Posts Tagged ‘D&D’

Restoration

December 16, 2013

In OD&D there was no Restoration. If a Wight struck and you lost a level, you were stuck adventuring to regain the lost XP. This made Undead terrifying to players, as much as they should be terrifying to the characters. Eventually the rise of a vampire PC named Sir Fang and his Undead hordes influenced the creation of the Cleric class to combat them [Citation Needed].

Quickly the Restoration spell came about, most likely a result of players bitching and moaning about level draining. D&D isn’t a game with lopped-off limbs and plucked eyes, where your adventurer must retire because he took an arrow to the – elbow. While some players consider one character to be “my character” (even from campaign to campaign) and resist attempts to get them to play something else, many players are willing to restart with a fresh PC should the worst happen. But few want to give up on a crippled PC who would otherwise live a long life. I believe this is why there are few rules in D&D that give permanent disabilities.

We have two competing values: Undead need to be scary to players, but players don’t want permanent negative effects.

One way to reconcile these is to give in to players, as D&D has from 1E AD&D onward, in increasingly dramatic ways. Since that capitulation has been thoroughly explored, I’ll ignore it and try the other direction.

You could go for the other extreme, saying that yes, there are things in the world that are insidious, debilitating, horrifying. You may not want to fight this monster, for if you survive you will bear deep scars. I’d suggest telling players this from the start and make it clear that only Wishes can remove level drain (as this is a fairly big house rule) and that by no means will every party get their hands on even one Wish. I haven’t tried this.

Or you could compromise, saying that Restoration exists but there are risks. The level drain is the Morgul Blade of D&D. It is the cold fingertip of some netherworld creature yet grasping at your heart from beyond the grave. Extricating that cold claw has the chance to fail or even get worse. Roll System Shock with -5% per total level drained. This means if you’ve been drained 5 levels, restoring a level has a -25% penalty. Then the next spell is vs. a PC with 4 drains, meaning that SS roll has a -20%, etc.

For 3E use a Fort save (DC 10 + Monster HD + Monster CHA modifier + Total Number of Levels Drained).

Failure means the spell failed. There should be some reason why you can’t just cast Restoration constantly, maybe an expensive material component or a restriction that the spell can only be cast during a full moon. Maybe you get only one chance per month with each character, or only one chance against each lost level.

A critical failure, which is 01-05 on System Shock or 1 on the Fort save, means the creature was able to grasp the unfortunate more fully. This means another energy drain hit as if by the original creature – which may mean two levels lost.

I don’t exactly like that compromise but it’s the best I’ve thought of. Maybe the No Restoration rule would work better. But in that case you can’t use energy-draining Undead like any other monster. Respect how important this will be to your players. Sending a dozen Wraiths against a party is pretty much a “rocks fall, everyone dies”.

It also makes Clerics so much more important, because Turn Undead may be what saves the entire party instead of just invalidating an encounter as it works now. But will the party be too cocky if they have a high-level Cleric?

This will also be a big wake-up call to players who feel like they can bulldoze a dungeon with impunity. Might be a good idea to include a lot of these permanent-injury monsters, such as Vorpal-types (Slicer Beetle, T-Rex I believe), Parasites / Curses / Diseases (various molds and oozes, lycanthropy, mummy rot). Permadeath (except via ultra-rare Wishes of course) would include Swallow and Digest (Purple Worm) and Annihilate (Sphere of Annihilation, Disintegrate).

These should all be rare both to limit their devastation and make their appearance more poignant. There should be opportunities for avoidance if they can identify the threat, and a chance of avoidance for each PC (an attack roll is required or a saving throw is offered). Probably at least one PC will fall victim to the effect before everyone understands the threat level and has the chance to decide to flee or press the attack. It’s possible some valiant hireling will be the one to perish, or some Ranger’s ferret.

But then the DM gets to lure them in. That haunted tomb definitely contains a Holy Avenger, says the temple’s High Priest. That vault is clearly piled high with funeral goods but Shadows flicker at the edges of your torchlight. The ruined castle is home to a Vampire who mostly keeps to himself, feeding on bandits and sheep, but whose lair is said to contain fabulous artwork.

Making certain monsters palpably dangerous asks the question, “Is this fight worth it?”, which is an interesting decision for players.

