10 Apr 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.
10 Apr 2014
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.
02 Apr 2014
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
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.
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.
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 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!
23 Mar 2014
Life at my mapping desk have been very busy the past month, and here comes an update on what I’m up to. Two map commissions are in the final stages. But many of you have asked me, what I will do now that my big project that brought me into Fantasy Cartography is coming to an end. So I’ll start with the new.
Changing perspective by moving closer to things in the form of two new projects that will hopefully occupy a large part of my time. They are both generic fantasy and focus on maps to be used both digitally and in print. My goal is to create a system of maps that can be adapted and used in many different situations to plan, improve and illustrate your Fantasy RPG games.
My work up until now have been using techniques and even some software that are over a decade old , this in order to keep a consistent style across the Flanaess map. It is both limiting and slow, and the results are far from what can be achieved using the latest digital tools available. While I’ve been working on my big campaign map I’ve invested both time and money acquiring a new set of the best tools, and teach myself how to use the new generation of digital graphic wizardry. That is starting to pay off in better results much faster. Those of you who remember my early Flanaess area maps also remember that it took me ages to finish one. Apart from research I had to spend around 40-50 hours rendering and editing along per letter sized map. The result looked great for its time, and still looks good.
This map that tops this article took me a bit over ten hours to create, and include making 5 different versions of it covering the seasons of the year, and a season often found in fantasy lands evil cataclysm!
Much of the techniques and work-flow is something I have put in place to be able to work in an effective way, and to be able to spend more of my time on creative efforts then technical dabble trying to get the results I want. So on to what I’ve set my map making sights on for the future.
One set of maps will be of the now standard 5 ft squared maps used to depict dungeons, towns, wilderness and every other type of terrain your encounters can take place in. There are lots of good, bad and in between maps in this category. I think there is still room for improvement to be made. I’m deliberately vague with the details on this yet, because I want to hear what you would like to use. Are “big sized maps” covering a whole scene something you prefer, or do you want to be able to puzzle together scenes from small maps?
Are you most interested in printed maps for use on the game table together with your miniatures, or to use digital maps in a virtual battlefield tool. Perhaps you want to be able to plan and use the same maps in both types of play, for maximum flexibility.
Make your own world
The other scale is to put together a map covering your game world. That is something that so far only the few who have both the talent and time to invest in making a beautiful map of, either their own world, or version of a published campaign world.
What if you could have bits of professionally created terrain that can be assembled in various ways to make a map of a game world. With plains, hills forests rivers and much much more. Would that be something you would be interested in?
While I’m working on a presentation and preview set of these new gaming tools I’m really curious on what you think of this and what kind of maps, would you as a GM or player and publisher want to make use of.
My work with the Flanaess is not all done yet. The Atlas is under way in the background, but has been put on a few weeks hiatus due to an hex invasion. Hexes have been a standing request by many since I started mapping the world of Greyhawk. Now I think I have finally worked out how to approach it.
Here is a concept test with 12 mile numbered hexes, compatible with the PFRPG Ultimate Campaign Rules. The hex are numbered F001-001 and so on: F being “Flanaess” (opening up for more Oerth maps 😉 ) First group of numbers being the hex row, from west to east. Second group of numbers being the row of hexes from north to south. I choose this way to make it easier to find a hex, and no need to look at the side of the map. The numbers are on their own layer so they can be turned on and off independently of the hexes.
More details and concept images will be presented here during the coming months as my new projects get under way. Thank you for your interest in my work and I hope to have a chance to make a map that will make your game better as well!
26 Feb 2014
First those of you who have browsed to my website lately have noticed a whole set of Realm Maps appearing. I’m working my way through the list of things I set out to do before the end of the project, and a proper set of maps depicting each part of the Flanaess was one of them. They can be found on the Realm Maps page or the index page, they are also in the Map Repository‘s GH SYNC.
I was noticed to the fact that there was a few more settlements in southern Keoland should not be on the map. So all the versions that had this content will be replaced with an revised version without these names and places. The new version will be named 2014 revision 1.
Work on the Atlas continues to nail down the template to use. It just struck me that I had left out the range bar, so that will be there as well. Please continue to send me comments and ideas on how you like it.
This seems to be a long hard struggle. Michael at Gamer-Printshop still working on trying to get the quality right. The reports are getting infrequent despite being messages from me and others on the issue. When I have assembled the funds to make a series of prints I will find a printer locally that can do the job and I can have a close look at the result before anyone else have to go to any lengths to have their copy. High quality files are still in the Map Repository GH SOURCE share for those of you who dons’t want to wait and print of customize their maps. I’m sorry for the trouble, I wish I could have that all sorted out by now. But some things require more work that anticipated.
If anyone have already made prints please let me now how they turned out!
The next project……
Another reason for me not posting as many updates as usual is that I’m also working hard on my next project. It is a commercial project so it will all be public, but it is still to early for me to show anything. But it will be a complete shift in perspective, from the big picture to a close in view….
I hope you will find it as useful as my Flanaess maps, and my next project is also generic fantasy compatible with any game system using 5ft squares. An it is in a way even bigger and more grand in scope……..
Thank you again for all your help and support, much appreciated!
10 Feb 2014
Many of you have asked if its possible to have a bigger view of the Online Map and thanks to the help of Gordon Chamberlin now it is!
There are three different window sizes.
Try out which one works for your screen size, resolution and bandwidth.
There is also an Offline version available in the GH SYNC share, that you can download and use when you don’t have access to the net. It is also faster and you don’t have to worry about data usage.
With the offline version you can customize the viewport size to suit your needs by editing the Online-map-140119.html file. Change the numbers that are marked in red on the picture to the values you want to use.
03 Feb 2014
The Atlas is starting to take shape, and to show it off here is front cover concept!
It will be several months of hard work that now is underway. My goal is to have a PDF Atlas with around 100 pages ready within six months. A tome full of enough Greyhawk map galore to make even Fharlanghn happy 😉
20 Jan 2014
The Online Map is updated and backup again!
I have also added a folder to the GH SYNC share called Offline Map. You can copy that folder to a desired location and by opening the HTML-file inside you can use the map without an internet connection. The folder is 447MB in size so it will hopefully be small enough to fit in on your Laptop or even tablet. It uses FLASH though, this version need it to work. On the Map Repository page you can find out how to download it.
19 Jan 2014
If everything goes well it will be up again tomorrow Monday. Sorry for the inconvenience.
17 Jan 2014
Here it is, the final map!
After an intense period of going over the map to correct and add the last items on my list of things to do, it is now done. You can download a 171MB layered PDF here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/296601/Final_map_140116small.zip
It is also available in my Map Repository GH SYNC
There might be some errors I have forgotten so, please download it and check it out to see if you find things to be corrected. I will update the online map Monday, so you can also use that to check it out.
Next week I will publish the rest of the source files, and update the files in the Map repository. After correcting typos and other errors found the complete high res files will be available through the Map Repository and Gamer-Printshop.