Friday, February 27, 2015

Mr. Nimoy

Now, that is a pity.  I'm not usually inclined to write obits; but I am sincerely sorry for the loss of Leonard Nimoy.  That's all I will say - except that the feeling goes very deep.

Mapping Gerona

Indulge me, please.  I'm a terribly lonely person.

(Not really.  Who is taking the pictures, hm?)

Yesterday I posted a map of Spain that is in progress.  It still is.  But I thought I might do again something I did with Switzerland ages ago.

Take a corner of Spain - Catalonia, shown below:


I've left the scale on the map - so the reader can see that one hex is slightly less than one inch.  Here I've plotted the cities, I've drawn in the coast line, which is as painstaking as the city plotting.  I've added circles to indicate the 'high country' and arrows to show where the rivers ought to go.  Black circles indicate that the hex should display the highest elevation for the hex.  These hexes have no centres.  Orange circles do have centres; these hexes should show the elevation for the lowest centre in the hex.

Take note of the dotted lines around the text boxes.  Also take note that we'll have to make changes about what is on top of what; those centre circles on the coastline, for instance, should be on top of the coastline.  These are things we want to fix.


Here I've removed the circles for hexes colored orange, changing the elevation numbers on in the bottom right corner when applicable.  I've also added blue numbers for each hex where the river flows through.  These indicate the approximate size of the river - it works out to about 0.25 cubic meters of water per second per number - but really, it is just a general assessment for comparison to other rivers.  An ordinary mountain stream typically has a discharge of 1 meter per second - so it would be rated at '4' on the map above.

Rivers tend not to gather much energy on flat plains - which describes Gerona below the town of Olot.  Incidentally, I found out yesterday from looking at Google Earth that Olot is a volcanic zone.  I like these little surprises.


All I've done here is draw in the west border for the Gerona Marquisate (Spanish title).  It replaces the green line that can be seen in the prior map.  Notice that it, too, overlaps the coastline.  In the end it should be lower than the coast.


Here I've drawn in the small river/stream running through Gerona.  I've moved the river numbers a bit to make room for the river.  I've also tweaked all the place names (only in Gerona) so that they're not overlapping the centre circles they describe.  Incidentally, the font sizes for the centres are based on their size:

  • 8pt - less than 1000 residents (Banyoles)
  • 9pt - 1000-3999 residents (Figueras)
  • 11pt - 4000-15999 residents (Mataro)
  • 13pt - 16000-63999 residents (Gerona)
  • 15pt - 64000-255999 residents
  • 17pt - 256000 residents or more (Barcelona)
I haven't got any cities with more than a million inhabitants - so far.  I haven't done China and I don't have a final number for London yet.  Paris has 940,000.  Barcelona is 534,000 (was huge in the Renaissance).


The next step is to further define the coastline by covering the water side of coastal hexes with a shape that corresponds to the coastline.  Here I've shown it outlined in black, before putting it behind the blue line of the coast where it will partially cover the coastal hexes.


There, I've put the coast further back.  The trick here is to overlap things in the right order; the water overtop the hexes and the coast line overtop the water.  Note that the one river and the border (both at the top of Gerona and at the bottom) is still showing over the water.  We'll need to fix that.  If you're paying attention, you'll see that the elevation number for the hex containing Gerona is in the upper right corner of the hex, rather than the lower right.  That's because in the lower right it would conflict with the center circle for La Bisbal.  Moving it up looks better.

There's very little left.  There's a number next to Ripoll that needs to be moved on top of the border line and the all the hexes need to be colored according to its elevation:


There, done.  I've fixed the borders, moving them back, fixed the river, fixed that number in the La Pobla hex, centered the title for the Cerdanya county, colored the hexes and removed the feature that shows the boundary around text boxes.  Just like that, it looks like my maps normally look.

If I've done this right, the reader should be able to run the images as a slide show, with minimal jiggling between pictures.  This really isn't as much work as it looks - it took much longer to cut the pictures, make myself pause as I did and set them up for the post.  Altogether, what's shown is about 20 minutes of work.  The bigger part is the annoying city placement and coastline drawing.


Half-Thoughts on Traps

The Dungeon's Front Door was going to include the following material, but it was cut for not fitting into the theme of the essay.  I thought I ought to include the content somewhere, however.

Traps are founded on well-understood principles: that they might be found anywhere; that they can be detected; that they can be deactivated . . . and if not detected or removed, that they will deliver damage, poison or some other consequence.  But are we willing to consider the possibility of traps that have no effects?

