This Blog 2019, Goals and Grommets

Inspired by the 2019 goals post over at Charles's Dragons Never Forget Blog, I figured I would do the same thing. 2018 right around ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Do festivals have a place in your D&D world?

Phryne at the Festival of Poseidon in Eleusin

Looking  back at ancient cultures is an excellent way to find inspiration for your  D&D campaign. I can't think of a better time to talk about festivals in a game world than the day before The United States Thanksgiving.

Slipping a few festivals into a campaign worlds calendar can add a touch of realism and flavor to  a setting without allot of  Game master overhead. All a GM needs is a date on the calendar a name for a festival, observances, and a reason for the festival.

Lets look at the  "Apaturia"

  1. Celebrated in Athens and most of  the  Ionian towns, perhaps even as far back as 1100 BC.
  2. It involved the "phratry" which were social divisions in the Greek tribes, the  best description I can find is "clans."
  3.  The festival was to enroll new phratry members, who could then become citizens *
  • The festival was three days, during what to us would be  Late October Early November.
  • The  first day was a large meal
  • Affairs among the phratry were discussed.
  • The second day Animal sacrifice
  • The third day  prospective new members would bring  animals to sacrifice for admission to the phratry. 
  • Also on the third day fathers would present newborn sons and  swear to their legitimacy so that the sons could be added to the citizens registry.
To me this one example is so gameable!

A simple hook:
The  players need to be in a local city during this festival because they  know the child of a prominent local merchant is in fact not legitimate. In fact the child was fathered by dark priest looking to set an ancient chain of prophesies into motion.

But the festival is huge.
How do they find the man?
How do they convince him of the child's true nature? Once they do convince him what the hell do they do about it?
Do they even have to do anything or can they hang back and wait to see what happens?
Will the dark priest be there in person or via proxy to make sure his plan goes  as he would like?
All the phratry  will be there discussing business and goings on, so there is bound to be some  work brewing for adventurer types. Leaders of  these different groups might not get along, there might be assassinations to  arrange, or  debts to collect. Any  manner of  human intrigues could be going on.

As you can see there are many adventure opportunities that could spring up from  any  given festival  or holiday that a GM can work into a calendar.

There are plenty of historical reasons for people to gather and have  pretty  interesting celebrations. It dos not always have to be the summoning of a tentacled dark lord for a dimension beyond that gets people dancing around a fire.

Some more examples from history to steal:
Bacchanalia festivals of Bachuss the Greek wine god. Cause Aint no party like a Bachuss party an Bacchanalia festivals don't stop.

Here is a list of Norse holidays
Here is a list of roman festivals and Holidays.
Here is a list of Hindu festivals which  honestly are some of the most gameable / interesting  things on earth. Here is another list, because the  subject could absorb a life time of study  all by it's self. A few internet searches do not do it justice.

For real if a GM can't pull a game out of .....
"Holi or Phagwah is a popular spring festival. Holi commemorates the slaying of the demoness Holika by Lord Vishnu's devotee Prahlad. Thus, the festival's name is derived from the Sanskrit words "Holika Dahanam", which literally mean "Holika's slaying"
My blog will not help them.

And again

Holi, The Festival of Colors, India  ...Totally Gameable

Take a look at some of these ancient festivals and holidays with an eye towards  a campaign world. Keep in mind that any gathering of people can contain any number of subplots and subtexts.

Obby Oss carnivals in Padstowe

Hope this is FOOD for thought .
Enjoy your holiday
and leave any comments you  might have in the gravy boat below.

*(once again please forgive any  historic mistakes in this writing , I'm not a scholar of Ancient Greek culture, I'm just a guy who plays games looking for inspirations. I will happily take things from real history and warp them beyond recognition for a good game.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The internet gaming subject of the moment, inclusiveness in gaming.

I read this over at Dyvers and it drove me to thought.
It's Saturday so I have time to write a bit.

I stay out of the  current issues of the internet gaming community. This is not for lack of opinion but more for lack of desire to engage the internet at large in any discussion beyond the issues of rpg mechanics. *

So let me be clear before I break my own rule.
I am 100% in the corner of inclusiveness, fairness, and equality  for everyone in every phase of life. Gaming being  just about the most inconsequential of all those phases *.
If you are reading this and are a person who can pass judgement on others based on their, race, religion, sex, or sexuality be very sure we disagree at a basic level. The issue of who belongs in gaming will like be the least of our disagreements.
I want every type, shape, and form of person enjoying these games, because I think they are the perfect vehicle for any type of person to have a good time and embrace whatever life they want to depict though a fictional character.

