[I recently posted this in the "LFR Group," thinking that was the standard forum. But then I realized that *this* is the active LFR area, so I'm reposting it here. Sorry for the repetition. ]
I am trying a demo encounter to submit to my regional LFR writng coordinator, but I've run into a snag. I have noticed that in all the adventures I've seen, the included encounter maps are built from Dungeon Tiles and even instruct on which tiles a DM needs to build them. Indeed, the encounters generally seem to be designed around using DTs. However, I personally don't own all the DTs and the location I want my encounter to use probably cannot be built from existing DTs. So my question is ...
1) Are LFR writers required to conform their encounters to existing DTs?
2) Are writers required to produce a DT-friendly map to go along with their adventures?
Thanks in advance.
Yes, one of the requirements for all LFR adventures is that encounter maps are constructed using images of Dungeon Tiles.
To address your issue, all I can say is that you will have to figure out a way to build your encounter using Dungeon Tiles - we've all had to do it. Just look at the map of the first encounter in SPEC1-1, set in a bar, using DT6 Dire Tombs. Shawn somehow made it work.
Technology is available to help you build your maps, using images of all available Dungeon Tiles sets (you don't have to actually own them). One such program is called PyMapper and can be downloaded from the Dungeon Tiles yahoo group:
A lot of what the admins are looking for when reviewing audition pieces is a writer's ability to conform to their standards. Those standards include well-designed maps using Dungeon Tiles.
The creative part of me is going grumble-grumble-grumble a bit, but I can live with that. And thanks for the link to the program--that looks like it will definitely help.
One thing to keep in mind is that the judicious use of white space can often alleviate map-making problems. You have to use Dungeon Tiles, but you can leave blank areas on the map (just make sure you export the grid so that the DM understands where the 1" squares are). Then in Microsoft Word, you can overlay a text box on the map image and make it translucent with a specific color. Voila, you have "blank tiles" that are any color you need them to be. This is particularly useful for maps that include water, as there really aren't any good open water tiles in any of the sets.
The wording in the writer's guidelines is "With only very few exceptions which must be approved at all levels of the administration, maps should be built using Dungeon Tiles, a Wizards of the Coast product designed for DMs to produce fast, visually appealing tactical environments. You can take digital photos of your tile layouts and add appropriate marks in editing software or use a map program to assemble the maps and then add marks."
While you can use photos, that requires you to own every tile. Also, photos are not as easy to read for DMs as the tiles from PyMapper.
(If you want some humor, keep reading where it says, "In the near future, D&D Insider will have a
Dungeon Tiles Mapper application available for free"!)
Ok, seriously, you can do pretty good things and pretty creative things with the dungeon tiles. In general, keep in mind what you are trying to do with terrain and story. Do you have high and low areas? What kind of features? Indoors? Outdoors? As you get to know the tile sets, these types of questions start narrowing down which tiles can be used and you can come up with good ideas.
A featureless open room can play poorly. Thus, while you can use white space, I would caution that there should be a reason for it, such as "white featureless grid represents the ocean". White space can work well as pits, borders, featureless terrain such as sand, etc. PyMapper lets you shade the white grid space so you can make it more like the terrain you are emulating.
In designing rooms, keep them interesting but focused on the need at hand (not complex just for the sake of complexity). Look at the monsters to determine what foes need protection (the ranged artillery or controller, the ranged leader, etc.), what a lurker might need (shadowy corners, raised areas that block sight), what a skirmisher might need (terrain that divides up the fight and prevents a unified front, blocking terrain to move behind), what brutes might want (a choke point, perhaps, or a wall to hide behind until the squishies approach), and so on. I suspect these kinds of thoughts will produce a good map and a good impression with the writing director reviewing your work. During playtesting I look carefully at how terrain played.
(And I can level some self-criticism my way in that I really need to not always make such huge maps... especially if the area is not being used to its full extent. You want enough room for realistic maneuvering but not a huge space that will not be used, since it affects DM prep time, print costs, and/or tile setup).
The Yahoo group that Dave posted is pretty helpful. The guy making the software is always adding features and the group members are glad to take a look at any problems you experience.
In general, it should only take a very short time for you to get up and running and getting used to the program.
There is one thing on that page which would be nice, if PyMapper supports it, and that is the copy-ad-paste functionality. Put that version of the map on the bottom of the map pages in the module, allowing the DM to generate a clean copy of the map for use at the table...
Thank you all for the helpful responses. Much appreciated.
Re: PyMapper: Er. Yeah. Hmmm. What an ... interesting program. It errors out the moment I open it and won't let me move or delete a tile once I place it. Frustrating that this is the most realistic option for a writer to break into writing for LFR ...
You can use other programs too - most of my experience with making tiles maps has been making them for online play with Maptools. It's a bit odder since many of the tiles need to be resized to fit the grid, but that takes half a second per distinct tile used.
Which I have to say is one of the environments where LFR using dungeon tiles is pure gold. I can setup maps for the game so quickly that way, and it's very convenient and visually works.
Alphastream: Yeah, I'm figuring it out. Apparently there was an .ini file problem (from making it load the tilesets on startup).
On a related note: What *are* the tilesets allowed for LFR adventure writing? I see tilesets for a lot of the older tile releases, plus the newer ones, plus two years of free RPGA giveaways, plus some that appear to be from specific adventures.
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