I’m managed very little in the way of writing these last few weeks. In fact I’ve managed very little anything these last few weeks but the one thing I have managed to work on is my campaign settings map.
There has been a few questions asked over the last month or so about the scale of the main map that we’re working from. Each hex was anything from 250 to 500 miles point to point depending on who you talked to. I decided to go with 250 for my own maps on the basis that if its the later the distance between the islands would have been too great. If the setting goes with a 500 mile scale I’ll just keep developing the setting but I guess I won’t be taking part in the collaborative side of things.
Anyway there’s been a few changes and improvements on the map so far. I’ve messed about with the mountains and hills a little, added a bit of colour to offset the blanket green it seemed to have, worked out where the major rivers were, named the islands and placed the towns and villages on the map.
click for bigger picture
For those that are interested the names are all of Scots Gaelic origin although I cannot vouch that they actually make sense in Gaelic as I joined a few names that looked good together without really caring for the correct structure.
- Fàsach na Fear (Mountain of Man)
- DÌthreabh bho Dheas (Southern Wilderness)
- Eileach bho Thuath (Stoney North)
- Linnhe Dubh (Dark Pool)
- An Frith Feàrna (Small Wooded Land)
The red dots are the capitols/main town of each island. The yellow dots are the permanent towns and villages that have been built up around natural resources. The blue dots are the temporary longphorts where the boats have came ashore to over-winter or to set up trading posts.
That one word as a GM fills me with dread. Why create a maze of irrelevant intersections only to have your players deliberate over every decision when all you need them to do is get to the bottom?
And who in their right mind still thinks having their players map the dungeon/maze/where ever on squared paper is conducive to a good gaming experience? Of the many times we’ve tried that there has not been a single occasion where the player mapping hasn’t made a mistake at some point which has completely ruined the map. An intersection wrongly marked or a tunnel 5 squares long instead of 6. I’ve yet to see an aspect of gaming that wastes more time and cause more unnecessary arguments than mapping.
But how do you get around explaining the players locale without it? Bear in mind I very rarely use minatures and hate being limited by using pre-built dungeon cardboard cut-outs.
You could take the route of just giving/selling them a ‘complete’ without any of your encounters or items marked on it. At least that way there is no arguments over layouts but you can’t do that every time. It’s the equivalent of handing your players a bag of holding because they just happen to want to carry every item they have ever looted about with them at all times. It’s far to easy a trap to fall into at the best of times.
Going on past experiences the best way I’ve found to deal with this problem is to first of all stop designing huge dungeons. Unless you are just going to miss out most of the map and just tell the players they have found a way to the secret room you still get a decent level of exploration on small scale tunnels. The other method is to produce several copies of the same map. One with all your notes on it, a blank one without the notes and several copies of the blank one that has for example everything but the opening few rooms blanked out and then one with the next section showing. Use a blank bit of paper and sketch the initial tunnels/rooms until they have discovered most of what’s on the first sectioned map and then replace the scribble with the actual map section. Keep doing this until they end up with the almost completed map in their hands.
It may sound like an awful lot of work but if you limit it to a few map sections it’s the quickest and most accurate way I’ve found yet whilst not boring the players have to death.
Just over a week ago Greywulf wrote an entry about molding your playing group around the idea of a superhero team. Everything from team name to matching outfits was mentioned but it managed to fire my memory into overdrive when it mentioned strongholds. It’s something I’ve not done for years but someone in our group would always end up either taking over an existing building or creating one from scratch if they had the time and resources. It would almost always be left to me to design them however but I always enjoyed that side of things.
A quick personal and educational history lesson. When I was at school the exams you sat when you were 16 were just changing from O Levels to Standard Grade style papers. In fact by the time it came for me to sit those exams my school only did one O Level course and it was the last year they would be running it. Guess who took that class? I loved Technical Drawing so much that it was basicalluy the only class outwith Computing that I looked forward to each week. In my prelim exam I was the only person in Scotland to score a perfect 100% and apparently my teacher found out I scored a 99% in the final exam. Either way I was good at it so you can understand now why I didn’t mind when it came to designing the strongholds.
Something that always annoyed me about the systems we played was that they either went one of two ways. You were either told that at a certain level you could build a stronghold and gave you a very basic set of rules and descriptions for doing so or you had books like Castles and Ruins for Rolemaster that broke it down to the level where were almost having to work out how much to pay each labourer and when he’d take his tea breaks. We ended up throwing all those rules out the window though and basically allowing the players to design anything they wanted and the GM would come up with a price and a time scale for building it. Once that was agreed the player would bring me a rough sketch and I’d draft it up from there. The same would happen for any vehicles or spaceships for our sci-fi games except it would usually be the GM that would ask me to do that for them.
I was flicking through my old tech drawing papers the other day and came across what was possibly my favourite, if not the most simplistic, building we ever designed and used. During a D&D Mystara campaign we had spent the best part of 3 months real-time fighting our way through undead infested swamps before finally banishing what ever evil being was at the centre of the infestation. At the end of the day our party found the treasure trove but missed one of the side chambers. Being a Cleric I stayed behind for a few days to try and make some changes to the land around me and finally stumbled upon the remaining treasure. Being a holy man I decided that it was put to better use by building a church on this god forsaken land than filling the rucksacks of my fellow adventurers. I’ve never quite worked out whether that was my character being selfish and greedy or trying to do the right thing. I did it anyway.
So after a few weeks going back and forth between the DM and myself we finally came up with the above design for my church. It is a very simple design but all I could build with the limited funds. Eventually my church sent a couple of clerics to help with the rebuilding of the land and by the time the campaign ended a small village had sprouted up around the outside of the walls. We were right in the heart of the wasted lands but we were gradually clawing it back for the living.
I loved drawing the castles, buildings and vehicles over the years. I just wish more of them had survived.