Tuesday 21 June 2011

Dave Millar's wonderful tool! (Mapping tool, that is)

Dave Millar doesn’t roleplay. He doesn’t GM either. He doesn’t tumble D10s. What he does is rock. Dave’s Mapper is a free online mapping tool that takes the community Geomorphs and allows you to generate maps, either by random or by semi-random switch and rotate. He has played a huge part in powering the Geomorph movement by providing a breath-taking online tool. Let’s take a look at the superb features bit by bit.

You might be baffled as to why a non-roleplayer might want to expend considerable time and effort in a hobby he doesn’t partake in. To understand it, you need to understand the mind of the web developer who does things not just for cash but because they are just too cool to not be done.


Dave's mapper is brimming with features that make it not just useful but fun to use. Let's start at the top left and work our way around clockwise. Where possible, I've included shortcut keys in [square brackets].

Main menu

Clicking New Map will bring about the end of the world. Or at least that's what they want you to think. What it will actually do is create a brand new map randomly selecting from the options (see below). Dave's Blog is a mapper-centric news output that will keep you up to date with developments. Help/About does exactly what it says on the tin. There is a handy key that shows all the common symbols. This is an interesting additional because it helps define a language for new mappers to use to make their own. Supporters are those wonderful people who have donated tiles, ideas, feedback and lunch and Facebook points you at a fan page. You can get there easily by hitting 'Like This' on the top menu.


The left hand button on view opens up a PNG version of your map, which you can download to your favourite paint application or upload into Obsidian Portal. The 'Hide Image Menu' button closes the tile menu - which I'll come to on the map section below.

Map size

As the tiles make up a grid, this specifies the width and height of that grid. The largest map I managed was 50x50 but if you would like the PNG feature, 8x8 is your limit. Edge tiles (that go on the edges and corners to enclose the map) are additional, so if you're using these add 2 onto each dimension.

Mode Modes

Map modes deal with tile layout. From left to right:
  • Normal map [shift + n] - Using stock tiles, lined up neatly in a grid and no edge tiles.
  • Stagger map rows [s] - Lines up the tiles so that they are staggered like brickwork.
  • Stagger map rows, show rows end capped [shift - s] - Much more useful than just staggering rows, this one neatens the edges by using end caps.
  • Close off dungeon edges [c] - My favourite, this uses half-size geomorphs to seal the map.

Grid Mode

Dave has kindly produced a light blue grid that overlays the map. It's handy if you're going to print for miniatures. There are two sizes available: 5m per square or 10m. If you are like me and prefer hand-wavey explanations of distance, you can turn it off.

Map Mode (or type)

The second map mode is really a type of map. Whether you have an underground map or an above ground city. Your choices are:
  • Dungeons. Created by 'intelligent' beings for whom caves are just too disorganised.
  • Caverns. Natural formations.
  • Dungeons / Caverns mix. Rough hewn edges and purposeful design mashed together.
  • City. A mix of buildings, roads and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Cities don't edge edge tiles.

Map features

If you click one of the map tiles, you get some choices. From left to right, you can rotate the tile 90 degrees, swap the tile with another, remove the tile and replace with another (randomly) and finally remove the tile and place with an entrance/exit tile. This is an extremely powerful little menu that provides you with loads of control.


The room stocker is a handy little tool for helping you decide what is in each of the rooms. It is most useful in the dungeon/cavern maps and helps the DM who is in something of a rush.

Tile List

Dave would be the first to note that the mapper is nothing without the tiles and on the left hand side you have a list of all the tile sets available. Some look good together, others do not. This is very much a personal preference.


Where the mapper comes into its own is in conjunction with your imagination. The random tiles suggest an idea, leaving you to switch tiles, rotate and form your own narrative. For these two dungeons below, click the image for a larger one.

Errol Boltwog's Unfinished Lair

Using tile sets from Dave Millar, Dyson Logos and M.S. Jackson. Size: 2x2, Close off dungeon edges, No grid and Dungeon Cavern Mix.
Errol Boltwog never finished anything. He never finished the pontoon under the bridge where he lived happily with his wife. He never finished the hut for the children, nor their tree-house. Not until after they had long left home. His lair - the status symbol of any respected Ogre family - was never finished either. Sure, it had grand plans based around a circular temple to the south east and long colonnades that stretched back and forth. Building the traps just took the fun out of it and he lost interest, abandoning it after years of work. To the north are the dark and dank natural caverns where passers by often shelter from the weather. Many never realise the realise the workmanship that went into the rest of it and the treasure that lies within.


Using tile sets from Amanda Michaels and Risus Monkey. Size: 3x3, Normal Map, No grid and City tiles.
Inhabited entirely by middle class commuters, Burley-Upon-Pew used to be a lovely little town. Shortly after the event, the delightful little streets became a war ground between them and a hurriedly assembled army of frankly useless warriors. The streets have taken a hell of a battering as the small market town held back against them. Now, some time after the event, this corner of Burley-Upon-Pew is the last surviving outpost of humanity.

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Dave is still working on new featutres and he has an impressive roadmap of ideas. I've had numerous conversations with Dave about the mapper over the last year and he is the most personable web developer I've met. If you have a tile set or an idea for a feature, he would love you to get in touch.

