Saturday, 2 December 2017

Rift City session 4

Well, we're still at it - Rift City has now been running for 4 months... which means 4 open tables and so far nine (I think) different players... apart from me only one player has been to all the sessions.

The party (a strangely flexible beast it is, a bit like Grandfather's Axe) is still exploring the upper caverns, but I feel there is a certain lure of some of the deeper, darker passageways, where things are likely to get much stranger...

I feel I need to re-read stuff about running open tables and sandboxes. I've never quite done things like this before and I need to check I'm doing it right. I've been reading 'The Alexandrian' for hints and tips - particularly the stuff on open tables.

The last session was again packed with incident - including the irrevocable death off "Fisheye" Len. Poor Len, he suffered in his short life. He was eventually killed by a falling ceiling-block. I have a houserule called 'Elementary Staunching' that says if your companions can do some battlefield first aid you have a chance of surviving even at 0hp. But, Len was unlucky and missed his CON roll. Farewell Len, we hardly knew ye.

Other notable items of incident - fighting Kobolds! Quite a lot of them, two rooms of the pesky little blighters. The first room was mostly taken out with the judicious use of a 'Sleep' spell from Polly the Magic-User, and many Kobold throats were slit. The second room I don't remember, though as the party had 2 Elves as well as the MU it may be that they hit that with 'Sleep' too.

They explored a few more rooms: they collected as much treasure as they could including a set of Kobold swords that I allowed them to sell back at Rift City, probably for more than they were really worth. We'll have to see what happens next session (only a few days now) when a new constellation of adventurers decides to brave the Rift...


Saturday, 21 October 2017

Rift City session 3

Bandits!

Cave Locusts!

A Killer Bee (that the party decided not to kill)!

Some Ghouls (that really wanted to eat the party)!

A flashing light trap!

And even, shock horror, some actual treasure - about 60GPs stashed under a pile of rocks in the cave.

A much depleted party was joined by 'Fisheye' Len the Thief for some cave-raiding action: along with Len went Sven the Dwarf, Frost the Fighter and Gwynthor the Cleric. They managed to avoid losing anyone but the fight with the Ghouls (2 of them) was the hardest part - things looked bleak as Len was paralysed and the second Ghoul attacked Sven, but Plate Mail saved the day and the tide turned.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves ... my impression of the distant noise of a Killer Bee certainly caused some amusement. No, it wasn't beatboxing or even playing a didgeridoo, thanks peeps, just bumbling about looking for pollen. What was it doing in a cave? Perhaps this post might have some of the answers...

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Rift City session 2

Second session of the Rift City open table was a couple of weeks ago (I've been really busy so haven't done a write-up until now).

The party managed to expand itself for this session, Gibbet the Thief, Gwynthor the Cleric, and Polly Pepperoni the Magic User being joined at this session by two Dwarves (Sven and Redvers), an Elf (Shazam), a Halfling (Ays), and a Fighter (Frost).

They actually managed to find some Dungeons (or at least caves)! They explored a bit (with torches, lanterns and infravsion, and Gibbet checked for some traps)! They killed some Wolves (with Sven trying to catch and subdue them, and Redvers trying to murder them all)! They killed, drove off and Slept some Goblins! Then they decided to bugger off out of the dungeon and go back to Rift City*

And some of them are even planning on coming back next time!**

*If I run an open table I need a way of easily integrating new party members. My way of doing this is to tell the players straight, 'it's better if you get back to town at the end of the session'. This way the next party can start out with whoever is available. So far they have done this - it's been easy, they only explored about 6 caves and some tunnels in this session, so they were still close to an exit. It will get harder as it goes on and they're further into the dungeon I guess.

**Not reported on here: not having prepped this part of the dungeon properly, resulting in me hurriedly flipping through pages of rules and printouts for some goblins I could use and getting the number appearing wrong; mistaking rooms 61 and 81 on my tiny map, resulting in reading a far less interesting room description; fudging the timekeeping resulting in a suspicious lack of wandering monsters; mistaking the room where the wolves were for the previous room the PCs had been to, resulting in a less interesting combat (because the pace wasn't as interesting)... generally not having my shit together is what I'm getting at here. I need to be more on the ball. I promise I'll be better next time...

