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Visit to Capital City

Last week we were in Washington D.C. for our first vacation as a family. One of the things that struck me about the city is just how many groups have offices of various types within the city. Obviously the various lawmakers, government officials, and their staff need to have face time within the city, but I did not realize the diversity and extent of such offices until I visited.

Embassies

Let's start with a rather obvious one. Our hotel was in an area known as Embassy Row. It was interesting seeing all the various embassies, especially comparing their relative sizes. A fair number had sculptures outside, sometimes commemorating famous immigrants or just celebrating their culture.

The presence (or not) of an embassy can suggest a fair bit of how relations are between the powers. What is the size of the embassy? Is the building old or new? Do they house all of their staff (possibly due to safety) or do they allow their staff to live, work, and play among the capital's residents? May diplomats and other foreign staff bring their children?

Labor and Trade Unions


Another common occupant type I saw were unions. Laws often have various effects on labor and trade, both planned and unplanned. Groups often form to protect and advocate for their interests and just as with foreign powers, it helps to have your own space to do so. Not only does the space give your group a place to meet and work, it could also house permanent staff and/or provide temporary housing to visitors who are members of your union. The building itself can also be a form of advertisement for the group. Which unions have permanent space in the city? Did they decorate their facade? If so, how?

Social and Civic Groups

I found it rather interesting that the Daughters of the American Revolution has a large building facing The Ellipse. On each street I visited, it seemed like I found yet another social or civic group. One whose building caught my eye is called "Defenders of Wildlife."

What social and/or civic groups might have representation? What do their buildings look like?

Statues, Memorials, and Monuments

Everywhere we walked we came across another statue, memorial, and/or monument. Many were either former civil government officials or military leaders. Some were relatively small; a stone bench with some nice plants and a small plaque. Other times they were large, such as the Jefferson memorial. What statues, memorials, and/or monuments might exist? Who built them? What people and/or events do they commemorate? How do other groups feel about them? Are there groups that consistently aren't the subject of such commemoration?

Museums

Washington, D.C. is home to an abundance of museums. Part of this is due to the natural accumulation of governments of artifacts (think the Tower of London), but a large part is due to a conscious decision to build important collections and make them available to everyone (Smithsonian museums are free for instance). Museums can hold all sorts of items and which subjects are catered to as well as their proximity to common traffic tells us a fair bit about parts of that culture. Which collections exist? Whose life is enshrined in the exhibits? Which communities are often left out?

There's more that I experienced on my vacation than I can do justice in this blog post. But inspiration for your setting can come from anywhere, including something as simple as your family vacation.

D&D and Bullet Journal Mashup

Over the past year, I've been watching a lot of art videos on YouTube. Originally I started with videos about art journaling but over time the algorithms started adding in bullet journalling as well. At first I wasn't sure that the videos were for me but as I saw more examples of what people were doing with them, I got hooked and decided to give it a try this year.

Here's the description of what bullet journaling is from the website, BulletJournal.com:

The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.

One of the keys is to number each of your pages and to leave a few pages at the start of the journal to use as a table of contents. What you decide to put on each page is up to you. Also key is that you never go too far in advance. This allows you to experiment with new ways of recording and presenting information as well as figuring out what your style is.

At first, I did some really basic page setups, drawing boxes for the three types of daily items: tasks, events, and notes. For example, here's a Sunday from January.

Attempt at BuJo Dungeon

Drawing these boxes reminded me of creating dungeon maps, so the next week, I decided to draw a dungeon instead.

First, I decided the path through the "rooms," the various sections on the page that I will later do my planning within. All of the lines are done with Pigma Micron pens in black ink and various nib widths.

Next I went through and added the typical journal information, in this case the days and dates of the week. I also started some of the decoration, such as creating the chessboard pattern room. The days of the week were written with a Pigma Micron pen and the dates, headers, and coloring were done with Faber Castell Pitt Artist brush pens.

Finally, I decided to add some stamping to the page. I used Tombow markers to "ink" the stamps and then applied them to the page. Most of the stamps were from the Lawn Fawn Critters Ever After set (affiliate link).

