Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Stronghold Expansion: Traders & Merchants [Second Draft; DM's Guild Variant]

Available on the DM's Guild (pay what you want) at this link!



It'd be awfully silly if I was to host content on the DM's Guild and omit the largest thing I've ever made, wouldn't it?

It took some searching, some editing, and some doing, but Traders & Merchants has been updated to use entirely public domain artwork. It was a difficult process (and one that unfortunately doesn't pay dividends in new content or rules updates), but it needed to be done as I continue to move from fair use art into public domain art.

What changed? Well, about that...

CHANGELOG:

  • 32 pages of new artwork!
  • Made Quality and Legendary Merchants operate off of a d20 (to improve probability distribution).
  • That's it.
  • Exciting, right?
CONCERNS:
  • Gimmicks present in some Legendary Merchants may need balancing or adjusting.
WHAT I LEARNED:
  • I never want to re-do 30+ pages of artwork ever again. 

23 comments:

  1. I wish to have some of your content (mainly the Oath of the Common Man and Free Commerce) ported to Herolab and the author of the Community Pack says they require your permission since your PDFs are encrypted or something, how would I go about doing that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure that my PDFs are encrypted, say. More like the text isn't selectable, and you'd have to enter it by hand.

      There's not really much "permission" I can give beyond handing people the OK to re-type and upload my content. As far as that goes, yes, absolutely you can do that.

      You may need to put the author in contact with me (or vice versa) to straighten it out. Honestly, I know nothing about Herolab, so your guess at a solution would likely be better than mine.

      Delete
  2. The new art seems to have a much stronger Arabian theme to it. I'm not complaining, it's one of my favourite cultures.
    It's a shame to see the old art of the knight trying to figure out a phone gone. I preferred the old art but the public domain is a cruel mistress.

    I'll say that a lot more of the art is picture of people which gives a different feel to it, like it was made by some traveler that met all these odd people rather than a guy on photoshop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That new feeling is what I really kind of like about entering the public domain. It seems more sedate, less ostentatious, more contemplative overall.

      The Arabian theme you're picking up is due to the orientialism art movement, or the painting of eastern cultures and individuals by western artists. It's really fortunate for my purposes (due to art styles like realism, which most orientialism is in, being the most congruous with established PHB art), though I had to make a conscious effort to keep this project from being ubiquitously Arabian. Turns out, among those in the west that wanted to paint the east, Arabian merchants were a really, really, REALLY popular theme.

      I too miss cell phone knight, but that can't be helped so much. It was (reasonably) unbelievably difficult to find a public domain painting of a time traveler, but I figured the painting of John Singer Sargent there looked enough like a time lord that I could probably get away with it. :p

      Delete
  3. This may have been asked in a different post, but im curious as to where you find this high quality of public domain art? Do you do any editing and cleaning yourself besides cropping?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes a bit of effort, being honest. Most times, wikiart.org already has a pretty high quality for their images, especially for well-known artists like Rembrandt or Van Gogh.

      Other times, though, they have lower-quality versions that require a reverse Google image search to find something usable. Often, Google is an even better resource than WikiArt, especially with the public use filters turned on.

      As for editing, I actually do a ton of stealth-editing besides basic cropping. Surface blurs help mask cracks in the paint or unfortunate textures from sub-par photography. Nearly every image requires being color-corrected in some way, using Levels and Color Balance. On rare occasion, I'll replace individual colors within an image, photoedit out elements that don't work, or otherwise layer images to achieve a desired effect, such as darker lines and borders.

      As an example, the background image in the Codex of Waves came with a bunch of people struggling to get onto the shore, recovering from a shipwreck. That'd have been distracting from the waves themselves, and the overall theme I wanted the image to portray, so I had to edit out (I think) 3-5 people. Same thing with the last image in that same Codex, which had several people bathing in the pond that would have distracted from the overall water-ness of the scene.

      Delete
  4. Love your work, can't wait for the next expansion ;), hirelings?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm feeling like I might want to revamp and rescale hireling prices before I make an entire expansion dedicated to them.

      I do think an expansion that would let you hire (for example) warforged and other sentient creatures out of the Monster Manual and Volo's would be a great addition, however.

