Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Hijacking RPGADAY 2018

I am not a fan of the RPG-A-Day 31 day questionairre. I am of the opinion that it (typically) generates noise and minimal signal. I believe this is because it asks participants to give _opinions_.

If I'm following a person associated with RPGs, then I probably already know (or at least have a "feel" for) their opinion. If I'm not following a person, I personally find their _creations_ much much more valuable. The exception to this of course, is people with fierce and potent opinions about things, but it has been my experience that those people will typically write them up and share them without the need of a structured 30 day ask/answer prompt.

And so, I would like to propose an experimental 31 days of RPG creation. Specifically, 31 days devoted to creating an RPG SETTING.

I'm pretty sure it was Scrap Princess who said that you can't call something experimental if nothing is being tested, so here's my hypothesis:

If a light worldbuilding framework is provided, a bunch of strangers can create a decently usable, dense, good, hexcrawl in an more asynchronous manner than the old gygaxiandemocracy hexcrawls.

Goal: Make something. Hopefully related to RPGs, and hopefully in a way that can be posted about once per day.

More specific goal: Over the course of 31 days, fill and populate 7, 2 mile, hexes. Create a conflict between (at least) two "factions" within the 7 hexes. Create one mapped and keyed sub-location. Flesh out some unique life for the area (NPCs, Plants, Monsters, Beasts). Finally, create a number of random tables.

An easy way to arrange 7 hexes is in a shape that resembles a flower. An "anthology" is a collection of flowers. Thus if multiple people participate I'm thinking this could be a #HexAnthology when it's all finished. Naming ideas welcomed.

The frameworks provided exist only in an effort to assist in this. If they get in your way, throw them out. If you think some of them are bad, suggestions are welcome! You can spam me on G+ or Twitter or email if you ask for it.


Pitch: Fantasy South East Alaska. Mountains. Cold Rainforests. Coastlines. Low swampy wetlands. Glaciers. Waterfalls. Sudden, extreme terrain height differences. Fjords.

Rich resources of lumber, fur, fish, meat, gold, gems.

Climate: Oceanic. Few extreme temperatures. Cool summers. Cool/Cold winters. Frequent precipitation. Frequently cloudy and overcast. Frequent storms.

Historical Problems: It wasn't always cold here. There was once a thriving civilization, but they (somehow) awakened "the frozen ones", who brought back the cold. The ruins of this civilization have been reclaimed by ice, stone, tree and moss.

Current status: Humanity lingers. Mostly in isolated, fortified outposts by the sea. Few push too far inland now, and any who do are treated as fools or cultists of the frozen ones. However, anyone who returns from the inland with riches from the fallen civilization is loved and asked to marry into established families.

Notable semi-common features: Large standing rocks (singular). Precariously balanced rocks. Rock arches. Valleys. Waterfalls. Rapids. Springs. Giant, ancient trees. So many giant ancient trees.

Consistent Colors: Black soil. Dark Grey rocks. Dark Green trees. Lurid green moss.

Crazy Talk: The rock arches were carved long ago by the frozen ones, and were used to gate in their minions when they reclaimed the lands.


Week 1: Think about your hex flower as a whole

1st - Wednesday - Think about the LAND. Post an image (or maybe a few) to help you set the tone for your 7 hexes. Nice image searches include: Tongass National Forest, Abandoned Yukon, Alaskan Fjord, Alaska Rainforest. #RPGADAY

2nd - Thursday - Think about the important SUBLOCATION. Post an image (or maybe a few) to help set the tone of the sublocation. Is it an abandoned fur trapper's outpost? A ruined keep clinging to a cliff? A haunted mine? One of humanities last outposts full of rough types? A mystic wonder deep in the forest? Your seven hexes should revolve around this location, but it doesn't need to be in the physically central hex of the "flower". #RPGADAY

3rd - Friday - Think about the CONFLICT. Post a rough overview (maybe 50-100 words?) What factions are in conflict in this region? Is there a Hatfields vs McCoys situation here? Is it simply man vs nature? Is it a giant beast that is in conflict with itself because its tusks never stop growing and so its pain shapes the lands around it lair? Is it an outpost of the "frozen ones" and their conflict is attempting to stay hidden as they build their strength? Something is happening in these 7 hexes. What is it? #RPGADAY

4th - Saturday - Think about the TREASURE. Post a rough overview (maybe 50-100 words?) about what is valuable here. Is there actual treasure treasure here? Is the value all in a natural resource like rare timber or veins of ore? Is the value in the people or monsters or magical plants that grow in the area? Is the value locked up in a useful, but ruined or overrun structure (e.g., an old mill overrun by goblins). #RPGADAY

5th - Sunday - REFLECT and MAP. Think about your 7 hexes. Post a brief "elevator pitch" about them. Define the terrain types of your 7 hexes. This may also be a good day to map the 7 hexes (make your flower), and find or make a map of the sublocation. I recommend grabbing a finished map that's available for broad usage (such as Dyson's Commercial Release Maps) #RPGADAY

Week 2: Key each Hex Location.

Write up a key for 1 location in each hex. A couple of asides: 1. Think about 2d fighting video games, such a Street Fighter 2 or Smash Brothers. Think about their detailed backgrounds, and how the details in those backgrounds make that location a cool place to fight, or ambush, or have a meeting between two warring factions, or rest safely for the night. 2. Make sure you are detailing out a physical location that doesn't really change. A giant tree draped in prayer flags is a physical location that doesn't change much. A group of pilgrims leaving prayer flags on a giant tree is an event. Don't key events. We'll get to those later.

