DCC Dryad

Sep. 10th, 2012 11:02 pm
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
So, we just played the followup to The Tower Under The Stars. Here's my take on the Dryad:

Dryad: Init +0; Atk Tentacles +2 melee (1d4 + grab), Digest auto (1), Charm (DC 12). AC 19 (trunk exterior), 10 (dryad-fruit), 8 (interior). HP: 5 per tentacle, 20 (fruit), HD 15d8 trunk (must kill trunk to kill creature). MV 0, Action 1d20, SV Fort +6, Ref n/a, Will n/a. AL N.

The Dryad is basically a giant pitcher plant. It's about 70 feet high; the trunk is 20 feet in diameter. Branches start about 20 feet up. In form it resembles a very fat weeping willow with a platform of broad, flat leaves atop it. On top of those leaves is what appears to be (from a distance) a beautiful, naked woman. When the tree hears/feels large creatures approaching, it dangles the woman atop the leaves and makes her dance. Viewers must make a DC12 save or be charmed; if charmed, they are compelled to get to the woman.

The woman-thing is actually bait-fruit. It is kind of mushy on the inside, about like a mango, and smells of orange flowers and cloves. It probably tastes awesome.

The willow-frond-like appendages hang down in a ring about ten feet outside the trunk; they can grasp anything from five to fifteen feet from the trunk. There are hundreds of these tentacles, but only one will attack a creature at any one time. If a creature is grabbed by a tentacle, it does 1d4 damage initially, and then the creature must make a contested strength check against the tentacle's strength of 17 (+2) to avoid being grabbed. A grabbed creature takes no further damage, but is lifted thirty feet into the air after one round (standard falling damage applies). After two rounds the creature is over the leafy platform (no damage, but see below); after three rounds it is partially lowered into the dryad's digestive cavity. On the fourth round the dryad drops the creature into the cavity, causing 1d6 of falling damage, and see below for digestion damage.

The base of the tree is ringed by six large knotty sphincter-like openings. Anyone really determined can push a hand, spear, or whatever into one. See below for digestion damage. There is a notable smell of vinegar around the base of the trunk (this is actually digestive acid), and a conscientious search will turn up 1d6 gold pieces, as well as small bone fragments, outside the sphincters. The trunk is easily climbed (DC 5), as it is very knobby and burled. It takes four rounds to get to the lowest branches, and from there only two more rounds to get to the platform.

Once on the platform, anyone who approaches the woman will trigger the big, flat leaves to collapse inwards. Anyone on the leaves must make a DC14 reflex save, or fall into the digestive pit, taking 2d6 damage (plus digestion damage below). Once the pit has collapsed, the bait-fruit will be pulled upwards, and the charm DC is reduced by two. If the fruit takes damage, anyone who sees it happen will realize that there can be no bones or organs inside the "woman", and rather than spurting red blood, she oozes green sap; that is good for another two points of charm DC reduction.

Anyone in the pit takes one point of damage from the digestive acid per round. However, the acid will eat armor first; it reduces armor protection by one point per round, and only when the armor is no longer protective does the acid begin to eat the character. A character can cut his way through the side with a piercing or slashing weapon; it takes 25 points of damage to cut a hole large enough for a human, dwarf, or elf to squeeze through; 15 for a halfling.

If the creature is killed and cut down, or if it is somehow persuaded to void the contents of its digestive pit (perhaps through a timely Acid Cloud spell), a further 2d12 gold pieces will be found in the (acidic) sludge. Anything that is not gold or glass is dissolved over time; every few weeks, the tree will spit out a mass of (white, polished) bone shards.

For a more challenging encounter, allow the tree to move 5' per round, and give it a +2 2d10 Root Stomp. Its Reflex save, if it's mobile, becomes -4 rather than automatic failure.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
For my Vornheim/Gaxen Kane game. Draft 1. Subject to change.

Each time an M-U spell is cast, caster must roll:

SL = "Spell Level"
CL = "Caster Level"

(SL ^ 2) / (10 * ( CL + 1 ) )

Round that fraction to the nearest 5%, and caster must beat it on a D20. 1 is always a failure, 20 is always a success.

