We chat with Alyssa Faden, team member on the Dragon Kings project leading the awesome cartography work you’ve seen. Here’s more about her and what she loves about Dragon Kings!
Dragon Kings: Share with us a little bit about your history and what you do for a career.
Alyssa: Well I – like a lot in the industry – have a day job as well as a passion for the gaming community. My day job is not all that exciting I am afraid, but it has taught me some very valuable skills. I am an Account Director: which basically means that I handle day-to-day relationships with a fortune 100 company. I work for a smaller company than that – quite a bit smaller! – but all of the work that we do for them is onboarded by myself and I am there to ensure that they get exactly what their business needs and that they receive a red carpet treatment.
The skillset I have honed over the years? Patience, talking to people, managing expectations, transparency, and honesty. These are invaluable skills when dealing with people and they ensure that I do not go on rampages across the internet saying inappropriate things that will only come back to haunt me in my professional capacity. It has also enabled me to provide a more professional service when it comes to my mapping commissions: understanding what my clients care about, keeping communication open and honest, and ensuring that I meet all the deadlines that I say I am going to meet.
Dragon Kings: What or who inspires you to create such great work that?s been released so far?
Alyssa: Well I think it would be fair to say that every map I have ever saw – regardless of style, subject matter or historical period – has provided some inspiration. The simple truth is that I look at maps and immediately start evaluating lines, composition, fonts, colors, color balance, detail levels, and over style and composition. I could not have gotten to where I am and what I do without drawing from every source I seen over the decades.
Mike Schley is the cartographer i most admire. There is something about his style, his line work and his colors and textures that hit me in all kinds of good ways. I continually find myself being inspired by his work. And lastly – even though this will sound a little corny – my clients often provide the greatest inspiration. They will often come to me and ask for something incredible, something I never imagined myself drawing, and they cause me to reach and stretch into a deeper level.
Dragon Kings: What interests you most in participating on the Dragon Kings project?
Alyssa: I’m not sure I can answer this easily, but I think if I had to start at the beginning it would have to be Dark Sun itself. The covers to Slave Tribes, the original Dragon Kings, Dark Sun boxed set, and DS1 Freedom had me hooked on the setting right from the get go. Honestly, I remember the first time I saw Freedom’s cover artwork and it had a profound effect on me that has stayed with me throughout the years. It is a simple, powerful piece that has so much story and depth within it.
So when Timothy Brown pops up and starts talking to me I am already falling out of my seat. When he mentions that he is doing a spiritual successor to Dark Sun, I’m salivating. When he announces that Brom is involved, I am whipping out my checkbook. When he asks me to be part of it? Yeeaahhhh, I’m not sure that any response other than a drooling, gibbering, “yurhspleaz!” was going to happen. Of course I wanted to be in on this! It’s iconic!
Dragon Kings: What Dragon King?s pledge level is most notable for you personally?
Alyssa: I’m thinking about jumping in as a Complete Dragon Kings Fan, but that Dragonlord of GenCon 2014 is looking mighty tempting. I’ll be at GenCon, so I’d love an excuse to have my character destroy whatever nefarious encounter Timothy has planned.
Dragon Kings: Are you a fan of Role-playing games? What is your favorite RPG?
Alyssa: *stares at the interviewer in a bemused manner*
How … how could I not be? I have grown up on roleplaying games since I was … oooh … 12 or 13. I’ve gone through Basic D&D, blue box, red box, the iterations thereafter, and countless, countless other gaming systems: Paranoia, Gangster, Bushido, Chivalry & Sorcery. I mean truly, the list goes on and on and on. I can’t name one favorite, but I can name four: Shadowrun, RuneQuest, Traveller, and Call of Cthulhu. Man, I’m probably cheating by listing out 4 like that, but how am I meant to narrow it down to just one when they have very different systems and settings? If I had to name one – just one – to take to a desert island with me, I’d probably pick any of them (and then hide the other there in the same bag).
