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Thread: Questions on mapping for VTT

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    Publisher Gamerprinter's Avatar
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    Question Questions on mapping for VTT

    So I'm working on a new project for myself... create a complete D&D 4.0 adventure, with maps and map objects, in thsi case specifically formatted for use in MapTool. Trevor who his the owner/primary creator of MapTool, suggested I start a questions for developer's thread. So I did.

    Got lots of answers, but RPMiller, also a member of RPTools forum suggested that I post the same questions here - to get a wider variety of answers from the community, especially from those more familiar than I about VTT mapping.

    Note although the questions are to MapTool users - anyone using any VTT should answer. I've already got some good answers at RPTools forum, but I think I might get more, here.

    Link to RPTools thread

    List of Questions:

    1. Would this be the same best format for maps as well, so users can downsize if they want to, yet high enough to zoom in for detail?

    2. I know MapTool can handle large area maps. In trying to avoid gargantuan files at 200 ppi PNG, what is the optimum size in total pixels for battle maps?

    3. It would be easier for me to create multiple maps 4 to 8 cover an entire location depending on size - or should I do each location as a single map? (I'm talking something the size of a small town or 1/4 mile square.)

    4. Should I place trees on a map, or allow users to place tree tokens themselves?

    5. I've got experience creating printed geomorphic maps, would this be smart for use in MapTools?

    6. I'm trying to create an extensive swamp forest region. Now the main adventure follows a specific path, then some directions to locations by boat until reaching the final encounter site. However, I don't want to limit a party to just those specific regions. The Bogwood (as I call it) is fairly extensive with dangers, and other unique locations peppered throughout its mucky landscape. If a party wants to trailblaze it should certainly be possible - noting the very difficult terrain in the attempt. (I guess this is a no-no...)

    7. I would like this format to show wider areas of the Bogwood total as an adventuring party is moving across - until they reach an encounter area.

    Question now is, how do you handle random encounters, wait till the dice introduces an encounter, then load a tactical map to pursue it?
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    Post And a bit about the project itself...

    To give you an idea of the project I'm attempting...

    The Bogwood Rath
    an adventure scenario for 5th - 7th level (4E) and still be challenging, but not overwhelming.

    Basic adventure idea: the Bogwood is swamp forest - mixture of marsh, bog, slow moving rivers, but heavily forested. In times past the Bogwood was as dangerous as swamps can be, but still a "natural" swamp environment. Lately the Bogwood is turning dark, the Swamp Druid is nolonger keeping the balance (part of the quest to discover why), the inhabitants are reporting a darkness turning the Swamp into something enchanted and evil. (Dark fey have built a Rath or fey mound, near the Swamp Druid's enclave and ensorcelled him, binding him with sorcery - and taking over the swamp.)

    Road's End Tavern - the road leading to the Bogwood ends at the edge of the swamp forest. A tavern here for hunters and fisherman, place to pick up clues and meet a "bogling".

    17 miles of plank bridging and muddy trails to reach, "Handy's Crannog", a bogling village. Beyond this, you need a boat to travel the Bogwood.

    "Boglings" (swamp dwelling halflings on stilt homes or crannog) the friendliest race in the Bogwood. They distribute pure water to other Bogwood inhabitants for their economy. (Water Oak, long story, explain later...). They have clues to where a hunter dwells and may know more.This is the next location.

    Hunter's Swamp Lodge, accessable by watercraft only. The hunter there is found dead, though his hunter's log and a map can aid players to finding location of the Swamp Druid. Problem is that the Hunter is now a ghost, having been recently killed by the Fey and cursed to haunt his lodge and torment visitors.

    Maybe one more location, haven't decided what but thinking about including Shambling Mounds. The Bogwood is filled with giant insects, spore emitting fungi, carnivorace plants, crocodiles or something similar, constrictor and venomous snakes, slimes, oozes, perhaps an Otyugh, some new creatures like the Swamp Cat and the Tree Goat.

    Final location, the Swamp Druid's Enclave with the adjacent Dark Fey Rath. Big fight with Fey Queen and her entourage. I don't want to have the typical prankster spritelings, but murderous enchanters with enslaved guardians.

    Must defeat the fey, break the spell that binds the Swamp Druid to succeed in quest.

    I might include a couple optional side quests within the adventure, or as an addendum.

    Finally my plan is to create around 25 maps of my hand-drawn style, along with 200+ map objects formatted for use in MapTool free VTT application. And sell it for $5 from my site.

    I'm getting a positive response elsewhere on this, but its a challenge!
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    Community Leader Facebook Connected delgondahntelius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamerprinter View Post
    Finally my plan is to create around 25 maps of my hand-drawn style, along with 200+ map objects formatted for use in MapTool free VTT application. And sell it for $5 from my site.
    I'm not the greatest in math and economics ... but that just seems a little low for the amount of work entailed... don't get me wrong.. I like the price, and would probably jump on a deal like that... just seems like your selling yourself a little short is all...
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    Post I agree to a point, Del...

    I agree that that much work is worth more than $5 per adventure, however, I am not WotC or Green Ronin or Paizo, I'm just little ole' unheard of me. So as a publisher, who no one's heard of - its hard to assign $19.95 or any other price, because no one's going to buy.

