Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Dungeon a Day Challenge

I found these great composition notebooks. They have graph paper on the top half of each page and lines on the bottom half. These beg to be used for dungeons, levels and lairs: map on top, key on bottom!

I've stalled out on my mini module project to do the paralysis that goes with perfectionism.

So I've decided to challenge myself. I am going to draw and key a dungeon (level or lair) a day! I already did yesterday and it was a lot of fun.

I really do not enjoy mapping (I do love keying, though!). So this is a challenge to build my chops and perhaps break through a barrier that is keeping me from enjoying something fairly essential to the game. Again, I think it is my perfectionism that keeps me from just doodling at maps. 200 sheets of paper in a cheap composition notebook should help!

I will share what I want to, when I want to, without any blog performance pressure! But I will update every now and then to let you know I am still going on this.

Perhaps this will get me closer to what I meant by the mini modules. And it may help me get back to that project.

Anyone care to join me?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Questions for Generating a Dungeon of the Mythic Underworld

Inspired by Jeff's Gameblog's list of twenty quick questions for your campaign setting, here are some sets of questions for generating a dungeon of the mythic underworld. Should contribute to generating some find "funhouse" dungeons:

Questions for Generating a Dungeon of the Mythic Underworld

What is the treasure it hides? Is it named? Famous? Backstory? Will any of the above give the characters any clues as to how to find and recover it? How do the characters find out?

Why did chaos want to swallow the treasure in its mythic belly? How did chaos swallow it up? Was it done through chaos’ own occult magics, or were chaotic creatures or characters involved? Has law even become aware? Does neutrality find the capture to bring balance or imbalance to the state of things?

What tricks, monsters and traps did chaos manifest to hold its treasure tight? What wonders, magic-items or clues has law provided as an immune-response to chaos? Are there any pockets of neutral homeostasis, providing brief oases of respite for weary characters?

Is there a single main monster, type or kind? Do the monsters know or understand their role at all? Do they also want the treasure? Do they fear it and would love to rid themselves of it? How can the characters find out?

Is there a single trick or a series of related or random tricks? Are some random tricks simply kooky manifestation of chaos? Does the trick conceal, mislead, harm? Can it reveal, inform or aid if understood and used well? Is the trick a giddy or cruel irruption of chaos? Is the trick actually a miraculous manifestation of an immune-system response from law? Is the trick indifferent to characters, maintaining an odd but neutral balance? What kind of clues are there for the characters to figure these things out?

Are the traps ubiquitous or rare? Obvious or hidden with scattered clues? Have the monsters devised the traps? Or did chaos herself devise them from her own insanities? Has neutrality closed the loop, leaving behind the carnage of those who previously tripped the trap? Has law provided helpful clues and means to disarm the traps?

How many ways in are there? Are there ways in at different levels? How many connections are there between levels? How many open and closed loops of passage does a level have?

How do the characters find out?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The General Line-up

Yes, that's right, its time for another web log post about alignment. Not that I have ever done one before. This is my first. But I suppose it was inevitable!

Some preliminaries

The abstraction of “Alignment,” corresponds to the battle “line up,” drawn by the King of Heaven for the Last Battle. Alignment is therefore archetypal and mythomorphic. The primordial chaos monster, Mater Chaos, is Leviathan, Tiamat, Yam, Cyclone. Monsters and Fell are her wicked spawn and brood.

• Lawful = good for flourishing of all free races, e.g., both human and fay, thus implying a kind of "universalism:" “Universal Law of heaven against the Chaos”
• Neutral = good for local family unit, clan group, in-group and thus a kind of tribalism, still trying to keep chaos at bay: “pagan struggle with immanent forces for survival”
• Chaotic = bad for the flourishing of free races and therefore monstrous, fell: “of or having to do with the primordial chaos and the entropy of things”

Three-point alignment

Law, Chaos and Neutrality represent one's orientation to one of the the fundamental principles, defining, therefore your own goal, and what you believe to be the goal of reality.

Law = Order, beauty, structure, form
Chaos = Power, energy, flux
Neutrality = The Void

All the great philosophers, and even some of the theologians recognize these three fundamental principles or archetypes to exist. But they only name one as truly primordial.

There is Lex Pater, the God of Law, Mater Chaos, the goddess of the gods of Chaos, and then there is the Void.

You could understand the hierarchy of these fundamental principles in many different ways:

Law then Neutrality
Law then Chaos
Chaos then Neutrality
Chaos then Law
Neutrality then Law
Neutrality then Chaos

End and means

So the first alignment principle would represent a character's ultimate goal and the second would represent the characters chief means for attaining that goal. If the character is philosophical or at all self-reflective, it might represent their understood chief principle or deity, and then the key subordinated archetype.