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Random Helmets

August 1, 2011

Random helmets. Roll for type and face design, then optionally for decoration and minor magic. The minor magic roll has a balanced set of curses and benefits possible. If you add more of one, come up with more of the other to even it out.

helmet type (d8)
1-4: simple metal cap (round, square, bullet, or pointy top)
5-6: cap with skirt (mail, leather flap, leather strips, or metal scales)
7-8: full helm

face design (d12)
1-3: open-face
4-5: noseguard
6: pointy visor
7: round visor
8: flat visor
9-10: cage visor
11: bearded mask
12: demon-mask

decoration (d8)
1: lizard fin
2: feathers (perpendicular fan or single plume)
3: mohawk
4: fish-shaped
5: horned (bull or stag)
6: winged
7: dragon head-shaped
8: pair of cupped hands-shaped
9: spike(s) on top
10: candle-dish with mirror on front

minor magic (d100)
01: Attacks are more likely to hit helm, so enemies have +1 to hit you
02: Helm spins around to cover your face if you roll a natural 1 (1d4 rounds to fix)
03: Helm falls off if you’re hit with natural 20, 1d4x5′ away, d8 for direction (1=north, clockwise)
04: Headaches; 5% failure chance for spells or psionics
05: All head hair falls out when you put it on
06-95: No magic
96: Always a bit cooler inside, wicks away sweat, immune to hat-hair
97: Helm doesn’t interfere with hearing
98: Helm doesn’t interfere with speech or breathing
99: Helm doesn’t interfere with vision (translucent from inside)
00: Everyone within 5′ of you appears lit by Faerie Fire (only visible to wearer)

Random Treasure Chests

July 28, 2011

CHEST CONDITION TABLE
1: Rotted, easily breakable by hand, if you use a tool to smash it will damage contents
2: Sturdy, -20% (-4) to break
3: Secret compartment inside (1 in 6 there is treasure)
4: Sitting on a hole (1 in 6 there is treasure, on 6 there is a small monster like a spider)
5: Stacking trays inside to organize contents
6: Covered with dirt, spiderwebs, dung, bones, garbage, or gravel (d6)
7: Really squeaky, extra random encounter roll when you open it
8: Banged up, singed, missing handles, cracks, dents, etc.
9: Lame lock (+10% or +2 to pick) (Roll d8 for condition)
10: Good lock (-20% or -4 to pick) (Roll d8 for condition)
11: Monster (Rot Grubs, Mimic, Animal Skeleton inside) (Roll d10 for condition)
12: Trapped (Acid spray, knockout gas, poison needles) (Roll d10 for condition)

CHEST CONTENTS TABLE (d4 for small chest, d8 for normal, d10 for good chest)
1: Empty
2: Garbage
3: Some copper and silver coins
4: Some silver and gold coins
5: Lots of copper coins
6: Consumable goods (iron rations, wine, oil, arrows, ink, paper)
7: Pieces of equipment (lantern, rope, tarp, clothes)
8: Fighting equipment (leather armor, mail, helm, shield, weapon)
9: A gem or piece of jewelry and roll d8 twice more
10: A magic potion or scroll

Sessions 54 and 55

May 17, 2011

The adventurers spent the winter chilling out in the Chateau d’ Mila (previously Chateau d’ Awesome before Mila pulled the Throne card from a Deck of Many Things). They had their own little projects going.

They went back to the ruins of Earthstrike to suss out the place again and check which magic items were for sale by the weird glowing men in the basement of Presa Maximo’s tower. All overpriced, alas.

They traveled north to the Sunken Grove and encountered Goblins who claimed to not be connected with the ones who destroyed Earthstrike. The adventurers killed them anyway. During the fight the PCs took two Fireballs in succession from a Goblin magician, taking down their Illusionist Arkeshi. They used their one precious Elixir of Life to raise him from the dead. At this point everyone has used their bath in the Fountain of Life and nobody has any Raise Dead ability. They have the spell, but nobody has 9th level Healing magic skill.

In the following session the adventurers left their horses and a trained leopard above in the basement level of the Sunken Grove and explored the first dungeon level (below the basement) for about the fourth time. They found it picked pretty clean. They encountered some skeletons and some bats but nothing special. They descended to the second level and found the sinkhole down to Level 3. But they explored south throughout the hidden Toad Shrine, braving a permanent Blade Barrier and several floaty wispy monsters that zapped them, finding some treasure. Then they explored north and completely destroyed a colony of Mushroom Men with Fireballs. As the remnants escaped down an underground river they looted – a few potions. A bit underwhelming. But the XP they gained from the fight was incredible.

