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Physical Cartography

I've been working with Campaign Cartographer for the past several years to produce the maps I use at the table and in publications. It's excellent software for that purpose for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm a terrible artist.

That said, I got a book on fantasy cartography for Christmas, and I started working with it over the past few weeks, just playing with some of the techniques.


Mostly pencil, with colors provided by a mix of ink washes, acrylic washes, and watercolor pencil. I don't think this is going to replace my digital tools, but it's kinda fun, so this may become the new doodling on a notebook during meetings.




Recent posts

Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

I've remarked elsewhere on the sad demise of Pyramid. And I mentioned that my not writing as much for the third iteration of the magazine was a consequence of moving on to writing longer works. That's certainly a part of it, but another part was that the looser format of the second edition lent itself to a more eclectic, impulsive style of writing. Something which happened quite often is that I'd read a book, realize that there was a gaming angle on it, and write a brief article about it. "Atomic Zombies of the Pacific," for example, was the result of reading a book about recent exploration of the sunken ships of the Bikini Atoll and dashing off a lightweight piece on the topic before moving on. The tighter format of the newer Pyramid made that kind of thing more difficult (whatever I was reading at any given moment might not fit well with any theme Steven might come up with, though given his historical performance, I suppose that's deeply and unfairly undere…

For My Next Trick

Kromm and others have been indicating that they've been signing a bunch of contracts for new GURPS projects. I don't have one in that stack. Until recently, I've been busy with some other stuff (notably, revising articles for the Pyramid Dungeon Collection, coming whenever and hopefully demonstrating some ideas I've had about building a campaign world) and haven't had the time to concentrate on new stuff.

But my part of the PDC, so far as I can tell, is done now, and I can start thinking about the next project. I've got two projects in mind. One is relatively short and largely uses real-world information for GM guidance. The other is likely to turn out longer and is in the location/setting/adventure line. I'm not sure which one to pitch first.

The answer, of course, is "whichever one I feel more like writing," which makes raising the question here entirely rhetorical. But writing it down here helps crystalize the topic.

The Last Pyramid

Today saw the publication of the final issue of Steve Jackson Games's Pyramid magazine, as was announced several months ago. Broadly speaking, it was the victim of generally rough times within the gaming industry.

I'm one of what is surely a small number of people who have been published in all three iterations of Pyramid. I'd had some previous contact with SJ Games--some stuff I helped with ended up in GURPS Cyberpunk, which in turn has doubtless gotten my name on the Federal Register of Dangerous Hoodlums--but it wasn't until the later days of the paper version of Pyramid that I finally got up the nerve to try my hand at writing an article. The result was a short piece on low-tech (mostly Medieval) economies, which became my first professionally published work.

This, apparently, was enough encouragement. Having seen how painless the process actually was, I started thinking in terms of writing for publication. It didn't hurt that around this time I went to work fo…

Still More GURPS Terrain

I've been playing with a few more hex floor pieces.

One thing I've been seeing in a lot of printable floors is a sort of natural stone texture. It's a little irregular and uneven, though not so much so to make it unusable as terrain. It crossed my mind that rather than build a "natural stone floor" set of pieces, I could print flat floor pieces, shear some "rock" designs in half, scale appropriately, and print with a very, very small Z height. Those get glued to the flat floor and painted. That way, I'm not dealing with huge files (those rock forms use a lot of triangles). Seems to work pretty well.


What I'm not quite so happy with is a wooden plank texture. I swiped some very detailed wood plank hexes from a design on Thingiverse and scaled it down to my 1-inch hexes. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it works well at that scale. That said, I recently switched down from a .4 to a .3mm nozzle, so I'll try it again and see if that helps…

More GURPS Terrain

One of the things about printable terrain for D&D and other square grid based games is that their floors are really nifty. Stone tile textures, brick floors, curved sewer floors, and lots of other textures which I don't have the chops to reproduce at the moment.

But I'm working on it. The easiest thing for me to start on has been tile-like textures. That's basically just imposing a rectangular grid--a slightly irregular one for character in this case--on the raised hex surfaces.

These took to painting pretty well, I think. The design is, of course, over on Thingiverse.

Then I was thinking about floors with a wooden texture. And I remembered I own a CNC machine.


These are a bit rough. I recently replaced some old belts and pulleys, and I think one of the pulleys isn't tight enough, so I'm losing the occasional y-axis step. Still, they're good enough to be functional. In my copious spare time, I'll probably stain and shellac these.




Painting Terrain

So far, I fail utterly at painting miniatures. I don't have the steadiest hand or best feel for the texture of paint, so when I see people's fully painted minis, I naturally assume they're wizards and will in due course be burned at the stake. But I've come up with some approaches to painting terrain and architecture which appear to work for me. And if like me, you can't paint details, here's a guide to how I do it.

The materials I use include:
Cheap acrylic paint, the thicker the better.Kitchen sponges.Maybe some paint brushes. The first process I figured out working for me involves layers of stippling. Putting down multiple layers of what's essentially paint spatter gives this sort of natural stone look. To begin, cut the sponges into strips and pick at least three colors. For example, I often use dark, medium, and light brown or off-white or charcoal, medium gray, and white.


Dip the end of a strip of sponge into one of the colors and use it to stamp splot…