Race and Class, Part 3: A Dwarfier Dwarf

In my last Race and Class post I discussed other ways race-class associations have been implemented in D&D and D&D-like games. I have come to prefer to the later-edition methods of handling it: some races are just better at certain classes, at least a bit, or exhibit traits similar to those of certain classes. For instance, a half-orc that gets a few rounds of rage per day, regardless of class: this half-orc makes a good barbarian, but even as a rage wizard he’s still effective and it is consistent with racial stereotype.

One of my favorite approaches to this mechanism comes from the Dawnforge setting. At each level up to 10th, a character gains a racial talent (odd levels) or racial transformation (even levels).

Let’s look at the dwarf race, from Dawnforge: Crucible of Legend.

Dwarf Race

  • Dwarven Physiology: +2 Constitution, –2 Dexterity. Dwarves are stout and tough but lack coordination due to their strange body type.
  • Medium: As Medium creatures, dwarves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Slow and Steady: Dwarves’ base land speed is 20 feet. However, dwarves can move at this speed even when wearing medium or heavy armor or when carrying a medium or heavy load.
  • Dwarven Knowledge: +2 bonus on all Knowledge (engineering) checks and Craft checks related to machines. Dwarven culture uses and understands machines better than any other.
  • Low-Light Vision: A dwarf can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. He retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
  • Dwarven Weapon Focus: +1 racial bonus on all attack and damage rolls with axes and hammers.
  • Stability: Dwarves are exceptionally stable on their feet. A dwarf gains a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).
  • Weapon Familiarity: Dwarves may treat dwarven exotic weapons as martial weapons.
  • Giant Fighter: +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against creatures of the giant type (such as ogres, trolls, and hill giants): This bonus represents special training that dwarves undergo, during which they learn tricks that previous generations developed in their battles with giants.
  • Automatic Languages: Common and Dwarven. Bonus Languages: Anderlar, Clan Speech, Giant, Goblin, Orc, Stone-speak, and Terran.
  • Favored Class: Fighter. A multiclass dwarf’s fighter class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing. The dwarves learned to honor martial prowess from their endless wars with the giants.

All in all, this is pretty consistent with other d20 system dwarves. There are a few changes specific to the setting (low-light vision instead of darkvision, for one), and I took the liberty of ensuring each trait was named (habit from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, for ease of reference). The definition still uses favored class, an artifact of D&D 3.x.

Dwarf Racial Talents

Dwarves may choose one racial talent at 1st level and every odd level thereafter (3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th). The character must meet all the prerequisites of the selected racial talent, if any.

Talents are somewhat weaker than the transformations below (next section), but are gained at the same levels as ability score bonuses (+2 Con at level 3, +2 Str at level 5, +2 Con at level 7, and +2 Wis at level 9). I wouldn’t complain.

I’m not going to copy the full text of the talents below (it makes for a long post), but I’ll describe them. Each talent can be taken more than once, unless otherwise declared.

  • Divine Mastery gives additional spell knowledge (if a spontaneous caster) or spell slot (if a prepared caster), each time it is taken.
  • The Craft Magic Arms and Armor talent tree allows the dwarf to create increasingly more powerful magic weapons and armor, without requiring the feat or supporting spells.
  • Giant Fighter gives a talent bonus to attack rolls against giants.
  • Identify Magic Arms and Armor allows the dwarf to determine if a weapon or piece of armor is magical, and what magical properties it has. (Not meaningful to take more than once.)
  • Sabotage grants Disable Device and Open Lock as class skills, and if they already are class skills the dwarf gets a bonus and can disable magical traps if they also have a mechanical element. (Not meaningful to take more than once).
  • Talent Feat grants the dwarf a bonus feat from a specific list. This talent cannot be taken twice in a row.
  • Talent Skills grants five skill points that can assigned to skills from a specific list, with limits on how many can be assigned.

Age of Legend Dwarf Racial Talents

A later supplement, Age of Legend, added more racial talents.

  • Subterranean Empathy grants an ability much like wild empathy, but only for underground animals and magical beasts. Empathy of any kind (see below) works only on creatures with Intelligence lower than 5.
  • Elemental Empathy expands on subterranean empathy, extending it to all underground creatures with the earth or fire subtypes, regardless of creature type.
  • Underbeast Empathy expands on elemental empathy, allowing it to work on all underground creatures.
  • Master of the Underbeasts gives a +5 bonus to Handle Animal checks for underground animals.
  • Voice of Stone and Flame allows a dwarf to use charm monster as a spell-like ability once per day, against underground creatures.
  • Stone Brother allows a dwarf to take a subterranean creature as a companion (as a druid of half the dwarf’s level)

These talents are clearly more distinctive than those from Crucible of Legend, and likewise do an even better job of making a dwarf more distinct from other races.