BuJo Resort Town

The next week I decided to go with a town map instead of a dungeon. I wanted to do a resort town with a large hotel with attendant stables and carriage house. First, I drew in the corners of the planning boxes and penciled in the town map.

Next I went through and started inking the buildings and environment. For this I used Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens, trying to keep to colors that would be easy to write over without interfering with readability.

Finally, I colored in with colored pencil the areas that I had inked with the Fineliner pens. I also used stamps inked with my Tombow markers to add some additional features and added dates and headers with Pitt artist brush pens.

BuJo Cliffside Town

This week, I went with a town map again, but this time I decided to explore a cliffside town. Again I only drew the corners of my planning areas. I had an idea of a society where people built octagonal houses. When their children were old enough to start a family, they built off of one of the walls of their home, so that the homes were interconnected. My inspiration for this was spending last week with my parents with my little one. While I worked during the day in the garage, they took care of little dude in their home, which gave me the idea of what if we could live in separate but connected homes that made this sort of community care easier.

I didn't have as much time to spend on this map as I had my previous ones, so it's a bit simpler. All of the map inking is done with the Fineliner pens and instead of coloring in areas, I drew lines to delineate areas such as woods, water, and beach.

So why do this? I've found that as I spent more time designing my bullet journal pages, I've been more likely to use it to plan and record information. Also, this is a good way to get in map design practice. Finally, much like coloring, I find it relaxing and a nice creative outlet while not requiring a ton of time, important when I'm taking care of a seven-month old in addition to working full time.

While I've concentrated on my weekly/daily spread, there are many other ways that a bullet journal could be useful for someone who likes to play tabletop roleplaying games. I could just as easily use a page or two to create random tables or plan my next campaign. Having the table of contents at the front makes it easier to not lose that information.

What happens when you engage - Epilogue

I debated intensely whether or not to write this but I think it's important to point out the full ramifications of what happens when people, especially those from marginalized groups, speak up.

For those of you who don't know, I spent pretty much all of 2016 out of gaming due to my pregnancy and then being one of two primary caregivers of a little person. In 2015, I had a few things going on when combined with the stress of what happened in 2014 meant it made more sense for me to take a step back from writing about gaming and doing other fun things, like coloring or reading. Most if not all of it still had a tabletop RPG angle to it and I continued on with the Tome Show although at a reduced frequency in 2016 because, well, pregnancy and then caring for a little one.

However, now that the little one is nearing 6 months, I'd like to get back into writing about games and maybe even designing again. I decide to poke my head out a bit and what do I find but this.

Content: I could also really understand how even women on this side of the insanity spectrum from Tracey Hurley would still find some of this material offensive. Not that I think "offensive" is a valid reason for "should not exist". Just, I could get people thinking some of the material here is really stupid, be it or practical or personal reasons.

Which is a pity, because the parts that aren't just smut for its own sake are usually pretty creative.

Not only is the quoted part in the review of a product I had nothing to do with and had not said anything about (I didn't even know of its existence), he used it to publicize his post in a number of gaming groups on social media, at least on G+. He falsely attributes opinions to me and then uses those false attributions to make the claim that I'm on the other "side of the insanity spectrum," whatever that's supposed to mean. At this point it's no longer about my opinions, but about me.

And all of this happened about a year and a half after my last "What happens when you engage post." And with the exception of my recent post highlighting someone I think draws pretty awesome maps, over a year since my last blog post. I also haven't been on G+ or Twitter much given everything going on.

I bring this up because many people said if I just ignored him, that it would stop. They said that it wasn't abuse because he was just responding to my current posts and it being the internet, what did I expect? But he has continued well past then. At what point will we see him for who he truly is? I get that he could just be baiting me into another fight that does nothing but feed his ego, but I think it's also important to point out that regardless of his motivations, this abuse is happening. And I'm far from the only one he targets.

This isn't someone trying to refute my ideas. This is someone who is convinced that I am "[a] person trying to put extreme ideological demands on this hobby.” More specifically, he believes I serve some sort of threat to the existence of OSR. Even though I have highlighted and will continue to highlight OSR blogs and products that I personally find useful or interesting. Even though the community appears to be thriving. Even though I talk up some OSR community members in my gaming friend groups. All the things he falsely claims that I am doing, he actually does.

