Thursday, January 16, 2020

For the Love of Maps

I need a break from cleaning up village maps and thought I'd do something slightly different.

I've always loved maps. When I went hiking as a kid I'd stare at the topomaps, when I went to Disneyland or another theme park I'd obsess over the map. I saw beauty in dungeon maps when I started playing Holmes back in the day and one of my first 'real' jobs was at a mapping company and I actually brought up D&D and the various maps during the interview.

When I was young I could draw pretty well, as the decades rolled on drawing morphed into photoshop and my hand-eye skills changed (I'm hoping to rebuild that skill with practice). So for most of the stuff on this site it's recycled Public Domain stuff from long, long, long ago.

Exterior maps are where I'm going with this, more specifically regional maps. I loved Darlenes map of Greyhawk so much I framed it and put it on my wall. It was a great large scale map with a sense of balance and beauty. I didn't like the slavish devotion to the hex standard though and it covered way to much area in insufficient detail but that was the DIY attitude of early TSR. Then I ran into Harn by Columbia games and their maps were amazing. Realistic but without going into the topo-lines that give me too much of a modern/sci-fi vibe. I framed Harn and put it up as well (and Ivania and others). But the kind of maps I found years later searching about on the internet were Hachure maps and Poetic Maps.
Hachure map

Hachure maps
, are one of the earliest styles of topographical maps, before they settled on lines to show the vertical topography every x feet, instead they used lines that somewhat mimicked the verticals in a less accurate more stylized way. Although from post-renaissance in nature these maps feel they could have been drawn during the medieval period. They show most things without having to resort to symbols.

Poetic Maps (the term used by Columbia Games, I don't know the accurate name) date back even further. These are maps that draw out what you would see. They don't really need a legend as a hill looks like a hill, and a river like a river. The best known example would be the Middle Earth map. These can be hideous but I find most to be somewhat beautiful. Most maps created in the medieval period and the renaissance are Poetic maps. Most were done using metal etchings that could then be used to print books and occasionally they'd be colorized afterwards. The internet is full of badly colorized versions but the underlying maps are beautiful.

So doing my own maps I've been trying to settle on a style Ptolemy. Topographic maps were out as they were too modern. Harn style were difficult to get right, I'm too sloppy for that. I found a ton of Hachure maps and Poetic Maps and vacillate back and forth over which I prefer. It's likely I'll go with one style for one campaign world and the other for another, giving a very different feel to each. But which to spend time on now?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Creating the Village Maps

I never explained my method of how I create the village maps and Robert, a commented asked so I figure I'd give a proper answer. I'm about done with village maps for now anyway. I consider them 100% public domain by the way. They started that way and although I value my efforts but I don't think I added enough to get precious about it.

What I did was find some wonderful 18th century maps of the areas around London on David Rumsey historical Map Collection and replace the existing (and to my mind ugly) black buildings with white footprints that popped out a bit better. I used white buildings that matched the common medieval buildings that I covered earlier on the blog (3-Bay Hall HouseOpen Hall house, and Saxon Hovel to give three levels of wealth. I expect some day to do bundle them all together and include GM maps using the Floorplans in the map (the way the Citystate of the Invincible Overlord did) and at that point I'll charge something for but the price would be low. Anyway the GM maps part was more work than I was willing to handle at the moment.

Specifically I create the maps using Photoshop. I adjust the contrast of the 18th century map. Remove any distracting and unwanted type using the stamp tool and generally clean things up. Then I add the footprints in another layer. Once you've got your basic footprints its a matter of copy/pasting and rotating and mirror imaging occasionally. Not particularly hard stuff.  I don't like the way Photoshop handles text so i'd add my own text using Apples Pages.

The images of the NPCs all come from the Nuremberg Chronicles, one of the first printed books which I think is kind of cool.

That link to David Rumsey's collection above goes to the composite map of the London area by the way, once you are on that site you can select the Author on the left and search by that name and get the submaps as well. Be careful as a map lover can spend hours searching on that site and most of it is old enough it should be in the public domain.

So Richard Parr, the actual cartographer in 1747, deserves most of the credit for the maps. I just picked areas that appeared more medieval and added village names, NPCs, and village details.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Village - Black le-Marsh

Black le-Marsh Players map
A fief of 100 peasants comprised of a hamlet and some scattered thorpes. The fief is like an inverted bowl the majority of the community on the lower ground in the center along the main road and the nuts groves growing on the hills all around. Originally the lower part was marshy ground because of the underground river but they've recently built a channel to contain the stream and drained the marsh and turned it to farmland growing wheat.

1. Manor House - A nice house but nothing special. The house was built upon the spot where a subterranean stream reached the surface. The stream has been channeled into a semi-moat around the manor house before it becomes subterranean again.

