Graphic Design

Adventuring on DMsGuild

There's a confluence of three things going on right now:

  1. I've been working on a lot of Eclipse Phase adventures, and trying hard to evolve their presentation to make them easier to absorb when first reading and easier to run at the table without a ton of page-flipping — especially page-flipping that requires leaving one book for another. Shameless plug: we just released Overrun which is the first adventure where we really took extra development time to address these things. (Print Pre-Order + PDFPDF)
  2. I've been running a D&D5e game for family via Roll20, which is my first time DMing D&D5e and my first time using Roll20. I've started out (We actually have two different games going, one started last year when we were visiting Lake Geneva — it seemed appropriate!) using Wizards' introductory boxed set stuff and the Stranger Things boxed set. I absolutely do not have time to build my own adventures right now for D&D, and I'm not particularly interested in diving deeply into any one particular setting.
  3. DMsGuild is doing a promotion until May 17th where creators are getting 100% royalties, which is a great deal for creators as the normal royalty at DMsGuild is 50% to them.

So I put out a call on Twitter for DMsGuild adventures that have a unique presentation or break the norm in some ways — part research, part fun — and a slew of titles were recommended to me.

This is what I've bought, with a short description as to why! Everything is based on the page on DMsGuild and the previews the creator shared.

  • Flight of the Magpies: An Ebberon Adventure — I would have passed this by if I had been scrolling, based on the cover. But author Marco Michelutto has used the preview function to show the entire book and the inside is much nicer than the cover. A quick glance shows some rough edges but after peeking the inside I eagerly added it to my cart.
  • Keep of the Kobold Queen — I turned 40 this year. 8-bit retro sprites? Yes please. The graphic design is totally in-line with the art. This was a snap-add plus hollerin' at the creator on twitter about how awesome it looks.
  • Weekend at Strahd's — Awesome 80s vibe. One player plays Strahd’s corpse. I think I know just the guy.
  • AE01-01 Fired & Forgotten — This came well-recommended, and looked to have some nice DM helpers even though some of the presentation threw me off initially.
  • The Princess Project — nine adventures about twisting fairytale tropes and dethroning the patriarchy? I wasn't planning on picking up larger anthology-style titles, but this one is the exception.
  • Amarune's Adventures: The Ghosts of the Glimmersea — This feels like a somewhat standard "adventure with a point and a lot of sandbox" from a quick skim but it seemed very concise for the breadth of ground covered.
  • Murder on the Eberron Express — this adventure's title made me laugh because of the Eclipse Phase adventures we're working on, one starts with "Murder" and another ends with "On the $Spoiler Express" (they're unrelated to each other.) I like the idea of running a train mystery whodonuit in D&D, especially for my family, who are into that trope.
  • Myriad, City of Tiers — higher level than I was looking for, but the oversized landscape layout on this book is interesting at first glance. Myriad has a lot of praise for being cross-referenced/hyperlinked, which is interesting to me as I consider that "standard" for a PDF RPG book — but I suspect it's less common on DMsGuild. I'm picking it up based on the visual concept and quality, but I sure wish the preview included more information about the adventure itself, and not the mechanical bits that go with the adventure.
  • The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse — This title is free, and otherwise I wouldn't be picking it up, as there's no PDF preview and I see a few red flags to me in the images used as the preview. But it's free, has a ton of positive reviews, and there are giant hunter sharks!
  • The Magister's Tomb — This two-page adventure features the whole thing in the preview. Deciding how to preview small books is difficult, so I'm rewarding them with a purchase. The adventure looks very sandboxy and, obviously, concise.
  • Good Country Dyin' — another title that made me laugh. The preview is the whole book, and I liked the use of photographs. Is this going to be D&D Hinterkaifeck?

Eleven titles in the first batch. I've got some reading — and DMing! — to do. Drop me a line on twitter @adamjury if you have any other titles to recommend!

Sharing Export Profiles in Affinity Publisher

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I've been noodling around with Affinity Publisher over the last month or so. I say noodling because I've produced no finished work. After almost twenty years using InDesign and ten years of Posthuman, there is no situation where I could reasonably migrate away from it in even five years, especially as Affinity doesn't (yet?) import InDesign or IDML documents.

But the introductory pricing for Publisher was too good to pass up, and I expect that micro and small RPG publishers will be migrating to it, so I need to learn the basics.

