Arcane Alphabets & Other Font Finaglings

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.

In the end, it’s looking like PolyDice is going to get kicked out of Arcane Alphabets to become its own whole font set. I have, at this point, 27 base fonts, and another to be designed — with four variants for each (for the various angles of slant), that will produce 112 variants of PolyDice. Those include 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 20-sided polyhedra, 6-siders with pips, extra sets for doing numbers for the 10/100, 12, and 20, and a mixed set. 28 fonts, with 112 variants, is bigger than the whole rest of Arcane Alphabets!

Then there’s the matter of Glyphic. I’m far from the first person to create a hieroglyphic font — and most of the others are probably done by people who can draw better and/or autotraced Wallis Budge — but to the best of my knowledge, I’m the first to create one where the short characters stack properly on top of each other.

I’ve been working on a somewhat better way of doing it than my zero-width characters, mostly involving some rather extreme kerning, but it’s extreme enough to cause my word processor to go “tilt!” I can do neat things with my test version, but it takes a lot of weird spacing, and the word processor really hates it. So that’s more of a back-burner project, to be dealt with if/when/as I have time.

What I’d really like to get into the next version, though, is a vertical form. That’s trickier, because the whole concept of a computer font is based on the characters in any given line being roughly the same height, or at least filling the same space.  Hieroglyphs aren’t; they symbols are neither similar heights nor similar widths, which makes fitting them into a vertical line problematic. At the moment, the most practical solution I can think of is to use a lot of the extended characters for various width combinations, and write a little helper program like TextJiggler to convert a line of normal text into something suitable for Glyphic Vertical.

If I do that, Glyphic will probably be booted out of Arcane Alphabets, too, because we’re looking at at least 8 fonts, 16 variants, and a program to set them up properly, plus documentation that is quickly growing to resemble a treatise on ancient Egyptian writing instead of just a quick note on what’s where in the font. If it ever gets to that point, that really needs to be its own font pack.

But that’s a whole different issue. For now, Glyphic (a mere 8 variants) lives happily in Arcane Alphabets. It’s the business with all those dice fonts that are really delaying things, because they started out as just some additions to Arcane Alphabets, not the whole ginormous set of fonts they’ve become.

So, I’ll be putting one version of PolyDice (the mixed set) into Arcane Alphabets, finishing up the edits on the manual (which the dice font changes have affected, naturally) , and I’ll have the electronic version of Arcane Alphabets on the online store in the near future. The physical version, of course, is going to be dependent on the schedule of the print shop who does the manuals.

So that’s the story: it’s all the fault of the dice!