Sunday, March 23, 2014

Location Cards: A few more examples

Just for fun I thought I'd do another Urban Location as well as a Rural one.

The Urban Cards

When two cards are listed as [3♥ - 4♠ ] the first is the primary card and the second one of the extra bits. 

Initial Draw
[Jok] Scrying Pool
[3♥] Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

[3♥ - 4♠] Overly Ostentatious
[6♣ - 8♦] Place Your Bets
[4♠ - Sec] Peasant Uprising

The Village

The three brothers who control the guild activity in the village of Scumduter are both well known and feared.  They have an uncanny knack at predicting what goods will be arriving and where they are coming from and going to.  For a small village in the foothills of the Ramtops they are making more money than they know what to do with.  Rumor has it their home sits atop and ancient scrying pool once used by the Witches of Fell Crige (they were burned alive for dealing with demonic forces and also slaughtering a noble family).

Because of the wealth, the brothers have become ostentatious well above their station and, among other things, begun gambling at a rate previously unknown except to the riches and most degenerate men of cards and dice.  They live in such opulence and decadence that the local population (who are utterly poor because of the massive redistribution of wealth) is about ready to revolt.  Scumdutter is a powder keg ready to blow.

The Rural Cards

Same rules as above
Initial Draw
[6♣] Wolf Hunting Grounds
[7♠] Ancient Earthworks

[6♠ - 3♥] Hibernating Bear
[8♦] Field of Flowers
[J♥ - Sec] Stolen Goods

The Hex

Among the ancient and crumbling pillars of a long forgotten city hunt a pack of huge wolves.  They are fearsome to behold and any who linger in the night will surely encounter them.  Some say that the mysteries that lie beneath these earthworks are what give the wolves their speed and size and what cause the wildflowers here to bloom all year with exquisite beauty.  These flowers attract all manner of visitor willing to brave the Wolfrun to collect samples for profit and potential arcane use.

Unbeknownst to the foolhardy traveler is that Ugroduin sleeps here and has begun to stir.  Once an avatar of the Bear God that protected this land, Ugroduin is now half mad with rage from the hollowing of his god and the corruption of his land.  When he awakes again this Age he will stalk the land and add to his massive collection of stolen and looted goods (that in some way symbolize him taking back the land and position he has lost).  Of course, Ugroduin may need to wander far from home and will undoubtedly draw the attention of adventurers.

Location Cards: Review and Use

I just got three decks of location cards from a well run Kickstarter.  My first thoughts is that they are fantastic.  Rather than dice, I can grab a deck for a hex crawl or urban crawl and let the cards fall where they may.

Delivery & Communication

On time and great communication ... Nice.

Production & Presentation

The cards are standard playing card size and packed with information.  In addition to the normal playing card stuff (3 of hearts, 7 of diamonds, etc) each card has a location, short blurb about the location, and 4 additional aspects.  There are instructions for use and each deck has a game associated with them, but those are fairly weak and without interest.  But I didn't get them for the extra mini games.If you are using these on the fly they can be a bit much to read, but that is pretty minor.

Use Example
The party is wandering in the Tumbledown of Aldsburg in the Lions' Tower.  I grab the top two cards of the urban deck for the defining features of the area they have wandered into:

[6♠] Clockmaker's Store
[9♣] The City Walls

Without reading any more text on the cards, this neighborhood is against the tower walls looking out over the mountainside - a steep drop that would ensure death to those unlucky enough to stumble or lean or simply be in the wrong place when a local gang wanders by.  The neighborhood has a large clock dominating the square and there are several strange devices and automatau as well as several people with clockwork aspects (limbs, braces, and so on).  The clockmaker is rumored to have dismantled a Bronze Warrior of Shun Kai in his workshop.

I'll draw 2 more cards for some flavor using the additional text

[3♥] Rats, Lots of Rats
[2♦] High Quality Marble

The neighborhood is incredibly run down - the tower face crumbling and the walls open.  Rats of all sizes roam the neighborhood and infest everything.  Only a few residents remain.  Those that do are most likely harvesting the high quality marble that once adorned much of this district to resell elsewhere.  The structural integrity of this tower spur is suspect at best.

