Sunday, 25 January 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 5

Continuing in the series we are going to start with creating some very important masks.

Creating the Land and Sea Masks

Before we modify anything let's create a backup of our Coastlines layer by duplicating it and naming the copy "Map Outline." Then toggle the visibility of the Coastlines layer so that it is not seen.
Layers (Coastlines) > Duplicate Layer (Name "Map Outline")
Layers (Coastlines) > Hide

On the "Map Outline" layer we are going to fill the land in with white and the seas in with black. Ensure that the "Map Outline" layer is active and take your bucket fill tool and fill in the land and seas. 
Bucket Fill (Black) > Click on the area outside of the land
Bucket Fill (White) > Click on the land 

Ensure that you have clean black and white boundaries before moving on (i.e. the land and sea should be flat white and black around the borders, no grey or shading.) Now, let's create the masks. On the "Map Outline" layer, select the Select by Color tool (Threshold 0) and click on the land (white) area.
Layer (Map Outline) > Select by Color (Threshold 0) > Click on Land

Now go to the Select menu tab and click on Save to Channel; name this channel “Land Mask”.
Select > Save to Channel (Name Land Mask)

We are going to repeat this process for the sea. On the "Map Outline" layer, select the Select by Color tool (Threshold 0) and click on the sea (black) area.
Layer (Map Outline) > Select by Color (Threshold 0) > Click on the Sea

Now go to the Select menu tab and click on Save to Channel; name this channel “Sea Mask”.
Select > Save to Channel (Name Sea Mask)

That is for today, next time we'll continue with beginning to create the Height Map.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 4

Now that we know about winds, climate zones and tectonic plates we are ready to draw the outline of our map. I prefer to draw the map with some markers for latitude and longitude so that I know what the climate will be in those areas. To do this, add a layer called coordinates
Layer > New Layer > Transparency (Name Coordinates)
Pencil > Brush (2. Hardness 100) > Colour Black

Now, using the Gimp guidelines, rules and a pencil tool draw the latitude and longitude lines at regularly spaced intervals. If you want, you can get fancy and label them. See how I've done set this up below:
Images in construction with Longitude and Latitude lines
One you've drawn your lines to reference Longitude and Latitude you can remove the blue guidelines. Now, add a new transparent layer named Coastlines and put just under the Coordinates layer. Generally we will keep the Coordinates layer at the top of our layer stack.
Layer > New Layer > Transparency (Name Coastlines)
Pencil > Brush (2. Hardness 100) > Colour Black

Now, using what you've learned, with the Coastlines layer selected, draw your continents and coastlines. You can see my completed coastline layer below.

Coastlines completed

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Conditional Success and XP for Failures, what do you think?

Hi, I'm looking for some feedback.

In the design of the Lycadican game mechanics, back in the late 1990's I came up with the concept of degree of success (DOS) (For details of the basic Lycadican dice mechanics see this post.) Essentially the DOS is your modified roll subtracted from the target number. A positive DOS score indicates success while a negative DOS score indicates the degree of failure.

As I work on the Lycadican redesign one of the concepts I've read about in some other systems is the 'conditional success' and awarding XP for failures. While I'm not sold on the latter the former would seem to drive interesting game play and would be very easy for me to implement. I could essentially say that any DOS from 0-3 is a conditional success. i.e. 'You Succeed, but ..' some complication or trouble results.

Those of you who have experience playing with these kinds of rules, conditional success and XP for failures, what are your thoughts? How do they contribute to gameplay? Do they detract at all? What are some of the unintended consequences?


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 3

Last time we ended with a GIMP drawing with a transparent layer for your plates. I was going to skip right to drawing the outline of the continents until I realized that I was missing a step and that is understanding where the general climate zones will be. Both together are important and here's why:
Subduction Zone - Rocky Mountains

  • On coastlines where you have mountains near the water, those coast lines will tend to be more jagged especially the closer you get to the poles.) That said, even when you have mountains running parallel to a coast line you could still have smooth sections of coast line. This is because where 2 plates collide and form mountains will not always be right at the edge of the water. A subduction zone will often start out a distance at sea and the lighter rock of the continent will stay above it. See the image to the right.
  • In the areas where you have deserts meeting coastal areas, tropical beaches, etc. you will likely have smoother coastlines due to long stretches of sand. This isn't always true of course but it's a good rule of thumb. That means you need to understand, generally where these areas will be on you map. 
The earth has a number of climate zones that correspond roughly to specific latitudes. Whether they are damp or dry will also depend on the atmospheric geography of those areas. See the image to the right. You'll notice correspondences between damp tropical regions and desert regions because of where the winds are carrying moisture and dropping it. Reference the diagram below. You'll see the directions of the winds and the high and low pressure zones. At HIGH pressure zones you have dry air that has cooled falling back down to the surface. Because it has little to no moisture the areas where this air falls are likely to be dry. As the air moves across land and water it will become more humid, carrying more water vapour. It will eventually lose that moisture as rain or fog when it cools and looses its ability to carry that water vapour. It will cool when it gets forced to a higher elevation by a land formation such as a mountain or at a LOW pressure zone or when it meets a cool body of air. This diagram will also help you understand the wind patterns and how maritime peoples on your continent might get around by ship (i.e. where your tradewinds will be.)
The last item you need to be aware of is the heating of the earth due to the Sun, it is the combination of the heating of the atmosphere and spin and tilt of the earth that drives the climate. So, as you draw your coast lines, you'll want to have a general idea of which latitudes your continent span and what the climate is like around those areas. What I did was to add some drawings like these as layers to my image and set the opacity low as I was drawing my coastline so that I had a reference point. We'll talk more about that in the next post.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Nightmares with dreams of hope; what is Lycadican?

