Saturday, March 16, 2019

A Short Hiatus

I am getting inundated with work as I wrap up my second degree and won't be able to maintain my every-other-day posting schedule in the coming couple of weeks. As such, I will be taking a short break while I clear out some work. I'll be back to it in two weeks, though, with more hexy goodness, and maybe some ruminations on science fiction gaming.

Until then, have fun and enjoy the onset of spring!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mapping Update: Placing Locations - not Encounters

I have been working to place interesting locations on my hex map, and I've come to a conclusion. I am placing locations, not encounters. Why make that distinction? Because "encounters" has a specific connotation that revolves around conflict and implies a degree of railroading. If you enter this hex, the GM rolls and if the dice come up Encounter, the players have to deal with something predetermined by the GM. That isn't good GMing, in my view.

So instead of placing encounters that unfold a predetermined way, I place locations where something might be happening. I will roll to see if the players stumble on the location, and if so, give them information based on what they witness. What happens from there is 100% up to them. It might be a dungeon entrance. It might be a gnarled tree with a rope tied about its trunk. It might be a pile of rotting corpses. Whatever.

That doesn't mean there aren't random encounters rolled for hexes. These represent stumbling on an event that potentially provokes action. These could be combat-oriented like a dozen orcs charging a wagon with drawn swords, or they could just be creepiness like catching a glimpse of fish-men playing pipes in the distant fog. Again, these provide the opportunity for the players to make decisions. They don't exist to force players into a specific course of action...unless they really mess up a Perception check and get ambushed by a hostile encounter. But even then, there is a string of rolls that create that situation - Reaction rolls by the hostile party that indicate it will attack, opposed Stealth checks to see if they can sneak up and waylay the party, failed Perception rolls by the party, etc. The players get their chance to avoid it, dice gods willing.

So that's a whole lot of ranting about a concept, but how has it been implemented in the hex map? I have placed several locales in the uncivilized parts of the map so far. These are, for the most part, stationary (with one fun exception that might move once per week). I'm generally picking locations that scream out for something initially and then going back to fill in other ideas afterward. So far, Alnwich is pretty well covered, so I'm starting to expand the adventure bubble outward.  This method seems to be working well, so far.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mapping Update: Alnwich

I have finished filling in terrain and towns for the entire northeast corner of my hex map. I started out going this direction because it provides natural barriers to PC exploration. To the north are the Skaldafjoll, which as subarctic to arctic mountains, present something few prepared high level PCs will easily cross, let alone starting PCs. Of course, the foothills and forests to their south are definitely good adventuring sites.

Mapping this corner first also gives me some ideas about how Alnwich relates back to Northmarch and Usk. It has already become apparent that there is a main road that leads back southeast toward civilization, and there is a full-blown town town around a week or two away.

I'm also starting to see what the edge of civilization looks like in Usk. There are a string of fortified villages that run along the wilderlands' edge in the north and the west. These are largely supported by market villages one to two day's ride away, depending on the sparsity of the local forest. Trails connect these village-forts to each other, and roads connect them to their supporting market villages. this suggests that they can shift resources to support each other as needed, but not very quickly.

We also see that where the forest has been cleared or grows thin, dirt roads tend to replace footpaths and trails and villages tend to be about five miles apart, instead of ten or more. Furthermore, the land tends to be cultivated with small patches of woodland still presenting physical barriers to travel.

I suspect that as one travels deeper into Usk, villages tend to reach their maximum packing density and the map becomes far less interesting from an adventuring standpoint. This also provides a barrier to PCs. If you move into Usk, there are fewer opportunities to get rich, achieve glory, etc. because there just aren't many monsters sitting on hordes of treasure left. So if players want a game of intrigue and cunning, head to Usk. If they want game of exploration, violence, and adventure, head to the wilderlands. And that's exactly the point!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Naming Conventions for Stars, Planets, and Moons

As you all know, I have been working on automating Jon Zeigler's Architect of Worlds system, and I've come to realize recently that I need a nice, coherent naming convention for stars, planets, and moons.

As far as I am aware, the current convention is that individual stars get names A, B, C, etc. in order of mass from most massive to least massive, and planets append a lower-case letter on that based on the size of their obit, from innermost to outermost. In this convention, Earth would be designated Sol c. The second planet around the second most massive star in a binary would be [StarName] B b. I am not aware of any standing convention for naming moons around exoplanets.

