Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Play Report: Legends of Anglerre

Last night, a friend of mine was back in town for the day and we decided to do a little gaming. I had just picked up the PDF of Legends of Anglerre and opted to try and learn the system in time to run it that evening. LoA uses the FATE (Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment) roleplaying system, which is based on the Fudge roleplaying system. Compared to the Original Game, I can say that LoA is quite a different experience. I'll try to briefly sum up the key points of the system before I get into the actual play report so you have at least a vague idea of what I'm talking about.

Dice: Roll 2D6 of different colour. Designate one as the minus die and subtract it from the other.

The Ladder: Pretty much everything in the game, from tasks to equipment to monsters and skills, is described using the Ladder, which is a chart of adjectives and numbers ranging from -3 (Abysmal) up to +8 (Legendary).

Shifts: The margin of success or failure in relation to the difficulty number you are rolling against. eg. If you roll a 5 on a difficulty 3 task, you succeed by 2 shifts.

Aspects: Short phrases or adjectives describing characters (or sometimes scenes). They can be activated by the players to give a bonus or penalty to a roll.

Stress: How much pain your character can take. There are two types of stress: physical and composure. If you drop to 0 in either, you're "taken out."

Character creation started off with a group brainstorm between the players. The setting was an older one of my creation called the Wild Wood. LoA allows players to be created on the fly so you can get right to playing if you wish. That's what we chose to do. Each of the players chose a name, a good aspect and a bad aspect.

The Setup
The players were each in the village of Whitehill for some reason or other, which overlooked a dangerous valley known as the Black Pools. There had been reports of ugly, monstrous men coming up in bands from the Black Pools. Alten the Long, the steward of Whitehill, sent a patrol of soldiers down into the valley three days ago. They had not returned. Alten could spare no more soldiers in case these raiding bands assaulted the village, but he was seeking the help of a group of adventurers who could find out what happened to the patrol.

The Cast
Edgar Wright: a sneaky dandy from Halldale Citadel in the Western Reaches. 
Aspects: Moves with the Sounds of Silence, Pompous Ass.

The Dark One: a shrouded figure in black from the Black Pools.
Aspects: Quick Learner of the Mystical Arts, Inner Ear Problem.

Cornelius Asquach: a grey bearded old man from the north.
Aspects: Conjurer of the Dead, They're All Out to Get You!

Seven Reed Whispering Emerald: an athletic martial artist from Whitehill.
Aspects: Leaping Baboon Striking Cobra, The Voices Made Me Do It.

And that was it! All it took to create characters and get started. Obviously there are more complex details to be added, but you really can begin with just this. LoA has a much more detailed character creation option that is separated into phases with all sorts of great stuff, but it's better for those who know the game or who will be playing a long term campaign.

Play began with the characters deciding how they wanted to proceed, either due north and down into the Pools, or along the eastern wall of the valley, overlooking the Pools from above. After a visit to the captain of the guard, an effeminate man with steely eyes, and obtaining a route map of the patrol from him, they discovered that the patrol was meant to head down into the valley and then west along the foot of the western valley wall. The party descended.

On the valley floor, the grey landscape spread out in a haze of fog before them, dotted with small black pools. Travelling through the Pools without a guide would almost certainly lead to getting lost, so the Dark One decided to spend some of her skill points on Survival at this point. With the "Characters on the Fly" method of play, players are able to spend up to 20 points on skills as they go. She bought Average (+1) Survival. Before the Dark One could make a Survival roll, however, Edgar Wright noticed the tracks and attempted to read them himself (Pompous Ass). He received no bonus to his roll since his Survival skill was Mediocre (0) and failed miserably. He ended up obscuring and confusing the tracks that were there. The party decided to follow them anyway, but they were unable to determine the type of tracks or how large a group they were following.

Because they failed their tracking attempt, I had the band of orcs ahead take them by surprise. They came charging out of the haze wielding crude swords and shouting. Edgar Wright quickly decided he needed some combat skills at this point and bought Average (+1) Melee Weapons and Average (+1) Athletics. The Dark One bought Fair (+2) Ranged Weapons, and Seven Reed Whispering Emerald bought Good (+3) Athletics, Fair (+2) Unarmed and Average (+1) Might.