The practical joke with the little flag that pops out of the gun and says BANG! - though crass, remains disconcerting if the gun looks real.  The dungeon trap that is easily found - yet strangely difficult or even impossible to remove (because it is not, in fact, a trap) can easily tie a party up for a long time.  The party will go into it with the assumption that any trap can be removed.  Since this 'trap' has no discernable mechanism, however - what should the party do then?

We can also introduce a circumstance where the removal of one trap will guarantee the firing of a second trap.  We can play with this idea in several ways.  We can allow the players to find both traps (or all of them, if more than two are involved) with one roll, so that they can see plainly how the traps are rigged to go off.  Or we can stipulate that only some of the traps are found, depending on whether or not the thief rolls successfully for each trap.  I personally prefer the first option - because that suggests the thief could stop trap A from setting off trap B, if the cord on trap C is pulled in this manner (using the party's fighter) and if this flagstone in the corner is stood on (using the party's bard), compelling all the players to take some part.  Then if the traps go off, it could be the fault of the mage or the druid.  

There is a certain fascination, however, if the party realizes there are more traps, but they don't know how many or even how these traps are connected.  Add in that some of these traps may be 'dummies' and we have a real conundrum.  Hah.  And I keep saying that I don't like puzzles in dungeons!

We don't have to consider the impracticality of some fool putting this arrangement in place, do we?  I mean, we've seen Saw, we have other cultural references - we're just willing to accept that some premise exists.  A party, I'm sure, would think it reasonable that someone would put something valuable behind a mess like this.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Black Fly

Just for fun . . . and for a thought or two to be given to parties roaming the woods.

Relief

This is what I do to relax.

Here's a section of Spain that I'm working to map, which at this stage consists only of plotting cities:


This is painstaking work.  Each hex covers a range of latitude and longitude; the city is then plotted inside the hex based on its own precise location.  I insist on being as accurate as possible.  Occasionally, it can happen that there are as many as seven towns & cities in the same hex (an example of that can be seen in the upper right hand corner, with Alcora, Burriana, Castello, La Vall, Nules, Onda and Villareal all sharing the hex.  These are all real places; images can be found on Google.

It is done with Microsoft Publisher.  I simply create a circle (white with a black fill) that is 0.1 x 0.1 inches (.254 cm), then create a text box next to the circle.  Yay, mapmaking.

I keep track of all the data on excel:


The left file corresponds to the map above.  The lines in excel shown are the bottom line of the map.  If you look closely, you can see Alicante in the bottom right corner of the map; in excel, it appears on line BJ1074.  The 'ring' describes the horizontal line of hexes.  The Alicante hex extends from longitude 359.33 to 359.65 (I'm using 360 degrees measured from Greenwich, rather than a +/- arrangement of E/W).

The right file shows the city details for the next ring, which would be no. 180 (measured from the north pole).  Each hex is 20 miles in diameter.  When I finish this post, I will begin plotting Cordoba.  It would be off this map, below and to the left of the bottom left corner.  Really, I should include picture of the line where Cordoba would go, so here it is:


See?  Cordoba has a latitude of 37.88 and a longitude of 355.23.  It is in Andalucia, in its own province.  'E-01' indicates the map where the highlighted hex can be found.

Once the cities are placed, this tells me where the boundaries ought to be - I try to keep the hexes wholly under one jurisdiction, but often I have multiple cities in on hex that are in fact in different provinces (researched on the internet), so the hex has to be split up.

Anyway, like I said, this is relaxation time when I'm not trying to make text fit the theme I've determined for a given essay.  I have one more of those that I have to go through before giving it to the editor - who has begun giving me back content already.  I think I may be able to get a book up before the 7th of March.  Quality before speed, though.

I need to go rest now.

A Well-Meaning Exchange

I always think people are going to miss these back comments:

Scott Driver:

A close "artsy" friend has a storefront where she sells boho shit that she's culled from thrifts in the area. Until recently she did it to keep busy while selling her art and treading water. It's not normally sustainable without another income stream. (In her case, her husband ... she's very talented but it's tough to make a living on visual art here.)

She has the social media network you'd expect of an interesting, talented, vivacious person. She starts posting each thrift find on Instagram ... things change. Now she posts whatever she finds, most of which is horseshit, and just based on her personality and a wide net, someone ALWAYS asks "omg how much and what size??" then rushes to buy it. It's completely altered how she views her dorky time-sink of a storefront. Now it's a thing.

