Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Caldera: Birth of a World

The creation process can be a difficult one for me. I have ideas that I want to integrate into my game, but find that I struggle to put them on paper in a way that satisfies me.  My creativity ultimately is quite derivative - I troll the web until I find something, or many somethings, that are close to what I envision, then massage them together and end up with something I'm reasonably happy with. A "big picture" view of my game world was one of the things I have never been satisfied with, but eventually the pieces seem to fall into place.

What if this is the known world?
The first piece of the puzzle was a post just after Christmas by Erin Smale of The Welsh Piper. He points to a cool vector-based creation tool that makes island maps, called MapGen2. I tried my hand at making my own world map but... meh. With maps via MapGen, I'm getting what I really wanted.  

A couple of weeks later, a was half-listening to the TV while my kids were watching something and hear a word that flipped a switch in my brain. "Caldera". The gears started to spin, and I began to contemplate a place where the entirety of the world was contained within an enormous volcanic caldera.  Like Crater Lake, only... bigger, with each island a continent in and of itself. 

The World of Caldera

Some time spent cycling through random island maps garnered a dozen or so that I liked gave me enough to work with.  I pulled up Photoshop and set to mixing and matching them, re-sizing, rotating and tweaking to taste. Now I have a starting point and can drop these into Hexographer and move forward.

And so Caldera was born.  Drop a couple of Erin's hex templates over the whole thing and I now have a world map (Atlas Template, at 300 miles/hex) and pulled out a Regional map and from there I chose a single 300 mi hex to focus on for my Trevail campaign map.

This bit is pulled from the middle of that triple-island cluster in the center. We'll see what comes of it all.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thoughts on Prestige Classes and Other 3isms in Classic D&D

I'm not sure if I've touched on this in the blog or not - maybe back in one of the first posts. I've played D&D in one form or another since '81.  Moldvay ==> 1E ==> 2e from middle school through college.  After that I no longer played tabletop, having no regular group to get together with.  I continued to get my RPG fix via video games, both PC and console, playing "real" D&D games when I could, and eventually played and enjoyed Bioware's Neverwinter Nights I & II. Those two games in particular were based on the 3.0 and 3.5 rulesets - my only experience with either one.  When my then-too-young daughters expressed interest in playing then after seeing me do so, I took the opportunity to introduce them to the tabletop RPG - I mean, who among us would miss that window?

Seeing that 3.5 was too complex, I thought back on my own gaming history and without hesitation realized I wanted the old box set I started with so many years ago as the tool to teach them the game.  A bit of internet research led my to RPGNow and PDFs of the Mentzer basic and expert sets - Moldvay/Cook was not available. That was, what, almost 5 years ago now, and one of the girls still plays.  A weekly BEMCI game I run, and she's recently started playing 4E with friends from school. Turns out one of the teachers runs a 4E game club and the kids are also playing it on their own.  Awesome.

So where is all this going, you ask?  Well, here's the thing. I've found myself firmly settled into the Classic family of D&D - whether B/X, BECMI/RC, Labyrinth Lord or whatever.  For the level of rules crunch I enjoy and have time to commit to memory, those games hit the sweet spot.  But to be honest, if I was a teenager again and had the all but unlimited time to game I did back then, I'd be all over 3.5, or rather Pathfinder now.  All those options and reams of fluff would be heavenly.  I always loved (and still do) reading game books nearly as much as fantasy fiction. It's a bit of a shame that the kids are playing 4E rather than Pathfinder since it would give me an excuse to blow the $35 on a Pathfinder Beginner Box.  I'd love to read it.  I had bought a 4E Starter Box out of curiosity over Essentials - I gave her that to use since I never will, having read through it already.

Damn it - get to the point man! Prestige classes? 3isms?