Dwarf Racial Transformations

Dwarves may choose one racial transformation at 2nd level and every even level thereafter (4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th). The character must meet all the prerequisites of the selected racial transformation, if any.

I think the transformations do even more to distance a dwarf from other races.

  • Damage Reduction gives a dwarf DR 1/—, increasing each time the transformation is taken. This transformation cannot be taken twice in a row.
  • Darkvision improves the dwarf’s vision from low-light vision to darkvision.
  • Improved Climber grants a climb speed of 10 feet, with the normal +8 bonus to Climb checks and ability to take 10 even when rushed or threatened.
  • Transformation Feat grants a feat chosen from a specific list, and cannot be taken twice in a row.
  • Transformation Skills grants five skill points that can assigned to skills from a specific list (different from the talent skills list), with limits on how many can be assigned.

Age of Legend Dwarf Racial Transformations

A later supplement, Age of Legend, added more racial transformations.

  • Fire Resistance grants fire resistance equal to the level at which the transformation was chosen (it doesn’t improve, meh) and the effects of endure resistance against hot environments.
  • Fast Healing grants fast healing 1, or fast healing 2 if taken twice (which cannot be done twice in a row).
  • Tremorsense grants tremorsense 15 feet, increasing by 5 feet each time this transformation is taken.

These are pretty consistent with the Crucible of Legend transformations.

Closing Thoughts

One of my longstanding disappointments in D&D was that over time, a character’s race becomes less and less important (mechanically). While a modifier to an ability score has some benefit early on, it’s often completely buried by further developments (+6 for a magic item, +5 for level bumps, and +5 for wish… a score of 16 is often considered ‘pretty good’ at first level, and a 20th-level character can have +16 in improvements! +2 for race doesn’t seem so important anymore).

The Dawnforge rules made it so race benefits increased as you gained levels, keeping the race choice mechanically relevant. It also allowed the use of more powerful races without requiring the (horribly-considered in retrospect) Level Adjustment mechanic. Where a particular race might be ‘too powerful’ for level 1, you simply have a reduced version that hasn’t ‘grown into’ all of the racial elements (talents and transformations). A level 1 drow does not yet have her spell-like abilities, a minotaur is just a heifer that has not yet grown to Large size, and so on.

This approach really appeals to me. My next post in this series describes how to implement it in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

OGL Section 15

I have the Open Gaming License in full in the site’s Legal section, but since this post depends so heavily on two specific titles I’ve included the Section 15 for these two below.

15. COPYRIGHT NOTICE

  • Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
  • System Reference Document Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich baker, Andy Collins, David noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
  • Path of the Sword Copyright 2002, Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.
  • Tournaments, Fairs, and Taverns, Copyright 2002, Natural 20 Press
  • Wild Spellcraft, Copyright 2002, Natural 20 Press
  • Traps & Treachery Copyright 2001, Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.
  • Deadlands d20 Copyright 2001, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc.
  • Dragonstar: Starfarer’s Handbook Copyright 2001, Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.
  • Open Game Content from The Tide of Years Copyright 2001, Michelle A. Brown Nephew
  • Seafarer’s Handbook Copyright 2001, Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.
  • Dawnforge Copyright 2003, Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.
  • Dawnforge: Age of Legend, Copyright 2003, Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.

Race and Class, Part 2: Alternate History

Or perhaps ‘historical alternates’.

In my last post I described how race and class were linked in various editions of Dungeons & Dragons (and family). In this post I’ll expand a little on these connections, and a couple of alternatives to them.

Later-era D&D 3.x presented ‘alternate class features’, where members of a class could replace certain class features with others. These were typically done on a case-by-case basis, and were a bit disconnected. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game implemented the same idea in a more structured and tidier manner with archetypes, bundles of alternate class features that were somewhat more coherent. Either way, they can be used to provide race-specific variations to base classes. I like this better than the ‘favored class options’ currently used in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

There are other approaches to consider.

Adventurer Conqueror King System does not have a multiclassing mechanism in the core rules. However, there are race-specific classes that fill a similar purpose, such as the elven nightblade. This harkens back to the AD&D rules where only demihumans can multiclass and are limited in the maximum level in their classes, but gives more ability to the designer to tune the abilities.