Lycadican is a role playing game with both fantasy and horror thematic elements. When I think about what this means my mind whispers to me "Nightmares with dreams of hope." The mood of Lycadican could very well be summed up by things I've experienced a lot of lately, sleeplessness, waking suddenly from nightmares with a sense of impending terror pierced by cherished moments of peace and a desperate hope.

I've had a lot of nightmares and a lot of dreams but for 20 years there are some that have stayed with me. No matter what I was doing or what I was aspiring to these ghosts have always possessed me.

The first was a role playing game that brought the fantastic possibilities of magic and the supernatural to life. Not with conventional wizards that need to memorize spells and priests who pray to gods for 'blessings' that are essentially spells; but instead one where magic of all kinds and forms could exist in a way that is connected to the fabric of life. One that engages players to be the creative forces behind their own magical practices. Player characters should have their own arcane tomes and these they should covet greedily, passing their secrets on only to other characters they choose to mentor.

Loup Garou
The second was a way to infuse the fantasy I read with the superstition from my childhood, but not in a familiar way. It should be something new with echos of the familiar. It should be fantasy but feel somewhat like a story of the supernatural; fantasy but feel like horror. I wanted to create something new and someone once told me that my greatest strengths would be in my own experience.

At an early age my life was consumed by stories and a belief in the reality of the supernatural. In the dark of night my brothers and cousins told each other terrifying stories of evil spirits and tales of Caribbean monsters like the Soucouyant and Loup Garou. Our parents followed superstitious practices designed to ward off or keep these unholy forces at bay and we had what we believed were direct interactions with evil spirits. At times our home was besieged by the forces of darkness. We had dreams of evil portents and called holy men to say prayers and lay blessings to guard us. I still recall as vividly as if it were yesterday, being attacked by evil spirits on a number of occasions as a young child. Now we have a scientific word for that, sleep paralysis, but it was so terrifying that it has forever embedded itself into my consciousness.

But that was a long long time ago, a time that seems as much a disturbing dream you had a week ago than something you lived.

I grew up and forgot all about the magic of my past. I went to university and there was a logical/rational explanation for everything. But those ghosts were never exorcised; I studied Anthropology, Religious Studies and Archaeology. Then I got married, had kids and took a career in technology. Like a Soucouyant I shed my old skin and blazed a new trail of the rational and practical. I never told my children about evil spirits. I didn't play another role playing game for more than 20 years. I became a successful enterprise architect (IT super geek) and yearned to become an entrepreneur.

Corrupted Angel
Then a few months ago I stopped sleeping and when I did I dreamed terrible dreams. In one of those
dreams I saw the heavenly light of the world dim and the forces of darkness from my childhood spilled out from the recesses of my mind where they had stayed, locked away. The light fought to hold it back but it could not. The light had become just as corrupt as the darkness and in so had lost all moral authority to rebuke it. When I awoke the following thought came to mind:

"He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
— Friedrich NietzscheBeyond Good and Evil

This is Lycadican, a fantasy horror game that weaves magic and myth together; where the world is slipping into nightmare and the light has become the very thing it was fighting. You can no longer distinguish between good and evil which is unfortunate because evil will follow you home and strangle you in your sleep if you do not know how to ward it off.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 2

Creating your Map, Preliminary 

Ok, lets get to work. Fire up the Gimp and open a new image. I recommend that you start with a map that has dimensions that are a 2:1 ratio (twice as wide as it is high) and is in landscape mode. (My map is 3400 × 1700 at 300dpi). If you go much larger than that you will have to play with the settings as we go along.

Notes on larger maps

When it comes to using Wilbur, you'll need the 64-bit version if you have a map with a resolution larger than what I'm using. Also, be aware that maps at higher sizes and resolutions are a lot larger and require faster computers with more RAM. I didn't have any issues on my computer (I have an i7 Haswell with 16GB of RAM.)

This should be what you see with your default image (an image with one single layer that is White.)
New Gimp Image


As we go along I'm going to follow Arsheesh's convention of offering explanatory text describing our actions followed by a highlighted summary of specific actions we will be taking. So, if I say that we are going to create a new Layer that is filled with White and name it 'Background' you'll see it presented like this:
Layer > New Layer > While (Name Background)

Bringing in the Plates

If you haven't already, you are going to want to create a new transparent layer named "Plates" and either bring in the plates you draw in our earlier blog post or draw them quickly here with a Pencil tool.

Layer > New Layer > Transparency (Name Plates)
Pencil > Brush (2. Hardness 100) > Colour Black

Now draw your plates with the plate boundaries. Mark which types of boundaries those are, remembering that if you have a spreading center on one side that the opposite side will be a converging boundary that is pushing into another plate. A screenshot of my basic plates (I was only drawing the region around my continents and not the entire planet) is below.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map

Apparently, according to my wife, my posts are way too long. So I'm going to break things down into smaller bite sized pieces. Before I do that, I want to thank the folks over at The Cartographers Guild for their all of their help and assistance.

This effort is going to span multiple posts and in constructing our map we are going to use The Gimp and the Wilbur mapping tool. If you want to follow along I'm going to try this tutorial style so go ahead and get those tools installed. Also, you will need the following Gradients installed.

I generally followed a tutorial from a Arsheesh on the guild website called Eriond - A Tutorial for GIMP and Wilbur to create a satellite view style map, but I made a fair number of modifications. I'm going to follow his pdf in style and convention.

But that's all for today, don't want to make these posts too long! Come and see us again tomorrow for more!