Final Post

New Years Day 2018, fin.

Everything has a course For me this Blog has run it's course. It's time to close the door. I have a few thoughts about why  now i...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Random terrain for AAIE "The World" maps.


I started working on another section of AAIE a couple of months ago. This is part of it

Hex Gids:
Let's say my map starts at the very center of the grid  over here
That center hex is where the party of player characters is hanging out right now.

The hex is covered in a thin deciduous forest. (marked with a green F)

If I go one hex to the left, that hex is rolling hills. (It says Hill in green letters)

If I go to the right that adjacent hex is mostly swamp. (Marked with a green S)

That's all established:
The hex marked with a question mark is the  problem. If the players explore that hex  It's terrain should take into account the terrain off all the hexes surrounding it.

If I have a chart saying "roll a new terrain based on the hex the party is leaving." Only the Forest hex would be taken into account. that's not a bad solution but not necessarily a very complete one.

Keeping in mind,  I'm not generating a hex field, or a large area. I'm generating hexes as needed, when one area has been explored by the group they move on to the next. In real life terms that could take months, depending on how often a group plays and what the GM drops into the current hex.  If this were a game of D&D or a similar RPG  this system would be nearly useless. The GM would need to know more about the  inter-workings of each hex and their relationships with their surroundings. For AAIE is is perfectly acceptable to establish those things through playing the game. The contents of the next hex is supposed to be a surprise to everyone at the table. It doesn't have to make initial "sense" the way traditional fantasy RPG world building would dictate.

My head is saying give each type of terrain a numerical flag, As in Forest is 1, Hills 2, and swamp 3.
when moving to generate and explore  a new hex the  GM could look at the numerical flags from the surrounding hexes, run them together clockwise to create a code of sorts.
Each combo of flags would have a corresponding chart.
Using our Map above as an example, the  code from the (?) hex would be 3,2,1, or swamp forest hills. The  Gm would roll on the  3,2,1 chart.

At first glance it would seem that there would have to involve a very large number of charts, however the order of the numbers don't matter. Chart 3,2,1, represents the same information as 2,1,3 or 1,2,3.

Where things get tricky is  when a hex is surrounded by other explored hexes creating a situation where the "code" could be up to 6 digits long. This makes me believe I need some function for counting only the three most predominant types of adjoining hex. For example if a hex has six explored neighbors and four of them are forest, one is a swamp, and that last adjoining hex is hills. The "forest" hexes should  have a higher influence on the resulting new hex.

As I eluded to earlier I have a working system  where the  GM roll up the next hex based on the  hex the party is leaving. Each of the 12 terrain types has a small 1D10 based chart that determines what terrain type the party is journeying into. 

Here is the entry for "forest"
Forest, 
1-5 more forests
6-9 hills
10 Swamp

Here is he entry for Hills:


Hills,
1: roll 1d4: 1-2 bog 3-4 swamp
2-5 More Hills
6-7 Open Lands
8-9 Forest
10 Foot hills

My thought is to keep that set of twelve charts (I'll have to rewrite them slightly) and modify the  rolls using simple rules based on the surrounding known hexes. 

For example:
If most of the surrounding hexes is the  same as the hex the party is currently leaving subtract -1 from the roll. 
If most of the surrounding hexes are different types then the hex the party is leaving  add +1 to the roll.


That might come a crossed as a cop out (You should be writing discrete 1716 tables damn it!) However,  I'm not sure it is a cop out.
This is  very simple, takes the surroundings into account, uses what I already have, and weighs the terrain towards expanses of similar terrain.


Those are my basic thoughts on terrain and terrain types, but I still have a long way to go before it's all up and working. Still I generated a few hexes and the contents of them a few days ago and the results were interesting. More importantly the results were game-able. I need to dial up the  AAIE strangeness a bit. As with the rest of the game I'll focus on getting the frame work solid then start hanging the weirdness on that.

-thanks for reading .
-Mark.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Optional Rewards for Monsters:


Most Recent AAIE Update:
Added quick ideas for characters harvesting and selling parts of the monsters they slay. 
Updated the three example monsters to include my most recent additions. (Resolve point spread, and Harvestable resources.)



In AAIE characters don't get experience like characters get in other games. So in that way there is no reason to kill a monster if  the  party can just get the hell away from it.  That was a design decision based on the realization that Characters in AAIE  will vary from  Incredibly valid and effective to woefully ineffective failures waiting to die.

The basic rewards for slaying a monster are two fold. One there's usually some quest going on that will net the party some status or financial reward upon successfully returning to town. Secondly a player may roll well enough (could be badly enough) or do something interesting enough to gain a story point.

For clarity story points are the "experience" of this game. Unlike normal experience based systems they aren't numeric, they are actual descriptions of things that happened in game.
For example:
"Fletch knocked a door down and  killed the  Blood Beast standing behind it with one mighty kick."
Or
"The inn Keeper was so smitten with Vale he  feed her and the whole party for free!"

Gathering these story points is how characters gain levels.

Today I was thinking another level of reward that the players would have to take an active role in would be good to have. I  started writing some options that allowed charters to harvest resources off of the  carcass of the monsters they kill. Things like wool, scales, and glands.

