Friday, May 27, 2016

Building A World: Selanria

I talked last week about Campaign Cartographer and my on going quest to get good at mapping. This past week I've had a side project: the world of Selanria. It started as an attempt to practice Campaign Cartographer more. Get better at layering contours, shaping continents, and all that. Since then, I've decided to go a bit more indepth.

Mapping, you see, gives a new way - to me - to do world building. Normally I start with the concept and the narrative and go from there. The area has a forest because we're going to have a forest involved at some point. The mountains are to the north because that's where the story puts them. With mapping though, the world is drawn as a blank slate first.

Forests, mountains, plains, and rivers are no longer arbitrary things. They exist, or don't exist, depending on the map. In effect, it's working in reverse for me. I don't start with a nation of islanders that make their trade on the sea and run river boats through the main land. I start with a series of islands, and from their develop the islanders around the options that are there.

It's what I'm hoping to do with Selanria. Perhaps I'll talk about it more as the weeks go on. For now though, I figure I'd share the map. I'm not 100% happy with how little ocean there is between the continents, nor am I completely happy with the shape of the continents, but for what it is I like the basic look of the parts.

If you zoom in close you'll notice the cities are color coordinated per continent. That was one of the last things I did, getting some semblance of which major holdings went together. Also, that is a key point, only major holdings are shown here. Yes, there are some smaller communities too, but the idea is that this isn't the kind of map that shows all the details and every little villain. After all, this is a 2000x1600 map (miles wise for what it shows) so you're not going to get that.

The map, with the political borders (at least, a super rough draft of the political borders) and names for the different areas is also included. As a note, it's a lot louder with the extra names.

And that's Selanria for now. A more or less full world (or part of a world) with multiple countires and everything needed for a fantasy world (low, sword & sorcery, dark, or high) to thrive.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Declare Your Intended Results

Thi s is a basic piece of advice for players. It is designed to not only help you out, but also your GM, and make sure that there is as little confusion as possible. It's fairly straight forward: when you take a course of action, or declare an action, share what your desired result is as well.

I know, I know, that sounds like it should be obvious. Not the saying the result, but what the desired result is. Often times it is. If you try to steal a wallet, you probably want the wallet - or the contents therein. If you attack someone, you probably are looking to hurt or kill them. However, sometimes it is not that clear. Besides, even if it is clear, it still keeps things more straight forward for the GM.

As an example, in the Shadows of Esteren game I'm in the demorthien for our town has a pair of dire wolves that accompany her everywhere. One of the PCs made a point of hanging around with the wolves and being friendly with them. However, it wasn't until recently that he pointed out he was hoping to normalize the dire wolves presence in the town, and show people that they weren't frightening monsters. This wasn't something that the GM had accounted for, but was very important to what was going on in the game.

In other cases the path the player is on may not actually be possible, but the intended result can still happen and the GM can help them find that way. I've run a number of cases where a player had in their head that some part of the scenery controlled a gate or other thing to block off a passage. Rather than just let them attack the part of the scenery and fail, I directed their attack to what would actually accomplish their goal. It kept things going smoothly, and prevented the awkward situation where a miscommunication caused problems in the player's understanding.

It costs you nothing to share what your hoped for result is, and it can spare a ton of heart ache. If nothing else, it lets the GM know what you want to do, and if they know what you're trying to do they know what path to put you on to get there.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Expecting to Die

In an interesting turn about I've walked into the last several sessions for games I'm a player in expecting to die, and come out the other side almost completely unscathed. That's not because the sessions weren't deadly mind you. Other characters were laid low, and in the D&D game we would've lost the  Ranger except the GM allowed the character who acted on the same initiative as the monsters to stabilize the dying ranger as he was being attacked to negate Death Saves. No, what was strange, and what I really liked about all the near death fights in all these recent sessions is the atmosphere around the table.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Discussion: Maps - Mine and Yours

About a year - maybe more - I decided I wanted to learn how to map better. I even started a project on the blog which was short lived and ultimately failed. However, I didn't forget about mapping. I've been practicing here and there, making small doodles and what not for myself and my games, and it's been working out fairly well. More recently - several months ago - I took the plunge and dropped some cash on Campaign Cartographer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Your Game Can Write Itself

Over the weekend I finally managed to see Captain America: Civil War. There won't be any spoilers in this post for the movie, but it got me thinking. In the trailers for Civil War, and the basis behind the story, is there is a disagreement on how to go forward based on the collateral damage of the past. It's one of the reasons I think that Marvel is beating DC in the movie game - Marvel isn't afraid to explore the consequences of their earlier movies - and it is something that you can use as a GM. Do it right, and you can end up with your game writing its own next arc. Let's talk about that today.

Monday, May 16, 2016

GenCon Tip: Don't Sweat Missing Event Registration

This year my friend and I are going to GenCon for the third year. It's become an annual trip, and frankly I've been looking forward to it since I confirmed I could swing the finances t his past January. In a bit of a change of pace, a third person is making the trip with us this year and it will be their first GenCon. Mostly we've handled the big stuff for them (housing, pointing out when to register, etc) since my friend and I have it down. This weekend though was event registration, where you can try to sign up for guaranteed seats at events you really want to play.

Mysteriously at a con as big as GenCon those seats go fast, and even if you click the "submit my wishlist" button at the very instant it becomes available you may miss out on them.

However, this isn't something to stress about. GenCon is a huge con and there is a lot going on. Also, people frequently don't show up to events on time, enabling you to grab their seats if you're prepared. Heck, last year I skipped event registration all together and still had a great time with lots of gaming.

So what do you do? Simple: buy generic tickets. Show up to the event early. Be polite.

As a rule, after 10 minutes an unclaimed seat is considered abandoned and they go first come first serve. Some places do waiting lists. Some places don't. Sometimes a waiting list is started but someone doesn't know so you get bad information. Whatever the case, don't be rude about it. Form a line close but not in the way of actual event ticket holders.

Now, this doesn't mean you will definitely get into the event you want. There's a good chance you won't get in if there is super high demand and low supply. However, there is a good chance you will get in - or find an alternative means of experiencing the thing - if you're patient and polite.

You can have a lot of fun at GenCon with just a handful of generic tickets and a willingness to hang around a few minutes. And if you really want to play a game, why not just wait the few minutes to be sure you can't?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Discussion: Auspicious Occasions

Today is Friday the 13th. It's also a full moon. It's one of those fun, random dates that can mean a lot, or a little, depending on who you are. That's my question for you all today. Do you keep track of auspicious dates like today? Do you factor them into your game plans? If Friday the 13th is coming up, do you put something special into your session for it?

What about the holidays? Do you get christmasy around December, or spooky in October?

I try to when I can, but I won't nudge the game off a set course to do so. If we're not in a place where festivities can work and it's Christmas, than too bad my game doesn't get a Christmas that year. But if I can? Why not. It's fun to play into the mood and riff off what's going on in the real world.

But what about you?