If the roll fails, the caster must make a saving throw vs. magic with a penalty of the spell level (so, -1 for a first level spell, -3 for a third level spell, etc.)

If *that* saving throw fails, roll 1d6. The demon powering the spell:

1-3) devours 1dSL from a random ability score
4-5) devours 1dSL maximum hit points
6) confers a mutation: roll on the d100 mutation chart from http://monstermanualsewnfrompants.blogspot.com/2011/12/1d100-table-of-mutations-and-wait.html

We can also use this for "overcasting" ; each time you cast a previously-memorized spell no longer in memory, it is treated as if you added the spell level to the effective spell level.

Thus: you're a first level magic user with _Magic Missile_ memorized. You cast it. That creates a 1/20 chance of something bad happening.

Then, you cast it again: it's now an effective level of 2, so there's a 4/20 chance of mishap. Your third try? 9/20....and your saving throw penalty increases too.

And...you can do this for learning and casting spells too hard for you at your current level, as well.


Dec. 31st, 2010 02:23 pm
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
This one requires a little back-story.

About a year and a half ago, on the last travelling gig I did at my old job, I worked with a colleague a little older than I am, who, like me, had been playing RPGs for a long time. However, in recent years he's mostly moved on to other interests, and he mentioned that he had a box of stuff he would never look at again, most likely, and offered it to me if I wanted it.

I said that'd be great. And then we both mostly forgot about it.

Except that then I got home after visiting my parents this Christmas and there was a big box waiting for me.

For the most part, this box contains what you'd expect it to: a bunch of pretty interesting stuff, some of it semi-valuable. For the most part.

There's one item in it, though....you'll see it later. Anyway, I have offered to give it back, because, while we're certainly friendly, I don't know that this guy really meant to send me a Holy Grail.

So, here's what was in the box.

First: some 1st-3d ed. D&D books and 3d-ed modules:

A whole bunch of Polyhedron magazines:

Some other magazines:

Murphy's Rules:

A couple of really obscure items. If anyone knows anything about "The Finding Of Morillion" please tell me about it. "You Bet Your Life" is a tournament module from Michicon VIII.

Some classic Judges' Guild stuff; the first edition of the First Fantasy Campaign is pretty valuable:

A closer look at one of the items; third and fourth editions of this are cheap and common, but the "Collectors Edition" first JG edition, I haven't been able to find pricing for:

A copy of Chainmail, Third Edition, Fourth printing. Not particularly rare, but kinda cool:

And then there's the last item.

The one that I am honor-bound to return if the donor wants it back. 'Cause I really don't believe he knew what he was giving me. (EDIT: I do get to keep it!)

Because....well, really.

This was not one of the ones in the Acaeum's registry (I have since sent them a scan). I don't know why Jim Ward, who had nothing to do with this product, signed the cover (except, probably, that it was what the original owner had on him for Jim to sign at Origins 79). (EDIT: Jim Ward ran it for the man who sent it to me, so that's why he signed it. That must've been something.)

But yeah. Try to imagine the shock I felt when excavating that box and Lost Tamoachan appeared.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to me.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)

More lucidly: I played something like 28 hours of RPGs with maybe 50 different people, some of them Very Big Names Indeed, and no one was a douche. I had a great time. I talked game design and sandbox vs. narrative and edition differences and stuff, and, you know what, no one got mad about it.

#1b: Not only are the Gygaxes actually human, but it turns out they're nice humans.

That goes for the Other Big Names. Frank Mentzer, Jim Ward, Tim Kask, Jeff Talanian, Joe Goodman, etc. The thing that I guess I should have realized but never really, really did: these folks really, really like playing games. And they are intensely fun to play with.

#1c: Oh, yeah, it also goes for the people whose names I didn't recognize

Well, we all came to GaryCon because, basically, we wanted to play some RPGs. Turns out that that, if you're not being an Internet Fuckwad, is a much bigger similarity than the Difference Of What Variant You Play.

#1d: At least ONE Catholic priest is really cool.

That'd be Father Brian (Graywolf), who was an excellent man to have holding off the skeletons while I bombarded the Sightless Serpent with fireballs.

#2: I wish I knew who Ken and Ida were.