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Character creation and player agency

I'm trying to find ways of making character creation faster in B/X-BECMI (I list both because as a kid I used a hybrid, Moldvay Basic with Mentzer Expert, having come to D&D just before the change of edition).

What I don't want to do is take away any player agency from the process. But choices take time. Do I want to be fighty or sneaky or spell-castery, and anyway why can't I be an Elf and a Paladin as well? What do you mean Elves can't have classes? What, there's no Paladins anyway? OK, an Elf then. Shall I buy leather armour, or can I afford chainmail? Does that mean I can't afford a lantern? Shall I get a 10' pole? What are my spells? What languages should I speak? And so on.

Players in some ways get agency in the 'wrong' places. We don't as real humans in meat-space chose how we are born and brought up. Character creation from stats up is not like 'growing up'. Something closer to 'reality' would be if players were given character sheets with Race (and sex and handedness if anyone cares) already filled in, 2d6 for all stats marked in the boxes (2d6 actually rolled, in order, rather than just saying '7' for each or whatever) and starting gold already calculated.

The stats could represent (in a somewhat schematic way) the interaction between genetic determinism (OK for the first round of rolls you were STR 2 INT 2 WIS 4 DEX 3 CON 2 CHA 6, that's your basic 'this is what I got from the genes' result when you're born), and the environmental determinism of your background (STR +1 INT +3 WIS +5 DEX +2 CON +1 and CHA+3 means that your upbringing emphasised empathy and perception over brute force; you also had a bit of cleverness and persuasion in there).

The player could then roll 6d6, and chose which roll goes with which stat. Currently they're on STR 3 (max 9) INT 5 (max 11) WIS 9 (max 15) DEX 5 (max 11) CON 3 (max 9) and CHA 9 (max 15). They're never going to make a Fighter and they're going to be a mediocre Magic User or Thief this way, but they might make a decent Cleric.

So you roll 1, 4, 2, 2, 4, 3 (16 in total)

This last round of rolls would represent the choices you made when you were growing up - what you prioritised which might be the same or different to the way your parents pushed you (maybe you don't want to be a Priest after all and you put a 4 on INT because you really want to be a mediocre Mage).

These are genuine rolls. They're also terrible. Average of 18d6 is 63 - this is the number that is the centre of the bell-shaped curve for the total of all stats. This character actually has a stat total of 50. They've had a really unfortunate life to this point I would say. Their genetics gave them 19 (average at each stage is 21), their environment gave them 16 and their choices gave them 15, so at each stage they're below average.

The 'best' stat-ed character I can get from that is a STR 4 (-2 hit/dam) INT 7 (has trouble reading/writing) WIS 13 (+1 magic-based saving throws) DEX 9 (-) CON 6 (-1 HP) CHA 11 (-/5/7) Cleric with 110GP and 3 (4 rolled, -1 CON) Hit Points. Or maybe you could get the players to roll 6d6 and total those points, then get them to assign them how they wanted - either saying 'max 6 points assigned to any stat', or maybe saying 'assign points up to 18 in any field' with perhaps 'at least 1 point per stat' or maybe 'at least 3 stats must receive points' or something. This could represent the idea of rejecting the priesthood and wanting to be a mage and putting almost everything into it - in which case you could get something like

STR 4 INT 15 WIS 10 DEX 6 CON 4 CHA 10 (on the basis that each stat must have 1 point assigned and the any remaining points can be assigned to a single stat, up to 18)

- which could indeed represent someone from an (underprivileged) background who's being pushed to the priesthood rejecting it and dedicating all of their (not earth-shattering) talents to becoming a Magic User. Incidentally swap INT and DEX (both were 5 after stage 2) and change the narrative to 'joined a criminal gang' and you have a thief. Not a very tough one but adequately sneaky.

Anyway; this doesn't really help speed things up, because any kind of point-buy is going to be longer than just determining numbers with dice. Choices take time as I said earlier. But if you want a longer creation-system that gives some idea of the interplay of inheritance in terms of genetic background, environmental influences on development, and agency related to 'teenage choices (insert equivalents for Elves, Dwarves and Halflings)', then splitting the rolls and recording them separately might be a good way to go.

