So You Want to Write for LFR

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Is there any particular map program that we're supposed to use, or can we just use the images of the tiles?Also, which are the good city tiles sets?

Thanks!

(I see several map making programs, but I could assemble the jpegs in Photoshop much faster than any of the other options...)


For city tiles (especially if you're trying to keep the number of sets and number of different sets used to a minimum), I'd recommend Streets of Shadow.
John du Bois Living Forgotten Realms Writing Director, Netheril story area Follow me on The Twitter: @JohnduBois Follow my presence on The Intertubes: johncdubois.wordpress.com
Is there any particular map program that we're supposed to use, or can we just use the images of the tiles?Also, which are the good city tiles sets?

Thanks!

(I see several map making programs, but I could assemble the jpegs in Photoshop much faster than any of the other options...)


For city tiles (especially if you're trying to keep the number of sets and number of different sets used to a minimum), I'd recommend Streets of Shadow.



Thanks, that's the one I was looking at using. 
Is there any particular map program that we're supposed to use, or can we just use the images of the tiles?Also, which are the good city tiles sets?

Thanks!

(I see several map making programs, but I could assemble the jpegs in Photoshop much faster than any of the other options...)



You can use whatever program you want for authoring. One thing to look at is whether your "white space", if you have any, should have gridded space. This is important if the white space is something used by the players/DM to determine movement. In that case, a programmer like PyMapper is nice.

Quality is not very important, so there isn't much of an advantage to using direct tile scans vs. the low res of PyMapper.

Now, when it comes to printing out any maps for actual use, that pdf resolution will be poor. That's where people sometimes recreate the tiles from scans so as to have a nicer quality printout. (Or, use a battlemap or combination of battlemap and actual tiles).

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Quality is not very important, so there isn't much of an advantage to using direct tile scans vs. the low res of PyMapper.



I've got to disagree here. There's nothing worse than staring at a low-quality print-out of low-res images intended for screen and blown up to paper quality. I took photos of the assembled maps, although next time I'll make sure we do them in black and white instead of full color.

Also, I've been using Scrivener and OmniGraffle for nonlinear writing and outlining, they're great for the tasks.
Quality is not very important, so there isn't much of an advantage to using direct tile scans vs. the low res of PyMapper.



I've got to disagree here. There's nothing worse than staring at a low-quality print-out of low-res images intended for screen and blown up to paper quality. I took photos of the assembled maps, although next time I'll make sure we do them in black and white instead of full color.

Also, I've been using Scrivener and OmniGraffle for nonlinear writing and outlining, they're great for the tasks.


What would you define as low quality vs proper quality?

I'll have to check out the links, thanks!

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Quality is not very important, so there isn't much of an advantage to using direct tile scans vs. the low res of PyMapper.



I've got to disagree here. There's nothing worse than staring at a low-quality print-out of low-res images intended for screen and blown up to paper quality. I took photos of the assembled maps, although next time I'll make sure we do them in black and white instead of full color.


What would you define as low quality vs proper quality?



Most common printers print at 300 dots per inch, with newsprint quality being about 150dpi. The resolutions on most screen is usually 72 or 96 pixels / inch. The 1x1 tiles available from the Yahoo! Dungeon Tiles group for use with the map builder are 32 pixels per inch. If you've got a 20x20 room on an 8.5-inch piece of paper with 1-inch margins, the tiles will have to be at about 1/3 scale. Now my math might be off, but at 1/3 scale, those 32-pixel-per-inch will give you 640 pixels/dots stretched over a 1950 pixel canvas.

The "correct" size isn't exact, but ideally your map images would not be scaled up to print. Granted, I understand that not everyone has subject-area expertise in imaging and printing, but I've squinted at enough fuzzy LFR maps to list it as something we can improve.
Our ideas of quality match, but I'm less worried about the bad Dungeon Tile scans in terms of the half-page image. The problem I have with that image is really that the B&W version often is insufficient to capture the fine points of what is happening in color. I try to remember when I print a mod to look at the maps on paper and see if anything was unclear so I can make the note. Using color I don't have that problem.

It would be nice to get better tile scans for the Dungeon Tiles group, though. I'm not sure what can really be done. I don't think authors should have to own the tiles, so you end up having to deal with those scans.

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Most common printers print at 300 dots per inch, with newsprint quality being about 150dpi. The resolutions on most screen is usually 72 or 96 pixels / inch. The 1x1 tiles available from the Yahoo! Dungeon Tiles group for use with the map builder are 32 pixels per inch. If you've got a 20x20 room on an 8.5-inch piece of paper with 1-inch margins, the tiles will have to be at about 1/3 scale. Now my math might be off, but at 1/3 scale, those 32-pixel-per-inch will give you 640 pixels/dots stretched over a 1950 pixel canvas.