In Blood & Treasure, still my favorite retroclone, races get ‘knacks’ (+3 bonus to certain skills, basically) and can be any race. Demihumans are still the only ones that can multiclass, but each demihuman race can multiclass only in certain combinations (dwarves are fighter/something, elves are magic-user/something, halfings are thief/something, gnomes as illusionist/something), and there is an increased experience point cost to advance.

13th Age shows a great deal of D&D 4e influence. Each race gives a +2 bonus to one of two ability scores, each class gives a +2 bonus to one of two ability scores, and you’re not allowed to apply both to the same ability score. Each race has a special ability that can help encourage certain race-class combinations, but it’s not absolute.

The Dawnforge setting (late D&D 3.x era, it was beaten out by Eberron in WotC’s “campaign setting competition”) retains the D&D 3.x multiclass rules (potential experience point penalties and favored classes) but presents an option that intrigues me. At each level up to level 10, each race gives a ‘racial talent’ or ‘racial transformation’ (and periodically specific ability score adjustments). These are not fixed, they are selected by the player when gaining a level. As with racial qualitative benefits in other systems, these do not enforce race-class combinations, but the options chosen can make a character more effective in a particular class.

And, as one of my players put it, “your dwarf gets more dwarfy”. Who can’t love that?

My next post in this series will describe in more detail how Dawnforge makes a dwarf more dwarfy.

Race and Class, Part 1: A History

Four months since my last blog post?!

Apparently the new job — which is going wonderfully — has been taking more out of me than I anticipated. However, now that I’m getting my feet under me it’s time to get back to some game design.

Races and Classes in Dungeons & Dragons

There has always been an association between race and class in Dungeons & Dragons, to help encourage alignment with ‘racial archetypes’.

In OD&D, humans could be ‘any’ class (there were only three), dwarves and halflings could only be fighting-men, and elves could be fighting-men or magic-users (and could even switch back and forth between adventures).

In B/X and BECMI, humans could be ‘any’ class (there were now four!), dwarves and halflings were basically all fighters, and elves were now functionally ‘fighter/magic-user’ at all times.

In AD&D (1e and 2e) things opened up a bit and demihumans could choose between classes. However, the choices were restricted — many classes were only available to humans — and they were almost always had a maximum level in the class. Demihumans had the option of multiclassing, though, gaining the benefits and restrictions of more than one class.

In D&D 3.x (3e and 3.5) any race could be any class, and anyone could multiclass by taking levels in other classes when they gained levels. There was an experience point penalty for multiclassing if the class levels were too far apart. However, levels in your race’s ‘favored class’ didn’t count for this calculation: a dwarf could always add levels in fighter without the experience point penalty, or an elf could add levels in wizard. In principle this would encourage taking levels in the favored classes, but only if you multiclassed: single-class characters gained nothing.

In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game they dropped the experience point penalty. Instead, when you took levels in your favored class you gained a small benefit: one additional hit point or one additional skill point for each level in your favored class. Far from overpowering — over the course of your career it amounts to approximately a feat’s worth of benefits if you only take levels in your favored class — but an encouragement nonetheless. They later added ‘favored class options’ for many more combinations of race and class (which makes me question how they can be ‘favored classes’, when these options exist for all classes) such as additional spells known, extra rounds of rage per day, and so on. This does make the various race and class combinations a little more different — an elven barbarian and a half-orc barbarian have different favored class options — but I think this is better done using archetypes.

In D&D 4e and 5e, the idea of ‘favored class’ has been dropped altogether. Some races simply work better in particular classes, leading to a more natural selection. Half-orcs are often barbarians because they’re good at, and less often wizards because they’re not so good at it, while halflings make much effective rogues than half-orcs do (“YOU NO SEE KROD!” notwithstanding).

None of these exactly matches what I want. There are some closer matches in my next post.

Echelon Reference Series Spell Books Complete!

Echelon Game Design LogoThe 2017 GM’s Day Sale is almost over, but you still have a couple of days if you want to pick up any Echelon Game Design products at a 30% discount.

(They’re also available at Paizo and the Open Gaming Store, both of which give me a better cut, but DriveThruRPG/RPGNow have a 30% GM’s Day Sale going right now.)

The Echelon Reference Series Spell Book Series has now been fully released. All spell books have been compiled, organized, and published to DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.

