Dundjinni Mapping Software
By Dundjinni Enterprises
Gamer Bling received a review copy of Dundjinni from a slightly nervous volunteer at the Dundjinni booth at Gen Con this year. Yes, Gamer Bling did say “nervous.” Reasons that the volunteer was nervous include (a) that he might be giving away a free copy that Gamer Bling would never review, (b) Gamer Bling had this lascivious look in his eye that made him look psychotic, or (c) Gamer Bling threatened to bring over the Poles from Q Workshop as character witnesses. But most likely it was something along the lines of: “How much trouble will I get into for giving this review copy away, and how does that balance out against getting this curmudgeon out of my face?”
Gamer Bling is well acquainted with this quandary, which is why gaming industry professionals (a term loosely used in many cases) have developed several methods of extricating themselves or their honored co-workers from the socially binding clutches of polite conversation with impolite people. I mean, when some blathering idiot starts telling you in painful detail about their way-cool 10th-level sorcerer/rogue flying kobold and his nifty fire breath, there is no convenient way to get out of the unidirectional conversation without assistance from another booth worker (or paying customer with actual money instead of a whiny request for review materials).
The reasoning behind the development of such techniques is that gaming professionals do not get paid enough to have to listen to such drivel.
The most time-honored tradition that Gamer Bling is aware of, predating even the venerable “I do NOT want to hear about your character” t-shirts, is scratching the nose. The trick, of course, is to get your booth workers to scratch the outside of their nose.
The nose scratch is a signal that you are in dire need of having someone come up to you and inform you of an important meeting / phone call / required potty break / appointment with the dentist / ANYTHING to get you away from this loser who is now talking about his kobold’s dentation of all things.
So if you are talking with a gaming professional and he suddenly starts scratching his nose, catch a clue.
Gamer Bling will leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine the concept behind the “I.D. Ten-T” radio call, which, to the best of his recollection, which is ever more resembling Swiss cheese, Gamer Bling first heard of at one of the pre-con meetings hosted by the fantabulous Dorcas Bean, who is about as fantabulous a convention person as one could hope for. Which is of course why she left the gaming industry and became a highly paid professional at George Fern. George Fern can pay people highly because they charge exorbitant rates for everything, but that’s a digression for another review at some point, so Gamer Bling will leave it be for now.
What is not exorbitant is the price for Dundjinni. And Gamer Bling means that even for you unwashed masses who don’t get free review copies.
Dundjinni promises to be the best mapmaking tool for your tabletop game. They say “Your world will be the next big thing everyone talks about!” Which promise probably sold them a lot of copies during WotC’s New Fantasy Setting search, won by Keith Baker for Eberron and not by Yours Truly, for which Mr. Baker shall forever be reviled. Even though Gamer Bling can see why he won over the other submissions.
As an example of the program’s power, on the back cover of the CD clamshell is a map of a dungeon with room containing what look like an evil temple, a pit of lava, a cave with water, plus what realtors call “a bonus room.” According to the caption below the art, this 100×115 map “was created in 25 minutes.” Of course, the map measures not even quite 1.5 inches square, so Gamer Bling approached this review with serious doubt about the program’s utility. Unless you use colored pins for your miniatures gaming and have far better eyesight than Gamer Bling. Really, now, how are six gamers and a DM going to crowd around a map the size of a postage stamp?
Nonetheless, Gamer Bling left Gen Con with a retail pack of Dundjinni, which had inside a nicely manufactured CD of Dundjinni version 1.04 with a Dundjinni logo as well as a last-minute hand-made CD of Dundjinni 1.07 with an Office Max logo. Now that’s customer service!
The install is fast and uses good programming techniques unlike those used by many entertainment softwares enjoyed by Gamer Bling Expansion #1 and Gamer Bling Expansion #2. Namely, by default this program installs itself into C:/Program Files/Dundjinni Enterprises/Dundjinni folder.