On to the  show.

I have this "thing" when I write or read games, I don't want any  rules that promote political or social view of any kind. In my possibly ignorant opinion I  believe that a game should give the players and GM the room to explore any social issue any way they would like without the mechanics forcing it one way or another. One of the  beauties of Role-playing games, a player can present whatever role they want. It's one of the reasons role playing games are better than video games and always will be. In the case of a video game you have to live with what ever tropes the game gives you. When paying an RPG you can decide what subjects to tackle and how.

 In any game I write or would seriously want to play it does not matter what sex or sexuality a character is presented with because there are no mechanical differences from the games point of view between whatever human someone wants to play.

 As an example:
The game Nova 74 which I was working on pretty steady until another group  decided to kick start a  better version a game using of the same subject (snort). Allows players to make up their own attributes for their characters. If a player decide to use "homosexual" as one of their social attributes it will be mechanically the same as using "strong will," "anger," "gregarious," or whatever else they pick as a social attribute.

If someone is writing has written an RPG game explicitly directed at inclusiveness from a rules stand point. I would like to read it. I'm not sure I  even know how I would approach that as a design problem. I would find it extremely interesting to see how a designer would even tackle something that complex and serious within the frame wok of an RPG.

Should Role-playing games be more inclusive in their presentations? Of course, Everything should  be.  I will argue however that if you put a line of of ten individuals all dressed in jeans and T-shirts in front of me I would not be able to pick out who is gay and who is not. Perhaps you could? I know I couldn't. If an artist draws a warrior for an RPG and says "I want to draw an alternative life style warrior."  Isn't that part of the problem, more than it's part of the solution? Just draw a warrior and let the players pour their own ideas into it. If the artist is going to draw a female warrior make her bad ass. Not explicitly because she is female, but because she is a warrior and warriors are bad-ass.
To be fair I think the 5th ed player's manual does a good job of this.
(also for fun go to page 259 in your huge Numenera book and tell me you don't want to play the woman in the black and white  art plate found there. She is ready to shoot the shit out of something from the back of what ever the  hell that thing is she's riding.)

Should the RPG industry be more welcoming to people.
That starts at the tables, Not in the books. Game systems can't foster inclusiveness, no matter how well intended.
Are you a girl, gay, straight, transgender, whatever? You want to roll dice? You willing to stab a necromancer named Vorul in the face before he  uses an army explosive zombie bullywugs to kill a bunch of people? Fantastic sit down, eat some Doritos and make a character. Dice are in the bag.

Nobody has "enough" players.  I'm not using those reasons to turn anyone away,

As always thank you for reading.

(* I am at a personal impasse about the internet for the past month I have been  thinking of giving this up simply because I don't like the interactions that go on surrounding this hobby and in the  gaming hobby at large. It STUNS me to see the amount of venom spewed in the  past few months regarding video games. I don't understand it. That's a topic for another time. Let it be said with age I have become far less tolerant of bullshit.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

What being "Done" means in RPG design?

Being Done?
When is a thing done?
How does a great artist know that one more brush stroke is not going to add anything to the piece they are currently working on? How does an author know one more chapter would be too much?
Is in an inherent sense?
What is something is well and truly undone. I see it at my job when an employee tells me at noon that they are “done “ and I can easily find another days worth of work for them to do. The employee is not lazy; they just don’t look, or don’t see the undone.

What about in games?

I can go back to Phase abandon (a pdf of our house rules) that has been codified and done for about three years, and find enough things to change that I would have to start a rewrite. I don’t Phase Abandon is done. 
 I look at AAIE, that game desperately needs a rewrite, but whatever, it’s done.

Neither of these things is done in the truest sense of the word.
As a designer I am no better than the employees which I instruct on a daily basis. I know I’m not done; I just refuse to see it because I don’t have the level of interest to find the things that are still, undone.

Is this where the line between done and finished blurs?
Finished has a much more positive slant. Throughout this post I use "done" purposely.

