Arcane Game Lore

Shoot Straight, Conserve Ammo, and never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon.

Shrine of the Harvest Goddess Map

When the Shrine of the Harvest Goddess Two Sheet Location when up on DriveThruRPG it contained this map:

Full map of the Shrine of the Harvest Goddess

Shrine of the Harvest Goddess map with grid in standing structure

The file is labeled as having a grid but if you’re not looking closely you’ll miss it as it is only in the structure on the left of the structure.  @AkieshaRoberts commented about it and I told her I could put a grid across the entire map if desired.  It was really simple because the full grid was already there, just hiding below the rest of the map.  It literally took me less than to minutes to create this one:

Same grid but with a map over the entire area, not just in the building.

Same map, but with grid everywhere

All I had to do was open the file, move the grid layer up above the map layer, and resave.  She got it in an e-mail right after asking and now you can have it as well.

I thought I’d take this post and talk a bit about how the map was made.

If you don’t recognize the style, it was done to imitate the style of Dyson Logos, a cartographer of great talent, whose style I really like.  And it doesn’t hurt that he puts out tutorials and, thanks to his Patreon campaign (of which I’m a small supporter), he makes many of his maps available and free for commercial use.

Creating this map was a three step process for me.  I started by drawing the walls of the building, the large flagstones, the well, the garden, and the statue marker in Gimp.  I talked in an earlier post about making a hatching pattern.  That was done as part of this project and I used it to fill in the hatching in the walls.

When I created the image, I selected the size specifically.  The image is 2560×1600 pixels.  Which just happens to be the exact screen resolution of my Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2″ tablet.  I didn’t have to make it that size and in hind sight, probably won’t do that in the future.  However, one of the great things about this tablet is that it has a Wacom digitizer built into the screen and comes with a stylus.  When using the stylus, the tablet functions just like a notepad and I can rest my palm on the screen and draw or write without the tablet registering the touch.

So I loaded the initial image into SketchBook Pro on my tablet and got to work.  Using several of Dyson’s maps, plus his Overhead Map Key with all the symbols on it (Dyson, you should do another of these with terrain and interior features that aren’t on the first one) as reference , I drew in the rest of the map by hand.  I really like SketchBook Pro as it allows you to set up a variety of different pens with different thicknesses, pressure sensitivities, and other parameters and switch quickly between them.  Drawing in the crumbled stone wall around the cemetery was a lot of work but kind of fun as well.

Once I was done with the free-hand sketching, I saved the file and opened it back up in Gimp.  As an aside, you can get Gimp and Inkscape for Android and I have them on my tablet but it’s really just a port of the xwindows system with the programs running inside.  With a bluetooth keyboard attached it works pretty well but it’s kind of awkward and it’s easier to use the regular computer.  But if I’m ever traveling, I have my full toolkit on my tablet.

The reason to go back to Gimp was to create the grid.  There is a really useful filter (Filter->Render->Pattern->Grid) that lets you create grids of any size, line weight, color, and offset and also allows you to create the little gaps between the lines at the intersections.  (Actually I’m not completely happy with that last part as you have to do it by drawing on top of the grid lines with a different color.  In my case I used white which works everywhere where I intended the grid to go but not so well in the fully gridded map above.)  Anyway, I created a new layer and drew the grid on there.  I then moved that grid layer beneath my map.

To get the grid on the parts of the map where I wanted it, I simply went to the map layer, selected the white background in the areas I wanted the grid and deleted it.  Since the layer had an alpha channel, everything I deleted became transparent and you could see the grid on the layer below.  I simply repeated this for every area where it was needed.

The last step was to put a white background beneath the grid layer as well.  Since the grid was drawn on a transparent layer the sections deleted in the building still had some transparent pixels and we didn’t want that.  With that done, it was just a matter of exporting the file and using it in my document.

I learned quite a bit doing this map.  For one thing, I drew everything to small, I need a bit more resolution as the finer details get a bit washed out due to anti-aliasing.  That was probably the most important thing I learned.  There were a bunch of other small workflow lessons as well.

So that’s the story behind this map.  I’ll be doing more in the future.  Let me know if you have any questions, comments or suggestions by leaving a note in the comment section below.

In my next post I hope to be able to talk about the numbers from the pay what you want experiment I’ve been running with the Two Sheet Locations.  I’ve got all the numbers I need for the first part, I just haven’t had time to really look at them and write them up as I’ve been trying to finish up my homework projects for this semester.  Those will be done tomorrow so I’ll have a bit of free time before the next semester starts.

 


Opening Shots

Another bit of short fiction while I finish up my projects for the semester.  Science fiction this time.

The captain of the Pale Star Ship Chiara stared at the view from his ship’s telescope. They were finally close enough to the unknown ships to start to make out details. From what he saw, they were nothing like any ship in the Frontier worlds.

There seemed to be a variety of different designs but they all seemed to follow similar patterns. The nose of each ship was a large sphere. This was connected to the main body by a narrow neck. The main body of each ship was a bulbous affair. Everything seemed rounded and smoothed over. Very different than the more angular shapes of most Frontier ships, although there was some resemblance to the smoother dralasite designs.

The one thing they did share with Frontier ships was that the engines were mounted externally, away from the hull on struts. The engines seem to be similar in operation, if not design, to the PSS Chiara’s own atomic engines as the sensors reported similar signatures from the unknown ships’ engines as they had from their own.

The question on everyone’s minds was where they came from. The huge flotilla of unidentified ships was detected about thirty hours previously headed towards both Pale and New Pale, the two planets in the Truane’s Star system. All attempts to communicate with the ships had failed.