In case you’re wondering (and of course you were), Gamer Bling once worked for an insurance company whose rate-quoting software installed itself in the root directory of his laptop’s hard drive. Worse yet, said program allowed you to install it elsewhere, but if you did so, it wouldn’t work. Apparently all the calls were hard-coded to look only in a folder in the root directory. Gamer Bling should have tried changing the name of the program folder, just to see how bad the programming was, but he’d had enough corporate disgust and soon left the insurance business, which for him held all the financial allure of freelance module writing and all the fun of cleaning public restrooms.
But Gamer Bling is not bitter. Nay, for bitterness is reserved for the First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion.
Anyway, once Gamer Bling had it installed (Dundjinni, not bitterness) and fired it up (Dundjinni, not the chainsaw he has reserved for his ex-wife), he was immediately… left adrift in a sea of documentationless dismay. Well, more like blowing icy wastelands of documentationless dismay, since the Dundjinni window background looks more arctic than nautical.
Hmm. Gamer Bling poked around the menu items. No tutorial, no demo. Hmm. Gamer Bling does not like having to do his own thinking. That’s what he has the Gamer Bling Official Companion for. Let her do the financial crap and leave Gamer Bling to play and pontificate. For that matter, Gamer Bling doesn’t like the idea of features that he is unaware of and hasn’t explored, which partly explains why he married the Gamer Bling Official Companion rather than just hire her to be his accountant.
So Gamer Bling went to the Dundjinni website, where he was promised a Dundjinni demo. He grabbed the demo and installed it, both of which were fast operstions. And lo! There was a readme.txt—surely it had the direction for starting the demo. So Gamer Bling opened it and read: “Thank you for trying out this demonstration version of Dundjinni Enterprises’s adventure creation tool, Dundjinni. We think you will find that this powerful map and adventure creation system is the perfect solution for creating high-quality paper gaming items. In this demo version, certain items have been disabled, such as the ability to save or print.”
Whereupon Gamer Bling found himself once more left adrift in a frozen wastelands of documentationless dismay, only this time without the ability to record his dismay for posterity.
So the demo wasn’t a demo, but a free trial version, hobbled like the writer dude from Stephen King’s Misery, which Gamer Bling never read, but did see in movie form, and who, coincidentally enough, was also left adrift in a frozen wilderness after he crashed his car in the mountains, but at least Gamer Bling doesn’t have a psychotic fan after him. As far as he knows.
At this point, Gamer Bling is compelled to ask: Has anyone wondered what it’s like to be inside Gamer Bling’s head? He is mystified that all these sidelong ramblings always seem to tie back in to his thesis. Really, he doesn’t plan it that way.
Anyhoo, Gamer Bling pressed forward. After uninstalling the Dundjinni demo, he fired up Dundjinni again and checked the Help menu. One option was just an About Dundjinni box. No surprise, and no help. One option was a d20 SRD Help file, now with hypertext! But Gamer Bling knows more about d20 than he cares to, and d20 doesn’t help draw maps.
But the third option… ah, the third option! The third option was the complete Dundjinni documentation file with…
No tutorial. No guide. No walk-through.
That left Gamer Bling to explore the program himself. Which, it turns out, takes less time than trying to find the tutorial or walk-through. And Gamer Bling was left to ponder how much effort he’d just gone through to avoid some work.
And about five minutes after starting to mess around, Gamer Bling had the hang of how they’d programmed this piece of software, and he thought to himself, “Holy Moses! This is great!”
At which point Gamer Bling decided to detail his review tool by tool. Because it’s all about tooling the players.
Zoom Tool: Does exactly what you think it does. Preset buttons let you look at your map at key incremental ratios from to 10% to 200%. No custom zooms, but who really cares? Plus you can change the scales from inches printed, to centimeters printed, to feet represented, to grid coordinates.
Move Tool: Moves stuff around the grid, plus elevates it up and down layers within the confines of its group, spins it, flips it, and resizes it. Click on an item, and everything with that texture gets selected. One of the cool things is that when you drag an item to overlap another item with the same texture, the two automatically merge into one object.
Selection Tool: Lets you separate a single unit into two pieces by grabbing an area defined by geometry, not texture. Plus you can filter what the selection tool selects, be it floors or walls or whatever. And it does everything the Move Tool does.