Here's my question: Your in-person salesmanship - that face you give randoms at a con or a bookstore - are you doing that online anywhere? As far as I know, you're acerbic and uncompromising online, but willing to glad-hand and suffer fools in person.

You want to sell books or you wouldn't be sitting there watching assholes in front of a Chapters. Why are you willing to make salesman faces in person, where you might talk to three people, but not here, where you could reach a LOT more if you used the same salesman face? It seems perverse.

Alexis Smolensk:

Interesting. I am often astounded at the idea that people prefer to buy from a 'salesman face.' I find them quite off-putting, myself.

I am acerbic and uncompromising online - in two specific ways. Either I have identified an individual as a fuckwit, and I say so, or I attack wide groups of people for having what I consider to be a stupid opinion.

I never, ever, go after an individual person for no reason.

In person, whether I am selling or not, I am remarkably pleasant, friendly, witty, honest and forthright - particularly with strangers whom I do not know and therefore have no reason to dislike. This is why Toronto was an epiphany. I found I could speak quite candidly and absolutely honestly about the book, receiving in kind interest, a desire to know more and a remarkable approval of what I was doing. People who bought books from me did not feel pressured, duped, unsure or 'sold.' They felt enlightened, happy, encouraged and with a bounce in their step. People who bought the small book one day read it in a single night and came back the next day to buy the large book. I didn't have to slap on a 'sales face.' I had the product these people were desperate to buy.

When I am friendly, sweet, gentle in my content, full of tolerance and consideration online, I get trolls who hijack the conversation, treat my blog like a welcome mat, treat my readers like morons and show zero respect for anything that I've written.

Granted, there has always been a part of me that, as you say, does not suffer fools to live. Neither do universities, professional workplaces, the halls of power, people who make a lot of money for a living nor any person of intellect.

The difference between me and all of them is that I'm a WRITER; I write. Most of the extremely smart people I know do not give a shit about anything that happens online. This online community holds no interest for them.

I disagree. I think the world can be changed online. I don't think, however, that it can be changed by being nice.

TED Talks are nice. TED Talks are proving to be a dismal failure.

Now, Scott, I'll be frank with you, because I find you a bright guy. You may have noticed that I'm not selling the kind of thing your friend with the Instagram account is selling. She has a product that STUPID people will buy.

I am not selling something that STUPID people are interested in. I'm not selling cute, popular, sweet, precious, easy, stuff that will solve problems or a balm for people's ills. I am selling hard work, invention, creativity, failure and an admittance that you are inadequate. I'm selling the same philosophy that I live by every day. I'm not smart enough. I'm not working hard enough. I haven't produced enough value yet. This is what drives me forward and it is what I am selling.

I have a limited market. Despite that, in the last six months I have sold 250 books. My overall income from being acerbic and uncompromising has earned me more than $4,500. This is not enough to live on, but . . . it is enough to be proud of. I count these as people who want very BADLY to excel. I think these are amazing people. They put up with all my shit and my intolerance, then they tell me that I'm changing their game and their perceptions, that their players are loving the change and that they are running the best campaigns of their lives.

My god man. This seems perverse to you?

If you want compromise, if you want sales, I suggest you knock at the WOTC's door. Instead, you're here.

My technique must be working, no?

Listen, seriously. If you really feel that I should take steps to change myself in order to sell more - then I presume you feel that more people should read my books. If that is how you feel - if that is how you REALLY feel - then get off your ass and point your friends in my direction. Write a review for Amazon, write another for Lulu, write it on your facebook, write it on Reddit. Your pitching my book online is TEN TIMES more valuable than me doing it - because I'm obviously biased and selling, whereas you're someone who has been CONVINCED.

Go express your being convinced to other people!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Porn

Some readers who blog may have noticed lately that Google's Blogger service has announced that, come March 23rd, they're going to eliminate explicit content from their system.  I'm glad to say that this blog, which has no images of naked people, will not be affected.

I have seen some call this an act of vandalism.  I have also seen the term pornocalypse used.  If the reader has the bravery to follow this link (that I discovered when a blog I shall not name linked it), there can be read a long diatribe about the persecution that large technology organizations perpetrate on the use of porn.  It's interesting, but . . . as someone who has been on the inside of a porn-distribution service, it is way, way off the mark.

It is true that groups like eBay, Amazon, Craig's List and so on seem to be permissive for a time, only to change their minds and apparently revoke the privilege with a moral crusade.  Morality, however, is not the reason why services suddenly condemn the very porn that once they supported.  Nor is it the outcry of mothers or private businesses.  Most businesses, in fact, retain a defacto nod-nod-wink-wink policy towards a company's inclusion of porn in their bottom line.