You're mixing up dpis.

300 dpi in terms of image size is what's known as hi-rez - if you're printing professionally, you want this. Most home laser printers can't really handle that level of resolution well. More than 200 dpi is wasted. 240 dpi is more than enough for any color inkjet printers.

The 1x1 tiles seem to be of a range in the yahoo group - the city tiles are mostly 75 pixels per inch.

One of the other issues is that the tiles are not scanned in a way that makes them easy to use in b&w. That's a much larger problem.
The tile set scans from the Dungeon_Tiles group (which is the continuation of the formerly-officially-supported `Dungeon Tiles Mapper', a javascript app now basically replaced by PyMapper) vary in scan resolution quite a bit from set to set, so it's not too surprising to see two different people using the `same' data and coming to different conclusions -- it really depends on the map (and thus which sets you want). 

Last year I used those images extensively to make maps for MapTools, and I ended up replacing the `bad' tile scans with better versions of my own.  I can't imagine that I could distribute these legally, but if someone in OP could get permission, I think we could volunteer/community build a better tool for LFR authors with little-to-zero cost to Wizards.

I'm dismayed that the Monster Builder can't be used for LFR authoring; I constantly run into problems in stat blocks that are obviously transcription errors (a surprising number of large dragons, small elementals, undead constructs, etc are ``medium natural humanoid'' according to the stat blocks).  I've been happy with the MB output for my own MYRE adventures, when I wasn't wrestling with its UI strangeness or watching it crash.  It's turning into a solid tool, and I do hope that it can be used for LFR eventually.

Keith mentions that there is a font issue with distribution; I have some (of old) experience with font creation, and could probably make a font with recognizable symbols for the standard attack types, recharges, and whatnot that could be freely used (public domain, creative commons, rights assigned), if that would help.   Let me know.
There are a couple of free versions of the 4e fonts out there.
Here's one.
Here's another.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
I can't imagine that I could distribute these legally, but if someone in OP could get permission, I think we could volunteer/community build a better tool for LFR authors with little-to-zero cost to Wizards.

I'm dismayed that the Monster Builder can't be used for LFR authoring; I constantly run into problems in stat blocks that are obviously transcription errors (a surprising number of large dragons, small elementals, undead constructs, etc are ``medium natural humanoid'' according to the stat blocks).  I've been happy with the MB output for my own MYRE adventures, when I wasn't wrestling with its UI strangeness or watching it crash.  It's turning into a solid tool, and I do hope that it can be used for LFR eventually.


It would be great to have better scans. I suspect that there would be no argument to same resolution but better scans, where the resolution is no better than the later sets. This would at least be nice for the adventures. The issue would be with resolutions that allow printing real-size maps.

MB is pretty cool. Unfortunately, when they pdf the image version it comes out a bit blurry. I am not sure about the rtf, though I heard the issue was the font/layout being different. It would be nice if someone like Tulach (or maybe Wolfstar or another VCL? could raise the issue with the devs... no reason to have a format that doesn't work). I did my most recent adventure in MB (as did one global), which then required rework.

The MB is a huge process improvement. I find it faster to compare MB output to the source and spot issues than to spot issues I might make with copying and pasting blocks within Word. When it comes to errata, I find that they fix things really quickly if you make the issue clear. I usually post on the MB errata thread, then send a CS note with the link to that thread. Anything I've raised has been fixed in the very next update.

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It is not the game icons that is the issue. We don't even use them in LFR adventures. It is the standard font used in the text, including the statblocks.


MB is pretty cool. Unfortunately, when they pdf the image version it comes out a bit blurry. I am not sure about the rtf, though I heard the issue was the font/layout being different. It would be nice if someone like Tulach (or maybe Wolfstar or another VCL? could raise the issue with the devs... no reason to have a format that doesn't work). I did my most recent adventure in MB (as did one global), which then required rework.



I can put it into my weekly report, but contacting Customer Service would be a better option, IMHO.  Especially if you can post a sample to some webspace and link it in your help ticket.  Still, I'll see if I can't bend Chris Champagne's ear a little.  

WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

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MB is pretty cool. Unfortunately, when they pdf the image version it comes out a bit blurry. I am not sure about the rtf, though I heard the issue was the font/layout being different. It would be nice if someone like Tulach (or maybe Wolfstar or another VCL? could raise the issue with the devs... no reason to have a format that doesn't work). I did my most recent adventure in MB (as did one global), which then required rework.



