Category Archives: Notes to self

Private notes to myself about useful resources

Blender Camera-Notes

Part of moving my projects over Blender 2.83 LTS is collecting my notes on various topics, including cameras.

5 cool camera tricks in Blender 2.80, this covers some cool stuff. However, I’ll have to manual set up the cameras until isocam gets updated.

Isometric Camera

From the Isocam script:

  • The one, TrueIsocam called camera, is the mathematical correct isometric camera with the 54.736 rotation to get the 30 degrees angles at the sides of the rhombus. (54.736,0,45)
  • The other, GameIsocam called camera, is a camera with which you can render isometric tiles for a 2d game. Here we need a 60 degrees angle instead of the 54.736 one to get a proper stairs effect and a ratio of 2:1 (60,0,45)
  • Then there is the special case with a 4:3 ratio, which is button 3. You can also make 2D games with that one. The view is more topdown though as with a 2:1 ratio of the traditional game iso view. (41.5,0,45)

It’s worth noting that for TrueIsoCam, the X-Rotation Slot can be set to ( atan( sqrt(2) ) ) degrees.

The Wiki page for IsoCam needs updating.

Fantasy mapping

Ever since reading Tolkien as a kid, I’ve just loved the style of map that he created for Middle Earth. And this style has carried across to Fantasy RPGs. So when the opportunity came to create a map for The Tales of Tarya, I jumped at it.

The Map of Litonya

This time I wanted to make a good quality digital copy for this project. YouTube came to the rescue with this excellent video on mapping from the Fantastic Maps Channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUFG8yeJRuw

Drawing Technique

A short summary of the technique for mountains…

  • Use a CC-0 paper or parchment texture for the background layer (0).
  • Add a separate ‘lines’ Layer (4) for the mountain ridge lines and some texturing detail. Use the pressure sensitive to control the thickness of the line
  • Add an Overlay layer (1), for the ‘Light & Shade’ on the mountain ranges. Use the pressure sensitivity to control the darkness.
    • Start by blocking out the shading the dark side of the mountain range. Take your time to build up layers of darkness.
    • Add shadows to the light side for the ridges and valleys.
    • As you go reduce size to add more detail.
  • Another Overlay layer (2), for the ‘Light/Shade Detail’, but this time using the pressure sensitive to control line thickness.
    • Then switch to a white brush to add highlights to the light side, with the peaks being the brightest.
  • Now, a Color Layer (3), to add the colour details to the mountains.
    • Using a hard round brush set to a middle grey for bare stone, deep emerald green for amazonian forest, or red for the Arizona badlands.

Combine that in to a group I then proceeded to do the same for the coastline, hills, forests, rivers, cities/towns, and labels. So about 20 layers all up.

Common People

Although, YMMV, I find this CPAF, because hidden behind the music are words that bite home with the cutting wisdom of the bards carving ideas into your mind. So, I’m filing this piece of forgotten ‘art’ under CPAF!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ainyK6fXku0

Pulp‘s lyrics fill a void only the poor can really understand, combined with a saccharin pop beat and the overacting god, otherwise known as William Shatner, on the album, “HAS BEEN” … No truer words spoken … elevates it too the next level with an almost act of piracy (or a cover for the uninitiated) by not signing! The sheer genius and greatness of this! Remix culture at it’s finest.

#2: Sunday

I really should take better notes for this stuff. This session follows on after the PCs return to the motel and from when they wake the next morning. (NB: Grush’s player couldn’t make it, so I had him leave early, while the others were asleep).

The Russain was contacted by Zeeshan “Bellock” Fry (Police Beneficiary Fund), after saving so many SWAT cops from Maelstrom. We need you to deliver 2 crates to a private security company, Security Blanket, by Monday. This was dealt with by the afternoon and recieved the payment of a Heckler & Koch MPK-2020 SMG & Militech Bulldog Compact Assault Shotguns with a box of ammo for each.

Grush gets a message from the Bratva for an accident. A Soloil contact, “Capsian”, knows of 3 fuel trucks bringing in a shipment up through the 828-928 interchange headed to the NorCal Military Base, Monday morning. The rest is for him to sort out.

Mr White is contacted by Khadeejah “Zigzag” Chang, Militech Home Security specialist with crates of weapons. 5 crates of “Dai Lung Cybermag 15” and 2 of “Budget-Arms C-13”, with boxes of ammo. He quickly oragnises financing via a local factor friend.

Tracer gets an old truck as part of a deal to dispose of some toxic waste from “CyberHammer”, a worker from NightCity’s treatment plant.

All this before they leave the motel…
On the way to secure the cash, Mr. White, gets caught in the crossfire of gang violence between the Bradi Bunch & Red Chrome Legion. He waits out the conflict from behind cover, using his knowledge of the streets to identify the contacts with both groups.
Cashed up, Mr White gets a van & storage space, before proceeding with the others to collect the weapons.

