Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vault of the Goblin: The Final Map - Post 500

My 500th post!

I have now officially finished mapping for the Vault of the Goblin... I've decided to go back and re-number all of the encounter areas to have each area receive an individual number. I was starting each section over again with the number 1, and creating more confusion for myself than necessary... this project keeps moving along. I want to have pdfs done in the next few weeks, and all Kickstarter rewards out the door by the end of April.

This map is the closest I'm ever going to come to my own version of the Tomb of Horrors...You can only get through by losing a hand, lighting yourself on fire, withstanding a disintegration field, and navigating a trap-filled, anti-magic hall. Sacrifices will needs be made...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

This way to mapping MADNESS

Early on in the process (like WAY early... check out this map from 2011) and even more recently (this map from about a year ago), I had been thinking about how the human settlement and the Vault of the Goblin go together.

As all the pieces finally come together and I make it all align nice and purty for the Saga of the Splintered Realm, I hit a bit of a problem. Or rather, a bit of several problems...

1. The keep map is a little on the sloppy side. It was one of the earlier maps I did in the evolution of mapping techniques.

2. The two maps don't layer over each other nicely. I kind of see where the central entry goes in relation to the upper keep, but the other entrances don't line up where I want them to.

3. There are some elements of the maps that I've sort of hand waved in play because I didn't love the utility of the layout. Some things were a little off from where I truly wanted them as I played.

4. Worst of all, the two maps are on graph paper that is 5 squares to an inch and non-photo blue, while all of my more recent maps are 4 squares to an inch on graph paper that always picks up the lines whenever I scan or photocopy it... and I have a ton of the newer style maps that all look clean and sharp.

So, I re-designed the two, breaking one of my cardinal rules, which is never re-draw. You can get bogged down in fixing old work that you don't move forward. However, since these two maps are CENTRAL to the experience of the Vault - these are the two maps referees are most likely to use and re-use - it was important that they had the most utility possible.

Now, if you printed them out and lined them up, the northwest pile of rubble on the vault map lines up under the octagonal temple in the northwest corner of the keep, the main stairs align under the south central building (the hall of warriors), and the stairs in the northeast align under the inner keep to the far east of Fort Morovar.

I present to you the revised Fort Morovar and Vault of the Goblin Entry Well:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mushroom King's Domain

Okay, before you read any further, you should check out the incredible map by +Dyson Logos that inspired this one...

Back? Good.

I have been thinking that in the Vault of the Goblin, the goblins didn't have much in the way of food... and packing a few thousand goblins into a deep hole for a while, things are going to get testy if everyone is starving to death. While I think they would subsist on a steady diet of rats and big spiders (those would be plentiful), they'd need a staple for their diet as well...

Enter the Mushroom King's Domain.

I've never had a use for shriekers (I didn't even put them in the first iteration of the core rules - but I will now), myconids, and various mushroomy stuff. All that changes now!

The thought is that the mushroom king (a myconid of maybe 4 HD who lives in the southern chamber, sitting atop the largest of the toadstools) had an agreement with the goblins to let them skim some mushrooms for gifts they'd bring him...

In the northern part of the chamber are patches of shriekers that not only alert the myconids to the presence of outsiders, but also attract a huge centipede that roams the place. It will eat only shriekers (finding them quite the tasty treat), but hates the taste of all other fungi. However, he's been around them so long that he has, like a clownfish does with sea anemones, made himself virtually invisible to them, since he's coated with so much fungus slime. So, the shriekers never go off as he slithers by... but their shrieking will attract him quickly. He'll go to town chowing down on shrieker for several rounds before he notices the fellowship, giving them time to either beat a hasty retreat or plan their attack.

I'm having fun designing these smaller, self-contained encounter areas as sub-sets to the Vault of the Goblin...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Vault of the Goblin: Connective Tissue

Inspired by the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, I've been thinking of the Vault of the Goblin as a series of nodes that are connected by larger expanses of 'not much'... long tunnels, great empty caves, and the like...

