Yearly Archives: 2013

Lexicon and Microscope: Microscope Overview

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

We’ll be applying the Microscope and Lexicon techniques a little differently, and a few people have expressed concern about not having a copy of Microscope in the first place, so I thought I’d do a brief summary of how I see the techniques being applied.

Microscope Structure and Element Types

Our application of Microscope is going to deviate somewhat from the published book. Rather than complicate things by explaining the differences, I will try to briefly describe how I think we will use it.

I suspect most of our time will be spent identifying periods and events, but higher-level/lower-resolution and lower-level/higher-resolution elements are available.

It is important to understand that Microscope is described as “designing history fractally”. We will identify agesperiodsevents, and scenes (Microscope has periodsevents, and scenes; I want to explore things differently) in more or less arbitrary chronological order. The different elements will be added in top-down order, from highest-level/most-abstract/lowest-resolution to lowest-level/most-specific/highest-resolution, but may be added in any chronological order.

Lexicon and Microscope: Project Proposal

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

I think this is getting  pretty close to having a framework for adapting Lexicon– and Microscope-based techniques to collaboratively develop setting information for my Seekers of Lore campaign.

According to the Campaign Cosmology, the gods created the Prime Plane as a safe haven against the ravages of amorphia, raw chaos. This grand project was disrupted when an amorphic maelstrom swept through and shattered Paradise, the home of the gods, and scattered the gods among the remnants of their former home. The Prime Plane was resilient enough already that it survived, but it was not yet strong enough to survive the long-term presence of the gods.

The Prime Plane survived the maelstrom, but was greatly changed. Much that had previous existed or been known had been lost. The Seekers of Lore campaign is centered on exploration and rediscovery of the things that had been lost.

Strangely enough, we’ve concluded that probably the best area for us to focus our attention on is not the world as it is now, but the world as it was before the maelstrom. This will provide a description of the world that was shattered and outline the sorts of things to be discovered, without actually revealing much overtly to the players. Whatever they may learn from this activity may or may not still be valid.

Lexicon and Microscope: G+ Thoughts

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

Andrew of Fictive Fantasies threw a lot of ideas at me regarding this project. I’m going to try to organize, distill, and respond to them here.


Set an explicit starting point and ending point (calendar-wise). Then you could do “Volume II” if it went really well, or focus on one in an area of the game world.

After reconsideration, agreed. I’d originally thought to leave it open-ended, but explicit and specific period makes it easier for people to commit to take part, and makes it somewhat easier for people to focus. There’s a reason I like the 13- and 26-episode anime series and don’t care for the 300+ episode series.

I think “turns” are going to be important here, for managing continuity. A turn might be a week. All must be submitted by midnight Saturday. Sunday, rest and review, so the academics are all up to speed on the new established continuity. Then round 2. I mean, you don’t NEED to do this. Maybe provide a tool to the scholars for tracking what articles have been accepted into continuity, and tracking which ones they’ve ready, to help keep track of what they need to see so they don’t contradict it.

If turns are weekly, perhaps a three-month session end to end would be appropriate. This makes for twelve or thirteen turns.

In Lexicon each article is expected to be 100-200 words. Originally I’d thought daily for a month, but that may be pretty aggressive, especially if you have to incorporate what was posted yesterday and align with previous canon. I think it can be done, but would be stressful and end up pretty disjoint. I think we can do something better with your ideas here.

In a way, you’ve got the same problem as a comic book company. All these titles coming out making new continuity every month, and you want the authors to step on each others’ established history as little as possible.

Another possible structure tweak would be to require scholars to submit an article on an established event / threat / era / etc. each “turn” and allow up to 2 specialty articles based in the scholar’s specialty.

Allow scholars to pick that specialty; geopolitical ramifications, monster threats, diplomatic negotiations with neighbors, legendary heroics, biographies, etc.

Other scholars can riff off the established events, and pull in material from other scholars’ specialty articles, while tossing out references to their own specialties.

How does this sound?