      Delete
    2. A couple of buildings such as Employment Office of several dedicated Guilds could be great?

      Delete
    3. I'd love to do a collection of Guild-Hall style rooms.

      I'd probably follow the classic Elder Scrolls example and toss in an Adventurer's Guild, a Mage's Guild, an Assassin's Guild, and a Thieves' Guild. Who doesn't love running a guild in a fantasy game?

      Delete
  5. I love your work but to be honest i preferred the fair use art. felt more "fantastic" to me, this art just feels more mundane.

    would it be a huge problem to have separate versions with different art but the same rules? or is there a DM's Guild legal thing stopping that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get you, and that was one of my biggest concerns with the art transition. I knew some people wouldn't care for the new feel, and that's a great deal of the reason I put off going public domain for so long.

      I'm genuinely not sure about the legal angle on the DM's Guild, but I do know that running a fair use version parallel to my public domain versions would carry a pretty heavy time cost, as I'd have to curate and edit two different styles of art for everything I make. Often, selecting and editing the art is a lengthy process, and can easily account (with curation) for half the preparation time of any given work.

      In the future, I'd like to commission art from interested artists for my subclasses and similar, but for now I'm hunting to find an artist whose style I like that's willing to do individual works for ~$35-40.

      Now that I think about it, I might just devote a blog post to that exact issue.

      Delete
  6. Now that WoTC has put out new Unearthed Arcana content on down time (with sections for buying/selling magic items) are you considering incorporating that in the sales sheets?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question! I was actually really happy they came out with that, as it gave me a whole new host of data to work with and balance off of. One of my plans after reading it is to work in the new values for Magic Item crafting into the magic enchanter for Strongholds, and instead have the magic enchanter decrease the crafting time of items.

      As for the purchasing magic items rules, I remain conflicted. My basic assumption with this work was that the Excellent/Legendary merchants being the only ones with magic items was the limiting factor to acquiring them.

      WotC, on the other hand, made the assumption that the limiting factor should be a subsystem of mechanics to *find* a merchant in the first place. I like their approach, because it allows the players a path to "force" acquisition of a magic item, but it doesn't gel very well with what I have going on.

      Maybe a subset of rules (or additional sidebar text) dealing with a similar system to "force" an excellent merchant to come out of the woodwork would be ideal, but it's definitely something that'll require more thought as to how to integrate.

      Delete
    2. And I just wanted to say, I've been using this and Strongholds in my campaign for several months now. I love them both.

      Delete
  7. I understand the need to use public domain art for Dmsguild, but I think this (and Vampire) has suffered greatly for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's too bad that's your feelings on it. I kinda knew going into it that there'd be a lot of people who didn't like the transition. That's honestly why I put off doing it for so long.

      Any tips you'd like to point out? I notice you didn't include Strongholds in that assessment, is there something it does well that Merchants and Vampire do not?

      Delete
    2. I think the public domain art for strongholds (mostly) captured the original. It seems that primarily, public domain art involving people is significantly worse than the fair use equivalents. Strongholds made use of some cool castle paintings and such which helped offset the loss of cool fantasy stuff like the airships.

      Delete
  8. random question but have you ever thought of doing something with classes you haven't done before? (Sorcerer, barb, etc)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good question!

      For barbarian, I've been toying with the idea of elemental totems to complement the Totem Warrior primal path. I might spin it off into its own primal path, it seems distinct enough.

      For sorcerer, I *had* plenty of ideas, but Unearthed Arcana got to most of them before I did. All I can think of that hasn't been covered is a psionic, aberrant-blooded sorcerer or a death sorcerer, both of which are pretty cool ideas in their own right.

      Delete
  9. Have you ever done a poll to see what your most popular works are? It's a bit of a clickbait thing to do admittedly - just curious if you have, considering the amount of content you've made.

    It would also be perhaps good to have data/feedback on what people like the most and why they like it, since # of comments doesn't always directly correlate to # used or implemented.

    But if you do have this data already, I'd be intrigued.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My approach to what my most popular works are is pretty unscientific most times. It has to do largely with what I see people re-linking on reddit, or on the individual pages with the most views on my blog.

      It's less of an overall scientific data thing, more of a general-feeling based on overall data.

      Delete