Since all remote communication attempts had failed, it had been decided to send a ship out to attempt to communicate from closer range. The Chiara and her crew, along with her passengers, had volunteered for the mission. Although the captain was now having second thoughts now that they were up close and could see the ships directly.

The captain turned to his second officer. “Is the data feed going out?”

“Yes, sir. Everything is going out in real time to both Pale and New Pale.”

“Excellent.”

They were approaching the lead ship. It would be another hour before they were close but they had been approaching and matching speeds with the unknown vessels for the last ten hours. It was eerie, the unknown ships hadn’t responded at all. There had been no signals, no variation in their flight path, nothing. They had just continued to decelerate toward Pale at the same steady pace.

That was another similarity between the unknown ships and those of the Frontier. They didn’t seem to have any sort of artificial gravity as they had been decelerating at just under one standard gravity since they had been detected.

As the ships drew closer together, Chiara’s captain started to feel uneasy. As they got closer, they were able to distinguish greater and greater detail on the ships. While mostly featureless, there were some features on the surface of the ships that looked disturbingly like weapons, although of what type he could not tell.
“Start hailing them again,” the captain ordered. “We detected them due to radio transmissions between the ships. Start on those frequencies and expand from there.”

“Yes, sir,” came the reply. “Commencing now.”

The captain listened as the calls went out and watched the view from the telescope of the ship. Nothing happened for a long time. He had just looked away from the screen to survey the crew on the bridge when his first officer called out. “Captain, look, there seems to be some motion on the ship.”

Whipping his eyes back to the screen the captain noticed that several protrusions on the surface of the ship that he had noticed earlier were rotating and beginning to point toward the Chiara. The bad feeling got worse.

Hitting the control for the ship’s intercom, he yelled to the crew. “Strap in and prepare for high gee maneuvers.” Not waiting for responses he called out to his pilot. “Bring the ship ninety degrees to port as fast as possible and throttle up the engines as far as they will go.” As the pilot began to respond, the captain strapped himself into his chair.

Looking at the view of the unknown ship, the captain hopped his was wrong about what the response from this ship meant. They were only a few tens of thousands of kilometers away from the lead ship now and it dwarfed the Chiara in size.

Suddenly there was a flash from several points on the alien spacecraft and alarms erupted all over the Chiara’s bridge. Glancing at his display the captain could see damage reports coming in from various parts of the ship. He also noted that they were suddenly in freefall.

“Bridge, Engineering. Both our engines are off line. They have both sustained damage of some sort.”

“Hull breach in crew deck two,” came another report. “The entire starboard section has been vented to space.”

“Life support failure. Primary life support equipment has failed. Backup system engaging.”

“Captain, radar. The alien ship has just launched a small object towards us.”

The captain looked back at the view screen. Amazingly the telescope had remained locked on the alien ship. It took him a few seconds to find the object but he found it. It looked like a small black dot surrounded by a glowing halo. He realized that it was some sort of rocket under thrust directly toward him. “Radar, what is the speed and closing rate of that object?”

“Captain, it is accelerating at about thirty gee and headed straight toward us. Estimated time to impact is three minutes if it doesn’t change it’ acceleration profile.”

Despite the implications, the captain was proud that the radar operator was responding calmly.

“Communications, open a comm channel back to Pale with our data feed.”

“Comm channel open captain.”

Taking a look around the bridge, the captain began what he was sure was his final transmission. “This is the TSSS Chiara. Having approached to within one hundred thousand kilometers of the lead alien vessel, we once again began attempting to communicate with the ship. We received no response until we closed within forty thousand kilometers at which point the ship opened fire on us with some sort of laser weapon. They completely disabled our engines and opened up a couple breaches in our hull including damaging our primary life support system.”

As the captain talked, the crew all began to watch him. He continued. “Immediately after the laser attack a single object was launched toward the Chiara. Based on its acceleration profile and trajectory, I can only assume that it is some sort of missile or torpedo. Time to impact is now less than two minutes.

“We cannot maneuver and the object is now close enough that it couldn’t stop before hitting us even if it tried. We will continue to transmit data but if the feed suddenly stops, at least you’ll know why. Good luck. Chiara out.”

With that he closed the transmission and turned to stare at the view screen. The object was much closer now and glancing at his display from the radar, it appeared to be about ten meters long and about a meter in diameter. The captain watched it as it closed the distance between them.

There was a flash and then the Chiara bucked under his chair throwing him against his restraints. He could feel heat radiating up from the lower decks and then the air being sucked out of the ship as it broke apart and vented its atmosphere to space. And then the fire welled up from the lower levels to consume the bridge and its occupants. With the air lost to space, the fire quickly died out leaving the interior of the broken Chiara dead and lifeless.

The alien ships continued onward, steadily decelerating toward Pale, not even seeming to notice the drifting hulk of the Chiara as they passed.


A Fateful Night

Omri stood at the base of the statue gazing up at the face of his goddess. He could hear the sounds of fighting approaching the church. “What would you have me do?”

His communion with the goddess was interrupted as the main doors to the church were quickly opened and slammed shut. “They’re almost here,” Kalin said, leaning against the door to catch his breath. “We must flee or be killed. They are cutting down everyone in their path.”

With a last look at his goddess, Omri made a decision. “You are right, Kalin. You must go. Use the south doors. Find your family and escape the city if you can.” Taking a pouch from his waist, Omri crossed the chapel to the offering box and opened it. Scooping out the few coins remaining, he deposited them in the pouch and pressed it into Kalin’s hand. “Take this and go quickly.”

“But what about you?” Kalin asked, worry in his voice. “You can’t stay here.”

“I have nowhere else to go. This church is my life. And giving that life in the service of Falicia is all I can really hope for. Don’t worry about me. Go. And be careful.” Omri quickly ushered Kalin to the doors at the opposite end of the church. “Go east through the cemetery and over the far wall.”

