Monday, 24 July 2017

The Halls Untoward

Less than three weeks ago I dipped my toe into the collaborative waters of "Let's stock this dungeon together!"  I'm pleased to say that the response was immediate and enthusiastic.

This is the map I prepared (beware, the rooms have been renumbered since):

I opened a Google doc to the world, and thirty people picked rooms, described them and the stuff inside.  From their descriptions, I made 3D illustration of the place:

..and now you can get the contents in a 48-page, 6x9" book from Lulu. It's an at-cost offering.

Inside, it looks like this:

EDIT: It's also up on DriveThruRPG as a PWYW PDF.

As always, all this stuff is released under CC-BY-NC. Have fun!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Halls Untoward - WIP

For fun I've been doing a collaborative dungeon-stocking project, The Halls Untoward. I've been pleasantly surprised by the response. It's about half full at this point (the pink areas have been stocked).

If you'd like to participate, jump on over to the Google Document.

When it's done, I'll do a 3D dungeon illustration for it, give it a basic layout and release the whole thing for free under CC-BY-NC and as an at-cost softcover on Lulu.

Friday, 2 June 2017

A Turn Sequence Redux

Just over a year ago, I mentioned I was working on an RPG. As a reminder, here's my original design intent, and a follow-up piece about a turn sequence for combat.


I thought I was writing an RPG. What I was really doing was accumulating ideas into a bunch of separate documents that were masquerading as chapters, but were really more like a series of themed notebooks.

Like some kind of hoarder, I had been accumulating for years, and when it came time to try to put them together, I realized how much I'd been fooling myself. Each document was layers of incompatible mechanical ideas, stacked ten deep like geological strata. Aaugh! Bashing that into something playable was much more work than I was expecting.

Anyways, I'm pleased to say there's now a playable core, thanks to starting a play test campaign. Nothing forces you to make mechanical decisions like creating a character sheet to hand to your unsuspecting victims.

I'm now a year into that campaign.

Some of the ideas that originally motivated me to start this project in the first place are still waiting to come onto center stage, but the basic structure seems to be solid. It's getting easier and easier to incorporate each new piece without having to use duct tape, with so many other places in firm shape.

The next hurdle is slowly transforming this into something that other people can use. I haven't quite decided what process I want to use to do that, but my goal is to start getting bits of it out so that people can tell me what they think.

To that end, here's a few pages on getting hurt, how the turn sequence works, a few fighting mechanics, and some commentary on what I want fights to feel like.

EDIT: ..and since that's confusing on its own, here's some of the earlier parts.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Assassin and the Ranger

I was told this story as an earnest, cherished example of how awesome secrets between players can be in campaigns.

In a high-level AD&D campaign, there was a hapless ranger who was constantly getting killed and being resurrected at great expense. Mostly to himself, I believe--he was deeply in debt to an order of clerics, at a time when the other PCs were getting rich and building strongholds.

For some reason, this irritated another PC, an assassin. I'm not sure if it irritated the PC, or the player.

At any rate, the assassin player approached the GM, saying he wanted to assassinate the ranger. The ranger had no more money available, so this would be his final death.

The GM and assassin player had an impromptu, one-on-one session where the assassin described his plans for finding the ranger in town once the next adventure was over, and how he would go about trying to kill him when his guard was down.  The ranger was a creature of habit

The GM dug up the ranger's stats, and they duelled it out in a hypothetical street ambush - the assassin PC played by his player, and the GM played the ranger, with the GM throwing a few curveballs to try to understand the assassin's backup plans. The mock fight ends with the ranger dead. Satisfied with his plan, the assassin ends his private session.

Time passes. During the group's next session they return to town, at which time the ranger heads off to his usual haunts, exactly as the assassin predicted.

The GM suddenly declares to the ranger that he's under attack by a masked assailant! Using the strategies the assassin described during the rehearsal fight, the GM plays the assassin as an NPC.

The ranger is dumbfounded - who is this guy? Why is he attacking me? His questions are never answered: the fight goes as expected, and the ranger is dead. As far as the player can tell, a high-powered NPC came out of nowhere and killed his veteran PC, for no reason.

With no more cash to his name and too indebted to them already for the church to take pity, it's his final death.