Rubber Stamp Tool: Paints texture in a square. Best used with snap to grid. And with a little experimentation, Gamer Bling discovered that right-clicking rotates the object to be stamped by 45° clockwise. Very handy.
Marquee Tool: Let you select empty area for filling. The problem with this is that when you fill an area, it only fills the inside of the area selected by the marquee tool. The reason this is a problem is that the marquee tool’s outline has a thickness, which ranges from 3 inches to 5 feet (or optionally the entire selection). So say you want a 10×20 block of rock on the map. If you outline a 10×20 area with the marquee tool and fill it in, the fill will not completely cover the 10×20 block; some of it (a minimum of an inch and a half, scale) will still be empty. One way to get around this is to choose a width of 5 feet for your marquee border, set your snap-to to the center of each square, and outline the area surrounding the 10×20 block you want filled. The other way is to select your marquee to “entire”, keep the snap-to at the center, and fill in the 10×20 area. Kinda funky, wouldn’t you say? Neither way seems intuitive. Gamer Bling would prefer a zero-width line, or a way to specify that the line thickness is all outside the area selected. Whatever. Nonetheless, it works.
Pencil: Choose the type of line you want to draw, the width of the line in scale feet, select your fill, and away you go!
Eraser: As above, but it removes stuff. Plus you can filter what gets erased by function. Gleek wishes there had been an “erase trap” available to him.
Fill Tool: Fills a marquee selected area with the texture. Plus you can set stop limits to doors and walls.
Scroll Tool: For underage kids who can’t use scroll bars.
Type Tool: You know how it works.
Sample Tool: Unlike Paint, this doesn’t get colors; it gets textures.
Then there’s a comparatively small number of menu items—small compared to, say Microsoft applications—that Gamer Bling thinks he won’t use much. He’ll just learn a few hotkeys for grid-snap options and never look back.
Gamer Bling has mentioned “textures” several times thus far without explaining what they are. Dundjinni does not use normal colors like, say, Paint, which, by the way, has 36 menu options compared to Dundjinni’s 32, even though it’s a much weaker program, which stance Gamer Bling shall maintain until Microsoft sends it lawyers to sue Yours Truly out of house and home. Instead, Dundjinni uses textured patterns that are divided by Genre (fantasy), subdivided by Pack (dungeon, wild), and parsed into Types (wall, floor, object). Thus you’re not filling in an area with brown, but with wooden flooring texture, which itself might be blond, brown, dark, gray, or tan; as well as horizontally or vertically aligned.
As for the textures, it appears that Dundjinni provides the artwork in such a manner that one rubber-stampworth of art exactly fills one square of the map, and that each texture has two to four isomorphic variants to prevent large areas of texture from looking too much like a repetitious pattern. With certain patterns, the user can also flip / rotate sections to create more pattern breakup (the planked wooden flooring, for example).
So, after fiddling around for a short while, Gamer Bling felt he was suitably educated on the capabilities of the program. So he decided to start looking into some of the more advanced features. Like sexy hexes! Dundjinni claims to do hexes; how easy is it?
Gamer Bling fired up the Help file and browsed the section headers until he came to “Grid (Ctrl+D, Cmd+D)” which seemed like the place he wanted to be. He clicked on the link, read the very brief paragraph, and a few mouse clicks later, voila! Gamer Bling was speaking French again! Er, Gamer Bling had hexes on his map!
Not only that, but Gamer Bling could specify whether he wanted hexsides, hex corners, or hex centers, plus how visible said hexy items were and what color they were. All from one easy dialog box. Total elapsed time: not much longer than it took you to read this.
It’s actually startling how easy this software is. And, as Gamer Bling is looking at getting back into freelance RPG design now that 4e is here, he knows how he’ll be creating his maps from now on. With green engineering paper! It was good enough for Dad, it’s good enough for Gamer Bling.
Better yet, at this point the documentation turns into a tutorial of sorts, because once you know the basics, the documentation is good at providing the extra details you may otherwise miss. Gamer Bling will in fact actually defy cultural imperatives and read this documentation.