“But Omri, I can’t –“ Kalin tried to object.

“You must.” Opening the door, Omri propelled him on his way. “May the bounty of the goddess always shine on you and your family, Kalin. Now go!”

Shutting and barring that door, Omri returned to the main chapel and drew a chair to sit directly in front of the main chapel door which was closed but unbarred. He then retrieved his staff and sat with it across his lap to wait. It wouldn’t be a long one. The sounds of fighting and looting were growing louder by the minute.

It wasn’t more than a quarter of an hour later when the door to the church was thrown open. Sanding there was a small group of soldiers from the invading army. They paused at the sight of Omri sitting calmly in the chair before the door.

“What business have you here?” Omri asked, rising to his feet and resting the end of his staff on the floor. “This is a holy sanctuary and a place of worship. There is nothing for you here, continue on your way or face the displeasure of the harvest goddess.”

“What is your goddess going to do?” the leader of the group asked. “Frown at us?” Those behind him chuckled. “We’ll leave when we’re good and ready old man. And we’ll take what we want with us.”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Omri couldn’t help but smile to himself. “Old is in the eye of the beholder,” he thought to himself. “I’m only 37 but probably have at least a decade or more on these ruffians.

Out loud he continued, “Begone or be cursed, anything you take from this sanctuary will only result in misery and suffering.” Omri could see him eyeing the golden basket and staff held by the statue of the goddess behind him.

“You have an army hiding in the shadows old man? I think the five of us are more than a match for you and we’ll take what we want.”

“So be it,” Omri said, then lowering his voice, “In the name of Falicia, goddess of the harvest and bounty, I curse all who would defile her sanctuary. May your lands never yield fruit, may your house be barren, and may all your endeavors forever turn to your ruin.”

The others were somewhat shaken by this bold pronouncement but the leader just looking around skeptically, “Are we supposed to be afraid now? The only thing to come to ruin is you old man. Let’s take him and loot this place, there’s gold to be had.”

The mention of gold galvanized the others to action and their greed overpowered their trepidation. As a group they surged toward Omri, the leader in the fore.

Omri just shook his head sadly. With practiced ease, his staff whistled through the air, the tip that had been resting on the floor catching the leader in the temple, stunning him. A quick reverse of the staff and the other end caught him in the sternum, knocking the wind out of him and pushing him back into the man behind him. Off balance, they both fell to the floor, arms and legs tangled.

The other three hesitated when they saw their leader go down but his angered, “Get him!” a moment later when he recovered his breath spurred them on. They rushed Omri en masse and he was hard pressed to keep them all at a bay.

Slowly retreating, he managed to land a few blows, including a broken arm before he was backed up against the statue of Falicia. Knowing that they could not easily get behind him, he went on the offensive. Caught off-guard by the sudden attack, Omri caught the leg of one of the men with the full force of a blow, breaking it and taking him out of the fight as he collapsed on the ground. This distracted the man with the injured arm and Omri caught him across the forehead with the staff, knocking him out.

Omri hadn’t escaped unscathed. Despite his best efforts he had received several cuts on his arms and legs and one on his side. He was bleeding more than he would like and knew he wouldn’t be able to keep this up much longer. He fully expected to die but wanted to make his attackers pay dearly. Giving it his all, he launched another attack at the remaining man facing him and allowed all of his indignation at the violation of his goddess’s church loose. His staff was a blur, first catching the man in the side, then the groin, and then across the temple. With that last blow, his opponent collapsed.

Unfortunately for Omri, that was the very moment the leader of the band rejoined the fight. Furious at being embarrassed in front of his men, he charged full speed at Omri, catching him just as he landed the finishing blow on the other soldier. Using his speed and mass, the leader slammed into Omri with his sword and knocking him back into the statue of Falicia. Omri managed to partially deflect the blow so that the sword impaled his leg instead of his abdomen but as his head snapped back into the marble of the statue, he lost all consciousness and collapsed to the floor.

Omri awoke in his bed, a feeling of peace in his soul despite the troubling memories in his mind. Carefully feeling his arms, legs, and head, he could find no traces of the wounds he remembered receiving in the battle with the soldiers.

Looking around his room, nothing was out of place and he was beginning to wonder if it was all a terrible dream. He dressed, and upon leaving his room, realized that it had not been a dream at all. The walls in the passage outside his room were blackened slightly with soot and the door out to the chapel was slightly askew, one of its hinges being broken. Carefully opening the door, he dreaded what he would see. The reality was both better and worse that he could have hoped and all the peace he had felt quickly evaporated.

His gaze first fell on the stone pedestal the statue of his goddess stood upon. It was blackened with soot and surrounded with charred fragments of the roof. Fearing what he would see, he raised his eyes to the statue itself. The gold basket and staff were gone but otherwise the statue of the goddess stood undamaged and unblemished on its pedestal in the golden morning sunlight.

Omri’s eyes blinked at the brightness. The church itself had been destroyed, The wooden beams and thatched roof had burnt to the ground and many of the stone walls collapsed as well. The main chapel and acolyte’s quarters were completely destroyed with half burnt furniture and other effects strewn about the floor. For some reason, however, the priest’s wing, where his rooms lay, was basically untouched, as was the stone archway over where the main doors once stood.

His heart heavy, Omri began sifting through the ruins and the rubble looking for anything that could be salvaged. After a while, he noticed that it was strangely silent, almost as if he was utterly alone. The sounds of fighting and a city under siege were gone. Looking around a bit more carefully, he noticed the six day old moon rising in the east. Which was odd, the last he remembered, it was just the second day after the new moon. That was the day the defenders broke through and the church was attacked. Could he have been asleep for four days? And for that matter, how had he gotten to his bed? And where were his wounds?