* * *

Other than the fact that the ranger player doesn't know what happened to this day, that's all I know. Still, I have many questions.

Does this sound awesome or awful to you?

Do you think the ranger player had fun?

Does it matter if the ranger player knew it was potentially a competitive game between players?

Did the assassin player get an "extra turn"?

Is it okay that the ranger player still doesn't know what went down?

Is there a meaningful boundary between the game and the players' relationships?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Does it end with the Martoi?

Amusing session today, the party essentially ninja'd their way to the treasure, avoiding almost all of the opposition.

The party has been on an extended quest, defending their village from the ghostly reawakening of the Martoi. To this end, they've been visiting the six shrines of Tealwood to pick up magic weapons and curry spiritual favor, in the hopes that by mid-summer they'll be able to defeat the ghost-sorcerers.

This has been going well, but true to sandbox form their heads are starting to spin a little bit with all the threads and loose ends that are accumulating. I try to make adventure locations point to one another (via maps, spells that would be slightly better if only they had a such-and-such), and because it's a sandbox they keep encountering wrongs that could be righted, potential treasure spots they don't have time for, etc.

Mostly this is because they've stayed focused on their goal. The ticking clock is wonderfully focusing: the Martoi have put out word that all the villages of Tealwood are expected to bring 'their best' by mid-summer's day, to pay tribute and swear allegiance.

Last session, however, the party's neophyte wizard finally got her way: a trip to Ganer island where they had reason to believe she might learn something that would improve her control over fire magic.

She's been bumbling along, occasionally using it successfully, sometimes frying herself or her equipment. (She's burned through at least a full set of clothing, mundane equipment, and once torched a spellbook with three spells, before anybody could learn them.)

I used *Chains of Heaven* for the top of Ganer island, modifying it to put a Seree spell engine (like the one in Full-Dark Stone) in the sealed tower. (This is what has been calling to Zero.)

I spent a while last night and this morning mulling over the adventure, trying to imagine how Nacharta or Sigordine might react to the players' arrival but.. of course.. it didn't go anything like I had imagined it.

I started off by having a Nuss scout pull 'Agatha' aside as the spread-out party made their way up to the peak.

I'm trying to portray religion as a tapestry of paganistic half-truths, while the players seem to be coming from a standard fantasy pantheon mindset. They're dying to categorize the gods, figure out what they want, what they're each the god of, and so on.

The same bunch of players (different characters) visited a shrine of Deel in a gonzo one-shot version of *The Coming of Sorg*, so upon hearing that the Nuss serve "the daughter of Deel," they were hooked. The party was very candid in the resulting conversations, so the Nuss decided an audience with Sigordine was a-ok. The players were bursting with questions.

Sigordine is a dark glass construct, made from the remains of Deel when the gods destroyed the fortress. Being nearly invulnerable, she has very little to fear from the hedge wizards of the world, scavening bits of Seree magic, so I decided to play her as quite transparent and vulnerable. Maybe a bit of Mother's Day seeped into my consciousness, too.

It's funny how off-the-cuff decisions cascade. Why wouldn't an immortal construct made from the body of a dying god know about other divine powers? Well, maybe uh.. prayer is a mortal gift. Yeah! Long story short, before ten minutes were out the party had pledged to find a shrine of Deel and one day restore the bond between Sigordine and whatever scrap of Deel's power remained in the world.

With this established, the players returned their attention to the business of improving Zero's fire magic.

Waiting until nightfall, they surveyed the castle carefully. Between their stealth and a whole series of random encounter rolls coming up empty, they were able to get to the pink tower, crack it open, bond with the spell engine, and get out again with only a single hapless sentry to dispatch.

Now what?

At this point, a really interesting discussion erupted, which felt like the clash of two different gaming styles.  The players had reason to believe that a green wizard and her retinue were somewhere in the castle: there was obviously much more "adventure" to be had. On the other hand, this wizard wasn't in their way - they had what they wanted. Could they just.. sneak out of here and be on their way?