I decided these were Fair (+2) orcs. I had them in two groups (3 in each) of minion quality. This was something I quite like about LoA. The minion groups are treated as a single monster, but they can have more than one actual creature in them.

Now that everyone had their combat skills, the battle ensued! 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Bringing Your Campaign to Life: Leitmotif

In movies and video games, theme music goes hand in hand with individual iconic ideas. Most often a theme will be associated with a culture, a city, or a character. This musical technique is called a leitmotif. It's a way of reminding the listener of a particular character, announcing an entrance, or evoking a mood for a specific location.

As an example, in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, the elven theme music from the Lord of the Rings films starts playing before the elves even appear on screen, but the audience immediately recognizes what that means -- here come the elves! 

In RPGs, MMORPGs in particular, there is often a distinct musical theme for each city that you visit. You begin to associate the imagery of that city with the theme, and that allows you to develop an even greater familiarity with the location.

Try using a leitmotif in your campaign. The easiest thing to do would be to play a specific track each time the players visit a particular settlement. Over time, they'll begin to feel even more familiar with the location you've designed, and it will be easier to consistently reinvoke the mood, atmosphere and imagery you've envisioned for that place.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Xeria: Giant Desert Arachnid

The desert arachnids of Xeria stalk the few shelters to be found within the drifting sands. Their sand-coloured bodies keep adventurers from even noticing them until they leap forth, using the momentum of their leap to skewer their prey with sharp, chitinous legs.

Giant Desert Arachnid 
Init +1 
Atk +1 melee (1d4)
AC 14 (12 for 1 round after leaping) 
HD 1d8+2 
MV 60, Climb 60
Act 1d20 
SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will -2 
SP 20% leapers, leap attack: +4 melee and knocked prone (DC 12 Ref save avoids) 
AL Chaotic

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Xeria: Espadian Occupation Table

DCC RPG uses a character creation system that has the player roll on an occupation chart that determines what the character did before he became an adventurer. Each occupation also comes with an undetermined set of skills that can be called upon when making a check. I use the word undetermined because DCC RPG has no skill system, per se -- if the character is attempting something he would have learned in his occupation, the skill is trained. Roll a d20. Otherwise, it's untrained. Roll a d10.

Since we've done away with Elves, Dwarves and Halfings for our Xeria hexcrawl, we decided to make a unique occupation table for each of the four human races we've designed instead. Here's the table for the Espadians, a race of humans who are essentially eccentric musketeer nobles. They wear fancy clothing, hold frequent balls, duel with rapiers for honour, and create beautiful works of art from glass, including the three splendid glass spires in their city of Espada.

Espadian Occupation Table (1d20)*

  1. Glassblower's apprentice (blowpipe as staff, glass bauble)
  2.  Architect's apprentice (dagger, parchment and quill)
  3.  Servant (kitchen knife as dagger, 'lucky' trinket)
  4.  Noble (rapier, large finely crafted satchel [50lbs])
  5.  Messenger (letter opener as dagger, supple leather shoes)
  6.  Herald (dagger, brass horn)
  7.  Excavator (shovel as staff, 1lb sand)
  8.  Foreman (hammer as club, speaking trumpet)
  9.  Tailor (scissors as dagger, needle and thread)
  10.  Dressmaker (scissors as dagger, 2 yards fine cloth)
  11.  Lookout (sling, brimmed hat)
  12.  Duelist (rapier, fine gloves)
  13.  Blacksmith (hammer as club, steel tongs)
  14.  Ostler (staff, bridle)
  15.  Chef (rolling pin as club, fine spices)
  16.  Merchant (dagger, cask of fine rum)
  17.  Deckhand (knife as dagger, 50' rope)
  18.  Scholar (dagger, 10 candles)
  19.  Conman (dagger, quality cloak)
  20.  Actor (dagger, fine clothes)
*The items in brackets are the character's trained weapon and starting trade good, respectively.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Mindscape: Cliffside Town

Another Mindscape for you. Cliffside towns. One of the cultures in our Xeria setting are the Morecians, and theirs is a culture somewhat of a cross between ancient Arabia and ancient Greece.