One more card for a secret.

[J♥] Secret: Identify Theft

Again, not even reading the actual text, this is obviously the refuge of a gang of thieves who, obviously Hollow and run by a Mind Wizard, are slowly stealing people and replacing them with false men who are under the gang's control.  The revolution is coming ... at least here in Lion's Tower.

There ... that took about 5 minutes and was fun.  At 52 cards plus 2 jokers there are 1.3 MILLION MILLION combinations with a 5 card draw like that ... and we have only looked at 1 of 3 decks.


These are awesome.  They can be used straight out of the box by a clever GM and even a not-so-clever GM can use them with a little extra effort.  Excellent job, gents.  I look forward to not only using these but supporting further Kickstarter project from you.

Score Card
Delivery: 3/3 [on time and as advertised]
Production: 2/3 [no frills, good art, packed, a bit tough to read]
Use: 4/3 [easy to use and a myriad of options]
Will I Use It: 1/1 [yep - without a doubt]
Total Score: 10/10

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Maps: The Northalnds of Eradu

I puttered around with the idea of starting with a completely new world map for my next game, but in the end I decided that I'd simply set it in the next Age of the current campaign world.  I could use the same maps and adjust and tweak them as I wanted.  Not that I couldn't do that normally (I've declared a .113 phase quantum shift before) but I like the idea of having the landscape change with time.  It helps with the player vs character knowledge - that land bridge might look familiar but wrong ... the player encountered it in the previous campaign, the character heard about it in a story told by his pox-ridden uncle.

The Maps

There are quite a few details missing - settlements, castles, dungeons, and all that sort of thing have been stripped from the map. As each region is remapped I'll add in settlements and other details while changing the landscape as needed. For example, Area H4, Aldsburg:

Hexes are 6 miles wide making each Area around 250 miles edge to edge.  This is well more than enough space for an entire campaign.  The final map will have text added and all of the usual maply embelishments.  Most likely I'll remove the hexes and have a separate hex overlay system (like the old Forgotten Realms).  Perhaps eventually I'll post up the Atlas pdf I'm creating that has many detail.  I may even create a more detailed Hex view as well for special regions.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Playing instead of GMing

The last month or so I've been on break from GMing which, as it turns out, is hellafun.  I don't get to play too often and I think it is partially because I'm kind of a crappy player.  I spend so much time in the GM seat, it is hard to let go.  As a player I've taken a bit of a leadership role within the party but I'm not sure if it is because it is the right thing or, as a bossy pants, I'm just declaring things as fact.

Either way, it is a damn awesome game.  We are a band of halfling freedom fighters in a world where demi-humans are pretty much all slaves (current, former, or potential).  While there is a vein of "free the oppressed" in the party it seems to have mostly turned into a bloodbath.  Serious full-on murder hobo style.  My halfling thief has killed more unconscious and "innocent" folks in the name of "good" and "freedom" that is remotely reasonable.

Also, I'm the party mapper.  This is a job that is vastly under appreciated.  It kind of sucks, but is necessary.  I'm also acutely aware of the "left or right" dilemma of dungeon exploration.  Without any context of what left or right may mean or what kind of impact the choice would have it becomes a crap shoot of irrelevancy.  This isn't anything against our current GM (who is doing a great job), just an observation and something I'm going to try and eliminate from my game.  Choices are meaningless (as in it could be a coin flip or die roll to choose) unless they are made with some insight.

Once this game is wrapped up I'll get back to the GM chair and I've got the campaign recap ready to go.  I thought I'd share:

Since the last session ended ...

The winter months passed quickly in New Hope and spring brings the warmth of the sun and a seemingly endless light rain to cleanse away the thickness of winter.  The Legion of the Phoenix Guild House is a constant bustle of activity.  New recruits were flooded the halls as preparations for the grand mission were laid out.  You each have been briefed in excruciating detail on the situation; but even with this it is obvious that much knowledge has been lost when the sundering took place.