I changed certain spells to require spell components (basically a monetary cost to cast the spell). The Identify spell used to figure out what a magic item does now uses 10 GP worth of powdered pearl per item examined. Because this was a change in the rules with the new revision they convinced me to let them swap out some of their sapphires for pearls on a 5:1 ratio just this once. Such a softie.

So we’re now officially on version 1. I saw a couple typos in the text but they’re not too bad. Need to add to and edit the magic item book, but again it’s okay. Working on the referee book now, and after that the monster book which should be pretty easy.

Training Montage Tables

May 14, 2011

I had this cool idea for PC training. We normally just say you have to train, or you don’t, whatever the rules say or the referee is doing with this campaign. Ya pays yer money and ya gets yer level. Well what actually happens in that time? You’re paying money, so we can assume you’re training under someone. That someone is telling you to do stuff and giving you valuable insights. What kind of stuff are you doing? This can also be used to tell players what they see when they walk through the courtyard of a castle, or among the tents at a jousting tournament, or in the back rooms of the Thieve’s Guild.

These tables are organized according to the type of activity. If this is class-based training, just roll on three or so tables that represent what kinds of things that class does regularly.

Melee
1 Partner throws apples at you, have to spike them with a sword.
2 Partner throws sashes at you, which you have to cut cleanly with a sword.
3 Chopping firewood all day long with an axe.
4 Carefully chopping wooden shingles with an axe.
5 Chopping down saplings, bamboo, and brush with a machete or hatchet.
6 Handling a polearm in formation with other students.
7 Drilling for formation marching.
8 Smacking a leather-covered wooden pole with a weapon.
9 Punching a tall leather bag full of sand.
10 Wrestling practice with other students.
11 Sparring while rowing small boats on the river.
12 Sparring with distractions (roll 1d8 on the Locks and Traps table)

Archery
1 Shooting at discus that are thrown by other students.
2 Shooting at targets down a low hallway where little arc is possible.
3 Shooting at targets moving down a track, pulled by strength-training students.
4 Holding a bow drawn for minutes at a time.
5 Shooting at targets set among tree branches.
6 Shooting at targets lit only by weak flames.
7 Shooting at targets that are under a foot of water.
8 Shooting at targets that slide along a steep-angled rope.
9 Shooting in a high arc to hit something far away at the same level.
10 Stringing and maintaining bows and crossbows.
11 Shooting while riding on horseback.
12 Shooting while distracted (roll 1d8 on the Locks and Traps table)

Throwing
1 Throw apples at someone who is practicing blades – he must spike them with a sword.
2 Skipping stones off a pool of water into buckets.
3 Hurling javelins.
4 Hurling the shotput.
5 Hurling the discus, which archers fire at.
6 Throwing water from a jug to put out specific torches.
7 Throwing sashes at a partner, which he must cut cleanly with a sword.
8 Throwing heavy rocks up onto platforms at the school construction area.
9 Juggling practice: lit torches, knives, or stones.
10 Playing catch with other students using fragile clay jars full of sand. Don’t break them!
11 Playing catch with weighted medicine balls.
12 Throwing stones to hit stones thrown by other students.

Ropes
1 Lassoing pigs.
2 Untangling fishing nets.
3 Setting, opening, and mending fowler’s nets.
4 Rigging a pulley system to lift a heavy load, then dismantling and packing it up.
5 Rig up and maintain the ropes crossing the training yard for tightrope-walkers.
6 Maintain the ropes and pulleys at the school construction area.
7 Maintain the ropes for swinging across the training yard.
8 Knot-tying workshop
9 Brush and braid the hair of the village lasses
10 Repair frayed ropes

Horsemanship
1 Riding at a training dummy and hitting it with a lance or sword.
2 Charging at a mass of hanging rings and tearing off only the red ones with your lance.
3 Leaping your horse over obstacles.
4 Forcing your horse to pass through illusory flames.
5 Riding up and down steep hills.
6 Galloping through low-hanging branches of trees along a lane.
7 Fording the river on horseback.
8 Leading a blindfolded horse along a narrow path.
9 Hanging from the side of the saddle.
10 Brushing, cleaning, and otherwise caring for horses.
11 Leaping into the saddle or down from it.
12 Standing in the saddle while trotting.

