ENnie voting have begun!

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From today until July 30 the voting is open at : http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/

So grab your chance to to cast your vote for the game products, sites, podcasts software and more, that you like!

I’ve been overwhelmed by all the supportive comments coming my way since the nominees were announced, thank you so much it means alot to me.

ENnie nomination and Gen Con

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My Map of the Flanaess have been nominated for an 2014 ENnie award for best cartography!

Its an impressive list of nominees and I urge you to check it out  at http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog and be ready to cast your vote from July 20 to July 30!

It made me very proud and it also mean that I will go to Gen Con this year. Thank you all for all the help and support you have given me, it means a lot and I couldn’t have done it without it.

The past couple of days have been a bit tumultuous, since I’m doing the finishing touches on two projects and then receiving a unusual amount of correspondence. So if you have sent me an email and I haven’t gotten back to you yet I’m sorry, I will get back to you soon.

The days I’m at Gen Con are from the Friday the 15th to Monday the 18th. Most of the time I will spend to meet as many of gaming friends that I normally don’t get a chance to meet face to face. So if you’re at gencon don’t hesitate to send me a message!

 

 

Campaign Maps 2.0 sneak peak….

It has been a long time since I made any updates and announcements. So after some delays caused by my involvement in other projects, here is a first sneak peak at my next generation of Campaign Maps – 2.0!

Those of you who have followed my work for some time knows that so far my work have been based on a technique and tools that I started using in the late 90’s. During at least the latter half of that time I have been drooling over all the new fantastic tools that have  been introduced. I stuck with my old trusted Bryce until I had finished mapping the entire Flanaess sub continent.

In between my shifts the past couple of years I have tried to teach myself how to use the latest generation of  Digital World Building tools. With a mapping project for Kobold Press just finished I had the time to finish first full scale work flow test. My goal is to be able to take any type of large area fantasy map, and without having to spend years on it, use it as a base for a highly detailed map. For this I will use Photoshop CC 2014 and World Machine 2.3.

The first step is to create a “grayscale” (no pun intended 😉 map from my Flanaess map.

height map

This is done by hand to smooth it out a bit and make sure there are no spikes. It is a large size image with over 20 000 pixels across in order to provide enough accuracy.  It will be used in World Machine as a way to provide the base elevation for on which the terrain is created, and do so for each point across a thousands of miles of virtual CG Flanaess.

To see what this can do lets look at the fishing Village Salt Harbor, on the Nyr Dyv south coast of Nyr Dyv in the Vale, a part of  the Duchy of Urnst. That looks like this on my Flaness map.

Salt Harbor Valley 1.0

 

The red square indicates the area shown below in a screenshot from World Machine. Lets start with a top down view:

Salt Harbor Valley from the top

And to show that this is indeed a 3D virtual terrain, here is a view from the south:

 

Salt Harbor Valley from the south

And a view from the north:

Salt Harbor Valley from the north

Note that these are only preview screenshots from within World Machine, and shows what the imported terrain can look like. The Cairn Hills don’t even have the right color, vegetation are either missing or only shown with green. The tw0 shots above shows an area roughly 20 miles across. Below is a what a preview of an area 1 mile across can look like.

Salt Harbor Valley closeup

This is only raw material that can be used to render high quality map of large areas and close ups detailed enough to show buildings. Time for me to try and find the right place for my keep!

So what good are this, other than keeping a fantasy mapping fanatic glued to her desk? My plan is to start offering a map commission service. For a fee I can make your creation come to life as maps only seen in the movies! This will be a great opportunity have your world professionally mapped. Whether you are a game publisher or a gamer if you have some fantasy world you want to have mapped.

There will be both large area overview maps and close up map creation available. All maps will be delivered as high resolution images that can be used large or small.  Details haven’t been finalized yet and I will post more information along with examples of finished maps.

Thanks again for all the support and interest in my work!
 

A few more Atlas maps added

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Three more Atlas maps are added today 8, 9 and 10. They are available as layered PDF’s in either Letter or A4 size. 12 mile hexes are on a separate layer that you can turn on or off just like the other layers. You can download them on the Atlas page.