It's funny. I think a sort of loss aversion kicks in as they realize how much of my prep they're skipping. But this is actually pretty cool. The more tangible threats and opportunities they pass by, the more tangible the world feels. Owlshade, Gorm, Gadna Many-Arms, the gray thing they let out of the land of the dead, Emn and her brother at the shrine, the dead of Ragdar, the danger at Morton village, the Ricalu and Rilga who opened a way to the underworld.. Sigordine worried about Narcharta reopening the pit, could that happen? They know they're leaving all sorts of stuff behind, but it's all still there, and they can come back to it whenever they want to.

Some of the younger players paused just to make sure that if they defeated the Martoi the game wouldn't end, would it?

"No," I said, "it doesn't have to."

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Mermaids' Knot, 1PDC Edition

I couldn't pass up entering the one-page dungeon contest. Here's the Mermaids' Knot, one-page edition! Perfect length for reading on public transit on the way to a hasty gaming session.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Mermaids' Knot

Once upon a time, there was a peaceful mountain village. It was blessed with a holy pond, inhabited by a pair of mermaids. Sisters eternal, they loved nothing more than to help the villagers using their great wisdom.

"Obey us in all things, no matter how strange," they said. "What we will ask you to do may alarm you, but it is for your benefit, and your village will prosper." And so it did.

But if that were the end of the tale, you wouldn't be here.

In the spirit of a sandbox adventure location, what the adventurers will get up to depends entirely on them. The mermaid sisters have a great amount of magical knowledge, and could legitimately serve as mentors, patrons, or at least wise resources to player characters.

If, on the other hand, they believe the Wives of Spring that the priestesses and mermaids must be stopped--or if they fall victim to the snares they have put in place to feed their great projects--they will have a fight on their hands in an unusual situation.

Inserting the village of Magda in your own campaign setting can be done a few ways. One, you can just plop it somewhere and wait for PCs to stumble into it. People have a habit of disappearing around Magda, and someone may petition the PCs for aid.

If you want to raise the stakes a little, the Wives of Spring may have chosen to murder or abduct someone well known passing through the area, in the hopes of bringing down trouble for the priestesses.

Alternately, the wisdom of the priestesses may be know throughout the region. If the players are looking for an answer to something, to lift a curse (or to raise the dead), they may find leads that take them to Magda.


As always, many thanks to my patrons for supporting me. Because of your generosity, the text and the illustrations from this adventure are all available for use under CC-BY-NC for non-commercial uses.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

2G2BT Playtest

We squeezed a quick 2G2BT playtest after tonight's session of Blades, and it was fun, weird, and very informative.

There was only an hour or so to knock it out, but the group had all read the rules beforehand and had a good idea of what playbooks they wanted, so setup was lightning quick.

They named their new mercenary company the Hammer of the Gods, and since nobody picked up the Commander playbook, they wound up with a Favored but Vengeful NPC commander, 'Thor'.  His connections with the Darnan Republic (their first deployment) meant he could pull strings when the company is in trouble, but tends to pursue revenge side objectives.

The whole crew chose Dendrite-native sim-babies as heritages (pilots whose experience is primary in simulations), and decided to be triplets. They had a Lieutenant (Mike), a Rigger (Tim) and a weirdo Prodigy (Stephen), but with a Veteran (Sean) as their connection to actual battlefield experience.

Holy crap did I put a lot of shit in this game. It's a weird experience when writing outpaces the play by so far.  Playbooks means the players can actually take a lot of responsibility for bringing it in, which is fantastic, but the surprises kept coming.

Stephen: Okay, turns out I did my stats wrong. The Prodigy's stats are randomly assigned during play, as I use them.
Me: Wtf?! I wrote that?
Mike: I love that!

Things like that kept happening. It was pretty delightful, actually.

We chose to play the branching campaign, the Darnan Offensive.  The players didn't like the sound of being shot to pieces by Exo in City 31, so they chose mission 'B', "Last Train from RHF".

Stimulus Overload
Normally I'm pretty good at providing a sense of place with lots of ad libbed details, but I was a little overwhelmed by first playtest syndrome to be my creative best while getting my head around an unfamiliar set of basic moves - the net effect was that the scenario was a little too simple.

Part of that was just the nature of the time we had. The players had rolled a starting "SNAFU" of 2, which gave me plenty of opportunity to bring in enemy reinforcements or other fuckery, but I chose not to for time.  As a result, the mission was basically a one-location mission, which is too simple for an abstract, theatre-of-the-mind battlefield.

