Welcome to Phase 2 in my mission to self-publish my own Pathfinder RPG adventure module. During this phase, my focus will be on making high-level design decisions in order to create a strong skeleton outline for my adventure. Some examples of the work being done during this phase includes writing the plot outline, exploring the main characters (PCs and NPCs), and developing the setting to name only a few. There are many topics that I am very eager to dive into and I expect that this will be one of the more enjoyable phases during this project so let’s get started.
Campaign or Not to Campaign – That is the Question!
During the Concept phase I mentioned that one of the things that I came to realize was the importance of knowing whether or not my adventure was going to be part of multi-adventure spanning campaign. I decided at that time that it would be which turned out to be an important consideration when determining the length of the adventure.
As I begin to start work on the Pre-Development Phase, it is immediately obvious to me that knowing the answer to the ‘Campaign Decision’ will be equally important, if not more so as it will likely affect many of the decisions that need to be made. Because of this, I think that it would be a good idea to hold off on developing the adventure for just a little bit and put a little thought into the campaign itself by focusing on developing an overall campaign style.
Creating a Campaign Style
Similar to mastering a music album, which involves the application of equalization, compression, limiting and track arrangement to make the collection of songs gel as complete unit, I believe that a campaign should also be ‘mastered’ in a sense. To have the most impact on the players, a campaign should have a strong and overarching theme and use a consistent style and tone for each of its adventures so that it feels like a cohesive work. Failure to do so will result in the campaign feeling like it is just a bunch of random adventures that have been strung together for the sole purpose of leveling the characters so they can take on big bad guy at the end.
An author has a host of tools at this disposal for this purpose including literary style, layout, font usage, graphic design, tone, and campaign theme for example. Each of these tools are huge topics in themselves, so for now, I’m going to focus on just a very small, and very specific part of the graphic design—the campaign logo. Even though I plan on leaving the artistic work for a later phase, I think that designing the campaign logo now will go very far in helping to create a sense of identity for the campaign.
Campaign Logo Considerations
A campaign logo needs to include a number of elements and accomplish a few things in order to increase its effectiveness:
- Use graphic elements to give a sense of what the campaign theme is about
- Display the campaign title
- Be simple in design
- Have enough contrast to read well in both color and black and white
- Read clearly when printed at different sizes
One of the most important considerations when designing the campaign logo is to understand the Campaign’s Theme. By this I do not mean the literary theme which is the statement that the author trying to making about some aspect of life, but rather what the campaign is about in a general sense (pirates, giants, witches, mummies, etc.).
Paizo clearly recognizes the importance of having a central campaign theme for each of their Adventure Paths. Having a strong Campaign Theme gives the players a good idea of what they can expect from the Adventure Path so they can tailor their characters to better fit within the story world. It also gives the art team a basis to start from. At the time of this writing we have seen 17 Adventure Paths from Paizo with Campaign Themes consisting of exploring the mysteries of the Thassilon empire (Rise of the Runelords), wish-granting genies in the desert (Legacy of Fire), building and defending a stronghold in the untamed frontier (Kingmaker), thwarting the ambitions of witches in the icy north (Reign of Winter), and stemming a horde of demons (Wrath of the Righteous) to name just a few.
At this early stage in production, I only have a very general sense of my campaign’s story arc. New ideas come to me daily that have the potential of sending me in a completely different direction in terms of plot; however, I am reasonably confident that the Campaign Theme will not change. Worst case scenario, if the plot does happen to change to the degree that Campaign Theme is no longer appropriate then I will simply accept that I have to redesign the logo. After all, the whole purpose of this blog is to document the evolution of the adventure and changes are expected. I guess that’s one advantage of not being a professional publisher with stake-holders who would be unable to make those kind of changes after a project has been formally announced.
I would describe my Campaign’s Theme as ‘Celestial intrigue between the forces of law and chaos’. As such, I want the logo to contain symbology that suggests the involvement of a variety of deities or otherworldly powers.
After brainstorming for a while I came up with eight potential Campaign Titles. During this exercise I learnt choosing a good campaign title was a little more involved than originally expected. Some of these titles were simply too long and cumbersome; these were the first to go. Other titles gave away too much of the plot. I want the title to suggest what the campaign is about but not give too much away.
Another consideration was what term I should use when referring to my campaign. My concern here was whether or not I should call it an Adventure Path. I honestly have no idea if the term Adventure Path is trademarked by Paizo or considered intellectual property. While I didn’t see anything in Paizo’s Community Use Licence about it specifically, I figured it best to err on the side of caution and not use that term. Instead I came up with what I thought was a creative solution. You might recall, during the Concept Phase I decided that my campaign was going to consist of nine adventures. Well, it turns out that a series of nine books is called an ‘Ennealogy’ —there’s a term you don’t hear very often in the literary world. Therefore I will refer to my campaign as an Ennealogy. I think it sounds kind of cool and avoids any potential non-complaint with the Policy.
After much deliberating I decided on “The Seventh Accord Ennealogy”.
For those of you who might not be familiar, The Seventh Accord was introduced in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Chronicles of the Righteous supplement. The Seventh Accord is the name for a mysterious Concordance (a meeting between the empyreal powers for the purpose of shaping the fibers of reality) in which a very taboo/blasphemous subject was discussed and a controversial course of action agreed to.
To my knowledge, Paizo has not yet fleshed out the details of this plot hook. Typically, these kinds of articles are written to provide GMs with idea seeds that they may use to develop their campaign stories around so my hope is that they do not choose to elaborate on this further. With my luck however, I suppose I can expect have a whole module come out next month on it. My fingers are crossed.
Below are a few examples of Pathfinder Adventure Path campaign logos. Each of them uses simple and clean design consisting of nothing more than the campaign title written in a stylized font that is accompanied by a small amount of graphical design elements that reinforces the Campaign Theme.
By comparison, these are simpler than many video logos which sometimes use a bit more graphical elements.
I think that both styles can be effective when used appropriately as long as you don’t go too overboard by using too many colors or adding in too many images.
I have decided to create two versions of my logo—one that is a simple text-only version and the other that incorporates more graphical elements.
As a designer, we might hope that our artistic works will always be viewed in all of their glorious color but the reality is that many people will end up printing a black and white copy of the adventure for easier reference. For this reason, the logo should have enough color contrast so that it reads well in black in white.
If you have access to Photoshop or similar program, this can be easily checked by converting the logo to greyscale or by simply printing a test copy if you do not.
The best way to ensure that details are not lost when scaling the campaign logo (or any other logo for that matter) is to create it as a vector image using a program like Adobe Illustrator.
I’ll be honest. While I have self-taught myself some basic skills in Photoshop, I haven’t invested any time in learning Adobe Illustrator. The preliminary logo images shown below were created in Photoshop but I have full intentions of creating a vector-based version of the finial design.
The Preliminary Campaign Logo
With the above factors in mind, here is the preliminary version of the text-only (simple) campaign logo.
And here is the preliminary version of the artistic campaign logo including a progression of how I arrived at the final image..
Step #1 – Rough Sketch
Step #2 – Block Layout
Step #3 – Details
Step #4 – Effects
Step #5 – Alternate Versions
Step #6 – Black and White Contrast Check
Step #7 – Final Logo Design
Well that’s it for this Episode. I think that this might be my longest post yet which is kind of surprising since all I was doing to do was to come up with a campaign title and logo. Even so, I’m sure there are many experienced graphic designers out there who can weigh-in with their experience and help me define what makes a good logo. Please leave your comments below and I will update this post if I missed anything.
I also want to know what you think of my logo. Did I go overboard with the design? Does it convey my Campaign Theme effectively?