He returned to the center of the chapel and gazed once again up at the face of his goddess. There seemed to be something subtly different about the statue. He knew the face well, having gazed at it at least daily since the statue was placed in the church some fifteen year earlier. And besides that, he was the one who had given the description of the goddess that the sculptor used, having seen her in a vision at age nine. This face had been in his mind for nearly three decades. Maybe it was the sunlight, but the statue looked even more lifelike than usual, as if she was going to come to life and step down of the pedestal.

With that thought, Omri’s breath caught as another memory flooded into his mind.

Groggy and in intense pain from the sword wound in his leg, Omri struggled for consciousness. He was laying at the base of Falicia’s statue and could hear the looters moving around the church.

“That’s everything of value,” he heard on of the men say.

“Wasn’t much,” their leader replied. “Besides the basket and staff off the statute there were only a few silver candlesticks and a few coins. And the gold is only leaf, not even solid. We’re done here. Let’s go.”

“Not even worth the trouble the priest gave us,” another muttered under his breath. Omri thought that was the one with the broken arm.

“What was that?” the leader called out.

“Nothing,” came the reply. “Just muttering about my arm.”

“The priest is still breathing, should we finish him off?” one of the others asked.

“Don’t bother. If that wound doesn’t kill him, what I’m about to do next will.” With that, the leader lit two torches; one he tossed into the pile of pews thy had stacked up in the center of the room and the other he tossed up into the rafters over the statue. “That will finish him off.”

Omri lay there with his eyes closed as they left, trying not to cry out in pain. After the sound of their departure died away, he opened his eyes to the site of the thatched roof starting to catch fire. He knew he needed to get up and get out of the church but the pain was simply too great.

Steeling himself, sat up to get a better look at his wound and try to move. The movement sent new stabs of pain through his body and he nearly passed out. As he sat there waiting for the agony to subside a bit, he noticed that the room was brighter than it should have been but as soon as he noticed it, the light subsided.

He was about to make another attempt to move when he heard a woman’s voice call his name. “Dear Omri, be at peace and remain where thy are.” His whole body exalted at that voice, and he looked up to see his goddess standing before him, the statute come to life.

She quickly knelt by his side and took his hands in hers and Omri felt power washing over him. The pain subsided but he felt a deep and weary exhaustion enter his very bones. Standing, she raised him up but he was too weak to stand unsupported. “Lean on me,” she commanded and began to guide him to his chambers.

“The fire,” Omri protested, “we must leave.”

“Quiet, everything will be fine.” She led him to his room and helped him lay in his bed. “You must rest now.”

As she said this, his weariness overcame him and he could feel himself losing consciousness. She took his hand and held it as he drifted into oblivion.

Omri drifted in and out of sleep several times over the next few hours, each time he saw his goddess watching over him. She smiled at him each time he opened his eyes and he would quickly drift back into slumber with that vision in his mind.

The last time he awoke, it was close to dawn and the goddess held his hand once again. Before he could speak, she said, “You must sleep Omri and continue to heal. You will be safe until then.” She then leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, whispering, “I will return.” With that, she laid his hand upon his chest and turned and left the room.

Omri wanted to follow but could not rise and once again fell into a deep sleep.

Omri shook his head, looking again at the statute. “Had it really happened?” he thought. His lack of wounds, the pristine statute among all the ruin, and the lost four days seemed to indicate that it had. That final whispered “I will return” teased at his mind and his soul. He desperately hoped that it was true and that he could commune with his goddess again.

Over the next few weeks, Omri did the best he could to clean up the remains of the church. In addition to removing the debris, he cleaned the statue’s pedestal and replaced the basket and staff with simple wooden and wicker ones. Somehow, that actually looked better than the golden ones that had been stolen.

Omri discovered that he was not alone in the destroyed city. There were other survivors that came out of hiding over the next few days as well. While there was not much he could do aid them, he provided what comfort he could and assisted them in finding supplies among the ruins of the city. Several groups of refugees asked him to come with them as they left but each time he declined the offer. That whispered promise still floating in his mind.

A few weeks later, and everyone that Omri had encountered in the city had left, the last group leaving three days before. As far as he knew he was the only one still there. He had gathered up a number of supplies and had done the best he could to clean and repair the still standing parts of the church. As he looked around, the loneliness and isolation began to sink into his soul. “Maybe I should have left with that last group,” he thought to himself.

That evening, as he was preparing to retire, he felt inspired to check on the goddess’s statute one last time. As he approached the door to leave the still standing wing of the church that was now his home, he noticed a faint glow coming under the door. His heart quickening, he opened the door to see that the glow was emanating from the statue itself. As he watched, the cold white marble of the statue began to assume the colors of life …

 


As I was working on the most recent of my Two Sheet Locations, The Shrine of the Harvest Goddess, there was just too much backstory to include in the four pages I had.  And in truth, it wasn’t needed for the location to be used in game.  But it was there and wanted to get out on the page so here is at least a part of it.  I hope you enjoyed the story of how Omri survived that fateful night.  Fee free to leave comments and questions below.


The Adventures of the Best Bard Evar – The Falin-Raehn Show

Happy Easter!!!

There is an on-going joke in our games on how dangerous climbing is. Seriously, if I based the real world on what happened in a game, I would never let my boys climb anything evar! When you have six to eight players in a game, every time a climbing check comes up, someone invariably fails. Sometimes with mortal consequence, so when this happened in the game, I couldn’t help but laugh, and jeer our GM who keeps making these situations.

Battle for the Campsite.