Dave does none of this for cash, instead he asks that you buy him lunch using a paypal link at the bottom. At the very least, let's get blogging about this superb app.

Readers! Make a map using the tool and post it here!

Now it's your turn. Let's see what delight you can create with the wonderful mapper. There's no prize but let's see what your fevered minds can come up with. Go create!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

I love mash! The 24 Hour Movie Mashup competition entries

The joyous task of judging the expertly mashed movie roleplaying games has begun! I've thrown myself into the reading but why should I do so alone, you should join in too, dear reader. I hear you say, "But why, Dr Lang? I have an evening in the pursuit of leisure on the croquet lawn, followed by a night cap at one's club!". Pray take a few moments to review the wares below, each slaved over by their starved and tired authors in just 24 hours!

If you're hungry for more information than the little tid-bits I've included here, then 1KM1KT regular, Jonathan Lavallee has been reviewing them as the competition progressed. To allow myself purity of judgement, I've not read the reviews yet but I am sure they're cracking. Jon even had a go himself! I've added a link to Jon's blog with each game.

Spade Vs Indy

Indiana Jones + The Maltese Falcon
Who could pit Sam Spade against Indiana Jones? Only the mad mind of Tamás "Evil Scientist" Kisbali. The game revolves around two core players: a private eye and a professor of archaeology who are pitted against each other. It is a non-co-operative goal driven game with all the flair of the 20s and 30s. The other players play supporting characters and the mechanics uses two decks of cards. Jon's Review

Ghost Runner The 9th Layer

Ghostbusters + Bladerunner
A Ghost Runner hunts ghosts that have been trapped into cybernetic shells. How utterly mind bendingly cool is that? It's 2099, there's been a global fisticuffs that's ended badly for everyone. Technology and corporations did rather well, though. The system is a mashup of Spirit of the Century with FATE and Aspect points too. A slick, stylish game indeed. We have Greg “Shinobicow” Schuste to thank for introducing that superb concept! Jon's Review

The Great Garbage War

Mars Attacks + Wall_E
Humans have are returning to the rubbish-filled earth to recolonise it. Unfortunately, the Martians have had the same idea. It's fat humans on hover chairs vs Green men with glass helmets and cute robots thrown into the mix. Alistair Morrison wraps this in a nice D6 dice pool mechanic serves on a simple but effective layout. Jon's Review


Alladin + Ghoastbusters
Hunt ghosts in the world of 1001 Arabian nights (with a Disney twist). You'll be packing untested, unlicensed nuclear accelerator oil lamp to run errands for Iago, who has his feathered ear to the spectral ground. Lightweight system of player-chosen traits, with D6 as the die and a target number to hit. Frankly, it's nuts and so might Jens Thuresson, its author, be. Jon's review.

A Fist Full of Darkness

Fist Full Of Dollars + Dark City
Set in the 19th Century, here you plunged into a dirty, bustling city. When "awoken", the clocks stop and you will find yourself amongst the alien race of The Examiners, who experiment on humanity in this stopped state. Patrick Gamblin blends some fascinating ideas with a dice pool mechanic. Short, sweet and delightful to read. Jon's review.

Alone in the Woods

Home Alone + Robin Hood: Men in tights
While Robin Hood is off womanising, the Merry Men are all wasted on grog and the Sheriff of Nottingham keeps sending in troops to the forest. All that's left to hold them back are the youngest of Robin's followers - a group of 13 year-olds. You. Mechanics follow the phases of Home Alone by planning, setup and then springing the traps. Another Greg “Shinobicow” Schuste game, he who cannot spend longer than 24 hours on an idea! Jon's review.

West Side Horror

West Side Story + Little Shop of Horrors
As a gang member, you need to find a monster and the down-on-his-luck guy who is feeding it. Jonathan Lavallee intertwines the two films brilliantly, you even create the monster in character generation. He uses the Geasa system, which fits well. Jon's thoughts on his game

All the king's men

Apocalypse Now + Robin Hood
"Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Robin squats in the bush, he gets stronger". Under the employ of King John, you're going into the jungle forest to find Robin, who's gone rogue. Remarkably well researched take by Geoff Lamb. Uses an interesting dice pool mechanic with stress built in. Jon's review.

Princes of Arabia

Aladdin + Raiders of the Lost Ark
Aldo "Maledictus" Ojeda asks you to go thieving in Arabia as a member of the Thieves Guild. Magic is subtly woven in this light hearted take on 1001 Arabian Nights and the system is very, very light indeed. A wonderfully presented dive into the world of pinching stuff. It's short but of a very high quality. Jon's review.

The Droog Family Songbook

Clockwork Orange + The Sound of Music
Bloody hell, Nathan Russell. That is all. Bloody hell.

Jon's managed a review.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Take an axe to your modern RPG with Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson

Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson is a lite fantasy roleplaying game inspired by the "Old School" style. You play archetypal fantasy fodder and engage in adventures of daring do and mashing monsters and villains IN THE FACE. Its mechanics are simple, bright and infused with silly.

