Apr 30, 2014

One Page Dungeon Contest 2014 - The Oracle Caves

As I've done the previous three years, this year I produced an entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest. This year's entry came in just under the wire; I had four different ideas that I worked on at one point or another, then I went ahead and completed one I started in 2011 and never finished. Inspiration is a fickle mistress.

This year's entry is The Oracle Caves, which was one of the adventure locations from my 2011 wilderness entry, Wilderlands of Dire Omen. I had thought that, for succeeding years I could flesh out the world with further One Pagers, sort of gradually building a complete free setting. Blah blah fickle mistress blah blah. Anyway, the ideas for the Oracle Caves have been bouncing around in my head now for three years, I guess that was long enough for them to gel properly.


The map I ended up making was huge -- I'd had in mind that it was a big place with plenty of room for improvisation, but had underestimated how much space that would take up on the paper. I ended up shrinking it a lot in order to make it fit, which means a lot of detail is lost. The full map for the caves (minus insets and labels) can be found here. I didn't give myself enough time to prettify the damn thing, so it looks really ragged.

I find the constraints of the one-page requirement liberating -- I have a tendency to unnecessary detail in language, and have to pare my text down mercilessly in order to make it fit.

I used Paint.net to do the compositing of the image, the Isomage's Random Cave Map Generator for the individual sections, and Microsoft Word to compose the document itself.

Mar 31, 2014

David A. Trampier, 1954 - 2014

The news came out last week that one of the cornerstone artists who defined the tone of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, David A. Trampier, passed away on March 24, 2014, at the Helia Healthcare facility in Carbondale, IL. He would have turned 50 on April 22.

Jan 26, 2014

Dungeon World

So, I've run a short Apocalypse World campaign (set in the ruins of the Hoover Dam) and have an occasional Monster of the Week game, and I thought I'd check out Dungeon World. This is the same game design, but with the trappings of Dungeons & Dragons. As a long-time D&D DM (I run the D&D Encounters program at Maplewood Hobby) I've had a great deal of experience running all different flavors of the game.

Basically the idea here, is that DW is a story game. That means it's focused on narrative over dice rolls, though there's plenty of rolling dice. It's also focused on the fiction over the game mechanics, though there's plenty of game mechanics. Essentially, on the Narrativist-Gamist-Simulationist axis, it's about three-quarters Narrativist/one-quarter Gamist.

It's worth mentioning that Vince Baker, author of Apocalypse World, also did Dogs in the Vineyard. If DitV is Mr. Baker's meditation on dice mechanics in role-playing games, AW is his meditation on character sheets. When you choose a character type, you pick up that "playbook," which is a character sheet with all the character-specific options already printed on it. As you develop, you select from the other options in the playbook. Some of them give you new things you can do, while others just improve your ability to do things everyone else can do.

This fits very well with the D&D concept of "character classes." Character classes in D&D have traditionally been niches that defined what your character was capable of, but gave some room for expansion; it was a fairly uniform approach, so that every instance of the same character class was fairly similar. As time went by, people developed tools to allow people to customize the classes to better fit their vision of what their character was. Originally, there was some playing around with the experience point structure of white-box D&D by Gary Gygax, where you could add abilities to your character class but would need to earn more XP to advance. Then there was the kit system of 2nd Edition AD&D, which essentially codified the earlier system. 3rd Edition D&D strongly resembled RoleMaster, in that a character class just defined what you found easiest to learn, without really preventing you from doing anything else.

In AW-style gsmes there's enough structure to feel like D&D, but there's also possibilities for swapping in other abilities. They support niche protection -- there is only one of each playbook at the table -- but still let you gain some other abilities as well. It's a pretty good fit, more abstract than the original system, and is simpler to boot.

One of the big draws for a cheapskate like me is the huge amount of quality free material online. Check out the Dungeon World Tavern for just a sampling of the kind of thing available. My thinking is that this will also work well with the One Page Dungeons I'm a big fan of -- the One Pagers are practically tailor-made for DW, as the system encourages limited DM pre-planning.

Dec 17, 2013

[Pathfinder] Judeo-Christianity in Pathfinder

I was going through older files I'd put together years ago for a home game, and came across my Religion document. I was going to have quite a few real-world religions, represented in a fictionalized context in a sort of "multiversal collision."

Anyway, among the religions was an interpretation of the Judeo-Christian church. I had been inspired by this thread on the Paizo boards as well as a series of discussions on the HârnForum on adding early Christianity to fantasy games. I never ended up running the campaign, which is just as well. I'm more interested in theological navel-gazing than anyone else I play with, and the extra effort to make something plausible would have been wasted. In fact, it is wasted just sitting on my hard drive, so here you go.