Everyone else seemed to know them--everyone besides them that everyone knew I eventually figured out who it was (and, generally, which of their books I'd read/not read/loved/hated). But not them. Only I didn't want to look like a dumbass by asking.

#3: New Glarus Spotted Cow is really quite good.

#4: I now own (one of) Luke Gygax's copy of Gods, Demigods, and Heroes, signed by Kuntz and Ward, and by Tim Kask, who edited it...and I got Luke to write "Property of Luke Gygax" in it and Ernie to write "Ernie is king!" above that.

Luke mentioned that it might hurt the resale value. Like I'm gonna sell it. Pfah! That one goes next to my autographed Spawn of Fashan (yes, really).
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
From the very beginning of Clark Ashton Smith's June, 1934 story The Colossus of Ylourgne:

"It was widely thought, among the people of that vicinage, that his departure had been prompted by a salutary fear of ecclesiastical thumbscrews and faggots."

I bet I was supposed to think of the Inquisition, and not the Chorister. Ah well, sometimes linguistic drift brings out the ten-year-old in me. Pardon me while I wriggle and snicker.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)


Cthulhu and the beholder are creations of my friend Tracy Jo Barnwell. The Flail Snail is a Victorian spoonwarmer augmented with pipe cleaners, toothpicks, styrofoam balls, and silver paint.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
Magic Missile is overpowered. Which means I need to start doing more random encounter checks during the night. Our party tends to gun down monsters with MM and then spike the doors and sleep. Now, to some degree this is self-correcting, as the monsters will quite literally respawn in the Flesh Vats, but that's a pretty slow process.

Last session: the party killed Carlotta again and burned her apartments down--included a hilarious critical failure with a stake made from a crossbow bolt and Abbot Yorick's, um, mutilated corpse (to be fair to my players, we had established that Yorick and Carlotta had been lovers, so this wasn't entirely UNMOTIVATED barbarism) . The Assassin Vine was good and shocking to them. Then they waded slowly through the five Wight Barrows and rather cleverly zipped around the Dark Knight using Yorick's flying carpet. They're about to take on the Shadows.

Also, Amy remembered to use the Big Purple d30 for each of her mages, making MM even worse.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
So, last time we played, the party had just descended from level four (Sewers) to level seven (Vats, Library Top) via a manhole in the sewers. Then family drama arose in our group and more than half the table had to leave to go deal with it.

So, yesterday we finally got back.

The hatch in L7 opens up to a very nonthreatening area: the YMCA, basically. There are showers, a cafeteria and a rec room. The cafeteria had a table of dwarves and two tables of gnomes, as well as the ubiquitous Spanish-speaking halfling line cooks and their kobold overseer (this is a running gag in the megadungeon: all the low-level food-service workers are Hispanic halflings, and all of their bosses are kobolds with Outrageous French Accents). The cafeteria also has an orc named Gladys, with rhinestone-studded eyeglass frames, working checkout. You get a plate full of brown glop, green glop, yellow glop, or orange glop for a copper. They were out of orange. They're always out of orange.

The dwarves were wearing miners' outfits. The gnomes were wearing green surgical scrubs.

The rec room has a dartboard, a pool table, a couple of chess/backgammon/checkers sets, a coin-operated beer tap, a fireplace, and some couches. It also had a deeply asleep orc, who shortly had "BALLS" written on his forehead and his hand placed in a bowl of warm water.

Then the party did some 'splorin'. They found the gnomes' apartments, and laid in wait for them. A little fairly unmotivated murder later they had a hideout on L7. A bit more exploring and they had found the Feasthall and kitchens, and, again, did some more murdering and now they have a More Different Hideout. About this time I stopped giving experience for randomly whacking low-level NPCs.

Then, having extracted a level map from one of their victims, they set off for the Flesh Vats.

Now, I had originally wanted to do this all Brave New World or Star Wars Bacta Tanks, with big glass cylinders and gleaming white floors and stuff, but I decided, instead, that there was a reason Gary-Stu used gnomes as his Flesh Vats staff: it's all fleshy and constrictive and you have to squeeze your way through it and everything's all covered in blood and eventually you find the cysts where the replacement creatures are growing.

