Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Kosmostrom is Go!


The latest in an ongoing series of print-and-play roleplaying and skirmish game floor plans - science fiction themed Kosmoström Set One: Rooms Corridors, Doors & Furniture is now available as a PDF download via DriveThruRPG 

Kosmoström Set One (cover)
Kosmoström Sample Layouts:

Some examples of the kinds of floor-plans that can be created with Kosmoström:

Horsa Class Small Long Distance Trader
Twin pilot bridge, forward facing gunport, refectory and hibernation quarters

Hengist Class Light Orbital Platform
Airlock, administration room, control deck and storage rooms

Detention Block-H Deep Tharsis Panoptica Facility
Cell with single bed, Cell with suspended animation unit
Observation room with control desk, access hatch.

Sefugel Class Deep Space Exploration Vessel
Engineering Deck, Engine Room, Engine Inspection Hatch

Elesa Class Small Trading Station
Cargo Hold A with various goods, Airlock, Storage rooms


History

People often remark on the overall similarity between Planström to the visual language typography of Swedish flat-packed furniture company Ikea - which is an accurate observation the '-ström' are intended to be flat-packed, self-assembly definitions of interior spaces - the reference is an intentional pun.

Further to this, the graphic language of Ikea is an exemplar of a long standing design movement - International Typographical Style (or Swiss style). This style, relying on asymmetry, sans-serif typography and a strong grid structure became the dominant face of modernism, championing clarity and clinical mechanisation in graphic design from the late 1920s onwards, infecting everything from New York Subway graphic standards (1970) to the 1972 Munich Olympics, to, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the layout of TSRs Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1977), which, like Ikea and '-ström' share the use of the Futura typeface.

Cutable, open-ended floor plans for roleplaying games were pioneered by Games Workshop, and one of their earliest products were officially licensed Dungeon & Dragons Dungeon Floor Plans (drawn by the architecturally trained Albie Fiore, I believe) which provided the original inspiration for Planström, utilising modern digital distribution and home printing methods to increase availability and adding the innovation of cutter guides to aid in preparation.


Ethos

Both Kosmoström and Planström share the same underlaying design ethos:
  • universality - usable across multiple genres and 
  • accessibility - low cost of entry, ease of use and visual clarity
  • flexibility - positioning of elements, scale and scope 
  • modularity - connects with other and expandable
Designed to be customisible with a minimum of effort '-ström'. Heavy black areas and colour is avoided to reduce the environmental and material impact of printing.


Visual Language




As illustrated in the example layouts, Kosmoström is designed to be placed on black board - the full-black negative space representing both unexplored regions (the unknown) and soild walls (the unknowable, boundaries of the known) both of which present barriers to movement and knowledge.

The tones of Rooms are light and open, with Corridors being darker in tone, creating a relationship between light and movement. The lighter the space the greater potential for movement - corridors restrict movement to a linear one-dimensional space, wheras Rooms afford planar two dimensional movement and the black affords zero movement.

Similarly thin lines are used to create a light tone which represents the grid to aid in measuring in movement, whereas increasingly heavier line defines objects and then increasingly resistant doors and then ultimately barriers. Doors then are breaks in the visual space - black lines across the open areas which connect and interrupt motion between the known traversable regions and the unknown.


Kosmoström design references

Universality in science fiction context is a slightly more complex set of vectors than in pseudo-medieval fantasy. The potential approaches to materials, construction and in an imagined future is a much broader and speculative field than the underground construction of an imagined past - which be it the fossilised interior of a dragon, a mesoamerican temple or a castle, these can inevitably be most readily expressed as drawings of aged stone.

Kosmoström then must necessarily narrow down the infinite options of the future and present a specific design sensibility. The initial inspiration is to move towards a generic, hard science fiction as a more objective univerality than genres such as the rockets and rayguns of sword and planet, or the skulls and chainswords of gothic science-fiction or the gangways and cubicles of planet sized mega-cities.  This aesthetic then is grounded by developments in aero-space technologies at the height of the space race of the 1960s  and informed by both the sleek white functionalist minimalism of utopian science fiction, and the slightly more aged and granular look of late 1970s space opera.

Core design references include:
Further examples can be seen on the Kosmostrom board on Pintrest.

Kosmoström element references:

Throughout Kosmostrom Sheet D: Furniture, there are a number of elements that reference both classic industrial design and set design that help establish a look based on humanist utilitarian futurism. Macintosh 128K | Tardis Console | Orac | Elite Cargo Canisters | Enterprise Consoles | Millenium Falcon Gunports | ZX80 | HAL900 | Vending Machines

Particularly of note are the signage arrows. These are set in Microgramma / Eurostyle Bold Extended - a typeface often used in science fiction and engineering contexts from the interface of the interface of the HAL 9000 computer in 2001 to the corporate identity of the Jupiter Mining Corp in Red Dwarf. These signs are intended to be placeholders or codes, but have references to vintage computing, hip-hop and graffiti pioneers  TAKI 183 | VHS 80 | RZA 69 | KRS 1 | RS 232 | CBM 64 an inclusion of the subversive vernacular, without which the aesthetic wouldn't quite be complete.


Kosmoström on DTRPG


http://bit.ly/kosmostrom


Kosmoström Set One is available to download from DriveThruRPG priced  £1.99 / $2.77


4 comments:

  1. A fascinating read, Zhu. It's a pleasant experience to have Ikea, the NYC subway, the Tardis and Red Dwarf on the palette all at the same time. And beautiful work on those plans. Makes me want to bust out my old copy of Star Frontiers (which, for me, is the apex of 1980's sci-fi).

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    1. Cheers Matthew! Definitely trying to keep things eclectic. Star Frontiers completely passed me by - getting a slightly grittier post-star-wars saturday morning cartoon feel off it. Quit nice. Ooh, they even did a module based on 2001.

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  2. Lovely stuff, the 1970s aesthetic of 2001, Space 1999 and elements of Star Wars are what I think still look great 40 years later.

    Will be getting a set of these, which should be the easiest flat pack I've had to assemble.

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    1. Hey, thanks Unknown! It's been nice to see slightly more recent films like Moon return to that aesthetic - I do think that 'modern' blend of hardware and space utopia still resonates. Hope you enjoy Kosmoström.

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