The gm would decide if the monster has any acceptable parts to harvest, and how difficult the parts will be to remove. If a character has the proper skills the player can roll to see if any of the  resource can be harvested. Failure indicates no, success indicates yes, and great success  represents a higher quality product being found. The value of the  resource will be based on the resources quality. Naturally in game this will take time, and characters might be safe standing around removing the musk glands from every ogre they meet. At least the options is there. Once back in town the  characters could sell these items for Gold crowns.
This being AAIE I included 1d20 types of resources that can be harvested from creatures in chart form. (I sort of had to)

So why do this?
I mean it's 100% optional and unnecessary. I don't think it would happen with every monster. The Gm could simply say "these creatures are not known to have any useful parts." It's best for occasional use during a game.

Here's what the game gets out of occasionally using something like this:
  1. One more excuse to roll the dice. Which given how critical fails work in AAIE is very important.
  2. The players have to initiate this kind of thing, giving them one more way to voluntarily interact with the world in a solid way. It's a reward they have to choose to pursue.
  3. Another use for some of those skill that characters get when they are created.
  4. Smart characters will be better at harvesting than brawny ones.
  5. Another excuse to interact with NPCs back at "the town." Bring the apothecary some pixie ambergris and that apothecary may tip the party off to some other resource they can go after. Sell some Vampire snail blood to the wizards school and they might teach the character a new key word. Give the Caravan a bunch of  Mutant-rhino horns and they may come back on their next trip with the potions made from those horns.
  6. World building. AAIE is sneaky in that it is actuality about world building one tiny piece at a time. Once the players have harvested warm maple-syrup from mutant lobster, they will always remember that those lobsters are full of valuable sugary, goodness. Even if the characters involved are long dead, maple syrup lobsters are part of the world. The players have interacted with the lobsters beyond, "I hit it it's dead!"

As always thanks for reading.
-Mark

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Expanding a player base, finding a comfort level.

This is one of those odd posts about my personal experiences and views on RPG's. If that's not what your into cool.  Skip this post and comeback for the next one I'll probably have some random charts or something.

I thought the internet was going to fix this.
Apparently I underestimated my own propensity to act like a hermit.

I have a very small player base. A few good friends with whom I have been playing for years and in some cases decades. I love those guys, and appreciate them putting up with my creative impulses. As is the normal way of life however  we have gotten older, life has become busier. We rarely get to play games at the table. We have started to lean more and more heavily on virtual table tops like Roll 20 and I-table-top  to get our gaming fix.

That leads me to my point:
If I am doing 90% of my gaming on line anyway why am I not actively seeking new players to join in?
WHy am I not using the  net, to  cast a larger net?
I heard a podcaster the other day , talk about how he has played with over 150 different people in various games on Roll20. I was awed, and a bit intimidated by that figure. What struck me was I'm sure he's not even a stand out. I bet there are others out there who have gamed with a much higher number.
So why not me?

Is it lack of social media fluency?
I don't think so.
I'm out there in the RPG world. I don't hide that I embrace RPG's as a hobby.

     I have this blog. I'm  not  one of the RPG blog long beards by any measure but I have been doing this for a while. A fair number of people have left messages on this  blog since 2013. Some of those messages have been positive, some of them have been welcome corrections. Other messages have been well meaning efforts to point out how much of an idiot I am. These communications mean that at the very least other people in this hobby know that I'm also in this hobby.
 
  I sort of have a twitter presence. I say "sort of" because I find gaming twitter to be for the most part a much younger demographic than I am. Which is not a bad thing in fact for gaming, but for me to recruit players, not ideal*. I also find holding any kind of conversation on twitter nearly impossible. I'm not a fan of the form. With that said, I make it a point to mention this blog on twitter. I limit myself to mentioning the blog no more than once a month. I don't want to be spammy.
   
Then there is  Google plus. First let me say I enjoy G+  far more than I enjoy Facebook, if those two are still even comparable platforms. The ability to setup, view and join groups so  easily on G+  has made finding people of similar interest far  easier. Keeping that in mind I like "old" google plus much more than I like their current interface. So much so that it has lead me to be  much less active on the  platform than I was just a year or so ago. I'm afraid I lurk more than In contribute. (I think this blog still auto posts a notification to a couple groups whenever I publish a new post.) I lurk, generally because I don't ever want to come off as that guy who says, "I think this is how it should be done, cause "my way."

I guess that's why I don't actively recruit players to play online. A new player coming in may be accustomed to  lighting effects, custom tokens, API scripts, voice acting, and all that jazz. Much of which Roll 20 is great at supporting, but I have never used. That player may be sorely disappointed to realize I pretty much only use the die roller, and the game screen as a white board. Hell, I don't even use the camera, and rely on discord for voice chat. The internet has opened up the world of gaming to a degree of peer review, that just never existed before. My game on Roll 20  can  or will be compared to someone else, or to one of the several live play "shows" which are actuality now being produced for the internet. Where in the past each group did their own thing, unseen by  the wider community. If a group picked up a new player, or joined another group half the time it was like playing a completely different game due to the style differences the other group had developed. None of us play it exactly like Gygax originally played it, which  is good thing.