Dragon Kings: Dragon Kings offers rules for Pathfinder and Savage worlds for sure and 13th – Age & Fate with met stretch goals. Which of these are of interest to you?
Alyssa: Pathfinder for sure, only because this is my groups chosen system at the moment so it would make it very easy to adopt and jump into, but both SW and 13th Age are appealing as they are a direction I want to go in.
Dragon Kings: If you could create your own Kickstarter campaign, what would it be about?
Alyssa: Well I already *have.* Earlier this year we launched Torn Armor: a hex-based fantasy skirmish game intended to be quick to learn, setup and play, while being fully expandable for the hardcore wargamer. We’re still fulfilling on that title, so I wouldn’t launch another before it is complete and in the hands of the backers.
If I launched on as a cartographer … well I have in mind an idea for a geomorphic dungeon and town system that players and GMs alike could use as terrain tiles, plus I have always wanted to draw truly historical cities (I semi-recently drew Dubrovnik.) I always thought that it would be a great idea to offer to draw x-amount of historical cities and have the backers decide which ones those would be. I fully anticipated Rome coming up. I thought that they could look really slick as prints, posters, and for gaming use or simply to add to a collection. Maybe one day.
Dragon Kings: How long have you been a cartographer, and what originally interested you in drawing?
Alyssa: I’ve been drawing maps since I picked up my first RPG. There were great worlds out there and I played and ran in a lot of them, but I also wanted to *create,* and creating a world means drawing maps, so I have been at it for thirty years. I only started getting into it seriously maybe about 6 years ago or so when I started showing people my old maps as a laugh … but they liked them. I started showing my others, those were just as popular, and before you know it I am drawing *for* other people. The rest is history.
Dragon Kings: How long does a complete map generally take to complete, such as the Old Countries?
Alyssa: 16-24 hours is about average, but that’s uncolored. It doesn’t matter if it is a city, an overland map or even a world: they all tend to even out to about the same time investment. Coloring increases that time of course.
Dragon Kings: What’s the most interesting cartography project requests you’ve had so far?
Alyssa: I’ve had a few that have caused me to raise my eyebrows when first approached: a series of city maps I did for James Carpio and Urd Leviathan were a real blast. He asked me to draw cities that invoked a sense of hieroglyphics, so I ended up drawing city shapes that looked like scarab beetles, wings outstretched and all. The net result really catches the eye.
Then there was one for R Scott Taylor and his book anthology based on the city of Taux. Scott has a vision for a massive city in mind and I got to draw a very crucial part of it that was a sprawling morass of buildings built upon an old gaming stadium. Firstly I was drawing in ink, so there’s no going back, but secondly it was a shape that I’d never conceived of before, but it came out looking really good. Gygax Magazine also threw down the gauntlet when they asked me to map the progress of roleplaying games over the years to match an article in the first edition. I ended up drawing a ‘universe’ of galaxies and stars, each spreading out from a central sun that was the birth of roleplaying games. Ensuring that all the games were in there, had the correct dates, and were correctly positioned relative to each other and their distance from the center was an interesting challenge.
One day I’d like to have a print of that up on a wall somewhere. Lastly – wow I talk a lot don’t I? – I was recently commissioned by Lesser Gnome Games to “come up with the best map you have ever drawn.” Now that’s a big challenge, but it maps someone like myself sit up and take notice. We also drew it to be used as a poster, which meant drawing it at a scale I am not normally commissioned to tackle. The net result though … wow … there’s a photo somewhere of me holding it up at a print size of 42″ across and it’s a gorgeous piece.
Dragon Kings: Are there any other cartographers you look up to when searching for inspiration?
Alyssa: Mike Schley and Herwin Wielink. Both have incredible styles, stunning details, and gorgeous coloring. Their isometric work is unparalleled.
If you would like to learn more about Alyssa and her work, visit her cartography Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/AlyssaFadenCartography