In my late position working for a pay-per-view service, I spent a few years keeping track and updating the many, many porn movies that were available for purchase.  On average, the service launched about 20 titles a week, provided by a wide variety of both classy and sleazy porn film companies, including Mile High Media, Erobec, Valentine . . . even Penthouse.  These went through the same process as any other film we included, except that great pains were taken to ensure that some child with access to the system could not see any of these films if the adults in the house appropriately net-nannied the storefront.  Many conversations were had about that - and if a porn movie got put into the wrong categories by mistake (where it could be seen by anyone), things got very, very interesting - particularly if it came to the attention of the company's CEO (and here we are speaking of an 11-billion dollar company).

So why did we have porn on the system at all?  One simple reason.  The service was not making money.  Throughout my entire experience - five years - we were firmly in the red.  There was never any chance of our division making a profit; in fact we were making less and less profit every annum.  We were kept alive because the service was a very visible part of the company's public perception and because it's existence drove other money-making services within the company, supporting its competitive acquisition of the marketplace.

In a situation like this, a VP will take any opportunity to reduce the amount of loss every quarter.  Thus, the inclusion of porn.  For a company just starting out, for a division that is perpetually losing money, porn is low-hanging fruit.  It is easy to get, easy to sell and thus easy to turn into immediate capital.

Porn has problems, however.  Yes, like the accidental misfiling that I mentioned above, but also in a host of other ways that affect daily operation.  See, porn is largely created by people who are uneducated, unreliable, unhappy or who just don't give a shit about laws or regulations.  Companies have to care about those things.  Because the porn industry does such a shitty job of regulating themselves, however, companies that use porn have to do it - and that means hours and hours of fixing images that were poorly conceived, fixing titles, fixing descriptions and synopses . . . and actually watching the porn to ensure that no content appeared that could not be legally run on our service.  We paid two people to sit around, all day, doing nothing but watching porn.

Before the reader gets all excited, thinking, "Kewl, I want that job!" I have to explain that having spoken to the people who did it that the job was horrible.  Mind you, these were people who did not have trouble with porn - otherwise, they would not have taken the job.  Porn in large amounts is, however, depressingly uniform in its presentation.  In large amounts (35-40 hours a week), it takes on a degree of disgust that doesn't go away.  The burn-out rate for people who did that job was 1 to 8 months.  This despite the money they were paid, which was very good.

Throughout all this watching, the viewers had to be very careful to miss nothing.  That's because it only takes a couple of frames to start a major freak-out among moral pundits and the mainstream media.  So not only are you watching a lot of crap you've grown very tired of, you have to watch it closely.

Finally, porn can only make you so much money.  At the beginning, that amount is nice . . . but it tops out at a given amount and that's it.  The clientele you have will only support so much.  That's because there are two kinds of porn-watchers (I know, I've tracked the numbers month to month for years at a time): the kind that watch one or two porn movies a month and the kind that watch porn continuously whenever they are at home.  A business depends on the latter kind for its bread and butter - but there are only so many of those guys that exist in the world (yes, I said 'guys').

So porn is a lot of trouble.  So it stands to reason that if you reach a point in your business where you are in the black without needing the porn, what do you think happens?  That's right.  You dump the porn.

In order to justify this dumping, you get on the bandwagon of claiming you're cleaning up your service, you're paying closer attention to the family and the upstanding merits of doing business responsibly, blah blah blah, because if you're going to ditch the porn anyway, you might just as well take advantage of the PR hit you can get by pretending that you now care about family values.

This recent step by Google Blogger means one of two things - either the company has decided that there are enough non-porn bloggers to justify the service's existence without porn . . . or its gotten to be too much trouble to police the mess.  Google, I promise you, does not care the least about the moral implications of including porn.

They just don't need it any more.

P.S.

Porn is also great for bloggers.  Any time a blogger can find a justification for talking about porn, count on the numbers to go up.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lo, the 7th of March

This will be yet another short post.  But the rewriting, the re-editing will be done soon, at least for me.

After a long discussion with my editor, we've agreed on extending the publishing date for The Dungeon's Front Door to March 7th.  My sincere apologies.  All I can say is that it's a hard date.  I will release the book on the 7th even if I don't get back the edited copy for the last pages.  I'm being told that there's little fixing that needs to be done to the draft I'm providing the editor - so I will review the content myself and trust to fate if that's what it takes.