Celestia Swan navy lady
2. Swans Rest Inn - The Swans Rest Inn is well known, partially fortified, and has arranged with nearby locals to rent out rooms when the inn's own space is insufficient. The Swans Rest has a stage and an open invitation for free room and board for anyone that entertains the house for an hour. Needless to say the crowd is tough and only the best avoid the thrown mugs and food long enough to get the free room & board.

Celestia Swan owner of Swans Rest Inn, an untrusting battleaxe of a lady. She has a sweet smile but a mean sense of humor. She haggles over everything even when it seems silly to do so. It is felt that the Swans Rest put the settlement on the map and because of this everyone in Black le-Marsh loves the old lady despite her nasty disposition.

Cyril Trickelbank, nut pusher
3. Nut House - A merchant house dedicated to selling boxes of locally grown nuts and oil to merchant caravans passing through the fief. Needless to say the business is but the owners aren't getting super rich.

Cyril Trickelbank the owner of the Nut House is a wary eccentric elder man with dazzling, nearly insane, eyes. Cyril is obsessed with nuts and constantly tries to hawk strange nut food variations (nut juice, nut spices, nut bread, which is actually pretty decent).  everywhere and seems concerned someone might be trying to poison him. He particularly seems skittish around the Almond Lady and says she should not be allowed to grow the nastiest of nuts.

4. Almond Lady - The Almond Lady grows bitter almonds exclusively and does't sell them through the Nut House like the other almond growers. She has prospered selling the nuts

Nileg Pemberton the Almond Lady
Nileg Pemberton is the almond lady. She is a trustworthy, old lady with very white teeth who manages to make everything she says sound profound. She carts her almonds to the town and sells them to shady folks there and is paid handsomely. She is honestly unaware that her almonds are made into poison but probably wouldn't care if she knew as she has to survive. She has been able to call in a favor or two and have some legs broken when some local toughs harassed her daughter. Afterwards the toughs acted almost as bodyguards rather than bullies.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Village - Cumber Upon Lud

Cumber Upon Lud Players Map
Small village of 200 serfs who grow wheat and a few other cereal grains. The village was built upon the banks of the Lud river but the Lud has changed course over the years and is now three hundred yards to the East. A new, more prosperous village has developed along the Lud and Cumber Upon Lud has become a backwater and all but the serfs, who were bound to their land, left.

Notables of Cumber Upon Lud

Clive the Cleric in his old Kit
1. Manor house - The manor house is nothing special, in fact it isn't even that nice. The Lord lives in another fief and the Steward runs things on his behalf.

Clive Fothergill is the Steward. He is an old retired Cleric of Law. He is a trustworthy mother's boy with calloused hands who makes threats and immediately backs down. He is full of ideas on how to restore the fortunes of the village but most of his ideas are crap. He doesn't like the mercenaries that live in his village but does like the rents they pay which he hopes to use to attract additional peasants to work the fields. Since there is no actual Temple of Law he does daily prayers for the serfs at noon.
2. Great Barn - The great barn is actually three buildings united into one that serve to store the seeds and/or harvest depending upon the time of year. The idea was one of the Stewards best ones as he confiscated the abandoned buildings and repurposed them for the Lord rather than tearing them down. Being centralized and large enough to protect the entire crop has been very helpful when it comes to selling the crop.

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3. Mercenary House - The finest house in the village is owned by a Mercenary Leader who purchased the house at a nice price and now houses his men there between jobs. The house is loud and the mercenaries frequently get drunk with women from the nearby towns.  The archers practice shooting daily and are remarkably good.

Malcolm Swift is the mercenary leader of 20 archers. He is a skittish drunk with a glass eye who no longer uses a bow but carries round a short spear instead so he whack his men with the butt when they show poor form during practice shooting. Malcom ensures some of his men attend the Steward's daily prayers to show respect to the steward, he also provides guards (for free) to protect the harvest until its purchase and removal, and pays for a kask of fine ale for the public house to build good will between the serfs and his men.

4. Public house - The public house is known as the Bridge because it is built near the old bridge. The pub brews its ownwhich is just okay. This home brew is supplemented by kasks of fine ale paid for by Malcom Swift. Unlike most pubs the Bridge welcomes strangers.

