Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Black & White Campaign Map Style

In my search for more inspiration for the style of the Grymvald setting, I ran across Dan Cruger, a cartographer and artist, whose work dates back to the Mid-Nineties as used in the second edition of the Middle Earth Role Playing Game (MERP) from Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.).  Although I only played the system a couple of times, I always found the work of Cruger to be elegant and compelling.  As a long time Tolkien fan, I was first drawn to the system for reasons of nostalgia but perhaps my prediliction to fashion my own stories, at the table and with the players, free of the constraints of a literary giant kept me from doing more with that particular game.

Nevertheless, I just love the work done by this master of maps and illustrations.  Cruger began posting some of his old work on his blog, Tales from the Tower, back in March and April of this year but it is only with his recent August post of more of it that I caught up with his work again.  Some of his blog posts include work highlighting Dol Guldor, Gondor, Moria, Lake Town, Minas Tirith, and Mirkwood.  Check it out and I'm sure you'll agree on its fine quality.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Diamond Planet

A recent astonomical discovery of a planet made of diamond has been reported.  Hurtling around a small neutron star about an eighth of the way toward the center of out Milky Way, it is made up primarily of carbon and so dense that astronmers speculate it is essentially a huge diamond.  It's orbit is so small that the planet and its star could likely fit within the sphere of our own sun.  No word yet on whether De Beers will bid on the rights to regulate just how much of this planet could be mined or brought back for sale here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Campaign Settings

As I clean up some portion of my campaign setting, that began as a homebrew back in the Seventies, I thought I would do some quick and basic searches to be sure my ideas of what a setting should be has not become dated or supplanted by new trends or thoughts on the matter.  From our friend Wiki -

A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or wargame campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place. Usually a campaign setting is designed for a specific game (. . .) or a specific genre of game (such as Medieval fantasy, or outer space/science fiction adventure). There are numerous campaign settings available both in print and online. In addition to published campaign settings available for purchase, many game masters create their own settings, often referred to as "homebrew" settings or worlds.

Hasn't changed a bit.  Later this month I'll be revealing some information about the upcoming Grymvald Campaign Setting.  I'll discuss how it was built, how it fits with the genre of rht upcoming rules system from CMG, and why I've had so much fun with it for nearly forty years.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Parchment Map Background

If you've been keeping an eye on the CMG Blog Triad, then you know I've been preparing a new campaign setting for release in October called the Grymvald Campaign Setting.  Grymvald is the second smallest of five continents in my campaign world, one that has served me well for about thirty-seven years since I began GMing shortly after the first RPG was released back in 1974.  It's a good starting point for a campaign as it is populated by all of the major player character species options in my campaign as well as plenty of creatures and challenges for years and years of gaming.

Since the final play-through of the Medieval Fantasy Wargame and Roleplaying System, due for release in October, is currently underway, I wanted to redo some of the maps that I'll be using, particularly what the players will get to see.  Even though I am a firm believer that a GM should homebrew a setting of their very own I also recognize that not everyone has the time to spend to get things just right.  Naturally, it makes sense then for me to concurrently release a ready-made setting in the form of the Grymvald Campaign Setting along with a Grymvald Gazatteer and Player's Guide to accompany the GM's material.

In my efforts to find a good tutotial for Photoshop to produce a parchment background, I came across this YouTube video I thought I would share with would-be cartographers.  I use NBOS Fractal Mapper 8 for the map details but use Photoshop for the background and some detailing afterwards then do the labeling using InDesign from Adobe Software.  I hope you find it as useful as I do.  It's pretty simple but you can see how easily you can take what you will learn and go a few steps further to make something really stunning.  Have at it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Blade Runner Movie?

According to deadline.com, Ridley Scott has signed on with Alcon Entertainment to produce a new Blade Runner movie, though it is unkown yet if this will be a sequel or use the original movie as a jumping off point.  If you're a fan of the original, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, then you know what a mish-mosh of a setting it is.  I often through that the hit Joss Whedon television series Firefly had been influenced in part by this previous work.  They both have a real world cultural kitchen sink approach that manages to feel both familiar and surreal.  There's more on the potential Blade Runner here.  Steve E. Brown has some great insights on why people love the film in an article on astranovescifi.com with a great image of a street level view of the setting.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fantasy Overtakes SciFi in Sales Again?

According to a recent article at LibraryJournal.com, Neil Hollands takes a look at how speculative fiction has been stacking up in 2011.  While the trendier corners of genre fiction like urban fantasies, zombie mashups, and steampunk seem to be producing fewer new authors, Fantasy has done remarkably well against more traditional science fiction.  Read more at the link above and perhaps you'll find a new series to read and spark your setting creation imagination.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Came Before?

