Arcane Alphabets and other font finagling

As I mentioned in my last post about Text Jiggler, I took a bit of a break from TableMaster to work on Arcane Alphabets, the big package of fonts for gamers. For benefit of those people who have never seen it, and those who remember it from the 1990s and are curious as to what’s going to be in the new version, I’m taking a break from working on Arcane Alphabets to describe it.

First, there’s the matter of the name: The new version will tentatively be titled Arcane Alphabets & Gamer Glyphs, to distinguish it from the previous version. It will have a wider variety of fonts in it as well, including those of general use to gamers as well as the fonts for various ancient, secret, and otherwise weird alphabets. And, of course, there’s Text Jiggler, q.v.

What’s missing?

When selecting fonts for the new version of Arcane Alphabets, I had to leave out the old Tolkien alphabet fonts, for obvious legal reasons. That which was, 20 years ago, mostly ignored by the Powers That Be has become major intellectual property, and it’s not my IP, so those fonts had to go. DarkElf, an original font of mine, has also been dropped, because I’ve never liked it, and I don’t think anyone else did either.

So what’s new?

For starters, I decided to wrap in some of the fonts that were in the old Mapographer package, the one intended to let you print graph and hex paper, draw maps in your word processor, etc. Certainly nobody today needs to draw maps in their word processors; as a package, that is history. But there are some fonts in there that remain useful.

Notable among these is DarkCity. If you have the physical version of TableMaster, you’ll find it as clipart filling a bit of space at the bottoms of some of the pages in the manual. If you don’t, it’s basically a series of characters to create fantasy city skylines in silhouette. This font will be expanded — there’s plenty of room to put more buildings in!

InstaGraph and InstaHex will also be getting upgrades, and the new versions will be in AAGG. These make it easy to print out any sort of graph or hex paper you need — no fancy software, just use the fonts.

I’ll probably also collect the special characters from the items font that was part of the map fonts, to make a dingbat font that might come in handy if you need a quick pit or dead body or whatever in other programs. I’ll probably include basic terrain symbols, too.

Some of the old Arcane Alphabets fonts will be modified. For instance Albrecht, the blackletter font based on the lettering in Albrect Durer’s prayerbook, received a set of lower-case letters (not from the same source; those are so extreme as to be nearly unreadable) years ago. Now it also has a full set of extended characters, including the Euro (which wasn’t a thing when Albrecht was first created). Runik, the “fake runes” text font, will have a wider variety of characters as well, and a new version with stone outlines similar to what I did years ago for Futhark.

I’ve been studying Egyptian hieroglyphs (does this really surprise anyone?) and the Glyphic font will be improved as a result. I’ve always wanted to add some of the more common determinatives to that as well, and this is the right time to do it.

Then there will be some completely new fonts.

I may turn up some new historical alphabets I haven’t used yet, though that’s still open to question. There are some undecoded ones that are quite interesting, particularly the Indus valley script and Rongo-Rongo. I’d thought about doing some that are actually ciphers, such as the “dancing men” of Sherlock Holmes fame, the Masonic cipher and its variants, etc., but decided that this was getting into way too much new development. I’ve saved those for a future package, tentatively titled Cryptic Ciphers.

What will be in AAGG, though, helping justify the “Gamer Glyphs” part, is a set of fonts based on polyhedral dice. It was work on one of those, in order to take a break from TableMaster, that led to me making the Text Jiggler program. I’m anticipating five fonts each for each of the five regular Platonic solids, to allow for various options for tilted dice, etc., so 25 font files total.

This is actually a bit more complicated than you might think at first. For instance, for the d20 one that I’m working on now, just grabbing some random d20 graphic off the Web and autotracing it wouldn’t do, because they’re all very nicely regular (I looked when I was studying how to draw an icosahedron). That’s great if you want a picture, but if you want a font, the face with the character on it has to be larger, as if you were looking at a d20 from a few inches away. I’m not an artist, but fortunately I am a good draftsman; I spent some time yesterday drawing the icosahedron I needed in Inkscape, then moving it over to Fontographer to turn it into a font.

So there will be fonts for the d4, d6, d8, d12, and d20 dice, with both numbers and letters so you can use them, for instance, for the heading on your gaming club’s newsletter. Whether or not there will be a d10-based font depends on how effectively I can draw a ten-sider; they’re less straightforward than the regular Platonic solids.

Hopefully I’ll have the whole thing done in a couple of weeks. Most of it is just updating the old fonts for new computers, adding some additional characters, etc. Watch the website and this blog for announcements.