In the mean time, with the system as is, players get to assign agency to aspects of character creation that they don't have in reality, but then again, this is just a game and forcing players to play characters if they don't have some control over the creation process can result in players playing characters that they really don't want. That, I would think, would somewhat impact on the fun.

So is there a way to make all this quicker? Perhaps pre-gens would be useful: not necessarily 'here's your character with name, eye colour, sex, armour, weapons and favourite pudding filled in' but more like 'you want to play a Cleric? Here's a sheet for a Cleric with stats, HP and the 1st-level Clerical abilities already filled in'. More work for the DM but who counts prep-time anyway? It's playing time that's important. Anyway, DMs have little else to do but mess around rolling dice (or writing blog-posts about rolling dice).

So in short for the stats side of things I'm not sure there's a way of shortening the process without cutting down player agency, which even if it's not particularly realistic is probably best avoided.

Is it any easier for equipment, spells and languages though? Let's say we somehow have a Magic User with an Intelligence of 18 (perhaps she assigned everything she could to INT and put two other stats up by 1 each); she speaks 3 extra languages, has one Lvl 1 spell slot, and needs to buy equipment (she has 110GP). That's a lot of choices to be made.

The language table in B/X can be randomised. Roll a d20 and look at the table (then do it twice more for your 3 languages). Is that quicker than just picking one (or three)? Not sure. Does it take away agency? Yeah, maybe. What about saying 'if a MU knows one extra language, it's always Elvish, if they know a second, it's always Dragon'? Does that make things faster? Sure, but it looks like it's taking away agency.

But what is agency anyway in this instance? Agency depends on informed choice. Picking options if you don't have an idea of consequence isn't actually agency. How do the players know what languages will be important? If the DM knows half of all scrolls are written in Elvish, a quarter are written in Draconic and the rest are split between all the other languages randomly, then maybe it makes sense for a Magic User to learn Elvish, Dragon and another tongue, in that order. On the other hand, maybe they pick Goblin and Orc (handy to talk to the foes after all) and Gargoyle (on a whim/long shot) but find out that the first dungeon they go to is overrun with Kobolds enslaved by Gnolls led by a Doppelganger.

It's the same thing with equipment. Will our Magic User need Wolfsbane, Garlic and a Silver Dagger? Depends on how many Undead and Lycanthropes they're going to meet. But they don't know that when they start, so where is the agency? They haven't scouted out the terrain and found out if there are werewolves and vampires in the area, they're just picking blind. Does she need a mirror? The player doesn't know if Medusae and Basilisks are going to feature. A 10' Pole? How can the player tell?

Is it of any benefit it the player to second-guess the DM like this? It seems to me that this is merely the illusion of agency. "Haha!" thinks the player, "I have bought Wolfsbane, Garlic, a Silver Dagger and a Mirror, I'm been very crafty here and I am going to be fine whatever the DM does!" but spends the next 10 sessions plundering Gryphons and Minotaurs and Harpies but unable to carry all the loot home because they didn't buy enough Large Sacks.

I don't know what the answer is. I'm going to experiment with a variety of 'adventuring packs' that contain some useful tools. But I might just be reproducing the complexity at a different level of granularity. "Good news! You don't have to make 10 random choices from 50 possibilities, now you just have to pick one random possibility out of five! What's that? The detail? Let's unpack those five possibilities... gosh, it would have just been easier to get you to make your own pack wouldn't it?"

Last weekend in my new Rift City campaign, the players talked a lot about rope. "But the DM knows rope comes in 50' lengths, I bet he's put a 60' drop in somewhere, we should get 100'." One of them actually said this right in front of me. All I'm going to say here is that a 60' descent would probably take them to level 4. I don't need the fall to kill them in that case, just being on Level 4 would be enough. They're 1st Level for Monkey's sake, most inhabitants of Level 4 would have them as a midmorning snack then go looking for some real food.

To be honest, I can't really see why they need more than 15' of rope at the moment, probably the worst that might happen is one of them falls 10' into a pit (if they're not probing with the 10' Pole they might not have).