  • One turn per week, for three months, for a total of twelve turns. Probably kick off at the beginning of January and run through the end of March.
    • Turn ends Saturday midnight (Pacific time, since that’s where I live… and Saturday night I’m usually in a game until 9:00-10:00 PM Pacific time).
    • Posts are live by Sunday morning and ready for review.
    • New topics identified or ‘reserved’ by Tuesday midnight, if we want to avoid collisions. We might not; two Scholars duking it out academically could be entertaining… but it might work better as a special event thing.
  • At least two articles per week.
    • One article is net new and is whatever is of interest to the Scholar. If you want to write about the sacrificial magics of the Shawloon savages, despite there really being nothing else about the Shawloon in the wiki, or of sacrificial magic anyway, go ahead. It’s a bit of obscure knowledge and it seeds some ideas.
    • At least one article that expands on, adds to, or otherwise builds off an existing article — written by someone else. If you talk about the sacrificial magics of the Shawloon savages, I might pick up on the Shawloon element and start talking about the geography of their homeland and just why they are savages, someone else might explore sacrificial magics across the realm.

Generally one Scholar should not edit another Scholar’s writing, but it seems reasonable that if kept to implementing hyperlinks it should be okay. This lets us drop the prerequisite on adding (and tracking!) unresolved links, and leaves selection of new topics to the Scholar.

One of the things I like about the Lexicon structure is that it requires interaction between the Scholars. You can’t just sit off to one side writing everything there is about one topic, you must respond to your colleagues. Periodically seeding with net-new articles gives an opportunity to be wholly creative (not following up), but overall most of the writing should end up fairly related to other posts.


Lexicon and Microscope: Guidelines

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

I’m taking a run at the Lexicon and Microscope idea I’ve been working on. Here is the first cut of the guidelines.

These guidelines are derived from Lexicon (created by Neel Krishnaswami) and Microscope (created by Ben Robbins).

While both Lexicon and Microscope are presented as games, we are treating this more as a ‘shared activity’ — in part because it is difficult to come up with a good scoring mechanism, but mostly because nobody cares about winning.

Activity in Seekers of Lore takes part in three stages, with different roles and activities involved.

Framing Stage

In the framing stage the participants outline the structure of the setting. Participants have the opportunity to identify elements that are either to be included (or at least cannot be excluded; nobody is required to write about these items if they are not interested, but nobody is allowed to write them out) or excluded (regardless of what anyone in the setting says, these things do not exist). It is not necessary to be exhaustive, this is mostly to give the opportunity to identify non-obvious expectations.

This is followed by the academic and exploration stages. The academic and exploration stages are more or less concurrent, but are described separately here because they consist of different activities.


Fundamental Cosmic Forces

Polyhedral Pantheon Design top

Polyhedral Pantheon Design top

I realized a while ago that for my polyhedral pantheons methods to really shine, I need more subdomains, and I want them to be more interesting. I think I know how to manage that, but it leads me to some other things I need to consider.

The polyhedral pantheon methods result in assigning thirty-two domains (one for each node and face on the polyhedron — 20 and 12 for a dodecahedron, shown to the right; 12 and 20 for an icosahedron, not shown). There are thirty-three domains in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, and I find I can usually live without one or the other of them, so that works out pssingly well. It manes each domain is assigned to four or six gods, which means there is a fair number of domain sets available to choose from. This is quite playable.

Having each domain available to clerics of four or six gods gives nice domain selection options, but each domain is still the same for each god.  I’d like to see more variety in the domain powers and spell choices.


Seekers of Lore Preparation: Lexicon and Microscope

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

Back in April I floated the idea of combining Lexicon and Microscope in an exercise to develop a campaign setting. I realized not too long ago that this could be a very useful activity for creating a baseline setting for my Seekers of Lore campaign.

I see it working something like this.

  • Frame the campaign fundamentals (in this case, the world was created, civilizations grew, there was a time of massive change, civilizations ‘broke’ and things were lost).
  • Establish some basic guidelines for the design participants, based on Lexicon and Microscope. Ben Robbins has since Kickstarted and released a game called Kingdom, but I haven’t finished reading it yet.
  • Design participants build up material per the guidelines, with entities referencing and cross-referencing each other. This is perhaps best done using a wiki.
  • Setting moves into open play. I picture this being an open world, so different Questions may be answered by different groups.
    • I plan to play using Swords & Wizardry (now free at DriveThruRPG, and I’m playing it in another campaign right now so keeping to consistent rules sets helps me), but I’m pretty flailsnails about the whole thing — the setting is not particularly rules-specific.
  • Campaign participants roam the world, discovering forgotten places and recovering lost knowledge.
    • As campaign participants discover things and learn the answers to Questions, the wiki gets updated and newly-uncovered bits are exposed for exploration.

