Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Greyhawk Wars... Kinda

I've got an inkling to do a really huge project. Mostly for my own edification, but naturally I'll publish the results once I get them into something approaching fit-for-public-consumption.

Regular readers will recall that I was an avid wargamer before I was a role-player, and I think that the wars surrounding the Great Kingdom would be excellent fodder for an old-fashioned, SPI-style wargame. Hex maps, cardboard counters, different scenarios... the works. (And, once again, if anyone from WotC is reading, consider this a product pitch!)

Picture this; a large (22" x 34") map depicting the area of South Province, Idee, the Iron Hills, Irongate, parts of Onnwal and Sunndi on a much larger scale than the Darlene maps (maybe 10 miles per hex; I haven't done the math). Lots of colorful counters depicting units of the Iron League and the aforementioned South Province. (Check out the counters here to get an idea of what I'm talking about, oh ye benighted non-wargamers.) Rules would include supply, magic, morale, wizards and heroes, magical artifacts, raising new troops, etc. Scenarios... ah, the scenarios. The Revolt of the Iron League in 455. The attempts of Herzog Chellor to harry the League in 577/8. Scores of attempts to shatter the League in-between. Conflicts between the dwarves of the Iron Hills and both sides. The hordes of Wastri emerge from the Vast Swamp to wreak havock.

Hell, you could even have an alternate combat resolution mechanic that encorporates that Men & Magic update / System 7 Napoleonics fusion I posted about earlier. But that wouldn't be necessary. I think this could really work, and would open up the door for a whole series of games; the wars of Imperial Keoland, Nyrond/Almor vs. the Great Kingdom, humanoids of the Bone March vs. Ratik/North Province... And of course the Shield Lands could warrant an entire game unto themselves.

Well, THIS sucks

Jeffrey Talanian, who collaborated on the Castle Zagyg project, is now apparently off the project. Gygax Games (the company that Gary's widow runs, and which owns all of his IP) are apparently shifting gears on how they want to do things; i.e., it looks like they're cutting Troll Lord Games out of the picture. And, naturally, they're not saying anything, which is just certain to build the confidence of te fanbase and stockpile loads of good-will for the Widow Gygax's future efforts. At the moment, it looks like getting a Volume III is a distant dream, but time will tell if my pessimism is justified.

Looks like I'll be back to designing my own Castle Greyhawk levels. Just when I was all set to do some wilderness mapping...

Fifty Different Terrain Types

I just discovered this post over at John Krygier's absolutely fascinating Making Maps: DIY Cartography blog. The application to both role-playing and wargaming is obvious. These terrain features really remind me of the old Iron Crown Enterprises maps-- those things were absolutely gorgeous.

The listing of those fifty terrain types-- with no fewer than ten different types of "plains" and includes representative art for all of them-- comes from a 1931 article by Erwin Raisz (of whom I had never heard before), who sets out a system to standardize the illustration of terrain according to the geographic type of the area, but with incorporating the peculiar idiosyncracies of the land itself. Raisz is quoted as saying:

For the study of settlement, land utilization, or any other aspect of man’s occupation of the earth it is more important to have information about the ruggedness, trend, and character of mountains, ridges, plains, plateaus,
canyons, and so on-in a word, the physiography of the region.

And I can say that such would be eminently important to the more mundane aspects of both role-playing and wargaming. On the whole, it's very evocative of Renaissance-era maps, to my eye. It is most definitely the antithesis of modern cartography, which is very modern and scientific, with elevation lines and so forth. Much as I can see the appeal of such a modernist approach to mapping, I vastly prefer the evocative nature of this sort of cartography for gaming purposes.

The old Wilderlands maps are something of an adaptation of this sort of map-making; taking these sorts of naturalistic terrain markers (in a simplified form; mountains are mountains) and applying a hex map overlay. The famed Greyhawk poster maps by Darlene are more of an abstraction of that principle; the terrain types, to a large extent, are made to conform to the hex grid (although she does do so in a very aesthetically pleasing way, as well as the way she works the necessary text of the map in with the features they describe). At the other end of the scale, of course, are more traditional wargaming maps (of the AH or SPI school), where the terrain is laid out at the hex level in an almost-abstract fashion.

Krygier also makes the point that this sort of cartography is largely impossible with today's modern digital cartography. I'm not convinced that something reasonable couldn't be done in the Raiszian style, but I hardly claim to be an expert in digital cartography.

All in all, I find myself now inspired to do a whole lot of mapping for my campaign.