I recommend the following structure: A small paragraph of information that would be immediately visible or obvious to characters. A paragraph of additional information about the things that are non-obvious and can only be discovered if the players interact with the things found there. Additional relevant information. Here's a direct example of how I like to do this sort of thing (link).

6th - Monday - Post your hex flower, and key for one of its locations. #RPGADAY
7th - Tuesday - Post your hex flower, and key for one of its locations. #RPGADAY
8th - Wednesday - Post your hex flower, and key for one of its locations. #RPGADAY
9th - Thursday - Post your hex flower, and key for one of its locations. #RPGADAY
10th - Friday - Post your hex flower, and key for one of its locations. #RPGADAY
11th - Saturday - Post your hex flower, and key for one of its locations. #RPGADAY
12th - Sunday - Post your hex flower, and key for one of its locations. #RPGADAY

Week 3: Key your sublocation.

13th - Monday - Post the map of your sublocation and key for 1 to 3 of its locations. #RPGADAY
14th - Tuesday - Post the map of your sublocation and key for 1 to 3 of its locations. #RPGADAY
15th - Wednesday - Post the map of your sublocation and key for 1 to 3 of its locations. #RPGADAY
16th - Thursday - Post the map of your sublocation and key for 1 to 3 of its locations. #RPGADAY
17th - Friday - Post the map of your sublocation and key for 1 to 3 of its locations. #RPGADAY
18th - Saturday - Post the map of your sublocation and key for 1 to 3 of its locations. #RPGADAY
19th - Sunday - Post an overview of your sublocation. This would be the first piece of information the GM reads about the location. It should serve as a high level "intro" to the sublocation itself and cover the feel, tone and important things a GM would need to know about the overall place. #RPGADAY

Week 4: NPCs and Monsters (Details Coming After Gen Con)
20th - Monday -
21st - Tuesday -
22nd - Wednesday -
23rd - Thursday -
24th - Friday -
25th - Saturday -
26th - Sunday -

Week 5: Random Tables (Details Coming After Gen Con)
27th - Monday -
28th - Tuesday -
29th - Wednesday -
30th - Thursday -
31st - Friday -


Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Cult from Diablo 3

Before going to bed I tend to play some Diablo 3 for a bit. It doesn't have much to do with table top RPGs, as let's face it, it's little more than a scratch off lottery game in video game format, but there are some good pieces that can be stolen if you squint hard enough.

The main thing Blizzard did really well with Diablo 3 was the way it constructed "monster sets". Groupings of monsters that are commonly found in an area together, and typically compliment each other well. The best "set" in my opinion is The Cult, and it's totally stealable for table top RPGs.

First, the components of the Cult.

1. Basic Cultist. Nothing fancy. Has a flat topped hood and a dagger, and pretty much charges in swinging their weapon wildly.

2. Summoner. Has a pointy hood. Summons in demons, normally demon dogs. Can shoot small fireballs in a pinch.

3. Vessels. Don't move. Hold a staff with a bell on the top, hit the staff on the ground. Have been impaled with huge spikes in their backs. Die very easily, but if left alone transform into a partial demon (Dark Thrall) with huge claws, fangs and fire and come streaking across the map at you.

4. Demon Dogs. Warped in by Summoners.

5. Dark Berserkers. Large demons with a large weapon. Relatively slow moving, and have a huge showy "wind up punch" type hit. You've got plenty of time to get out of the way of their strike, but if you don't it could kill you in one shot.

6. Dark Thralls. The transformed Vessels.

The best part of the cult is how all these pieces work together.

1. Cultist Warp. A large number of basic cultists can suddenly "warp in" at a location. They all emerge from flaming runic circles on the ground so you get a visual of where they're about to show up and have a split second to try and plan.

2. Summoner Variations. Sometimes you'll get a summoner in with a pack of normal cultists. Normally hanging towards the back, so they'll try and hit you with a few fireballs and then will warp in a demon dog. The demon dog warp in effect is nice, because the dog appears about 20' in front of their location and is attached to the summoner by ropey blood colored magic. I like to imagine that the demon dog is being formed from the very blood and flesh of the summoner, and that's how I'd run it in a game. Next you'll occasionally get a summoner standing in a swirling pool of black energy waving their hands around and clearly summoning. If you can kill them in time, the portal basically collapses. If not, they warp in multiple dogs. Finally you'll get 3 to 5 summoners around a black portal, waving their hands around and summoning dark berserkers.

3. Vessels. Always tucked out of the way in nooks and crannies and grouped up, so you've got to kill lots of them fast, or you're in trouble.

The main things that make this cult so good I believe are:

1. It's very visual. Each creature type is visually distinct. This has more to do with it being an isometric video game I'm sure, but it's a powerful and functional way to present threats in the table top world too.

2. It starts out easy, but ramps up fast, and it shows you that it's ramping up. Again, very visual, but this time, it threatens in an obvious way. The sorcerers are waving their arms and standing in pools of inky black that crackles with unholy lightning. Strange runes appear on the ground before demons and cultist reinforcements appear. The player can view the scene and assess potential threat areas, and then make decisions on how to deal with what might be about to happen. It's also consistent so continued exposure to the cult increases player skill by enabling them to better judge what's happening.

3. The dogs, cultists and brutes swarm to the front. The weak summoners and vessels hang in the back and summon in more shit or shoot fireballs, or prepare to transform. These natural sort of walls form, so even if you know what you need to do, sometimes you can't do it, and need to retreat.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Player Death

Vasily Vereschagin - Defeated. Requiem. 1879
Thoughts on dealing with player death and the consequences thereof.