Kids RPG Journal – #23 Map Making

Today, I explore the process for making maps for the kids lands in the game. 

First, I started through a bunch of my resources on Scandinavian history and legends, including a bunch of books by old historians and story scholars, like A Description of the Northern Peoples by Olaus Magnus, Danish Histories by Saxo Grammaticus, Germania by Tacitus, and Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm. I copied names and brief notes about major land features and countries.

I want to keep some real-world locales in the setting, but don’t want to be a slave to actual physical geography. I more want to honor the stories and legends of places, versus historical accuracy.

Midgard post-it notes

Step two, I wrote out some of the names on post-it notes to get a general placement for all of the countries and land masses. Then I took a picture and drew a map over the image. 

Midgard Map first paint

Here is a first pass at a Midgard map. I’ve already chosen to add/change/remove some place names since making this, but it got enough of the world in my head that I figured I could move on to where the adventures will begin, Saksaland.

In the first adventures, the players will be traveling North in Saksaland to get to their future school, the Kraghall Academy. Think of it like any of the various ways Harry Potter had to take to get to Hogwarts. I already had some local flavor in place for the adventure and now needed a map.

Saksaland map sketch

I did a number of sketches on paper until I liked the layout and had everything I wanted to include. Once I had a final sketch, I took a photo and set it as a background in Clip Studio Paint.

Beech tree process shot in Clip Studio Paint

I started with the trees first, as I knew they’d be the most time consuming. Saksaland has three major forest types: spruce, beech, and birch. I made 3 or 4 individual trees of each the beech and birch and then copy and pasted them in varied clusters to give them a random appearance.

Saksaland map detail: trees

After lots of copying, I had the forests in place.

The spruce trees were all drawn individually, but I may go back and make some spruce tree materials for future use.

The rest of the map was done in the same ink and dirty wash as the rest of the art for the game.

I am adhering to one of the major tenants of Dungeon World: draw maps, leave blanks. It’ll be fun to see if we can go back to any of these things later on in the campaign.

Kids RPG Journal – #19 Locations: The Dolmen

The first major location we are going to visit in our adventure is Yrla Stead, a small cluster of farms bordering the wild forests. We will have at least a couple of adventure sessions here, so I am working on the maps and location cards.

The first card I’m working on is the Dolmen. There is an ancient burial near one of the farms, it’s history long forgotten. It may hold a number of secrets to inquisitive kids.

Dolmen location near the farmsteads

I probably don’t need to draw each of these sub-locations, but I really prefer to draw backgrounds and props as opposed to people, so the location cards may be just as much for me as for the kids. Additionally, I feel like I am more creative on my descriptions when I have some illustrations to play off of.

Finally, the paintings make for great entries into the Adventure Journals.

We’ll see just how many of these I can get in, before we really need to start in on the game play.

Kids RPG Journal – #16 Lore Cards

The boys are excited to play the game now and really want to get going right away. I’d hoped to do more during the holiday break, but I spent most of my time with them and I find I work so much better when I have more alone timeā€¦ even if the majority of that is doing the day job.

I’m nearly done with the design of the character sheets and have the layouts pinned down, however, I’ve been putting off going through each of the class-specific moves to pair down the text and clean up any mechanics aren’t cutting it. It feels like it’s going to be a lot more work than I think it actually will be, but I’m dragging my feet anyway.

Another reason I don’t have the character sheets completed yet is that I am so ready to jump into some adventure design and get started on the actual content of the first adventure and how to make it kid-friendly within the time that I have.

Snarl Wort Lore Card for Kids RPG - Snarl Wort is a rare herb with a sweet, spicy flavor. It is used for potions and cooking, and can be quite dangerous to harvest.

As a brief change of scenery, I started drawing out some of the lore cards, I will be handing out during game-play. I want to have a bunch of interesting handouts for the games, as they definitely make things more exciting for younger players. The lore cards will be designed to go into the boys’ adventure journals, two to a side on the 5.5×8.5 pages.

Vampire Pumpkin Lore Card for Kids RPG - In the eastern lands, it is said that pumpkins left on the vine after the Butcher's moon may turn vampiric and most evil.

To make them kid-friendly, I’ve done a simple illustration with very little text, more to jog the memory than to give a complete summary of who, what, when, where, and how the PCs got the information. It also makes them a little more flexible, and I can put specific ones in play whenever it feels appropriate, not necessarily in some heavily-scripted manner.

The first two I have posted here are the Snarl Wort and Gourd Gone Bad. Snarl Wort is a made up herb for a mini-quest and may have some place in the main quest too. Gourds Gone Bad goes into the Slavic folklore of vampiric pumpkins and melons coming to life when they are left on the vine too long. I don’t go into a lot of detail, but the second will play a significant role in the first main adventure.

Similarly, I’ll be putting together notes cards which will have more specific things from the game which will serve more as clues on how to find creative methods to get things done.

I’m not 100% sold on the template yet, but they’ll definitely do for the first game or so.