow involving tentacles. PG-rated, of course... I know how some people's minds go to a certain place when the topic of tentacles comes up. And I don't want 8 adventures involving illithids; we can all be more creative than that, I hope.
  • Rather than me trying to create the project from nothing, I'll make it a collaborative project with multiple authors and writers.
  • ART WOULD COME FIRST. I would commission eight pieces of art, full page images that could be considered the cover art for each one shot adventure. This gives the artists the most artistic license, and lets them decide what they would like to see in the adventure.
  • Then, once the art is complete, the writers would write their adventure based on the art they are given. They still have some degree of artistic license in the adventure, but they have a point of reference, and they are guaranteed that whatever they write will match the full page art that goes with it because that's how it's designed.
  • I'm not sure if this will be Kickstarted or not... Because of the up front art demand, there may not be any other way to do it. So it will likely have to be released through the OGL on DTRPG, but I'd like to keep the DM's Guild option open because that is the bigger market. Of course the method chosen would impact the payment to authors and writers (profit share vs per word/piece pricing); still need to figure that out.

So does this sound like a feasible thing to do?

I'm still mulling over the idea, but it's something I might try. If so, in the near future I'll likely put up forms to see who out there might actually be interested in this endeavor.

In the mean time, let's see if I can do something about this dysfunction...

9Aug/12Off

Light and Dark Fonts

It's been over a month since I posted? Gosh, I've been busy... Sorry.

A long time ago, for an alternate reality game that... well... failed miserably, I created two custom font sets. I actually used these two fonts in "trailhead" packages to start the game, writing the entire sender's address label in the corresponding font.

I expected the folks at UnFiction to take a few days to decode it. It took them hours, maybe less.

Since I imagine that some of you DMs out there might be interested in writing things, like for puzzles, in a cryptic font but may not have the time or inclination to create your own font to do so, I thought I'd provide these two.

"DLI Lightscript" was made to be used by an angelic, apparently good/lawful organization; it was designed with smooth curves and lines, portraying a certain level of symmetry. Almost mathematical, if you will. Numbers are included as well, and the symbols appear similar except the pips are solid black I think.

"DLI Darkscript" was made to be used by a shady, apparently bad/evil organization; it's chaotic, with no sense of rhyme or reason. No curves in it at all, entirely made by sharp lines and hard corners. Even the line thicknesses vary between characters. It's kind of a mess, but it was made to be that way.

Both files are provided as Windows TrueType (TTF) fonts wrapped inside a RAR archive.

If you do use this, I'd be really interested in knowing how. Let me know!

 

15Apr/12Off

The DnD Pantheon

The D&D 4E Pantheon... Well, most of it anyway.

Yesterday I was in a strange mood, so I decided to try and practice a little with my non-"drag clip art around" skills in Fireworks and Illustrator. I'm trying to expand my skills, get some more practice in drawing and in raw vector manipulation, so my maps and such can be a little more robust and unique.

Looking for something to do, I came across the "Deities" section of the semi-official Dungeons and Dragons Zazzle site. When I saw the first one - Asmodeus - I thought to myself "Yeah... I can do that."

Several hours later, I had all sixteen done.

The majority of them involved not much more than dropping a rectangle or circle and then screwing with the bezier anchors, plus a lot of polygon unification and "punching". Some of the more complex one involved drawing a base vector with the vector path tool and then modifying the points to match the image reference. Vecna was probably the hardest in this regard, adn Tharizdun took me the longest of all due to its complexity. Corellon, Pelor and Erathis were quite entertaining because I put a stupid amount of time to make them mathematically accurate and symmetrical.

Like I said, I did this for practice... But now that I have them I can't help but share them. So here are all 16 deities, provided in native Fireworks PNG and Illustrator 8 formats. The base image is about 700x700 pixels but it's vector so it should be very easy to scale to any size you want.

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Deities - Fireworks PNG

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Deities - Adobe Illustrator 8

I hope that someone out there can put these to good use.