Strength
1 Carrying logs out behind the training yard for the axe students to chop up.
2 Breaking rocks with a heavy hammer.
3 Hauling on ropes to pull moving targets for archery students.
4 Lifting village lasses and carrying them up and down stairs.
5 Carrying rocks around for the masons at the school construction area.
6 Get under a floor platform and shake it around while a lock-picker rides it and tries to work.
7 Lunging toward and smashing your weight into training dummies.
8 Lifting heavy weights along with other people, coordinating efforts.
9 Climbing ladders suspended vertically, horizontally, and diagonally (with just arms / with just legs).
10 Snap progressively-thicker bundles of sticks.

Agility
1 Climbing a tree to hang lots of rings from it for horsemanship training.
2 A field of thick poles stuck in the ground – you must leap from pole to pole.
3 A field of thick poles stuck in the ground – you must weave among them.
4 Crawl under sharp obstacles through mud and stones.
5 Leap from rowboat to rowboat, trying to not upset them, while other students row them in formation.
6 Tightrope-walk across the training yard
7 Climb a fieldstone wall.
8 Swing from tree to tree in the training yard, avoiding obstacles below.
9 Rowing boats that need to stay very still for acrobats to leap from boat to boat.
10 Walk around with things balanced on your head.
11 Leaping up and over training dummies.
12 Rowing downriver through rapids and over small waterfalls.

Endurance
1 Recover hurled javelins and shotputs all day.
2 Wear weights while performing some other training regimen.
3 Marching long distances with full equipment.
4 Swimming upriver.
5 Rowing boats that carry cargo and people for the school.
6 Carry water up stairs to the upper rooms of the school.
7 Loading and unloading tools and other equipment for the school construction area.
8 Mixing and stirring mortar for the school construction area.
9 Hauling rowboats out of the river and portaging them upriver.
10 Leaping down onto sand, then gravel, then stone.

Memory
1 Recite verses from a heroic epic that your trainer really likes.
2 Assemble a mosaic from memory using loose tiles.
3 Rewrite pages of text, including errors, exactly.
4 View a complex scene and later answer questions about it.
5 Recite a long, drawn-out story about the friends and family of one of the village lasses.
6 Remember the names, ages, heights, and weights of all the other students.
7 Participate in knot-tying training with the rope students.
8 Catalogue various plants, animals, or minerals.
9 Memorize songs and chants that help you remember long lists of things.
10 Re-play both sides of a board game from memory after viewing it through once.

Spellcasting (I should probably make up a table for each type of spell)
1 Cast fire magic to light torches while other people throw water to extinguish them.
2 Cast an illusion of flames for people to ride their horses through.
3 Cast lightning magic to blast stone buildings at the school construction area.
4 Counter-spelling against other magical students back and forth
5 Casting your spells as slowly as possible to delay the effect until you finally finish.
6 Casting while distracted (roll 1d8 on the Locks and Traps table)
7 Levitating heavy loads or multiple small items at once.
8 Magically churning the water in the river to make things difficult for people rowing in it.
9 Heal other students, or cure their fatigue, or summon Unseen Servants to give them massages.
10 Telekinetically knock roof tiles loose while other students telekinetically catch them and put them back.

Piety (Can also be used as punishments for bad students)
1 Fast for several days while maintaining some other training regimen.
2 Walk a labyrinth inscribed on the ground, on your knees, every morning. This represents a pilgrimage.
3 Wash the feet of the poor.
4 Gather alms for the poor.
5 Muck out the stables and spread new hay and rushes.
6 Wash everyone’s laundry.
7 Vow of silence while maintaining some other training regimen.
8 Study religious books.
9 Go to the temple of another religion and learn from them without speaking of your own faith.
10 Teach the feral village children fundamentals like literacy, arithmetic, and not biting.