I really hate on line when people put off and put off and put off the end dates of something.  It's a sort of disrespect for the reader that I cannot abide.  So I will not be doing this to the reader again.

So, to repeat: the 7th of March, not the 1st.  And as I said yesterday, you can follow me on twitter, @Tao_of_DnD - where I will be updating daily.

I am going to be so glad to spike this project.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Updates on DFD

There has been less posting here, hasn't there?  Just working, my fellows.  Just working.

For those who have not noticed, I have added a twitter feed to the sidebar.  I am working to keep track of my progress through the book (The Dungeon's Front Door, et.al), which I will be doing up to its publication.  If you want to know day to day how it is going, check the feed.  Right now, I am going through my content one last time, page-by-page.  I am starting to get some edited material back from the editor - which I will use to update the final text of the book.

This is just a short note to let readers know.  Please feel free to follow me on twitter: @Tao_of_DnD.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

No Biggie

Sadly, Chapters did not work out.

We spoke to a few people, make perhaps a few connections with friends they knew, telling us that these friends played D&D, but it was the wrong crowd.  Too many mothers and fathers with children, too many aged couples, too many people walking through the bookstore with a thousand yard stare.  They weren't just ignoring us, it was clear watching them pass that they were ignoring everything.

Having time to watch the bookstore in action, I saw far more customers arriving for the Starbucks next to us than seemed to come for the books.  I saw staff bored out of their minds, clearly with nothing to do and no one to direct.  All in all, a disappointing day.

But an educational one.  A day with a message.  A day reminding me that I've done very well to pursue my book on the internet.  I could not help but think of people with no internet presence, bravely writing their first book, then attempting to do what I did today with everything resting on succeeding at a bookstore.  That would be . . . heartbreaking.  I am glad I did not have all my eggs in that basket.

I woke today to find on my feed that we had sold a book overnight.  In a day or two, I will see another book being sold.  Puts failing at the Chapters in perspective.

It is sad, however.  It is.  By the end of the day, what with feeling one kind of stress before, then keeping up our energy to be hit with another sort of stress at the end (as we debriefed), we came home exhausted and strung out.  I had a sleep and now I'm up, feeling like this is something that happened yesterday.

So, next Saturday I will do it again.  At a completely different Chapters, much further out, in the suburbs.  Could be good.  Could be bad.  We'll just have to find out.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

At Chapters

I'm going to spend today pitching How to Run at a bookstore, my first time for this.  Should be fun.  I don't expect it to be very much like being at a table at a convention - I have no idea how many people I will meet that will have even heard of role-playing games.

This should be enlightening - from a statistical sample perspective.

If you are in Calgary and you're up for it, come down and see me, buy the book or come and get your book signed.

I'll be at Chapters Bookstore in Chinook Centre.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Skillz

For those who have never successfully integrated computers into your gaming - who might wonder how I do it or how it works.  This really deserves a video - but my attempts to video me running my game end up disappointing for technical reasons.

It is really very hard to effectively tape a D&D session.

So much of a D&D session is spontaneous, the game being unscripted.  If you try to fix this by scripting the game, the players are NOT actors and it looks awful and phony.  On the other hand, capturing that spontaneity on film, properly, would require four or five cameras, all of them running for four to six hours. A single camera simply fails 100%, as the game is not found in the DM's face alone, but in that of the players. requiring a very lengthy effort at editing the session - presuming that this was even a session worth filming!  Not all sessions are.

I have seen lately that filmmakers have finally realized that every individual person needs to be miked, too - but this properly needs to be a boom mike.  I've seen examples where the table is loaded up with mikes, like a set up found on public radio.  This looks absolutely nothing like a game session - and of course spoils the very feel of a proper game.  I wrote in my advanced guide that the DM's screen needs to be ditched because it ruins interaction and cohesion of play.  Technical apparatus between the players only reminds them that they are being miked, destroying any sense of capturing an actual game.

I need a very capable filmmaker to solve these problems - but I haven't yet been able to entice anyone into the project without a promise of money.  In the meantime I see videos put out by the WOTC of games held in public and I shake my head in disgust.  Here are people with real money, who ought to know better how to set up a proper film . . . and obviously they don't care.

I remember episodes of I Hit It With My Axe, which I showed around to my players and other artists.  These were films supposedly made by people in film - but they were cluttered, ugly, poorly miked, disastrous writing, filled with the backs of people's heads and with chatter that was either hopelessly garbled or meaningless in the context of a game.  My amateur attempts to do better have proven that I cannot - that is why there are no films of my playing a session.