The spell lists from all sources used have been compiled and organized by level and spell school for each list (so if you want to see all the sorcerer/wizard level 5 evocations in one place, you now can — from the entire PRD for that version, or from the entire PRD and select 3pp sources for that version). The spells for each list are grouped by level and then ordered by name

The individual ‘list levels’ have just the spell list and spells for that level (two lists in the case of summoners: base class and unchained have slightly different lists). The compilation has the combined spell list and all the spells for that class. The bundles contain the individual spell level PDFs and the compilation (free! so if you’ve been buying the individual PDFs you can get the compilation at no additional cost).

That’s it for now, I’m taking a break from the Echelon Reference Series for a while. I’ve learned a lot on this project that is causing me to rebuild my publishing workflow so I can get better data and better layout (and I think with less manual intervention, which was a major time sink this time around).

My next release is likely to be a replacement for the favored class mechanism that I think will do a better job… but more on that later.

Spells per Level
Spell List 3pp/PRD 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total Classes Using Spell List
Alchemist 3pp 92 100 99 77 59 46 473 Alchemist
Alchemist prd 42 58 54 40 23 20 237 Alchemist
Bard 3pp 140 250 277 216 145 118 109 1,255 Bard, Skald
Bard prd 20 82 107 68 50 34 34 395 Bard, Skald
Cleric/Oracle 3pp 128 225 284 264 219 206 143 138 99 107 1,813 Cleric, Oracle, Warpriest
Cleric/Oracle prd 13 62 94 70 60 58 36 25 26 21 465 Cleric, Oracle, Warpriest
Druid 3pp 101 232 262 220 180 153 118 84 72 79 1,501 Druid
Druid prd 14 67 74 64 49 34 32 20 18 18 390 Druid
Elementalist prd 6 15 28 25 24 27 17 13 14 12 181 Elementalist Wizard
Inquisitor 3pp 34 124 137 121 101 72 55 644 Inquisitor
Inquisitor prd 14 65 77 66 52 36 24 334 Inquisitor
Magus 3pp 30 92 101 96 63 49 44 475 Magus
Magus prd 15 58 57 48 32 22 25 257 Magus
Paladin 3pp 117 104 93 106 420 Paladin
Paladin prd 44 46 33 27 150 Paladin
Ranger 3pp 204 149 121 84 558 Ranger
Ranger prd 65 55 41 20 181 Ranger
Sorcerer/Wizard 3pp 229 491 568 534 483 403 318 277 215 208 3,726 SorcererWizard, Arcanist
Sorcerer/Wizard prd 22 137 163 142 124 102 83 74 49 44 940 SorcererWizard, Arcanist
Summoner 3pp 39 81 95 100 87 83 83 568 Summoner
Summoner prd 12 37 45 56 52 45 45 292 Summoner
Witch 3pp 123 200 251 221 188 163 142 131 122 109 1,650 Witch
Witch prd 15 83 107 88 70 51 39 40 28 22 543 Witch

Links in the table above:

  • For a specific spell level, takes you to that specific spell lists level’s PDF;
  • For the total, takes you to the compendium of that spell list PDF;
  • For a class name, takes you to the Echelon Reference Series title for that class.
Echelon Reference Series Covers

ERS Covers, Man do I like how they look all together like this.

On the State of Mapping Software

A couple weeks ago there was a conversation about what people use for creating RPG maps. I decided to do a brief rundown of my view of existing software.

Available Mapping Software

Presented in no particular order, let’s begin.

Campaign Cartographer 3

CC3: many people like it, and I admit it is a powerful tool. I used earlier versions (back to the MS-DOS days, when I had to lie to it to get it to use my printer). Learning curve was always steep and long, can’t honestly say what it’s like now because it’s more expensive than I’m willing to pay.

Does a nice job, if the style is to your liking. I must say that they have probably the prettiest symbols — a great step up from the CC1 in MS-DOS days — of all the mapping software I’m familiar with.

While much of the emphasis in galleries is on overland maps, Campaign Cartographer can do city and dungeon maps as well, and has software expansions specifically to support and expand on these topics.

https://secure.profantasy.com/products/cc3.asp

Freie Lande CC3 Sample

Freie Lande CC3 Sample

Inkarnate

A couple people have pointed out that I missed Inkarnate. Mea culpa, I’d completely forgotten it because while I am aware of it, I haven’t had a chance to explore it. I will correct this soon.