It's a good idea to create a setting that isn't static.  Not only does a setting need to change as a game progresses, but it's good for it to have a rich and diverse past.  Not all of it needs to be explained to players whenever they stumble across some ancient mystery, but be sure not to allow each and every new discovery sidetrack what is happening in the present.  It is worthwhile to let players know that just because they find a cave painting in a cavern they are exploring, it is not necessarily a clue to the particular adventure they are currently undertaking.  The following videos provide some inspiration for starting points in creation of a setting with a past.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Road to Ruins Website

While surfing around to find some useful websites regarding setting, I stumbled across Roads to Ruins.  The site is maintained by Ed Kane of Washington state.  While it is unclear to me if he has updated it recently, he has compiled an impressive amount of information on the castles and ruins of Germany.  Many of the individual locations have been detailed with specifics for folks who wish to travel to Germany and sightsee of explore such places.  At the very least, the list of castle and ruins locations alone is an excellent starting point for someone to do their own research on these many excelent sites.  Have a look and spur your imagination with the many photos and particulars to be found there.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Odori-don - The Dancing Squid Bowl

I stumbled across a video (there are several) that shows a Japanese food dish that features a (dead) squid that is activated to "dancing" when soy sauce is poured over it.  Interesting dishes like this are part of how to help make a setting diverse and facinating.  Add some to your homebrew to keep the players on their toes and to keep them feeling like they are traveling to interesting places.  No need to tell them right away that the squid is definitely dead.

Friday, August 12, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books

Lots of inspiration for setting material from the NPR website -

More than 60,000 ballots were cast in our annual summer readers' poll. Here's a printable list of the top 100 winners. For even more great reads, check out the complete list of 237 finalists.
  • 1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • 2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • 3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • 4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
  • 5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
  • 6. 1984, by George Orwell
  • 7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  • 8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
  • 9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • 10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  • 11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  • 12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
  • 13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • 14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  • 15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
  • 16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
  • 17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  • 18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • 19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • 20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  • 21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
  • 22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • 23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
  • 24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 25. The Stand, by Stephen King
  • 26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  • 27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
  • 28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • 29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
  • 30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  • 31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
  • 32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
  • 33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
  • 34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
  • 35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
  • 36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
  • 37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
  • 38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
  • 39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  • 40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
  • 41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
  • 42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • 43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
  • 44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
  • 45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • 46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • 47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
  • 48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  • 49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
  • 51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
  • 52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  • 53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
  • 54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
  • 55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
  • 56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
  • 57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
  • 58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
  • 59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • 60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
  • 61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  • 62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
  • 63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  • 64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
  • 65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
  • 66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
  • 67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
  • 68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
  • 69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
  • 70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  • 71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
  • 72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
  • 73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
  • 74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
  • 75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
  • 76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
  • 78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • 79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  • 80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
  • 81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
  • 82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • 83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
  • 84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
  • 85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
  • 86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
  • 87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
  • 88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
  • 89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
  • 90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
  • 91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
  • 92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
  • 93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
  • 94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
  • 95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • 96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  • 97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • 98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
  • 99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
  • 100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sir Henry (Captain) Morgan's Ship Found?

Speaking of ships, it's not just the ones above the water that can help make a great setting.  When you want adventure, nothing cures what ails you like a pirate ship, and a sunken one can be fun too.  Recently, divers on an archeological survey near Panama City, Panama, took a one-dive-stab at locating some undersea treasure and nailed it.  Read more about it on Our Amazing Planet's website, then plunder the details for your game!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Ghost Ships of Suisun Bay

A dumping ground for old ships awaiting the scrapheap need not be just a modern real world problem.  In your Medieval Fantasy setting you could have an equivalent setting feature.  Imagine a massive fleet after an epic invasion coming home to a huge shipyard, built to dock them all, then the monarchy goes bankrupt and mothballs the fleet.  Or, worse, a country's population is half-or-more wiped out by a plague, and suddenly there's just no need for a navy.  All sorts of possibilities!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Where's The Octopus?

A great part of any seting are the creatures that inhabit it.  Although a lot of gameplay might ignore undersea environments, there's no reason a Game Master cannot take examples from the real world oceans and transfer the traits of those creatures living there to land-dwelling monsters.  Take cephalopods, for instance . . .

Do yourself a favor and bookmark Science Friday for regular viewing!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Comes the Darkness

With the power out for the fourth time in the last month, not surprising with the many violent storms we have had, I’ve been reflecting on just how dark it must get in many Medieval Fantasy settings for common folk.  It’s true enough that in a world where magic exists, and many items and spells can be used to create artificial light, sometimes as bright as daylight, anyone with enough access never need live in the dark.  But for most in the setting, those lowly masses without means, the darkness must be terrifying and a nightly occurrence.   Sure, often a fire can be struck but imagine a stormy night when no fire can be kindled.  Then the only light is the flash of electricity across the sky.  That sort of light brings it own terrors.

There's a book from 2005 by Historian A. Roger Ekirch called At Day's Close: Night in Times Past.  It attempts to present what life was like for Westerners prior to the advent of modern lighting.  It delves into the many dangers from simple stumbling and drowning to criminal activity such as robbery, poaching, and worse.  It is a must-read for any GM looking to enhance his descriptive abilities for setting presentation.