    As a "loss leader" that is, something to get buyers into the store to look at my wares, by making a insanely low purchase. I can get people to make a purchase, that might otherwise not want to invest in what they don't know.

    On the extreme side, if 5,000 people ordered the adventure (not very likely) that's $25K - certainly a worthy profit. If no one buys, it was an experiment worth the effort all the same.
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      loogie is offline
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    I think your idea of supplying map objects for use in VTT's would be extremely popular, there are many, MANY collections of tokens for sale (the pc's and npc images, most that are pay are top down 3d renders) but there are very few collections of straight objects... i know i like my maps to look uniform, and its very difficult to get a few images made from one source never mind enough to run campaigns... and i don't like throwing in different artists objects because in most cases, different styles = different look and feel... and makes they seem out of place.

    As for pricing, I don't think its all that unrealistic... your not making commercial adventures and your using a free VTT client, so the main reason to pay for it is your creativity and artwork... token packs from four ugly monsters and such go for about $4 a pack, and there are a number of images in a pack... I think its very reasonable, and as long as your getting it out there you'll get some sales, and it will also add to your experience so you can end up making much more complex, involved adventures that you can charge more for.
    Last edited by loogie; 05-10-2008 at 02:05 PM.
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      meleeguy is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamerprinter View Post
    2. I know MapTool can handle large area maps. In trying to avoid gargantuan files at 200 ppi PNG, what is the optimum size in total pixels for battle maps?
    Hi Gamerprinter,

    The answer to that would be entirely dependent on the specific application. One app could internally be displaying a bmp, while another could run length encode random access sub tiles.

    The only way to know for sure is testing, which is time consuming. So testing would reveal resource consumption. Next, we'd find out the average resources of your VTT gamer. From this information you could determine your optimal tile sizes, which would include some non-rotating tiles for unique locations.

    You seem to want to bring tiling to a community that has learned to live with out it (that's my take on the linked thread). I like the idea of moving on a larger map and dropping tactical at need.

    Just some musings really, I'm a long time programmer whose interest has largely turned from coding to content creation ala this site.

    -meleeguy

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    Post Exactly, the plan...

    Quote Originally Posted by loogie View Post
    and it will also add to your experience so you can end up making much more complex, involved adventures that you can charge more for.
    Exactly, if I can sell and get a name for quality material, the next adventure could be priced higher and more likely to sell!
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    Thanks for this thread. I would like to know more about VTTs in general, since I've not used one.

    Does anyone know if there is a table that lists the best resolution for maps for each of the VTTs?

    I'll look through the other threads before asking for recommendations.

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    Post Some of the responses I'm getting from RPTools

    These are the kinds of responses I'm getting at RPTools.net forums...

    Phergus responded: IMO, you should design for users running the base MapTool config of 256MB.

    With that base, the practical limit for loading a single map is 5000x5000. You'll still have enough memory to load tokens and the odd smallish object.

    At 50 pixels/grid and a 5' grid, that would be a 500' x 500' map.

    IMO, 200 pixels/grid is overkill on maps in a VTT. With no other UI elements cluttering up the display on a 1920x1200 display they would be looking at a 9x6 section of the map when at a 1:1 zoom.

    That's not to say that creating the maps in that resolution wouldn't be a good idea as it does provide users more options. If the source maps in the PDF are at that resolution while the included campaign file uses 50 pixels/grid (or somewhere in that ballpark) then everything is good.

    Now that is for fixed or bounded maps.

    For unbounded maps (using a repeating texture as a background) you memory limitation is that same you just have to keep the total for all your graphics done under the equivalent of that 5kx5k map.

    Zgros wrote: You can also try the "encounter" format where you have one overview map (perhaps at a lower res) for the group's movement and then each tactical encounter has its own map at full/higher res.

    If it were me, I'd have a poetic overview map of the swamp. This allows the group to see the big picture. You can even use a token to indicate their current location.

    Then you could have 3 or 4 generic "swamp encounter" tactical maps that the GM could pick to handle any random encounters.

    Then you'd have your X static encounter tactical maps for when the group arrives at your points of interest.

    In summary, I think having one mega-map that the group travels across and you try to fit everything onto is not a great idea. Lots and lots of scrolling and all you get is lots of lots of black areas on the screen.

    Torstan added: For your swamp adventure I would usually have three levels of map. One level shows the swamp in the wider world. The next shows as much information as they know about the swamp, and their rough location in it - think the rough overland maps from Dungeon magazine adventures. The GM view can have much more info on it, and can be revealed as they explore more and more. Finally the individual tactical maps should show the planned encounters, and a few random encounter sites for when they go off-piste.

    (Some good stuff here!)

    GM's Aprentice, check out the DPI vs. PPI discussion in the software discussion forums - great info about VTT maps there...
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      RPMiller is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by GM's Apprentice View Post
    Thanks for this thread. I would like to know more about VTTs in general, since I've not used one.

    Does anyone know if there is a table that lists the best resolution for maps for each of the VTTs?

    I'll look through the other threads before asking for recommendations.
    Hopefully this link will help somewhat:
    http://www.battlegroundsgames.com/links.html#anchor6

    Also, try this one it is a site devoted to the VTT community:
    http://www.fouruglymonsters.com/
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