The music is by Gabriel Yared, from a rejected score composed for the movie Troy. This score far trumps the replacement score in my own opinion.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Xeria: Hex Contents Table

The new campaign setting in the works is called Xeria. I'm actually co-creating it with my partner, Leah. The two of us decided we wanted to design a desert-themed hex crawl/sandbox. We printed out a hex template map and started allotting terrain using this awesome guide over at The Welsh Piper. After that, we turned to this awesome guide by Flynn over at his excellent blog, In Like Flynn. To suit our desert theme, we came up with a combined and modified version of the tables provided in both guides and rolled once per hex on the following custom tables.

Hex Filling Table (d6)
1-2. Colour
3. Terrain effect
4. Settlement
5. Lair
6. Adventure

After rolling on the Hex Filling Table, roll again on the indicated subtable.

Terrain (d6)
1. Weather
2. Arcane
3. Divine
4-5. Strange
6. Combine two

Settlement (d6)
1. Waystation/outpost/hut
2. Permanent camp/farm(s)
3. Village/small town
4. Large town/city
5. Monastery/shrine/temple
6. Wise person's abode

The different results indicated by the slashes correspond to the terrain type of the hex being rolled for, eg. waystation (desert), outpost (plains), hut (mountains).

Lair (d6)
1-3. Monster
4-5. Supernatural
6. Humanoids

Adventure (d6)
1-3. Site
4-6. Event

A site is a location, such as a ruin or dungeon. An event is a scene that is triggered when the players first enter the hex, such as coming upon a caravan master with a broken wheel who needs help reaching his destination.

Colour: This is just flavour or fluff and requires only a short description. For example: A tree with dangling nooses used to hang criminals.

We were quite pleased with the results and only occasionally fudged what the table gave us. But that's okay -- the point of the table is to give you ideas and get your imagination going. Also, we already had some cool ideas that we just plunked down into certain hexes instead of rolling for them. 

Note: This table and tables like it are NOT masters to be bowed down to. You don't need to be a slave to them. If another idea pops into your head, use it!   

The reason we decided to modify the tables in the original guides was due to the fact that those tables left roughly 50% of hexes completely empty. This seemed like a waste of space to us and we didn't want our players just trudging around only finding something interesting half of the time. That said, you don't want your hexes too cluttered, either, or exploration will start to lose some of its lustre. Overall it came to a nice balance of fillings for our purposes.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Enchanted Steel

How do magic weapons look in your game? Are they glowing with energy, alight with fire and crackling with lightning? Or do you prefer a more subtle approach? An exquisitely wrought pommel, a blade that never dulls, a faint warmth in the hand when grasping the hilt? Or is it the weird and otherwordly that strikes you? A strangely coloured metal, alien runes along the blade, a trail of whispering shadows when swung?

Leave a comment describing your favourite magic weapon you've come across in your games!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Mindscape: Desert Ruins

Since I'm so fond of music and art, I thought I'd put together a feature I call Mindscape. I post some landscape art and a soundtrack to go with it, and hopefully you get inspired for a cool location, character or adventure!

This is a desert Mindscape. It may have something to do with the setting I'm working on right now... The music is from the game Journey. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Bonuses for High Ability Scores

How should they be handled? Some games make you feel that in order to be a 'real' warrior, thief, what have you, you need to have a high ability score that lets you access that class's coolest features. When I say high, I'm talking 17 or 18 in a 3D6 system. If you take a look at old school games (I'm currently running DCC RPG), what kinds of perks can you give to characters who roll high in a 3D6 in order system without making characters who don't roll high feel inadequate in their class?

I think the key is having those perks open up more options for the character, rather than grant a direct bonus of some kind. When I say options, I mean situational possibilities. Something like this: a warrior with 17+ Strength may attempt to use his bare hands to crush the skull of his opponent (if humanoid) with a DC 20 Strength check after a successful grapple. 