In the heart of the cosmos lies the city of Sigil.  It is where all planes of existence touch and until recently it was at peace.  Many of you have fleeting memories from the City of Portals - visions of the great tor, of smoking stacks and streets crowded where humanity mingled freely (if cautiously) with things from the other worlds.  Many of you recall other incarnations of yourselves here on Zintharas, also called Sursumen the prison, and called Eradu the Egg of Life.  Each of the threads led back to a true self in Sigil that was waging the war here where the true enemy lies.

An ancient race of being known as the Xinthian once marauded across the cosmos and multiverse causing mayhem and destruction.  The last of their kind was imprisoned in a great shell and an accord was struck that the Keepers, the Pathorgia, would keep the prison running and the Xinthinan diminished and suffering eternal agony for the crimes against all life.  There was dissent, of course, and politics being what they are led to numerous clashes in the skies and heavens above the prison world on which you now stand.

Those times are long past, and the guardianship has faltered.  The Xinthinan was to become known as the World God, one of the elders, and worshiped in accordance with twisted interpretations of old documents, now long since withered.  Those who once imprisoned it now worshiped the thing.  Magic bloomed as the ages past and the world of Susramen began to crumble and was infested and bore life to all manner of creature.  One of these are a force of demonic things, the Altrudian. 

They have a strong connection to both the Xinthinan and the Patchwork Kingdom.  These are the foul forces, that have begun to wage the war in the name of the world god, attempting to free him from his prison.  They are parasites and flakes of skin from the ancient beast imprisoned below your feet; bits of filth given a kind of life through the influences of the Patchwork.

The war in Sigil has nearly been lost.  Pockets of resistance still stand against these Armies of Chaos.  But they are not alone.  The foul Greyjax, beings from the far edges of the known realities, have some hand in this.  The forces are growing here as well - minions of chaos, creatures of magic, things that hate life, all manner of beast and man are being corrupted and we have precious little time.  The gates which are locks have been compromised.  If the Xinthian is released his rage and revenge will destroy not only Sigil but the cosmos as well. 

The Lady of Pain, Her Excellency the Lord of Sigil, has been found by one of our other bands of adventurers and is safe but unconscious.
The Lady of Sorrow, Her Magnificence the Defender of Light, is still lost and we believe is still holding a resistance in the Vendegarr.  The Lady of Misfortunes, Her Exquisiteness the Protector of Faith, has been slain.  Her death was not in vain, though, as her death curse has place a seal over the final gate.  This is where you must go.  You must follow the path of the heroes who have already gone - their actions were a prediction and map of the journey you must take.

From an ancient book, the following passages are read.

"The Founders of the Legion set their sites on the edge of the world.  They travelled across The Sea of Woe through raging storms to defeat the Great Storm Serpent Aluu; in the gnole-infested Plain of Broken Stones in the Wastelands of Forlor they took the Soul Gem from the Lich King of the ruined city of Magperia; moving deep into the Ogre Nations they emerged with the rarest of victories - a blessing and thanks from the Ogre Lords themselves; and through the howling sands of Ptocnik they came triumphant to the Endless City Temple of Al Arij'Khahat.

"The pilgrims and dervishes, the faithful and those looking for truth sat in the enormous windblown tents of Al Arij'Khahat to stare into the Erasure and ponder The Meaning, Wonder at the End of All Things.  Some entered willingly, simply fading away never to return.  Some achieved a state of nirvana and knowing looking into that endless void, telling others that it is their own soul they see when they peer deep enough.

"The Legion is strong now.  They are legendary even in this remote place.  This place where the lost go, where the Seekers dream of Finding.  The Legion has one last task before them.  One final achievement before they may rest.  In The Anvil, an area that is said to be as utterly desolate as the Erasure is completely without substance, it is a claimed that a fabled city known as Midian stands defiant.  It is a place of monsters.  It is a place of demons.  It is where the Lady's sacrifice gave a glimmer of Hope.

"To Midian they went. Never to Return."

The Council of the Legion, members you are familiar with; Manamir, Carlisle, Brother Chayne, and several more give you their blessings.  The resources of the Legion are at your command.  Three great ships have been readied in the port of New Hope to set sail when you are ready.  An army stands behind you, but it is you who will save the world.  It is you who must do these things.  Prepare yourself.