You could be lawful / lawful. Clear enough. But here are some other outcomes:
My character is lawful chaotic! That means he thinks order is fundamental to all things and should prove our true aim. But this takes energy and embracing the flux to empower our ride there!
My character is chaotic lawful! That means he thinks all is flux and the best thing to do is seek to release all energies. But this takes order and study and strict hierarchies to achieve well.
My character is neutral. That means he thinks he is a chance formation out of the Void and to the Void he will return. If he is Neutral Lawful he thinks that order will sustain him on the way to the Void. If he is Neutral Chaotic, he thinks that the release of energy will take him back to the Void by the surest (and perhaps most fun) route.

In this way, neutrality is not "half way" between law and chaos. It becomes a "3 point alignment." A kind of triangle defining a continuum or set of continua along which people and creatures "align" themselves.

Some philosophy

Notice that this description of the general line-up may roughly be compared to the six classical philosophical schools:

LN = Platonism
LC = Aristotelianism
NL = Stoicism
NC = Epicureanism
CL = Skepticism
CN = Cynicism

Now that seems possibly ripe for some fun campaign stuff! Seems like it would be fun to abstract and fictionalize some of these things in some crazy old books they find and some crazy old sages they encounter.

"Look here," says the crazy wizened old man, "here be the scrolls of Epictirius [Fictional fantastical Epicurean, NC]. He tells the true nature of things, 'From the Void erupts the Flux, out of Flux men fashion laws. So eat, drink and be merry. But do so in moderation, for your dissolution is sure to come in time and you will take no enjoyment if you journey to quickly along the way of all things. For the way of all things is also the way of all the Cosmos: total dissolution in the great final conflagration!' Ha ha ha ha!" he laughs robustly, darting wild eyes at each of you.

Alignment for characters

Alignment is nevertheless descriptive rather than prescriptive for characters. Thus alignment changes easily based upon character decision. Alignment terminology does not describe a character’s personality or their relative predictability, as in Advanced Edition Rules. Lawful is definitely not “goody two-shoes.” The Lawful often rule with an iron fist (some of them, sometimes). Do they want to slay the primordial chaos monster and establish cosmos out of chaos? Then they are Lawful. Do they want to unleash the primordial chaos monster and revel in the supposed riches unleashed and go down in flames as long as that might last? Then they are Chaotic. Have they not yet heard that there is such a thing as a universal Law (still pagan), or are they skeptical of this new "universalism," worrying that it might wash out what is unique about their tribe or race or people? Then they are Neutral.

Only law and chaos are "active." Neutrality is for equilibrium, balance, homeostasis. It will fight to preserve this, but it will avoid sides when it comes to the "conversionalistic" tendencies of law and chaos.

This makes sense of why there might be neutral adventurers - or even whole civilizations. Gone is the description of neutral as "selfish." No way. It also makes sense of why there are no "neutral" clerics. Clerics are crusaders. They are forcibly bringing their cause to those they "convert." This is a law / chaos thing only.

Okay, that's what I've got so far!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Questions for a Campaign

Somebody (sadly, I can't remember whom) pointed me back to Jeff's Gameblog's list of twenty quick questions for your campaign setting.

As with just about anything I run into, I can't take it as is -- I have to play with it and make it fit my way of thinking and my way of campaigning. So, inspired by Jeff, here are my questions.

Please note that they can work for every level of campaign scale: cosmic, setting, territory, settlement. (I think however, a different set of related questions are necessary for generating dungeons and the underworld. More on that to come.)

Questions for Campaigns at Each Level of Scale

What is the name of this place?
  • ·       Why
  • ·       Backstory
  • ·       Size
  • ·       Population
  • ·       Army and size

What race is in charge here? Really?

Do they speak common? Something else?

Is anything illegal?
  • ·       Weapons
  • ·       Magic
  • ·       Something odd or absurd?

Who is in charge? Really?

Secret societies? Cults?

Who is the wealthiest? Different from above? Really?

  • ·       Motte & Baily
  • ·       Castle & Keep
  • ·       Curtain Walls
  • ·       Wood
  • ·       Stone
  • ·       Enchanted

What is the religion? Really?

Who is their cleric? Really?
  • ·       What are “clerics”?
  • ·       How do clerics “work” here?

Is this place for law, chaos or no-side?

Can we change alignment here?

Who is the most powerful?
  • ·       FM
  • ·       CL
  • ·       MU
  • ·       TH
  • ·       Dwarf
  • ·       Elf
  • ·       Hobbit

Who knows the most?
  • ·       Book knowledge
  • ·       Experience

Is there a _______ here?
  • ·       Tavern / inn
  • ·       Stable / livery
  • ·       Jail / Prison (Who is in it?)
  • ·       Church / Temple
  • ·       Bank
  • ·       Town / Guild Hall
  • ·       School

Can we buy?
  • ·       Supplies
  • ·       Equipment
  • ·       Weapons/armor
  • ·       Magic Items
  • ·       Transportation

Can we find?
  • ·       Healing / potions
  • ·       Antidote
  • ·       Cures
  • ·       Raise dead
  • ·       Curse / remove
  • ·       Lycanthropy cure

Can we hire hirelings? Retainers?