Despite that, the mechanics worked basically as expected. (That's not too surprising, as the basic core is pretty familiar from our games of The Regiment.)

Turns out that four York 6A tanks are a speed bump against TL IV mechs. :)

Some lessons and likely changes.

Downtime Procedure
The crew managed to roll a Dropship For Sale as their post-mission opportunity, which immediately kicked off a frenzied shell game of trying to figure out what they could sell in order to make it work. They had a fat-bellied Regent dropship as their starting gear, but they cashed it all in for a zeroed-out Troll, which has enough capacity that they won't have to depend on Republic VTOLs.

This was pretty fun - watching the players toss everything aside to try to take up a rare opportunity was golden, and very much in-genre.

On the other hand, I'm wary of shell games, as they can lead to a lot of fiddling and possibly analysis paralysis. I think a much clearer downtime procedure would be helpful, something like:

  1. Make the opportunity roll to see what's up
  2. Apply theater employment terms, in order
  3. Repair should come before purchase - there's no time to broker a deal for a new dropship, obtain it and use the base techs to patch it up before next mission. The suspense is probably more fun that way.
  4. Rearming should probably be last, because you might have changed mechs.

Technology Level Set
One of the problems that both magic and sci-fi technology suffer from in rules light systems is that there are no real-world expectations to calibrate against. I know roughly what a guy with a sword can accomplish, not so someone with 'shadow magic'. Do mech optics see heat signatures through buildings? Can an Iguana's railgun shoot straight through the skeleton of a nuked office tower? How big are mechs, anyways?

Not enough ways to spend SNAFU
I'm not 100% sure about this one, since there was only the one engagement, but the Veteran was complaining that there wasn't really a great way for him to apply his special xp move, burning two SNAFU on a roll.

Maybe this isn't necessary when we're doing something other than toy missions: in a two- or three-encounter mission, there are at least four SNAFU opportunities (five if there's a briefing roll too).

Briefing Tables
Since RPGs are very low bandwidth, one of the challenging situations is when players stumble on a huge vista - you now have to convey quite a lot of information all at once. One idea that seems very promising is a set of briefing tables, to do a few useful things:

  • Give another opportunity to spend SNAFU - cash one in to get a really shite briefing
  • Give the GM and players some shared opportunity to add texture to the battlefield. Okay, we know there's AA, or we don't, but know we're all at least thinking about AA as something to consider when deciding where we're
  • Give a few named places on the battlefield - a candidate LZ, an easy to reach spot, a tactically useful spot, a likely location for enemy reinforcements, a place with lots of cover, etc.

I think it's useful to bring the time complication up to the 7-9 option.

What makes way more sense than an NPC commander is an NPC patron for the deployment theater. I think that would provide a much more economical way to expose players to the fuckery of the Darnan Republic, and keeps the NPC commander from being an intermediary that shields players from that.

I think pilots should wear out. Getting hurt should be scarier.  Health shouldn't feel like hit points that recover easily after each mission, but jarring concussions that stop you sleeping and eventually give you really bad stuff like Parkinson's.

Complicated weapon is complicated
The Hellhound's 2x 1d Twin 15mm AC is unnecessarily fiddly. Just making it 2d is fine.

Armor and Criticals
The rules as written don't quite work - you roll dice all at once, not one at a time, so there needs to be a clearer procedure on how you determine whether your 1-armor blocks the D or C damage. One idea thrown out was that 1-armor might actually convert C to D. That does mean that under some circumstances armor doesn't do anything (when all your D boxes are ticked, converting C to D doesn't help). Not sure if the complexity pays for itself over just letting players choose which hit to absorb.

Somehow at the table we misinterpreted 'disabled' (the new dropship purchase) as just having the last damage box ticked.. but of course it means the whole damage track is ticked.

I miss the 'turn sequence is clockwise but there's a rule for interrupting' from my fantasy heartbreaker. I think that's extremely functional for sharing out spotlight. Not sure how to squeeze that in, as the economies are totally different.

Mech Escalation
I'm thinking the starting mechs might be a little too versatile, and might have too much potential. Tim rolled well on his chargen roll, and got a Weiler to start with.

