Thursday, April 11, 2013

So What's Next?

So I think I figured out what I'm going to try and run next, and I think it'll be Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, at least for a short term deal, though my definition of short term is probably off.

Why? Cause I want to run some non-apologetic heroics, after running "shades of grey" games for the last decade (Exalted, Changeling, Dresden), I want some "Big Damn Heroes" at my screen.

Plus, I've never run straight out super heroes before, capes, costumes, the whole bit.

It won't be this month and it probably won't be next month.

But time for something different.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Domain Management: Land

My biggest problem with dealing with land is coming up with a notion of scale. How much land should we account for in the system. Some part of me wants to just hand wave, but I know that'll eventually come back to bite me at some later date.

I think as a rule of thumb, I'll use "a day's travel across" as the maximum for a single spot of terrain. We'll assume that an easy day's travel involves a horse, or roughly 20 miles, or given a perfect square 400 sq. miles, or 400,000 acres. Immense, yes, but reasonable. Sure, some places might be a bit bigger, some a bit smaller, but that seems reasonable enough to use as a rule of thumb. This puts it on the small side of an U.K. county, which I'm okay with as that allows us some room to play with additional terrains to make a bigger county.

So using that, let's pull some land types, stealing mostly from a Birthright adaptation for 3.5:
  • Wasteland - Desolate, can't support any real existence. You might be able to find a few people who eke out an existence here, but you wouldn't want to be one of them.
  • Desert/Tundra - Little rain, little to subsist on, no real ability to build cities, or even villages, without the addition of some feature that allows for it (River/Oasis/Lake/Coast).
  • Mountains - The land of windswept peaks and cliffsides. Ore and stone are most prevalent here.
  • Forests - Deep heavily wooded forests stretching for miles, and places the light never touches the ground.
  • Hills - Little mountains, rolling hills, stone and ore can be found here, as well as the ability to raise some crops.
  • Plains - Flat open land without anything to break the wind, perfect for raising crops, raising animals, building cities, and thus very much desired and fought over.
Are there any that I'm forgetting? Things such as coast, rivers, I'll save for features and do that up later this week.

Right now I'm trying to avoid numbers till I figure out what I need to figure into my needs and wants.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Domain Management: Overview and Sketching Some Thoughts Out

So as I sit in-between games, my mind turns to domain management. Why? Because in about half my games, I seem to have players that would love to spend their time engaging in bureaucratic exercises of running an organization/city-state/nation, and most systems just wing it.

And I hate winging it. System bits that are winged never seems to have the emphasis/importance that they should have when improvised. Improvision is for things not critical/crucial to the plot or the players happiness.

So there are two basic types of management: Domain Management and Organizational Management; while broadly these items could be done in the same system, I think it is wiser to spread them out to emphasize different things.

There are three reasons I see to have domain management, the first is that your players enjoy it; the second is to generate resources, the last is to generate plots and challenges for the players to engage with. I want to keep these in mind when I'm looking at what I'm trying to accomplish.

Broadly speaking Domain Management is about obtaining and usage of land. In my mind, this involves four key components:

  1. The land itself - where is it, what features are on it, what can it produce are all key questions that need to be answered.
  2. The structures built - what buildings are there on that land.
  3. The key people - the who's who running the domain, other than the PCs.
  4. Resources - something to manage and spend
Those four items make up the key components of domain management. I want the feeling to allow for the building up from a small manor house to a large county seat of governance. After that point, I think things get a bit too large for what I'd want to have my games to be about. So let us look at each of the areas in some form of depth:


Land can be broken down into two subcategories - major terrain and features. Terrain is fairly obvious, mountainous, hilly, forest, plains, farmland, wasteland, desert, etc. Features would make parts of the land particularly appealing, challenging, or rewarding (or some combination of all three). Features would be things like coast line, major rivers (think like the Nile or Mississippi), major lakes (Great Lakes), ancient ruins, volcanoes  or other terrain that doesn't really fit as a major terrain piece.

My biggest conundrum with land is whether a county has one terrain type or a collection of terrain types. Or perhaps that's how one delineates the size of the domain - the number of terrain types, and just allow for repeated terrain types to be used. Thus the mountainous duchy could have Mountains, Mountains, Mountains, and one of farmland to indicate the grotto that exists.

Features are easily for me to conceptualize - they are one off bits that make that terrain different then the other terrain around it. 


