MoonHunter Sayeth 20180625


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
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Mapping: The MoonHunter Way

I love beautifully rendered maps. They are not just good information that is easy to use. They are inspirations for the players and the GM. They are pieces of art. It is nice that gaming can inspire such pieces of creativity/ art.

Okay, let me be frank ("Hi, Frank... I thought your name was Hunter...")

Ahem. Of the classic gaming skills, I am missing two.

1) I can't paint miniatures. I have tried. I have semi-pro painting friends who have given me some lessons. It is a good thing that I like markers over miniatures. They are cheap, easy, use my drawing skills and better graphics skills. So, I am okay with not being able to paint miniatures.

2) I do not make good maps. I can do the planetology and design parts. I mean I can babble on about planetary spin, tectonic plates, winds, currents, age effects of water and stone, lunar cycles, the impact of agriculture on the land, and so on. As you all know, I can go on and on about science stuff, social stuff, and other trivia related to setting creation.

I know about all the details that make a world geologically and geographically interesting. Then it comes to transferring those ideas to paper (or other medium). I tend not to do that so well. So I can describe it all beautifully; I just can't render it worth squat.

Note: I can do an okay job making location maps. (I have improved over the years, but have not perfected a MoonHunter way). I started GMing and roleplaying with The Fantasy Trip. First, it was all those Melee and Wizard Maps. Then it was for all those TFT encounters for all those years. After Bushido, I became the primary Champions GM for all my friends and a lot of other people. (Cute story from early on: I got in trouble for casing a bank. I was pacing it out to get the measurements for the lobby and the teller windows. Yah, I was young. I didn't get their problem with it until they told me.) For years I was drawing buildings, parks, streets, and such with hexes. We spent a lot of time at the table redrawing previously made maps on battleboards or composing places on the spot. (It was late in this period I discovered Battle Boards).

I eventually realized I was spending too much time and effort on these battle maps. I adapted what I was doing for my World Mapping. I started using regions and data maps. I stopped using detailed maps for most games and alternated between region maps or stage of the mind (description and imagination). I developed a way to map without mapping. (*1)

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Mapping the MoonHunter Way - Actual

One of the great tenets of GMing, or of anything, is emphasize your strengths and best skills and circumvent your weaknesses as much as possible.

My strength: Description and Details. My weakness: Graphic Mapping.

I could map but it was never as good as I wanted. (My standards are a bit high, but yah... I am pretty sad.). I could do rough sketches. I did rough sketches with numbers to a key where I had the details. I wanted to do a vast swath of my first fantasy world Arth ( 1981 ish). Arth was inspired by Chalker's Midnight at the Well of Souls. I was having a problem putting it all together. One attempt was to make it a bit "Star Lost". That was mapped by modules - big hexes. It was drawn out as a flow chart. That didn't work because there were complications with the walls. Still... I kept working.

Thus I created a fantasy world that side stepped my mapping issue. The map did not have to line up. The map for each biome was individual. It did not line up with its neighbors. Each biome was separated by a silver shimmer wall. Travel between biomes was based on intent and pathways.

Each Biome was internally consistent but could be linked in odd ways by the paths. (In one area if you follow a specific path west to east you arrive in one biome, but if you follow the path from east to west you arrive somewhere else entirely)

My formal map looked like a flow chart. Inside each box was three to five notes. (Yes, 3x5 cards was how I worked it out.). Each biome/ region had a box. I started making biome maps. I broke down and made each region in the biome a box with notes there. And often I did one more level. (Then I could go down and do my primitive battle scale maps). (*2)

Each Box/ card started with a few bullet points of key details and some rough positional relationship. They were typed output in a binder. I and eventually typed out in a computer and kept printouts in the binder... updating it from time to time. (*2)

My maps were flow charts or data maps to you youngsters. Thus I turned my personal bug into a feature.

So I stopped mapping for a while. I was running Fringeworthy so I just used normal topo maps from the USGS. Then I started running Champions (and other Hero). So no big maps. However, I would still plot out maps using the flow chart method. I started doing it for smaller areas and eventually for tactical scenes. I might do a rough map for the players so they could visualize it better.

For most of my gaming career I did the regions and flowcharts for all my mapping needs because I could never make a map that was cool enough or good enough to meet my personal standards (which I know are artificially high and if I was easier on myself I could probably make an adequate map.). (*2)

So The Data Map and Boxes is Mapping the MoonHunter Way.

Still I do like pretty maps. I just don't do them. (Heck same thing for miniature as well.)

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Mapping the MoonHunter's Dream Way

So I was reading a blog post by PlotDevice. He was going on and on about another blog by a guy name Jorm. So, being a curious monkey, I went and read it.

It made me happy and sad at the same time. Happy because it presenting beautiful mapping techniques in a simple, easy to follow format; sad because I didn't know how to do this earlier.

So. Go Here. Learn this. Be better than MoonHunter

Do Mapping the Jorm Way

Cartography Series Index
So you can see what you are getting into
  • Map Types
  • Cartography Best Practices
  • Pattern Library
  • Photoshop
  • Shapes and the Pen
  • Layer Styles and Effects
  • Blend Modes
  • Typography
    Map Making
  • Map Design Basics
  • Designing Fantasy Outdoors Maps
  • Designing Fantasy City Maps
  • Designing Fantasy Blueprint Maps
  • Designing Fantasy Isometric Maps
  • Designing Fantasy Battlemaps
  • Randomly Generating Land Mass
  • Drawing Mountains
  • Drawing Forests
  • Managing Battlemap Assets
  • Printing Maps
    Battlemap Techniques
  • Index of Techniques
  • Moss
  • Puddles
  • Stairs
  • Tree Stumps
  • Water
  • Windows

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*1) How very Zen.

*2) If you have played FATE, you can go with Regions as Zones and each bullet point as an aspect. Yes, FATE Zones work really well. If you have never played FATE, you should. Or at least get the rules to learn about Zones. I have been doing something like them since the mid 80s.
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