One of the basic questions for me is: "How do I save and access all the various PDF Export settings I need?" — I have specific settings for exporting color and B&W print on demand interiors, covers, 3-page-covers to spreads, and of course, PDF files for distribution and sale.

The file that Publisher saves all of your Export Presets (for every file format, not just PDF) to is file_export_options.dat and it's located in the following path depending on your OS. Sadly, there's no granular way to move profiles, and the file is not human-readable:

macOS — /Users/<username>Library/Application Support/Affinity Publisher/user/
Windows 10 — \Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Affinity\Publisher\1.0\user\

My experiments show that you can copy the file_export_options.dat between computers — even between macOS and Windows — to move all export presets from one installation to another. Of course, keep a copy of that file backed up somewhere safe!

I tested this with Affinity Publisher 1.7.2 and 1.7.3, between macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, and Windows 10.

Potential B&W Preset for Lightning Source

Potential B&W Preset for Lightning Source

Design & Publishing Bundle in GM’s Day Sale!

This week, as part of the GM's Day Sale, DriveThru has put together a Design & Publishing Bundle!

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The bundle includes my Versatile InDesign Book Covers video tutorial and a bunch of other great stuff—Ray Vallese's Writing With Style: An Editor's Advice for RPG Writers, Monte Cook & Shanna Germain's crowdfunding advice book, Kicking It, and the Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design from Wolfgang Baur, Rob Heinsoo, and others!

There's other great books and resources in the bundle and all together it's less than ten bucks during the GM's Day Sale! Hope you find something useful in it!

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If you already own any of the titles in the bundle, the price is pro-rated so you're only paying for what you don't already own!

Table Design in Eclipse Phase Second Edition

This is an unproofed off-the-cuff post! If it's interesting, please back my Patreon for more. 

I posted some table graphics to various social media over the last couple weeks:

 

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Here's a consolidation of them with some better explanations.

EP2 has two types of tables; inline tables and floating tables. Roughly, the inline tables are "stuff characters have" and the floating tables are "stuff characters or players do." I may talk about the inline tables later, but for now I'm going to talk about the floating tables—that’s the Random Career table you see above.

EP2 has a roughly six-column-wide grid. Floating tables can be 2 columns, 3 columns, 4 columns, or 6 columns, depending on the need of the tables and the need of the spread they're on. I have yet to need to Break The Rules on these tables, but the book isn't finished!

EP2 has four major types of floating tables, as seen in Tables 1 (note that this graphic has a bunch of ugly bits because it's for my own internal reference):

  • Header with no subheader
  • Header with subheader
  • Header with  prefix line and subheader
  • Header with dual prefix lines and subheader

Then there are some variants of those four:

  • any of the above + two sets of subheaders inside the table
  • any of the above + a footer/suffix line
  • Sub-strain headers, which currently have a little extra graphical divider because they're kind of a an-extra-special-case table.

Tables 1

Tables 1

If you take a closer look at Tables 1, you'll see that on the right of each table  I have the point height of each cell listed. Most of the cells are 14pt high, but a few of them -- the prefix line and the dual prefix line -- are slightly smaller, to help keep text in proper proximity to related text.

The main difference for these tables, for the purposes of graphics, are the height of the graphics and the placement of the small shadow effect. Originally the shadow was a distinct graphic placed inside a row in the table, but that didn't quite create the effect I wanted; I need the shadow to help normalize the contrast on the subheader text.

Tables 2

Tables 2

 

So, Tables 2 shows the list of graphics I'm working with. "Table texture base - derezzed.psd" is my main work file. It's placed as a smart object with a mask inside the other listed graphics, and each of those graphics has a distinct layer for the shadow, aligned according to the numbers in the Tables 1 graphic.

The filnames have the number of points from the top of the graphic to the bottom of the shadow, and a single digit (1 through 5 skipping 2 because I didn't need it ... yet?) indicating which one is tallest, so I can sort them by name and not lose track of which one is which.

Tables 3

Tables 3

Each of the graphics is 9" wide, which means that if for some reason I have to run them the full width of a page, I can. Also, since most tables are only a few inches wide, I can drag the graphic back and forth inside the frame, giving slightly unique looks to each table without relying on multiple graphics. You can see this in Tables 1

Truth be told: I don't know if these are 100% the final graphics ... but with this system, I can update all of the table graphics across the book with just a few Photoshop edits, and I know the math will work out.

