Monday, January 21, 2013

Urbancrawl Rules for Slacker DMs: Chinese Takeout Style

Okay, so I occasionally drop by Zak S.'s blog "Playing D&D With Porn Stars" to see what he's got going on.  Zak is a weirdo--in a good way (I think).  He comes up with almost surreal ideas.  Some I don't really like, some I don't really understand, but some are really brilliant.  (This post is about one of the brilliant ones, BTW)

Today I stumbled on a very old post of his called Urbancrawl Rules for Slacker DMs.  Sometimes RPG blogs have really interesting posts (hint, hint), but I digress.  Anyway the Urbancrawl Rules are a way to run an urban sandbox "hex crawl" without any real prep other than the cool map which is not exactly a map.  He starts by spelling out the numbers ONE through TEN in huge letters clustered together and somewhat distorted on a page.  The letters are linked and the lines of the letters become the major thoroughfares.  [Check out the pics on his post and you'll see what I mean.]  But the problem is that once you have the city "map" underway, it's still obviously the words for one through ten.  Cool when you first look at it as a concept, and a cool tool for DMs, but I think the final map will look dorky and preschoolish to anyone else.

Ah, but what if you used the Chinese characters for the numbers instead of English words?  Well first let's take a look at those characters:
Hmm, the problem compared with the English words (or most other languages with an alphabet) is that there are far less lines to work with to make streets.  You could just make the characters bigger to fill the space and just say that the lines are huge royal boulevards or canals or something.  But it won't look anywhere as busy and intricate.  Luckily, Chinese has a second, fancier version of each character for use in accounting because they are harder to alter fraudulently:
Ah, much better! Now, Zak seems to like dropping dice on pages or charts to get results.  So I cut some 3x5 index cards in half and drew these accounting style characters on them.  Then I dropped them on a piece of blank paper to get random orientations, rearranged them slightly to link up and glued them onto the paper:

Hmm, not too bad.  Of course to me it still looks like a jumble of Chinese words.  But to someone who doesn't know characters it's probably a random oriental collage art thingy.  Next is to put a piece of tracing paper on top (yes, there are paint programs, but I like hands-on art) and trace and extend the lines, making sure to trace each character in a separate color.

I'll get to that in a later post.

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