Personally, this is the kind of thing I find exciting, and much more interesting than 'warriors with 17+ Strength get +2 to damage.' And if you're designing a setting with sub-races (human or otherwise), these 'high-score perks' can vary to reflect the style of each individual culture, so you're not only acknowledging a high score with a cool option, you're further embellishing the setting you've lovingly hand-crafted (probably). 

The great thing about old school games is that this kind of creativity is not only possible, it's encouraged!

On another note: as is wont to happen, the busy schedules among players have caused my grandiose plans for my Yekkislovia campaign to come tumbling down. However, there is another exciting setting in the works. Expect to read about (and see) it soon!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Yekkislovia Begins

The yellow moon hangs low in the autumn sky, overlooking the sentinel pines like an engorged reveler at some dark feast. Wisps of thin cloud skid in front of the stars, shadowing the forested land below. The waters of the Whip flow cold and fast between the trees, winding its way back and forth as it goes. It runs beneath the gaze of an old, abandoned castle that looms atop a steep hill, thrusting its jagged towers skyward, its darkened windows like watchful eyes. Further along the banks of this river lies the sleepy town of Grimrose, where a strange thing is happening.

This was the intro text to my new gothic campaign, Yekkislovia. I'm running it using Goodman Games' DCC RPG. Why did I choose this system? Simply because out of all the systems I've tried, DCC RPG works the best with my own personal style. I run better games  with it.

The characters have been made via random generation (as expected using DCC RPG). The party ended up being fairly dwarf heavy, and nearly everybody had a blacksmith or armorer of one ilk or another, which is amusing. I think I'll try to work smithing into the storyline somehow.

The main town is Grimrose, a sort of militarized version of Sleepy Hollow. There's a lot going on here, a lot of opportunity for adventure even without leaving the town walls. I have several kernel ideas that need to be popped, but so far I think I really want to make this campaign a map/sandbox based game, with plot threads scattered about that the players can get tangled up in if they want, not unlike Skyrim.

I've a fair bit of world building still to do, but for starters, I'm creating several orders for each game class as an attempt to make the characters part of something with purpose as opposed to just being a warrior or a thief with no social context. 

Now to heat those kernels and set those threads so things can start popping and getting tripped.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


I'm running the character funnel for DCC RPG tonight, and for one of the rooms I came up with this alternative to "slay the monsters, get the loot." Just something a little different that might bring a spark of inspiration to you.

As the door swings inward, a blaze of light shines ahead. The entrance room of a great hall lies within. Large, ornately carved wooden pillars reach from floor to high-vaulted ceiling. A trio of small, flaming creatures with eyes made of shadow peers at you from the center of the hall. The tops of their heads burn like the flame of a candle. In their glowing, spindly hands they hold bows of pale wood and each has a quiver of arrows on their winged back. 

"Join us?"
"Yes, join us!'
"For a game?"
"A game!"
"Do you shoot?"
"Can you shoot?
"Will you shoot with us?"
"Don't shoot us!"
"Hit the target!"
"The target!"
"We'll show you how!"
"The way!"
"The way through!"
"If you shoot."
"If you win!"
"You need a champion!"
"A champion!"
"The champion!"
"Many champions!"
"A big tournament!"
"A big game!"
"The big game!"

(1) The sprites desire an archery tournament. The target DC's are: Outer - AC 10 (1 point), Inner AC 13 (5 points), Center AC 15 (10 points), Bull's Eye AC 17 (20 points). Three shots each. (2) There is a 1 in 4 chance that the sprites will light any arrow in flight on fire out of amusement. (3) There are three tunnels leading from this room. Only by winning against the sprites will they point the way.

Friday, 11 May 2012

A Dash of Flavour: Tavern Menus

Tired of the same old stale bread and cheese? For this week's tavern visit, why not try something new? Invent a new tavern menu - create a few colourful local dishes involving original animals or plants and see how they bring your world to life just a little more.

The Hallowed Horseman
Menu: Pumpkin soup, fresh gef cream, mill fish, spiced ale, kethaflower cordial.
Goods: Yellowsage pipe-weed from the Yellow Marsh.

Now figure out a few things about the plants and animals you just made up!