Now the idea behind this is to assume that there are small villages/hamlets scattered across the terrain, just to ease up on the book keeping. Buildings are something more than that, they are things that generate plots or additional resources. I envision one type of structures being freestanding, not requiring anything other than the base resources to build; and another requiring a more civilized infrastructure.

Anyone who has played any sort of building game, especially board games understand the production aspect of free standing buildings - Sawmill, Quarries, Mines, Plantations and the like. They should add (through either doubling, or just a flat addition) to the efficiency of the the land itself.

The second type of free standing structures would be Villages and Cities, with Cities being an upgrade of the Villages. These would be built to generate income as well, the centers of trade that they are, as allow for the building of more advanced buildings.

The last type of free standing structures would be a series of military - outpost, small fort/manor house, fort, and castle. Storage capacity, military forces, and protection.

So what gets built inside villages and cities? Industry that produces finish goods - textiles, iron works; universities and other places of learning, theater and libraries. Most of the goals of these would be to generate income for the city/players to do things with in the game. Of course, it does mean that money.


People are simply that - the faces of the people working in the structures. More importantly, as the game progresses they should help provide plots that entertain the group, as well as providing potential bonuses and penalties.


Resources are things you either build with, sell, or purchase. I'd want to keep it relatively simple and limit the resources to the following five items: Wealth; Wood; Stone; Ore; and Food. More than five and it gets too complicated; too few and you have quirkier things, and I already can see the game of turning food (nominally sheep/goats) into cloth, and the jokes about my fish head pants.

Villages and Cities would nominally require Food to maintain, with each additional infrastructure item requiring more food. All structures would require some amount of Wealth/Wood/Stone/Ore to be built.

So there's the backbones of what I want to accomplish with domain management, give my players some systematic tools to manage resources, generate revenue and items for themselves, and generate plots for the campaign.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Complilation of Short Thoughts

This is me trying to purge my file of "Oh, THIS is interesting, but I don't know that I have enough to write about on it." A lot of these thoughts are around getting closer to what I want out of a game, and cutting out a lot of the fluff.

Party Creation Session Template - I like having groups of adventurers linked by shared experiences at my table - it makes it easier to integrate the group. While the first attempt at Dresden Files didn't go perfectly smoothly, it did make for a convenient backdrop to how the PCs met and interacted.  As I get older and my time becomes more valuable, I'd like to get to a lot of the meat of group interaction versus having to waste a session or two on "why am I here with these insane people again?"

Table Balance of Drama and Levity and Playing Cards to Play Cards, or to Socialize; the latter is actually more interesting for me, because of a constant conflict I have with my wife. We both love to play games, table-top, board games, or your standard card games like hearts or spades. However, we frustrate each other because our intent is different - when I play hearts, for example, I want to play hearts; I'm not there to socialize while occasionally dropping cards on the table. Socializing/talking is fine, but it is secondary to the enjoyment of the game, for her, she generally would rather socialize than play cards, so we have an inherent conflict. And that gets at the heart of these two posts - finding the right balance of gaming as a social activity because we are all friends, and getting into the meat of the subject.

Frankly, for my next game, I'm seriously contemplating trying just a beer and pretzels social event because I'm frustrated with the distractions of life.

Which probably just means I'll get one of my more serious games.

The Currency of Time - I've often said that time is the most valuable resource, because it is the only one that you cannot make more of. I'd love the idea of making informational checks (knowledge/perception) cost something so that they are valuable. But the question is how to do that - one of those is to assume some form of "fail forward" where your failures are successes, but with complications.

Quest Generation -  A very rough draft of a question generation for a hip hop RPG system that I'm following for stealing for my own purposes. This gets back to the core of "not wasting time" of "okay let's jointly, PCs and GM, set out a framework of how we want the story to go" and then let the GM, i.e., me, throw in a few twists and challenges. How does this stop wasting time, because the players won't bobble around trying to figure out what the next, we all know and can move forward without wasting time at the table wandering aimlessly with either the players trying to figure out what the GM wants them to, or the GM trying to figure out how the hell  he's supposed to work this line of reasoning into storyline.

Stealing Beliefs and Instincts for D&D, while I'm not a huge fan of the Burning Wheel system as a whole, I do love stealing bits and pieces from it. In particular, with the idea of creating three driving beliefs for the character, one for what drove them to hit the road of adventure; the second for what ties them to the overarching campaign thread; and finally, a belief about the larger goal that they want. I could see tying them to some sort of XP system ala the Keys from Shadows of Yesterday, or milestones from Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Once again, the goal is to make it easy on everyone to get invested with what is going on at the table.