I don't have a vast tech readout of mechs to choose from, but it feels to me that the starting mechs should be:

  1. Useful but fairly simple
  2. Have a few upgrade options, but nothing so exciting that it's the mech you want to end the game with
  3. Have critical options that aren't awesome. A few bad hits and you're looking at pilot-lethal damage, so you start to really want to upgrade, swap out for a backup mech (even exo), or pray for an overhaul opportunity
  4. Leave you lots of room to drool when you see something better on the battlefield
On the other hand, it's early days. It could be that upgrade opportunities are rare enough that it's not a problem.

Anyways.. it was a lot of fun, and it feels like a promising start.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

2GTBT 0.10 - Mecha RPG

For a few weeks now, I've been noodling on a mecha RPG, a mash-up of The Regiment and Battletech. It's just reached first alpha draft stage, version 0.10.
I absolutely adore the Battletech 3025 tech readout, it's one of the most evocative gaming supplements I own. I wanted to capture that high-tech-but-rusting, zero sum feeling, where players are mercenaries using battlefield technology that can no longer be manufactured.

Design-wise, the main inspirations is John Harper's WWII RPG, The Regiment. I love the theatre-of-the-mind approach to combat, the absence of a turn order, and the squad-level resolution rules that make combat move along so briskly.
Like other Powered by the Apocalypse games, the characters are pre-made archetypes with a bit of wiggle room to make them individual.

It's meant to be fast enough to play as written for one-shots, but there's advancement for both the individual pilots and the company.

It hasn't been playtested, so there are probably all sorts of potholes to fall into.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Yesterday I smelled guava for the first time. I passed them in the grocery store and they grabbed me.. it was like heaven, if heaven was an enticing mix of citrus and apple. And heaven.

They were so strong! I caught a whiff of them three fruits over, past the not-quite-the-right-variety apples and some tangerines packed with their stems and leaves for no discernable reason. Cleaning product intensity. I had no idea what I was smelling, but I found them with my nose. Snuffle snuffle snuffle.

I bought five.

I knew there was going to be a let-down. How could something that smelled that awesome not be on every breakfast table in Canada at all times if there wasn't some weird deficiency? But for that glorious moment it was just me, the scent of guava, and my phone as I furiously thumbed at Google so I'd know whether to buy the squash yellow ones or the lime green ones. (Buy the yellow ones.)

I now have four guava. They couldn't possibly live up to that smell, so I was ready for it. I was ready for the pasty white interior, somewhere between overripe pear and banana. I was ready for a rather ordinary flavor.. a bit too close to apple. Truth be told, I wasn't quite ready for the seeds being as hard as glass, but at least I was psychologically prepared for disappointment.

Still, my kitchen smells amazing.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Delightfully Cinematic Ending

Delightfully cinematic ending to our "Lords of Memory" session today.

Due to schedules, it's been almost two months since we got together, and in that time my half-scribbled session prep for the Shrine of Ranian they were headed for had expanded into the Moon is a Mirror adventure.

I reskinned the dogfolk as goat men, since in this campaign the shrine is on the slopes of Mount Wint, but otherwise wrote it as written.

From the start, I thought we were headed for a misfire. "Moon" has specific rooms, but their arrangement within the palace is determined as players explore. Literally the first two random rooms they rolled were the stairs up to level 2, then the room with stairs up to the dome.  Woops!

But it didn't work out that way, since the second set of stairs are hidden behind a secret door, so they explored about half of the second floor.

One thing that I really liked was the way the players learned so much about the adventure ahead - they had cleverly allied themselves with the goatfolk before getting anywhere near the shrine, for one thing.

That taught them to be wary of the sage (who is actually an evil moon reflection of the real sage), but it also added a neat twist. The goatfolk were desperate for help (the moon baby's enchantments compel them to guard it and fill it with traps), and begged the PCs not to kill their friends.

This meant that encounters with the goatfolk inside the shrine, normally a sort of low-powered fight with guard monsters, had a completely different function, with the players trying to scare them and drive them off rather than fighting tooth and nail.

The moon baby's second tier of guards are the "brass soldiers", which are incredibly dangerous. They're super slow, but as strong as forklifts, so getting in close quarters with them means certain strangulation.

