Working on Polyhedral Adaptations

A-Z 2015 "W"Yesterday I wrote about adapting the Polyhedral Pantheons mechanism for other purposes. And now my brain, because it’s like that, insists I make some notes about the attributes that might be used for the various adaptations.

Polyhedral Pantheons Adaptations

For (almost) every adaptation in yesterday’s post, I’ll present a draft table of attributes that can be used for that adaptation. Each table will have columns for various attribute types. The attributes should mostly be straightforward so I don’t expect to spend much time explaining them.

Physical Geography

Physical geography has many kinds of attributes. Terrain is an obvious starting point. Climate might come into it, but I suspect that with basically three (cold, temperate, hot; I don’t think I want to get higher-resolution than that) it’ll get rolled into another attribute type. Degree of settlement or civilization, on the other hand, ranges largely from ‘uninhabited’ to ‘metropolises’, with a couple special cases. I expect major inhabitants could be an attribute type, as could modifiers and special features.

d8 Terrain Climate Civilization Inhabitants Modifier
1 Desert Cold Uninhabited Humanoids Magic
2 Hills Temperate Borderland Aberrations Holy
3 Mountains Hot Villages Dragons Ruined
4 Plains Dry Towns Fey Haunted
5 Forest Wet Cities Outsiders Resource
6 Swamp Variable Metropolises Undead Landmark
7 Aquatic Planar Abandoned Animals Hazard
8 Underground Chaotic Purposed Monsters Fairytale

I’ll stick to eight of each attribute type for now. Assuming you use an icosahedron, a d20, you’d use less than a third of them, and I’m stretching to get as many as I did.

  • Underground means that ‘the important things’ are underground rather than on the surface
  • Variable climate means it changes, usually swinging strongly. Cold climates are usually cold, hot climates are usually hot, temperate move between these moderately, but ‘variable’ temperatures are more extreme. Similar things happen with humidity.
  • Planar climate means that the climate is not limited to real-world norms. There may be planar traits; the Ghost Hills might have a ‘Planar (negative)’ climate.
  • Chaotic climate goes beyond ‘variable’; the climate is unpredictable and can have massive shifts.
  • Uninhabited civilization means that nobody and nothing has taken control of the region.
  • Borderland means that civilization is starting to move into the area, but it is not settled.
  • VillagesTownsCitiesMetropolises indicate the degree of civilization and infrastructure present. ‘Villages’ suggests low infrastructure but relatively safe (unsafe would be borderland), while ‘metropolises’ suggests something like late Medieval Paris, which would draw resources from all over Europe.
  • Abandoned means that the region was once populated but almost everyone left.
  • Purposed civilization means that whoever lives there is probably for a reason, and needs resources from outside to survive. Military outposts often would have this.
  • The Inhabitants describe the general type of creature that commonly occupy or control the region. Others may be present, but these are the dominant or most common. It is possible to have more than one.
    • For many of these, specific subtypes might be chosen. You might leave it at ‘humanoids’ for the attribute but choose specific races for each face, or you might choose a race and apply that as the attribute.
  • The Modifiers mean basically what you choose them to mean, and could apply to any other attribute.

Remember that the attributes are used to mark unexpected elements. It is safe to assume that the primary inhabitants are humanoids unless otherwise indicated.

Planar Geography

d6 Alignment Gravity Time Morphic Elemental Magic
1 Good Normal Normal Alterable Earth Normal
2 Lawful Heavy Erratic Divinely Air Dead
3 Chaotic Light Timeless Highly Fire Enhanced
4 Evil No Gravity Outside Time Magically Water Impeded
5 Neutral Objective Directional Faster Sentient Positive Limited
6 Unaligned Subjective Directional Slower Static Negative Wild

This just nails down the basic planar traits. If I were working up an entire cosmology I would be inclined to then approach each plane using the Physical Geography table.