Where is the nearest treasure to recover?
  • ·       Is it legendary
  • ·       Will it make us famous
  • ·       Will it make us rich

Are there any problems around here?
  • ·       NPCs
  • ·       Monsters
  • ·       Will it make us famous
  • ·       Will it make us rich
  • ·       Will it make us landed

Is this place its own problem?
  • ·       Deception
  • ·       Intrigue
  • ·       Corruption

Does anyone need something done?
  • ·       Are they rich
  • ·       Powerful
  • ·       Will they pay:
  • ·       In kind
  • ·       In coin
  • ·       In land

Is this place at war?
  • ·       With whom
  • ·       How long
  • ·       Is it just
  • ·       Who is winning

Where is the nearest dragon? And hoard? Or any creature that:
  • ·       Petrifies
  • ·       Paralyzes
  • ·       Drains Energy
  • ·       Poisons
  • ·       Breathes a weapon
  • ·       Contagious condition
  • ·       Regenerates
  • ·       Enchants

How do PCs find out about these things? Rumors?


Monday, January 16, 2017

Less Rules, More Fun, Now my Little Tale is Done

I am coming to the bottom of the downward slope of the parabola of interest in my hobby of D&D. I would have said "RPGs" three years ago, but I am not interested in RPGs anymore. I am only interested in D&D now. One set of rules is enough for me, personally. Also, I am interested in medieval fantasy wargames campaigns more than in "role playing" per se. Role playing is just a necessary part of conducting a wargames campaign. But it is not my main focus. The campaign is. Well, and even that is relative to the fun of playing a bunch of wargames and then stringing them together so that they build on each other and help to make sense of each other. Etc.

In other words, I've come along way in my research and playing since I returned to the hobby about three and a half years ago.

Over on the ODD74 forum, Falconer posted the following:
My House Rules document started big and proud. Over the years, it has shrunk. I have found that most of my rules were based on “theory and philosophy” or on my precious vision for “my world,” yet these didn’t add up to more fun for the players. While I definitely feel that, as DM, I should be master of the game, and I want to run a game that’s solidly about adventure and not about character building, I’d like to think I have become more sensitive to what my players care about and what makes the game fun for them. What’s more, the game is more fun for ME the more I allow the players’ creative input to shape the game. I’m trying to think of solid examples of what I’m talking about. Take classes. If my house rules document has a definitive list of sanctioned classes, even a permissive one, that’s that. If I don’t have such a definitive list, maybe someone will come up with a unique concept that actually ends up adding a lot of flavor and hilarity to the game. So my baseline is “mere” D&D. Somehow Gygax found (or founded) the center of peoples expectations, and it branches out from there in a million directions.
My house rules document was huge, about 50 pages. I wanted something both mechanical pure and balanced and also capturing a more "medieval Christendom" feel to it -- thinking I could use mechanics to affect the mood I was after. I have learned that all of this is baloney. I mean, it was fun to think about it as an abstraction in my brain. But it absolutely killed fun at the table. I was trying to solve through mechanics what can only be performed through role play. Mechanics do not necessarily encourage role play.

I have found that most of my rules were based on "theory and philosophy," or on my person vision for "my world," yet these didn't add up to more fun for the players. Although I love high and heroic fantasy, it is HARD AS $%&* to play as a game that is actually any fun. Sword and Sorcery, however, is a riot to play. D&D was invented to game that setting. I have not been able to improve on that formula and I see no need to reinvent the wheel.

I have become more sensitive to what my players care about and what makes the game fun for them -- as a game! I have seen it not only in myself but in others: amazing vision for a fabulous fantasy world that, in the end, has nothing to do with playing the game and, therefore, winds up being of no interest to the players. Was all that world-construction wasted time? Not necessarily, not if it was fun to the thinker. But why not turn it into a cool fantasy novel? Let the world the players play in be a "generic vanilla low-fantasy" setting and let their decisions give you ideas for what is going on in that crazy world. The game is not more fun for ME the more I allow the players' creative input to shape the game.

So, like Falconer above, my baseline is "mere" D&D. I don't want mechanics that "match" my legendaria. I want as few mechanics as possible so that they do not get in the way of the legendaria, yet still have a game that doesn't feel like playing cops and robbers in the back yard!

Because of this shift in my hobby and my energies, I am coming to the end of my desire to research RPG material and peruse rules. I am not interested in reading any more rules. Now, new monsters, treasures, and world and encounter building tables and charts -- I am interested in that. But, as Talysman always says, those aren't "rules" anyway, just resources.

But I am not reading anymore rule books. I mean, I am not even interested in reading AD&D -- too many rules -- so I certainly am no longer interested in reading attempts to reinvent the wheel again and again.

So, there I am. I am at the end of something. But every end is also a beginning.

I am writing this to let whoever is reading this know why I may not be posting here much anymore, or, at least for a while. And also why I may not be posting on some of my favorite fora, e.g., ODD74, Ruins of Mirkhill, K&KA.

But every ending is a beginning, so, who knows what might come next.