Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Monsters and Encounter Sets

With a new campaign comes the question of monsters. Having all new monsters adds a level of surprise, but i also want players to be able to learn, so if everything is new every time, then they can't make strategic decisions (just tactical ones).  So I've decided on two things
  1. a mix of classic fantasy monsters and new content
  2. to group the monsters into sets
Set 1: Dungeon Specific Monsters
These are the monsters that live in a specific dungeon. They are often going to be unique things or variants of other more common creatures.

Set 2: Dungeon Type Monsters
Since there is a semi-formal classification of dungeons, similar creatures will be found in all of them. Deshi spearmen can often be found in Garden dungeons, while Children of Silence (a type of undead) are found in Tomb dungeons with fair regularity. Some will be classic and some new.

Set 3: Dungeon General Monsters
These are the buggers that just show up anywhere and will comprise a lot of the classic creatures - fire beetles, giant rats, skeletons, goblins and the like.

These three sets also apply to wilderness settings once I get that far
Set 1: Monsters that live in The Upturn'd Glade
Set 2: Monsters that live in Forest settings
Set 3: Monsters that can be found in any wilderness setting

Stocking & Wandering
But back to the dungeons, once I've got the basics and clearly defined encounters and need to flesh things out, when a random stocking roll calls for a monster I'll roll 1d6:
  • 1-3: Dungeon Specific
  • 4-5: Dungeon Type
  • 6: Dungeon General
But on the random encounter table, when a random monster is called for:
  • 1-3: Dungeon General
  • 4-5: Dungeon Type
  • 6: Dungeon Specific
The reason that the specific creatures get a lesser value is that there is a entry on my random encounter table that is for "Creatures from the Nearest Lair" which are always going to be dungeon specific monsters.

One of the treasures that will be discovered through adventuring are pages from the Phantasmagorica, which is basically the monster manual / monstrous compendium / hacklopedia of beasts for the Sorrow in Haven campaign. Players can add these to a binder and throw whatever additional information they see fit on there - add/remove/whatever.  Once it is in the binder, it is "common" knowledge.

Lore Keepers
Speaking of monster lore and common knowledge, the Guild Of Defenestration also has some info on monsters, but it is the most common of knowledge - if any exists at all.  It is a source for players to get some insight into what their characters know, a little helping hand that makes sense within the campaign structure.  It is not, however, a library of useful facts that can be mined. No telling if what the Lore Keepers know is even true.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dungeon types

The Guild of Defenestration does their best to categorize and classify dungeons because there is some sort of a pattern there - some insight that can be gained.

1. Gorehaven
Violence, torture, blood, and gore are the hallmarks of this type of dungeon. Heads on spikes and pools of boiling pus decorate chambers where the pit traps also crush your legs so you can't escape the flood of salt ants that roll over your body.

2. Gardens
Ruins of other places overrun by nature, often nature with a dark malice.  Sentient plants, poison, and aggressive spores are common. One also must watch out for the humidity and fungal diseases that are common. The ruins vary in type, but many have echoes of the Machine Core or the Temples.

3. Temples
These places have a feel of grand ancient places dedicated to strange and often terrible gods. There are often cultists or adherents of some sort; temple guardians constructs or summoned beasts holy to the gods are common as well.  Temple hearts tend to be abstract ideas rather than things.

4. Tombs
Akin to temples, the tombs are just that - the resting place of something or somethings. While undead are fairly common within the underworld, tombs tend to have a profusion of the damned things. They also tend to have more loot in the form of burial gifts.  Entering without a Templar is ill advised.

5. Underdark
Caves, caverns, and natural formations that are shadows or links to a vast network that which lives below the earth of Eradu. Creatures that do not need light hunt for survival, cruel cultures exist that despise the light, and sleeping titans are all things to be aware of in these dungeons.

6. Machine Core
There is a place where machines are everywhere - machines and technology beyond our understanding. Huge gears with levers, pipes that belch forth corrosive steam, and things more fragile made of magic and copper wire. There is a will, an intelligence, a presence that watches over it all.

7. Voidstructs
The esoterics Martin Caldwell Eascher and Schroeder Bhore describe these places as beyond reason as we can understand it. They are thought to be rare glimpses directly into the deep reaches Underworld; gravity, time, and space mean nothing here - at least to our senses.  The creatures here are often "n-dimensional" and particularly dangerous.