I have a couple of issues with this convention. Firstly, it lacks a means by which to address moons. I need that because I will be generating moons. Furthermore, I dislike that both the star and planet are designated by letters. This just sounds weird when said aloud. It will also invariably become the butt of jokes at some point - there are just too many combinations that will elicit a giggles (Planet B-j?). So let's take a look at some alternatives.

Immediately, alternating between letters and numbers for unnamed planets comes to mind. So the third planet around the second star would either be 2-C or B-3. I kind of like keeping the stars designated by letter, so I'm going to opt for the second in this case. Also, that number might be designated by Roman numeral or by Arabic numeral. Using the previous example, we get either B-3 or B-III. Again, I like the latter - mostly because it looks cool.

So now I have a way to deal with stars and planets, but what about moons? Again, we want to avoid repeating what just preceded it because that looks weird and sounds weirder. So the current form is <letter>-<number>. This suggests the next should be a letter. Let's consider that moons are small, so let's make this a lower case letter. Taking the first moon about B-III, we get B-III-a. This is easy to read but in text, it's a little aesthetically lacking. So let's drop that last hyphen. Now we have B-IIIa. That looks good to me.

That covers moons around planets around single stars, but what about planets that orbit entire binaries...or trinaries...or quaternaries? I suggest the letter grouping for the cluster being orbited be used in the first spot. So a planet orbiting a binary would start with 'AB', and one orbiting the second binary in a quaternary would be 'CD'. If a planet orbits an entire trinary, it'd start with 'ABC'.

With this, we can describe any planet, moon, or star in a star system, and at a glance, know the basic nature of its orbit. I think that's a good start for now.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Automating Architect of Worlds

I've been using the Architect of Worlds system as a small side project to get some extra experience doing non-numerical-solving things in Python, and I am up to Step Eight of the Star System Creation bit. So far, its going amoothly, but I think I'm reaching a point where I need to sort out how to handle all the data being generated.

I'm currently thinking that I'd like some sort of parent-child structure so moons belong to their planets, and planets belong to their primaries, which in turn belong to their systems. I've never had to do this sort of data handling before, so this will be a good learning experience.

I'm also hoping to round out the sequence by generating as much of the non-gaming-information available on a typical Wikipedia page as possible - stuff like flattening, surface area, etc. Ultimately, I'd love for this to output a database I can keep in Access and use to generate pretty system reports for players with a couple of button clicks. I have no idea if I can pull that off, but I'll definitely learn a lot trying.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Architect of Worlds PDFs

Today I have a quick update on Architect of Worlds, Jon Zeigler's update to the star and planet generation system from GURPS Space. He has been posting individual steps for some time now and has covered how to create star systems and planets, thus far. He also has announced plans to post the remainder of the core system this year. But this isn't new stuff.

What's new is he has created a dedicated page with PDFs of the entire process that he plans on keeping up to date. This will make using the system much easier to use. So without further ado, here is a link to the new Architect of Worlds page.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monster Lists & Mapping

As everyone who has read this blog for any time knows, my system of choice is GURPS, mostly out of laziness. Yes laziness. GURPS can handle any play style and genre pretty well, even if specialized systems might potentially outshine it on a case-by-case scenario. So what that means for me is that, while I might not get optimal performance for each genre I enjoy, I only need to know one system. That is valuable to me. It doesn't hurt that GURPS handles my two favorite genres pretty well, too!

This post isn't a plug for GURPS, though, so I'll get to the point. I use GURPS. I am lazy. These are sometimes at odds. GURPS does not have a dedicated bestiary in the way that Dungeons & Dragons does. There's no single book I can open and get my hands on hundreds of premade monsters. Sure, Dungeon Fantasy has four books of monsters, now, and I use them, but two are toolkits for making specific types of monsters - oozes and dragons, and the other two have 60 monsters combined, at most. My point here is that as a GM, if I want monsters, I very regularly have to make them myself.

Of course, I've been doing this for a while and have my own repository of monsters at this point. I've even posted some of them on this blog. So that helps, but that doesn't mean I always have the monsters I need on hand when I start placing them on maps. So this is what I do.

As I map, I jot down notes of what goes where and keep a running list of every monster I've placed. This includes different flavors - e.g., Goblin Archer, Goblin Mook, Goblin Priest, Goblin Fighter, Goblin Kamikaze (don't ask), etc. I also jot down monsters with affix combinations - e.g., Possessed Berserk Killer Minotaur of the Juggernaut and such. Some of these will eventually turn into monsters in and of themselves. Lastly, I jot down any monsters that might be traps or traps that might be monsters. Sometimes there are gray areas.

