Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Questions that Need Answering

Been away a few days focusing on writing; real posts are returning, but I've got some questions.

Sci-Fantasy Inspiration
Okay, so I listen to metal any time I need some inspiration for Gothic Greyhawk.  For the Black City, with it's roots in weird sci-fantasy, aliens, and Chariots of the Gods, I find myself turning to electronica and synth pop for listening.  What do you listen to for weird sci-fantasy inspiration?  (That's the important question here, but if you read on, I can always use some advice on these other questions, too...)

Rational Dungeons
This could probably be it's own blog post, but I'm very much a top down developer; I've usually got a clear idea what's going on in a given level or sub-level before pencil hits the graph paper.  I read "Let There Be a Method To Your Madness" in The Dragon #10 back when I was a kid and never looked back.

With the Black City, I'm starting to take another approach - using some random generators to get ideas and not make the maps 100% "rational".  Just curious how many folks do the rational dungeon design approach versus wahoo random all the way?

Taking a slight pivot, here are some production related questions for any folks in the know...

MS Publisher for Layout
I'm a Microsoft person via work, so I have access to home-use copies of MS Publisher and Word. These should be fine for simpler game adventures. I expect to use either a one-page-dungeon format or two-page-dungeon (ala Stonehell) - mixing in images, tables and text probably disqualifies MS Word. Are there any other issues with using Publisher versus a professional layout tool (like In Design)?

For instance, will there be gotchas with an MS Pub PDF with Lulu or OBS?  I don't want to shell out $200 for InDesign for a pilot project, but could be forced to learn one of the open source tools if necessary.

Hex maps are being done in Hexographer - I have a question on color. Would you recommend developing grey-scale hex tiles right in Hexographer (and making a grey scale map for a B&W product), or doing it in color and changing it to grey in a tool like GIMP? Similarly, I'm wondering if it's best to do all the text overlays in GIMP as well.

For dungeon maps, I'm looking at making the simple graph paper maps in Gridmapper or Dungeonographer (and apply text in GIMP).

I'll post some updates here and there - blog writing will take a slight hit as I continue throwing the majority of my time at compiling the Black City manuscript.


  1. I've only got an answer to one of your questions, but I'd suggest Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack for the original Planet of the Apes.

    Also, the theremin-based soundtrack to Forbidden Planet and some of Goblin's stuff for Suspira.

  2. It would be hard to call my dungeons "rational" but I don't go in for the whole "owlbear, then spider-frog, then dogs paying poker" thing. I like them to at least have a consistent aesthetic.

    Though I don't mind being a player in totally random next-room-next-monster dungeons.

  3. Oh and Monster Magnet--"Spine of God" and "Dopes to Infinity".

  4. Unkle:Psyence Fiction is a great CD. It's sort of an anthology, so there is a variety of music styles.
    Some of the tracks are on Youtube.
    Daft Punk
    Chemical Brothers

  5. If you're going to end up with a B&W map, I'd make it in B&W. Personally, I don't like the way the hexographer tiles look, when converted to B&W (do they have specifically grayscale tiles, now?) You might try getting rid of the background color.

    I made a numbered hex template and a set of B&W tiles in GIMP for my own use, painstakingly getting them as clean as possible. The Black Mete Map - V. 2 & Techno-GMing (be sure to open it in its own window and enlarge, as it loses quite a bit of detail when embedded in the blog post.)

    Which is to say, if those would suite your purposes better, shoot me an email. But don't feel weird about declining the offer. :)

    Text overlay in GIMP works. A bit of a pain, but someone with more GIMP knowledge than I, could no doubt pull off some really nice effects. When I still used hexographer, I would use GIMP for touching up and adding tweaks & flourishes to the maps.

  6. I only feel really qualified to answer the first question:

    I listen to lots of Blue Oyster Cult and the Sword when thinking about Sci-Fantasy. Also space rock.

