Monday, December 29, 2014

Why is there a dungeon entrance in my grandmother's basement?

In the current campaign, we recently relocated from a setting where the dungeon was an hour or so outside of town and we usually could expect to just walk the day's loot out, no major fuss involved. Now we're 160 miles away, with our return rides, some hirelings, and the food for the way back camped a short ride outside of monster town, where their existence might be reasonably deduced by some likely future hostiles we've encountered.

At the moment the adventure balance is sort of Warcraft-like. Town is safe, most encounters are site-based. You really have to pick your loot when you have to carry it back for a week's uncertain caravan back to safety or trade with a troll for crude-but-portable swag.

The distance-from-safety involved in the campaign's move poses some interesting role-playing challenges. And I think it's pretty clear that having an unquestionably safe place a trivial distance away removes food and water tracking as a game element, and lessens the importance of planning ahead for gear. I like obsessing over gear, but living out of a backpack is pretty mundane adventure.

There is a lot of adventure potential in having danger on your doorstep, if the danger occasionally crosses the threshold. Then your safe place may not be so safe. Of course, there might be hostile factions in town that shift the focus of play away from the dungeon, but it's a different sort of thing when an evil thing is tearing up Moe's Tavern and you're listening at the doors of the inn. At that point, the dungeon/town dichotomy breaks down.

But then, so does the stability of the game world, so maybe that's why more DM's don't do that. Not everyone wants to play Warhammer or Cthulhu when they play D&D.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why would the next guy want to do it my way?

So: I back-read the contents of the blog tonight, and ran across a link to Zak's seminal rogue/sandbox essay.  Good stuff, that definitely had me questioning whether paladin is really an adventure-friendly choice.  Is my paladin character just a vehicle for the DM to dispense plot?  What may superman choose?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nathaniel and I have been talking about Gus's awesome HMS Apollyon campaign, which has our heroes literally plucked out of the deep blue sea and set to earn their keep by adventure.  Awesome game, very little player agency at the outset. Yet it's still clearly a sandbox of a megadungeon. Zak's points apply after the outset, and the play reports do contain references to later passenger-class or characters from Apollyon-specific races. It's the agency-denying castaway origin that played into our discussion, though. We were looking for an answer to the eternal question of what unifies our handful of special snowflakes?

Maybe agency is overrated.  Sometimes it's nice to have your options constrained by circumstances.  That's why we all choose to look for our loot and threat inside of nice comfortable dungeon walls instead of seeking treasure and fighting monsters in the woods, with it's profusion of natural cover and map-defying nameless hills. Do we need a say in why the character is in the party?

Tangentially, I'm considering going with order as rolled for my next character.  Not that I'm suicidal, but now that Baldomero is the party tank, I expect to slip on the wrong banana peel sooner or later.  I bring it up only as another example of arbitrary constraint I feel drawn to. I'm not so far gone that I favor pre-generated characters or random character traits. I still think it's worth while to think about what kind of character you want to play.

Back to the main point, which is whether we can afford to have six guys all having their own individual agendas each do their thing in the two or three hours we get to play these days.  If not, then we may as well have been plucked out of the sea.  In Gardmore, the Deck draws us. Groovy. This creates a set of lines I have to stay within when I'm thinking up that next guy.

Whoever it is needs to just happen to be kicking it in monster town and then decide he wants in on the party's thing.  Or, there's always the two hillbillies Rokdig hired, I guess.  One of them could step up. What to do?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blog, Resurrected

Topics to consider:

- Starting XP
- Distance from Dungeon to Town
- Party Origins & Replacement Characters
- Clerics & Gods
- Megadungeon: underground v. Ruined city
- Transhuman fantasy