Using Isometeric Cameras in Blender

Settings for a Isometric Cameras in Blender, adapted from
Daring Dino’s video Creating Isometric Cameras in Blender.

Setting up the camera this way requires that it is set to Orthographic with the rotation adjusted 54.736, 0, 45 (X, Y, Z). The XYZ coordinates can be anywhere to set up a good shot.

  • True Isometric Camera. X rotation: 54.736, Y: 0, Z: 45
  • Game Isometric Camera: XYZ (60, 0, 45).
  • Game 4to3 Isometric Camera: XYZ (40.5, 0, 45).

I’ve also noticed that if the Z-rotation is shifted +-90 to (45, 135, 225, or 315), it still maintains an isometric view, but from a different side.

Things Mr. Welch can no longer do during an RPG

RPGs have been around for a while and one of the great joys is the stories that emerge from the game. The innocent-sounding ideas that become disasters ending in a TPK, and that epic-level bullshit that players try and get away with, and those stupid jokes that become core to your own game.

TheGlen’s list, Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG,  gives insight to some of those experiences. Read the full list here:

or Mister Welch, a website that spits them out one at a time.

I have been so tempted to build a Gnomish character around, just the references to Gnomes to try some out in the home game.

Thief style games

Recently I went back and played Thief Gold by looking glass studio, picking up the triple pack of Thief Gold, Thief 2, and the new Thief 2014. The experiences I had between the new and old were very stark. This video by Dom Giuca sums up some of my frustrations with the game and the style of games in general.

The game Thief used artful storytelling techniques in the crafting of the levels to heighten the mood or terror of an opponent and still manages to achieve it with very minimal technical specs, especially when compared to today’s titles.

It provides the player with a minimal toolset to achieve your goals, but to will feel the loss of one of these things

Another thing I’ve noticed is the sound design a theme which is picked up and explored by Strat-Edgy Productions in The Sounds Of A Thief. This is an element of game design that I’m hearing in more and more games.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLUm-k1liOs[/embedyt]

These elements bring me back to why I (and possibly you) play games, which is for new experiences. To see the world in different ways and to explore where those paths lead us.

Links

Useful links related to Thief & Thief 2

  • http://www.ttlg.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=100
  • http://www.thedarkmod.com/main/
  • http://thief-thecircle.com/
  • http://thiefmissions.com/

What makes a Rich Gaming World?

As a player, a rich world is one I’m happy to return to again and again. There is something about these rich worlds that keep drawing me onto the new horizons. So what are these worlds and what is it that keeps me coming back. Firstly some examples…

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth

The classic that has spawned hundreds of imitators making the foundation of the fantasy genre is the only place to start when exploring the idea of rich worlds. Looking beyond the story there are many facets of Middle Earth that draw you in.

Firstly, there is the distinct races of Middle Earth. Each has a unique culture that separates it from the other peoples of the world. The way that Elves exists is distinct from the Dwarven mindset. The quick vicious intelligence of Goblins plays at a different speed to the Ents. So each race or culture approaches situations differently and this can play out in the behaviors of the NPCs, although Players as always remain unpredictable.

Secondly, the use of language or in this case languages. Each language acts as a further barrier to make each race distinct from one another. The harsh sounds of Black Speech, divides the Orks from the musical tones of the Elven languages and the Dwarven Khuzdul. The unique created languages add another layer of richness to the beautiful landscape.

The third is the long history that adds weight to each culture. Thousands of years of history that each individual carries from their own cultures help build a strong narrative. For example;  The eminently that exists between Elves and Dwarves is created from their long history of wars.

Finally, there is the map which represents the geography of the world. For me the map of middle earth provides a rich tapestry to wonder around the page of possibility exploring it’s locations without having to write all the details onto the page, but explodes in my mind filling in the blanks.

George R R Martin’s Westeros

The world of Westeros also has a long history with many elements not fully revealed to the readers (or watchers) of the series. George has previously stated that his inspiration was the Wart of the Roses where this first Tudor king, Henry the VII rose to power followed by Henry the VIII. That time does mark a tumultuous period of English history, and as a fantasy world build it does give you a short cut into creating a rich background for the players to carve up.

Another thing that Westeros has is the taking of standard fantasy cliches and adding a twist. For example; If you look at the Stone men which could be in D&D terms Golems or Earth Elementals, but in the mythos of Westeros are suffers of Greyscale. There are a number of differing stories surrounding each of the major elements existing in the Song of Fire & Ice. So having a basic idea with lots of embellishments and variations to the story existing to add strength to the tales, and natural rumors for the players to shift through.