Its my goal to finish a few more maps each week so the whole Atlas can be finished by the end of the year.

Ocean test maps…..

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Testing what maps, and especially ocean maps using World Machine, can look like. This first image is a raw render looks like when its different parts have been merged using Photoshop.

My Flanaess maps you have seen me present here  for over a decade now have used tools and techniques from the 90’s. For the past couple of years I have worked to replace my trusted and tried old Bryce 5 with much more powerful and modern tools. Instead of spending days literary hand painting the terrain fractals onto tiny pieces of land, and then render small sections at a time. I can now in the same file work on either a whole world in one go, or tweak a tiny detail. Then I can render the files needed in a fraction of the time it used to take.

At the moment most of my time is devoted to creating templates macros and textures. Creating the building blocks and workflows I need to be able to crank out maps efficiently, that looks great. That means a lot of time in World Machine setting up devices and macros. Below is a screenshot of what a map file can look like, while I’m working with it. World Machine works by creating a kind of recipe for what the world looks like, and you can then export things like a top down, color map, shadow map and even a 3D mesh object of the terrain.

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By combining the results from World Machine in Photoshop and then applying a bit of texture and other magic, the results can look really impressive. Below are some quick tests with texture and even some forest and rivers added to see if it works.

ocean test2

So far I’m quite pleased with the results, and when I get more used to working this way the results will look even better. Even the shoreline in the picture above is starting to look good, and with more than one texture and some careful touch up it will be achieved what wanted.

This test was primarily to try and work out how to map large bodies of waters, like lakes and oceans. So here comes a closer look at what an ocean map, from shore to some depth can look like.

ocean test3

This was all for today. Next week there will be a few more pages of the Atlas, and also some more about one of my upcoming projects.

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

a few more things…

Today have been a day of website updates. First is something that in a way is return of the past. Most of you remember the old letter sized area maps, and now they are back in the form of the Atlas which now have been given a home on the site at: http://ghmaps.net/greyhawk-maps/atlas-of-the-flanaess/

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So please have a look and tell me what you think. Its not much of the Atlas done yet, but my goal is to keep up the release of new pages every week for the rest of the year.

The Greyhawk maps Project Page have been updated to better reflect the state of my Flanaess mapping project. There are also some new glimpses of a Greyhawk project I’ve been testing out………

That was it for today, more will come soon!

Flanaess Atlas update

A lot of behind the scenes work is taking place at mapping HQ at the moment. Most of my time is devoted to my overland hex map project. At the moment it is basic workflow, templates, textures and things that are very dull and aren’t much to show or talk about but are a necessary part of my kind of work.

Atlas Page A4The Flanaess Atlas is also coming along, and now its time to look at page set up. I’ve decided to try and make separate versions for Letter and A4 to be able to make maximum use of the page. It is a bit extra work, but worth it to try and please both U.S. and international Greyhawk fans.

The PDF’s are layered and the hexes are on a separate layer so you can turn them on or off. Each page is around 5MB which means that the whole Atlas will be around 500MB. Its a bit much, I’ll try and compress it a bit more. To make a decision in the trade off between quality and size is a major hassle, since I look the the original and don’t want to sacrifice too much of it.

My workaround will be to first make separate PDF’s for each page for print. Then to make a separate combined version for digital use that is more compressed.

You can download the test pages here:
Atlas test page Letter

Atlas test page A4

Flanaess map Legend

Flaness Map Legend 2014

Here is something I should have published long ago but forgot to, the legend for the Flanaess map. It on the map but it can be handy to have a separate one along side the map. There will be a print friendly version coming, I’m making one for the Atlas version of the map.

 

Hexed map!

Hexmap

After a lot of work trying to fit over 100 ooo hexes onto my maps and still make it work, I’m proud to announce the arrival of a hexed version of my Flanaess map. You can find the hex map on the Online map page!

There is also an offline version in the GH SYNC share, usable when you game or plan without a proper Internet connection.

My Greyhawk work continues besides my future projects with “Campaign map tiles” and “Battle map tiles”, haven’t found proper names for the projects yet. I’m still in the early phase working out the concepts and the firsts sets of introduction sets, which will probably take me a month or two. I will be posting updates on both in a few weeks time.

