EpicTable Legacy of Fire, Episode 3: Cactus Forest Map

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm

GenieLampWithSmoke-150One of the early encounters takes place around a cactus forest. There are plenty of cactus, rocks, and a ravine providing an opportunity for falls. I could have drawn this ad-hoc, during the session, and that’s probably what I would have done with my physical battlemat. However, I’ve many times wanted to be able to prep a battlemat ahead of time–it’s just that the ink tends to smear when I roll it up. Since digital battlemats don’t tend to smear, I decided to prep the encounter map ahead of time.

I started by creating a private map (private because I didn’t want it shown to players immediately). I backed it with a texture–sort of a death valley looking wasteland texture. It’s one of the ones that ships with EpicTable. For the ravine, I used the drawing tools. I made myself a nice, thick black pen and painted in a ravine. I could have just drawn some squiggles and circles and said, “these are cactus, those are rocks”, but as long as I was prepping…. I went out to the Dundjinni “user creations” forum to search for cactus and rocks. This is an excellent place to find images for maps, as well as advice on making maps. My chief complaint is that every time I go out there, I get distracted and wind up looking at images way too long. (Dundjinni’s also my preferred map making tool, but this was just a quick-and-dirty battlemat, so I just wanted to plunk some images down on the EpicTable map.) And that’s exactly what I did. I downloaded a bunch of rocks and cactus and put them all under “maps” in my campaign folder. I then went to my map and inserted an image object for each cactus image I downloaded. Then I just duplicated each of these objects a few times and changed their size and rotation. In no time I had a cactus forest! I did the same thing with rocks to give the area a little interest (and to create some hiding spots!).

Cactus Forest Drawn with EpicTable

Cactus Forest Drawn with EpicTable


I was pretty pleased with how easy it was to do this. Two negative things struck me though. One is simple—the current implementation of texture backed maps (and tabletops) in EpicTable doesn’t scroll. I know—it’s a crazy oversight. In my head, at the time I implemented that, a texture was like a gas—expanding to fill the available space…which was the window size. Ironically, I named the class responsible for texture backgrounds, “InfiniteTextureBackground”. One part of my brain clearly “got it”, but the other was just not listening. I’ll fix this before release (the texture backgrounds, not my brain).

The other negative thing was that, with all those cactus objects, it was pretty tough to grab the character that I wanted to have positioned in the cactus forest. The real solution to this is (as some of you on the forum have suggested) to have a separate layer for background objects. I never wanted to interact with the cactuses, I just wanted them there in the background, and dropping in image objects was a convenient way to do it. While I’m not trying to make EpicTable a full-blown map-drawing tool, I’m pretty convinced adding layers like this to EpicTable’s map feature set is valuable. Since I don’t have that functionality right now, I took a screenshot of my creation (I used SnagIt, but you could just Alt-PrintSceen and paste it into any image editor. I replaced my texture+objects map with a new one: an empty map backed with the image of a ravine and cactus forest that I’d just created. Essentially, that’s equivalent to what I want to be able to do with layers. If you do this, make sure you turn off the grid display before you take your snapshot, so the grid isn’t part of your background.


This is one of a series of posts about the Legacy of Fire campaign I’m running for my old gaming group on EpicTable. For the background on this series, check out the original EpicTable Legacy of Fire post, or you can access the entire EpicTable Legacy of Fire series, where I’ll be discussing our game, how I prep, how I run the game, and all the interesting things we run into using EpicTable.


EpicTable Legacy of Fire, Episode 2: Raiding the Adventure PDF

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

GenieLampWithSmoke-150As part of my prep for our first session, I wanted to get some important NPCs and upcoming monsters setup as NPCs. Game mechanics are mostly managed outside EpicTable (though see post on character sheets in EpicTable). I didn’t want character sheets for any of the NPCs or even any of the monsters. I just wanted character portraits so everyone would know what the NPCs and monsters looked like.

I considered fishing around for top-down tokens. EpicTable lets you specify a separate image for a map token…but I don’t always like using top-down tokens. Unless you’re very familiar with the thing(s) your fighting, it’s tough (for me at least) to get a sense for who’s who from the top-down token. I actually kind of prefer the pog-style tokens, and EpicTable will make a pog-style token automatically from the character portrait.

Abandoning my thoughts of top-down tokens, I went through the first part of the PDF, looking for character portraits. It would be incredibly helpful if Paizo provided these as PNG images, but they don’t. So, I started with a screenshot…only the portraits aren’t exactly isolated. They have the page background, and some of them have text wrapped around them. I can maybe—maybe—ignore the background, but I can’t ignore text in my character portraits. So, I started cleaning them up in an editor. It struck me that there must be a better way. There is. There are various tools out there that let you extract images from PDFs. They’re not all created equal, and the result isn’t what you’d think. They don’t all just tumble out as ready-to-use PNGs. Extracting images from a PDF is a topic unto itself, so for now, lets leave it as: I pulled images for several characters from the PDF. If you’re interested in how I did that, let me know.

While I was at it, I pulled, not just character portraits, but a full-length character image for one of the characters that seemed especially imposing or worthy of attention, an image of the caravan in the midst of the adventure’s first encounter, and some maps for the ruined monastery that I figured we may or may not get to this first session.

I made shared characters for the important NPCs, filling in nothing but their names and portraits, and made private characters for the first couple adversaries I’d spring on the group. The difference is, the shared characters were in the portrait bar, immediately visible to the players. As with the shared NPCs, I only bothered with names and portraits for the monsters and adversary NPCs.

I added handouts for the full-length character shot and for the picture of the initial encounter and left these unshared, so I could pop them up on the players’ screens at the appropriate moment.


This is one of a series of posts about the Legacy of Fire campaign I’m running for my old gaming group on EpicTable. For the background on this series, check out the original EpicTable Legacy of Fire post, or you can access the entire EpicTable Legacy of Fire series, where I’ll be discussing our game, how I prep, how I run the game, and all the interesting things we run into using EpicTable.


EpicTable Legacy of Fire, Episode 1: Creating a Campaign Folder

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm

GenieLampWithSmoke-150Anytime I run a game online, I have a set of resources that I want to have at my fingertips. So, I have, on my hard drive, a folder called "RPG Campaigns", and under there, I have a sub-folder for each campaign I’m running.

In this case, I created my new folder, "Legacy of Fire". Then, I immediately created sub-folders under it: characters, maps, handouts, books. In campaigns where we use character sheets, I end up with a "sheets" sub-folder as well, but we’re not using character sheets for this one (yet, at least).

I copied the PDF adventure, "Howl of the Carrion King" into the books folder, along with the "Legacy of Fire Players Guide", so both these are where I can find them quickly. I also put the Pathfinder core rulebook PDF there, because this is the only Pathfinder game I’m in right now, and having it all together is worth more to me than the purity of having a separate "game systems" folder somewhere.

Note that none of this is in EpicTable. It’s just on my file system. But by organizing it this way, I make it easy to find the files I want when I’m setting someone’s character portrait or setting a map background or something in EpicTable.


This is one of a series of posts about the Legacy of Fire campaign I’m running for my old gaming group on EpicTable. For the background on this series, check out the original EpicTable Legacy of Fire post, or you can access the entire EpicTable Legacy of Fire series, where I’ll be discussing our game, how I prep, how I run the game, and all the interesting things we run into using EpicTable.


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