Archive for December, 2022


Maps for Play 3 – Threat and Broad Structure

December 21, 2022

(Maps for Play 1, Maps for Play 2)

You know what’s really nice? When you’ve been struggling with coming up with a way to communicate an idea and then someone puts it together in a way better than you could have ever written it. Cyclic Dungeon Generation, a free PDF by Sersa Victory has torpedo’d my post in the best possible way.

The only minor comments I want to add are:

  • Sometimes players find ways around obstacles or create new paths you never expected. Don’t block them from doing so.
  • Puzzles that aren’t obviously simple (“red key in red door”) should not be mission critical paths.
  • Consider any hazard as a potential problem forwards AND backwards; if the party has to run from danger in the dungeon or an area, they have to get past the hazard AGAIN, probably while being attacked. Not to say to not set up hazards, just understand they are multipliers for many more encounters than the one you’re thinking of.

factions23 – a dungeon23 alternative

December 14, 2022

Some folks I know are talking about doing the dungeon23 challenge – write up a room for a dungeon a day, for 365 days for 2023. That said, my preference is not megadungeons, but short, small dungeons and even those exist more as a “content delivery system” since my groups are not big into deep area exploration.

However, one thing I am always using in just about any game I run, is NPCs and factions. Characters with goals, with angles, with emergencies, plots and plans.

So I think for me, what my plan is, is this:

Each week, come up with a small group, crew or faction:

Each day write up one of the following:
a) A NPC and their personality & motivations or;
b) A special resource, methods, or knowledge the faction/crew has
c) Something interesting about their methods/symbolism

I’ll post once a week for what I have, so by the end (barring, you know, life emergencies) 52 factions, and a lot of neat ideas to go with. The nice thing is that while I’m going to set these up as fantasy default, I can probably bump the idea to fit sci-fi or other genres with a little work if need be.

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Low Magic Items

December 9, 2022

My Errant game is still on hold between players moving locations and holiday stuff, but my brain is itching to get back into running it. So I’ve been jamming together some monsters and magic items in the meantime. And, one thing I realized, is typically in fantasy games you typically either get forgettable random “+1” items or you get items that come to define a character or campaign (“wall-walking monk”, “the archer flies now”, etc.). I wanted more low tier items that are not too game shifting but also not forgettable.

I see it as coming down to two things:

Unique ability

It’s better for an item to do something you can’t get from another ability or power. It adds to what makes it special. The ability should have at least one obvious application, and, preferably have some open-ended-ness where you could see creative players doing some antics with them.

You don’t want powers that solve problems, but powers that could be useful tool in solving them. Or the problems they solve are very narrow and specific, but very helpful when they do.

Although the above examples are all non- weapons, I’m also doing similar things with weapons – in this case, it’s got some obvious, basic weapon bonuses, just made narrow in a colorful way:

Setting Bits

Second, it helps to do a little bit of setting building with your weapons. As you can see in the descriptions above, there’s an idea of how/why these things came to be, or what they were used for.

A fun thing to do in your games is to have the other NPCs or characters recognize aspects of the tools players are using; if you pull out weapons associated with the prior Empire’s assassins, maybe people shudder and wonder what your connection is. Or maybe they were allied with those folks and are angry to see you using a stolen tool. You can always add social effects to some tools, just on the basis of infamy or legend.

Epic items taking spotlight

One thing I don’t care for as much is when epic items take up too much of the spotlight. I get it, it’s a easy tool to fall back on because so much fiction uses it, however when you have 4-6 people getting together to play, I want more of the focus to be on their choices and actions, not “Oops I spun the Roulette of Fate and… the whole island blows up!”. It also has a way of making a lot of other abilities or items become useless or forgotten.

These sorts of things are fun to write, and imagine, but if you imagine 4 of them happening in the same campaign, it’s very messy. (For example, if you read the SCP Wiki, you can see how more and more of the entries become epic world-ending stuff, and then it just loses what makes it special.)

Here, with a lot of low-midtier items, doing interesting things in narrow ways, you’re more likely to find players doing stuff like chaining them together to do fun combinations in ways you never would have thought of, and that’s more what I like to see in my games.

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