Ok, ok... Despite not wanting the full level of crunch that 3.5 has to offer, it still have plenty of offer my game.  Skills and feats, races and classes, monsters and magic: these can all be mined for ideas that I can simplify and use in my game. One idea in particular, though, really interests me - prestige classes.  As far back as 2008 was was looking at them and wondering how to incorporate them.  Not just 3.5 style classes, but 2E kits and other "advanced" options for non-standard class choices.  A year ago, the ever prolific map-maker Dyson Logos - who shares scads of other great content on his blog beyond the maps - did a series of  posts on "Glantri-style" prestige classes. The Glantri Gazeteer for Mystara introduced a system of specialized sub-classes - specifically schools of magic - and Dyson took that concept and showed how you could easily use to to introduce any prestige classes you wanted into your game in an amazingly elegant fashion.

I want to use this as the basis for adding some things back into my game.  The RC had a wonky system for Paladins, Knights, Avengers and Druids - being something you could switch to after 9th level.  Interesting idea, but too limiting for my taste.  Cue Glantri as a way to use some of that without creating full class progressions for them.

I can see using the system to add in paladins and knights as specific orders or organizations for fighters or clerics, schools or magic as originally used in Glantri and many other things. Some I'd like to do eventually:

  • Assassins - not just for thieves either
  • Martial arts styles - no full monk/mystic needed
  • Bladesingers or Dwarven Defenders - a little demi-human specialization
Let's show the much-maligned Prestige Class some love, shall we?  It's not that bad an idea old-schoolers!

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Few Minutes of Your Time...

JB over at B/X Blackrazor has put together a little survey in an effort to gather some information on just who is playing D&D, or has in the past.  Not really a marketing survey, but more of a way to gather info on what people are playing or want to play, when they started and so on.

Just fill in the answers in a spreadsheet and email it back to him.  Seems worthwhile, so I'd encourage you to take a few minutes and help him out!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Equipment Packs for Faster Chargen

One of the ideas I've seen around the boards is to use "Equipment Packs" at character generation to speed up that process.  It seems as if picking out all your gear is what slows down chargen, and with something as simple as S&W, I wanted to move things along.  These are likely most useful for pick-up games or introducing new players to the game.  I imagine more experienced players can get set up quickly enough just picking their gear from the limited lists available in WhiteBox.

The packs detailed below as primarily based on "Equipment Packs: A Basic Fantasy Supplement" by Shayne Power, available at basicfantasy.org. I've tweaked them for WhiteBox, and added a Bard option as well. Bear in mind this is still subject to change...

Equipment “Fast Packs”
In order to speed the character creation process for new players, all characters start with the Basic Pack and a class-based pack of their choice. They may also spend their additional gold on the bonus packs, on items from the normal equipment list or to upgrade weapons or armor in their class pack. With the referee's approval, a character may swap a given weapon for one of similar power (e.g. a Battle Axe in place of a Long Sword).

Basic Pack
Backpack; Torches (6); Flint and steel; Waterskin; Bedroll; Rations, dried (7 days); Sack, large; Sacks, small (2); d6x10 gold pieces.

Pack 1: Leather armor; Shield; Holy Symbol; Holy water (1 vial); Mace.
Pack 2: Leather armor; Club; Holy water (2 vial); Holy Symbol; Sling; Sling bullets (30).

Pack 1: Chain Mail; Shield; Long sword.
Pack 2: Chain Mail; Pole arm.
Pack 3: Leather armor; Long sword; Short bow; Quiver; 20 arrows.

Pack 1: 1 scroll with a random first level spell; Daggers (2); Staff.
Pack 2: Daggers (2); Staff; 50gp.

Pack 1: Leather armor; Thieves' tools; Short sword; Daggers (2); Rope, silk (50’).

Pack 1: Leather armor; Daggers(2); Musical instrument of choice.

Bonus Pack 1 (20gp)
Chalk, small bag of pieces; Grappling hook; Rope, hemp (2x50'); Lantern, hooded; Oil (3 flasks); Tent, small (one man).

Bonus Pack 2 – Ready for Anything (10gp)
Glass bottle; Iron Spikes (12); Pole, 10' wooden; Map or scroll case; Mirror (small), steel.

OGL Section 15 Addendum:

Equipment Packs: A Basic Fantasy Supplement Copyright 2009, Shayne Power.