Maybe the way to do it is to split equipment into 'recommended' and 'optional' lists. So food, light and carrying capacity feature heavily, Wolfsbane and Mirrors and whatnot are nice to have but not as important as say a lantern and oil, some rations and a backpack. But how to do this without blowing the surprise? If I tell them that they don't need Wolfsbane, that pretty clearly says there's no werewolves. If there are werewolves, I'm a big fat liar, because they do need wolfsbane (or at least, it's bloody useful). So there'd better not be any werewolves. But why would I want to tell them there's no werewolves? Anyway, I want there to be werewolves, so I should recommend wolfsbane, Now I've pretty much told them there are werewolves, because if I get them to spend money on wolfsbane but there aren't werewolves, I'm just being an asshat.

I don't know, I'm doing a lot of thinking out loud here but not getting very far with the notion of making character creation easier while still maintaining agency (or increasing it! Meaningless choices are not agency!).

Rumours. Maybe they're the way to go. Give the players their rumours before they buy their equipment or make choices about optional abilities. They've heard there are werewolves in the northern forests. If they wanna go to the northern forests, it makes sense to get wolfsbane. If they're planning on going to the southern plains, they might not want to bother. They know there are lots of undead in the Dungeon of Doom, so maybe 'Sleep' isn't the best choice of spell after all if they're planning on heading there. They know that the Wizard Krufelfnuffer was a prolific maker of scrolls and fond of writing in Draconic, so they chose that language, rather than Gargoyle or Bugbear.

Maybe I just need to combine all of this. If I can come up with a 'Dungeoneer's Pack' (lantern, flasks of oil, rope, iron spikes, hammer, 10' pole) for those on spelunking missions and a 'Monster-hunter's Pack' (Wolfsbane, Garlic, Mirror, Silver Dagger - Clerics get a Holy Symbol and a 5GP donation to the Temple instead - and Holy Water) and a few others based on what sort of missions they think they might go for, that might help I suppose. Knowing in advance what common monsters might be will also help ("Orcs? I heard of 'em, over Thrarp way, but we ain't never not seen none round 'ere, no we never bain't have done, it all be Skellingtons and Zombees round here... yup, you heard, giant undead bees."). Some legends about history will also be useful (such as stories of the Monks of Gargoyle Mountain or the Lizard-Wizard of Wonky Swamp or Kronge the Infernal Trapmaster) to help give an idea of the hazards and opportunities they could meet... and this is before they even pick spells or languages. I'm reminded of a post from 3 years ago now (have I really been doing this that long?) where I try to make sense of how to pattern information in campaigns: it's obviously important to me how players know things but again it doesn't help speed things up.

I dunno, maybe I'm overcomplicating things. Perhaps I should just put up with it all. Character creation is long because that's the best way to give players a sense of ownership and that's about it. So what if they speak Gargoyle and never meet any Gargoyles? That means they have an unusual skill - that's a feature, not a bug, in role-playing terms. Not everything should be optimised or even immediately 'useful' to a character.

I'll stop this here, I'm not sure it's helping me at all to make things simpler...

Monday, 14 August 2017

A new campaign and a new (sort-of-)Megadungeon and a new group and...

Some friends and I have been discussing getting a group together and running it in public. Somewhere not-at-each-others'-houses. Somewhere where we can be seen and interacted-with. Somewhere where we can be joined, even by people we don't know.

So I proposed running an open table, once a month, running Moldvay basic (with just a couple of tweaks) to see how it goes. We're calling it 'The Wandering Monster Table'.

The first session, at a pub in my city called The Criterion (link to the Criterion's Facebook page here and the group's Facebook page here) was last night. Not much duneoneering went on (none actually) but the party (a Magic-User called Polly, a Thief called Gibbet and a Cleric called Gwynthor) tried to climb the front of a building, got involved in a street-fight resulting in the sudden, unexpected and temporary death of one of them (I'm looking at you Gwynthor), stole from each other (I'm looking at you Gibbet), befriended a Dwarf, an Elf and a Fighter and convinced them to come dungeoneering at the next session, found a pine-tree, considered buying some herbs from a wizardy-looking chap looking somewhat dazed, and wondered a bit about religion. Louise and Matt (Polly and Gibbet respectively) also ate pizza, while Mike (Gwynthor) and I drank beer. Hmm, 'beer iss goood' as Seggulf the Dwarf has already said at least once in a Rainier Wolfcastle voice.