 

Realm Works, a few months into a new era……

I started to play D&D a couple of years before I got my first computer, and since the day I bought my first computer in the 80s I have dreamt of the day when I could use it to managed my gaming. During the decades until now, I have used my computer for a lot of gaming related endeavours. You know about my maps, and I’ve been an avid user of Hero Lab the last couple of years.

But when it comes to make the job of planning, organizing and actually do the job of running games as a Game Master paper and scribbled notes have been a mainstay almost to this day. I’ve used general note and organizing software as OneNote and Evernote with some success, but they are not made with gaming in mind. For decades I have dreamt of a tool that is, and last year I backed a Kickstarter by Lone Wolf Development to speed up the progress on something called Realm Works – Streamlined Campaign Management for GM’s and Players

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Realm Works just became available, but as a Kickstarter backer I’ve been using it for some months now. so I thought it would be good time to write down some of my thoughts on my experience. Disclosure – My only affiliation with Lone Wolf Development is as user of their products and a backer of the Realm Works Kickstarter. I’m also intend to use Realm Works as a platform to sell content in the future.

With formalities out of the way I must say, RW is a beast! That means you need to approach it gently and it will reward you with a thrilling experience. For me some types of computer software gives me that sensation that the world just got a bit better, and for me RW is of that caliber. It is complex, almost bewildering at times, and it takes time to find out what is possible and how to accomplish it.

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Realm Works is just like Hero Labs system neutral, which means that it will work great with whatever rules you’re using. Whether that is one of the big popular systems, or something you have come up with on your own doesn’t matter RW can accommodate it equally well. RW also supports multiple campaigns that can be using different rules and systems. As a tool of its time it also lives part of its life in the cloud, your content is synced to a cloud server. This opens up a whole range of possibilities, which I will cover more later on.

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Working in Realm Works is a bit like building your own multimedia campaign wiki using some sort of specialized browser full of neat views, tools and buttons to make the job easier. The almost endless possibilities and number of tools means that it might be a daunting task the first few hours you try and use it. Because you can work in so many different ways – paint the big picture first, start out small, write the story first etc – finding out how you like to work best is important. Then when you’re starting to get a hang of how RW works, you can use many different approaches as you see best to get different types of tasks done.

Those of you who have worked with database software before will feel right at home with RW, that in many ways is a tool to set up and work with your campaign as a database. What the people at Lone Wolf have cleverly done is to add a whole range of tools to manage your campaign database, each of these tools are geared to cater for Role Player’s specific needs. Each of these tools are a good useful to great addition to your gaming experience, taken together in one package they are in many ways revolutionary.

Planning, getting data in

All you GM’s out there knows that planning your game is both a pure joy and a pain, some of you are probably like me and enjoy tinkering with your world as much as actually playing the the game. Others just want to have the stats and facts ready at the game table. I think we can all agree on the fact that planning for your games improves the experience.

RW can handle text, PDF’s, images, Hero Lab portfolios and many other formats of data. If you make the effort to enter in text one of the almost magical features of RW becomes apparent, all new content is being scanned to find matches with all other campaign data. I’ve discovered lots of new interesting connections for my Greyhawk campaign when I have entered timelines and the history of various lands.

Realm WorksRealm Works creates links to matching content, so if you want to find out everything about one of your campaign villains, the work are done automatically for you. Over the months I’ve used Realm works I have put in a few thousands articles covering a range of topics from the multiverse to a lonely beggar. Topics are  divided into two general categories, fluff and crunch. The World and Story Almanacs cover things like, planes of existence, Empires to free villages, NPC’s and all sorts of locations. The Mechanics Reference handles rules and stats. You can set up and define your own categories and make templates to speed up data entry.

Each article can contain a myriad of pieces, in the form of text, images pdf’s even videos. Two special forms of content should be mentioned, Hero Lab files and my speciality maps 😉 Hero Lab portfolios can be previewed inside RW or opened into Hero Lab. A JPG or PNG (haven’t tested with other formats yet) can be used as a map, on which you can place pins that can link to other content.