This list becomes my To Do List for monster creation. Anything that doesn't come in flavors or with affixes are just base monsters. Those that have flavors get a base monster and then flavors built on those base monsters. The same goes for monsters with affixes. Finally, those that blur the lines with traps get a final sorting at this stage, and those that make the monster cut get statted. Usually, inspiration or tangents grab me during this process and spawn a few other monsters for the ever-growing folder of That-Which-Paper-Men-Were-Not-Meant-to-Survive.

So if you're mapping and have an idea for a monster, jot it down on a list. Keep that list handy. It's nice to know what's in your dungeon or wilderness area. It's also nice to have a ready-made list of stuff to do when you find some down time.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Map of the Region around Alnwich

As promised here is a hex map of the area around Alnwich. It uses 5-mile hexes and has all of the major geographic features and points of interest mentioned so far. I'll start dropping interesting locations, next, and cataloging those in a database. After that, it will be time to start rolling randomly.

It's worth noting that I will likely steal profusely from my favorite published material for "interesting locations". So expect Caverns of Thracia and the Dark Tower to make an appearance somewhere., and I'll probably do my own spin on the Demonweb Pits and Tomb of Horrors, too. That said, this map will likely be lair-heavy, owning to the extensive wilderness areas.

And on one last side note, I haven't really placed any rivers yet because the Trollenmere specifically lacks any inflows or outflows. As I map out more of the Skaldafoll or other elevated regions, I'll start drawing them. After all, rivers flow downhill, and until I know where that is, there's no point in starting!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hex Mapping and Resources

I have begun creating a hex map of Alnwich and the surrounding land. I am largely following the advice of The Welsh Piper and The Alexandrian for my process, not to mention all of the work Rob Conley has done over at Bat in the Attic. I am also going through a lot of the resources Charles has already posted on his blog, Nature Kills: A Hexcrawl for GURPS.

What do I know so far? Well, I am using 5-mile hexes because they mesh well with the average Joe's Basic Move in GURPS. I have also mapped out the bits of around Alnwich I have already described or mentioned. I figure that is the first place to start - putting down what I already know. Once I have that looking good, I'll start expanding outward. That way, I can keep an appropriate level of detail without getting too bogged down in stuff.

I will need a few things for this, though. First, and probably second, third, fourth, fifth, etc., are a good set of tables. These will be extremely helpful in generating hex contents and placing features and encounters. Next, I will need a database to serve as my key. If this grows to a large size, having that information neatly organized will be critical. Better to start now than to have to do data entry later. Lastly, I need more free time. But I think every hobbyist needs that.

I'll try to post the fruits of my labor in the coming days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Sandboxes and Broadening the Scope of Alnwich

I've been speaking a lot with a couple of friends - one a fantasy sandbox addict who loves hexcrawls and the other a big science fiction fan - about the types of games they like to run and play in, and that has gotten me thinking about the sorts of games I really enjoy running and playing in.

I started roleplaying with Alternity, an old TSR game from the early 90s for science fiction gaming, and from there moved to d6 Space - specifically Star Wars RPG 1e from West End Games. See, I had grown up reading science fiction from the Big Three and loved every minute of it. The chance to be a part of the story instead of merely a spectator was too much to resist.

As it seems often happens in the gaming community, I eventually discovered the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D in my case). Now I got to play in one of my other favorite genres, and that was downright magical. I was exploring a world, interacting with it, and helping create it through play. It was a blast.

Fast forward to now, I find myself mostly running games, and those tend to be either science fiction or fantasy. Who would have guessed? But beyond that, I have always been about providing enough of a world for players to run amok in. I love it when players mess with the setting through their PCs' actions. It's great when the party topples a major government or kills a god or whatever. That drives the world to new growth and develops the setting even further. This love for worldbuilding and setting the pieces up for the players to knock down has been a driving factor behind developing the town of Alnwich these past months.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, mostly that I think I'm going to shift away from the development of a megadungeon and more toward an open sandbox. That isn't to say megadungeons aren't sandboxes or that there isn't a megadungeon under Siedrborg. Instead, I'm going to veer away from standard Dungeon Fantasy tropes. Town won't be a collection of dice rolls unless that is what the game calls for that session. Players can go into Alnwich and machinate to their hearts' content. Players can do things in town that will make it an unsafe place to be for them; they will also have to live with the consequences of that. They can explore the countryside or the wilderlands, if they want. Basically, I'm opening up the entire world.