I'm heartened to see people stand up to him, especially people who are no fans of what I write. If you want to disagree with me, that's great. But this abuse needs to stop.

Blogs I Love: Dyson’s Dodecahedron


I've been admiring Dyson Logos' maps for quite some time now. When I eventually get back to creating and publishing my own adventures, my dream is to have some of his maps accompany my work. In case you haven't seen them yet, here are examples:

The Three Tombs of Acker cartography by Dyson LogosThe Three Tombs of Acker cartography by Dyson Logos
Clayfield Village Cartography by Dyson LogosClayfield Village Cartography by Dyson Logos

Ink sketches and drawings of all sorts are among my favorite types of art but are among the type that I personally am not particularly good at. And I love a good map.

Fortunately, Dyson's site is full of them, over 460 of them actually. He has them organized on his blog in a variety of categories including by location type, adventure type, and drawing style. While the vast majority of them are for personal use only, he has put approximately 96 of them under a no-cost, royalty-free Creative Commons Attributions license that includes commercial use.

He is also quite active on social media including Facebook, G+, and Twitter. I've been lurking around on his posts for a while because he's just so willing to provide important information and tips not only on drawing maps but also getting them printed. For instance, his hints about using engineering prints from places like Staples has been filed away for my own art projects as well.

If you want to support Dyson Logos creating even more maps, check out his Patreon. He also has published a few books. They are available as pdfs from RPG Now and hard copy via Lulu. Finally, if like me you dream of commissioning a map from him, his commission rates are available here. No guarantees that he'll have time to work on them.

P.S. If you haven't seen it yet, some of Dyson's work was used in the Dungeons & Dragons Monsters and Heroes of the Realms Coloring Book (Amazon Affiliate Link).

Art Supply Roundup: Sargent Art Gel Pens

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to find Artist & Craftsman Supply in Central Square, Cambridge, MA. I had been looking for some colorless blending pencils from Prismacolor one day and we decided to give them a shot. I'm so glad we did. Not only do they carry art supplies for all sorts of "serious" arts and crafts endeavors (they carry professional materials for everything from oil painting to bookmaking/binding, but they make an effort to include neat student level products as well, include at least three different sets of gel pens from Sargent Art.

The three sets are fluorescent, glitter, and metallic. Each set comes with 10 different pens and is packaged in a reusable pouch with snap. Before I go to far into my experiences with coloring with them, I wanted to give you an example of the different colors available and how they did on various paper. First up is a smooth white cardstock.

The colors here are all vibrant and the pens wrote fairly well. I did have some issues with the fluorescent gel pens which I think will be easier to see on the other papers, but I still liked them overall.

Here's the same pens, in the same order, on a piece of green cardstock.

Again, I think the ink went on pretty well on the smooth paper. Obviously, the green shades are a bit harder to see. For the fluorescents, some of the colors aren't quite as vibrant and seem a bit duller. Also, I feel like the glitter pens fared much better than the metallics.

Finally, here's the same pens on a piece of black construction paper.

The construction paper definitely presented some challenges with getting the gel to come out smoothly. However, while some of the fluorescents had issues, especially the yellow and orange ones, overall I thought they held up pretty decently. Unlike the green cardstock, the glitter pens didn't do as well as the metallic gel pens. Mainly the glitter pens on this paper look like I put glitter on the page, with the exception of the more silver colored one.

A few other things to know about the pens. As you may be able to see in some of the images, the ink can pool sometimes, especially at the start and end of the lines. Also, the line isn't always consistent. Finally, these inks can take awhile to dry and are easy to smudge if you're not careful (left-handed people in particular might want to take note of this).

I forget exactly how much I paid for them, but I believe it was under $6 for each set. When I consider that I pay nearly a third to half that for one metallic silver Uniball pen, I think they are worth the price. I love using them as accents on my coloring.

Here's an example where I used my Crayola Super Tips markers to color a flower in yellow and then went over it with the orange and yellow glitter pens.

I used the metallic gel pens to color in the crowns on this page.

The important part here, in my opinion is to just have fun and don't feel that just because it's in the kids' area that you can't have fun with it and create cool stuff.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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