Tag Archives: Worldbuilding

RPGBA Carnival – Unusual Dungeons – Wrap-Up

May comes to an end, and so does the Unusual Dungeons RPG Blog Carnival.

After a somewhat slow start, we’ve had a number of submissions:

James Introcaso was the most prolific contributor this month, supplying us with a series about a prison for dragons:

And from myself:

Phil, from Tales of a GM, is taking over for June – with the appropriate subject “Summerland” (Summer in RPGs). Take it away, Phil!

(And of course, if you’d like to read up on past carnivals or check on future subjects, head on over to the RPGBA Carnival archive page.)

Enderra 2015

E2015: The Moons of Enderra

Back when I first designed Enderra, I decided that it had three moons and a (thin) ring system. I did this mostly for the imagery, not really thinking about the consequences much. Multiple large moons can have severe effects on the planetary environment. Universe Today has a summary of some of the effects of adding a second, Moon-sized, moon to Earth.

twomoons2
White Moon, Meet Red Moon

The scenario they describe is extreme, and I am not quite sure where they get some of their numbers (tides “thousands of feet” in height seem off) but I am sure they know more about this stuff than I do. Anyway, even with lessened effects, I have come to think of three moons as excessive.

At the same time, I do like the “exotic” visuals. Let’s ditch one moon and the ring system.

Enderran Moons . Size Comparison
Enderran Moons . Size Comparison

I’ve done some math to make sure the moons don’t cause huge problems. I mostly used GURPS Space for this, since I couldn’t find formulas easily, and ran the numbers for the Moon (of Earth) through the same process – for verification. Even when the two moons align, their effect on tides should be at most twice that of Earth’s Moon. The actual tidal levels, though, depend a lot on geography and local conditions. Yes, we will have some tides that are more extreme than on Earth, but it won’t mess with the fundamental state of affairs. Nights will be a bit brighter, and there will be a little bit more volcanism on Enderra than on Earth.

Both moons are tidally locked to Enderra – that is, they always show the same face to Enderra. The White Moon’s synodic month is 30.33 days, the Red Moon’s is 43.22.

What’s in a Name?

The two moons are simply named “the Red Moon” and “the White Moon”, similar to how Earth’s moon is just called “the Moon”. I might give them name later (the three original moons had names) but I think I like the simplicity of “Red Moon” and “White Moon”.

Blog Carnival: A New Year, A New World

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallThe start of a new year is traditionally a time that motivate people to change. For some people this means an attempt to lose a bad habit, but true adventurers are in the last stage of preparation for their spring departure – to go over the next hill, across the ocean, down into the depths of subterranean realms, or into deep space, to explore the strange new lands that lie beyond.

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is about new worlds, about their discovery and about the women, men, and other sentient humanoids who explore and colonize them. Do you run an exploration-centric campaign? Maybe a hexcrawl in a fantasy world, or about setting up a colony on an alien planet? Share your methods – what aspects do you emphasize, and how do you handle them? How do you create a sense of wonder, and maintain it? What strange lands are your characters exploring? What equipment are they using? What vehicles or other means of transportation – a wagon train, flotilla of barques, or slower-than-light Sleeper Ship? Who are your explorers, what motivates them, and who are their patrons and followers? What equipment helps them? What obstacles lie in their paths?

Share your new lands with us, if you can do so without spoiling them for your party. Show off your maps and designs. How do you approach setting up your worlds? Share your favorite world-building tips!

The RPGBA Blog Carnival

The Blog Carnival provides a monthly topic to inspire RPG bloggers to post about. December’s topic was “With A Twist”, check out the round-up post; and a full archive of topics is available if you’d like to see what was done in the past.

To participate, you simply post about the topic in any shape, way or form and post a link to your article as a comment to this introduction post. At the end of the month I’ll post a round-up with links to every post so readers have one central place to look up everything.

Enjoy… and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Update, February 1st: The Roundup has been posted.

Thanks to Adam for pointing out that the downloads of Shakespeare & Dragons episodes 10 and 13 were broken. I think it happened when Google updated Docs to become Drive. Anyway, I have fixed them, now hosting them on my own server.

As a VERY SPECIAL BONUS… I noticed that I actually have a 16th episode, “The Missing Ingredient”, which I never uploaded because for some reason it also does not show up in my iTunes. It’s now been added – enjoy!

Links:

  • Episode 10 – Plot Part Three, Structuring Plot from Character Desires and Forces of Antagonism
  • Episode 13 – Setting Part Two, Creating Cultural Attributes
  • Episode 16 – The Missing Ingredient

 

Four Additional Insignia/Symbols for SF Setting

Here are a few more designs for national emblems:

minor_nations3b

You are a serious geek if you know where I got the design for “A” from. “B” is a petroglyph of an eagle. “C” is Sleipnir, and “D” is a snowflake.

I am not sure which ones of these I will use; but probably C and D. At any rate I now have enough to cover the major nations of the setting.

 

Better Coastlines with Inkscape

I just came across a very simple method for creating better coastlines in Inkscape: Use the calligraphy tool instead of freehand line drawing.

At first glance, the calligraphy tool seems unsuited to creating coastlines, because it creates an outline and not a line. So I have been using the freehand tool in the past – and it has always been problematic; the coastlines never seem to be “nice” and rugged, and while drawing the color of the line I draw is in a weird shade that I can’t see too well.