In my view it is hard to tell a good game From a bad one out side of , "Is everyone having fun?"
For example. (lucky or unluckily for me this happened after I started writing this post, so I have a personal example.)
I ran an absolutely shit game on roll 20 last night. Several factors went into that.  I was tired and that's the worst time too run a game. To much time had past between the last session and this one for  players to remember exactly why they were risking their necks in a cave. Everyone was distracted by things going on in the background.*** Finally I was rushed in the evening and wasn't as organized as I like to be. The game, like I said was not a good game of basic D&D.

When I ask the players, or at least the two I talked to this morning, they had a good time. I'm going to assume it was more about the conversations around the game than the game it's self. Which is perfectly acceptable when playing with people all of whom I have known for over a decade.
If I ran that same game for  a stranger I would give that new player the impression (rightfully so) that I am the worst GM ever.**** In fact the time spent was not the worst social experience ever it just wasn't the best experience if viewed solely as a D&D game.

So perhaps that's why I have never really gone out looking for or to be a player in a ton of online games. My RPG experience is unique to me, just like everyone else's D&D experience is unique to them. I'm not sure I want that experience to start to homogenize via things like  actual play live streams and  "professional, rent a GM services." I don't want there to be "best practices," or a right and wrong way to do RPG's. I will never look at another persons game and say "that GM sucks," as long as I can see everyone is having a good time.*****

I recently had a brief discussion on Twitter which relates to this subject where in I was told by DMLeviathan**,
"True. But, IMO , that's speaking more to style than ability. You can still learn skills  from other GM"
I wholeheartedly agree.  We can always learn from others. Pick up tricks, new ways to present information, good game management techniques all of that. For me though style, or the infinite multitude of potential styles is what makes the RPG hobby interesting and enjoyable.

In that same twitter conversation mentioned above I wrote:
"It's also kind of hard to know what "good" is as most of us DM in a vacuum, at our homes with our groups"
And,
 "Fair enough. A player coming to the table w, "You should DM more like that guy on Youtube." would be disheartening."
Lastly: The  order of these quote on Twitter was not as it is shown here, DMLeviathan's quote shown first here, was the last substantive post of the conversation to which I replied, "I agree." I have them in this order on the blog for purposes of the blog, to to misrepresent context in any way.

That is a 140 character synopsis of what this post is about. It  is also a perfect example of why twitter is shit for communicating thoughts.
I'm on / part of  the internet RPG community, I'm available. I embrace the digital medium for RPG's as best I can. I am happy to learn from other players and GM's methods. I'm just not sure I have a very high level of comfort when it comes to comparing GM's to each other based on games run on the internet or via services like Roll20 or I-table top.
The gap between what someone like me does with the technology which is bare bones, VS what a slickly produced, and fully realized use of tools available ^ is immense. The  good times had at the table however are not that different.

So What do I do to resolve this divide between What I think (I should be out there as part of the community more. VS what I do  (Hermit crab man)?
I'm going to start watching a lot more of the  exact actual plays and such that I have not been. Taking GMLeviathan's tweet to heart and going out there looking for the tips and tricks.
I'm also going to try and  get involved in more online games that other people run, as a player. One shots probably because committing to the same time and  day  is kind of hard for me.
I also Have to do some cons with Neal this year. I'm an asshole for not doing it. I find it hard to commit the time once the time comes. I'm psyched to do it a month away, but then invariably when the con gets closer, shit blows up on me at work, or some home thing crops up and by the time the weekend hits I just want to sit and play Terraria mindlessly. I have to fight that. I want to sit at stranger's tables and play RPG's.

To conclude this rather long and meandering post. As a community I see RPG's becoming more main stream (good.) I would hate to see the new ability to watch other groups play afforded by the streaming internet result in any single or particular style of  running a table come to be thought of as "the right way" to do  RPGs. However, I feel I need make myself more open to those influences as an individual. We are in the golden age of table top gaming right now, and to miss it would be a great mistake.

Thank you for reading.
Mark.


 (yes, I admit as a 41 year old man I find the idea of asking a 20 year old female gamer to join my online game a bit on the  creepy side. I know that won't be a popular viewpoint but it's true. Messages can be so easily misconstrued on the internet that I'm not even willing to open myself up to a perception of misguided intentions.)
** A good Twitter follow for those into talking about games.
*** It is Wrestle-mania Weekend after all and for us heathen pro wrestling fans that's basically Christmas. Everywhere you turn some one is streaming a good match.
**** Worst Miko Ever.
***** Even the concept of "Having fun as a GM's Goal in RPGS" has been debated on blogs over the years... What other goal is there why you are hanging out with friends playing a game? I know everyone's fun is different, but that's the point.
^ Man I spent a lot of  effort not mentioning Critical Role in the main text. Reason being is I love that stream without ever having watched it  because it has brought so many people, particularly women and young people, into the hobby. I don't want to cast any  aspersions towards the show because I have none to cast. It's also a perfect example of exactly what my online game can / will never look or sound like. Aint nobody got time for that kind of production.