What about a campaign? My long running Aleria game is not done. There are plenty of loose ends sitting there waiting for players to tie them up. There will always be loose ends, always another hill to climb; no I don’t think a campaign is ever really done.  It’s one of the things I love about the form, one of the things that makes a campaign. You never have to be done if you don’t want to be. 
What happens when you are done but the game isn’t? What is a gm’s or player’s responsibility to each other and to the game it’s self?

Sometimes I think it’s important to step back and look at where we are as game designers, players, and GM’s .  If this is a hobby in which by definition we are never actually done and given that “Done” is conceptually subjective, how does knowing that effect someone looking to write Role Playing Games?  Is being done why a lot of current games look to create certain experiences and styles of play mechanically?  Is it at the point that any given group of players will have a good chance to have desired experience the point when a designer can raise their hands and say DONE?   If someone plays (insert this week’s game du jour here) and gets freaked out just like the author intended is that a done deal? Is a desire to be done intrinsically counter to this hobby?

I’m not offering any answers to these questions.  What I am doing is posing them as someone who is looking for the next spark of inspiration, but who also has the bad habit of never getting anything done.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Internet time warp alows Mike Mearls to tell me why I was wrong yesterday, by answering a question last Tuesday.

First off Thank you to anyone who served in our military and happy Veterans day, much respect.

On with the show.
Yesterday I posted this: "Best darn game accessory ever."
In part of which I waxed on about  giving character backgrounds some mechanical weight using 5th ed as an example.

Thanks to Charles of over at the Dyvers campaign blog* and his article, "Cleaning up the  AMA with Mike Mearls"

I found the exact reason why I'm wrong, well wrong in the case of how they designed D&D 5th ed.
here is the quote.

First part of a question from (the IronApotecary)

2) Traits, Ideals, Flaws, and Bonds were an incredible introduction to 5e, and I've found they're great at giving starting characters real personality. That said, why don't they have more mechanical support? I really would have liked to see more bonuses for embracing, as well as penalties for ignoring them.

The the answer from Mike Mearls. 

"We avoided penalties in the game as much as possible, primarily because we feel that giving people incentives or bonuses to do things is a better motivator. That said, in the playtest and design process we felt that a light touch gave groups more room to determine how important roleplaying out character traits was to the table. If we add too many mechanics, we risk hitting the point where roleplay feels scripted or by the numbers"

That's neat right? It speaks to almost exactly what I was writing about yesterday. 

Which means Mr. Mearls's and my design philosophy don't quite line up in respect to backgrounds. Which is cool to me, there's room for everything. Lets face it  Mike Mearl's was only the lead designer on the most well received iteration of the  biggest franchise in the  RPG industry. He knows some things. **

My counterpoint was in my last post, which as I said  wrote before I ever read Mearl's view on backgrounds. With this new information I can completely see why  D&D 5th handles background in the way that it does. 
It does not change how I feel about giving mechanical weight to character backgrounds and motivations, though it will make me rethink how penalties would work when attached to backgrounds in 5th ed.


(* I have to take a second to praise Charles of Dyvers for his work here. Without his herculean act of mucking through the forums where these quotes originated I never would have found them on my own.)

(** Before any one jumps my shit, I really like 5th ed, and Mike Mearls, I just thought this was an interesting bookend to what I wrote yesterday.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

The best darn game accessory ever.

The  best darn game accessory ever is the GM's ears.

A gm who actively listens to the players, keys in on what gets them excited, and  tries to  work that exciting subject matter into the game will consistently run enjoyable games.

That sounds so simple. Right?

I think Apocalypse world / dungeon world tries to codify this by making the  system force active listening.
The GM ask questions like,
"You are going to attack the orc? OK in what way? Tell me exactly how you attack the orc."
The player's answer  might change what "move" the Gm is going to assign to the action and in turn what effect the dice can have on the story.
That it makes you slow down and listen is one of the things I like about dungeon world.

With that in mind, if I were to work on a fantasy style game, I'm not sure I would integrate the need to  actively listen to the players in quite the same way. Dungeon World enforces this idea action to action, move to move. Some times the interpretation whether correctly or mistakenly of how a move resolves can lead to the Plans of the GM getting buggered up. There are times when I want my bad guys to act very specifically and having  the game mechanics interfere with that can be troublesome.

So what are some other ways to make character interests part of the game with out straying to far into the Gm's lawn?

