Monthly Archives: October, 2012

NaGaDeMon Plans

So, National Game Development Month.

I’m not a purist.  I won’t be starting from scratch.

I do, however, aim to have Echelon playable by the end of November.  Quite probably in dire need of polishing, but at the least, a set of rules that can be printed out, a set of talents built (which might be only ‘B/X’ tiers, with some going higher), and some characters and monsters (which really should be much the same thing.

I have about two weeks’ vacation left for this year that I’m supposed to use.  It looks like I may even get one of them as early as next week.  The next is tentatively scheduled for the first week of December, then I’ve got Christmas week off after that.

Not ideal for NaGaDeMon purposes, but if I can get ‘playable’ in November, then spend a couple weeks in December actually playing and polishing (and let’s not forget the megadungeoncrawl, that might be a good place to exercise this beast)…

Yes, I am excited.  Let’s see how it turns out.

Mini-Carnival: Horror Holiday

Eric Quigley has some monster art he wasn’t doing anything with and decided to make free for use, with credit.

Use-able Scary Monster Art!

Hey guys, it’s getting close to Halloween and I would like to offer up some monster art if anyone were looking to do anything with it (stat that?).  This is all stuff that I did when I was building my portfolio a year or so ago and was working on a horror project that never went anywhere, and that no one owns the copyright to (other than me).

If you do use this stuff all I ask is that you somewhere put that I  did it.  There are three pieces here, each one is a horror monster.

Three monsters, it’s three days before Halloween.  What say a short carnival?

Pick one or more of the monsters presented, give it stats for whatever system you prefer, and/or build an encounter or a bit of fiction around it.

If the link doesn’t stand out above, Eric’s website is found at http://www.ericquigley.com/

And Eric’s deviantArt page.  He did tell me “there is a fair bit there from a… younger artist”.  I assume by this he means not as accomplished, but I don’t see anything here to be dissatisfied by.

Known Participants

Reconsidering Hex Crawls

It may seem odd that I say “reconsidering hex crawls”, given that I’ve never really discussed them here, but that’s what I’m doing.

As with megadungeons, hex crawls are something that never really appealed to me.  The ones I’ve seen are generally presented as list of hexes and the things in them.  However, because there are so many hexes to populate the contents tend to be very, very brief, and honestly get monotonous after a while because of it.

Remember the rats and 2000 copper pieces thing recently?  The primary fault it had was in presenting little more than a roll on a random monster table, along with random treasure. This is roughly what I have come to expect from hex craw descriptions.

Doing Hex Crawls Poorly

Carcosa is one of the first hex crawls I’ve examined in any real detail.  I wish I hadn’t, there are few hexes with anything actually interesting in them.  There are a few, there are some!  But they tend to be buried among all the other random tribes of random colors that want to kill something.  If you’re lucky it’s something particular, if you’re not it’s anything convenient.  The places I noticed that had a little more specific items tended to be tied to sorcerous rituals.

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Megadungeoncrawl: Session 1, I Swear this was not Planned

Tonight we had our first session of a dungeon crawl exploring the node-based megadungeon.

This is going to be a little rambly and less polished than usual. I want to get it down before I go to sleep.

I didn’t get all the character names, but the players tonight included Courtney Campbell, Erik Tenkar, and Michael Garcia, playing respectively as a fighter, a thief, and a cleric of Eris, the mad goddess.  Thanks for coming out guys, it was good to see you all.

Remember when I said I thought I could wing it, with the material I had at hand?  Well, I think I’d have been somewhat more comfortable if I had done a little more preparation ahead of time… but all in all I think things went well considering I was drawing the map as I went.  I’ll certainly be able to prepare something more for next time.

So, with the understanding that I was winging it, below is a summary of the session. Some details will be changed because I goofed, but nothing horribly substantive.

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Video: Moon Trance – Lindsey Stirling

Yes, looks like it beats Thriller to me.

Nicely creepy, too.  Well-played, literally.

Weapon Speed in D&D

Weapon speeds in D&D – expressed as modifiers to initiative rolls – have always bothered me.  I was delighted to see them removed in D&D 3.x after having stuck around through AD&D.

Real Life

In my experience and observation, both of which I will admit are limited but are verified by people with much more experience, there is little difference in speed of attack when using melee weapons at appropriate reach and range.  Yes, it is possible to accelerate a dagger faster than you can accelerate a sword one-handed.  This is a big part of why you can throw daggers but not throw swords.  However, anyone who has seen sword fighting comes to realize pretty quickly that swords are pretty damn quick too, and more to the point can be brought to bear in an attack at least as fast.

Greatswords?  They’re used two-handed, and the increased leverage goes a long way to making them ‘fast’ as well.  Factor in that they are most often used in a fashion similar to a spear or a staff (including clubbing the opponent with the handle) close to the body rather than swung like a baseball bat and the attack speeds, for those proficient with them, are pretty comparable.

I am reluctant to grant inherent speed modifiers to initiative based on melee weapon size.