5ive on Friday: Just My Type Excerpts

Every Friday, a list of five things: 5ive on Friday. Quickly bashed out, designed to start not finish conversations. 95% of these will be inspired by the week’s social media conversations.

Just My Type Excerpts

There's an independent bookstore about a block from my new office space. Danger danger! I've managed to only buy one book there so far, and I think I had good justification: I needed something small to read on the bus. I grabbed Just My Type by Simon Garfield, which is a relatively breezy journey through the history of typefaces and fonts, with digressions about specific faces, designers, and events. There's some very interesting stuff about the design of typefaces for road signs, and the competitions between them!

Here's five little fun excerpts:

  1. "In Manhattan, we can stroll into the reassuring chaos of the Strand Bookstore on Twelfth Street and Broadway, and find that their popular T-shirts and mugs (
    '18 Miles of Books') are in Helvetica. But you will find no better example of the diversity of type than by touring the tables and stacks. The text choices favour the digitized traditionals, the Bembos and Baskervilles and Times New Romas, but the jackets display the full roster, the fluid scripts for those intimate heartrending memoirs, the all-lower-case for the comic novels, the no-nonsense bold capitals for the business books, the wimpy scrawls for the kids stuff. Of course you can judge a book by its cover; moreover, we are obligated to." (Hell yes. If you don't judge a book by the cover, why the hell do you think a publisher puts a cover on a book? To attract people! To be judged! To indicate what it contains and the style of the book! To be judged! A cover shows a publisher's priorities and intentions! Judge it!)
  2. "[Vincent] Connare can sometimes be elliptical about his fame. 'If you love Comic Sans, you don't know much about typography. If you hate it, you really don't much about typography, either, and you should get another hobby."
  3. "This is one difference between legibility and readability: at small sizes, Cooper Black is legible but not very readable. But some type is meant to be seen rather than read (a type designer once compared this attribute to a dress designed to look great on the catwalk but provide no protection against the elements). Font-as-couture is a common analogy. Adrian Frutiger, designer of one of the most popular modern fonts, Univers, had another: 'The work of a type designer is just like that of a dressmaker,' he noted. 'Clothing the constant, human form.' Or as the graphic designer Alan Fletcher put it. 'a typeface is an alphabet in a straitjacket.'"
  4. "Much of what one needs to know about the history and beauty of a font may be found in its ampersand. Done well, an & is not so much a character as a creature, an animal from the deep. Or it is a character in the other sense of the word, usually a tirelessly entertaining one, perhaps an uncle with too many magic tricks."
  5. "The alphabet as a free-for-all is an appealing concept, not least for lawmakers who fear the restriction of free speech (and the complex possibilities of distinguishing one lowercase 'g' from another). Zapf argued his case at a time when he believed there were 7,000 to 8,000 different typefaces, and he claimed, 'I hold the world record for the most type designs copied without permission.' In 2010, with the number of faces rather greater, and Zapf into his nineties and no longer designing, the title may still be his." (Hermann Zapf has since passed, in 2015.)

Just My Type is worth checking out as a light summary of the history of type, or just a fun read that will give you a bunch of jumping-off points to research in depth later, such as a the delicious Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software, Inc. lawsuit.

InDesign PDF Export Preset for Digital Publishing

A million years ago, I cooked up an InDesign PDF Export Preset to handle exporting PDFs that worked well on the then-brand-new iPad while maintaining relatively small file sizes.

I still use that preset basically every day, having published dozens of books with it. You can download it here.

Adobe has instructions for loading PDF presets.

A few notes:

  • This preset turns all the Layers in your InDesign document into Acrobat layers; so users can hide backgrounds, art boxes, etc. (depending on how you use Layers in InDesign, of course.) You can untick this if you don’t want layered documents.
  • “Embed Page Thumbnails” is disabled because the thumbnails that InDesign creates are lower quality than the ones than Acrobat creates on the fly the first time it loads a PDF.
  • You can safely change the PPI and Image Quality in the Compression tab.
  • If your document includes spot colors, you probably should go to Output -> Ink Manager and tick “All Spots to Process.” (I almost never use spots, so this advice may be inadequate for your needs.)
  • There are no security settings set, because I want my customers to be able to hack the documents they buy, and PDF security is trivially cracked.