My son's PC triggered the encounter with the moon baby by leaping into the arms of a patrolling brass soldier (he's super impulsive). Wisely, I had written that patrolling brass soldiers only want to drag their captives up to the moon baby, rather than fighting to kill, otherwise it would have been lights out immediately.

Everyone piles after Farrin and his the brass soldier carrying him, which reveals the hidden way up to the dome.

The moon baby's goal is to find wizards and turn them into reflections just like itself, to increase its magical power. Farrin is up for anything, so by the time the rest of the party ascends to the dome, he's agreed to 'see a vision' (which lets the moon baby check him out for magical powers).

He doesn't have any, other than his spiritual sensitivity ('Commune' skill), so she lets him go, turning her sights on 'Zero', who is lighting the party's way with a flaming hand.

It's at this point I should mention that I had forgotten to think of a way to kill the moon baby. It's immune to weapons (which turn to rainwater when they strike it), and even magical attacks are iffy. It has twelve brass soldiers, and it's careful to stay encircled by them. This could easily have turned into a TPK.

Here's where the party's intel made a huge difference. They knew it was an imposter from talking to the tithing troll, and they knew to look out for a brass bracelet. So when it insisted on giving Zero 'a vision', they sprang into action. Opera grabs the bracelet, Garbageo tries to shove it into the pool, and Zero invokes her flame magic.

Those were the good moves - the party also managed to waste an arrow, a thrown knife and a favorite sword (all turned to rainwater), but after the first round they had a decisive advantage.

Zero aces her spellcasting roll and the resulting incandescent heat blast is enough to crack the hearts of the two nearest soldiers.

The attempt to pitch the moon baby into the pool doesn't go as well, and Opera gets cut up by her "opposite knife" as a bunch of them all grapple at the edge.

At this point, Ferrin pulls out the gray knife and announces he's cutting the relection of the moon. This is one of those amazing player plans that caught me totally off guard, and it took me a full minute to figure out what this would even do.

The moon pool is a reflection of the moon that the sage used for scrying; seeing her own reflection (never do that!) is what allowed the moon baby passage to earth. The grey knife, on the other hand, is an artifact used to cut the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead.

So I decided it would open a portal to the moon!

So, just like the penultimate scene in Aliens at the airlock door, all the air in the place suddenly starts blasting into the well, which is suddenly a pit into an airless void.

In goes scrolls, loose scraps, all the Sage's tools. The party all makes their saves and Opera uses the bracelet to have the soldiers grab onto the party's clothes, holding them in place.

For a few moments, the moon baby and Opera struggle for the bracelet.. and the moon baby gets it. At that instant, Berlin, who has tied a rope about his waist (the other end tied to a soldier), full-on tackles the moon baby and pitches them both into the howling pit.  He gets a mighty jolt about the middle, and the moon baby spirals down into darkness.

At this point, another hilariously emergent effect takes hold: the soldiers always move to be near the wearer of the bracelet. So, one by one the soldiers step up and toss themselves into the pit.. including the one Berlin has used as his anchor.

'Agatha' cuts that in time, and the party hauls Berlin up. With the moon baby back on the moon, the portal closes with an ear-popping crunch.  The party looks into the pool (now bone dry), where they see the comatose body of the real Sage of Lune.

They actually cheered!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Moon is a Mirror

Toward the end of his life, King Raeldus built an enormous palace of spiritual marvels. Fearful of punishment in the afterlife, he hoped to win favor with the unseen world.

To this end, he stocked his palace with altars to every cult and religion he could find. Through donations, command, and threats, he saw that every one of them was maintained by representatives of the religion. In some cases, whole splinter sects were transplanted to the palace.

Foolish of that sort never lasts long, and a century later the palace was home only to ghosts, animals and the occasional bandit. That is, until the Sage of Lune arrived.

A fittingly remote place to carry out her work, for years the Sage used her mystical lenses to scry out omens and prophecies by gazing at the surface of the moon. She called it a mirror, a reflection of our earthly existence, and said that the mirror image of every person.