  • Out of Time is like Timeless, but time passed does not get dumped on the character retroactively. You could spend a year in a Timeless plane and die immediately on returning to the Prime Plane (one year of hunger, retroactively), but a year in an Outside Time plane is safe.
  • Faster time is like Erratic time but doesn’t change. It is ‘half of’ the Flowing time trait, where time passes faster on the other plane than in the Prime Plane.
  • Slower time is like Erratic time but doesn’t change. It is ‘half of’ the Flowing time trait, where time passes slower on the other plane than in the Prime Plane.

Again, look first to ‘how this is different’. Most planes will be ‘normal gravity, alterable morphic’, but can be expected to vary quite a bit on alignment, elemental traits, and magic.

City Wards

d8 Ward Type Wealth Size Inhabitants Qualities 1 Qualities 2 Disadvantages
1 Residential Poor Tiny Uninhabited Academic Prosperous Anarchy
2 Craft Low Small Transients Holy Site Racially Intolerant Cursed
3 Commercial Middle Medium Minority Insular Rumormongering Citizens Hunted
4 Industrial High Large Monster Magically Attuned Strategic Location Impoverished
5 Religious Wealthy Huge Notorious Superstitious Plagued
6 Military Opulent Segmented Pious Tourist Attraction
7 Magical
8 Criminal

This table will certainly want some expansion, if only to complete each column. I expect that several of these attributes are likely to be reused, especially the Ward Type and Inhabitants attribute types. I don’t doubt that there are some attributes above that really should be merged.

  • Ward Type indicates the normal activity that takes place in the ward. Remember that historically most people lived at or near their workplace, so in most of these places you will find many people living. ‘Residential’ wards are primarily just living space, with other interests having only a minor presence.
  • Segmented size means that the ward itself is functionally distributed throughout the city. I put it in Size for lack of a better idea. If I had a Modifies column I’d probably put it there.
  • Uninhabited means that the ward is either abandoned or nobody really lives there. For example, parks and graveyards are two places that nominally aren’t very well-populated, though there are people there at times.
  • Transients indicates that the area is largely populated with people who don’t live locally and are just ‘passing through’. Depending on the culture ‘passing through’ might take months or years.
  • Minority indicates that a race other than the local majority live here. Depending on the city this might result in each such ward having a different minority, or you might choose a single one that will be used for all relevant wards. In a ‘cosmopolitan’ settlement you might have multiple racial attributes like this to account for the number of races; you might not have an overwhelming majority, so even that race might be present in order to mark where you can find them.
  • Monster indicates that an alien creature type, something not of the dominant inhabitants or even similar to them, has a significant presence in the city because of this ward. For instance, a mindflayer enclave openly living in town.
  • Qualities 1 and Qualities 2 are taken directly from Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game: GameMastery Guide™ chapter on settlements (but split into two to balance the columns), as did the Disadvantages.

Characters and 13th Age-style Icons

I’m going to skip these two for now. I suspect they are hairy enough I’ll want to give them specific treatment another time.

Megadungeons

I will, however, start something on megadungeons. I think the first step of building a megadungeon is choosing the regions and their associations,

d8 Region Type Challenges Connectors
1 Temple Inhabitants Outside
2 Cavern Traps Underdark
3 Monster Environment Planar Gate
4 Lake Terrain
5 Inhabited

I will want to expand this one, or at least fill in the blanks. Right now I would need all twelve populated entries just to fill all the points of an icosahedron (d20) and have enough to start with.

If nothing else I could expand some of these into attribute types themselves. Most of the entries above are fairly abstract. For instance, Monster could be expanded into several kinds, as could Environment and Terrain.

Traps, Environment and Terrain (under Hazard) are similar but different. Traps are often hidden or puzzle-oriented elements that can cause problems, Environment is a pervasive condition or status of the area that can have effect, while terrain is the physical (or possibly mental) arrangement of the place itself.

I think I’ll have to come back to this one, it’s a little too abstract yet.