I need to think about this some more.

Touched by the Gods

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

… a little rambly, I’m trying to get this down before I forget.

I realized the other day that I was overthinking things with regard to discovering and restoring the gods in Seekers of Lore.

My initial expectation was that clerics were cultists, followers of specific gods, since that’s how I’ve run them for a couple of decades now… but for Seekers of Lore that would cause some problems.

Instead, clerics are godspeakers. They don’t necessarily worship any particular god, but speak for and to all the gods. The core cleric spell list will be fairly small to start.

Over time, though, most clerics might be expected to form relationships with various groups, gods, and other entities. It might be worth joining with the Sons of the Wolf because it could lead to an allegiance and covenant with Harual, Lord of Wolves (and potentially skinshifting abilities).

This is not limited to clerics. Clerics might be the only ones who can really take advantage of expanding clerical spell knowledge (which they probably take with them if they leave — I like the idea of apostate priests), but characters of other classes can easily be acceptable to form covenants with greater powers. In this case rangers could be an excellent match, fighters and rogues less so, but even wizards and paladins could fit.

The idea of a werewolf(ish) paladin hunting the unrighteous through the snow-shrouded forest, calling on his lupine brethren to assist, is kind of cool to me.

Under this model “cleric” becomes a core set of abilities and training. This can be expanded on by exploring and discovering lost knowledge, just as with other characters, and other characters can benefit from the abilities to be gained by discovering a lost god or supporting them.

Jack Shear “On Publishing”

Jack Shear of Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque wrote a post about why he publishes as he does.

I decided it worth mentioning why I follow his work as I do.

  1. I read the blog because I like the content.
  2. I grab and print the PDFs because I like having hard copy and you make it easy.
  3. I buy the hard covers because by damn they’re worth the money to me (even though I’ve printed and bound my own, I gain no real functionality here) and because — even though you give the money away — I like to think it’s at least a small ego stroke to see that someone felt your work is worth paying for, even when they can get the content for free.

I’ve got all the Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque gothic hardcovers, and look forward to more coming out.

T-Bag Swings Into Action!

T-Bag the Goblin

T-Bag’s a swingin’ goblin.

Last fall I was running some players through my Node-Based Megadungeon. We only made it through three sessions before real life caught up to us, but the last session was memorable.

Jason Paul McCartan really brought this character to life, and he recently did something nice for me, so I thought it only fitting that I do something nice in return.

I commissioned Emily Vitori to take the session recap and “do something fun with T-Bag”. I gave her a few suggestions as to basically what I was thinking of (something like “dirty, skinny goblin swinging on rope and planning to have some fun where he landed, with some cheap bling reading ‘TBAG'”). We looked at a few goblin pictures (Golarion goblins, the Goblins webcomic, maybe a couple more) and she synthesized this.

I think she about nailed the character.

Thanks Emily!

Echelon Reference Series: Spells

Spells pg 8

Spells pg 8

I’ve been working on the Echelon Reference Series lately, and while I might not actually publish my spells research document it does make for a good testbed for layout work.

Building these documents also let me exercise the data manipulations I’ll need farther down the line.

I have data sets of all the spells and spell lists from the following books.

  • Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook™
  • Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide™
  • Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic™
  • Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Combat™

The spells document (page captured to the right) was built out of a single data set of spells, but the spreadsheet I link to below is built by matching the spell lists and the spell definitions. This bodes well — being able to hook the game elements together will save me a lot of work.

Aggregate Spell List Download removed, download plug allows too much spam

There are a number of blank cells in this spreadsheet. These are all spells that are defined in terms of other spells and depend on those other spells for certain information (such as range, duration, and so on). I will be making some changes to my data manipulation scripts to pull that additional information and reduce dependency between the individual spell definitions.

This suggests to me that I will have the tools needed to properly develop classes and archetypes… so even if I won’t be publishing these documents, those documents will be much easier to produce.