Fonts! (plus nattering about maps and magnifying glasses)

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?

Well, I discovered a really useful font editor that can update and reformat my old fonts. I won’t be making any new ones for quite a while — too much TableMaster to write, and then at least two new table packs — but as time permits I’ll be updating the old ones, and probably selling them through one of the online font vendors; watch this space. The ones from Arcane Alphabets, anyway; I’m not sure anyone nowadays wants to draw a dungeon in their word processor. (come to think of it, I don’t think anyone wanted to 20 years ago, either) Plus if/when I go to any conventions, I’ll have font CDs with the whole collection and the manual with some historical background on each of them.

Games are always more fun with props you can hand out. That’s why so many adventure modules come with inserts you’re supposed to cut apart and give to the players. Since I rarely ran anything prefab, and even when I did, I usually changed it so much that those things would be useless, I got started doing my own. This was way before I created the fonts, though, which made it a lot harder than it had to be. With some good fonts, things like treasure maps, secret messages, half-burned letters, and similar goodies are all easy.

Here’s a simple way to do carefully-controlled burned edges on a paper, because putting a lighter to it just won’t do: Draw where you want the burn with a black marker. On a sunny day, use a magnifying glass to focus light on the black line. Being dark, that will absorb the heat faster and hence scorch first — it should burn through so you can just pull it off — while the areas you want to leave intact for the players to puzzle over will remain safe.

So I could make an “old treasure map” by drawing it (or printing it out, later) on pseudo-parchment paper (check your local Staples), scorching or tearing off part of it if necessary, and then sticking it in the bottom of a backpack full of college textbooks, or in my gaming bag, or just sitting on it in the car, for a few days. That made for great props for a lazy, er, I mean creative, DM.

That parchment-look paper is a wonderful resource. Even those usually kind of lame handouts from prefab modules look better if you copy them onto it before you hand them out. And if you’re going all-out and drawing awesome maps in Photoshop, that’s what you need to print them out on.

Speaking of drawing awesome maps: I just bought How to Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando. It’s a great book. The publisher is Impact, so there’s a fair chance your local comics store will carry it as well as the usual game stores, book stores, etc. It makes me wish I could find the maps from my old campaign world just so I could draw new ones!