Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Organization and Returning to Work (again)

(By the way, this is a picture of me vs. cancer. Back to the nether world, you blight upon humanity!)

My goodness! My apologies that you haven’t heard from me in a bit, but radiation kicked my butt far more than I would have expected. Beyond the physical toll, it wiped me out emotionally and (more surprisingly) mentally. I just had nothing in the tank for the last month and a half.

However, radiation has been done for a week, and I got a positive update from my neurosurgeon yesterday, and I’m still off of work for a while, so I have time…

To FINALLY get this project DONE!

I learned a while ago that my subconscious works on projects even while my conscious brain is turned off or on some other endeavor, and I think that this process magnified that considerably. I woke up a few days ago with the vision for the game more clearly formed in my head. I have a bunch of notes and ideas that all didn’t really go together in a clean way.

Suddenly, they do.

I realized first of all that I had a problem with organization. I didn’t like the way the books were coming together insofar as how they would be used by the player/referee. For example, I had my core monsters from the main book, but the Vault of the Goblin would have a series of monsters that ‘just’ appeared in the Vaults, and the campaign book would have monsters that ‘just’ appeared in the Splintered Realm. While this makes sense to me, it doesn’t make sense to the ones actually using the game (that would be you) on the back end. While I know the Decapus is in the Vault of the Goblin book (because it was used in that adventure, duh!), you won’t remember that (nor should you) – and, when you want to drop a decapus on your unsuspecting party six months from now, you are going to have to skim through three books to find it.

That was no good.

So, all monsters need to be in one place. However, I didn’t like the idea of a separate ‘monster manual’, because that would be a fourth book… so now I have divide the project into four books each of about 90 pages? Not loving that…

However, if I pull all the monsters into the core rules, I would add about 20-30 pages to that book… and if I pulled in the extra magic items and artifact rules (that were going to be spread over the next two books), I add another 10 pages or so… and if I layer in the expanded character rules (sub-classes, nature magic, maybe psionics which I’m still on the fence about), that’s another 10-20 pages. So now the core rulebook is pushing towards 180 pages… meaning that it’s half of the project.

Now, the other two books are too slim (each less than 100 pages)… but if I put those TOGETHER, they are like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of campaign guides. Plus, I can organize it LOGICALLY by how the game developed originally, and by how the B/X edition staged your growth through the system… you start in the dungeon, you expand to a local region, and you eventually spring out and get to know the larger world! I now see the second book in three distinct pieces, and I see a natural outgrowth. It includes a whole bunch of adventure information, but it also becomes ‘lite’ versions of the Dungeoneer’s/Wilderness survival guides (along with a manual of the planes thrown in at the end).

I have also been thinking about how you actually use (or might want to use) the adventuring materials. I think that the best way to go is to make the use of the adventure customizable to your preferences without having to extract what you want. For instance, I am used to writing a text block for a room that includes not only who or what is in the room, but why it’s there, what it’s motivation is, and what secrets or hooks could lead to or from this encounter. I like that. It is how I want to play. However, not everyone will. So now, each node of the Vaults (for instance) can have several layers of interaction, depending on how you want to use it…

Basic: The area has been taken over by wererats. Kill ‘em and take their stuff.

Moderate (listed in a separate place, after the basics are covered): Why the wererats are there. What they’re up to. How they interact with other forces. These wererats are being used by a Vampire two levels down, and will give up information about him if they have a chance to survive.

Advanced (listed last): Little nuggets of things that could be used as hooks for further adventure, or little payoffs for things that the players could experience. These have been exposed to a rare form of lycanthropy that cannot be cured. The leader is actually a son of the Eldest Wererat, and how they interact with him will influence how they may interact with the Eldest at some point down the road. Only the Eldest can lift this particular strain of lycanthropy, although he is unlikely to be willing to do so.

You could play through the level on the ‘basic setting’, and simply ignore the page that has the moderate and advanced information. You don’t have to read it, you don’t have to move through it to get to the heart of the encounters, and you don’t ‘miss’ anything if you don’t use it.

I want the entire second volume to be easily customizable to your experience. If you play once every few weeks for a few hours and want to hand wave a lot of transitions (‘okay, you’ve spent two days exploring the Vaults and have come to a place where you have found a large amount of huge rat droppings…’) you can do that… and if you want to have the players purposely seek this area out after a series of clues that led them here in search of the progeny of the Eldest Wererat, you can do that too. The game supports either extreme (or something midway between).

In the end, this means that instead of three books at 128 pages each (128x3=384 pages), you will be seeing two books at 192 pages each (384/2=192 pages). Same amount of content, just distributed in a different way.

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