8. Otherworld
Some dungeons are clearly alien worlds or utterly alternate dimensions. These places are the most terrifying, and the things that live here, if they are alive, are known to induce madness wit their mere presence.  Dungeoneers should be overly cautious in these realms.

What is What [GM Stuff]
When creating a new dungeon or even dungeon level, roll to see what the base type is:
1 - 20Gorehaven
 21 - 40 Garden
41 - 60Temple
61 - 76Tombs
77 - 88Underdark
89 - 94 Machine Core 
95 - 98Voidstruct
99 - 00Otherworld

Sorrow in Haven Character Creation

Sorrow in Haven is a dangerous game, characters can perish from combat rather easily, traps in the underworld are brutal and unforgiving, and social interactions can turn deadly if you insult the wrong fellow.  As such, I want character creation to be quick.

1) Ability scores

  • Roll the 7 scores
  • If the total modifiers are less than +1, this is a henchman, set aside and start over
  • Assign the scores to the abilities you prefer

2) Background [Optional]

  • Roll on the Background table or choose one from the list
3) Select a Character Class

  • Choose one of the 6 classes
  • write down initial abilities, choose 3rd initial ability

4) Secondary Scores

  • Calculate secondary ability scores based on primary ability scores
  • END and VIT determined by CON and class
  • Damage determined by class
5) Memories and Connections [Optional]

  • Roll on the random memory inspiration table ans answer character questions
  • Roll and choose form the list of character connections
6) Starting Loot and Gear
  • Roll for starting cash
  • Buy gear
Nothing particularly mind bending or earth shattering there, but the process allows for 2 things
  1. the option stuff is truly optional - skip it and a character can be built in 5 minutes
  2. the optional stuff can be done after the first adventure - so players can create characters that, if they survive, can explore their pasts and how they know each other.
Non-Optional Stuff
In a game where a character can die off in the first encounter, have fast character generation so the player can get engaged again immediately is important. However, the background, memories, and connections help create a more fleshed out character that, if they survive, has a place within the world and within the party.  

This works to inspire a starting point for memories as well as offer a soft mechanical advantage in play. This is a single die roll or choice from a chart.

Players spending tons of time creating backgrounds for characters is fine, but they don't always mesh up with the vision or the campaign.  The Memories of the Past questions ask strange questions or give inspirational moments for the player to riff off of to help flesh out their character.  This also becomes an interactive process if the other players help refine the answers. This can quite some time depending on how gregarious the players are.

I've played in far too many games where we either hand-waved or ignored the fact that the characters, as developed, had no place adventuring together - paladins and thieves, barbarians and wizards, good clerics and clearly seedy characters - it always set my teeth on edge.  The Connections section, inspired by Fiasco,  has no mechanical effect, it simply sets up the relationship between characters.  The more characters there are, the more complex this process becomes, but the more satisfying the results.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Massive Overhaul!

For the last several months I've been thinking about the games I've been running over the years.  I had a successful massive campaign spanning several years and multiple groups. I've run some good old fashioned dungeon crawls and a seriously sweet city campaign as well.  The most recent run using Dungeon World was ... not successful. I wasn't having fun running it and it wasn't coming together like I wanted.  I made things too big.

I also have issues with game system.  D&D 5e is OK, but it is too broad of scope and doesn't feel like I want - characters are too powerful.  Basic D&D is sweet, but doesn't have the dynamic action built into the system.  HackMaster is full of awesome ideas and in the end far too fiddly. DW has great focused characters, but is too narrative and the advancement too flat.

Rather than tweak and mod existing systems I took some inspiration from the DIY school.  I looted ideas I liked from various places and systems and combined them.  The campaign setting and system are called (at least for the moment):

Sorrow in Haven and the Endless Grey

The rules manuscript is nearly complete (as far as I can tell).  The setting write-up is still skeletal, but coming along nicely.  The game mechanics and character creation are designed to slot together into the setting. Character creation is straight forward but flexible enough to allow for most character types. Combat is dynamic and deadly, but taking chances comes with sweet rewards. Advancement is quick. The magic system allows for straight forward use or to be as fiddly and complex as the player wants to make it. Action resolution is universal and a simple opposed roll.  All in all it is fast and furious and the mechanics support the style of play it is designed for.

This might be "the one" for me.