The party made a halfhearted attempt at killing the vats with some flaming oil and some poisoned crossbow bolts, and although Ruby Red got her face singed by reopening the door while the fire was still burning and that part of the vats was convulsing, she did not encounter any of the Leukocytes, which I'm really looking forward to. They ignore gnomes, I've decided. (It gets very Fantastic Voyage in there.)

Then they took the stairs up to Level five; the stairs open into the Halls Of Bone, and a critical failure on a flaming oil toss later, the party headed back downstairs having killed only a few of the skeletons. A rest-up, a heal-up, and another foray later, they retreated in disarray with at least six skeletons left, and decided to take their chances on Level Six.

This opened out into the Dwarven Mines, where one Charm Person later the assayer was very helpful, telling them to avoid the pudding in the Big Room, and the general locations of Stonybrook Farms, with Mary the Medusa and Zeke the basilisk, the Troll Caves, Edgar's Tower, and the rumor that there was a back door to level five somewhere in the northwest corner.

So the party headed up there, figured out that it was probably somewhere in the rough 40' square that they couldn't get into, busted out their wand of Secret Door Detection, and went in through Aaron Diggory's crypt.

They read the inscriptions over the other 11 crypts, got properly weirded out, and headed up into the center of the Unholy Cathedral on Level 5. A brief but not dangerous fight with the gargoyles ensued, and then the wand was busted out to find the rooms they were sure were in the northwest corner.

This got them into Carlotta the Vampire's lair. I talked up the library and its contents of trashy vampire erotic novels. Then they went looking for the vampire, and very nearly got wiped out. Third-level characters--even six of them--have no business going toe-to-toe with a vampire, even a fairly weak one. However, Aimee's roleplaying (!!!) saved the day. She ran from the combat, back to the library, and told me, "I'm looking for that signed first edition of The Vampire Lestat." Well, one Mind check later--an easy one, because, you know, it's in a glass case all by itself set off with little skull candlesticks--she had it, and ran back to the combat (where two of five people were still standing), tossed the book into the coffin, and tossed some flaming oil onto it.

This caused Carlotta to take a break from slaughtering the party so she could dive on the book and smother the flames, which allowed the party to get enough good hits in that Carlotta changed into bat form (so she could take the book) and tried to get away.

And Aimee saved the day again: she had, clearly written down on her character sheet, the ogre-sized tube of lube she'd looted from Jack and Ennis, the cowboy ogres on L3. Which she squirted all over the bat, which dropped the now-slippery book, and the party actually managed to kill (well, "kill") Carlotta while she was trying to save the book.

I think I might have been overly nice with Level Drains--although they immediately take effect in a combat (and were enough to drive everyone they happened to unconscious), if you kill (or, uh, "reduce to zero hit points") the thing that caused them to happen, then you only permanently lose half the XP in your current level. Mainly because I didn't want to have to replay Levels One through Three again to let the party rebuild their strength.

Then the party found the abbot's kitchen staff, and were about to bust into his private chambers; at that point Amy was nodding off in her chair, so we decided to call it a night. Overall, this was six or seven hours of roleplaying. I had a good time (although it was exhausting), and we saw a couple of interesting-to-me points. #1, correctly incentivizing the players does work--once they realized that murdering NPCs wasn't helping them, they stopped. #2, random bits of stuff will assemble themselves into a coherent narrative if you just let your players run with the ball. I had no plan in mind for what the players might do with the ogres' lube, and I didn't really have much in mind for Carlotta's literary tastes, but Aimee's suggestions made perfect sense in context. #3, your players WANT to creep themselves out. We saw this with the Flesh Vats and the Twelve Named Crypts.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
So, while cooking tonight, somehow I got to free-associating on the Spear of Longinus.

So, clearly it's a magic weapon, right? The Nazis want it (well, at least in Castle Wolfenstein 3D, which is, after all, an accurate representation of....uh, anyway). But, you know, it's just a spear that Longinus the Veteran (that'd be a First Level Fighting Man for those of you keeping score at home) poked some crucified dude with to see if he was dead yet.