Not only is this a popular program, a quick look shows me it builds some beautiful maps.

http://inkarnate.com/

I took about 10-15 minutes and took a run at Inkarnate. No instructions, just messed with the web application a bit to see what I could figure out. The map is busier than I’d normally aim for, mostly because I wanted to see how the objects interacted: the work around each other pretty nicely. I’d first laid the mountain range down the west coast, then the hills around those, and later came back and added the mountains and hills just to the east of those, and the ones on the center peninsula. Select “place object’ tool, select the object, and just scribble. If there’s room, it’ll be added.

All in all I think there’s a lot of potential here. The symbol set is small at this point, the landform sculptor could really use some options to make it not-smooth (right now you sculpt hexes, squares, or sweep with a circular brush). I’d rather see some more jaggy, ‘fractal shape’ to the landform.

I’d give this pretty high marks for ease of use, and the symbol sets look very good. I understand they’re still in development (there was an option to sign up for the beta), but if there were a ‘consumer version’ that was ready to go with a bigger symbol set (I see it’s possible to import symbols, but I like how these look and I’d like to see the same style, expanded… I see mention in earlier news on the site that more symbols are available, but I haven’t seen how to access them), the ability to make jaggy landforms, and the ability to add linear features such as roads or rivers (that aren’t just narrow waterways cut out of the landform) I could see paying for this tonight.

Inkarnate Test Map

Inkarnate Test Map

AutoREALM

AutoREALM was an early piece of software, did a decent job but it was crude compared to CC. To the best of my knowledge — which is pretty good, I was involved in the project for a time — Andy Gryc, the original creator, has abandoned it, and despite a few efforts to pick it up and make a more modern version, it’s basically frozen where it was. On the other hand, price is great (free).

To be honest, it was hard to find an image that gave a good representation of what could be done with AutoREALM. It was quite easy to throw a map together, but quite difficult — steep learning curve — to do something that really looked good. I did find one map that looked very impressive, but it would have taken an inordinate amount of time and expertise: it would have been unfair, I think, to include it as an example of what a regular person might do.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/autorealm/

Fractal Mapper

Fractal Mapper was, for a time, my mapping software of choice. I still use it on occasion when I have something I want to do quickly. Much easier to learn and much gentler on the pocket than CC, more capable than AutoREALM. Good introductory software, and for a long time the closest I’d found to “the mapping software I would write”.

The screenshot below is an overland map, but Fractal Mapper can handle dungeon and city mapping as well. It does not have the same degree of development for these that Campaign Cartographer does, but it works pretty easily. Also, you can associate game information (room descriptions) with the map elements and Fractal Mapper will generate the adventure text for you.

Fractal Mapper also includes a scripting language (“Goblin API”, a repurposed BASIC, sort of) if you want to delve that deeply. As a professional programmer I appreciate the capability, but didn’t find that I needed it for what I wanted to do.

http://nbos.com/products/fractal-mapper

Fractal Mapper 8 continent screenshot

Fractal Mapper 8 continent screenshot

Other World Mapper

Other World Mapper is even closer to being “the mapping software I would write”, but is still in beta (which I’ve toyed with a bit, beta 0.6 was released Dec 31). I am really looking forward to the finished version.

http://www.otherworldmapper.com/

The image below is only one-quarter the size from the Other World Mapper gallery. The original image is 4000×2500 pixels, I reduced it quite a bit so it would fit at all on the page. This renders the labels illegible, so click on the image below to see the original.

Farangor -- Other World Mapper Sample

Farangor — Other World Mapper Sample

Dundjinni

Dundjinni, I can’t say much about. I tried it, found it didn’t suit me well, walked away. It looks like things are about dead over there.

http://www.dundjinni.com/

Dundjinni Graveyard

Dundjinni Graveyard

Hexographer

Hexographer, from Inkwell Ideas, is a little clunky at times but does a decent enough job at hex maps — especially if you get the extended symbol sets, but the default ‘class hex symbols’ are pretty nostalgic. I will be getting the newer version when Joe’s finished updating the software.

I have not done anything with his Cityographer or Dungeonographer, but I do like breaking out the Coat of Arms Design Studio for making holy symbols (thanks Joe, for adding ’round shields’ to the list).

http://www.hexographer.com/

The sample image below is taken from an Inkwell article on how to draw “Greyhawk-style” maps.

Hexographer Sample, Greyhawk Style

Hexographer Sample, Greyhawk Style

 

Fantastic Mapper

Jonathan Roberts (“Fantastic Maps”, did the maps for _The Lands of Ice and Fire_ book) is working on a project he calls “Fantastic Mapper”. Last update was a while ago, but it appears it’s still running.

http://fantasticmapper.com/

Fantastic Mapper Sample

MapTool

I was prompted also to discuss MapTool, and I don’t have much to say. We did use it many years ago as a virtual tabletop (VTT) while playing games in IRC (text via IRC, map via MapTool), but I didn’t know anyone in our group who actually used it to make maps. However, since it seems I’m going for more completeness than originally expected, I’ll include the link here.

