Monday, September 26, 2011

World Consolidation: The Kingdom Template...

Good Evening, All:

As you may well have noted, I haven't been very diligent in updating my blog over the last few weeks. Part of that has been a hectic workload, but general life issues are as much to blame as anything else. In hopes of sparking some internal interest in getting back into the blog, I've decided to return to my personal World Consolidation effort. For the immediate future, I'm working specifically on the kingdoms in my Consolidated World, and will be writing up a number of them in a simple format so that I can gather it all together in one location.

For the moment, the template I've created to capture this information can be found below. It combines some elements from my Settlement data template with elements from my Interstellar Polity data template, and should give me sufficient information to capture the rudiments of a kingdom on a single page. Further work can be done on specific examples, but for the core of my Consolidated World, this basic template should suffice.
Brief description of kingdom.
Capital: The capital city of the kingdom.
Population: Numbers and brief description of the kingdom's people and where they live.
Common Language(s): Languages commonly spoken within the kingdom.
Society: This section discusses the common mindset held by the general population of this kingdom, as an aid to Referees during gameplay and adventure design. This section should address both citizens and outsiders, if the roles are different.
Government: Who rules and how they rule. Also includes any publicly known political goals of the kingdom's government.
Diplomatic Relations: This section details the kingdom's general trends in diplomatic relations with its neighbors.
Trade & Commerce: Businesses and commercial drives for the kingdom.
Military: Guard, militia, and other defenses of the kingdom.
Major Settlements: Important settlements in or under the influence of the kingdom.
Major Organizations: Important groups in the kingdom.
Symbol: Description of the kingdom's symbol or flag.
I contemplated adding a simple Rumor table at the end of the template, but then decided against it. I'm going to have a difficult time keeping each kingdom to a page as it is. Why add additional stress to the whole process by adding a mandatory Rumors table on top of the work detailed above?

Additionally, since the above template can also be used as a handout if need be, I should probably mention that I want to have a separate section in another part of my setting bible that includes major secrets in each region and such which can be discovered over the course of adventuring. If I were to include it above, I'd probably put it at the end. Sadly, I couldn't use the page as a handout if I did so, and I'm trying to be practical here.

Your thoughts on the template above would be appreciated. If anything, I'd rather err on the side of minimalism, just to keep the size of the workload reasonable. Any comments or suggestions you have will be given the consideration they are due.

With Regards,

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Adventuring In A Dead Goddess's Dreams...

Good Evening, All:

As one of my players will not be available for gaming for two weeks, the others have asked that I run an adventure set in Dreamland. In my version of the Madlands Campaign, the goddess of dreams is the one who died in battle, and the party has become involved with her spirit/soul/essence over the course of the last year of gaming. With a player out who is pretty prominent in the main adventure, they sought an adventure idea that would help develop the background of the game a little bit, and then one of them suggested this fantastic idea. I've taken it and started to run with it.

I'm using the Dreamland adventure as a means of demonstrating elements from three of my primary story arcs. In essence, it ties these arcs into one inter-related storyline, but aside from these elements that exist because of a common point in history, the arcs still stand alone. My players seem to really enjoy these opportunities where I can share some of the secrets behind the campaign setting, and I thought that doing so would also be a great way to provide clues on how to move forward toward a resolution of one or more of these major threads.

I'm also looking forward to providing interaction with various monsters that I haven't exposed to the group yet, but will feature in some of the upcoming adventures. Most of these will be "mook level" encounters, but they paint a picture of what lies ahead in pursuit of these storylines. With these experiences under their belt, I hope to give them clues that may make future adventures a little easier. If you know what to expect from these monsters, then you can prepare for them.

Finally, given that this is a Dreamland adventure, I get to provide the characters with a different yet flavorful environment, complete with elements based on their major fears and desires. This will let me explore a little bit of the horror aspects of the setting, as well as tailor an experience directly to the past and future of the characters in a more blatant manner than the usual fantasy fare might.

I'm currently pulling my thoughts together into a set of adventure notes. Tomorrow, I'll stat up the monsters and nail down some of the final encounter elements so that I make sure the rules emphasize the flavor of a dead goddess's dreams. Have you ever wondered what the restless spirit of a dead goddess dreams of? This week and next, my players get the chance to play through one answer to that question. If all goes well, it will be the kind of game people talk about years down the road. If not, at least it will be a fun adventure, right?

With that in mind, what would you suggest? How would you tackle this kind of adventure? I obviously have my thoughts, but they aren't yet set in stone (as it were.) I'm definitely not above borrowing the better ideas and suggestions that come my way, and incorporating them into the adventure I'm crafting for my players. Thanks in advance for any assistance you might be willing to offer.

With Regards,

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Campaign Development: Background Abilities...

Good Afternoon, All:

I've observed a relatively new phenomenon recently due to my participation in the Kingmaker adventure path by Paizo, as well as reading through the War of the Burning Sky adventure path by EN Publishing and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting by Wizards of the Coast. In all three cases, the Player's Guide for the adventure path provides additional starting abilities that players can select which tie them into the campaign setting. They get their background ability for free, and along with it comes some character connection to the campaign world and the adventures as a whole. While Paizo's implementation has been a little less immersive than the examples implemented by EN Publishing or WOTC, it still captures the concept well enough that I'm tempted to pursue something like it for my next campaign.

These abilities are rarely anything overpowering. Instead, it's like a bonus granted to players who choose to connect their character to a developed storyline or campaign element, and thus enhancing their investment and immersion into the campaign. Plus, I think it gets people asking about the setting and figuring out some of the basic character roles that you want to see as a GM within the game. Usually, it's something like a +1 on a D20 roll within a limited context (such as +1 on attack rolls with axes due to cultural training), or a +2 under certain circumstances. You may also start with some kind of specialized equipment (such as a mount for a clan of horseriders, or armor for a military organization), or just a little extra cash (to reflect a better social position).

If I were to create these for my current Madlands campaign, I'd probably look at the elements that emphasize exploration in the Madlands themselves, and build some backgrounds around them. For example, I'd probably create something for the Seekers of Truth, who are trying to recover and preserve lost lore; the Order Elysia, who gain magical power by draining it from extraplanar creatures; the Circle of Mithril, a mercenary guild common to the area; the Shadow Syndicate, a rogue's guild with grander plans; and perhaps one or two other organizations with a vested interest in exploration. I'd want to make sure that I covered all of the main character types (from a "character class" perspective) in terms of applicability, and added one or two more, just for fun. Each option would be open to more than one character type, as well, to allow people to travel together who are bound by a common background, should they so choose. I'd definitely want to keep the number of options low, though, aiming for either five or seven. While it could be stretched higher than that, I would want to make sure I didn't exceed twice the number of people at the gaming table, and I'd much prefer no more than one or two more options than chairs. This creates a tighter focus, in my opinion.

I also think these would be campaign-specific. In other words, I would want to create them at the beginning of each new campaign, simply to reflect the direction of a given campaign. Next time around, even if the new campaign is set in the same location as a previous game, the focus would be different, and the background options should reflect and support that.

Until Next Time,