Breaking the Game II: The Secret Player

This will instantly turn your next adventure into a thing of legend.

It's Not Better to Burn Out!

How to never burn out as a Dungeon Master.

A Pirate's Life

High seas adventure in 5th edition!

Breaking the Game: Slaying Dungeon Masters

Do you know what every Dungeon Master's afraid of?

Heroic Journey II: Rising Action

The next stage of your heroic journey.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Pirate's Life II: Naval Combat

Last time we went through a game structure for ship movement during naval combat. It wasn’t super simple, but the result was (hopefully) something intuitive with strategic depth. Let’s do the same for the combat itself. The limitation of the ruleset is that it only keeps one player occupied at the table unless each player is commanding a different ship. So we need things for the other players to do that are also intuitive and have strategic depth, while not creating anything already covered in the rules.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Serial Saturdays III: Getting By

Isda put her arm around Jacque’s shoulders and put the weight of her left side on him. “How bad is your ankle?” Jacque said.
“I don’t think it’s anything a little ice and rest can’t take care of. How bad is whatever you’re storming away from? The look on your face when walked into each was a little intimidating.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Pirate’s Life: Naval Movement & Travel

My PCs are planning to leave Haven after just one quest. It’s not because they didn’t like it, but the party’s Captain is playing a cleric of Tali. As such he doesn’t like staying in one place for too long. After putting a lot of work into Haven, I’m having strong urges to railroad them back there but I’m going to channel this into expanding the sandbox to the high seas. Let’s go sailing.

Monday, March 23, 2015

City Squares II: Stocking Haven

Today we’ll fill Haven with contacts from each layer, information for those contacts to dole out to the players, and the encounters the information leads to. In addition mechanics will be discussed, specifically the City Turn and how it is played in the urbancrawl.

From the Alexandrian: “Unlike a dungeoncrawl, the goal of an urbancrawl doesn’t default to treasure hunting. It defaults to finding something interesting.” The idea is that the information is the treasure, and the contacts are npc versions of treasure chests. Agency here is created in multiple ways: whether to look for a contact, where to find them, how to convince them to part with information, and what to do with that information. This part is even more interesting since the players can decide act on the information immediately, usually leading to an encounter. Or they could sit on it, prioritizing other goals first. It’s even possible they may just take the information to a different contact and sell it. Anything goes.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Serial Saturdays II: Gone Wrong

The guards came back into the dining room. The one leading the others said, “There’s no sign of him, sir. He isn’t here. We did find vials of the toxin hidden in the mattress stuffing. There were nine of them.” He held up a sack and handed it to the officer. Glassware clinked inside. Then the guards stomped their way to the front door and into the rain. Muddy boot tracks stained the wood floor everywhere they had searched. The officer turned back to Tesha, “Ma’am, I understand this must be difficult for you. As such I won’t distribute a fine for destruction of government property. If it helps, here's a vial of proof." He placed  it in Tesha's palm and said, "There's a stockpile of these somewhere in the city I still need to find. Preferably before your husband absconds with it and leaves the city. Good day.” The words came calmly, but it was apparent to everyone from the throbbing vein in his temple that the officer was angry to not find his quarry. He left swiftly, slamming the door behind him. It didn’t quite close as the force of the officer’s swing bounced it back open. The wind blew it slightly ajar.

Haven, the City Square

The next session is getting a little close and it’s about time I flesh out the PCs impending destination, the city of Haven. This session will be when the transition from railroad to sandbox reaches the gaming table. With my fledgling sandbox full of squares promising adventure and intrigue, I can design Haven as the platform for launching hooks which lead to those squares. In the first post I said this blog is about taking theory and putting it into practice. Keeping that in mind I turn to the Alexandrian’s article’s on urbancrawls to design Haven proper.

There were lots of questions pondered in those articles, like what is the default action of urban crawling? Why are the PCs crawling? How is it resolved mechanically? My favorite takeaways from the articles were the following:

Filling in the Blanks

NB: Trying to keep campaign secrets from my players so some parts are whited out, highlight for spoilers.

Let’s get started. Once again the second rule of dungeon craft necessitates a secret for this major piece of the world. I’m assuming from here on out you’re familiar with the Fall from Heaven setting so I don’t have to retell the world’s history. Here’s the secret: Haven was built on top of the ruins of an ancient Patrian city from the Age of Magic. This city belonged to the archmage Leucetios, a master of life magic and one of Kylorin’s original students. His work included great perversions of life magic, such as sewing the corpses of various animals together and then causing them to heal into a single creature. Most monstrous creatures inhabiting the world today, along with some humanoid races, were originally the experiments of Leucetios in collaboration with his fellow archmages Kezef (body magic) and Majen (creation magic).

Serial Saturdays I: A Good Day

Each Saturday I’ll be channeling my plot driven railroading urges into actual writing. It’s going to be set in the FfH setting, mostly involving characters of my own creation. Had some fun putting this together. I thought, hey, if this is set in D&D why not use chapter 4 to jumpstart things. For once I wanted to write about a guy who was a working schmuck, so I picked the guild artisan background, and chose his bonds, ideals, and flaws. I thought it’d be fun to write a Book of Job style character. This guy’s life is going to be shit on toast and things are about to get much worse. I’ll be using the Heroic Journey as a reference in building this character’s story. The first couple of installments will be his Call to Adventure: the transformation of his life from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Here’s goes nothing.

From Railroad to Sandbox

First on the agenda: the map. The campaign is set in the Fall from Heaven setting. There’s a computer game called Civ4 that simulates the rise and fall of civilizations on a world map. Then there’s a Fall from Heaven mod adapting that game for the setting. It seems like a no brainer to take a game of civ and use it as the campaign map. Even better, there’s a pre-mapped scenario using all 21 civs and is a pretty great set-up. No civ gets lost to an early barbarian rush, and this cuts a significant portion of building up the map.

It’s a really, really big map, 80 by 128 squares = 10,240 squares! The top down approach of filling every square with something is a ludicrous endeavor, and the bottom up approach much simpler. There’s an area of 5 coastal cities I’m calling the Southern Aegean Seas, where I’m running a Never Ending Story. The players each control a faction set in the same campaign world as the D&D game, and there will be opportunities for overlap. Each city belongs to a different nation. For the immediate future its where the campaign is going to focus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Introducing a World

Hi, folks! My current Monday night game is based on a much beloved dark fantasy setting, and for years I’ve thought about how to do it justice in a D&D campaign. I finally started it, and after several quests it’s been going well, though I feel like something was missing. It could be better, but I just didn’t know how. So I started reading online D&D blogs and stumbled across some truly genius articles about how the game is written and played. The first of those articles was about player agency at Hack & Slash. It was there I realized almost all of my games were railroads with elements of illusionism. I didn’t like that, and devoted my quest designing time to learning more. Soon I had found my way to the Alexandrian, and after immersing myself in those articles realized I didn't have to reinvent the wheel. There was already a better way. If I wanted a better game all I have to do is put that theory into practice. This blog is about my journey doing just that.

The next series of posts is going to be about restructuring my current campaign from a railroad to a sandbox, where player choice is more meaningful than ever. I’ll be starting with creating a hexcrawl and following the Alexandrian’s example. Take note though, hexcrawl here will be a bit of a misnomer since the map I’m using has squares. I guess that makes this a Square-crawl.

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