Content can be viewed in many different ways , in a topic hierarchy like as seen on the left, or by topic. When you’ve been fleshing out your campaign you will probably have a lot of content to sift through. RW have the obvious search functions to find what you’re looking for, but also the so called Story Almanac which is a subset of data. You can move over things you want to have easy access to for planning or during a game. You can move over a whole country and everything belonging to it, or pick topics selectively.

Links both auto generated by RW and special ones made by yourself work across topics, almanacs and also with the Mechanics Reference. This super useful to have specific rules ready. You’re preparing an encounter with a monster that can swallow people whole, make a link to the Engulf Rules. The mechanics section is a perfect way to keep track of house rules, paste in the original version and then alter it to fit your campaign.

Play and Share

To have a wealth of campaign content is a good thing, but making it come to life during play is what Role Playing is all about, so what is the role of Realm Works for the actual playing of the game?

Ive been using it both for my Greyhawk games and also a couple of Pathfinder organized games I’ve been GM’ing. For those of you who are running “sandbox campaigns” that spans over many sessions and cover a lot of grounds in the form of locations, NPC’s and story plots, you will appreciate the storyboard functions of RW. You can plot out complex web of possibilities fully linked with you content to keep track of what is happening and what has happened, and also very important what can happen 🙂

So what good is all this for the players, other than having a GM’s who seem to be able pull things out of a magic hat behind a screen. This is where two really cool features of Realm works comes into play, revealing content incrementally, and something that Lone Wolf trademarked “Fog of World”. Every little piece of information can be hidden or shared with the players as the story evolves. This can be done during the games on a second screen and in the future into a player version of Realm Works or online through a web browser.

Fog of World is the classic “fog of war” effect scaled up and refined to mean that you can reveal exactly the parts of your story, maps, history and anything else from your campaign. For maps you have a paint brush that you can use to paint over the parts of a map you want to show or hide. When Realm works comes with or some other way works together with a good virtual battlefield this will be a killer feature!

Conclusions and dawn of a new era

Time deliver my judgement on Realm Works after some months of heavy use. After some issues during the beta period, Lone Wolf have done a fantastic job and developed a really useful tool!

Before I go on to talk about how I think RW will affect gaming, I want to point out a few things. When you develop an application with the goal set this high – remeber all the failures in the form of Vaporware over the years that still sit as bookmarks in my browsers, leading to long lost websites – it is inevitable that things will be missing in the beginning. And believe me we are still in the beginning ;), more on that later. What I miss the most is a custom calendar, which is under development so I’m confident it will be a great addition soon. But I so want to be able to flesh out the history of my Greyhawk campaign!

My only real issue with Realm Works is the fact that it looks like business tool, which might be useful for those of you who want to work on your campaign in a cubicle at work. I would love to see is a more modern “creative style UI”, like Adobe, Spotify and why not Hero Lab, which is much better looking. Lone Wolf developers have the skills I’m sure, and considering how much of an effort that have gone into just getting RW off the ground I can totally understand that looks haven’t been a priority. But I will not stop hoping!

One of the key features of Realm Works is still in development and that is sharing your creations with other users of Realm Works. This feature, I think will be Realm Works biggest strenght and combined with the cloud it will affect how games are published.  Since the dawn of RPG’s books, physical or in the form of PDF’s have been how game content have been published. With Realm Works I want to have my game content, both fluff and crunch, delivered right into my campaign database in Realm Works. That way it will be indexed and editable without any extra work, that will be a killer feature.

With Realm Works Lone Wolf Development have created what can become one of the pillars of the future of the RPG industry. The other two are character management and virtual battlefields, and Hero Lab are in my opinion among the best in character management.  So LWD are well placed to become a big part in my gaming future.

What I’m waiting for is to have Realm works Hero Lab and a capable virtual battlefield that can work together in real time between players and GM to keep track of the boring parts, and immerse us in the glorious aspects of gaming!

When the online sharing becomes available for Realm works, I’m going to try my best at making my Greyhawk maps available from the built in repository. I’m also working on new generation of map products to be used with  Realm Works so I hope you will find RW as useful as I have!