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Easiest way to make "fog of war"?

   
I played with Maptool for a while as well, but found it had a bit more of a learning curve. I did like the built-in fog of war and lighting and so forth. It would make a big difference if there was a good tileset somewhere (the defaults were kinda disappointing), just some basic walls and floor elements that I can slap together a building with. I ran a search or two and couldn't find much.

(This is all great feedback btw, guys - thanks much!)

Here is an example from Inkscape with fog of war and different amounts of lighting. All creatures/objects snap to the grid, which makes moving them around very easy. The background layers are locked, so you don't accidentally move them (I didn't immediately find this functionality in Gimp).

You can easily import nicer graphical tokens and backgrounds to use as well (possibly made in Gimp ).

I'm guessing paint.net has layer function similar to photoshop.

Paint.net is freeware.

I suppose 'snapping' of tile details + character images could be done by importing an image from paint.net to inkscape - the only problem is 1. I wouldn't know how to do that necessarily and 2. The image has to be 'flattened' first, which means all the layers are merged and what you get is lost information on the fog of war overlapping your hard work.

You can solve 2. by probably saving the file with the entire map in paint.net separately. You can then create another file with the same image and overlap it with the fog of war layer - then save this one, preferably with an extension that makes it of format applicable to inkscape (you'll need to ask someone else about this, I don't know about it myself).

You can design tiles with inkscape and then save each of them separately while making the pixel dimensions equal to the size of each square on the grid. You can also design character images (make them smaller than tiles so that players still have an idea of what kind of tile they're standing on, or larger in the case of D&D with 'size category > medium size'. Nonetheless, characters should be made in a way that still shows tiles - so a 10ft. x 10ft. ogre in D&D, ie., wouldn't take up exactly 100ft.^2 of tiles; after all, an ogre isn't square shaped. Typically, the ogre would cover the center and then leave room for each of the four tiles to be seen partially.

Placing characters on tiles can be done in paint.net in the same file as the fog of war; characters/monsters would be a separate layer.

EDIT: Come to think of it, the entire map could be saved in inkscape actually and then you can just create a paint.net file with fog of war - flatten that and save that as jpeg so that everyone can view it and then upload it.
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I plan on actually using fog of war for my 4x strategy game I'm introducing here, so knowledge on how to do this would be important for me too.

Quote:
I played with Maptool for a while as well, but found it had a bit more of a learning curve. I did like the built-in fog of war and lighting and so forth. It would make a big difference if there was a good tileset somewhere (the defaults were kinda disappointing), just some basic walls and floor elements that I can slap together a building with. I ran a search or two and couldn't find much.

(This is all great feedback btw, guys - thanks much!)
Tiles can be drawn simply with inkscape or ms paint (mspaint has less learning curve than inkscape; I found inkscape to be filled with awkward tools). Just draw something that conveys like, a river, ie.; for characters, just use colored dots with a legend. Also cartesian (x,y axis system) co-ordinates are very important for player viewing. If you want to create a map-guide for the GM, include circles with numbers that detail regions of interest. Each number is given an extensive legend and contains details about the points of interest. The players, of course, can't know about this - the GM needs to though, so that he can describe it to them.

Draw them large and then shrink them down - it will only make the image smaller and shouldn't get rid of details unless the image is already drawn in less than at least hundreds of pixels in detail. Enlargening a shrunken image will lower resolution because smaller images ultimately have less pixels and the process of enlargening just 'stretches' pixels (actually duplicates them to convey a stretching). I think an svg file (???) allows for enlargening without lowered resolution, but those are recent tech and (I think) not all browsers support them since they take up a lot more memory per file. Svg is actually the extension for inkscape though, so I don't know (the new tech is called 'vector graphics').

For actual appearance of a setting, hire a guy from the cartographer's guild (google it; and if you're doing that, you may as well, y'know, get permission from wizards and sell the campaign in a book for other GMs). Otherwise, you'll have to rely on descriptions since mspaint tiles obviously don't convey much.

If you have a 'travel map'; you can use another square grid but then offer a legend with a scale to possibly indicate where characters are in the wilderness or city (for city; it's good for if characters are in multiple locations - use a legend to indicate various districts of a city and then in GM notes write out a list of all NPCs that typically reside in that location via a personal GM legend) or during some other kind of random encounter. Of course, you're not going to draw out an entire city in 5ft. square increments, since you can't convey much with mspaint. For 'travel map' you can instead use existing images off google images or open source art that you acquired (with permission). Shrink it down to denote the general environment for wilderness. So, ie., if a square kilometer is snowy and full of hills, you can snap a google image of some snowy clustered mountains to that square, in the case that squares are 1km^2 scale. If the squares are instead 1 square shaped hectare scale, ie., then you can enlargen the snowy image and snap it so that it overlaps 10 squares on the 'travel map' grid.

For a city, you may instead just wish to draw out its general shape with colors to denote generalized parts of a city such as 'buildings', 'walls' and a few little numbers for specific parts of the city that define it such as the port (if it has one); underground tunnel networks wouldn't show up on a city map, but you might indicate the entrance to a network as a point of interest that doesn't show to players; the GM would, again, have his own extended legend pointing to numbers on various squares of a city's travel map. Details can be anything like 'entrance is hidden' etc.

