Wednesday, October 28, 2020

How I do Exploration XP

 I received this comment from Reese Laundry on my post about not dividing the XP

Like Daren, I do this in my BX/OSE games for monster XP only, but not treasure. IT's a minor boost and not unbalancing, I don't feel. I've considered the idea of exploration or mission XP, but haven't tried it yet. I'd be interested in seeing a post at some point on how you do it and how it's worked out for your table!

 Since I've got a bit of spare time today, might as well address it. 

When I started my West Marches game, one of the things I did was go back and read a post from Jeff Rients about exploration XP, and decided to work that into the game. 

Each hex that gets explored has a basic XP value. Any monster lair has a value for its discovery, as well. These values increase the farther the party gets from town. I've got bands 4 hexes deep (or about 1 day's travel) that set the value of these. 

Special locations, or performing certain actions at special locations, or encountering an iconic creature in a certain region, are all worth bonus XP. 

Originally, I set the game up for 5E because that's what all the players wanted to play. So the XP values were pretty small, especially in the initial band. When I switched to Classic D&D, I didn't shift the values right away, so they ended up being inconsequential. After a while, I upped them. 

One thing that I need to improve about my game, actually, is telegraphing where the special areas are that can earn bonus XP. For quite a while now, the group has been setting their own goals. And I've not found the right balance of throwing out rumors and keeping things mysterious. I'm working on it. 

I think I need to make a Google Docs with the rumors and just post the XP amounts on it if the rumor is successfully investigated. 

Anyway, here are the current values I'm using for exploration of a hex and discovery of a lair. The special area XP is pretty variable, but usually two to five times that of a lair discovery award, depending on how easy/hard or influential I think that special is. 

First Band (1 to 4 hexes from Silverwood): Hex 100xp, Lair 200xp

Second Band (5 to 8 hexes): Hex 200xp, Lair 500xp

Third Band (6 to 12 hexes): Hex 500xp, Lair 1000xp

Fourth Band (13 to 16 hexes): Hex 1000xp, Lair 2500xp

Fifth Band (17 to 20 hexes): Hex 2500xp, Lair 5000xp

Sixth Band (21 to 23 hexes): Hex 5000xp, Lair 10,000xp

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Can you hear them? My children of the comment section. What music they make!

 I may have gotten the quote from Dracula a bit off. But oh well. 

Any other bloggers notice that the "vampire" spammer is back, and just in time for Halloween? 

Deleted a bunch of that crap yesterday. 

And it got me thinking, they're a pretty sad bunch of vampires! Immortality, power, wealth, and the best they can do is create a spam-bot? Lame!!! 

Come back when you've got an attractive offer of vampirism, dudes.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Undivided XP - a potentially unbalancing idea

 I was inspired to make my home game a West Marches campaign from a play-by-post game I've been in for a few years. It's a 5E game, so it has a different scale of progression anyway, but since it's PbP, the DM doesn't divide XP among the group members. If we face a group of monsters worth 700xp total, we each get 700xp. 

Since PbP is a really slow moving way to play, this means we still level up fairly often, especially with 5E's expedited numbers for leveling. 

In my game, the groups recently tend to be on the large size, so much so that most of the players have stopped hiring men-at-arms. They tend to be around level 4 to 5, but with a few at 6 and a few still at 3. But despite the presence of level 5 and 6 PCs, they still tend to think they're only able to handle the level 3 stuff. Fair enough, it has been a deadly game (no dead PCs this past weekend, but two weeks ago one PC and the last of the henchmen were killed). 

I'm wondering if maybe I should switch to a thing like the PbP DM does, and not divide the XP. Being that this is Classic D&D, I'd of course stick to the rules that no more than one level can be gained per session, so when they get a dragon or giant's massive treasure, we won't see someone shooting from level 3 to level 7 at once. It would speed up advancement which would help the lower level PCs catch up level-wise, and maybe give the players a bit more of a feeling of toughness. 

Part of me feels like they're operating below their capacity for risk, sticking to the safer areas, and avoiding some of the dungeons (which often are a bit more challenging than the area they're in). 

Part of me feels like I should just let them do this, as it means I can take my time on expanding the keyed areas of the map. If they're leveling faster, I'll need to prepare stuff in farther regions faster than I am right now. 

Also, part of me feels like this will unbalance things. The benefit of a huge party (6 to 8 PCs, a tiger and a dire wolf as mounts for two of the PCs, plus occasional henchmen or leveled retainers) is that they can handle more danger. The drawback is that the XP gets divided more ways. 

I probably will not implement this idea, but it is an interesting idea to consider. Maybe in another campaign some day.

Monday, October 19, 2020

This is the way.

