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!

Path Extensions: Transitions in Node-Based Design

The Tuesday’s Reader Tips email from Johnn Four contained a tip that expands on the work I did for the Node-Based Megadungeon.

Lionel's Abandoned Tower Transitions

Lionel’s Abandoned Tower Transitions

I’m going to take the liberty of copying Lionel di Giacomo’s suggestion (and image, in case it goes away).

I love dungeon flowcharts like Keith’s, but have found transitions between “rooms” can be much smoother by adding transitional notes.

Any or all of the lines between the nodes can have brief transition descriptions to jog improvisation and help flesh out the area in my head before a game. (It also makes some good ideas for encounters between spaces. Liminal spaces are great places to challenge PCs!)

Here is an example I made out of Keith’s Abandoned Tower. [Thumbnail to the right –kjd]

I feel I need to formally respond to this.

Lionel, that’s a really good idea.

I was focused primarily on the relationships between the various nodes, and labeled them in the high-level diagram early on.

However, I did not continue that idea in later diagrams. Many of the relationships were identified in the supporting Entity Definitions, but I did not take the next step and use them as labels.

To be fair, the combined diagrams are really, really big by the time I’m done; there honestly isn’t room.

Also frankly, it didn’t even occur to me.

This is a very obvious extension of the node-based design methodology I use. Combined with Gus’ megadungeon thoughts (which I respond to here) I think there is an opportunity to take these diagrams a long way from “useful design tool” to “usable by a GM good at improv”. Between the two sets of suggestions I think much of the in-play material can be generated at need.

I don’t know that I have the chops to run a game that way. I don’t want to overprepare or bog myself down with too much material, but I have discovered that I am long enough out of the GM’s seat that my improv skills might not be quite up to this right now.

Even if I am not comfortable running a game in that manner, this is still useful as a reminder at the table and during design and preparation time. While I favor diagrams that are not overloaded with information (you should see some that I inherited at work; that I often broke each into three or four for different audiences rather than try to capture everyone’s information on one sheet of paper should be telling), this is unobtrusive and adds valuable information.

I really like this, Lionel. You’ve taken a process I use and have documented, and with a light touch added an element of significant value to it.

Thank you. This is one of the more rewarding parts of posting these things online.

Megadungeon Contest?

I am pleased with the work I have done on my node-based megadungeon. I intended to outline the megadungeon, and an outline I do have.

However, Gus’ post yesterday got me to thinking — it would be nice if the megadungeon was actually finished and playable. I estimated it would take me some 300-350 hours or so to finish it to the level of detail I would want in order to publish it.

Frankly, I don’t have the time to do this, and unless I’m actually using it, I would not be likely to complete it.

By the very nature the megadungeon design is modular at this level. The comments and suggestions I’ve seen from people about how various regions could be completed have been quite consistent with the original description, while veering sometimes wildly from each other, and it occurs to me that this suggests a wonderful opportunity:

Perhaps you could help finish the megadungeon.

I designed the megadungeon with the intention that each region would have different tone and feel. I think this lends itself well to having multiple designers, potentially a different designer for each region.

There are eleven regions identified in this megadungeon. I am thinking of running a monthly contest, each time focusing on a different region starting from the outside (Abandoned Tower, Wolf Den, and Goblin Warren) and working in. I have not worked out the details yet, but I envision something like:

  • Each round focuses on a single region, identified at the beginning of the round.
  • The region is to be detailed in a manner sufficient for play. The style can vary: keyed maps are obviously acceptable, map and supporting random tables can be sufficient, and so on.
  • The region should remain consistent with the original description, but is not required to conform to the original description. That is, changes may be made as long as they remain true to the spirit of the original description. Design is an iterative process, and as details are developed it may be found that previous decisions are no longer sensible.
  • New regions and other entities may be identified and proposed, possibly outside the megadungeon. These may be considered for inclusion as extensions.
  • It is not necessary to conform to any particular rule set, but assume something OSR-friendly/FLAILSNAILS (they tend to be interoperable enough). Identify which rule set is being designed to for context reasons. OSRIC, Blood & Treasure, Labyrinth Lord, etc. are all fine.

I figure there will likely be a small panel of judges (possibly just me, but I’d prefer to have three — I have a couple of people in mind, but I suspect one of them at least might want to take part).

On my own I can afford some small prizes, more or less nominal awards for being chosen as the best for each region. It is not certain at this point, but I am considering bundling the results and putting them on OBS (DriveThruRPG, RPGNow), with proceeds to be split between prizes for successive contests and art resources for further publication. I imagine each region being published in turn with all entries, and at the end the ‘winning entries’ bundled together, polished to fit and adjust any discrepancies introduced between regions, and published at the end.

I am not particularly interested in pocketing any cash out of this, though I would still have access to the art resources for later use. I’d like to see contests like this basically become self-sustaining, with larger awards than I can afford myself.

Node-Based Megadungeon Final Graph

Node-Based Megadungeon Final Graph

Gus’ Megadungeon Thoughts

Gus wrote a thought-provoking article about the node-based megadungeon I developed a few months ago.

I agree entirely with his post. As an adventure, the node-based megadungeon I presented is woefully incomplete. At the least it should include the elements he describes (maps, monster tables, etc.).

What it really needs, I think, is to have the various identified nodes expanded on. I would be inclined to apply the same techniques as I have so far, but at higher resolution. The method I use is more or less fractal — just as I started with about a dozen high-level nodes identifying the regions, then broke each region down into areas, those areas can be broken down into encounter locations (‘rooms’, if you like, though an individual encounter location may span several). I might expect that different encounter locations have monsters or other things to interact with (set pieces) while the regions have the encounter tables and the like (including entries to pull from other regions — when in the Clockwork Hell you might run into Aristothanes or something else from his Sanctum, you might run into the dwarves or something else relating to the Dwarven Safehold, and so on).

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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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