Player Narration:
A while back I posted this  (Rewards: There Can Be Only One) Which lays the direction I wanted to go while working on "Shards OF Thimbral.*" To save time the  point was the only true reward players get in RPG's is the  ability to shape the story. I still think this is true. I also think that giving the players narrative control when they are successful serves as a gm tool.

The Gm gains the opportunity to listen to what the player is doing with their character. When a player rolls a success and he or she always has their character use some witty trick to get out of danger, the gm can use that knowledge to set up the next encounter. If  a character always likes to parley with NPC's give that player some NPC's worth talking to. At least give the players the opportunity to find useful opportunities to do what they enjoy. As a Gm every time the players say what the characters are doing it's an opportunity to  tweak the content of the game . The GM does not get told what do do in the scene, but she gains more information to use as the game flows along.

Front loading the information:
In my designs I am a big fan of front loading. In other words making what the characters want a part of character generation. I love the idea of character goals. In our home brew game Phase Abandon, every character had goals, and were rewarded by in game actions with points that could be spent to  fulfill those goals. Fulfilling a goal was paramount to going up a level.
As a gm the nice thing about this kind of system is that what the player wants out of the game is right there in front of your nose. If a characters goal is  "Find the  Five fingered man who killed my father!"  The gm should  relish the opportunity to leave a stray five fingered glove at the scene of a recent battle, or dropping rumors about the five fingered man whenever it's appropriate. The Gm can ride this right until the goal is fulfilled and the location of the five fingered man is revealed.**
Player goals as fixtures in character generation  pretty much give adventure hooks to the GM on a silver platter.

Make Backgrounds matter:
5th edition D&D  took a step in this direction with back grounds that give new characters some  direction about how to  player their characters, their motivations and starting equipment. I think the "special feature" that each background gets is also very helpful in fleshing out a new character.
Why not treat the sections of a back ground like attributes, give backgrounds some mechanical ummph?

Sticking whit  5th ed as an example
Can we  give the  character's trait, Ideal, bond, and  Ideal each a number between 1 and  20 just like strength  or  Charisma? When the background comes up in play let the  character use the bonus (or take the penalty) as if the  background traits were an applicable skill.

Within my Archaeologist background ***, one of the Ideals is "Curiosity" if that was a curiosity of 15 with a +3 modifier the  character could use that +3 on skill rolls while he or she was satiating their curiosity exploring some musty old ruin.

This would have a trickle down effect. Mostly players  will gravitate toward the things their characters do well. The fighter wont check for traps because the fighter is much better at bashing things that need bashing, and stinks at finding traps. This is good turn by turn it keeps wizards casting  fighters bashing. Once the back ground of characters starts getting some mechanical weight it gets more interesting, because now the curious archaeologist priest is going to more willing and even more likely to explore, because the player knows they are getting that +3 bonus. Now this is just an example could easily give the player die advantage or disadvantage whenever a background trait comes into play. Regardless of how it's done recognizing the background mechanically will have good effects.

How would having an attribute score  penalty tied to a background help in anyway though?
Using the  above example lets say that character has a 7 for the "Curiosity Ideal" the player has chosen to play a profoundly non curious archaeologist? Yes, this is a player background decision, and a choice about the character. This young priest would rather be in the library codifying ancient texts then in a cave discovering them. When the character is forced out of his comfort zone he takes a penalty to the related skill rolls.
Either way it trickles down to the GM, in that  gm gets information about how the player sees their character and  can adjust the game accordingly..

Leaving 5th ed behind now.

Simply Ask:
Take a player aside after a game or during a break and  ask, "where do you see this charter going?" As a Gm if a player answers, "I don't care," or "Does it matter?" It represents a failure on my part to engage that player properly. I  have to go back to the drawing board. I recognize different players want different levels of investments with their craters, and that's alright as long as the player and the Gm can establish it right away. If a Gm knows a player is normalcy one of those people who really engages with their characters and they don't seem to be it's time to talk about it.

When a player comes with something like, "We have been in this dungeon a while and my Druid is mostly useless and miserable here, he needs to get back to the grove."
It may be time to think about arranging a scenario where that druid can shine in the near future.

If a player tells you, "I want my character to put down roots in this town. I think it woudl be a good place to build a keep and a grain mill."
As A Gm this is golden, it give you the chance to flesh out a pat of your campaign world  to a highly detailed level with the help of the  player who wants to put down roots. Once a character is living somewhere, it opens up a whole slew of interesting political and adventuring scenarios for everyone to play out.

