One hobby I’ve resurrected over the past couple of years is playing role-playing games. I hadn’t played properly since my mid-20’s when I was living in Cambridge but being in Glasgow for the past couple of years and meeting lots of role-players up here has given me a chance to get involved in a lot of games, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying!

As a teenager my friends and I played loads of games. D&D (obviously), MERP, Golden Heroes, TMNT, Champions, Tunnels and Trolls, Traveller, Pendragon, Vampire, Mage… the list goes on and on. We even played a few home brew systems as well. Now that I’m playing again it’s nice to see a lot of the old games are still going strong, while role-playing as a hobby has grown into a whole load of new games, such as Fate Core and Dungeon World, some of which are very different to the games I used to play.

While I’m enjoying playing games again, as it can be satisfying to act the part of another character very different to my own, what I’m loving most is being the GM. Having the opportunity to write settings, characters and scenarios and see them play out when other people get involved is really nice. One of the frustrating things I find about writing is the sheer amount of time between putting words to paper (so to speak) and showing what you’ve written to other people means that writers have to have an enormous amount of dedication and patience.

I also think RPGs are where I got the writing bug from. As a kid I would spend hours working on settings, characters and scenarios. All of the stuff I’d need to prepare a session. What I never did (unless forced to by school) was attempt to write short stories or a novel. This is the same now. I could happily spend hours writing a setting for a made up world but the actual act of writing, the converting the setting into a coherent story with dialogue and description, is still something I have to force myself to do.

One of the things I’ve found I need while GMing is a map to use as a visual aid for myself or the players. I figured this would be something that’s easy to do in software so there would be plenty of good options available. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything that didn’t involve downloading some .exe file and installing on a windows machine. How very… retro. They also seemed to be tile based, rather than drawing tools, which wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. So being a programmer, I built my own. Take a look at Sunstone and let me know what you think. It’s a prototype which still needs some work, but is full featured enough to make some basic maps and works entirely in your browser. It should work in most modern browsers but may have issues in Internet Explorer.

I’ve got some plans for improving it, including adding more graphics and the ability to add city maps and link them to the larger region. I’m also planning to hire an artist (or several) in the future to improve the graphics. If you know anyone who might be interested, let me know through Twitter.

If you’re an avid Role-Played then you should also check out RPGaDAY, organised by my good buddy David F. Chapman at Autocratik.