 My d6 Star Wars campaign has floundered. Not from lack of interest. I enjoy running it, and my group enjoys playing it. It's just I don't have that much free time these days. It seems like just keeping up with the games I play in, and running West Marches (which has enough prepped material to run for quite a long time still, as long as the players don't go too far in one direction!) is all I can handle right now. 

But, The Mandalorian Season 2 debuts next week. Well, at the end of next week, so it's closer to 2 weeks away than one, but who's counting? (I am.) 

Hopefully, watching that with the boys will rekindle my desire to run some games set long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Demon Castle Design

 I've been crunched for time lately, with a journal paper just submitted, a conference presentation to prepare, student homework to grade, and midterms coming up soon. Oh, and then there's being a husband/father! But somehow, I manged to sneak in some time to consider how I'd design a Castlevania style megadungeon while watching the boys play on the playground over the weekend. And it's taken me until Wednesday night to finally blog about it!

Here's what I came up with:  

The castle itself will have 12 zones, ranging from around level 3 to level 8 or so. I figure, why bother starting at 1st level for something like this? Get right to the good stuff. But also level 10+ characters really don't have to worry too much about vampires, right? Double energy drain sucks, but with turn undead, fifth level spells, magic items, and lots of hit points, high level characters can manage Dracula easily. So keep it in the sweet spot. Still plenty of room for character progression.

Each zone will of course have a theme. The Great Halls. The Dungeon. The Clock Tower. The Armory. The Long Library. The Catacombs. The Chapel of Lost Souls. All stolen from Castlevania, of course! And each will be around 15 to 20 encounter areas. As mentioned previously, there will be easy access to every zone (relatively so anyway) to be more of a megadungeon and less of a side-scrolling railroad.

Around the castle will be five towns and five small dungeons. I'm still debating whether to use names from Castlevania 2 for the towns (Jova, Aljiba, etc.) or actual Transylvanian town names (Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara, etc.). Whichever way I go, each town will have certain goods and services available, including a small cast of potential hirelings. Each town will also have a random events table to roll on each time the PCs visit (maybe not the "home town" since they will likely go there all the time). 

The five small dungeons (or dangerous wilderness areas) will be around 10 encounter areas each, and probably have magical treasures that will be nice to have (but not necessary) in the castle. This will provide possible diversions if the players are getting bored by the castle, but also help get the treasure (XP) needed to level up, since the castle itself will probably not give enough XP for the higher levels, especially if there are a big group of players like my games tend to attract these days. 

Additionally, it would be easy to add more small dungeons around the castle if necessary to help boost the PCs up a level if they need it. Or maybe I'll periodically restock lower levels. That's what happens in Castlevania games anyway. Then I won't need to add more maps and keys, just re-key areas that were cleared. 

Seems manageable when I break it down like this, but again, no time! One of these days.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

New Reading Material

 Got a package from Amazon yesterday. 

Reading up on game design theory, motivation, and role play game history to build up some background knowledge to start some studies on language learning through RPGs. Hoping to get a group of my students to try out some RPGs, which I can monitor and interview them about, and write up some case studies and action research papers. 

So this is a research expense.  And they should just be interesting to read on their own.

Some days (most days) I really love my job.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Demon Castle Dracula

 Castlevania games have long been among my favorites. I still regularly replay the old NES games via emulation. And I enjoyed the hell out of the Playstation/PS2 era games, especially (no surprise) Symphony of the Night.

When I was a teenager, and finally got around to mapping out the Haunted Keep in Karameikos (I had Mentzer, not Cook's Expert Set), of course it was pretty heavily inspired by the original Castlevania game. 

Back when I was still using 3E, I took a break from developing the campaign that would eventually provide the setting for Flying Swordsmen (and my Chanbara play tests), I tried to make a Castlevania inspired megadungeon. But like SotN, I had limited paths from zone to zone, and strict challenge levels, and whatnot, and it got to be too much of a burden. 

While I don't really have time to try and create a megadungeon at the moment, the approach of Halloween has got me thinking about it again. IF I were to create it now, with more years of experience and evolved ideas on what makes for a good game, the plan would be a lot more open. If low level PCs wanted to head straight to the Clock Tower and Dracula's Turret, they'd be able to do it. Not likely a good idea, but the option would be there. 

And like in Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, there would be some towns and other smaller dungeons around besides just the castle proper. They would allow the players chances to learn about the zones of the castle (and the threats likely to be encountered there), and also places to buy/sell/trade loot and magic items, and "side quests" to find weapons and artifacts useful against the denizens of Castlevania. 

And of course, I'd need to decide if this would be done in Classic D&D, or with RetroPhaze (which I apparently have an older edition of, John keeps working on this great little game!).