Never trust the rope.


3D Modeling – Pirate Corvette Mini

At work we just got in a 3D scanner and I’ve been testing it out since Monday.  (It’s a NextEngine scanner if you’re interested).  I’ll probably post about 3D scanning (it’s not as easy as you’d like) in a future post after I have some more time with the scanner but that got me thinking a bit about 3D printing again and I figured I should post about some more of my models.  So this week I’m going to talk a little bit about creating and printing Pirate Corvette model I made.

Modelling the Corvette

This was actually one of the simplest models in the set.  The total OpenSCADcode for the entire model is only 37 line including comments, white space and closing braces.

The Fuselage

I started with the fuselage.  This was actually the hardest part of the print.  The bottom half is just a pair of truncated cones (made via the cylinder() command in OpenSCAD).  The top half is one of the stretched cylinders that I used in the Assault Scout mini.  The difference here is that while the Assault Scout started out as a flat cylinder and tapered to a point, the Corvette has a narrow tail, tapers out to a wider waist, and then tapering to the point at the nose.  Another difference is that while the original Assault Scout mini has a slightly angular feel to it, the Corvette was all curves so I wouldn’t be losing any of the original look.

Getting the fuselage right was actually a bit harder than I thought it would be.  I probably printed 3-4 different models before I felt that it looked right.  I had measured that maximum width but the original set to that value just seemed a bit fat.  I made adjusting that diameter simple by using a variable in the OpenSCAD code for the width of the lower cylinder at it’s top, the diameter of the sphere, and the size and offset for the box that cuts off the bottom half of the sphere.  Then I could just change a single value and rebuild the model and everything adjusted properly.  Here’s the entire code for the fuselage:

$waist=2.3;
cylinder(r1=1.4,r2=1.6,h=1.5);
translate([0,0,1.5]) cylinder(r1=1.6,r2=$waist,h=13.5);
translate([0,0,15]) scale([1,1,10/$waist]) difference(){
    sphere(r=$waist);
    translate([0,0,-$waist]) cube(2*$waist,center=true);
}

Adding the little flare-outs in the nose was easy enough.  I just created a bunch of cones and positioned them properly.  Unfortunately, I had to position them by hand.  While I might have been able to figure a mathematical relation for how far off-axis they needed to be based on their height and the value of the $waist variable, it was easier just to move them by hand when I changed the size of the waist.

The Wings

Next up were the wings.  To get the shape just right, I actually traced the ship onto a piece of graph paper and then used a ruler to measure out the positions of all the corners in the wing shape.  In OpenSCAD this was modeled using a polygon().  I created all the vertices, and then connected them to make a 2D shape.  I then extruded this shape to be the proper thickness for the wings.

Once the shape was made I rotated it into the correct physical position (2D shapes are drawn in the XY plane and I needed the wings in the XZ plane) and duplicated it on the other side of the ship.

The Engines

The final piece was to add the engines on the wings.  Again, the shape here is simple.  It’s just a cylinder that has had the top and bottom sliced off at a 45° angle and then a spherical cavity carved out.

In OpenSCAD you do that with the difference() command.  You start with the cylinder.  Then you add the shapes you want removed, in this case two boxes to slice of the ends and two spheres to carve out the cavities.

I then put the engines inside the for() loop that made the two wings so they were duplicated as well.  The final model looks like this:

Image of the corvette model as described in the text

Printing

The next step was to print it.  As there was only a small point of contact with the build plate on the printer at the back of the fuselage and the points of the wings, this model definitely needed to have a raft under it to hold it in place.  Additionally, I needed to print supports to go under the engines and wings.

That part of the print was not an issue.  The trouble was that this print suffered from the same fuselage printing problem as the Assault Scout.  When printing the upper part of the fuselage, the print time is so small that the plastic from the last layer printed doesn’t have a chance to cool before the next layer is placed on top of it.  This results in the print being “smeared” and not looking very good.  I solved this the same way as the Assault Scout; I printed 4 at a time which gave the prints enough time to cool and they ended up looking much better.

Here is the final test print next to the original miniature I was using as a model (click for full resolution):

Printed model next to the original metal miniature

You can see the individual layers on the edges of the wings in the printed version.  Plus there is a little bit of residue that I haven’t quite cleaned off.  As with the Assault Scout, the model is missing some of the fine detail that the metal miniature has simply because it would never show up in the print anyway.  My conic pieces on the fuselage are a little fatter and shorter than on the original as well, something I might tweak in the future.

Painting

Like with the Nightwind, I made the main part of this model a simple silver to represent the reflective anti-laser coating.  I then painted the engines and the little pods on the fuselage red.  Finally I filled in the hollows in the engines with black.  Beyond that I haven’t don’t much with these ones.  Here’s a pair of them painted:

A pair of the covette miniatures painted as described in the text

 

Lessons Learned

My 4 year old likes to take these ones and fly them around the house and at this point, I’m not sure if any of the four I painted are actually still on my table where they belong.   In the future I should print extras.

The model for this one wasn’t very hard and all of the techniques used in building it I had at least tried out in the earlier models.  So there wasn’t much new or to learn from the modeling process.

Looking closely at the painted model, however, reminds me that the white plastic we print in hides a multitude of sins.  Once I got the silver coat on all the little ridges and rough surfaces on the wings really stood out even though you don’t really notice them on the unpainted plastic.  On future models, I think I’m going to want to do some sanding of the surfaces to make them a little smoother.  Of course, these surfaces are really small and that may be a bit of a trick.

Any thoughts, comments, or ideas?  Feel free to share them below.