If you have any comments or questions, drop me a line!

Recent & Future Releases

I've been buried under a log jam of production work for the past several months, and my lumberjack class skill of +4 (+2 when I wear that sweet lumberjacky shirt) has finally worked parts of the jam loose!

First off is The Devotees, a new adventure for Eclipse Phase. It's available in both print and PDF.

PS21810 The Devotees 400px

We also just reprinted Gatecrashing, the Eclipse Phase core rulebook is at the printers for a fourth(!) printing, and our first card game, Shinobi Clans, is also at the printers. Our next release, Zone Stalkers, is imminent.

Outside of Posthuman Studios is the Atomic Robo Roleplaying Game, from Evil Hat Productions. It's an action-science romp, powered by the Fate rules. I worked with an awesome team including Mike Olson and Jeremy Keller for this title, and it's a great game and a gorgeous book. Pre-ordering the print book gets you the PDF copy immediately.

Robo Cover 400px

Beyond Atomic Robo, I'm working on the Designers & Dragons book series for Evil Hat. An extensive preview of the Designers & Dragons: The ’70s has been released, going over TSR's history in detail.

And I've been diving into Accursed by Melior Via, as I have a one-sheet adventure to write for them!

As this logjam continues to get unjammed, please stay clear of rolling and falling logs. And by logs, I mean games!

Speaking at PePcon in Chicago: June 15-18

I'm going to speaking at PePcon in Chicago this summer. This is the fifth Print + ePublishing Conference, hosted by the fine people that run InDesignSecrets and CreativePro. I've attended three of the four previous PePcons, and it's always a smoothly-run show with great speakers and a collaborative, sharing atmosphere. It attracts a pretty wide variety of designers and designer-related people: from government employees trying to efficiently make hundreds of forms that are accessible and meet up with tons of standards, to small newspaper people still working on bridging the paper/digital worlds, to automation experts, typeface designers, and more.

This year's Speakers List is a great one -- including Chris Kitchener, the lead product manager for InDesign; Deke McClelland, trainer extraordinaire (and a fine singer,, too...), and keynote speaker Lynda Weinman, co-founder of Lynda.com.

And me? I'll be jamming out 20 minutes on automated production InDesign: from spreadsheets to InDesign to the printed page. I'll probably cover this talking about card game design, with a side trip to the fun of automating contracts (Everyone loves contracts!). And bonus, aside from InDesign, we'll only use free and/or Open Source tools.

If you're interested in attending PePcon, let me slide you this nice discount code to save $50: CH23B

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I hope to see you there!

New Skin Deep texture: Happy Distress!

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Happy Distress! is the newest Skin Deep texture; it's available on DriveThruRPG for only $3, and it contains 12 different files: eleven 8.5x11 300DPI distressed textures, and one larger 600DPI file that is a scan of the various pieces of duct tape that were used to create the analog textures. I thought they looked cool so I included them—they'll do some nice work making distressed type or edge work!

All of these graphics are Creative Commons licensed, so you can use them in commercial projects as long as you credit me. There is no limit on how you can use them or what medium (print, web, iPad app, etc.)

I also made a quick video that outlines the contents and has a quick demo on how these textures can be used to help quickly enhance a book cover:

SD TEXT004 HappyDistress stack

I've also made a Skin Deep Sample Pack available, with 120DPI graphics from each pack available for free (not CC-licensed.)

Posthuman Textures become Skin Deep!

In late 2011 Posthuman Studios' released 3 texture packs that I designed under the name Posthuman Textures. Today, I have pulled them under my own control and renamed them Skin Deep. I will be devoting more time in the near future to releasing new texture packs and other graphic design resources.

By pulling these under my own wing, I'm able to devote more time to them -- as niche projects, devoting Posthuman Studios' time to them didn't make sense.

Three texture sets are currently available:

Battered and Blasted

SD TEXT000 BatteredAndBlasted stack

Dead Television Explosion

SD TEXT001 DeadTelevisionExplosion stack

Something Died

SD TEXT002 SomethingDied stack

Each set is $3 and available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, which means you can use them in and modify them for commercial projects (Books, electronic books, websites, no limitations!) as long as you attribute me as the original creator.