Locks and Traps
1 Open a lock while people talk around you.
2 Open a lock in the dark or in cramped quarters.
3 Open a lock while you’re upside-down or lying down on your side.
4 Open a lock while icy water is dripping on you.
5 Open a lock while smoke billows around you.
6 Open a lock while a student moves a floor platform around under you.
7 Open a lock while holding your breath underwater.
8 Open a lock while suspended by ropes.
9 As a 1d8 roll, but there is a trap that shoots a jet of water at your face.
10 As a 1d8 roll, but there is a trap that smacks you with a leather fist on the end of an articulated arm.
11 As a 1d8 roll, but there is a trap that screeches at you horrifyingly.
12 Finger-exercises that form various shapes and hand-signs.

Stealth
1 Steal from a training dummy with bells sewn into it.
2 Sneak across gravel, leaves, and ankle-deep water.
3 Hide yourself among bushes and leaves, or up in the trees.
4 Conceal seven items on your person.
5 Conceal seven items in a room (library, office, workshop, bedroom, etc.)
6 Try to lose a pursuer through the nearby village.
7 Track someone through the nearby village without being noticed.
8 Quietly swim along the boardwalk by the river.
9 Quietly climb a wall, pull yourself over, and land on the other side.
10 Observe another Stealth training regimen with the trainer and try to spot things as they happen.
11 Sneak across a creaky wooden floor.
12 Sneak through the obstacle course, stealing noisy or heavy objects, bringing them all to the end.

Hirst Arts III: Design of Modular Dungeon v1

May 14, 2011

We finally decided to pick up two Hirst Arts molds and try building a dungeon.

First up we needed to gather our supplies. And then prepare for the eventual mad construction by casting a lot of blocks. We went to a builder supply and bought dental plaster. Our experience with plaster of paris is that it’s softer and takes longer to set, which offsets the small extra cost of the dental plaster. Ours was less than $50 for a 100 lb bag. If you go to the hardware store you pay about the same amount per pound for dental plaster.

The next step is to plan out what your dungeon will look like. A modular dungeon works best, since you can change the configuration to whatever you want at the time.

The Hirst Arts website has a tutorial on how to make the dungeon pieces. You should check it out, man. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll want a base that’s more rigid and durable than cereal box card. This is because you might pick up the dungeon block by a corner, which means all the weight is supported by a few weak glue joints between blocks. Better to have the weight supported by the base. For that base, we chose 1/8″ thick plywood. You can get it from the hardware store for a tiny fraction of the price of balsa tiles at a craft store. Ours cost $4 for 24 sq feet.

The next part is line-of-sight. For us, it was very important that people sitting next to the table be able to see their figurines in the dungeon without standing up. That meant the standard 1/2″ wall height (two standard bricks high) was too much. We’re doing just one brick high (1/4″). The floor bricks are 1/8″, walls are 1/4″, and lengths are all in 1″ and occasionally 3/4″ for special pieces. So everything fits together very well!

Next we need to actually set out the floorplan.

The website tutorial has three floor bricks across for a standard hallway. That’s 3″. But if you make a hallway piece, you’ll have a wall sitting on top the outside floor bricks. So you have a center row of floor, and a pair of half-inch floor spaces on either side of it. Effectively the hallway is 2″ across. But in reality, you can’t fit two figures in it side by side. So instead we’re counting any half-bricks as non-walkable space. So a dungeon block 3″ across actually only has 1″ of walkable space, and at 25mm scale is 5′ across. This will waste some table space, but it’ll be much easier to use.

We also need intersections. We’ll need a 90-degree corner, a T, and a four-way. We’re making the rooms modular as well. That is, instead of a whole room, we have room pieces. For that purpose we need tiles that have some number of open corners. Check out this diagram:

(Note: this is actually an old unposted post that I edited to reflect what we actually did. We have a second-generation tile configuration and I like it better, but we actually did make the set described here. I’ll update this post with pictures when I take them. I’ll take pictures of the Version 2 set at the same time and make a new post about it.)

Player vs. Character Knowledge – Local Info

May 13, 2011

There’s this gap between what a player knows and what his character knows. It’s a fun kind of mini-game, pretending to not know things. We also pretend to know things – how to track an animal or tan hides into leather (or fight or cast spells!).

One problem is when the player needs information to make decisions, but the player doesn’t know the information, and the character does. This means the referee ought to tell the player the information so he can know what his character knows. One example might be how the priests of two different religions treat each other. In other cases, it’s not neccessary for the player to know how to make pottery or whatever.