 


A First Hatching Pattern for Dyson Style Maps

They say that if you’re going to hire a programmer, you should hire a lazy one.  Because they will write programs and scripts to automate away all the redundant and repetitive tasks.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Dyson Logos’ maps and his style of cartography.  I’ve been a regular reader of his blog and am now a supporter of his Patreon campaign.  I even used one of his free for commercial use maps as the basis for my second Two Sheet Location, the Blue Pearl Grotto.  Well, for my fourth location, I’m doing another fantasy location and wanted to try my hand at a map in that same style.

After starting on this, I have even more respect for Dyson Logos’ ability to draw these maps.  Especially the hatching he does inside the walls or the ground.  Since I’m doing my digitally (and he does his on paper), I realized I might be able to take the lazy programmer’s route to drawing all the hatch marks.  I could make a hatch pattern and use it as fill within the regions that needed it.  For this particular location, I’m doing a ruined building so I just need hatch marks for the walls, not ground fill.

So I got out my handy tablet (a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2″ with S-pen) and created a 300×300 pixel image and started drawing hatch marks. I filled up about three quarters of the area including all the way to two of the sides.

A series of cross hatching patterns that fill about 75% of the image

Now to have a good pattern that can be used anywhere in any sized volume, it has to repeat from left to right and top to bottom.  So I then took that image and copied it three times into a larger image like this:

The same image but copied 3 times (upper left, upper right, lower left)This allows me to see where the hatching has to touch the remaining sides in order to repeat seamlessly.  I then proceeded to fill in the remaining area in the upper left quadrant.

Larger hatch pattern with upper left area filled in.If you look closely you can see where things join up on the right and bottom of the upper left area.  The next step is to simply trim out the section we actually want to use as our hatch pattern.

Final hatch pattern fully filled in

This is now ready to go.  I use Inkscape for many of my maps so I can just copy this pattern into my image and make it into a fill pattern within the file (Select the object then under Object->Pattern->Object-to-Pattern from the menu bar).  Then I can draw any shape I want and set this new pattern as the fill.  Here’s a part of the work in progress map with the fill pattern used for the hatching in the walls of the standing and ruined buildings.

Part of a map using the hatching pattern in the wallsIt seems to have worked pretty well although there are definitely things that could be done to improve the result.  For one, this is really just a first attempt.  I’ll probably do this a few times to try to get more practice at the hatching technique and also drawing on my tablet.  As I mentioned before the joins are not quite seamless due to the way I drew it so that could use some work as well.  I have an idea about how to fix that issue for good.  Plus I want a few different patterns, some with the little rocks and such included to be used if I ever do underground caves and such.

Despite the definite room for improvement, I’m very pleased with the result.  Now if I can just get the rest of the map to turn out this good.  Feel free to use the pattern in your own drawings and be sure to share where you used it.

 


A Thought on Starship Sizes in Star Frontiers

It’s been a while since I last posted; life has definitely had the upper hand the last few weeks. I think I’ve gotten caught up and hopefully more regular posting will resume next week.  Also I hope to have more of these shorter form posts in the future in addition to the somewhat longer ones I usually do.

I was recently reading a series of articles on the Tough SF blog about the “laser problem” and one of the comments made in the first article got me thinking about the size of ships in Star Frontiers and how they scale with the Hull Size rating.

The basic problem is that while things like cargo capacity and number of weapons and defenses scale linearly with hull size, the amount of interior volume with in the ship goes up geometrically.  Thus a HS 20 ship, while it can only carry 4 times as much cargo and weapons as a HS 5 ship, it is over 260 times bigger.

What struck me is that maybe the designers were letting the rocket equation influence the design even though the stated rules don’t suffer from the limitations imposed by that equation.  The rocket equation basically points out that the more massive the rocket, the more fuel is needed to move it and increasing size requires more fuel which increases size which requires more fuel, which increases … you get the picture.  At some point you reach a limit based on your fuel type and engine capabilities where you just can’t get bigger.  But the basic point is that doubling the mass of the payload more than doubles the mass of the fuel/engine capacity needed.

As written, the ships in Star Frontiers don’t suffer from this problem and they have nearly unlimited thrust from very little fuel.  It’s all science fantasy but that’s the way the game is written.  But just maybe, the designers had this idea in mind when they set up the ship sizes.  Namely that the larger ships required much more “fuel” to achieve the same effects and so while the size of the ships went big, the capacity of materials to be moved and included didn’t go up nearly as fast, all the extra space was going into the extra fuel.

Now that extra fuel, in terms of cost, mass, etc, never got written into the rules but given that there was a rapid shift in direction for the game just before publication, maybe this is something that didn’t get quite ironed out properly (it wouldn’t be the only thing).  It would definitely make a good explanation as to why the ships are sized the way they are.


The Adventures of the Best Bard Evar.

So this was a cartoon one of the players in our group created. The character, Raehn, is a half-elf bard who has renounced her elfness cause she felt abandoned by the elves due to her human heritage. She has recently come into the possession of an elven moonblade that has chosen Raehn as its champion due to her ‘elfyness’. And the comedy ensues…

raehnsucks

 

So sayeth the sword
So sayteh us all.


An Experiment in Publishing

Chemistry apparatus for an experiementI’m conducting an experiment.  I hadn’t originally planned on conducting an experiment but after a discussion on Twitter with @AkeishaRoberts and @RPGKitchen, I decided that it might be interesting to do.  But let’s back up.  What are we talking about here?

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I launched my Two Sheet Location products last month with the release of Mr. M’s Equipment Emporium (which I original presented as  a blog post in December).  (I think that wins for my most links in a single sentence on the blog.)  It is a “pay what you want” (PWYW) product with a suggested price of free.  I’ll get to the whys and wherefores in a moment but after having it up for a few days, I got to thinking, “Is there a psychological barrier to PWYW over simply free?”