My points:

  • Listen to players and use what they give to shape events in your game, 
  • Give backgrounds in whatever form they show up in your game some mechanical value, that that the players play to them.
  • Find out where and what your players see their characters doing in the future and use that information to detail your campaign world. 
The players and the Gm working with the system to create more satisfying games for every one, many hands make quick work.

Thank you for reading, 
Comments section held in a  raw energy stasis field below.

*(A game that was in fact the point of starting this blog and  which sadly died on the vine. It happens.)
** in phase abandon one the  goal of "find the  5 fingered man" was fulfilled it woudl change to  "Kill the five fingered man." or what ever the player wanted.
*** The post that made me want to put  "5th ed" in every post title from then on , as it got about  4 times my normal number of hits.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Loose ends: Game design waffles.

Every project large or small has a tipping point, a moment when the end is truly in sight. As a person who likes to write games this stage is always the most difficult for me. I am quite good at getting fired up about an idea, but quite bad at tying up all the loose ends.

So it is with the “Amazing Adventurers and Incredible Exploits,” project.  I want it to be done, as soon as possible would be nice, now I just have to motivate myself to do it.

I have read on other sights by people who are working  designers and authors and such That the end game is always  hardest. By the time a project is near completion you don't even want to look at it any more. I don't feel that strongly, I wrote a game , and a joke of a game at that, I'm certainly not as invested in time, emotion, or aspiration as an author of say a novel wold be. Still I'm ready to move along.

Still there is this lingering thing about the game, a something I can't put my finger on. A something I need to nail down and I can not figure it out. Our group is having fun with it, the characters are moving along nicely the mechanics work, in fact it has my favorite leveling mechanic I have ever played and still I'm not  particularly satisfied. As I described it to Otto on Saturday it's starting to feel like an albatross around my neck, because I can't shake the feeling that it's somehow missing the mark.

See I started this blog to write games and share ideas and be transparent about the  process, and that's exactly what I'm doing. 
When some one designs a game at some point they have to step back and look at it as a game on it's own merit. This is hard to do when you're working on the damn thing, but it is possible. Mentally step back and say what kind of play is this  game creating?  How is the game shaping what happens at the table? Is this fun? (Yes, "is this fun?" is a valid question.) In the name of transparency I have to admit that I think I might have designed a game that I never intended, which  is not really an act of design at all.

This leaves me with a choice. 
  1. I can pack it in finish the PDF as quickly as humanly possible, plop it on the net for any one who wants it, and run. Drop the  albatross, move on. Before any of the guys in my group get worried I'm not talking about not playing the game I'm talking about not actively working on it anymore. After all things need to be done at some point.
  2. Embrace it and start quick re-write that really puts the emphasis more clearly the nature of the game.  Which for the record is  a suicidal quest for riches by  second rate heroes that are ill equipped and inexperienced against a world of random monsters that don't give a shit about the protagonists bodily health. (You know like giants that fling ax's, stone fall traps on doors, and  winged statues that get all stabby.)
As a designer  option two sounds like the most interesting. In effect to take the game I never would have built and build it out even farther.

As a person Option one has a ton of appeal because it allows me to just say, this is done now, lets play it and do what ever were going to do with it, but it is what it's going to be. I could move on from it. To go with option one though I would have to  live with that niggling little feeling in the back of my mind that keeps telling me there are loose ends to tie, and I never took the time to find them.

Thanks for reading.
Comments welcome.
Shenanigans suggested.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Colors and Campaign.

About a month ago I read this book,
"Color A natural History of the Pallet" by Victoria Finlay
It was quite interesting.
And very applicable to RPG games.

This is definitely not a scholarly work, and I don't mean it as one. I'm just a guy who games. This is a huge wide ranging subject as such this blog will just scratch the surface of the possibilities but lets look at some quick ones.

Things to know and use:
Tyrian purple was thought to have been discovered by Hercules, but in fact it came from shellfish left to rot in vats. Form the  juice inside the  Hypobranchial gland of said shellfish, to be exact. It took about  10000 molusks to make one gram of purple dye. Not to mention the  process stunk, literally. In fact It stunk to high heaven. If characters are coming up to a dye making town that made Tyrian purple chances are they woudl smell it long before they saw it. In fact garments dyed with a purple made from the Murex were said to hold a "fishy smell" forever. I guess Theodora didn't mind smelling like a carp in the name of style.

