Mapping the Veins of a World

I was opening a tab in my browser for a completely different reason, and I got completely sidetracked.

I’ve been using Chrome lately, and I have the Earth View form Google Earth extension installed so every tab I open shows me a new interesting image of the Earth seen from above. Altitude makes it looks like abstract art, but then you start recognizing features. Since I’m a fan of maps, I love looking at these.

This particular image just fascinated me, making me think about what’s unsatisfactory about a lot of map-making of fictional worlds, and especially in games. They are missing the key shaping factor of the ground surface:

Water is the shape of the landscape.

Karaginsky District, Siberia

This image shows the river that forms the southern boundary of the Karaginsky District on the Kamchatka Peninsula with the Ust-Kamchatsky District, just above the point where the river reaches the Pacific Ocean. It’s both a mighty stream and a little nothing rivulet, depending on the scale you’re considering.  Continue reading “Mapping the Veins of a World”

Advertisements

Mouse Guard Must-Have

photo-sep-08-4-48-55-pmI’m very late in discovering this, but the hardback compilation Mouse Guard: The Black Axe is a must-have for all readers of the Mouse Guard comics (David Petersen, published by Archaia) and especially for players of the role-playing game based on the comic, the Mouse Guard RPG (Luke Crane & David Petersen).

It’s full of information about what the Guard Mice do, the art is as inspiring as ever, and the book offers a nice appendix full of maps, illustrations of locations, genealogies of famous mouse clans, etc. (You can see examples of location art here, but the ones in the book are different and contain much more information.)

I made a thing!

2016-06-12 10.25.09 My friend Dorene’s mother just turned 100 this week, and there was a big celebration yesterday. After much hesitation I decided not to go and expose myself to so many people’s germs while undergoing chemo, but I did manage to contribute. When preparing the party Dorene wanted to give away mementos or party favours; I came up with the idea of a card deck using some of the many photos of Primetta, the centenarian, for the face cards. Primetta happens to be a fierce card player.

In addition to the family photos I used the Open-source software Scribus for the layout, card graphics from Openclipart for the pip cards, the ornate border snagged from one of the vintage photos to create a frame, and DriveThruCards for the card printing. DriveThruCards was fantastic; not only do they offer tutorials and templates for Scribus and InDesign, but their support is is helpful and friendly. (Shout-out to Brian!)

I had help from Dorene for photo selection, and most importantly from my husband Edmund for photo correction and resizing so I could just drop them in the layout without having to do all the contrast and colour adjustments. As usual with cards printed via DriveThruCards, the cards are pleasant to use and the deck shuffles well. Dorene ended up ordering 90 copies of the deck so she would have enough for the guests and for Primetta to give away to her friends at card games. [Edit: Primetta loved it! Big success. 🙂 ]

Here is what the cards look like. As mentioned in the image that shows Primetta’s mini-biography, she had quite an adventurous youth — she was in Italy when it entered World War II!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Land of Ten Thousand Gods: Map

I like making graphics!  My husband has written a hack of Dungeon World for a setting inspired by the mythologies of the Indian sub-continent and southeast Asia, called the Land of Ten Thousand Gods.  We play it twice a month over Google Hangouts, and fellow player Sean Nittner has posted the tale of the first few episodes here, here, and here.  Edmund created a hex map, which I re-interpreted in my own way.  (Right now, we’re in Fish-for-Dinner, the city on the coast at the lower edge of the big river delta.)

wet-plains

I wanted it to look a bit odd, like watercolours and ink by an NPC artist who doesn’t normally do maps, working on the direction of the adventurers.  I also wanted to keep it sketchy because in Dungeon World the players may keep adding locations in-between known sites.  I used MyPaint 1.1.0 because it offers an essentially infinite canvas, and added the symbols and labels in GIMP.  The font is Samarkan, obtained from fonthindi.blogspot.com; the symbols are primarily from StarRaven’s Sketchy Cartography Brushes on starraven.deviantart.com and a few other brush packs.

The Land of Ten Thousand Gods: Relationship Map

My husband has written a hack of Dungeon World for a setting inspired by the mythologies of the Indian sub-continent and southeast Asia, called the Land of Ten Thousand Gods.  We play it twice a month over Google Hangouts, and fellow player Sean Nittner has posted the tale of the first few episodes here, here, and here.  I made a relationship map of our four characters; naturally it evolves after every episode but I’m rather happy with the style.

Relationship map

The relationship map is created in GIMP; the pseudo-Sanskrit font is Samarkan, obtained from fonthindi.blogspot.com and the main text font is Gillius ADF No2 from Arkandis Digital Foundry; the arrow brushes are from SparklingTea on Project-GimpBC.  The background image is a Victorian engraving of the Pudhu Mandapam, Madurai, India.

The character pictures, well… Not so open source. Merit’s avatar is a pirate elf by Minttu; Kanta’s is a photo of Goddess Kali makeup by AllMadHera; Ram Jul’Rash’s is a Dwarf avatar created by Mike “Daarken” Lim for the online game The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age; and Rahi’s is a promo shot of Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris in the movie John Carter.  Used without permission, no copyright challenge intended.

 

Christmas Eve Exchange

As a tradition inherited from Edmund’s family, we open our Christmas presents after Christmas dinner, to make the holiday last as long as possible. However, as an offering to impatience and my traditions, we usually exchange and open one present each on Christmas Eve. So Edmund gave me The Badass Feminist Coloring Book, and I gave him a long-overdue portrait I drew of Kuri, the character from my book War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. It was all very art-y.