That seems rather bizarre. Were you using the image output from monster builder? It seems like using rtf output would make more sense. It should result in smaller filesizes and allow more free manipulation of the formatting in Word. (That is what I have been doing for my MYRE adventures and it prints as clearly as any other text. For other people, I would imagine that being able to change the default colorations to be more clearly legible when printed in greyscale would be advantageous--and you can do that easily if you export in rtf). Now, if you were using image file output, then it makes sense that it would come out blurry--especially if you resized or otherwise manipulated the output in order to fit it into your adventure template. In that case, you have a raw image file that is compressed generating a few artifacts, manipulated as an image in Word, and then flattened in the pdf generation process so it is not surprising that the resulting text would not be as crisp as ordinary printed text or tables.
Ok, I raised a ticket. I appreciate your help, Wolfstar!

To Elder_Basilisk, when I used the image output I was told it printed blurry (I later saw this with a draft of ADCP2-1, where Sean used MB for speed). When I used RTF I was told it still had issues with format (which I think were minor cosmetic things that are still big issues for the global admins or WotC - for someone above my meager level). So, I suspect the blurryness was caused by the image being distorted in the Word-PDF process. But, the format stuff just seems like a disconnect somewhere and it would be good for the people in Dev and maybe admins to have a chat and see if they can't do something about it. MB is a great tool and it is a shame not to be able to use it.

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The stat blocks in the LFR adventure template are designed to look like the stat blocks in a printed WotC product. It uses  expensive fonts for the text and a font they own for the symbols.  There are a number of picky details that must be done correctly regarding how things line up and what size font is used. In theory WotC should be able to copy the block and insert it into any printed product they create without needing to make any changes.

The MB is designed for use by the home DM. Therefore when it creates a rtf stat block it uses Ariel for the font and uses a uniform font size for everything and sets the information in a table.   Great for the home DM not so good for LFR.

Even if someone goes in and changes the fonts, adjust all the font sizes and fixes everything to line up correctly issues develop when it is converted to a pdf because of it being in a table. 

 
Claire
Co-Writing Director Waterdeep
 
The stat blocks in the LFR adventure template are designed to look like the stat blocks in a printed WotC product. It uses  expensive fonts for the text and a font they own for the symbols.  There are a number of picky details that must be done correctly regarding how things line up and what size font is used. In theory WotC should be able to copy the block and insert it into any printed product they create without needing to make any changes.

The MB is designed for use by the home DM. Therefore when it creates a rtf stat block it uses Ariel for the font and uses a uniform font size for everything and sets the information in a table.   Great for the home DM not so good for LFR.

Even if someone goes in and changes the fonts, adjust all the font sizes and fixes everything to line up correctly issues develop when it is converted to a pdf because of it being in a table. 

 
Claire
Co-Writing Director Waterdeep



In that case, someone should rethink either the approach to LFR statblocks in adventures or to the MB output or both. It makes no sense to saddle LFR adventures with an approach that is likely to create more incorrect statblocks which take more work to write and to edit and cannot use the writing tool that WotC publishes in return for the highly questionable advantages of being able to use a fancy font and some fancy symbols, neither of which add anything to the experience of running or playing an LFR adventure. I've run MYRE adventures using MB output and I've run standard adventures using the standard monster stablocks and as far as utility goes there is no discernable difference them.

If WotC wants to have the statblocks for future use, they only need the information in electronic format which should actually be easier to get by parsing monster builder output or reading a monster builder file than it would be otherwise. Once they have the information, the format, fonts, and formatting used to present it in LFR adventures should be irrelevant.

Now, if tables pose a formatting challenge in the pdf conversion, that's another matter, but adobe acrobat has been around long enough that there should be a way to overcome the problem. And, given the significant labor-saving potential of monster builder both in the data entry, editing, and writing area, whatever effort is required to make the formatting work properly when converted to pdf (whether that effort comes from adjusting Monster Builder's default output or tweaking the settings of acrobat) should be well worth it.
[S]omeone should rethink either the approach to LFR statblocks in adventures or to the MB output or both. It makes no sense to saddle LFR adventures with an approach that is likely to create more incorrect statblocks which take more work to write and to edit and cannot use the writing tool that WotC publishes in return for the highly questionable advantages of being able to use a fancy font and some fancy symbols, neither of which add anything to the experience of running or playing an LFR adventure. I've run MYRE adventures using MB output and I've run standard adventures using the standard monster stablocks and as far as utility goes there is no discernable difference them.

I think that problem is that the tool writers use—MS Word—is great for collaborative writing but poor for the type of professional layout WotC is looking for. Given the choice, I'd probably write my adventure in HTML/CSS. unfortunately there's not a lot of tools to use in the place of Word that don't have a steep learning curve, although I wouldn't mind using a cheaper one—my first LFR assignment didn't even recoup the cost of the program.