Campaign

I define a campaign as a series of related adventures that tell a story from beginning to end. ‘Story arc’ is another expression for the same idea.

As a rule I try to design nonlinear adventures and campaigns. I might pick a starting point and identify (but not aim for) potential end points, but beyond that it’s up to the players to decide what they’re going to do. For a campaign I would typically identify some 10-15 adventures or scenarios I could anticipate the PCs taking part in on their way through the campaign. For example, the Donnerkonig Heirs campaign identifies fourteen potential adventures — five are critical (the start point where they learn what’s going on and the four that get them the artifacts they’ll need), four that are actually gateways to or from other campaigns (where they might learn of other things that sound worth attention, and are there primarily to remind them that there are things going on besides ‘their story’), and the remainder are mostly ‘between here and there’ and side treks.

d8 Objective Reward Challenges Location
1 Achieve Resource Environment Physical Geography
2 Escape Artifact Terrain City Ward
3 Breach Information Inhabitants Megadungeon
4 Hold Help Competition Planar Geography
5 Obtain
6 Prevent

Again, I’ll want to expand on these, because they tend to be abstract and I don’t have very many.

The objectives are straight out of Sneak Attack Press’ Advanced Encounters: Alternate Objectives. Many adventures end up becoming “kill everything and take their stuff”, and that might be a good backup plan, but if you view an adventure as an effort to achieve a particular goal you can avoid a great deal of repetition. I have yet to see an adventure that doesn’t have at least a little bit of “kill things and take their stuff” happen, but a different primary goal can keep the adventures more varied.

Achieve objectives mean the adventure is about doing something. In context of a campaign, this should be something that could make it easier to succeed. Closing a planar gate might be an example, or reclaiming a captured fortress so the mountain pass can be used again.

Escape objectives mean the adventure is about getting out of something. In purest form it might start with the PCs captured and stripped of their gear (most players hate this), but scenarios such as sieges and rescues can qualify under escape objectives. ‘Chase adventures’ where the PCs try to avoid capture (or capture someone) might count as well.

Breach objectives are a variation of, and almost the exact opposite of, escape objectives. Instead of wanting to get out, the PCs want to get in or through. Yes, they could get through the Kobold Tunnels by killing all the kobolds, but they might find that sneaking through, avoiding traps and patrols, and fighting only when needed might be better.

Hold objectives focus on withstanding something until either it goes away or help arrives. In many ways these are like escape objectives except the PCs basically stay where they are despite efforts to make them leave (or die). An escape scenario might be about problem avoidance, a hold objective might be more about resource management, ensuring there is enough (food, hit points, whatever) to outlast the opposition. Many survival scenarios could fit into this category.

Obtain objectives are all about getting something. When the PCs need the Unobtainium MacGuffin in order to complete their quest, this is the objective to use. Not all things to be obtained are specific objects, sometimes the PCs will need information, general resources, or an alliance. An achieve objective is about doing something (which might mean creating something), an obtain objective is all about walking away with something they didn’t have before.

Prevent objectives are about making something not happen. Keep the king alive despite the assassins, don’t let kidnappers steal the baby heir, and so on.

The rewards are abstract here because they necessarily vary so much by setting and campaign.

Resource rewards are generally useful resources such as ‘treasure’, food, and so on.

Artifact rewards are specific items that will be needed (or just make things easier) later.

Information rewards can lead the PCs to other adventures or other rewards, or provide some other intangible benefit based on knowledge. This might also include access to new spells, feats, and similar benefits.

Help rewards result in alliance or other assistance from the rewarder.

Location makes use of other polyhedral adaptations: physical geography, city ward, megadungeon (for individual dungeon description), or planar geography.

Closing Comments

I could expand on all of these some more, but I’m somewhat over 2100 words for this post. I’m going to knock off here for the night.

Tomorrow, I’m going to present some examples of what these might look like when applied.

 

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  1. Pingback: Z-A Challenge 2015 Index | In My Campaign - Thoughts on RPG design and play

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