This mirrors an author’s difficulty in giving information to the reader that the protagonist knows already. The typical writers’ advice is something like “show, don’t tell” which means you shouldn’t say the priests hate each other’s guts, you should describe what the priests say to each other and how they act, letting the reader draw his own conclusions.

The problem of giving a player information he should already have is eased a bit when the character doesn’t know either. If your character is a stranger in this land, having just journeyed there, then the referee doesn’t need to tell the player anything about it. He can just “show, not tell” how the game setting works. Overall this cuts down on exposition, which tends to make everyone’s eyes glaze over.

A second issue is giving only the information (whether showing or telling) that he needs right now. Don’t overload, again avoiding long exposition. You should be able to pimp out your game setting in a 1-minute elevator pitch (without talking super fast either). That should suffice for players starting out in the game, too. A second minute should get any new players up to date with what they need to play.

Yes this means I have a bias against games with convoluted alliances and enmities, lots of broad-stroke history and small events that totally matter, lots of important NPCs in general, etc. Maybe if everyone in your group really likes keeping NPC flowcharts and dossiers, that’s great, but there’s a point where most people just don’t care anymore. Stop telling me about X NPC who did Y thing with Z magic item in the ABC wars of 1335 in the Theocratic Republic of DEF. Start letting us play our characters, who after all are the most important characters to us no matter what.

Since that drifted away from decent information and into BLAH BLAH at the end, here’s the JOESKYTAX:

Sandbox Within A Sandbox

May 13, 2011

I realized something when I despaired that my sandbox campaign was too far-flung and didn’t have enough cool adventure sites in it, and those adventure sites weren’t expansive enough, so you end up with scattered sites 2-4 (5-mile) hexes apart wherein each location has 1-6 sessions of adventure possibility.

I fixed the first problem by adding random site encounters and expanding random monster encounters on the fly when I roll that the creature was near its lair. These both end up becoming new sites that I add to the map.

I just realized the fix for the second problem. Before I thought of each adventure site as a little nugget based on one or two cool things that I wanted to place. But you have up to 5 miles to explore. Why not design the adventure site like a little sandbox? This follows the module design for Isle of Dread, Lost City, and Dwellers of the Forbidden City. And now that I type this, I realize that I have already dropped a bunch of these down without thinking, and didn’t remember them because I haven’t gone through any effort to develop them yet.

I made the connection when I thought, maybe I need to refine the sandbox arena to a more densely-detailed smaller locale, like a single mountain valley or something. I have some initial notes for a bunch of these campaigns. Why not just cram the valley sandbox into my big sandbox?

I don’t need to be careful about the adventurers getting sidetracked in an offbeat site that has a lot of depth. It happened accidentally with the Sunken Grove, which was the first dungeon explored on the very first game session, plumbed down to Level 3 but not completely explored (chased off by Mushroom Men). The party returned with a different composition later and scoured Level 1 and 2 again, not discovering the entrances to Level 3. Now they’re back.

Exile: Escape from the Pit

May 12, 2011

Back in the day I played a shareware Spiderweb Software title called Exile: Escape from the Pit. Later the programmer made sequels, and even later he updated them all with better graphics and so forth. The name changed to Avernum instead of Exile. They’re substantially similar.

The game started with your party of criminals having just been exiled through a one-way portal to the depths of a cave system below the Empire. That Empire exiled anyone, really, including political dissidents and homosexuals, so it’s not like your characters needed to be actual criminals. Point is, you’re down in this cave and there’s no escape to the surface.

You arrive in a town that the exiles have built, one of many, on the eastern edge of this huge cavern. It’s basically an overland map. There are lakes and river systems, you can ride boats around, you can see wandering monsters coming from far away. It’s really a pretty decent game.

The setting interests me for D&D purposes. It works as a source material for Underworld adventure, not really for the flavor of the game which was actually sort of bland, but for the whole structure. It’s nice to see a finished, working frame and build from that.

From there, research deep cave systems and cave exploration. The danger and variety present in real-life caves are pretty astonishing. Incorporate those ideas into the Exile campaign. Come up with a few new Big Ideas that aren’t present in Exile and probably remove the one that was there. Map up the whole main cave system and add the towns and adventure sites. Note some side cave systems that connect to multiple places in the “overland” main cave. Detail the first town and the nearest few things, and work your way outward from there week to week as play continues.