Filed under: 4e, Art, DnD, Drawing, RPG No Comments
12Mar/12Off

A Hero’s Journey

A Hero's Journey

So I've sent The Heart of Fire to a few people who volunteered to edit it; I haven't heard from them in a few days, so either I've stupified them with my awesome writing or my writing is soi abysmal that I compelled them to jump off a bridge. You can never tell with these sort of things...

In the meantime, inspired by Thick Skull Adventure's upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure "Attack of the Frawgs!" (which I help edit), I had an idea for a level 0 mini-adventure. I would have written it for the DCC ruleset, but all I have for now are the "beta" rules. I could have waited, I know... But I'm impatient. Once I get an idea in my head I need to get it done and out there.

So I decided to create the module using the level 0 rules for D&D 4E that were documented by the "A Hero's First Steps: Rules for Level 0 Characters" article by Philippe-Antoine Menard (a.k.a. @ChattyDM) that was published in Dragon magazine #403 (DDI subscription required). Here is the intro, in all its vague glory:

    For years you have followed in the footsteps of your master, watching his every move and learning through observation and study. You longed for the day when you might actually be able to follow in his footsteps and become an adventurer yourself, basking in the fame and glory that comes with such an honor.

     One day, during what should have been a normal expedition for your master and the other members of his group, everything changes. You suddenly find yourselves alone, the only hope for a city in desperate need of salvation, and you must put what you have observed in to practice. Can you step up and become the hero you were destined to be?

It's very short - less than 20 pages - and really only has a couple of encounters. I designed it with roleplaying in mind, where the players can really get in to character when their simple level 0 characters are thrust in to danger and must deal with forces beyond their understanding.

The hardest part of this module was coming up with names... The city had three different names - an online random name generator seriously suggested the name "Cloverclover" - until I settled on the name Feldspar. It's a strange name I know, but I'm sure someone can come up with a good reason for it to be called that? And I also had to find a name for a pirate ship, and even though the online "pirate ship name generator" are far from appropriate, it did help me come up with the ship name as The Red Barnacle.

Anyway, you can purchase the mini-adventure A Hero's Journey for the low price of $1.99 at Drive Thru RPG!

Map Pack M3: Crypt Entrance

While I was creating the adventure, I ended up creating a tactical map that I really liked: the entrance to an underground crypt. So I decided to make that in to a high resolution image (200 DPI) and release it as a map pack. This new map pack, brilliantly titled M3: Crypt Entrance (I suck at names... sue me) is also available at Drive Thru RPG.

Once I feel comfortable about The Heart of Fire - which will hopefully be soon - that will be released.

18Feb/12Off

Compass Rose

A few days ago, on a whim, I decided to try and create a custom compass rose for my maps. I have a few available in the clip art I yanked from Campaign Cartographer 3, but I still wanted to have one of my own.

Also, it was sort of a challenge to myself. I repeat over and over again that I can't draw, and do all my maps solely through the creative manipulation of existing art. When it comes to create an object from scratch, freehand if you will, I cave.

So while I was in the process of putting stuff on my new DeviantArt page, I went exploring and found this tutorial that describes the basics on how to make a neat little compass rose. I figured I'd give it a go.

The result is the image you see to the right, which I am now making available to anyone who wants to use it.

The worse part of the whole thing that, unbeknownst to me, Cartographer's Guild was having a "mini" challenge that was exactly this: create a compass rose. I decided to create mine on the very last day of the contest, a mere three hours after the contest closed and all submissions were locked. Since that dismayed me a little, I'm giving it away for free instead.

There are two files provided below: one is the flattened, raster image and the native vector PNG created in Adobe Fireworks CS5. You would think that the raster image would be a thousand times larger than the vector one, but for some reason the vector one is a behemoth at about 1Mb in size compared to the 250K raster file (don't ask me why). Both image have a transparent background.

In any event, if you use these things anywhere or have any suggestions I'd love to hear about it.

Here ya go!

Download: Original Adobe Fireworks CS5 vector file (approx. 1Mb)

Download: "Flattened" raster PNG file (approx 254K):

Filed under: Art, Maps, RPG No Comments