The idea of the dungeon was at least explored - a chasm or canyon of unknown depth and prodigious length called 'The Rift', looking a bit like this but bigger and badder and madder, and stuffed full of caves:

East African Rift Valley - photo snaffled from here - http://www.zoharafricansafaris.com/the-great-rift-valley/
... and beside it, an adventurers' paradise called 'Rift City', full of booze, harlots, cut-throats, ruffians, preachers, undertakers and murder-hobos, that looks something like this:. 
Unfortunately I can't remember where I snaffled this from but it's a very fine picture, I hope whoever did it is very happy with their work.

It was fun and not too taxing, and starting with a small group has helped me with lessons for later sessions - for instance, despite trying to slim down character creation, it's still too long. I need to cut the process as much as possible, because it's going to eat into gaming time.

Printing off the intro will help too. It exists as a document on the group's FB page, and now here for you:

The Rift

The Rift is a vast canyon high in the Mountains of Abomination.
Priests argue about whether it was caused by an angry God smiting the World from the Heavens, or by a vile Power of Darkness digging its way out from a Subterranean Prison.
Sages argue about whether it’s the consequence of an eon-old Mage War, or the perfectly natural result of the Planet tearing itself to pieces.
The Elves, with their uniquely-long take on life and existence and linguistic tenses, say that it is the Earth in the process of becoming That which it shall Always have Been.
The Dwarves say it’s a Big Hole full of Monsters.
The Halflings say What’s for Dinner?

Rift City

Standing hard by the Rift is Rift City, a wretched hive of scum and villainy that is a temporary home to that most disreputable sort of people – adventurers. And where there are adventurers (grave-robbers, treasure-hunters, cut-throats, monster-hunters, assassins and murder-hoboes – sorry, ‘heroes’) there are the people that cater to them – drink-peddlers, prostitutes, snake-oil salesmen and 1,001 charlatans and ne’er-do-wells ready to remove some excess gold from said adventurers’ purses.
Rift City is a booming shanty-town, a rickety and perilous edifice built on the gold-rush of monster-hunting, literally and morally teetering over the abyss. Business is good; theft and murder were never so profitable as there are a lot of monsters down there. And if a few adventurers fail to come back, all the more for the next party of expendable suckers… err, brave heroes to find.
There is one rule about the Rift that everyone knows – near the lip of the canyon, the caves and passages contain less-dangerous monsters, but the rewards are less because those caves are raided more often. Unless you’ve amassed some experience – don’t go beyond the first bend in the trail! There are plenty of adventures to be had and even small fortunes to be made exploring the upper caves. But if you want to separate yourselves from the thousands of would-be champions and achieve true heroic status, you must sooner or later venture into the deeper caverns to confront the horrors that lurk there – and make off with the marvellous treasures you discover.

Monday, 31 July 2017

In defence of Ritual

I don't usually post about archaeology, but I am an archaeologist and as such was somewhat taken with a post a couple of days ago over at Realm of Chaos - an Oldhammer blog of some repute - and it got me thinking about that much-maligned term that archaeologists seem to come out with whenever they don't have an explanation for something - 'ritual'

I'm going to defend the 'ritual' interpretation, but with a caveat. I'll start by saying that it sometimes seems that archaeologists use 'ritual' as an excuse for not thinking. It might seem that way - but I think it isn't so. Honestly, archaeologists think loads, and some of the thinking is amazing. What they (or maybe we) don't do some of the time is communicate that thinking very well.

The separation of spheres of activity into 'religious' 'political' 'agricultural' 'meteorological' 'psychological' and so forth is a product of a very modern mind. If you read the plays of Shakespeare even, you see that the wrong king on the throne makes (the) God(s) angry, the weather bad, crops fail, people and animals go mad etc. Shakespeare was only writing 400 years ago, the Egtved Girl that's the subject of the post at Realm of Chaos was buried more than 3,000 years ago, after what seems to have been a short life (she was between 16-18 when she died) that involved several journeys between South-west Germany and Denmark, covering perhaps 3,000km in the last year or so of her life and being buried it seems in the summer of 1370BC.