I think because the game world is so well-bordered, even if not linear, it’s like playing on an archipelago of islands with harsh currents between that make travel among them difficult.

Domains: Village and Town

May 9, 2011

Villages vs. Towns. In the previous post I talked about a Stronghold and its Village nearby. That Village could be a Town instead, but Villages and Towns do things differently. As a Stronghold and Village grows, it may splay its fingers out and have other villages farther away, and the village around the Stronghold could grow to become a Town instead. Here’s the difference: Villages gather or create resources, which are shipped to Towns for consumption. Towns ship back finished goods of a higher quality and lower cost than could be produced in the Village.

Here’s one possible explanation. In a village you could employ a Blacksmith, or not, but regardless you will need some Blacksmithing work done. If you don’t have one, you have to go to a nearby village to get the work done and to buy new tools. It’s more expensive and inconvenient. The small village just doesn’t have enough people, enough demand, to warrant a whole Blacksmith. However, the village does produce a whole lot more food than it needs, which means the village can trade it to the outside world in exchange for other stuff. A town has the reverse problem: it can produce stuff, but it doesn’t produce food.

That’s not to say you can’t have a town with farmland around it. But the population of the town is probably so much higher than the surrounding farmland can support that it needs to buy food from elsewhere.

The second issue is that some resources are terrain-based. You need to be near a forest to produce wood and game animal meat. You need to be near mineral deposits to produce ore. The town probably grows up from a village at a place central to trade routes, but not necessarily near these resource centers. The mining village produces more ore than it could use, but maybe not enough food, and it’s the only village in the region that produces ore.

Check out this map.

The yellow things are farmland. The double blue lines are rapids or falls. The Mickey thing is a primary Stronghold, the other houses are villages.

What I hope this illustrates is that there is a reason why the entire population isn’t centered around the main Stronghold. If you put the Stronghold up by the mining village, it’s effectively on the outskirts of the land you want to possess. Of course this doesn’t preclude putting fortified places in these other villages, and in fact there should be. But it matters where your main Stronghold is, because that’s where you probably have most of your retainers and your special library and laboratory and all the cool furniture you collect on your adventures. You can’t have three capitols.

Hopefully you can also see why it’s more difficult to determine income from townsfolk, though we can abstract that out too and say that townsfolk give all their taxes in money and not in food and services. This means a town family gives 25 SP per month in tax – pretty cool! So why don’t you just tell all your villagers to buck up and stop farming and just do town things? Because then everyone starves to death and they don’t have the cash money to pay your taxes anyway.

For this reason I’d say you need X village families doing agriculture in order to support Y families not doing agriculture (mining, townsfolk, lumberjacking), and to support the society you’d need A mining families and B lumberjacking families per C total population. Still need to figure out what those should be. Effectively, you’d try to get as many townsfolk as possible because they represent money coming in. But to get those townsfolk you need to support them with enough goods-producing families. You really just care because of the form the tax payment comes in.

I think this level of abstraction is okay, because I’ll just do the nuts and bolts math behind it and give the approximate per-family tax output and support requirements. The player doesn’t need to worry about anything else. If he wants to move families around it’s okay, I don’t care if he drives the barony into famine or mismanages it once he has the underlying numbers. Or will I give him those? If he’s the absentee lord maybe I’ll just give him the populations of each village and town.

Anyway there’s a third possibility for a settlement: the outpost. I won’t make any new rules for outposts, they’re just villages that don’t really produce anything noteworthy. You might want an outpost along a long trade route for example. If I think the outpost families can all work enough I would probably just say the outpost families produce money taxes like town families. We’re talking about an inn or caravanserai with some outlying farms.

Another possibility is that you have a hybrid town-village, where there is a core in the town with high enough population to require agriculture families in the outskirts to support it, but that population isn’t quite high enough to need outside food. Kind of a mini-town. I suspect this would be a midpoint where the existing settlement is in the process of growing into a town. With nothing to check its growth, and people still flocking to it with promises of wealth and comfort and society, the town would eventually grow beyond the hybrid stage. But a strong ruler could demand a maximum town population and tell everyone else to just go try to develop some other village into a town. In this case I would count the townies and the farmers separately and give the taxes for each part (in money from the first, food and such from the second). Of course the hybrid agritown wouldn’t solve the problem of far-flung resource extraction (mining, forestry, etc.).