It's difficult to get the murex muscles, it's a nasty smelly process, and the dye stinks like fish, so why?
One reason to the Romans the stuff when applied to silk was worth three times as much as gold.
Color meant money. Dyes were hard to make, quality dies were even harder. There was a hint of alchemy to the  whole process and a family of  good dye makers would pass secret formulas and techniques down through generations. Whole towns an cities could make their fortune based on one  recipe for a particularly vivid dye.

Fun fact: In Sidon there is a place called Murex hill which is a mound of accumulated debris left behind by the Phoenician (1200 to 539 -BC give or take) dye making  factories. It is 100 meters long and  50 meters high covered by houses, and a cemetery. It is also made up almost entirely of Billions of Murex muscle shells. Incredible.

Tyrian or "royal" purple is just one example.
Tekhelet is another snail dye said to be used to color the tassels and corners of garments of Jewish rabbis. the true holy blue color is said to be lost to antiquity and the exact formula and process is still sought after currently.  There have been rare ancient samples found, but  my digging around the netterwebs has not  produced anyone claiming to have  rediscovered the exact method of dying.

Dye can also come form plants, for example Woad and indigo. Woad was widely grown in Europe (France Germany, England) to produce a blue dye. For this to happen the plants were harvested crushed and soaked for weeks in vats of ammonia. the only place at the time to get ammonia was urine, people urine to be exact. There were folks who made a living going around collecting urine pots from household and delivering them to the dye factories. This makes the War-hammer Fantasy Role Playing Game's "rat catcher" look like a glamour position. 

Much like rotting Murex the characters would smell the dyer before they ever saw them.

Insects can also be sources of dye's the Cochineal for example is the  source of a vivid scarlet dye. Kermes is also a dye derived from an insect of the same name and produced it's own red dye.

Going withe the Cochineal there was a booming industry  gathering , drying, grinding and  shipping  these insects from the  new world of South America back to Europe. Having characters travel to a distant land, over a forbidding ocean, into an unexplored jungle, to gather insects that will make them rich, sounds like the jumping of point for a rip roaring campaign. 

Ocher or  mineral rich  colored clay has been used as a pigment since man found out that it could be used a s a pigment, meaning  a A very long time. (the Blombos cave contains Ocher works dated to about 75000 years ago. Also the cave drawings in Pech Merle were done whit Ocher) 
Many indigenous people  see ocher and the locations for gathering the purest ocher as holy. Used in ceremonies as offerings, for art, and  as body  adornment, ocher plays a huge role in many traditional and  shamanistic systems.

In fantasy setting A source of good high quality Ocher could be valuable to  adventurers and  perhaps priceless the people already living there. 

Lapis Lazuli has been mined as a valuable commodity since the neolithic period. In Europe it was ground and made into the  finest ultra marine pigments. Anything that is mined means caves and as we all know caves are infinitely d&d-able. 

Nothing to see here just a 3100 year old dungeon map.

Fun right? How does all this help your Campaign?

Background. Giving a campaign world just enough of a toe in reality that the  weird stuff can stand out. I mean it can't be all dragons, crashed space ships, and tentacles all the time. I like to base allot of my game world in things that could be real, things that could have happened. So when a guy named Vorul makes a messenger explode in the center of a local pub, the players take notice.

First off I think if I have a significant town in my campaign, that town should do something. It is historically accurate to say that towns popped up based on the economy of dye production. When fleshing out towns for a fantasy game dye production is a good  economic base to start with. It can add interesting flavor in that their sights and smells of dying are unique in antiquity.

"Your party stands on low but well constructed retaining wall looking out into the sea. It seems a flotilla of boats are returning for the day. Each offloading crates of  small shelled creatures. To the west a literal mountain of white shells glitters in the sunlight, and when the  wind changes a wretched stench fills the streets"

I find this an engaging change from a more typical fishing village or port.

It's also a bit unexpected, a town that deals in a commodity that may give players a bit of a logistical hassle. Transporting a powder or liquid that is worth more than gold? That can be an adventure in-and of it's self. Can you keep it dry ? Don't spill a drop of that dye! 