Black furred, four legged beast with a silver breast and short tail. Two huge scythe-like antlers. Feeds on grass and ketha flowers which grow near the Devilswood. A source of food for Grimrose. Hunted by giant birds and wolves. Kept in herds by the barbarian clans. Stags sought after for the value of their horns. Very defensive of their territory. The females can be domesticated and are kept for milk, cream and butter by the people of Grimrose.

Mill fish 
Small speckled fish that gather at the turbulent waters near the water wheels of mills. They are easily caught by netting them from the wheel or just dropping a line in the water.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Improving Your Role-play: Character Beliefs and Instincts (From The Burning Wheel)

A few months ago I picked up a copy of a nifty little game called The Burning Wheel. While I haven't actually had a chance to play this game yet, I have spent a goodly amount of time flipping through the rule book (which is beautiful, I might add). The game is based on character life paths, and character creation leads you through a very detailed and winding maze of choices, resulting in pleasantly complex characters. One of the best parts of the game, though, is a set of two things your character needs to have in order to play: Beliefs, and Instincts.

Beliefs are like goals for your character, and give great insight into your character's personality. A Belief is usually an "I will" statement, like "I will gain the respect of the townsfolk," or "I will avenge my brother's death." The more specific the statement, the better, because then you can begin taking steps to fulfill your Belief.

Instincts are sort of like macros for how your character would react in specific situations, and are often if/then statements about an action. "If danger appears, draw my sword." They can also be always/never statements:
"Never leave town without a torch." These statements allow you to create a consistent set of actions that help spotlight your character's behaviour.

Beliefs and Instincts are easily portable into any RPG. Have your characters choose 1-3 Beliefs and 1-3 Instincts. Try them out and see how they can create motivations for characters and bring them to life in new, complex ways.

Here are two NPC's I created for my Yekkislovia campaign using (leaving out the crunchy bits) The Burning Wheel as a guideline:

Lifepaths: Villager, Village Guard, Alchemist, Witch’s Son
Traits: Skinny, Crotchety, Half Elf, Humility, Seasoned, Blind
Appearance: Long-white-haired man with a cloth over his eyes. Very skinny, pointed ears and an ethereal quality. Wears old leather armour and a sword on his back.
Beliefs: I must find my brother and prove his innocence. I will find a way into Janik’s inner circle. I must keep my magical abilities secret.
Instincts: Start giving orders in a dangerous situation. Always know where my exits are. Keep my ears open for trouble.
Voice: Quick, grating whisper.

Lifepaths: Barbarian, Warqueen's Daughter, Bird Tamer, Ambassador
Traits: Apprehensive, Honored, Gossip, Aloof, Bored
Appearance: Dark mane of hair, supple body, ice-blue eyes, strong hands. Looks bored. Silver headband, skimpy furs and leather, a broadsword on her back. A great bird of prey on her shoulder.
Beliefs: I will prove that the clans are not kidnapping people from the town. I will find a companion worthy of my blade. I will bring honor to my clan in battle.
Instincts: Never trust a man. Hit first, ask questions later. Stick near the biggest companion.
Voice: Slavic, questioning, bored.

With these Beliefs and Instincts, I have a very solid idea about what these NPC's want and how they intend to go about getting it. The same will be true of player characters with well written Beliefs and Instincts.   

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Story vs Mythos

In preparation for my summer campaign (the ideas for which have begun budding nicely) I find myself thinking of ways to make this a unique gaming experience. I always try to make each campaign different in both flavour and meaning, and this will be no exception. But this time, I want to bring the world to life a bit more than usual, by using things like themes, ecology, stories and mythos. I have some world building to do, but a question strikes me as my mind begins to plot and scheme: should I create the world and then build stories within it, or should I create interesting stories and then build a world around them?

I think it is tradition in campaign planning that the map is filled first and then come the plot points and adventuring sites. I'd like to try it the other way around. Perhaps if I create a few interesting plot lines, and then build a mythos around them, my world will spring to life a bit more. It will leave more room for the evolution of ideas and hopefully allow for another memorable campaign. Creating a truly mythical experience for the players would be extremely gratifying.

