Monday, April 27, 2015

Mapping Pavis I - Setup

I've been fascinated by the Chaosium RuneQuest Pavis and the Big Rubble setting since I first read the saga of Rurik the Restless in the rule-book. A year or so ago, I went out to DriveThruRPG and bought the PDF version. It's a huge setting, 25km2 of ruined city, now inhabited by trolls, broo and other two and four footed vermin - like adventurers. Sealed off for hundreds of years, it was forceably re-opened by the dragonnewts, then re-colonized by Sartarites, and now conquered by the Lunar Empire. I'm considering setting my next campaign there and wanted to start mapping out the ruins. The small scale map included in the PDF being evocative, but not terribly useful for game play.
The first step was to import an image into GIMP and overlap it with a grid. I started with a hex grid, but as I started drilling down, I realized that a square grid would be easier to use.  I took a screenshot of the PDF page, then in GIMP, I opened the image as Layers, edited out the scale given on the image, created a new 'Grid' layer on top of image layer and then used Filter->Render->Pattern->Grid to draw the lines. I set the distance between the lines at 65 pixels. That gave me a little over 100 half kilometers squares inside the walls. Since the PDF says that the walls contain "about 25km2" of land, that's good enough for my work.  Labeling the top row and left hand column provides me with an easy reference system.

The next step is to be able to drill down to individual buildings.  Again I used GIMP to create a large square, first divided into a 5x5 matrix of smaller squares.  The large square at this scale represents on of the squares on the Pavis map, which I'll refer to as a neighborhood.  The 25 squares inside are 100x100 meter 'blocks".

The final layer is another large square, subdivided into a 10x10 matrix.  The large square represents the 'block' in the neighborhood map and is subdivided into 10m2 'lots'.  Or about 30x30 feet - not coincidentally the size of the house I owned in the Chicago suburbs fifteen years ago.

Next I'll demonstrate drilling down to the building and block level.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Urban Ruins

I've created another RPG Playing Aid generator, over under Utilities - Urban Ruins. I created it to generate random urban remains based on the Runequest Pavis and the Big Rubble setting.  It will make a group of building remains, providing their footprint, height and a description.  It's not so much a dungeon generator as an idea generator.

I'll have a couple of posts showing how I use it to create large scale maps of the Big Rubble.

Here's an example of the results.  The 'Type' column is explained over on the Urban Ruins page.

Nominal block size: 40m by 40m
No Type Floors Size
1 B 1 10x10 Walls of orange brick support the remains of a black tile roof. The left wall is stained with mildew.
The cellar is made of packed earth and has 1 level. The cellar can be accessed by a trapdoor with no means of descent inside the left front corner of the building. The access is full of debris. If searched or cleared, 25% chance of being attacked by vermin, insects or snakes.
2 D 10x10 The front left corner , right wall and left wall foundations of finished stone remain behind to mark where a building once stood.
The interior is a shallow pit covered with tall weeds.
3 Special 10x10 A well with no lip, just a hole in the ground. . Check for wandering monsters.
4 Empty 30x30
The area is covered with tall weeds.
5 E 30x30

The area is covered with brush, a small tree grows within.
The cellar is made of finished stone and has 1 level. The cellar can be accessed by a open stair outside the left rear corner of the building site. The access is full of debris. If searched or cleared, 25% chance of being attacked by vermin, insects or snakes.
Any stairs or ladders found in the cellar have a 15% chance of breaking the first time they are used.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review - Demon Princes

Been out of socket most of this month, between a cruise in the warm and a convention in Lost Wages, which wraps up tomorrow. In my travels, I've read through all five volumes of Jack Vance's Demon Princes.  These are tales of revenge set in the far future, Vance gives us tantalizing glimpses his future. The 26 planets of the Tiger Concourse, and the humorous back story on how they were named.  The workings of the ICC and the Institute, private organizations of vast influence. The Star Kings, a mysterious race of ultra competitive reptilian who may or may not have uplifted mankind.
   Yet in the end, we have hundreds of pages of vignettes, the first of the villainous Demon Princes, criminals of shocking callousness and depravity, is a Star King. After its demise, the Star Kings are erased from the universe, never to appear again.  So too the hero's love interest du jour. End of book, end of story arc, even when the hero has taken financial responsibility for them. Poof, gone, lost in the vast cosmos.
  By my count, only two characters appear on more than one story, other than the hero.  And little is done to develop any of them, including the hero. Who ticks away tracking down and assassinating these criminals one by one.  His deeds unnoticed by the galaxy and unnoticed by the remaining criminals.
It's a great, fertile setting for a space opera, read the books. Discover Smade's Planet, the Oikumene and the lawless beyond.  Have the characters s each for ore among the Darshan on Dar Sai, and let them determine if the climate is more pitiless than the people. Let them journey to far, forgotten Thamber at the edge of the galaxy or take their old Model 9B located ship to search for new worlds.
  But the stories themselves, meh.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Deep Ones in Puerto Rico

These native drawings provide pictorial evidence of Deep One presence and inter-breeding around Punta Escambron, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

A first hand account from someone who happened on the scene after the massacre. Freedom of expression is everyone's fight, there was a minor movement to suppress D&D in the 80's on religious grounds. That was a picayune argument with groups who played by civilized rules; this is an act of war between cultures.  Because of the cultural divide, both sides will claim deceit and treachery in course the fight, as the cultures do not share norms of behavior.

That does not make them equal nor equivalent.

Western civilization, with all of it's faults, has a history of self criticism and increasing freedoms that Islam only approached in it's Spanish rump states.  Such criticism can be counted on to offend those being criticized, but curtailing the right to criticize must lead to the curtailment of those freedoms.

So if you're offended, sucks to be you.  Go ahead and offend me back, being offended is the price of maintaining and expanding freedom.  Freedom is cheap at that price.  The staff of Charlie Hebro just paid for it in blood.

Honor them,do not let their voices be silenced. Your freedoms depend on it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Encounter Balance

Balanced scale of Justice     Yet another thought provoking post over on Gnome Stew, this time on Encounter Balance in the game.  As my players will tell you, I stopped worrying about it.  I stopped worrying about it in reaction to their behavior several years ago in a 3.x campaign that lasted three or four years.  I was originally excited by the Challenge Rating concept and wasted much time calculating CRs for encounters; which isn't straight forward when the numbers of players showing up varies from three to fourteen.  I noticed occasionally players seemed to get frustrated when their character approached single digit hit points.  From their reaction I realized that the concept of Encounter Balance had morphed into meaning the characters must always 'win' and that killing a character had become seen as a sign that the game had degenerated into a contest between the DM and the Players.  So I pulled a few punches and the game sucked to run. I ended the campaign and took a break.
     When I came back with a new campaign I explicitly stated that character death is an option, advising them to have a couple of characters handy.  Sure enough, a character died in the very first (random) encounter. In my current campaign, one player has had characters die not once, but twice.       Usually character death is the result of the player's and party's actions, like being the first in the room with the troll and having the next person fall and cause a pile up outside the door.  Or being 15 feet behind the thief when they blow the disarm check and the portcullis drops. And once, unfortunately, I goofed and forgot to provide the right clues that this is was encounter to run from.(Feel bad about that one.)
    Instead of worrying about Encounter Balance and calculating CRs for every encounter, I just  try come up with encounters that challenge the players to think and role play, providing clues for them to misinterpret or ignore.  As long as we're having fun, encounter balance isn't important.