Thursday, May 26, 2011

Advice on publishing / Helping a blogger out

I'm thinking about pushing the Black City towards becoming a downloadable PDF product, maybe even later this summer after we get in some play testing.  It's got some interesting things going for it - it has a sweeping scope, it's got some awesome art, and Vikings exploring a frozen, alien city is cool.  I think my role model would be Stonehell and Michael Curtis - he's the closest to a hobbyist blogger that posted pieces of his megadungeon campaign in starts and stops and pulled it all together into an awesome book at one point.

Self-publishing is well-worn ground for other folks in the blogosphere - does anyone have suggestions for tools?  The level 1 dungeons are all currently drawn on graph paper with hand-scrawled notes; I'll need to scan them and redo them as graphics.  Does everyone use Photoshop (I'd need to learn some basic GIMP) or is there a simpler dungeon mapper for making basic old school dungeon maps?

I'd have to learn the basics of laying out pages, too, so recommendations on a basic layout program would be helpful as well.  I'm not ignoring the epic amount of work to edit it - it's one thing blathering on a blog in verbose mode, another to write economically for a page count.

Finally, an "official" edition decision would need to be made.  It seems to be a practical decision of licensing and understanding the OGL (of which I haven't looked much into either, since my home games are Frankensteins cobbled across rules-sets).  I've seen plenty of hobbyists write Labyrinth Lord compatible stuff - Labyrinth Lord must be easy to identify.  I'm not sure if Realms of Crawling Chaos is open in the same way - I'd hazard to guess it is.  I think I've seen some hobbyist stuff that's Swords & Wizardry compatible, nothing for LotFP (probably means it's a closed license).  If folks have insight on the license side of things, it'd be super helpful.

Comments, links to posts on other blogs, or tutorials would all be welcome - before I reread the daunting effort outlined above and talk myself into keeping this just a blog project!  If you'd rather drop a line through email, you can send a note to dreamsinthelichhouse via gmail.

Thanks all!


  1. You might want to go through my blog, especially for February. I posted a lot of stuff about the process I went through to make my book.

    I know that S&W and BFRPG are both OGL, so you can write what you want for them. Just let their publishers know before you get rolling.

  2. Regarding mapping, if you aren't good at it, ask around. Someone might do the maps very cheap or even free. I know I got a lot of help when I asked for it.

  3. I've got a simple list of requirements (none involving money) for declaring LotFP-compatibility (one publisher is working on something now). Email me for details.

  4. My friend who does my layouts for WA uses InDesign--that seems to be a standard (though I don't know about for the OSR), but its a bit pricey.

  5. A good way to start familiarizing yourself with GIMP is to head over to the Cartographer's Guild and follow a few of their mapping tutorials. Once you get comfortable with the program, you'll be able to do all kinds of cool stuff.

  6. I'd be glad to help! I'm quite skilled with Photoshop and InDesign, so I could work both to the maps and the layout. I only ask a free printed copy of the module and my name in the credits in charge :D

  7. I forgot – if you are interested in my help drop me an e-mail at malsetto [at] gmail [dot] com

  8. Most mapping uses Photoshop at some phase, even if the original map is hand-drawn (I only use it for numbering, title, etc, and some people use it starting with a blank page). Some people (I think Stonehell) used Dungeoncrafter, which is free and easy to work with, although the end product isn't top of the line, it's adequate -- I used it in my earlier modules.

    Layout can also be done at different levels. I use MSWord for an adequate production value, you can do better if you take the time to learn a true layout program. I haven't found that worth the time in terms of the marginal improvement, but there definitely is improvement of the appearance if you already know how to use them. These programs are expensive.

    Using a compatibility license with one of the clones is easy -- just read the compatibility instructions at the back of the games and then contact the relevant publisher if you have questions. Granted, those licenses are in sort of legalese, but the publishers would all be happy to help with any questions, I'm pretty sure.

    As Dan said, people in the community at large are generally very helpful in terms of things like art or cartography as long as the total amount they're being asked to do is relatively small.

  9. Photoshop/GIMP for the mapping. I've actually used Illustrator for some of my dungeon maps but there's quite a learning curve involved in that. Believe it or not, I've done all my layouts in Open Office. I find it much easier to use than MSWord and you can do quite a bit with it. I have since moved to InDesign but I would still go to Open Office for something quick and easy.
    Good luck!

  10. If your Mac, I'd suggest iWork Pages for simple layout (much cheaper than Office) and Scrivener for an authoring tool. James already beat me to the GIMP/Cart. Guild suggestion!

  11. Free InDesign alternative : Scribus

  12. Wow, thanks for all the quick replies!

    Dan - thanks for the heads up on your process, I'll have some good reading for the long weekend.

    I'll check out the Cartographer's guild for dungeon maps, and Il Male, will definitely drop you a line.

    I have access to MS Word and even Publisher, so I guess I have some layout software I didn't know about. Scribus looks interesting too, and seems to have nice tutorials.

    It's awesome to know, if I get the writing piece done, there's a lot of other bloggers that have been there / done that and willing to offer suggestions

  13. I use Activinspire for map design and general graphic manipulation. I'd be happy to contribute artwork if you need more. You can also see some of my maps and artwork either on my blog at
    or my latest module:

  14. I use Scribus (link below) for layout work, and generating PDFs. Works as well as inDesign, easy to learn, and best of all it's Open Source software, works on various platforms, and allows you to check compatibility before you create the PDF.


  15. @Dan - I read your February saga. Yikes. Well, I'll go being into it with my eyes open, I guess. One commenter called it "a hobbyist-publisher rite of passage". Yah.

  16. I did my maps in CC2 and used GhostScript/redmon to convert them to images.

    I did my writing & layout in Microsoft Word, and then used GhostScript/redmon to convert to PDF

    I did the cover using Scribus. It saves as images and PDF's.

    I used pdftk to append pdf's of the back & front cover to the PDF I generated from Microsoft Word to make the downloadable PDF (people like the full-color covers included).