My summer campaign is going to take place in Yekkislovia, a misty, wooded region beneath a silver moon shrouded by dark clouds. To the north, matriarchal barbarian hill clans; further north, an ancient forest inhabited by colossal god-beasts; to the south, a haunted wood full of lycanthropes and the enchanted ruins of ancient beast-men; in the centre of it all, on the banks of a wild river, Grimrose, a lonely bastion of civilization surrounded by darkness and devils; just beyond the river, a ruined castle, home to a pale man with a thirst for blood. Sentient, Scandinavian inspired trolls. Ghostly elves that dance and bewitch mortals for years in their woodland halls. An ancient book housing the secrets of Death in its pages. Seven holy relics scattered across the land.

Oh, yeah. This is going to be my gothic campaign. Witch hunters, witches, vampires, werewolves, alchemy, moon phases, Shostakovich. Get your silver sword.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Swords & Wizardry: A Swarm of Rats

For my latest Swords & Wizardry game, I used a series of randomized dice rolls to create a dungeon and I used Table 41: Generating Encounters from the Core Rules to populate it. Some of the encounters had me scratching my head. 15 giant rats, for instance (3d8 CL A creatures). But I thought, okay, I'm going to just try doing this dungeon straight from the book and see what happens.

My players, a party of 4 + 2 hirelings, made their way into the dungeon and began listening at doors and creeping down halls and such. At one such door, the thief, Schulla (who was played with a hilarious Russian accent), heard the sounds of scrabbling and squeaking beyond. The party opened the door to find a long chamber, in the centre of which was a dried up bathing pool with steps leading into it. One of the fighters (in a foolish moment of judgement) strode over to the pool and looked in. There seethed a swarm of 15 giant rats. Now, at this point, the players' fates were in their own hands, and had they been smarter, things might have gone differently. Alas, they (some of them having never played an old school game before) started attacking the swarm, assuming, "Eh, they're just rats." The man-at-arms went down first. The players kept attacking. Two of the party members were eaten alive. The survivors kept attacking. The thief finally got the idea to run, and slipped through a door before the rats got to him. Everyone else met a nasty end.

The players could have been more strategic, played more carefully, etc. Evidently, all they did was stand and attack, over and over. They managed to kill a little over half of the giant rats. They put up a decent fight, but 15 rats was just too many to handle. I wonder if Table 41 is a little ridiculous and I should have placed far fewer rats in this encounter, or if it was supposed to represent a moment in old school gaming that seems to be missing from modern gaming: Run!

Either way, the idea to run didn't even cross the collective mind of the party until characters were already dying. This was a beautiful moment to me, when they all realized "Oh, what? We can't defeat 15 rats without a scratch? We aren't nigh-godlike super-humans?" I'll leave you with a quote from that moment that really solidifies the mentality of modern role players versus old schoolers:

"Wait, you die when you reach 0 hp?" 

Monday, 30 April 2012

Interpreting Hit Points

Since finally picking up a physical copy of Swords & Wizardry and determining to read it cover to cover, I have been experiencing several "aha!" moments, otherwise known as, "Man, I'm stupid" moments. Maybe some of the things I've been realizing are obvious to others, but just in case they aren't, I'm going to post my discoveries/musings anyway.

I was reading through the monster list and came to Giant (or Sea) Crocodile. Here's the description: "The smallest of giant crocodiles are about 20ft long (normal
crocodiles can grow to be as long as 15ft)." I thought to myself, "Well, how do you know how big a giant crocodile should be, then?" "Why, it depends on how many hit points it has, of course." Thanks, brain. Sometimes you're not so bad.

A giant crocodile has 6HD. That means it can have a minimum of 8 hp and a maximum of 48 hp. That's a big range. If an 8 hp giant crocodile were swimming beside a 48 hp crocodile, it occurs to me that there should be a difference in their appearance and size. Perhaps the lesser one is even wounded, or weak from hunger. How many times have you said, "Okay, there are five goblins in front of you. Roll initiative," then just played out the combat as "the fighter slays one goblin, the magic-user blows apart another, the thief attacks a goblin but misses," treating the goblins all as identical, faceless numbers? Wouldn't it be more interesting to describe their appearance and status based on their max hp?

