Prepping for the DDC

Another game tonight, so as the last couple of weeks were intense fights and investigations this will probably be a bit more free-form and roleplay centred. There will be a week’s downtime to resolve, and that alone will likely determine the next directions taken.

With a largely character-led campaign I’m fully expecting some interesting side trips in response to the plot hooks I throw out there so my preparations are largely along the lines this week of some generic battlemaps that can be turned to a variety of uses. I’m posting them up in the Roleplay section as I go along, feel free to take a look.

It’s those adventurers again…

In terms of active plot lines: we currently have the missing Gnomish alchemist who fled from the university and his partner (Lord Rancaster) with a recipe for synthetic dream lily. We have the pit fighting scene that Thorin has begun to get involved with. We have random pranks by persons unknown in the DDC’s house, and we have the Warforged zealots following the Lord of Blades who were working with the Emerald Claw cultists who kidnapped Coal and used him to resurrect a Warforged Titan.

No doubt they will go investigate something else entirely.

Back to Work Tomorrow

I’ve enjoyed having a quiet day, left broadly to my own devices, while Lady M plunged back to work. Every now and then I heard fragments of new meetings, each dominated by how well she looks.

My work week restarts tomorrow afternoon for a short shift, so it’s a gentle ease back in – or that’s the theory anyway.

Today has been spent drawing, reading, and creating a new map that I’ve uploaded this afternoon. Games and Gaming has now been retitled as Roleplay Games in the menu as its a more focused description of what is there.

A new map appears!

All very civilised…

Maps

I said I’d get started, and so I did. In the Games and Gaming section, reachable from the menu at the top of the page, there are now links to maps suitable for use in virtual tabletops. Most are pretty bare to allow for variety in setting further props and furniture tokens, and are accompanied by notes for intended or past use.

The links to various past and present games are also there for delving into for ideas and narratives.

Cave Map

I’m going to get on with making a page just for maps, using old and new material, probably starting this evening.

In the meantime, here’s a very quick cave map with a stream pubbing through it from a spring at the back. A group of smuggler’s (or other antagonists of choice) have made use of a cluster of side caves and installed a portcullis style gate to deter intruders.

Further back in the cave there is a branch where a fissure opened up and a number of cave fishers (or other suitable pest-level monsters) have settled in, eating vermin and fish that emerge from the depths in the water. By and large the two sets of inhabitants ignore each other barring opportunistic encounters.

Lady M made an unflattering comparison to a set of mutated ovaries and associated organs, but she’s flying on painkillers post-surgery so I’m going to nod and smile…

A New Outlet

I was recently given a journal filled with squared grids. It has sat on my shelf for a few months, but I’ve started today to sketch out some sample maps that I could use for gaming, as well as make available for people to download

I might make a section under the games page for maps in general to make them easier to find. A significant part of traffic to this site revisits the maps from past adventures, so I think this proves an interest in things like this.

So, this is intended to be a mortuary temple site, set underground, with ossuaries, a channel house, preparation chambers, and living quarters kept away from visitors.

How benign or sinister this site may be is up to GMs – there is a room key on the map. The scale is intended to be five foot to a square, so the scale and feel is more something carved from the living rock than a massive temple.

Enjoy!

Getting Creative

In between a couple of odds and ends, plus doing a week’s groceries or so, I’ve spent time fleshing out the adventure the DDC is most likely to have over the next few weeks – mostly in terms of flavour text and items – on an old imported map I made a few years ago.

The thing is, perfectionist that I am, I’m not entirely happy with how the grids align with the layout. The grids are what each counter or token are set into on the Roll20 maps. At present they’re slightly off so items and characters could end up halfway into walls. In addition, its a simply styled drawing generated by a webpage, so it looks somewhat plain compared to some of the full colour ones I’m generally using.

I do have the option to switch off the feature that snaps items to the grid, but at the moment I’m trying to simplify things for the less experienced players – and there is that whole graphics element as well…

So thats why I’m taking the modular stone building set i mentioned the other day, and have started recreating the map in a version two. There’s probably more productive things I could be doing, but the map making geek in me is happy as a clam.

Day 372 of Isolation

What is days? What is space? Oh wait – hang on, I can go outside – ah, nope. Okay, so instead, while in between sorting a few odds and ends out with emails and remote access to some things, I’ve been experimenting a bit with some of the map pack options in Roll20 to make some maps for “just in case” – because if I’ve learned anything over the years, its that players are distracted by the slightest thing faster than you can yell “Squirrel!”