Greater God (Lawful Neutral)
Jave is the god of a fierce desert tribe. He is one aspect of a three-part deity (along with Yshu and Ruch), being the creator of the world. He is a strict deity who provided his followers with laws covering all aspects of life: community relations, social contracts, dietary restrictions, and the like.
    His dictates have been delivered through a series of prophets. He first sent a prophet to inform his chosen people of their status. When his people were enslaved by a foreign empire, he sent a prophet to lead them from slavery to a promised land of plenty. They have followed a series of occasional prophets ever since.
    Symbol: Star.
    Portfolio: The universe, law, society.
    Domains: Glory, Law, Nobility, Strength, War.
    Favored Weapon: Longsword.
    Cleric Training: Clerics of Jahve see to the needs of their communities. They learn the many laws Jave has given his people to follow, and act as interpreters of the law and judges of the accused.
    Quests: Typical quests for Jahve include converting a community of unbelievers, leading a group of faithful out of an ambush by marauding orcs, and constructing a church in the Desert Wastes.
    Prayers: Prayers to Jahve ask him to grant the worshiper the strength to endure hardship.
    Temples: Jave, Yshu and Ruch are almost always worshipped in one temple. These churches are usually large stone structures, with many stained-glass windows and a high tower.
    Rites: Normal services are held one day a week, with day and evening ceremonies performed. Specific rituals are held for special events: births and deaths, or to commemorate a community boon or tragedy.
    Herald and Allies: Jahve's herald is a solar angel. Allies are celestial astral devas and planetar angels.

Intermediate God (Neutral Good)
Yshu was a mortal of some mystery. He preached to the desert people until he was executed by the reigning empire who saw him as a threat to their dominance in the region.     Many believe he was one of the prophets of Jave, come to inspire and lead the people while in a time of tribulation. A subset of the faithful believe he incarnated Jave's power in the world, and redeemed it through his death.
    He counseled fellowship and understanding between people, and some say he performed many miracles during his ministry.
    Symbol: Cross.
    Portfolio: Community, fellowship, redemption.
    Domains: Community, Glory, Good, Healing, Protection.
    Favored Weapon: Mace.
    Cleric Training: Clerics of Yshu learn to be intercessors between the faithful and the divine, counseling the flock to lead good lives. They typically perform charity for the less fortunate, and many are accomplished healers.
    Quests: Typical quests for Yshu include bringing supplies to a remote settlement in the midst of a famine, preaching mercy and restraint to a tyrant, and enduring a series of punishments in the stead of a guilty man.
    Prayers: Prayers to Yshu ask him for assistance in time of need, or call for his mercy when things are dire.
    Temples: Jave, Yshu and Ruch are almost always worshipped in one temple. These churches are usually large stone structures, with many stained-glass windows and a high tower.
    Rites: Normal services are held one day a week, with day and evening ceremonies performed. Specific rituals are held for special events: births and deaths, or to commemorate a community boon or tragedy.
    Herald and Allies: Yshu's herald is a 20th-level human cleric. Allies are celestial astral devas and planetar angels.

Jul 28, 2013

Secret Societies 1: The Great Enlightened Society of Oculists

Wired.com has a great article on an enciphered manuscript from a secret society that has recently been cracked with the use of computer-aided linguistics. Interesting read!

Jul 22, 2013

Insight Into the Gaming Trust Model

I found this extremely insightful post about trust issues that can crop up in gaming, and wanted to bookmark it. Then I thought, why not share it here? (via nerdwerds)

Apr 30, 2013

One Page Dungeon 2013: The Blackacre Heist

This year, I originally started with something different, a modular starport sheet with associated Visio file, so you can make starports in minutes. In my sci-fi home game, this is something I need that I've always intended to make; I thought the One Page Dungeon Contest would spur me to finish the idea.

Unfortunately, I didn't really have an adventure in there - it's basically more of a GM tool. And the contest is for a "Dungeon," so...

At the beginning of April, I cast about for another idea, and hit on a simple heist scenario with variation. I've always been a big fan of the old Traveller supplement 76 Patrons, which has 76 patron encounters, each with 6 variations afterward so that the GM can mix it up depending on his needs.

So, I present my submission, The Blackacre Heist. For my own amusement, most of the names are placeholder names from various countries. Blackacre itself is a placeholder name used in legal texts.