My investigations into the source material have led to some interesting finds. In particular, I got my hands on a scan of the original Strand magazine from 1903, and looked at The Adventure of the Dancing Men therein. And, indeed, the drawings were very much different. This is definitely going to come into play with the font.
I’ve been working on getting ready for MegaMooseCon, filling orders, dealing with my aunt’s estate, prepping the TableMaster manual for the printer, working on the Mac port (just found where a leftover Windows system call was hiding!) and all sorts of other chaos, mostly all at once. One of the major parts of that has been preparing the font package for a relaunch, 20+ years later.
Actually, it’s two font packages now: Arcane Alphabets, a major reworking of the old one, and Cryptic Ciphers, which is almost entirely new. (one font, Astrologer, moved over from AA because it fit better in CC) It’s the latter that I’m working on right now, and the font I’m currently taking a break from is the famous Sherlock Holmes “Dancing Men” cipher, which I’ve called “Slaney“, named for the villain of the story.
Since I’m surfacing from font-editing for a little while, I figured I’d spend that time talking a bit about the design process that went into Slaney, with some asides about fonts in general.
After an amazing amount of trouble, some emails that must have convinced my host that I’m that customer, and an annoying DNS issue, the server migration is complete. This is good.
On the other hand, phpBB, the forum software, is having issues with SQL usernames. This is not good. So, the forums are offline (and throwing errors) until I work out exactly which script is trying to use the wrong username and fix it. It’s not helping that the server migration has included a change in control panels … it’s much like switching from PC to Mac … and I’m just learning my way around the new one.
In the interim, while I was waiting for some of the server issues to sort themselves out, I did some more tinkering with the dice fonts. The results are below.
And then there’s the hole in my head….
Here’s an updated picture of the new PolyDice font I just did, which will be going in Arcane Alphabets:
I made a lot of minor changes, and redrew the d4 and d6 outlines to get the line widths right — those were the first I did, so they didn’t quite match. I’m still not really happy with the spacing on some of them, so I’ll be tinkering with that some more. Aside from those little tweaks, though, this is basically what will be the production font. There will also be two different black versions of this (and every other PolyDice font) — one with a border and one without.
If you’re wondering what happened to Arcane Alphabets, which I was going to put on the online store on Monday after GnomeCon … well, fonts happened.
Specifically, what happened was that I saw a sign that had a very nice black-on-white d20. I liked how that looked. I thought that should go into PolyDice. And then I thought that there should be another way of doing it, too. And I really should do that d10 font, even though it isn’t a regular Platonic solid. And I had the embarrassing realization that one thing you couldn’t do with my d20 font was … a 20! So back to the font mines.
While working on the fonts, I decided I should add a right-to-left version of Glyphic, since hieroglyphs could be written in either direction (or top-to-bottom, for that matter). Easy enough to do — select all characters, mirror, save. The problem comes in with using it: you’d have to type backwards!
The obvious solution to that problem is the program I wrote a few days ago, Text Jiggler.
Well, that’s a rather dramatic announcement for a somewhat un-dramatic program. The program in question is Text Jiggler, and what it does is randomly (or regularly; there’s an option) change letters (and/or numbers; there’s an option for that too) between uppercase and lowercase.
It’s handy for those fonts which have alternate versions of characters in upper- and lowercase so you can put some variety in your text. There will be some of those coming from Wintertree later this year.
I’ve been working on TableMaster all day, so I took a quick break to play around with one of the old fonts for a bit. I decided to do a quickie conversion of it (given that I’m not sure if I ever even rebuilt it for Win95!) and put it up on the Wintertree Redux website free, as a little teaser for what the new font package will have some day.
The font in question is one I called InstaHex, for making your own hex paper of any size you want. It is, perhaps, not as useful as it once was — but then again, hex paper isn’t as common as it once was, either, so perhaps the ability to turn it out by the ream from your printer may be worthwhile after all.
Many B&W photocopiers won’t pick up pale blue (hence non-photo blue pencils). If you have a color printer, you could print out hex paper in a suitably pale shade of blue, draw your maps on it, and then run them through a copier to get just the map without the hex background.
It’s here, with some very basic usage instructions: InstaHex download & info page
One of the more popular Wintertree products, back in the good old days, was a package of fonts called Arcane Alphabets. It was a collection of interesting fonts for gamers — mostly interesting alphabets like Ugaritic cunieform, hieroglyphs, and FUTHARK runes, plus really odd stuff like the secret script of the Vehmgericht. People did some fun things with them; I remember one convention where the organizers used the Ogham font as an “alien” sort of font along the bottom edges of the badges, which looked really cool. (that was a college convention unfortunately scheduled the same weekend as the school’s Homecoming … mostly, we vendors sold stuff to each other) I did some other fonts, too — a pack called Mapographer that would let you draw adventure maps in your word processor (how dated is that?) and the only licensed product I ever did, the dwarf fonts from Games Workshop’s Warhammer books. That one never sold very well; I remember writing out a royalty check to send to GW and it was like $5.
So what do fonts have to do with Wintertree Redux?