In this post I do not discuss ranged weapons.  In particular I don’t discuss the advantage knives have over guns at short range because that advantage comes from different circumstances than I discuss here.

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Campaign Cookbook

Since I apparently don’t have enough to do, I’ve been considering another project, possibly to be packaged for sale on OBS or Lulu or something.

No, I haven’t forgotten the interest people have expressed in my doing this for the megadungeon, and in fact they are related.

I’ve been asked about presenting a ‘node-based sandbox’, and the more I think about it the more the idea interests me.

I’ve never really liked ‘Adventure Paths’ because they tend to expect a certain progression.  From what I can see they expect not only that the PCs travel in certain directions (between modules in the path) but achieve certain levels of power.  I hope they don’t expect certain outcomes for each module (such as “this boss was defeated”), but I can imagine this being the case.

I imagine creating a number of related locations and scenarios, with links between them.  The general outline can be represented (for design and discussion purposes) as a graph similar to the ones I did for the megadungeon.  Over time it can be extended and additional locations and scenarios added, or a second one created that may or may not interact with the first.

The locations and scenarios in the general outline could then be expanded on.  Each could become a module (probably fairly short, I envision 16 pages or so, but can imagine larger ones where appropriate).  The primary document for each module is focused on the scenario and relationships of the things within it, and is largely system-neutral.  It is probably sufficient to know that a ‘big fiery dragon covets a (specific) magic item held by a powerful person in the area’ and the cunning plan the dragon has to acquire it (possibly starting with extortion: “hand the macguffin over or I’ll burn down your village”), plus the supporting cast (who can have their own stories; I see no reason to limit each location to a single scenario).

Major elements tend to have connections elsewhere.  The dragon, the powerful person, and the item itself may have full entity definitions in a removable format so they can be easily kept in a central location.  The majority of the information for each element is again at a fairly high, system-neutral level.  However, the entity definition does have a section for mechanics, so at this point it would be reasonable to have system-specific information start to show up — perhaps OSR and Pathfinder or something, there’s no real reason to limit it to only one system.

The ‘cookbook’ idea originally came from the idea of the entity definitions being prepared on 5″x8″ index cards and stored in a central location.  I was thinking of my dad’s recipe box.  The box would be full of elements that can be combined by modules into a campaign.  On reconsideration the idea is sound, but the expected layout, while kind of nifty, is probably inconvenient.  I think I’ll go back to laying the elements out on letter paper, there is room for more information (though the constrained space encourages me to write more concisely, something regular readers will likely agree is a skill I could improve on).

However, I think I may try to prepare the modules in several formats.  PDF is straightforward, but much the same workflow can be used for Word (DOCX) and LibreOffice (ODF) files, so I might produce those as well to make it easy for GMs to adjust the material to suit their own campaigns.  I outline the campaign and provide descriptions for the various locations scenarios, possibly with mechanics to implement them… but make it easy for GMs to change what they want and make it their own.

Node-Based Megadungeon: Information Paths

In developing the megadungeon, most of the graphs concentrated on the physical relationships between the nodes.  In the introductory post I  mentioned that those weren’t the only relationships possible and presented a sample of what it might look like if the information relationships were shown.

Now that I’ve finished outlining the megadungeon I thought it might be worth highlighting the information paths.  I moved back to the high-level diagram because

  • the detailed diagram didn’t really add much to the point being made;
  • the links are between different levels (the Goblin Shaman can tell you a bit about Baalshamoth, the link goes to the Fane as a whole rather than a specific node within the Fane);
  • the original example was at the high level;
  • the detailed graph is frankly too big to handle easily as an image.

The diagram below was made by updating the original diagram with changes made during development (a few added physical relationships) and the information relationships that don’t follow the physical relationships (such as the Goblin Shaman knowing of Baalshamoth).  The information paths are highlighted in green.

[note for those using GraphViz: the attribute used to control whether a particular edge changes the node order is constraint=false.]

Megadungeon, with Information Paths

Science! An Engine Fueled with Liquid Nitrogen

All that is required to fuel these engines, basically, is liquid nitrogen.  We are surrounded by the stuff (most of the Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen), and making liquid nitrogen is pretty straightforward and is almost a side effect of ‘more useful’ processes.  I would expect almost no ‘carbon footprint’ from this, and a spill from an accident should be almost a non-event — even if it gets on you you would probably take less damage than a similar amount of gasoline, if the gasoline catches fire.  Even accidentally dumped in an environmentally-sensitive area such as a breeding stream it would take a very large amount to have any particular negative impact (unlike gasoline).

I’d really like to see what comes of this.  This appears to have some huge potential.

Pathfinder Domain Cards, Version 1

Pathfinder Domains v1

Pathfinder Domain Cards v1

I’ve got a first cut at a set of domain cards (technically three sets — one for the core domains, one for core subdomains, and one for domains from third-party publishers).

These aren’t done yet.  I’m sure there is room for refinement.  I could certainly change the fonts, but I can see dressing the cards up some more, and I can probably find some more information to put on them.

In the meantime, here are early drafts of the three card sets.