There is an intrinsic connection between our behaviour and the workings of the universe. I think this was accepted by people in the Bronze Age as much as by people that have actually left us written records - the Egyptians, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Medieval Europeans and up to the Early Modern period, as well as people from further afield that Europeans only really found out about later - and of course, some people still believe that there is a connection between microcosmic and macrocosmic systems or no-one would ever say a) that God told them to run for President or alternatively b) that using the wrong lightbulbs will make the sea level rise. This is the context I think in which archaeologists, but probably not non-specialists, think of 'ritual'. When we say it, we mean something like 'part of life bound up with ideas of the relationship between community and the cosmos' or 'codified actions designed to facilitate the smooth running of the universe'. We mean the actions that people take that are regarded as 'right behaviour'. Archaeologists tend to believe that 'right behaviour' is culturally-specific: what is 'right' in 18th century East Africa would not be appropriate in China in 500BC or Milan in 1450. Though the details of the rituals change, human societies have rules about what is 'right behaviour' in terms of death, birth, coming-of-age, establishing family units and such like. We send each other cards for passing driving tests or getting new jobs. Archaeologists call that 'ritual'. If all you had was a pile of cards saying 'congratulations' and 'sorry you're leaving' archaeologists would still have to try and reconstruct what they meant. Probably they'd come up up with some explanation about rituals involving socially-defined stages of life in the community. And if they did, they'd be right, because that's what those things represent in our society.

When people outside of archaeology hear us taking about 'ritual' however, I think they often assume we mean 'some irrational mumbo-jumbo of which we are guessing at the details'. They then conclude that archaeology itself is a 'ritual' in this second sense, as it seems to be merely irrational mumbo-jumbo of which they can only guess at the details. It isn't, but if we don't communicate what we mean very well, it's hardly surprising that sometimes people think we're just making it up out of nothing.

I had the privilege to see the Egtved Girl's burial when I went to the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen earlier this year. It was one of my main reasons to go to the museum (one of the others being to see the Trundholm Sun Chariot - I would have linked to the National Museum of Denmark's web-pages on these but when I do so it crashes my internet connection for some reason) and I'm really glad I did. It is an amazing museum (and city, and country from what I saw which admittedly wasn't much). The displays helped me towards some new insights about prehistoric societies, about anthropology in general I suppose, and I like to feed that stuff back into gaming. Thinking about how society worked, what people's beliefs might have been, in the European Bronze Age or Ancient Egypt or Late Antique Italy (or whatever/wherever) helps in thinking about how a community works in Carcosa or Thyatis or Gondor. In fact, my specific interest in the Egtved Girl came from finding out about her because I was interested from a gaming point of view to find out what people were actually wearing in the Bronze Age - research for some way of adding a bit of verisimilitude to a 'barbarian' settlement led me down a rabbit-hole of fascinating information about the 'Nordic Bronze Age' (by the way, apart from the Egtved Girl, Denmark has some other really well-preserved prehistoric clothing, some of the best examples in Europe, and a goldmine of information for anyone wanting to re-imagine what a low-tech 'barbaric' society might look like).

The research into isotopes trapped in her hair that has been carried out also has thrown up really interesting questions about society in Northern Europe 3,300 years ago. It seems the the Egtved Girl was probably born in South-West Germany, in the Black Forest region, and travelled to Denmark when she was approximately 14-16 years old. Then, after a short period, she went back to Germany. She stayed in Germany for a few months and then journeyed back to Denmark. A short time, maybe about a month, after she arrived back in Denmark, she died, aged around 16-18.