Kuri was just an aspect on sample character Iva the Stubborn’s character sheet until I needed one more character for a playtest event and Edmund decided to play Kuri, who ended the episode with a pirate’s hat as a trophy. Kuri is a Jaarl fawn who also appears in the micro-fiction penned by Edmund in the book. He had asked me a long time ago for a drawing of the character; I had several false starts but I finally completed it.  Hee!

kuri

Temple Handshake

I told you a few days ago how beautifully the art for Do: Fate of the Flying Temple (a project I’m managing for Evil Hat Productions) was coming along.  Here is a gorgeous two-page spread from Dionysia Jones; you can also read Art Director Daniel Solis’ discussion from initial description and visual reference to finished art.

Doublpage-Spread-Pic-B---Temple-Handshake

I can’t wait for you to see “Do”…

Do: Fate of the Flying Temple - coverFor the last few months I have been serving as project manager for a few titles at Evil Hat Productions.  Some are in early phases so that I can’t really talk about them yet, but one is getting close to the final stages. Do: Fate of the Flying Temple is a role-playing game based on the storytelling game Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple by Daniel Solis.  It’s doubly fun for me to be involved as project manager, since I playtested an early version almost two years ago.

It’s powered by Fate Accelerated Edition, written by Mark Diaz Truman, and Daniel is involved as layout artist and art director.  Three weeks ago he released the beautiful cover by Jaqui Davis; since then, art pieces by Dionysia Jones, Charles Andrew Bates, and other artists I can’t name yet, have been rolling in.  This book is going to be so gorgeous!  I just can’t wait for you all to see.

The Ghetto Tarot

File_001 File_002 File_000

I just received this beautiful tarot deck for an IndieGoGo campaign I had contributed to a while back.  It’s the result of  a collaboration between the Haitian group Atiz Rezistans (“Artist Resistants”) and Belgian photographer Alice Smeets.  Each image is modelled after the famous Rider deck which was designed over a hundred years ago by A.E. Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith.  However, this version uses settings and materials from the ghettos of Port-au-Prince, bringing a whole new layer of symbolism.  The deck is a little large for my hands; however, smaller cards would have obscured the details.

I have several uses in mind for it: tarot readings, sure, but also prop and inspiration in role-playing games, and a reminder of the hardships — as well as the art — in places that are too easily forgotten after the initial news headlines, whether it be Haiti, Indonesia, or New Orleans.

[Edit: The deck can be purchased here.]

What I gave my true love

Eric LofgrenThis year I focused on art for Edmund’s presents. I got two show pieces. One was Eric Lofgren‘s ink drawing of a British Columbia-inspired Eowyn of Rohan facing the Witch-king on his steed (from an ArtOrder Challenge a few years ago.) I just love Eric’s pen and ink work, and you can see from my choice among his prints a direct connection to Edmund’s choice of presents for me. Great minds, etc….

The other piece was commissioned especially for Edmund. You may have read my summary of the Tianxia: Blood, Silk and Jade (Vigilance Press) game I ran at Big Bad Con in October? In it was a funny scene where Edmund’s character, the wild forest girl Wolf-Eyed Yue, was made up and disguised as the Moon Festival Princess.

I thought it would be wonderful if Denise Jones, the artist who beautifully illustrated the Tianxia rule book, was willing and able to capture the scene. She was enthusiastic, and publisher James Dawsey graciously gave permission to use the likeness of the official Tianxia characters Wolf-Eyed Yue and Han “Dragon Dog” Ping. (The third character in the scene is the lao dan the heroes hired to help with the transformation.) It was a treat to see the various steps in creating the image, and I’d like to share them (I have permission from the artist to do so.)

First, Denise drew a sketch of the scene as she envisioned it based on my description.

moon princess power - sketch

Right away, you can see why Denise was the right person to illustrate a wuxia-based game book: she has turned what could have been a very static scene into a dynamic pose. She latched onto what made the scene funny for us in the game: the contrast in moods between Yue and her cheerful attendants, and the physical comedy of putting a wild forester in a fancy dress. To give the sense of tension and action, Denise has the two attendants pulling in opposite, slightly off-balance directions with Yue torn in the middle. Yue’s characteristic wild hair is being tamed, symbolic of the whole predicament. The only change I asked for was to give Yue a grumpier expression, more in keeping with the way our game unfolded.

Next, Denise sent the polished sketch in clean lines.

moon princess power - lines

Now Yue looks suitably annoyed at the spa treatment she’s receiving! You can see the line weights have been carefully selected to reinforce the opposed movements forming a slightly left-tilting triangle.

Next came the image with flat colour layout.

moon princess power - flats

The light and dark colour masses have been distributed to play with the theme of Yue being pulled in different directions. The violet of the dan‘s over-robe gives her mass and solidity, while the bamboo motif on the screen behind the characters counters this by reinforcing Ping’s movement. Light touches of red cloth to the left and right of the screen, matching the hue of Yue’s dress, now suggest an opposite triangle pointing upward. Yue’s scarf ties her to the dan and suggests being twisted out of shape.

Finally, the finished illustration!

moon princess power - paints

Shadows and textures make the image come alive and mute the lines to make the effects more subtle. The finished print is 11″ x 14″ (about 28 cm x 36 cm). It’s gorgeous.