This would add a little more book keeping during play, but the payoff might be worth it. 

This method would depend on how you run things though. How do you handle HD: do you roll HD once for a group of monsters, or separately for each individual monster?  

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sources of Treasure

Why are dungeons filled with treasure? Aside from enticing brave (or foolish) adventurers to come visit them and serving as an important game-play element in our hobby, treasure can and should, in my opinion, be more.

In my dungeons, treasure is rarely just sitting in the corner of a room. I tend to avoid using treasure chests at all. I just don't think most monsters would be keeping treasure around like their finest set of china, waiting for important visitors to show it off to. Most of the treasure I dole out is found more naturally - on the bodies of fallen explorers.

Unless you are designing a tomb or crypt in which the occupant's wealth was buried with them, the majority of a dungeon's treasure would not be secreted away in sarcophagi and medieval bank vaults. Monsters kill people - that's what they do. Then they either take their treasure (if intelligent or greedy), or leave it where it is. Few monsters have the tendencies or intelligence to hoard treasure. It is more likely that some adventurer made his way into the place in search of rumored treasure and was killed by the local monsters. That adventurer's belongings become the treasure for the dungeon. 

In general, I include one or two main treasure hoards as set pieces and themes for my dungeon, and as a hook for the players. Otherwise, the rest of the treasure is found on skeletons and corpses in the form of old armour, jewelry, coins - and maybe even magic items the unlucky adventurer might have been carrying when he died.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Collaborative Worldbuilding: Tol, Part I

So I stumbled upon this game called Dawn of Worlds by a group of people under the name Legends. Essentially, the game is a collaborative world building exercise where you and your friends sit down around a table with a big piece of paper and create an entire world complete with geography, races and histories. As the rules manual states, there are several advantages to this approach to world building. (Let me just say that I intend to use Dawn of Worlds to create the setting for my next Swords & Wizardry campaign.)

First, the DM isn't given the daunting task of creating the entire world all by his lonesome. Yes, creating a world is fun, we like to spend hours on it, but for some it can be a little tedious and time consuming. I am a DM who really enjoys this part of the hobby, but I have to admit that I do lose steam with these worldbuilding projects after a while. Having a bunch of other people to cheer you on you makes it a little easier.

Second, more minds are better than one. As I've seen so far, everybody will come up with different ideas that either mesh or clash with each other. Either result is fine and leads to good worldbuilding. The world becomes much more dynamic with the input of multiple creative individuals.

Thirdly - though this has pros and cons, depending on your play style - every player involved will know the world. I really like this. You won't have to waste a lot of wind explaining to your players how the kingdom came to be and the giants destroyed the dragon prince, blah blah blah. It makes the setting familiar to the players, and even endearing since they played a part in its creation. There are plans for a round-robin style of DMing, since everyone will know the world. To me, this is even superior to using a familiar and well-loved published setting - creative types love their brainchildren. 

In the creation of this world, the first thing I did was take two 14x17 pieces of paper and stick them together. I then drew an outline (which turned out pretty cool) of a continent. I won't get into the rules of the game here - you can check them out in the link above. Basically, everyone proposed a name for the world, we voted on it, and the world of Tol (pronounced "toll") was born. We went around the table, taking turns filling in mountains, forests, lakes and rivers. To be honest, the map was a little big. We have played two sessions now and still have along way to go. You can use a smaller landmass depending on how big and how detailed you want your world to be, and how much time you want to spend on it.

The game is split up into three "Ages": the First Age (geography), the Second Age (races), and the Third Age (conflict). We are currently early in the Second Age and have about 6 players. Turns take a fair amount of time with this many people, but there are more ideas as well.

I'll be posting a bit about the history and nature of the world as it develops. For now, here is a picture of the map as it stands in the Second Age. Sorry for the quality - it was too big to scan.

I recommend trying Dawn of Worlds for your next campaign. Your group might just come up with a beloved setting that you'll use for years together.