Now, I'm a big fan of magic weapons in RPGs being rare. I really like the suggestion that All Magical Swords Have Names and Egos Yes Even The Plus One ones.

And I had a realization that--and I would love to know who's done this before, because it's a pretty obvious idea to have--you could have your magical weapons not be "it has the plusses you need to kill this thing," but "it is plus whatever because it has killed this thing."

So you get a kinda Dwarf Fortress vibe going on. Sure, you can have a +1 masterwork weapon that's not magical, just really well made. But beyond that, well, Rockbreaker the club got its name, and its plus, and its ego, from smashing the head of the Troll King Gruthark at the Battle Of Stony Ford 75 years ago. And there's a song about it.

Your Plus Six Sword Of Ogre Decapitation? Well, yeah: it's REALLY GOOD at decapitating ogres. And everyone who's owned it knows that, because after the first couple, the sword started telling them so. It started out as just a couple feet of sharpened steel...but then it became "the steel that slew the Ogre that terrorized the Coldwater Valley," and then things really got rolling. So your magical items become positive feedback loops.

You could maybe even get away with doing this in a game in which magic is only a placebo effect.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
Tonight we had our first chance to play the Mutant Future module I've written, Bring Me The Head Of Frank Sinatra.

Tonight's players and characters: Amy, playing the part of Peter Pepper, 20' tall mutated pepper plant, throwing grenade-like phallic peppers which explode and may cause radiation damage. Also has a heat ray.

Aimee, playing Shrieking Violet. Who's really Shrieking African Violet, and thus looks like Grace Jones with giant purple petals behind her head. Can shriek for sonic damage, and teleport. So her modus operandi is to bamf! in behind someone, shriek, and run away.

Oren, playing Dre the Friendly Giant. Seventeen feet tall, empathic, and with a very very low constitution (and thus terrible hit points). Can also teleport and has direction sense, so teleporting is risk-free for him. And has density control, so can shrink (or expand) opponents.

Keith, playing Lemmy the Badger. Lemmy has a giant wart on his face with a Defective Cerebellum in it, and a Freeze Ray. He also has the Fu Manchu that you'd expect from someone named Lemmy and wearing studded leather armor.

And finally, Rupert (who joined late because he was working), playing Liz the Lizard, who's, uh, a lizard with heat-reflective scales and ALSO teleport and density control (they both got rolled a LOT during our generation session last week).

On the sidelines: Slick Willie the Pure Human lawyer, and Spiny Norman, a cactus-skinned punk who heals very fast in direct sunlight.

So, the characters met up in Three-Arm Jimmy's on the Hoboken waterfront. They then went to the bulletin board, to find that "Have You Seen This Man?" with Sinatra's face on it wasn't happening until Wednesday at midnight, so they decided to do a couple of side items first.

What those were, were "Get my grandma out of the tree!" and "Help my kitty across the road!"

The first one: grandma was up a tree with a shotgun. Her granddaughter claimed it was senile dementia and she wanted grandma out of the tree. Grandma, on the other hand, claimed her granddaughter just wanted to poison her so she'd get her apartment. As it happened, grandma was right; the granddaughter in fact WAS a skank who wanted the apartment. (The BFG figured this out and got a semi-confession with his empathy). The first plan was to go get a lawyer--Slick Willie, in fact--to rewrite grandma's will, but when it was determined that Willie charged 50 gold pieces an hour, a plan B was hastily enacted. That plan was for Peter to lower the old lady down, have her scream as if she was falling, thump the ground loudly, and then have her sit up and shoot her grandaughter when her granddaughter ran out to pretend to be distraught.

This worked fine. Except that the granddaughter was not fatally wounded and went after grandma with a butcher knife. The party chipped in with cold and heat rays, and the skank was defeated and grandma was victorious.

Then the party camped in some ruins. The random encounter die came up, and the result was eight Morlocks (which the players identified as CHUDs, which, well, yeah, close enough) coming out of the sewer manhole in front of the ruined house. Because the Morlocks were tightly grouped, this was NOT a total party kill, as Peter got very lucky with one of the grenade-like fruit, which turned out to have 10d6 radiation as well as 2d6 explosion.

In fact, this one encounter got the party from 1st to 3d level.

