Kids RPG Journal – #58 Optimizing for Print

Instead of curling up with the iPad and doodling monsters and enjoying the latest season of Stranger Things, I went down the coding rabbit hole and optimized the Harrowlands website for mobile and print. This cleanup has been on my list of things to do ever since I started building the site and my initial attempts were inconsistent.

This time, I went into the CSS (cascading style sheets) and stripped out everything that was not necessary or responsive. I won’t go into the technical CSS  in-depth here, because this is meant to be more about my process as a gamer, not a developer, so I’m going to focus on my goals and what I accomplished.

Since Harrowlands is primarily a resource for me to use for my games with the kids, I wanted it to be flexible as possible. I primarily access it using the laptop or the iPad Pro, which is what I originally built the site out using, but I sometimes like to check resources on my phone, and I definitely want to be able to print out things like monster and character sheets, because in the end I am a big pen and paper guy.

For this post, I am showing screen shots of http://harrowlands.com/monster/ghoul.

screenshot of harrowlands ghoul monster page (desktop)

The aforementioned character and monster sheets are definitely the most complicated portions of the site (everything else is pretty bare-bones basic) and these are the ones I most want to be perfect in all formats.

Both have a top section and a bottom section split by the keywords. Each of these sections needed to be be flexible with the components within, expanding and contracting based on the device or format. Everything is based on viewport units, which adjust elements based on the width of the screen. At first, I thought I had to have the printed version in all static units (pixels), but other than maintaining heights or certain components, I did away with pixels completely.

For mobile, every component within each section needed to fit across the screen and be arranged in a column for scrolling.

screenshot of harrowlands ghoul monster page (mobile)

For print, the importance was to try to fit everything on a single printed page while maintaining the essential desktop layout.

screenshot of harrowlands ghoul monster page (print preview)

This will give me a lot more flexibility when creating new monsters because I can easily look something up when I have an idea and I can easily print out any monsters and characters I want to use in the game or want to scribble notes on their sheets for revisions and additions.

printed version of ghoul monster sheet

Kids RPG Journal – #56 Monsters Simplified

While we were out camping, I spent a little bit of time drawing and coloring some monsters working in the new super simplified drawing style. I sketched out about twenty or so monsters from my notes in previous sketchbooks and am starting to work on them in Clip Studio.

sketchbook monster doodles

It seems I can do a couple a night if I get a little quiet time, which is much more conducive to my goals than averaging one drawing a week. More illustrations in a quicker time, allows me to make more content and spend a little bit more time writing.

This will also help me explore more monsters on the Harrowlands website than I’ve gotten to recently, and that is always a good thing.

Ghoul

simplified ghoul

Vampyr

simplified vampyr

Barrow Wight

simplified barrow wight

Draug

simplified draug

Wraith

simplified wraith

Kids RPG Journal – #49 Monster Color Process

I haven’t had much opportunity to work on making new art for the kids game recently, but I wanted to get some monsters onto the Harrowlands site, so I decided to finally color in some of last year’s Inktober beasties. I didn’t get real far with Inktober because the day job started melting down and I was working way too many hours to participate.

Not all was bad, however, because the work burnout made me stumble upon the specifics of doing the Kids RPG Journal and slowly making the Harrowlands game for the boys. I likely wouldn’t have gone down this particular path if I had more time and was not dissatisfied back then.

I’ve taken to paying just a little more attention to how I’m coloring in my monsters and other game resources recently, as some of the previous items were coming out a bit muddy. I think it was a combination of the muted palette and the Drippy Deek brushes which are a little bit darker and less chromatic than some other brushes.

One thing I had not been doing, but started up again, was putting a background color under my artwork. Working on top of white is fine, particularly in the watercolor painter mindset, which is how I approach my work on the game, but painting over a base color gives it some much needed pop without going back to the more outlandish color palettes I was using before.

hungry dead monsters from Inktober, colored in with an older brighter palette

I found I had already colored in a couple of them with the previous palette and was working on a third, but I just was not feeling it. I went back and started over again and can say I’m pretty happy with the results.

monster ghoul with just the base color

For the ghoul, I started with a lighter yellow background color which tied the colors in nicely and I felt I could do a little bit more with the wash brushes.

Final colored version of the ghoul

The end result came up much better than what I was going with on the first try.

vampyr with just base color

For the vampyr, I chose a muted blue green to accentuate the undead nature. It gives a nice base, particularly under the skin tones that makes the “otherness” really come through.

vampyr in full color

All in all, I’ll probably go back and color in all of the previous Inktober pieces. For now,

Kids RPG Journal – #47 Monsters Revived

I have loved monsters since I was a tiny child. Before my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, I would get all of the books I could from the library on monsters and myths. I read Dracula way too early and I still get goosebumps when I think of some of the scenes. Later, the Monster Manuals took so much of my time and I spent many a sleepless night pouring over every detail of each creature.

Yet as I grew older, I found myself less interested in combat stats of the monsters and wanted to know their story. So I dug deep into the original folktales, ghost stories, sagas and myths from where they came. I studied the work of Marie-Louise von Franz and her explorations into the psychology of folktales.

ghoul monster sheet top- profile, instinct, role-playing notes

I picked up DMing again with the release of D&D 5E, but the one thing I was always disappointed in were the monsters. It may just be failings as a DM, but the monsters simply ended up being something to cut down with an axe. I ended up exploring a number of more story-centric RPGs like FATE, Dungeon World, Fiasco, Seven Leagues, etc. but had a hard time getting a group together to play.

ghoul monster sheet bottom - keywords, custom moves, precautions

I doubled down on my research and had ambitions of making something where the folklore and the story of the monsters shined, but could still make something fresh and exciting. I created a monster taxonomy based on psychological traits and impulses and I catalogued all the ways I could find that “heroes” defeated monsters in the tales. I wasn’t sure what format this project was going to take—RPG, field guides, comic, novel—but I have tinkered with it for the last few years.

Working on the Harrowlands game for the boys has really allowed me to clarify what I want to share about monsters and stories in general. This search for a new Monster Manual page started long before the kids RGP journal, but has finally solidified into something I am happy with.

Angry Bees

Ghoul

angry bees monster sheet top - profile, instinct, role-playing notes, keywords

These monster sheets are almost entirely focused on role-playing. It emphasizes the instincts and mannerisms on the top of the sheet, with keywords right in the center to help get focused right away. The bottom has easy to find moves and precautions which further the role-playing aspects. There are a number of ways to deal with each monster that does not have to involve combat. In fact, some of their own moves may pull them out of a fight.

angry bees monster sheet bottom - custom moves, precautions

There is a lot of work to do on the design before I would ever consider putting it out for public use, but the format will work perfectly for my use in-game. I will tinker with them here or there as I build out the content, and the more monsters I add, I’ll inevitably get the bug to make it shiny. But for now, I am really happy with what I have to work with.