Underground terrain can be indicated as part of 'wilderness' if they happen to be quite large and any significant non-random encounters can be localized. Use circles with numbers and a legend for player reference to figure out what district they are in (or in the case of players splitting up in a city - the reference would be quite useful and reduce the load on taking notes). You can move a player's dot color to that district area. 1 square might represent so-and-so scale but can convey parts of a district, such as a street or square intersection. Basically, in each square, there's a potential boundary in which a combat encounter might take place.

If there's roads on a square, you can snap a google image of a cobblestone road, ie. The details of each square can rely entirely on GM description - I suppose an extended legend wouldn't be enough to describe everything about a city, though, wouldn't it (that is, the going ons of every square; of course, NPCs tend to bustle about in cities so they'd always be in different locations at different time periods too)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by impfireball View Post
EDIT: Come to think of it, the entire map could be saved in inkscape actually and then you can just create a paint.net file with fog of war - flatten that and save that as jpeg so that everyone can view it and then upload it.
Why bother with paint.net if you're already working in Inkscape? Inkscape has layers too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by impfireball View Post
Draw them large and then shrink them down - it will only make the image smaller and shouldn't get rid of details unless the image is already drawn in less than at least hundreds of pixels in detail. Enlargening a shrunken image will lower resolution because smaller images ultimately have less pixels and the process of enlargening just 'stretches' pixels (actually duplicates them to convey a stretching). I think an svg file (???) allows for enlargening without lowered resolution, but those are recent tech and (I think) not all browsers support them since they take up a lot more memory per file. Svg is actually the extension for inkscape though, so I don't know (the new tech is called 'vector graphics').
svg is a format, which is, unless it changed recently, not supported by any standard Windows programs (Linux has no problem with it). Inkscape uses a slightly adapted version of this format for its default saved files. If used correctly, svg files (and other vector based formats) take up almost no memory at all compared to bitmap based formats like jpg. However, if you import a bitmap in inkscape, the svg file will contain all the information of the bitmap on top of the vector definitions, which might be why you experience large files. If you do that, the bitmap won't scale up either, because it doesn't contain the required information.

In fact, jpg might not be the most interesting format for simple maps, as its compression is not lossless. png is in general better suited for such images.

I've been using MS Paint for my games here, which has a fairly shallow learning curve. However, it doesn't have layers and there's lots of manual editing necessary. And it saves in JPEG, which as noted above does involve data loss. I've found it's not bad in a short battle, but sometimes in a long battle my map gets a bit blurry and needs to be cleaned up, or even redone. The advantage is that it's easy to make a base map, then copy a section of it or white out the parts the PCs can't see.

I've tried importing map files to MS Paint, and I've found they import just fine, but it's hard to edit them because of the lack of layering.

For tabletop fog of war, I highly recommend Tac-Tiles, which are a white-board one-inch grid of one-foot square tiles with jig-saw puzzle-like interfaces so that tiles can be lifted out of the map and new ones set into place in the course of play to create a sliding map that moves around the PCs. It is fairly easy to draw the dungeon as PCs advance through it, and erase behind them if it is appropriate.

I used them to run a complex maze encounter in which kenku rogues were using secret doors and passages to move around and the PCs were not able to map the maze while fighting, and it worked perfectly. I erased sections of the maze that the PCs had passed through but could no longer see, and spun the map around each time they moved to create a disorienting effect, and it did a great job of simulating the confusion of an intense battle in a maze. My players were impressed.

I'm not sure if Tac-Tiles are being made anymore, but you can probably score a set on E-bay.

For my friends and I we use a sheet of plexiglass (or equivalent plastic) over a paper grid. As the DM I draw the map in as the players explore it. I have a reference map I draw on a piece of grid paper or scratch paper. As the players move forward, I reveal more of the map by drawing in additional walls, obstacles etc. Depending on the lighting and their perception.

Obviously this doesn't really work for an online game though.

I always gave my players graph paper, then conveniently describe my dungeons' rooms in increments of five and ten.

It helps that one of my players is an architect by trade.

Woah. Some serious thread necromancy here. Still good stuff, though. :-)

(As it happens, I acquired the Adobe Creative Suite for school in the meantime, which solves this problem, even though that's kind of like solving an ant problem with a grenade.)

I have Photoshop & paint.NET (free) ... for down and dirty fast fixes, paint.NET is brilliant

For on here in MW, I use ditzie for in game combat maps, though for tabletop (I use a 24" flatscreen monitor laying flat on the table which the players can move their pieces around on) I use d20Pro (there is also other VTT software -- Battlegrounds, Fantasy Grounds II, Masterplan, Roll20, RPTools, Vassal, etc)

ditzie is I think still the best for MW PbP ... as it allows players to move their own characters around on their turn, move monsters / baddies / etc ... it's great, but doesn't have a fog of war effect

For that, when the players are exploring a dungeon, I grab the map and use paint.NET to colour in the map which they haven't explored, then post it.

When they get into a combat in a room, then it's ditzie time

ditzie has quite a steep learning curve (though it levels out quite quickly ... )

When I first started playing dnd (back in '79) we did the same as pliantreality describes, and it was great, but now, a cheap flat screen and a laptop gives colours, light sources, etc ... WAY better and no arguing when someone put in a 10x10 instead of a 30x20 room and nothing fits later on

Maptool gets my nod here. Importing "graph paper" maps in GIMP, then slapping them up over a background in Maptool is easy and provides adequate results for wilderness battles.

My group hasn't done indoor maps yet, but I suspect I'll employ similar techniques. If nothing else, I get better with GIMP in the process.




 

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