Of course, there are the areas that are off (or along) the beaten path, but which are smaller expanses of 'something' that are not tied directly to a node - the connective tissue of the nodes. These are almost like random encounters along the path between nodes. I'm going to formalize these in their appearance, but I'm still thinking of ways to randomize these as well...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Vault of the Goblin: Deeper Prisons

The goblins love their prisons... this is the penultimate level before the pits, which is a prison for some of their more powerful foes, and a deep pit in the middle that they drop especially nasty enemies into.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Subclass Conundrum

I like the way in which the B/X system that I’ve mimicked creates unique race/class combinations that become classes. These are nifty, and allow for all manner of unique variations. I have two modifications to this in mind, and I’d like to explore them both a bit here…

The first is the minor class. I like the idea of minor classes (limited to six levels of advancement) that represent the secondary species of the game world. These don’t all necessarily start at ‘level 1’, but start with the basic hit die of the monster (or maybe one before) and then carry on for 6 levels. For example, a pixie leafkeeper advances from levels 1-6 (at d4 hit die), and has access to some nature magic and some arcane magic (a limited spell list to choose from). Conversely, a minotaur vigilant advances from level 5 (5d8 HD) to level 10 (10d8 HD). They get advanced combat abilities, and pick up a few talents. The minor classes would be unlikely to be used by player characters, but there’d be nothing to say they couldn’t be… it would be perfectly viable to run a campaign of pixie creatures each built on a different pixie minor class, and to develop these classes quickly. You could have a pixie healer (lighter armor, faith magic), a pixie ardent (no magic, better fighting ability) and a pixie tinker (kind of a thief with a smattering of magic) pretty quickly set up as minor classes with minimal sweat equity. In general, it would make sense that the numbers you might encounter cut in half with every level. 50% are level 1; 25% are level 2; 12% are level 3; 6% are level 4; 3% are level 5; about 1% get to level 6. You’d rarely see these more powerful examples. This is a very simple plug-in that allows for a great deal of customization, but which you can ignore altogether if that better suits you.

Subclasses, however, don’t allow themselves to be solved quite as simply.

I don’t like the idea of a proliferation of ‘core’ classes. The barbarian, ranger, knight, paladin, cavalier, and mercenary all have one purpose – to drown out the fighter. I like the idea of each of these being a sub-class (dare I use the word ‘kit’?) that layers over the core class. +Dyson Logos did a brilliant series on subclasses for B/X games, and I like a lot of things about his approach, although I’d want to tinker some… these have to be a little bigger than just a +1 or +2 modifier to a particular ability, but grant access to other abilities beyond what is afforded through the Talents system that’s already in place.

By taking a sub-class, you sacrifice 10% of your earned XP. You get all of the features of your basic class, but also get the benefits and bonus features of the sub-class. Sub-classes would not necessarily be limited to linkage to one core class, but could be layered over several. Here are some examples (in early drafty form):

By the way, Minor Magic means that you advance as a caster, although you always use your LM in place of your level. This means that your casting ability would cap out at level 11, granting you the effective casting of a level 6 primary caster. You’d get access to sphere 3 spells (starting at level 9, when your LM is 5), but no better.

Re-Designing the Blog

You may have noticed that I've given the blog a bit of an overhaul. I shifted the focus almost entirely to my gaming work (zeroing in primarily on my flagship game, Saga of the Splintered Realm), and have removed most references to Army Ants stuff.

Does that mean I'm done with the Army Ants?


I'm working on giving the ants a proper (honest and truly) dedicated web space, and their own blog space. I want to take that webcomic to the next level (and my gaming work too), so I think it's best to separate the two. I want everyone to know that I do BOTH, but that doesn't mean that my potential audiences cross over. I think that there's a good chance I get some Army Ant readers who couldn't give a dang about RPGs, and the reverse is also true. Since this space is named 'the Splintered Realm', and most of the connections I've made through the blog are to gaming and not to webcomics, it makes the most sense to consolidate gaming stuff here, and move the ants stuff elsewhere.

Patreon backers for the Ants projects will be getting an update in a little bit (as soon as I get out from under more of the Splintered Realm work I have to do), and I'll get getting going on all cylinders soon enough.