  7. I wouldn't do the maps in colour then convert to greys, as brown and green may look different, but they often convert to the same or similar kind of grey and then all your clarity is lost.

    If you're careful about it and test your converted colours beforehand, it can work, but it may be better to work in greys from the beginning.

  8. Inkscape is quite good for maps, and you can import images into it and then add text later, and I find it much friendlier to use than GIMP.

  9. I'll go with Tangerine Dream for your first question.

    My answer for the second question I give my maps to Rob C. and let him do them otherwise its hand drawn stick figures like map.

  10. 1. A lot of good suggestions already, but I'd add Hawkwind, ELP, and Uriah Heep

    2. I'm more on the wahoo end, but do try for consistent "themes" (the swamp level, the mad scientist level, the warring Drow vs Serpent Men level, that sort of thing. But I generally don't include bathrooms and salt licks...

    3&4. I got nothing.

  11. I'd probably listen to the following for science fantasy inspiration: Android Lust (The Dividing, Devou, Rise and Take Flight), Kirlian Camera (Coroner's Sun & Spiritual Front), Skinny Puppy (Too Dark Park, Rabies), Portishead (Third), Tricky (Pre-Millenium Tension, Maximquay).

  12. Great suggestions, thanks for all the ideas fellas.

    As I'm revising hex maps, I'll do them in B&W from the start; that makes a lot of sense. In Hexographer, there are B&W tiles, and you can change colored backgrounds of the regular ones to greys.

    @Simon - I'll take a look at Inkscape; I'm trying to learn basic GIMP mainly because I've got some folks in my department that use Photoshop and GIMP that can always provide pointers if I hit a wall...

    Good music suggestions all around, I'll explore them over the long weekend. I saw some Skinny Puppy out there (Too Dark Park and Vivesect VI have been in the queue) and I'm a big fan of 70's progressives like ELP and especially YES. I've got some Tangerine Dream and Vangelis to dig up; the rest is off to Youtube and Pandora.

  13. Gimp is a bitmap orientated drawing program while Inkscape is a raster orientated drawing program. Both good - it's like a little tool kit since they are both free and awesome.

  14. First question:

    Early Thomas Dolby Golden Age of Wireless especially
    Blue Oyster Cult as already mentioned. Fire of Unknown Origin is a complete space fantasy campaign in and of itself (Fading Suns would love you to write adventures while listening to that album)
    HawkwindIf your name is out of Moorcock and he both wrote for you and jammed with you you're included.
    Vangelis Some of the 70s stuff, specifically Spiral and maybe Albedo 0.39. Off the later, Alpha, in particular would seem to have a good ancient astronauts vibe.
    VNV Nation You're already listening to A-Pop's Welcome to Earth. I'd suggest popping in VNV Nation's Future Perfect at the very least. Empires might work as well.

    I'm sure I could think of more but that is hopefully a start.

    Oh, what, if you have it or can find it, Beborn Beton's Tales from Another World (a greatest hits album) would work. I'm after a couple of songs but don't remember the exact album names.

  15. I"m a huge proponent of rational dungeon design. I try to avoid at all costs the "Medusa in the Closet" syndrome. That is, there is a specific 1e AD
    &D module that has a "Medusa in a Closet". You open the door, and there she is! This is a creature that should have its own adventure designed around it, rather than having some cheesy cameo role just to fill the monster quota.

    It all goes to the type of game world feel you are trying to achieve. The more "grounded" a campaign, the more important top down rational design.

  16. I've got a ton of VNV Nation in the queue, and some pieces from Beborn Beton. I'm going right out to add Blue Oyster Cult - that's a big oversight - and will check out the Hawkwind.

    @Niccodaemus: I don't remember any medusa in a closet, but there's a closet in Castle Amber with a cockatrice in it!

    Don't go poking around those dungeon closets, they're bad news.

  17. @Beedo: I LOVE me some Castle Amber!!!!!