So where does that leave this blog? Well, I'll continue to develop the setting details, but I'll also start working on a regional hex map and placing other points of interest. It will no longer be just about getting in the dungeon to kill things and take their stuff. It will also be about exploration, establishing settlements (if desired), fighting invading hordes (always fun), overthrowing despots, etc. It will be oldschool gaming with a focus on going from zero to hero and seeing how many paper bodies pile up along the way.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Gods of Alnwich: Pantheon Generalists

Today, I will talk what should be taken as the "normal" way of worshipping the gods, that is, as a whole. The write-up below treats the entire pantheon as a single entity for the purposes of building clerics and holy warriors.

The Pantheon

the Gods

Treat as a Greater Deity
Sphere of Influence: Everything.
Symbols: Oak Tree.
Favored Weapon: Any.
Relationships: It's Complicated.

Most people in and around Alnwich worship the entire pantheon as a whole, and make appropriate offerings during the many holidays and festivals – sometimes to specific deities, sometimes to all of them. The history of the gods is too long and intricate to tell here, but such stories are the regular subjects songs, evening tales, and poetry. The people believe the gods are very real and very physically present. One does not brush off chance meetings with strangers or signs of things to come.

Moreover, the pantheon consists of far more deities than just the main thirteen. Some of these may be local spirits that choose to intervene in mortal affairs, personifications of concepts, or even just animal spirits and elementals. Because there are so many deities, people don’t just believe in their physicality, they expect to encounter them.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Guilds of Alnwich: The Pantheon of Alnwich

The Pantheon of Alnwich

Rank: Religious Rank 0 to 2.
In Charge: Thyra Hakondottr (Cleric).
In the Ranks: Clerics and Initiates.
On the Payroll: Anyone, but mostly servants and laborers.

Influencing the AR: Any social skill; see below.

The Pantheon is the local temple to the gods. As is common among the religions of the North, there is no centralized governing body for the faith, and members meet rarely. Instead, each temple is a bastion unto its own and operates without support or interaction with the greater religion.

The Pantheon of Alnwich is run by the High Priestess Thyra Hakondottr with the assistance of her priests and initiates. The temple is supported by contributions from the community and employs some servants and laborers to maintain the grounds and building. Should these not suffice to keep the temple in good order, Earl Borg has been known to make contributions of men and supplies to keep the house of the gods in good repair.

People tend to interact with the individual priests of the Pantheon personally rather than with the organization as a whole. To influence ARs, roll a Quick Contest between any suitable social skill and the individual member’s Will. The AR modifier is half the margin of victory (minimum +1) or loss (minimum -1).

The Pantheon doesn’t have official ranks; still a few terms tend to apply. Those new to the order are of Rank 0 and called Acolytes, Initiates, Neophytes, or Brother or Sister, and once an initiate completes his initiation, he gains Rank 1 and the title of Priest. The priest in charge of running a temple is usually called the High Priest or Priestess.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Architect of Worlds

If you don't know about this, you should. Jon Zeigler, author of GURPS Space has been updating his system to conform with modern research. He hasn't posted all of it yet - it is still in the works - but for those of you who love science fiction and need to generate worlds, it is fantastic. What's even crazier is that he has posted it on his blog for free.

The entire Architect of Worlds system to date can be found here in PDF form:
Architect of Worlds

You can find the individual steps here:

So if you love science fiction gaming, world building (literally!) or generally want to see this amazing work come to fruition, make sure you go check out his blog. I know I'll be using this creation sequence the next time I run a science fiction game.

Monday, February 18, 2019

No Longer on GURPS Discord

I just got permanently banned from the GURPS Discord server by Chris Rice, GURPS Author, for standing up for myself. I just wanted to let people know that that's not a place to find me anymore. I'm still around the ACKS Discord an the Tenkar's Tavern Discord, though. And as always, I continue to post here, so feel free to drop a comment anytime!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Gods of Alnwich: Menes


the Fawn-Slayer, the Lamp-Bearer, the Three-Formed, the Untamable Goddess

Greater Deity
Sphere of Influence: Art, Faeries, Luck, Magic, Pathways.
Symbols: Candles, Cats, Cauldron, Chalice, Doves, Knife, Crescent Moon, and Silver.
Favored Weapon: Knife & Magic.
Relationships: Mother of Yaunävä and Mäla.

Mënes is the goddess of a great many things, but primarily of faeries, magic, and pathways. Her ties to the moon link her to darkness, cycles, menses, fertility, and women. She rules the wilderness of land, sea, and air; and is often associates with beauty, war, and death. Mënes appears as a youthful maiden wearing a cloak of falcon feathers and carrying a torch, and she is usually accompanied by a pack of great hounds or scores upon scores of cats.