Friday, October 15, 2021

Offbeat Megadungeon: Encounter framework

some current thinking on encounter procedures. The goal here is to encode a more social emphasis to  encounters.

Encounter Type Template

Results to be specified by region
When an encounter is indicated, roll for the type. 
Roll with advantage if within a faction territory.

1: "Intruder" Asocial Monster

  • region-wide list

  • probably bad news
  • if near a downward connection, +1 Level
  • if in Faction Territory...
    • shallow: faction guards will probably be on their way to fend it off or dissuade it
    • deep: this is actually a "pet" or semi-tamed beast that the faction keeps as extra security or a secret weapon - change the monster type if appropriate
2: Wildlife Monster
  • Vermin/Cleanup/Weird but usually unthreatening
3: Demi-social Monster
  • region-wide list
  • if in Faction Territory...
    • 1-3: sympathizes with, visiting, or being aided
    • 4-5: captive or "being held"
    • 6: sneaking in
4: Social Wanderer/Special
  • dungeon-wide list
  • Usually Unaffiliated with a Faction
  • Trader, Adventurer, "Wizard", Cantina Patron NPC, etc.
5: Faction - Solitary or Small Group
  • If outside Faction Territory, they are from...
    • 1-3: Random region-wide Faction
    • 4-5: Decentralized Faction(?)
    • 6: Random dungeon-wide Faction
6: Faction - Larger Group/Special
  • If outside Faction Territory, roll for a random region-wide Faction

Encounter Emotions

They're feeling...
  1. Frustrated or Irate
  2. Despondent or Dejected
  3. Ennui or Listless
  4. Anxious or Paranoid
  5. Curious or Suspicious
  6. Jubilant or Smug
About something... 
  1. they need or want
  2. they have to do
  3. they did
  4. a friend/faction/leader/tyrant did
  5. the party is doing, has done, or intend to do
  6. in or about the area

Who's at the Cantina?

This megadungeon will have a good old underground tavern. But I don't want it to just be full of elves or dwarves or goblins or orcs or ogres. I want individual representatives from every faction and species. I want it to feel like the Mos Eisely Cantina in Star Wars. A neutral ground where the players can get a preview of the strange denizens of every level.

When the party arrives at the Cantina, there's at lease one low-level patron of any faction and species that the GM wishes present. The first time they arrive, spend some time describing the scene, and the players' first glimpses at some of the stranger creature types.

For which NPC patrons are present, they are listed in a table of X columns and Y rows. Some are listed on multiple columns.

Roll a 1dX to determine the column, then a 1dY to determine the row. Everyone on the dY result and above on that column is present. 

Every Turn spent in the Cantina, roll to add or subtract 1 from that result. Also roll normally for an encounter that arrives, using dungeon-wide lists.

If the party is hoping a certain individual is present, just roll a suitable chance.

Monday, October 11, 2021

miniature cave terrain and simple-but-deep tactical combat thoughts

 I've been caught by a tangent (no - a good and natural evolution of my locus of interest) into thinking about better (than i've seen) miniature terrain to represent strange cave formations, ala Veins of the Earth (or, y'know, real caves).

although i've never used minis for any games, i've always had a side interest in terrain crafting; it seems like a lot of fun to produce some really usable stuff without a huge amount of effort, primarly with XPS foam, hot wire knife, and simple painting techniques. I don't have much experience with any of it in the last 15 years or so. 

I got sucked down a youtube hole of watching game crafting videos. But nothing really hit the notes i was looking for. 

I think we avoid realistic, strange cave shapes in RPGs because they are difficult to visualize. But physical terrain solves that problem. Except everyone still seems to be locked into a very strict concept of modularity, with standardized sizes and shapes.

This is the closest I've seen to what I'm picturing in terms of modularity, but its still way to "rigid" or rectilinear

 I thought it would be quite easy to make a versatile set of shapes that could help represent strange cave forms that I was picturing in my head.

then i realized that using sketchup actually mirrors a lot of the same simple techniques; rough lines cutting through shapes. so instead of going out to home depot to grab some XPS, i'm doing my usual thing and over-thinking/planning stuff that should be simple to just do, and started playing around in sketchup.  creating shapes that are easy to make, but  work really together to create more interesting, vertical, strange real-life cave shaped spaces.

still images are difficult to convey how well it works in 3d.

This one is obviously really "prefabbed" and not modular, but its interesting thinking what you can do with just a few layers stacked to represent a cramped corridor full of vertical challenges. and even though it's only piece, it could still work in any orientation, even sideways. 

ok but why

But if i were to actually create and use this stuff, it would involve a change in my headspace around gameplay style, and probably ruleset.

In my mind, using minis and physical terrain would need to be justified by soemthing engaging. Your not going to build out a complex 3d space just to move through it on the way to another point of interest.

Maybe rules that make the physical act of exploring strange cave spaces interesting enough to justify being the focus,  spending time on ((and holding the attention of players to) just getting yourself up a slippery flowstone outcropping. maybe even physical representation of rope. There's some spelunking challenge rule stuff in VOTE but it's kinda weird. I hold out hope for there being something worthwhile here, but moving on...