Today i was working on some fjords. I created them by drawing the basic coastline, then creating a second shape – the fjord – which I would then subtract from the first path. Let me illustrate with an example:

Better Coastlines: Before (Yes they are just boxes :-)
Better Coastlines: Before (Yes they are just boxes 🙂

This rectangle represents my basic continent. There’s also a colored “ocean” layer underneath, currently invisible to the naked eye.

Okay, it’s a bit boxy. Let’s change that. With the freehand tool, drawing is awkward and difficult to see:

Better Coastlines: Freehand drawing
Better Coastlines: Freehand drawing

With the calligraphy tool, however, you just pick your color and draw away. Set a brush size appropriate to the scale you are working on – for this box I used a 25p brush width. You can immediately see that this is much easier on the eyes, if nothing else:

Better Coastlines. Calligraphy Mess
Better Coastlines. Calligraphy Mess

I tried to draw roughly the same coastline as in the freehand sample. I filled in most of the gaps but did not bother filling all of them in; you will see why in the second. Even so, I ended up with a lot, lot, lot of individual shapes; I created a single shape using the Path -> Union function.

Finally, I subtracted the “fjords” outline from the base continent box using Path -> Difference.

And this is our result:

Better Coastlines: After
Better Coastlines: After

Not only did we get much, much nicer coastlines; the little gaps left by the calligraphy tool created a lot of fairly nice-looking islands.

Of course there is also a disadvantage to doing that; it creates a path with a large number of nodes, so you’ll probably want to optimize this for large maps. Still, I think the results speak for themselves – I will try to create an entire map using this method at some point. And I wonder why I never had this idea before…

World-Builder’s Toolchest

I use the following for my worldbuilding:

Software!

  • LibreOffice – Free, cross-platform, can export PDF – what more do I want?
  • PagePlus X6 – Ah, yes. A (relatively) inexpensive software that handles layout (relatively) well
  • Inkscape – For vector drawing (mostly maps but also some diagrams)
  • FreeMap – For mind-mapping
  • The Gimp – Bitmap graphics editing (the background for my star map was made with this, for example)
  • Subversion – for creating backups; any other solution will do as long as you have one that actually works.
  • Google Earth – For reference, and for testing out my maps on a sphere!

Alternatives:

  • If you have enough money (or can get it inexpensively, say, on a student’s discount) the Adobe creative suite might be a better substitute for some of the above, but I am not wealthy enough to buy them.
  • MS Office is an adequate replacement for LibreOffice, and OpenOffice is a decent replacement.

Websites!

  • Well, anything from my link sections really – Plus Wikipedia.
  • News websites like the BBC or CNN or Google News are the best sources for plot ideas ever invented. A newspaper will do, too, if you are stuck in the mid-20th Century.
  • WordPress for blogging. Other blog providers will work too, pick what you are comfortable with, but personally I can recommend WP.
  • Cartographers’ Guild is worth its weight in gold and then some.

Physical Tools!

  • Lots of paper for sketching out ideas and taking notes – sometimes a quick diagram with a pencil is the best way to work on something, because it frees you from distractions
  • Binders into which I sort those, plus “WIP” printouts of maps and so on. Never throw anything away that you might use at a later time.
  • Cheap inkjet printer/scanner for WIP prints and for scanning stuff if I need to. Will replace this with a cheap color laser/scanner combo device as soon as I have the spare money for it.
  • Small Wacom Bamboo tablet (buy the largest tablet you can afford and can fit on your desk if you intend to do graphics or mapping at all. Trust me. You will never look back.)
  • Tons of reference books – A lot of expert knowledge is not or not easily accessible in digital form yet, and books often contain a lot of photos and other pictures as well that you won’t easily find online. Do not be afraid to check out the kids/teenagers’ section – those books are lighter on the details, but usually contain a lot of cool pictures.

Other stuff!

  • I use the “post it” notes function of my iPhone to take notes on world-building when I am on the road, then email them to myself every now and then.
  • Write down everything, every idea you have – every cool name you hear – even if it’s just individual words or one-liners. Sort them at home – I have several huge collections of ideas, name lists, and so on.
  • Make backups of everything! – My PC has 2 Harddrives that run as a Raid 1 (meaning if one dies, the other still contains all data) plus all my data is in a subversion repository that I synchronize securely to a server in a datacenter in Bavaria. If you don’t want to – or can’t – run your own infrastructure, there are plenty of cloud storage providers nowadays. Just make sure you are comfortable entrusting your documents to a third party – read their terms & conditions carefully.
  • Always respect copyright. Don’t use what you do not have explicit permission to use. This is both out of respect for the original author, but also because of copyright laws – breaking them can get you into hot water nowadays. When in doubt, ask your lawyer (and I am not kidding). When I collect stuff for inspiration (images, text, etc) I always save a plain text file with the same name as the work itself (but with a .txt extension) which notes author, source URL, and what license the work was released under. That way, when I go back to it months later, I know if I can put it on my blog or not, for example.
  • Whatever office suite you get, learn to use it. Use styles instead of manually formatting, automatic table of contents, foot- and end-notes, and so on. You will spend a lot of time in there; make your documents the cleanest to use you can. You will thank yourself later.
  • I am not a fan of fractal map generators. The maps they create look cool at first glance, but they are decidedly not natural, and this breaks suspension of disbelief quickly.

What do you guys use? Any tools or software you use that’s not on the list?