I've not really played D, D&D, AD&D, D&D&D, AD&D&D&AD&D. I've heard of them and I know I'm very much in a minority of one; but I tried it and its not for me. I am, perhaps, not the best person to review a game that is inspired from its roots but I rather enjoyed reading it so I'm going to anyway. Complaints about my ignorance to: RobDoesNotCareASingleJot@gmail.com.

Slasher making

Your character is boxed into one of the following classes: Fighter (choppy choppy), Magic User (whizzy fizzy), Cleric (holy moley), Thief (sneaky beaky), Elf (girly campy), Dwarf (roughty toughty) and Goblin (cheeky bastard). The randomly rolled attributes are Brawn, Daring, Commitment, Awareness, Charm, Cunning. Commitment being the odd one there - it's about willpower.

Talents come next, each character class starts with one. A Talent is special thing your character can do and each class has their own list. Talents include bonuses to weapon use, special magical abilities or bonuses on attribute checks. You then pile on sharp and pointy things (weapons), some armour, money and finally a goal. Every character gets a goal and there is a short list to choose from or be inspired by.


Combat is a typical roll-initiative, take in turns, attack, move, defend affair. You choose what you want to do and it goes in a certain order. All quite simple. Mashing faces is where it gets interesting...

First you need to know what the armour class of the defender is. The armour class acts as the target number you need to roll over. Buffoons entering a fight without any protection start at 8 and the more metalwork you strap to yourself, the higher it goes. You then roll 2D10, add them together. If your weapon is designed for the place you're using it in (called arena), you get a +2, being a fighter adds +1 and so on. You do at least one point of damage, with hardcore weapons doing more.

A neat extra is you assign one of your dice as a "face die". If the face die rolls 10, you hit the enemy in the face and do another point of damage. Criticals can be a little bland but there is something joyous in the act of smashing something IN THE FACE. I can't even type that without the Caps Lock key on. IN THE FACE. "in the face" doesn't look right. IN THE FACE. That's better.

Other mechanicalities

The player group start with a collective bowl of awesome points in the middle of the table. When someone says or does something cool then any player at the table takes a point out of the bowl and gives it to the player. They can then spend this awesome point later. If the GM makes the game more difficult, then more points are put into the bowl in the middle of the table. Awesome points are spent boosting actions. These are kept track of until everyone has spent 12 points and then the whole group levels up. Leveling up means beefier characters.

It feels like a modern rule to my roughly hewn system sensibilities but it's a really good one as I think it encourages risk taking. I much prefer risk-taking player teams rather than those who like to plan 3 hours for a 5 minute combat. Awesome points reward one-man-swing-into-battle-on-chandelier-while-the-others-plan tactics. It is rules like this that force the game to step away from the 'tactically most efficient' wargame-like play to frankly unhinged Awesomeness. As the players hand out the awesome points, it is up to each and every group to decide on what is awesome, Old School Hack makes some suggestions but doesn't lay down the law. My player group's definition of Awesome is stabbing the friendly NPC IN THE FACE before they have had a chance to explain the adventure.

Points of interest

The monsters section is a little lite but adequately describes how you might take any monster from anywhere and give it attributes. Kirin has also created some lovely handouts for helping to remember the order of play in combat. There are also battle map markers too. I like that each class has its own sheet to print and augment the character sheet.

There is a setting, too. Not what you might think of as a setting, though. The setting description is a masterclass in how to write setting descriptions:
The game starts out in a magic-infused medieval fantasy world on the edge of civilization, this “edge” perhaps being geographical (occuring in the borderlands or a wild frontier) or historical (either chronologically taking place after some sort of cataclysm or during the decline of a great empire); it is a world where fantastic dangers exist in a multitude of old ruins and underground lairs.

Lay me out

The layout? My relationship with it is complicated. I have a love/frown/love/hate/love/meh/love/eh? relationship with the Old School Hack layout. Without copious amounts of art and splendid typography, it does look pretty. I did clap the heels of my hands together like a little girl when I first paged-down through it. Now I've had to read, and re-read for review and reference, I'm not so sure. Iconography is excellent throughout and ties together concepts but I think there is an over-use of call-outs, boxed areas and font changes. The dark grey background is too dark, the grey text too light. Some important rules are asterisked in grey text. It looks like each section was made to fit to a page, rather than writing out all the content and then laying it out.

That said, there are very clever layour tricks, such as the Going Adventuring triangle, which shows the different attributes and how to use them.

What I would do to it

Old School hack assumes you know a lot about the origins of roleplaying, which I don't. As such, it could do with some more description for ignoramusses like me. It needs more examples of using things. I would like to see some example combat and example character builds, with all the boxes filled in. I'd also like the 'Going Adventuring' bit with all the attributes described put before combat.


I've avoided talking about its Old School credentials because I played truent from the Old School and wasting thousands of space mutants instead. The use of Awesome Points feels modern and it is by far the most interesting mechanic here. The layout is great/terrible/lively/inspired/awful/I've no idea. Old School Hack is alive with vibrance and vitality. It dances off the page at you with a mead infused jig.

Thank you Kirin for sharing!