With a roleplay-heavy group like the current DDC, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. I plopped them down in a generic inn map while assembling things and it turned into at least two sessions of them making breakfast for each other, singing, and trying to teach a tiefling to catch apples with their tail. All the derailments so far have been purely character-chat – aside from the sudden desire to go find a training ground to practice combat.

Fortunately there are a great number of free map graphics made up. They’re searchable through the assets menu, but these all take time and I couldn’t find anything generic enough.

In the end I used a semi-random map for that particular moment. It did prompt me though to have a look at the various map pack options available to purchase through the Roll20 marketplace – rather than so many of the pre-made pretty options.

I ended up with three that look fairly flexible in that they are modular graphics with connectors – I can use the layers to blend the rough edges and the intended size and proportions so far have been quite user-friendly. I

‘ve been practicing with the Stone Building set to make some sort of generic mansion layout. Its not for a particular planned encounter, but is the sort of thing I plan to archive and keep to hand the next time they try something felonious or otherwise random.

Longtime gamers won’t even blink at the option of felonious in the above paragraph – and as this group has designated the rogue as their financier, I feel entirely justified in making up places that may suffer security lapses in the weeks to come.

Now my only concern is going to be what effect having lots of small graphics for the map will be like as opposed to having a single graphic that I’ve made elsewhere and imported. I’m using .png format graphics, so they should be reasonably swift but I’ll report when I start using them in anger. The other difference is that the group is currently five players plus myself, as opposed to the eight or so that the previous Wartorn Campaign had – I’m hoping this imposes a much lower hit on bandwidth and loading times.

Additional Maps

image

I’ve started uploading selected encounter maps, or at least the basic map outlays, under the Notable Locations page in the Wartorn section. For the most part they don’t include furniture, inhabitants, or special features unless I had access to a suitable resource when drawing them in the pyromancers site.

I’ve started putting them up in part to jog memories for players or to illustrate the stories recounted, but feel free to copy and use anything you need for your own sessions. The maps should load and scale to 70 pixels per square, the default scale in Roll20. They are also generally designed to a scale of one square equalling five foot or so.

Maps and Mapping for Roll20

I’ve been using the pyromancers.com website to handmake the maps I’ve been using in the Wartorn Roll20 campaigns over the last year or so, but it’s not the only resource I’ve been making use of.

There’s a few more websites that have recently caught my eye, and I’ll probably start dipping in to using them from time to time. A few of the maps that my group have yet to encounter have been made up using graphics from these sites, so I’ve tested them for ease of importing the resulting graphics in to Roll20. So far, each has been useful in different ways.

simple map of connected roomsThe first – ANAMap – is a map generator that allows me to make old-school line drawing maps and export them as PNG graphics, which are fully supported by Roll20.

When you start up, you are presented with a blank sheet of graph paper-style unreal estate and a series of tools on the left hand side that allow you to carve your nascent dungeon with a few simple clicks. Each square on the “graph paper” is cleared as you click on it, and refilled if you click back on it again, making editing and changing your mind a simple task as you go along. The palette is simple, and the icons are rudimentary, but if you’re looking to generate something quickly with a clean set of lines, this is probably what I’d prefer to direct you towards at the moment. As an added bonus, the site does remember where you got up to, and so you will see your most recent edit when you go back.

You can save and reload maps as you need to revisit them, which is a nice touch and making the grid disappear is a matter of clicking on the Draft button. The Dark theme reverses the palette to make a neon dark blue and glowing walls effect, so that might prove useful if you want to do some mirror-world or dreamscape representations of maps.

Randomly Generated series of tiles that create a series of connected rooms and tunnelsThe other site I’ve started using has been more for inspiration or throwing together very quick locations, and I think I’m only really starting to scratch the surface. Dave’s Mapper uses tiled templates to randomly generate areas. It too allows you to export maps as PNG format graphics and these can be resized as required when you import them into Roll20.

There are all sorts of filters available to choose the style and design of the tiles used, and whether the maps are close edged to make a contained location, or open-edged (for generating a location within wider streets or tunnels, for example). By default though, the maps tend to resemble the example here, reminiscent of classic hand-drawn dungeons in original D&D products back in the days of yore. I really like it, and I might use it for generating treasure maps for handouts to players, using them as a template for a map put together with the pyromancers site instead.

Hopefully, one or more of these resources will be helpful to you too, let me know in the comments, or feel free to suggest other map making resources that you treasure.