The World of Darkness

White Wolf’s World of Darkness (WoD), in a similar move to Westeros, shows us a hidden history and what is concealed behind the common news stories of today to illuminate the horrors that lurk at the end of perception. And if we choose to peel back the skin we to can reveal the sores of festering evil underneath. It takes the current world events and adds another layer of meaning to over the top.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

In the first 72 issues of the comic series Sandman, Neil Gaiman weaves together the legends of many cultures with a twist of modern horror to create something new.  The tails are familiar, yet play out in unexpected ways as greater entities that dwell outside the myths impact upon what we know.

What can we do to enrich our gaming worlds?

As the GM or World Creator, what are the simple ways to add richness to our gaming worlds with a huge amount of effort, such as, Tolkien did when writing the created histories for Middle Earth.

  1. Add a map. Nearly every major fantasy series has a map, and you should too. It will help control the space of the game world.
  2. Take stuff from history. Use this to build a timeline to help flesh out your ideas with detailed stories for the major events.
  3. Also having a variation for major event, or building a list of rumors can help add richness to your world.
  4. Steal from myths and legend. By linking to common myths and legends it’s another shorthand way of adding more detail that, as the writer, you do not need to write.
  5. Finally, it’s what is not on the page. Only write what you need at the time for the next game session, unless you think it adds something worthwhile to the world

Conquest 2015

I’ve just found a few characters from Conquest 2015, a Melbourne based gaming convention. It’s reminded me of the fun had and some silly gimmicky trophies won. Mind you, it’s the first trophy I’ve won based on my own effort and skill. And luck, I can forget that. The thanks for turning up trophies I got as a kid really don’t count. However, the best bit was the fun of the kind of games I really enjoy.

Trophies from Conquest 2015
Trophies from Conquest 2015

Early on there was this dungeon crawl, a linear adventure with little scope for creative decision making or characterisation. This been said, I watch the boys make havoc with it all which resulted in the party’s barbarian been eaten by a Mimic and the cleric flame striking both to release him. The Mimic died and the barbarian survived on 1 HP. (My son won the “Stay dead” for his efforts as the cleric.)

I did get to play the board game, Doom, which is no longer in print. As expected, we all died without completing the mission. Although we did run around lots shooting stuff and going hand to hand with big nasties.

The Avengers Assemble session was my favourite in playing the Captain in the post Hydra takeover of SHIELD. I was able to keep the party going and survive some stupid heroics. As a team we where able to move through the scenario and to face the challenges presented to us. The GM was able to keep the situation exciting and to keep us on our toes adapting to our ideas.

The best part was when Black Widow, Hawkeye, and myself were in a subterranean laboratory of  the SHIELD base controlled by Hydra. Where we were trying to rescue scientists without alerting Hydra to our presence. The other 3 where on the surface ready to attack the fortified facility. As professional spooks Black Widow & Hawkeye had moved through the room towards the large vault door. While I hung back and concealed my shield under a large jet engine, and move across the room to discover one of the scientists we are looking for. Natasha plants a bug  so that Tony Stark & Jarvis can start hacking the computer systems to copy all their data so we know what they have being up to.

Discovering what they’ve done to Rhodey, Ironman attacks backed up by the Hulk and Thor. The base realising we are there goes on high alert and starts destroying all the records (computer & otherwise). Realising that we will loose the data and in my rough disguise I take the role of a scientist and order everyone out. Most people start moving out, but a guard points at me saying, “That’s Captain America.” My cover blown and acting as a distraction for the others I run across the room sliding to my knees and pull my mask over my face to recover my shield. (This is where the props the GM provided make it, because I was able to pull the mask down to cheers around the room.)

A gun fight ensures, with the villains entering the room, the Baron and a controlled War Machine. Natasha slips through the door to rescue the other scientists. The Hulk was a menace to all knocking out two players. In the end good triumphs and much fun was hand.

Another highlight was my first LAPR event, Dresden Files, run by either Chimera Productions or LARP Victoria (I believe there is a lot of cross over between the groups.) As a fan of the Dresden Files books and the FATE game system I gave this a go as it combined the two in a LARP format. The result was my character, Marcus, was mind controlled and tried to kill a wizard by throwing him off the building. As you can guess it didn’t work, but with some detective work by the others they discovered the plot, and all of this was not even the main event. Hopefully, they will publish the adventure/event for others to enjoy.

20150828_180157

Finally, a Harry Potter game where I played Luna Lovegood. I used random sketching to get into character. I know I’m not an artist as my raven looks more like a pigeon.

Overall, it was a small and great event with much fun to be had. It makes one of the four Melbourne conventions each year. I’d like to make next years, but it’s will clash with a major medieval event over Easter. So that is unlikely. That still leaves Arcanacon in January, Phenomenon in June, and Unicon in October. Also check out Canned Geek for a list of of Gaming/Geek/Pop-culture related conventions and events.