If combat is the justification for building out a space, in any good players in an OSR style game are going to make sure as heck that they don't get ambushed while in a weird position (and just throwing ambushes in for the sake of play is really outside of OSR style). Which again obviates the impetus for building out a space.

The obvious alternative is fun tactical combat as the focus - in other words, combat-as-sport, or a cinematic challenge style. I've dipped into this some with Knave Souls, (and a bunch of unshared thinking and designing of more complex combat rules hacks for various systems), but it got me thinking about simple, combat-focused RPG that still support OSR play. 

I don't follow or know much about skirmish games, and i expect this is probably pretty well accomplished by soemthing liek age of sigmar or whatever.  (of course 5E is right out, too much baggage.)

So I'm thinking: "What if halfway between BX (or Knave, etc) and 4E... or Into The Breach?"

crunchier, more dynamic, small-numbers combat at a relatively small and cramped scale.  Lots of shoving, attacks pushing and advancing, relevant facing and flanking, impact from verticality, monsters crawling around walls, etc.

But... no complex character builds.  the kind fo crazy abilities built into the rules of 4E would instead be things that arise situationally and are arbitrated on the spot, or maybe granted by magic items. niches arise from item loadouts and ability score differences. (I should look into ICRPG - I know it emphasizes power growth through items).

so combat may be a forgone conclusion, but the spirit of creative problem-solving is still there, just involving the physical, literally visualized spacial situation. pleyrs need to coordinate their tactics and come up with plans to beat a combat situation using the particulars of strange environments and their items creatively. 

That's the idea at least.

this implies a kind of brutal dark soulsy VOTE style setting; Long-lost cavers now adapted with  trogolodytic mutations trying to kill or be killed by weird forgotten entities in dark holes. I think Kingdom Death: Monster or whatever its called might be a bit like this, but has its own tightly integrated stuff that wouldn't be relevant to a more general rpg system.

Bonus:  here is one such a survivor before and after his adaptations and evolving loadout after spending months in the dark places where the pressure of the earth above you molds your very form


Monday, October 4, 2021

Offbeat Megadungeon: Factions - Physical vs Social Space, Power & Drive

I let myself read a bit of dungeon design theory (which I should feel like I've got enough to pull from, but couldn't resist), Gus L's recent So You Want to Build a Dungeon, which was great, and among the useful insights that made me glad I read it was this tidbit: 

the goal [of establishing faction and other interrelationships] is to create a web of plausible and recognizable connections between the creatures and the space of your dungeon that players can observe, understand and exploit.

From this I realized that in a sense, every dungeon has two maps, two spaces. As the dungeon map and key delineate how the party can interact with the physical and tactical reality of the space, faction relationships create a map that guides how they can interact with the social elements of the space.

This should be especially true for this project, where i want to lean into the social pillar - something I usually de-emphasize.

It took a while to generate ideas for what I felt like would be a healthy number of factions in the megadungeon.  I've now got around 12 major factions and ~18 minor ones. I started laying them out to make a relationship map, but then realized I was actually making a chart that plots their power relative to their ambition or drive, which gave some interesting results:

Note the top left section is pretty bare. This seems to be a necessity for interesting faction interrelations. If there is a single high-power high-ambition faction, it will eat up everything. If there are two, then the war between them consumes everything.  And having mroe than that starts to strain plausibility of sustaining them in the limited space of a subterranean complex.

A balance like this should better allow for held tension in the initial situation, politics, dynamism.

Both "Dungeon Corp" (which is super one-note right now, and needs some nuance added) and the Dragon King factions were initially near the top left, but I realized that they are actually composed of multiple sub-factions, which aren't quite aligned on action when push comes to shove. 

The bottom right would barely be worth considering as a faction, and the ones close down there are indeed kind of enigmas  that likely won't com into play, but could potentially be changed by the actions of the party.

The top right is the domain of highly motivated, but probably unliked (or just asocial) individuals - or individual leaders of larger factions, if the distinction is desired.

The bottom left - here lie sleeping lions.

Obviously, nothing would stop multiple factions from sharing the same position on the chart, but I found that finding a specific "slot" for each label gave me seomthing to sort of latch on to and start thinking about why a particular faction might be one notch higher or lower than another.

Here's a more detailed list as it currently stands.

 "Ranking" is Drive+Power

I gave them rough size ratings:

  • 1 = 1
  • 2 = ~5
  • 3 = ~20
  • 4 = ~100
  • 5 = ~500

I also took a first pass at categorizing their "crux", which i see as their common interest, Source of Power, Impetus for collective action. The Essence of their Identity. I think I want more diversity here, so will probably mix things up , which may compeltely change some of the factions.

social erosion, or, how do i even be on the internet anymore

heres one of those self-reflective posts or whatever, i hear its good to "blog" Post-G+, my only RPGsphere social presence aside f...