Valerie Slaymaker, is a beautiful well curved woman who serves at the pub. She is the daughter of the owner, and she is the village idiot and knowns she's not very smart so she barely talks. The village is super-protective of her (everyone considers her a sister). She is sweet on Malcolm Swift although he does not really seem to know she exists.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Best of the Web - The Ultimate Heresy, One Pages, Healing Potions

I stumbled across an old post called The Ultimate Heresy in which the Grumpy Old Troll thinks about using Middle Earth in a role playing game. This got me thinking how it could be fun to have a party of adventurers sent out from Rivendell with the intent to fake Sauron. This would probably be a suicide mission and they'd know that of course. Since they are to draw the eye of Sauron day from the  Fellowship the party would need at least one Hobbit and they'd be forced to avoid the path taken by the Fellowship. Since the path of the Fellowship is so well known and the rest of Middle Earth less known you could even plop down the map and tell the players to pick a route. Do they want the Eagles to take them East to draw the eye of Sauron that way? Elrond can arrange that. Do they want a ride down south of Gondor in an Elven ship, well Elrond can arrange that as well. I think it could be a lot of fun.

Also digging through the depths of the OSR I found a post by Methods & Madness about One Page Rules (or: Taking a page from other people's books) in which the site owner Eric Diaz discusses creating rules so that they are one-pagers (the way James V. West at Doomslakers does). How doing this facilitates folks compiling their own book of house rules. I've thought something similar when it comes to bestiaries. See the 2E monstrous compendium had the idea of using a three-ring binder so you could compile a unique bestiary but they had monsters on front and back which screwed up the concept. With PDF you don't need to worry about that sort of thing.

Of course this reminds me of the 1-page dungeon contest and now I've dug up the Sea of O'SR from back in February 2011 (before I'd even heard about the OSR) which challenges folks to make an island n 3-hours. This would a DM to cobble together an archipelago as necessary. Looks like they tossed around the idea of a non-real-roady adventure path but I haven't seen any evidence that got further than the interesting idea stage. Something in me loves these short contained bits of RPG goodness.

Gothridge Manor posts A Take on Healing Potions which describes two types of healing potions, one that is natural plant-based and less effective one that is more magical and more like what we expect from a healing potion. I really like this and will probably build it into my own Fantasy Heartbreaker as my game will need healing and the non-magical healing makes a low magic campaign less deadly.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Village - Crowsmouth

Crowsmouth Players Map
Crowsmouth is a small village of 300 intolerant peasants. Half the peasants raise cabbages and beet farmers while the rest deal with sheep. The hills nearby and the fields left fallow are covered in bleating sheep.

The village is best known for a large crows head shaped rock in the fields. There is no place for travelers to stay and anyone looking for a place to sleep will be told to keep moving to the next town or see if they can find hospitality with the weird forester.

Notables of Crowsmouth

Imogen Crowden the eccentric
1. Manor house - The manor house is a three-story house. Nice, but nothing special. The Lord lives in another fief and the Bailiff spends her time in the pub.

Imogen Crowden is the widow of Sir Fredrich Crowden. Her brother-in-law was granted the fief upon her husbands death and he allows Imogen to live in the manor although she has no actual authority. She is a trustworthy eccentric old lady missing a finger who refers to herself in the third person.

2. Crows Mouth Rock - The rock is in the shape of a crow head with its mouth open as if expecting food to fall from the sky. The head is fifteen feet tall. It is ancient and rumors suggest it is a partially buried statue of a full-crow. Locals believe the statue is responsible for the fertile soil and they put offerings of food into its mouth on nights of the full moon. The fields surround the crow head on all sides. There is a trail out to the head to prevent the nosey from trampling the fields.

Eve Parfit connoisseur of wine and ale
3. Public House - Nicknamed the Crow,  the pub is where the locals stay. The locals are already pretty intolerant towards strangers, when in the pub they become openly hostile. Their banter is hostile and if a stranger were to enter uninvited they would probably find themselves in a fist fight. The village reeve spends most of her time in the pub. Her tab is well beyond her capacity to pay but most of the village pitches in to keep her drunk and out of their way.

Eve Parfit the Bailiff. She's trustworthy but became a drunk when Sir Fredrich died. Local gossips suggest Eve had an affair with Sir Fredrich and her son looks a lot like the dead Lord but there is no real proof and she's rarely sober enough to answer questions about it. Oddly enough she's really good as a Bailiff, despite the drinking, and the fief has never been short at tax time. She is a beauty except that she now has one eye. She is very possessive of her daughter who is being courted by half the town.

Nicola Pickles the bug connoisseur
4. Forester's Home - These two hovels were built were built and maintained by the Lord High Foresters so that a Forrester is in attendance at all times. Locals believe that there is a fairly decent sized room built underground beneath the hovels, built by one of the resident foresters old non-human friends.

Nicola Pickles is the resident Royal Forester. He is in charge of reporting/stopping bandits & poachers. He is also expected to help any noble retinue that shows up in the area and that needs hunting assistance. He's trusting, trustworthy, amazing with a bow and no slouch with his sword he calls "pigsticker". Nicola has a scarred face and a habit of eating live insects.