Those willing to make the long trek to the palace, and the harrowing trek through the palace itself, could be sure of a wise insight as a reward for their efforts.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Isometric Dungeon #5 - Cavern Waterfall

Here's a fifth video in my isometric dungeon drawing series, a cavern waterfall.

This time it's a cavern waterfall. I don't say much, although I had fun with the audio regardless. Happy to take requests - what has stumped or intimidated you in the past?

Monday, 20 February 2017

Trilemma Adventures Known World Map

As those of you following along may have discerned, there's a nominal campaign setting where I situate my adventures.

I will eventually detail the cultures and history of the place, although even once I've done that, I expect that most people will take the adventures and either use them as one-shots, or reskin them and put them into their own campaign setting.

To that end I'll provide a glossary of terms that will need adapting or hooking into your own campaign setting. The Seree are a magocratic precursor civilization; the Martoi a bunch of half-undead fey, and so on.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Curves in Isometric Mapping

A recent post in a G+ map-making community highlighted how difficult it is to draw curved objects in isometric maps.

Here's a typical, challenging object: a curved chute that drops from a trap door into a lower level.

This is a worthy attempt at a complicated shape, but as you can see it doesn't look quite right; it looks a bit twisted, like licorice.

The main problems seem to be two-fold:

1. How the $#*@! do you draw a nice curve?

2. How do you take that curved surface and extude it into a three-dimensional shape?

Drawing Isometric Circles

I've taken a stab at this before, but I've found a couple of ways that are a lot easier.  Here's the basic structure, taken from this excellent blog post by Douglas Flynt:
That blog post spends a lot of time on subdividing the original square, but on isometric graph paper it's a lot easier. I'm drawing the outer curve of the chute, which has a radius of five squares:

Next step is to draw the inner curve, which has a radius of four squares:

Erasing my construction lines, I'm left with this shape:

Extruding the Shape

Now I need to extrude this into a three-dimensional form. The trick to doing this is to draw exactly the same curves one square over:

With a bit of practice you can manage this freehand, until then, you may need to set up the curve-drawing framework you used for the original lines.

Once you've got this, follow the northwest-southeast axis to "tie" the two sets of curves together. In the lower left, you're drawing a tangent across the two sets of curves:

Then, trace the lines that will be visible to get the outline of the final form:

It's still a little bit wonky; as always I recommend doing all your construction work in pencil (or better yet, with blue pencil/marker so you can pull it out with Photoshop), so you have lots of tries at the freehand curves.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Project Coma v0.2

Here's a slightly revised and updated Project Coma. There are some tweaks to the moves, a few formatting minor changes, but the main addition is the GM's pages which has suggested effects as static climbs, GM moves, and guidance for choosing the NPC's simultaneous counter-mission.

I have a chunk of this written up as a gaming text (as opposed to just a bunch of reference sheets) but holy crap is there ever a difference between some skeletal mechanics and a document that explains itself. I'm pretty sure the latter isn't worth tackling until the game is quite far along, it's an entirely separate task from just presenting mechanics.

This is all as free from playtesting as a field of fresh-fallen snow. I have the feeling I'm going to need to rip the basic procedures apart to cover a bunch of ordinary espionage situations a bit more economically.

Having said that, I'm super interested which of the playbooks (if any) grab you, and which look like duds.

I'm also interested whether you feel that there's enough structure here that you could comfortably run this, or whether you look at it all and wonder how the heck you'd get started.  (I'm aware that the sample missions just trail off in incompleteness.)


In unrelated news, Dropbox is ditching its public hosting, which kinda blows, so at some point I'm going to have to shuffle a zillion files and links to another location. Yay!

Veil of the Once-Queen

Deep in the forest is the citadel of Tanibel, once the capital of Martoi. Although their time has passed, they have found a way to cling to the world by straddling the veil between life and death.

In my home campaign, the three Lords of Tanibel have ridden out and poisoned entire watersheds with the black draught, leading to the terrible undoing of society hinted at in the Unmended Way.

Even if you don't go quite so apocalyptic and campaign-defining, Tanibel is still easy to slot into any forested region of your campaign world. Treat the Martoi like a fey court with a particular obsession with treachery.

The gray proctors are probably my favorite part of this one, if players haven't figured out what's going on with the veil by the time they get to the gates, I think there's potential for a truly horrible realization.