So I posted that very question on Twitter.   Well, what I actually posted was

Does a product listed as “pay what you want” with a suggested price of $0 make you less likely to get it than it just being free? – @dagorym

(I would have embedded the tweet here but Twitter won’t give me the embed code for some reason.)  Here’s a link to the actual tweet if you want to see the entire conversation that ensued between @AkeishaRoberts, @RPGKitchen, and me.  The basic consensus was that there was a barrier and that people might feel bad taking it for free even though that was perfectly allowed by the model.

So I wondered if there was a way to quantify this.  I mean, I’m a scientist, I should be able to do some sort of experiment to test the idea.  Which brings me to the present plan.  But first let’s start with the original plan and see what changed.

My Original Plan

My original thinking for the Two Sheet Location project (which was originally called Two Page Locations, hence that logo appearing on the Mr. M product) was to release the first two to four locations as free/pay what you want and then assign a $0.99 price to the later ones.  The idea was to make the first few free to generate exposure and audience and to provide “free samples” of the items to come.  I also wanted to get some practice in on producing them and gauging interest.  The later ones would have a price attached to them in order to generate a little bit of revenue.

To that end, I released Mr. M’s Equipment Emporium first here on the blog and then as a PWYW product with no set price.  The idea was that people could download it for free but, if they wanted to, could throw a little bit of money my way.  This would also help me answer the question of what people thought something like this was worth.  Maybe I should have explicitly set a price of $0 and called out in the product description that I expected people to take it for free and the PWYW model was just there if they wanted to contribute.  But I didn’t.  It is just PWYW with no recommended price.

I’ll admit that the download count was smaller than I expected.  Or maybe just smaller than what I was hoping for.  It wasn’t actually that bad but I had hoped for a bit more.  Which is what started my musings on the impact of the PWYW model.

To get the news out about the product I did a few things.  First I e-mailed everyone that had downloaded my book, Discovery, or my card game, Star Clash, from DriveThruRPG.  While this wasn’t the same target audience, it at least was a base of over 1,000 people that might be interested and looking at a free offering.  Additionally, I timed the release of the product so that it made the “Newest Free Products” list on the weekly newsletter from DriveThruRPG.  And then I posted about it here on the blog and on Twitter, but those have much smaller reaches.  Finally, I wrote up the stats for Mr. M and a specific background for him in the Star Frontiers setting as a short one page article that appeared in issue #15 of the Frontier Explorer which came out a week after I released Mr. M’s Equipment Emporium on DriveThruRPG.

The Test Plan

So after the Twitter discussion, I hatched a plan to do some ad hoc testing of the impact of the PWYW model.  The plan was simple.  Do the next product as simply free instead of PWYW and look how the downloads are different.  You’re probably thinking “but wait, you’ve already got a little bit of audience from the first one so the results will be skewed.”  And you’d be right.  Which is why this isn’t a rigorous test by any stretch of the imagination.  But we can get an approximate feel for the impact.

Cover of Two Sheet Location #2 - Blue Pearl Grotto

There’s a bit of a complication, however.  The first location was science fiction themed (although easily adaptable to fantasy).  The second location, the Blue Pearl Grotto, which just went out yesterday, is more of a fantasy location.  And trying to compare a fantasy location to a sci-fi one is definitely comparing apples to oranges.  Or apples to beets.  The audience for fantasy is much larger than that for sci-fi.

So the Blue Pearl Grotto is going out under the exact same settings as Mr. M’s Equipment Emporium did.  It will be PWYW with no recommended price.  Instead of sending an e-mail to my entire customer base (I promised I would only do that for the first location) I only sent an announcement e-mail to those who had downloaded location #1.  The Thursday DriveThruRPG newsletter hasn’t come out yet as I’m writing this but I’m hopeful I’ll make the “Newest Free Products” list again.  That will control as best I can the variables of promotion.  It will be interesting to see if the sci-fi vs. fantasy makes any difference.

The next step is to do the free with no PWYW option.  This will be locations 3 & 4.  Location 3, for March, is mostly done.  I just need to finish the map (by far the longest part of these locations for me).  It is a sci-fi location, but again easily adaptable to a fantasy setting.  I have a 4th location started but it too is a sci-fi location so I’ll need to bump it and pick another fantasy related one.  These two will be released completely free to see if that has any impact on the number of downloads.

There are lots of uncontrolled variables in this experiment.  Things ranging from the topic of the location, the map styles, a building customer base as more people find them, etc.  Plus there’s the possibility that someone might really like one of the locations and post about it where it get’s more publicity then I can generate on my own (This is a problem I’d like to have).   I’ll do the best I can to filter these things out when looking at the numbers.

A Look at Some Numbers

I’m not going to go into this in any detail here as this is the topic for a future post.  However, for Mr M’s Equipment Emporium, I had 19 downloads the first day, 57 the second, and a total of 153 the first week.  With the exception of two days, there as been at least one download of that location every day since it was released.

In the less than a day since releasing the Blue Pearl Grotto, there have been 43 downloads of that location (plus 3 more of Mr. M’s).  These are almost assuredly repeat customers as the only advertising I’ve done is the e-mail to those that downloaded Mr. M’s.  We’ll have to see how it plays out in the coming week or so.

Last Thoughts

I’m quite excited to see how this goes.  I suspect I know what the outcome will be based on something I did for the Frontier Explorer (which I’ll cover when I go over the numbers) but it will be interesting to see how this plays out for this particular product line.

Have you ever done an experiment like this?  What were the results?  Do you have predictions on the outcome?  Is there a location you’d like to see me do for location #4 (or a future one beyond that)?  Let me know in the comments below.


