Monday, October 26, 2020

Campaign map thoughts

 I’m using the Nentir Vale, a 4e setting, as the basis for my campaign. It’s FOE af, but I have yet to find another map as eminently usable for adventures, outside of Mystara. And I don’t want to log the hours required to draw my own digital map. This is one of the hidden bonuses of theatre of the mind; it lets the GM be lazy.

I was going to use the outdoor survival map, but I couldn’t find it in a decent enough resolution for a VTT, which would mean that I’d have to draw it myself anyway. If you turn all of outdoor survival’s ponds into towns like Vol 3 suggests, then suddenly the map is missing some important geographic features. It also doesn’t have a tundra zone or a border with the sea, so those elements would have to be added in, and it has two deserts.  The Nentir Vale is similarly land locked, and it doesn’t have any deserts, so it too needs some expansion. 

The provincial maps of Mystara, such as Karameikos, Glantri, Ylaruam, Alfheim, etc., are perfect for adventuring. My only issue is that if I were to use them, I’d try to do them justice by playing the whole setting as is, and I don’t actually want to do that as I have a lot of home brew setting ideas that I’d like to implement. I particularly don’t like the idea of the Immortals as the deities of the setting. I think they’re a neat endgame for PCs to reach the heights of power, but I prefer actual gods to be the creators and maintainers of their universe.

Greyhawk is not really usable as an adventuring map. It seems built for war game campaigning, where whole armies would move across it at the rate of 1 hex per day. All of Gygax’s publications seem like sketches that require the individual to fill in all the pertinent details, and the World of Greyhawk is no different. There’s a sparse few capital cities and large tracts of empty wilderness between them, meaning that all the villages, roads, natural features, and dungeons would have to be filled in by the DM. The officially published TSR adventure modules are scattered randomly over the map, making no logical way to connect them geographically without the PCs traveling for in-game months to reach them.

The map of the Central Flanaess that came with the City of Greyhawk is at a much better scale for adventuring. It’s kind of bland and the adventure book is a mess, but it can be fixed with a little work. It is also a natural area to fit classic AD&D adventures around. Hommlet and the Moathouse can be moved to the region at the foot of the Cairn Hills, and Nulb and the Temple of EE can maintain its relative distance from them in the hills proper. The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth and The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun can be relocated within as well, and the Slave Lords series can be moved to the south shoreline. Only the Giants series is a bad fit, since they imply wide territories for the giants, but the modules are actually just bare dungeon crawls and there’s teleportation between them, and of course the Drow modules are subterranean. 

Making the eponymous City of Greyhawk the geographical center of the 1e adventures seems thematically proper to me.  The actual adventures that came with the 2e boxed set and the big meta plot campaigns that followed are not really good.

And the Forgotten Realms is like, the worst campaign setting.


 I think that pure dungeon crawling works better in a board game, where its more natural to measure distance by counting actual spaces moved by a miniature, and turns by going around the table. In a more free-form role playing game, exact measurements of distance and time can get fuzzy, and start to get handwaved away. They're also primarily the responsibility of the dungeon master, who bears the burden of running the whole game, so technical details like that quickly get dropped. It's why 5e has no mention of a dungeon or exploration turn, and a throwaway chart on travel pace. Advanced Heroquest and Warhammer Quest absolutely nail the feeling of a tight dungeon crawl to me. The actual "role playing" aspect of the game happens outside the dungeon, when players can interact with NPCs, travel to new areas, and prepare for the next dungeon. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Phandalin, begrudgingly

 I've run Lost Mines of Phandelver a number of times, and Dragon of Icespire Peak once, and while I don't particularly like those adventures, I have to begrudgingly admit that Phandalin is a good starting town to use as a springboard for adventures. It's not as deep as Hommlet, but its on par with the Keep on the Borderlands, if not more flavorful. Maybe I'll incorporate it into my OD&D campaign.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

HP that doesn’t matter

 Toying with the idea that HP is only used in combat. 10’ deep pit traps, poison gas and flaming oil don’t damage HP, but cause other side effects and possibly death.  In my OD&D game, I want to lean more heavily on role playing the results, rather than stat shifting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Orcs in my campaign setting

 Orcs do not have green skin, but brown. They are not betusked or pig faced, but resemble ugly humans with heavy brows and strong jaws. There is a wide diversity of body types and appearances among orc kind, from tall, lean and muscular to short, portly and craven. Orcs are intelligent and sophisticated, and have formed an industrialized society with greater production than that of humans. Many diverse races live within the Orc Empire such as Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Ogres and Trolls. 

The heart of the Orc lands is an arid plateau from which they originated as nomadic hunter/gatherer tribes. From their they spread outwards to conquer the mountain ranges to the west, the snow capped peaks to the north, the swamps to the south and finally the wide and fertile grasslands to the east where the humans and other soft demihumans dwelled.

The western border of the human kingdoms brushes up against edge of the Orc Empire. Military invasions from orcs are usually very deadly, resulting in protracted battles between the races and devastation of the surrounding countryside. 

Orcs have flourishing advancements in magical research and the creation of magical items, not just from their own capacity but supported by Ogre Magi, Djinn and Efreeti.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Impressions of the Warhammer Quest Roleplay book

 I’m a fan of Advanced Heroquest. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a tabletop dungeon crawl, and that includes full fledged RPGs like AD&D. I’m of the opinion that Advanced Heroquest is like a reimplementation of OD&D’s dungeon adventures with different mechanics. In some ways the mechanics are straight better, such as it’s method for handling traps and random NPCs.

However, while playing it I felt that some important aspects of full role playing campaigns were missing, and that maybe grafting bits of OD&D on to Advanced Heroquest would result in a deeper game with more long term appeal.

The folks at Games Workshop might have had the same idea because their successor game, Warhammer Quest, does exactly that. The Roleplay book adds an over world, with point crawl travel between randomly generated settlements with their own random services, events, hazards, and expenses. Quests and Events can be picked up in town which would lead to a new dungeon, and characters can train to increase their attributes and upgrade their equipment.

It’s not as deep as Advanced Heroquest’s charts but it doesn’t require as much dice rolling and table lookup, because the charts are streamlined and provide immediate results. Warhammer Quest Roleplay adds a lot of depth to the chassis of the board game. It lacks the open ended ness of a full role playing game, but it has more concrete content than most rpg books. 

I’m of the opinion that if you just want to get a few friends together and tell a story, then you don’t actually need a game system, especially if you have a referee.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Point crawl vs hex crawl

 Point crawl: There is a set distance between two points, which means a set number of wandering monster checks. 

Hex crawl: Players can move in one of six directions from their starting point. PCs can get lost and meander around, without reaching their goal directly. Wandering monster checks are determined by time spent traveling.

Campaign map thoughts

 I’m using the Nentir Vale, a 4e setting, as the basis for my campaign. It’s FOE af, but I have yet to find another map as eminently usable ...