Color can definitely  be a signal to players as to who has the money and the power in any situation. Peasants don't dye their clothing. Merchants might have some  dyed cloth, local landed gentry would have some colored clothing. Only the richest and most important  people would have what I would describe as "richly or deeply colored garments." The color of clothing has been one of the  most regulated aspects of daily life through out history. Heck, Nero made the  wearing of purple by anyone but he punishable by death.
Use the economy of color to your advantage as a Gm, once the players figure out that only the rich can afford that deep red cloak then the players will know who the  power players are in most situations.

Here are some quick  hooks.
  • An alchemist has discovered a synthetic method to produce a popular dye. (1856 in the real world) She hires your party to take the first samples to a nearby monarch. Naturally any dyer that makes the natural dye would want those samples destroyed, perhaps even see the inventor killed. Anyone else would want to steal valuable the formula.
  • One of the local cites has an economy built around processing woad into blue dye for clothing. The past two seasons however the crop has been failing. The  city  elders think it might be a neighboring  town trying to spoil their woad in order to establish them selves as a dye producer. the town hires the party to find out whats going on.
  • A new source of a bight yellow pigment has been discovered, its' going to make any one involved filthy rich, unfortunately it's made from the shells of a large,  aggressive cave spiders. Are the  party members willing to go and  "harvest" this new resource. 
  • The shaman in this setting  gain their powers form the intricate ocher designs they paint on their skin. This could be a class option, a kit, or what ever you like for players. Or a stepping off point. (a Creature has moved into ht cave where the sacred ocher is found.... and so on.)
  • A caravan carrying a large quantity of dyed fabric destined for the  empires capital has disappeared. The guards found murdered in a river bead, the  horses running free. The  emperor has offered a hefty reward for the return of the stolen goods, causing a veritable gold rush of adventure types turning up looking for the  lost caravan.
  • One old woman who lives high in the mountains has a process for creating a deep blue pigment used in the  highest quality spell books. She is getting old and  is looking for a young woman to pass the secret to.
  • Ancient Lapis Mines, go...
  • A booming  industry of insect collecting has sprung up in a vast forest to the south. The forests are vast and dangerous, mostly unexplored. The discovery of the pigment producing insects has caused it to become a lawless frontier the  kind of place adventurers can get rich or get killed in the effort. 
  • Each type of dragon's scales can produce a vivid dye of their particular color when dried and crushed. These pigments are used in the creation of  magical cloaks and other garments. It is even said that a painting painted with skill and these types of pigments may act as a gate between dimensions. Such paints are highly being sought by a certain court artist, at any price.
  • A giant form of the local dye producing shellfish have been discovered! Unfortunately they are only found in the deep ocean, and they are not quite as docile as their smaller cousins. Can the  party  harvest some and strike it rich  or will  another  group  beat them too the prize?
  • This is a rich town built around a booming dye business. However there is a problem three young socialites have been brutally murdered in the past month. The only  person who may have witnessed one of the murders is one of the  factories urine collectors who was out making his rounds in the dead of night. Unfortunately he has not been seen in several days. Can the party help?

Some links:
Time line of Dyes
Here is an interesting video about processing indigo
Lapis Lazuli Mines

Thank you for reading,
I hope there is something here you can use for your  campaign.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Do you do design sketches?

Last year I posted these 1 page games, wherein I would write a game that could not go beyond the  limits of one page on Open office or Microsoft word.

None of these efforts were great, but that's not the point ..

here are the links for those who are interested. 

These are not Micro-games or even nano-games. I look at what I was doing more like sketches, or exercises.

My thought here is that every game does not need to be a  gem of game design to be a playable even fun distraction. it's alright for someone who enjoys designing games to make sketches every now and then that are not intended to be  finished works. Creating something that is simply a proof of concept can  be enjoyable, and informative.

There is also something to be said for placing arbitrary limits such as "No longer than one page," on a work. Forcing ones self to look at every thing added to the  game and saying "does that have to be here?" is a powerful tool for learning to only include exactly what the game needs.* Taking that lesson into a large project can improve the clarity of the whole design.

I am considering  getting back to this form in the next week or so, just to loosen up this design log jam I've had in my head since I stopped work on "Shards of Thimbral."
So the final questions open to anyone reading.
Do you do design sketches?
If so what do you do with them
How does it help your process?

Thank you for reading!

(*  This is even more true if you're an unskilled writer like I am.)