I think it important to mention that it appears this is an open source project, with access to the source code via GitHub. This gives people the option to join in and help develop it further (as do AutoREALM and Dave’s Mapper, actually).

http://www.rptools.net/toolbox/maptool/

Dave’s Mapper

Also, just for the shiggles, Dave’s Mapper takes (with permission!) geomorphs and provides an easy means of building maps with them. Basically give it the size of map you want and style (cavern, dungeon, cavern/dungeon mix, city, sci-fi ship, or side-view — this one’s really trippy) and let it do its thing.

Source code is available via Dave’s GitHub. When I finally get around to buying the Dungeons in Blue geomorph sets I’d love to plug them in… but I’m awfully sure Mark (the creator of Dungeons in Blue) would not be cool with making this public, so I’d need a private server (no problem, I can do that) and the geomorphs are multi-phase (Dave’s Mapper appears to expect geomorphs following the Dyson protocol — 100-foot square geomorphs with openings at 3 and 8 on each side), so it might be necessary to adjust the software to accommodate such multi-phase geomorphs.

http://davesmapper.com/

I admit, I love the side-view option more than the normal option.

Dave's Mapper Sample

Dave’s Mapper Sample

Dave's Mapper Side View Sample

Dave’s Mapper Side-View Sample

Other Links

A couple of other relevant links.

Polygon Map Generation Demo

This technically is a mapping program, but the user has almost no control over what happens. However, I find it involves a fascinating bit of research and theory that I’d like to explore further in creating random maps.

Amit makes the code available under the MIT license, which allows commercial use. I have not had a chance to look at it, though.

http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~amitp/game-programming/polygon-map-generation/demo.html

Generating Fantasy Maps

Speaking of generating maps, Uncharted Atlas has created a truly nifty tool for doing just that. Where Amit provides a description (in a linked page) of how his software works, Mewo2 not only explains in the page below, but lets you see the intermediate steps and affect the outcome. The intermediate steps sometimes have options to show some of the decision-making information, such as when placing cities you can have it show ‘city location scores’.

City Placement, Initial State

City Placement, Initial State

City Placement, City Scores

City Placement, City Scores

Purple is ocean, green is land, yellow is a favorable location (cities like to be near fresh water), and as I recall the algorithm expects people don’t want to climb hills to get away from water.

They also don’t want to get too close to their neighbors. After placing a city the city scores in the region around the city get depressed. the I expect to see a city at the mouth of one of the two rivers to the northwest, then probably on the eastern river in the large north-facing bay just to the east of the center of the map.

City Placement, First City

City Placement, First City

City Placement, Second City

City Placement, Second City

As should be evident, after placing the first and second cities, the relative appeal of other locations increases (the score seems to be presented in a ‘most attractive to least attractive’ gradient, not fixed score). After the second city is placed the southern islands become much more attractive than anywhere remaining on the norther island.

… in any case, I’m getting distracted here. Like Amit’s, this program offers source code and provides theory I’d love to examine in more depth, so I can include it in other works. Still, since it does not truly allow map creation and editing as the other software intends it, I’m going to leave this one at an honorable mention. It fascinates me and creates cool stuff, but it’s probably not going to be useful to most people.

http://mewo2.com/notes/terrain/

Uncharted Atlas Map

Uncharted Atlas Map

GIMP and Photoshop

Many ‘serious mappers’ use normal image and photography software. I’ve used GIMP for years now as my go-to raster image tool, and I’ve used GIMP to make overland maps. I’ve also written a couple of mountain tutorials, starting with one at the Cartographers’ Guild, and back in April I had a brief series here.

First was how to manipulate a very simple mountain range (straight line with simple gradient slope) to get something that looked ‘properly irregular’, followed by how to pick a better landform to start with, then how to draw several mountain ranges together, and finally how I apply color to the mountains.

Mapping Landforms 3 Brown 40%, Grass Bumped

Cartographers’ Guild

I mentioned the Cartographers’ Guild above. Compared to many there I am a rank beginner at this. Their tutorial section is “kind of huge” and covers an immense range of material in an eclectic mix of subjects, techniques, and tools (software or otherwise). I recommend it highly to anyone interested in taking up RPG mapping.