Some healing was in order: enter Doc Croaker, a giant frog, and his Antique Healing Tank, which didn't malfunction....this time.

After that they went on the Help My Kitty Across The Road errand. The mad hermit of the Meadowlands is named Otus, of course. There was a Troll Bridge (Hwy 3 across the Hackensack River), guarded by the twin trolls, one on either side, Grognard and Grignr. They do in fact work for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

The Hermit lives just off the Turnpike just to the south of 3, in the big swamp south of Giants Stadium. I used, of course, the picture from B2...and, yes, his kitty Whiskers is in fact the Mad Hermit's puma. Anyhow, Whiskers was "convinced" to cross the road with, well, Dre's density control, a rope harness, and some roleplaying.

Then back to the job interview at the bar, which led to the Battle Of The Bands: a calf-roping contest between our heroes ("Peter Pepper and the Scrotal Saviors"), the Village People, Bob's Bionic Bandits, and Yarn (which was, actually, a Belleville band that a friend of ours played in).

The idea was to rope a calf (well, a Xeno Calf: two heads, pseudopod, corrosive slime) on a field and get it into a circle by the reviewing stand. And if you killed any of the other competitors, your team would be disqualified.

This was great fun. Among highlights of the fight: the Village People continually blowing attack rolls, leading to the cop shooting himself in the foot, and the biker getting his chain entangled with a) his ankle and b) the calf's horns. The racecar android managed to deliver the killing blow to the calf, getting tangled in calf guts, and then fell afoul of the density-changing Shrink Ray, turning into a very very angry matchbox car.

Finally Dre, running on a mere 3 hit points by the end, dropped the shrunken-down calf into the circle, thus getting the Witch-Queen of Hoboken (who looks oddly like Cruella de Ville) to offer the job hinted at in the module's title to the party

So much for the plot so far. The interesting things: the grandma-in-a-tree and the Morlock fight were entirely improvised, and most of the Whiskers subplot was also done on the fly. The Morlock was a straight-up sketch-the-map-put-minis-on-it-and-go toe-to-toe battle, while the calf roping had a weirdly Autoduel feel with tokens chasing each other around.

The ridiculous randomness of Mutant Future does feel very old-school. Peter Pepper is a completely unbalancing death machine, particularly since one of his levels up gave him an extra attack per round. The sheer absurdity of the game is a lot of fun. I've arbitrarily decided mutant powers can all only be used every fourth round, and only four times per day. Otherwise teleportation unbalances everything.

We're playing with fairly Third-Edition-esqe five-foot-per-square tactical combat. This week we tried letting you attack anywhere within your move, and allowing attacks of opportunity (one per character per round) when a foe leaves a threatened square. It seemed to work OK.

We've been using Arms Law and Spell Law for critical charts--basically, each die of damage a weapon does moves it right one column, so a 1d6 attack is A, 2d6 is B, and so on. I should have thought to use it for fumbles as well. Next session.

The nature of level advancement in Mutant Future--and having huge hit points at low levels--meant that the Morlocks were actually (with a lot of luck) not merely a survivable but a winnable encounter.

I spent a lot of time fumbling with the PDF. Next session I'll print out at least the melee, mental attack, and radiation charts so I have them handy.

All in all, though, an entertainingly silly game.



Sep. 25th, 2009 10:32 pm
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
I just ranted this on an OD&D blog page, but I figured I'd put it here because it was a pretty decent rant.

The question was "what animal do you associate with dwarves?" My initial reaction was "dragon" but a lot of other people picked "badger."

Which led me to:

Although there was that 3E or 3.5E supplement (was it Manual of the Planes?) that had the race produced by the coupling of, uh, dwarves and celestial badgers.

No, I'm not making this up. I'm going to go look right now.

All right, here it is. It's the Planar Handbook:

"Some instead mingle with the beasts they will one day become, creating new races that are perpetually half-animal, half-humanoid. Prominent among these are the wildren, beings descended from the union of partially transformed dwarf petitioners and celestial badgers."

Yeah, you heard it from Wizards of the Coast first: if you're a really good dwarf, then after you die, you get to fuck a badger.