But I will continue to look for someone capable who would be willing.  At this point, to get talent I need it to be a documentary made with real money - perhaps to show it on Netflix.

In the meantime, I am a writer.  So I will stick with writing out the details of my game play as best I can.  This much is free.

Earlier today, Scott Driver left a comment that can be found here, written below the DFD Introduction pose.  In it he makes a very reasonable point:

"I've never successfully integrated computers either for gaming or my profession.  Professionally, it adds complexity to an already chaotic situation and it's not easily stress-tested. Back when I tried cases before juries, I was almost always alone, and I stuck with legal pads and binders because they're simple and there's no risk of looking like a fumblefuck. I can execute on the fly without even thinking about the underlying tech."

I can really relate to this - but not in terms of computers.  See, I have never learned to drive.  I do not even possess a learner's license - and I never have.  If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you may remember once or twice where I described something to do with me driving a car.  I have driven a car, I know how to drive a car, but I've only done it for twenty minutes at a time and therefore always illegally.  This is also, incidentally, the reason why none of the pictures I've taken this last month feature me driving a car.  The one I added today (which will be gone in the morning) is of me sitting in the passenger seat.

So for me, driving through the city would be an exercise in panic.  I once was a bike commuter - the kind that rode in winter as well as in summer, in circumstances probably more dangerous than driving a car - so I know the streets.  But when I rode a bike, I didn't really have to look at signs.  Most of them don't affect bicyclists.

Were I to get a license, it would be a completely chaotic situation.  I would be terrifically stressed.  'Fumblefuck' would be my middle name.  And that is the reason I have kept putting off getting a license all these years.  I don't want to kill anyone.

Computers, however, are different.

I began on manual typewriters at age 8.  I moved on to an electric typewriter at age 13 when my grandmother passed away and left my parents hers (she was a schoolteacher and a writer). Computers followed soon after.

In grade 10, I took a typing class - and failed (I have a 7 dexterity).  But I kept the book and worked on the exercises continuously.  Today I type 65-75 words a minute.  I type fast enough that I can create content for the players to read, if it is something with detail that they need to remember, without breaking the pace of the session.  Part of the reason why these blog posts have so many words in them is that I type and think at the same pace (I've trained myself to slow my thinking to match my typing speed when I write, so writing is just like talking).  In effect, when I write, the screen and the computer disappear . . . I stare through the screen in a sort of zen-like state.  Thus, during a session, if I need to send a message by computer (or type a note in the middle of combat), I can listen to a player talk and write the note at the same time - sometimes I can talk and write a completely different note.

After hundreds of hours using a mouse to build newspaper pages, a skill I learned in university while volunteering for the paper there, I applied that skill to other projects.  I went on building pages for magazines that I helped build or start, while learning from professionals how to build ads or graphically design images.  These last eleven years, of course, I have been building more than 80 maps that are huge in scale (maybe you've seen a few), while using the computer to run my sessions as well.  This has meant that drawing with a mouse is as comfortable and normal to me as drawing with a pencil used to be.  I don't even think about it while I'm doing it.  In fact, I use map-making as a relation tool to manage my stress, enable meditation or to keep me busy while I listen to lectures or follow audio books and podcasts.  During a game, then, the players don't have to wait a bunch of time while I interface with the computer - I can draw and design while talking to them, or listening to them make plans for their character's next actions.

This may sound impressive - but if you think about it, you can tell me all of this right back by describing what you're able to do while driving a car.  There you are, sitting behind the wheel of a potential weapon, a projectile of metal, fibreglass and rubber, riding along at speeds above 100 km/hour, along with hundreds of other cars doing the same thing . . . and still you can argue with me about why you think Aerosmith deserves the attention they've received these last four decades.  Vehemently.  Because the car is an extension of your body and your mind that you don't think about.

Computers are no scarier than a car.  The difference between me and you driving is that you were once agreeable to being educated in that - whereas I was not, for reasons I won't go into.  The computer keyboard and the programs that enable me to design only happened to me because I took the courses and pestered experts for answers.  You can do this too.  I only began graphic design about 12 years before I began creating the maps you see - and I did tons with that design long before I stumbled across my map-making method.

You CAN do anything.  Get educated.  Learn.  I am perfectly capable of driving a car.  I even kind of like it . . . until there are other cars around.  But trust me - your learning how to use a computer like a pen isn't going to kill anyone.