I've long been a supporter of the notion that there was a lot of moving about in prehistoric societies. Not so much the idea, prevalent in English-speaking academic circles up to the 1950s, that 'waves of X-people drove out the less-advanced Y-people with their new technological innovation of the Pointed Stick and introduced Pottery and Cricket', but not 'no-one before the invention of the horse ever went more than 4 miles from the place they were born' either. I'm pretty sure that people knew that 'those islands over there' were where the tin/gold/amber/wine/furs or whatever came from and that 'those people up the river' were really good at making rugs but beyond them 'the other people' sang strange songs but had mad skills with doing archery. I'm from Britain (so I think that this bit is important), and Britain is thought to have been the major source of tin in the Mediterranean Bronze Age. There's an awful lot of Bronze Age bronze, so people in the Mediterranean must have known about Britain even if only as a source of tin (though that doesn't seem likely to me). Likewise (as I mentioned it and we're talking about Denmark) almost all European amber comes from the shores of the Baltic, which is quite a hike from the Mediterranean, and yet amber turns up in a lot of places in southern Europe. Jet, obsidian, particular sorts of axes or other objects turn up a long way from their sources. Beakers, a set of forms of pottery vessels, are part of a cultural complex that stretches from Morocco to Denmark, Hungary to Ireland. 4000 years ago, people were engaging in long-distance travel around the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black seas, out into the Atlantic, up the rivers... it was an interconnected world. And I think that's really interesting.

So anyway I don't know whether I'm saying 'go to Denmark, they've got great museums' or 'read some anthropology/archaeology/history books, they might spark gaming ideas' or probably a bit of both. I'm pretty sure I'm saying 'don't be too hard on archaeologists, they have to get unfamiliar ideas over in 10 seconds on the news or some popular history programme, there's probably more to it than it seems'. And it can be both fun and intellectually rewarding to find out what does lie behind the headlines.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Fourth part of mapping Carcosa

OK, so I've generated the map at 6-miles per hex, I've put all the encounter numbers on it, I've changed all the numbers to be much more sensibly-organised, re-numbering the 28 encounters I'd already generated in the process, generated around 80 more locations using the Save v Total Party Kill's Random Carcosa generator and sourced the remaining dozen or so from the Carcosa Preview pdf, the Carcosa Grimoire pdf, the odd source like Bernie the Flumph (Vaults of Man) and Joe the Dungeon Brawler (Carcosa Avdenture, sic) and even  some things out of my own brain that will be posted on here at some point as no-one in my occasional meatspace gaming gives a toss about this blog. Villages (whether generated as settlements according to the patterns I already established, or turning up as a 'Weird' result due to some particular eccentricity of their ruler) have been given a cultural quirk from Papers & Pencils - d100 Small Town Quirks. In itself this has caused the necessity for a little re-thinking to sidestep the implicit feudal/pseudo-medieval background of some of the quirks.

200-hex map with sequential numbering


There are a few other things that need to be sorted out: there is occasional reference in the descriptions to things that don't exist in the same format (eg, in one hex there is the description "An abandoned space alien outpost is now home to a group of 23 Dolm bandits. Amongst their possessions is a map of the first level of a space alien research base in hex 1505" - I don't have a hex 1505, but I do have a hex AO 05 which is pretty much the same thing) or at all (eg the map is 20 hexes wide and 10 deep so there isn't anything higher than AT 10, which equals 2010). I need to integrate the Carcosan Rituals in a systematic way too; divorcing them from the 'official' map means that link between components and Rituals is broken, for example. How does a Sorcerer bind the Foul Putrescence with the essence of the fungi of 1302, if a) 1302 is AM 02 and b) doesn't have a fungus-forest? Tracking all of those lose ends and tying them up is I think going to be the tedious bit.

However, the map is I'd say 90%+ complete. If I got a call saying there were people to game this tomorrow I could start running it as a hex-crawl as it is and make up the missing details on the fly. But tying a few more things down first would be useful. Where is the nearest Orange Man settlement to the hex where the escaped Orange Man slave is hiding? The party might not know but the inhabitants of the next village they visit possibly (probably?) would. Where are the Black Men going with their Mummy Brain, and why? Are there carnivorous fungi in hex AM 02 after all, and if not, where are they? It's not so much work to tie up the lose ends once I have determined what they all are.

And I don't think there's much chance I'll be gaming this tomorrow, so that's all right then...