There’s also some d20 SRD stuff, like you can plop monsters on the map with full stats, but Gamer Bling will leave the exploration of that feature to the d20 rules lawyers, all of whom will now send hate-spam comments. Blah blah blah. It’s better than more Russian porn spam that Gamer Bling can’t even read. But the bottom line is that you can make more than just maps, you can make entire adventures. Which is pretty darned cool.
Well, first of all, they spelled it “Dundjinni” instead of “D&D Djinni” or even D’n’D Djinni.” Probably to avoid trademark lawsuits from the Legion of Hasbro Lawyers (sounds like a supervillain group, does it not?). But spelling the game “D un D” just seems like pathetic public-scholl speling pirformace. Or better yet, they should just use the first part of the D&D name: Dungeon. That’s it! They should have cleverly merged the words Dungeon and Djinni together and… um… well…
The tutorial left a lot to be desired. Like its entire existence, at least on the CD. It’s not like there’s no space on a CD-ROM; looking on the back side shows like a quarter of the disk space is not being used. But it turns out that there is a decent tutorial, hidden halfway down Dundjinni’s Updates & Support page, right where the neat compass rose graphics distract you from seeing it. The tutorial comes in both PDF and PPS formats, and it took Gamer Bling maybe a quarter hour to read through its 44 step-by-step pages. To save you the bother of looking for it (Gamer Bling scanned the website and missed it entirely), you can click here for the file.
If you buy Dundjinni at your FLGS, you have to unlock it to get it to work. Fortunately each retail kit comes with an insert card that identifies it as a retail copy and gives its Registration ID Key. When you try to install, the first thing the program asks for is your name and Registration ID Key. Note, however, in this case the name is not Gamer Bling or John Hancock or anything else of that ilk; it is, in fact, “Retail Copy.” Gamer Bling must now get a new blog logo designed and obtain the URL http://www.retail-copy.com lest his Dundjinni suddenly become unusable once it figures out who’s actually using it.
There are some wacky programmer choices, because in Gamer Bling’s professional opinion as a former consulting database programmer, programmers do not usually think like normal people. How else do you get “bozo” as a reserved system variable? No, Gamer Bling is not making this up.
For example, under Options you can choose the snap settings: do you want the pointer to snap to the center of a square, the better to rubber-stamp; or to the vertex of the square, the better to draw boundaries? However, the choice of whether or not the cursor should actually snap to those grids is not made in that dialog box, or even under the Options menu. That’s under the Tools menu. There’s one example.
Texture provides a great strength to the product, but also a weakness: when you rotate the art, for example the keen field house you just made, just the outline of the house rotates, the textures within remain horizontally or vertically aligned, which in Gamer Bling’s opinion is a little annoying. With the example of the above house, if you rotate it to a jaunty 17 degree offset—in a fantasy setting, few houses are perfectly aligned with their neighbors—the flooring suddenly is out of alignment with the walls, a carpentry technique that would require much more skill than simply aligning the houses in the first place.
Often when you rotate an object to a jaunty 17° angle, you’ll end up with white pixels along the edge, which is annoying unless you’re drawing a winter scene.
And sometimes you have to do things in a certain order. For example, if you’ve been inserting doors and you want to fill an area with flooring, you must first choose flooring and then choose marquee, not marquee first to outline the area and then the flooring you want to fill it with. Because the marquee button is disabled when placing doors.
The Bottom Line
Dundjinni is now the official choice for encounter maps designed by Gamer Bling. Nuff said. Maybe it lacks a few bells and whistles, but it’s easy, effective, and affordable. They also boast that they have the greatest and most supportive user group anywhere, and to back up this bold claim they point to the quantity of user-generated art available for free on their site. But Gamer Bling knows that the best community in the world would really be his readers.
Since it’s free, there’s no reason not to download the trial version and muck around with it yourself. But do the tutorial, and/or read the documentation, or you might miss something.
Bling Factor: 6
You need: One
Since Dundjinni Enterprises does not offer a discount as an ongoing offer for Gamer Bling fans, your humble reviewer requests that you purchase your item through RPGShop. In the meantime, tell the fine folks at Dundjinni that Gamer Bling sent you. Whether they want to hear it or not.
Well, for starters, they need to get 4e and Pathfinder on board for their scenario stuff. And there’s always room for more art.