And they say Carcosa is transgressive. Pfah!
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)

I took a Runner-Up prize for "Best Retro Use of 30x30 Space".

I am embarrassed about how happy this makes me.
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
Replying to Alex Schroeder's blog (http://www.emacswiki.org/alex) where he says that creating a Little Language for map description must have been a lot of work:

The funny thing was that writing the map generator and then entering the data for the features took no more time and was WAY less frustrating than trying to scan the map in and then edit it so it didn't suck with Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator. Plus, once it was even sort of working, feedback was immediate, because I could just emit the map and hit reload on a browser tab (Safari, Opera, and Firefox, at least, all have native SVG support). That was handy when I put corners in the wrong place, which happened a lot.

It's a classic Raymondesque Little Language approach.

I think I've run into its limitations, though. For starters, doing caverns with it is going to be hard, but would be necessary if I were to make this work for the other levels of the dungeon. I have a sort-of-design in my head to do caverns by mapping an arc between points and then walk a....well, let's be honest and call it a turtle...along it introducing random perturbations with a bias depending on how far the turtle is from the arc (to rubberband it back to the path, so the wiggliness is bounded). But if I do this it's going to create a HUGE SVG file, and doing it for closed (possibly filled) polygons may turn out to be a humongous pain.

And then there's something I ran into with the features like tables, coffins, toilets, ovens, spiral stairs in the map: what I really want to do is just define each of these as an SVG entity, and then plunk it down on the map with a location, rotation, and scale. At which point, suddenly, I have semantics rather than just a series of strokes...and I'm well on my way to creating a CAD system with a CSV user interface, which, well, I don't think I want to go there.

Thing three is that I'm just about to have to read and understand the SVG spec. I got this far by cargo-culting, but then a couple days ago I got interested in the question of why Safari and Firefox rendered differently, and determined that I was using the dasharray attribute incorrectly (needed commas) and that text-size had to be outside the style tag (I don't know if that is actually necessary but it seems to make it work with Firefox). Now, it could be argued that if I do that, I will be a happier camper--among other things, I maintain the Linux CLI port of Inform 7, which currently emits EPS files, and I bet that if I learned enough SVG to build my maps, I could make Inform emit SVG easily too--but, hey, I got a day job.

Wow. This turned into quite a treatise. I think I ought to put it up on my own blog too. (Which, if you're reading it here, I did)

athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
So, I recently entered the One-Page Dungeon Contest.

This was pretty easy--I just entered level 5 of the megadungeon I've been creating in my spare time. The fun part was making the mapping tools.

So, the dungeon itself was based on the One-Page Dungeon Level Template:

My megadungeon has all been built using this template. Level 5, in the version that's just for the megadungeon, looks like this:


Well, that's not terrible, but I really wanted a map in proper TSR Blue style, like classic first edition AD&D modules (S1 in particular).

There were a couple of posts at http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com/ about how to do a map like that, and the basic idea is: do a grid, scan your map to vector, overlay map on grid, fill with TSR Blue (== #1EAED0). I tried this, but neither Illustrator nor Inkscape was able to do much with my map, and when I was done it still looked terrible. I have no discernable drawing talent, and so this looked a lot like a dead end.

Then I had a realization: although I couldn't draw well, at least for this level, what I had was pretty much straight lines, and I already had all my corners and features plotted on a 30x30 grid. And although I can't draw, I can write adequate Perl, and generating SVG is really a pretty easy process.

So, I created a little language to represent the features on the level. Here's the example from this level:


Note that this could just as easily be a spreadsheet; it's just a very cheesy 6-column CSV file.

Then I needed a parser to take that language and turn it into a series of marks. This was a job for Perl. Note that this is bad, ugly perl. There's no use strict, there's no -w, I'm very sloppy in my use of globals. The thing, though, is that it worked, and it's trivial to tweak.


And then when you feed a) to b), you get the following map (when added to slightly tweaked text for the dungeon level):


So I thought that was pretty cool. FWIW, the best way I found to rasterize the map to put it into the ODF I generated the PDF from was just to open the SVG in Safari and then cut-and-paste the rendered map (Inkscape lost all the line width variation I used).



athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)

July 2016

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