On Publishing Star Frontiers Related Materials

Star FrontiersAkeisha Roberts just added a post to her blog listing all the places you could go for Star Frontiers materials (“Get The Entire Star Frontiers Rule Book Set & More For Free (Legally)“).  In the process of putting that list up she asked me about what can and can’t be published related to the Star Frontiers game and setting.  She isn’t the first to ask me this question and I thought I’d write up my understanding on the topic.

Now, let me start by saying the following:

  1. I don’t work for Wizards of the Coast and don’t speak for them
  2. I am not a lawyer
  3. Your mileage may vary
  4. This is 100% based on my personal experience and agreements with Wizards of the Coast and my conversations with others who run (or have run) Star Frontiers related websites
  5. There are some specifics I can’t go into details about because of the agreements I have with Wizards.

Given the above, your experience may vary but I suspect you would find a similar experience to me.

The Short Version

The TL;DR; version of this is that between the Star Frontiersman and Frontier Explorer magazines I can publish basically anything for Star Frontiers as long as it is fan-created and free.

The Longer Version

So let’s break that down a little bit and give some background.

Some History

First, Star Frontiers is not part of any version of the Open Gaming License (OGL).  It never has been.  I’ve seen statements on the internet to the contrary but none of those have ever come from Wizards of the Coast.  They own the intellectual property (IP) that is Star Frontiers and have never given it away.

And they don’t seem interested in licensing it.  I’ve asked.  Several different times.  So have several others that I know.  In every case, we have been told no.  Whether that is because they have plans for the IP or simply due to the fact that it is so small that it is not worth their effort, I don’t know.  I somehow suspect it’s the latter but see point #1 above.  That is pure speculation on my part.

Second,  many of the major websites that are Star Frontiers themed have personal, written permission from Wizards of the Coast to use the Star Frontiers IP.  The only one I’m not sure about is the Star Frontiers wiki that is a subdomain of wikia.com; I don’t know if they do or not.  I know that Tim Norris has one that covers StarFrontiers.com and StarFrontiers.org (run by Art Eaton).  In fact,  StarFrontiers.com has had permission from the days of TSR before they were bought by Wizards of the Coast.  I have permissions for StarFrontiersman.com and FrontierExplorer.org.

The StarFrontiers.us site, which is a community forum site, falls under those two although now that I think about it, I don’t know that an explicit permission exists for that particular site.  I never got explicit permission for StarFrontiers.info either, a site that has community forums and a wiki that was geared toward on-line play by post Star Frontiers games.  It too, now falls under the permissions I have for the magazines.

The social media groups on Google+ and Facebook are just groups created on those platforms.

You may have noticed that I run a bunch of those websites.  It wasn’t always that way.  Originally I just had the StarFrontiers.info site, then I was hosting StarFrontiers.us.  Then I started the Frontier Explorer and finally was given the Star Frontiersman and StarFrontiers.us from their original owner.

What Can I Publish?

As I said in the short version, the answer to this is just about anything.  There are some variations between the permissions I have for the Frontier Explorer and the Star Frontiersman that mean that I can publish some types of content in one but not the other but overall, there really isn’t a limit on content.

The only real limit is price.  It has to be free.  The only other restriction is that I can’t commission Star Frontiers related material.  So I can’t hire someone to create a piece of work (article, art, whatever) and pay them for it, even if I intend to give it away.  Everything I publish has to be fan created and effectively donated.

The truth is, Wizards of the Coast has been fairly generous with the permissions granted.  They don’t mind people writing material for the game or in the setting.  The only thing they don’t allow is people to sell material that is Star Frontiers related.  Which is completely within their rights under copyright law (something I’ve become more familiar with over the years, especially now that I’m a librarian).  Beyond that, as long as you’re giving it away, they don’t seem to have an issue.

So keeping in mind the points at the beginning of the article, if you want to write stuff for Star Frontiers and put it up on your blog or website, that is probably fine.  Just don’t charge money for it.

And if you want to write stuff and get it out to the existing Star Frontiers audience, the Frontier Explorer is a great way to do so.  Consider submitting and I’ll help you get it published.  As I said, I have explicit permission to do so and to put material up on DriveThruRPG and it’s sister sites.

Other Points

The above holds true as long as you’re doing it as a personal endeavor.  When I started the Frontier Explorer I asked about publishing the magazine under the banner of my publishing company, New Frontier Games, which I had established several years prior.  (The website is dead at the moment – long story – so no link but here is the publisher page on DriveThruRPG).  I was explicitly told no.  It had to be a stand alone endeavor with no affiliation to a publishing company.  Just something to keep in mind.

While I wasn’t allowed to sell anything, I was allowed to accept “tips” and donations to help support the website and the work of producing the magazine.

The astute reader may notice that the Frontier Explorer issues are available for sale in print form on DriveThruRPG.  This again was an explicit permission I received.  I could make them available in print form but they had to be at cost.  So the price you see there is what it costs to print the magazine.  I receive no income from the print sales.

With the announcement of the Dungeon Masters Guild you might be wondering if any of the above changes and you can publish Star Frontiers stuff there.  The current answer to that question is no as well.  Yes.  I asked.  The day the DMGuild was announced.  That may change in the future but for now it’s still a no go.

Last Words

Actually, I’m not sure there’s much else to add.  The love for Star Frontiers continues and I actually see it mentioned more and more on social media as time goes by.  It’s a game completely maintained by its fans right now and for the foreseeable future.  However, if you want to create and share Star Frontiers material, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.  Just remember, it’s just a hobby.

Do you haven any experiences with creating and sharing Star Frontiers materials?  Do you want to?  Let us know in the comments below.