Saturday, June 21, 2014

3PP Interview: Michael K. Tumey of Gamer Printshop

This week I'm interviewing Michael K. Tumey, a cartographer who's also known as the creator of the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror for PFRPG. Michael discusses his work and his company, Gamer Printshop.

Also, please check out Michael's cartography portfolio on Gamer Printshop's webpage!

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I live in a small town in Illinois, Ottawa, and I operate a family business called 2me Studio, Inc. as a graphic designer and digital printer, now in its 20th year in business. Having started playing D&D in 1977, I am a lifelong RPG gamer and participate in a regular weekend game with my friends using Pathfinder RPG as our primary system. Probably because I am also half Japanese (through my mother) I have had a longtime love affair with all things feudal Japanese, and is the primary reason behind my creation and development of the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG) which I publish as an imprint under Rite Publishing. Past editions of Oriental Adventures while fun and inspiring also contain a variety of cultural errors, that I’ve always wanted to correct. I have always had an interest in the dark imaginings of Japanese horror, and with the Kaidan setting, I was free to present Asian horror tropes that are hardly explored at all in current oriental settings while doing an emphasis on authenticity.

How did you get into artist game cartography and what kind of projects have you been working on? What have been your best experiences?

I’ve always been the cartographer for my own games, having done so for almost 30 years.

In 2007, I joined the Cartographers’ Guild a website dedicated to the creation and support of artistic cartography used primarily for fiction and the gaming industry, as well as personal games. I began participating and consistently winning the monthly map challenges (contests) and began to draw the attention of small publishers and authors looking to commission maps for their projects. In that first year, I created maps for 3 small game publishers, and over the subsequent years have created dozens of maps for dozens of publishers. In 2012, Paizo Publishing commissioned to create the original hand-drawn map for the City of Kasai, for The Empty Throne module of the Jade Regent Adventure Path. I also wrote some of the City of Kasai gazetteer in collusion with Frank Carr and am credited as one of the contributing authors for that work.

I am the concept creator, primary developer, one of the game designers and authors for the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG), published as an imprint under Rite Publishing, though I share the copyright with Steven Russell, and am the owner of the intellectual property. Since the project is mine, I do all the cartography for the setting guides, the adventure modules, and those supplements that include maps (there are several). One of my goals has been to create game products with more maps than anyone else’s publications.

A sample map symbol - aristocrat's desk
Aside from doing a city map for Paizo Publishing, one of my best experiences was the creation of an adventure location/module/map product for the Kaidan setting called Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House which I was the author, developer, primary designer, cartographer, one of the artists, and did the full page layout and cover design. Except for editing, and some design assistance by Justin Sluder this was a project that I did completely on my own, and hopefully only the first of many such products to come.

I am currently writing four map tutorials guide books following a very successful Kickstarter in 2013 to fund them. I have the first book written, which is currently in the editing stage, and large sections of the second and third guide completed. As additional products from the Kickstarter, I am also creating several map symbol sets, including both hand-drawn and photo-realistic map objects covering both general fantasy and specific niches as themed sets.

In your opinion, what makes a good Pathfinder RPG compatible product?

Luckily for me, artistic game cartography is very much game system agnostic, as long as using an appropriate 1 inch equals 5 feet square grid, when including grids on an encounter scale map, anything I might create, map-wise, is compatible.

Generally speaking from a non-cartographic point of view, a good Pathfinder RPG compatible product should cleave closely to the Core and additional supplements, while bringing something new and exciting to the table that are generally not well covered by Paizo Publishing or other small third party publishers. I think the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror does just that and does so very well.

A Gamer Printshop product: Gothic Castle Map Set
When and how did Gamer Printshop get started?

In 2007, I was looking for additional services I could offer at my family owned digital printing shop, and came upon the idea that printing large format maps designed by publishers and individuals for home games was a direction worth pursuing and a way to provide a benefit to my fellow gamers in the world.

Gamer Printshop has been the company behind all my gaming business endeavors, including my current writing project and cartography work.

How did you join Gamer Printshop and what is your role or position?

I am the founder of Gamer Printshop, thus I am the owner, publisher, primary author, artist and cartographer, as well as the page layout person – I wear almost all the hats. Really the only thing I have someone else do the work is as editor. I wouldn’t advise any author to self-edit as it’s not a very reliable activity to do on your own, in my experience. While Gamer Printshop continues to print maps for gamers, as it has been from its start, I am treating Gamer Printshop as my RPG game publishing company to create map sets, map symbol sets and map tutorials guide books.

Can you give us an exclusive teaser about an upcoming product?

As one of the add-on products from the Kickstarter, I am currently working on the artwork in the creation of 100 photo-realistic map symbols that fit the theme: gothic horror. In my opinion there really aren’t many map symbol sets that cover the gothic horror genre in support of such games and settings such as Ravenloft, Shadows of Estern, Call of Cthulhu and many other similar settings, including my own. I am creating everything from a vivisectionist’s complete operating theater, aristocratic furnishing, a Faustian wizard’s laboratory, torture chamber devices and much more. It is very fun to create gruesome map symbols to fit this niche.

What are the best things about Gamer Printshop products?

Regarding the tutorial guides, although I use Xara Designer Pro 9, a vector drawing application as my primary map-making tool, the techniques I use are easily applicable in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Paintshop Pro, GIMP, Inkscape and many other standard graphics applications. Including sections of one chapter on many of these programs to point out where to find the tools necessary to follow the tutorials. Thus the map-making techniques I offer are easy to understand and apply to anyone that currently uses a reliable graphics application. There is no requirement to purchase one particular application to use the tutorials that are being created.

Regarding my maps and map object sets, I have a very unique style combining both hand-drawn elements as well as using techniques the emulate depth. While I certainly do create art that fit the standard fantasy game, I am constantly searching for setting niches that aren’t well covered by other creators that still has a need for content.

What are the current goals for Gamer Printshop? What are the biggest challenges?

A sample hand-drawn style map - the Crown Colonies
My current goals are to meet everything offered in my recent Kickstarter by the intended release date, if not sooner. While I certainly have other projects in mind in the form of themed map packs, map symbol sets, map tiles and more, (as well as creating additional support material for the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror ) – I need to get the KS stuff done first, and where all my current time is being spent. My biggest challenge in writing the books are that because the techniques are usable in many different graphics programs, and though I have experience using most of them, I only actually use Xara Designer Pro 9 to actually create maps. So I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to learn the basics of all the programs supporting the tutorials to help beginners know where to look in finding the tools to use the tutorials effectively. At least the second through fourth guides focus on technique without direct references to those other applications. Anytime I need to refer to a specific application, I will be pointing to the first guide, where its chapters are more closely dedicated to those details.

Is there anything else people should know about Gamer Printshop?

Gamer Printshop is still the premiere RPG map printing service to home gamers and publishers. If you have a map of your design, or even one you purchased from a publisher, my company can print and ship your maps worldwide, with optional lamination and at a very reasonable price. If you have a map you want printed, it's best to contact me through my website contact page.


A Sword for Hire