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Showing posts from December, 2014

The Forgotten Land beyond the Iron Mountains

So far as I can tell, I am the first person to hike over the iron mountains since the event that created them some 800 years ago.  The whole region is considered cursed by every civilization I have found bordering it, so much so that they will not even drink water that flows from within.  Still, my curious nature, empty pockets, and stalking debtors drove me to make the journey with my 3 companions.

The region is essentially one mountain, towering over valleys sharply cut off by the recent appearance of the iron mountains.  Elves from the nearest village old enough to remember claim the iron mountains appeared all at once, with a cover of magic, so whatever lay behind them must surely be valuable.  With a doughnut-shaped set of valleys and one large mountain, it has taken weeks already and will take several weeks more to fully survey the area.  It may take a lifetime, however, to understand what has been seen thus far.
There is a people here, or perhaps they should be called persons. …

Simulationist Pitfalls: The Mixed Fidelity Ruse

Articles like this "Clunky Mechanics in 5E", "Flank You Very Much: Tactical Play in D&D", and others, start to address tactical, aka simulationist concerns in the new D&D Next / D&D 5e ruleset.  One particular rule, flanking, has been a controversial subject since the beginning.  I'm going to pick on this particular example to explore an important aspect of simulation, namely fidelity.  Simulation is one of the few areas I would consider myself an expert in, so I think this discussion is warranted.

Simulation is the representation of a specific system using a series of mathematical relationships.  Simulation allows us to predict the outcome of the system without having to have a real system.  Fidelity is the level of detail that we include in a simulation.  Up to a point, fidelity can decrease the uncertainty in the prediction we make.  At some point, however, too much detail in a simulation simply clouds the uncertainty of the result with all of th…

Sand Sailers

When the wind hit the first unrolled sail there was a tug that judged the men; those that failed fell; those that were of these sands stayed at work, hoisting the rest of the sails to bear.  The shushing noise rose out of the background of the whip of the wind, as the glass slipper of the bottom of the Veriago made way.  I tugged the wheel to the right, driving skids against the sand just enough to miss the other sanddocks.

42 Aboard on the Veriago all pulled and pushed to get the full scale sails into the wind.  She was getting up to speed now and I pulled her right into the winds direction completely.  It wasn't completely ideal for the bearing, but it would still shave a days sand off our journey.

In my own mind I could imagine of what could be seen from the dock, the gold hull with gold skins reflecting gold light off of gold sand, the sails of multicolored dragon scale whipping forward, Sailors becoming smaller and smaller as the haze of the desert overtook the view.

Today wa…

Player and Character Incentives and Disincentives

Part of being a good GM is providing incentives for good, fun things to happen as part of the whole gaming experience.  These incentives and disincentives can take two nonexclusive forms -- direct and cross-over.  Direct incentives work so that the actions result in rewards in the same space -- character rewards for character actions and player rewards for player actions.  Cross-over incentives mix the two realms, often resulting in mixed priorities that can sometimes cause problems.  In this article, we're going to discuss how incentives and disincentives for both players and character's can be used correctly and incorrectly.
Gold and treasure are a very straight forward incentive.  They reward characters for character actions.  This kind of non-crossover incentive works very well and is rarely changed.  Some GMs may be tempted to use treasure as a reward to players, but its a trap.  Giving the player influence the ability to influence treasure will only lead to players tryi…

The Multiple Aspects of Charisma

Charisma is a quality which allows the inspiration of devotion in other people.  In terms of game mechanics, charisma may drive the ability to influence others and may act as a source of power for magical abilities.  Charisma also influences how others may see us, such as through physical beauty or in terms of power of personality.  Because charisma has multiple aspects, role-playing a high or low charisma can take on a combination of options.  In this article, we're going to discuss those options and look at some examples.
There are several aspects of Charisma.  Physical beauty describe how the character looks.  Familiarity describes how well the character reflects the expectations of normalness.  Communication reflects how good a person is in portraying a positive light when speaking.  Stature describes the nonverbal communication that the character portrays through their body.    Combinations of these can result in a high, low, or average charisma.
Physical beauty is difficult…

Building a Dungeon is like Decorating a Christmas Tree

Happy Holidays to friends and readers!  Today I thought I would share a Christmas tree inspired method for building a dungeon.
When decorating a Christmas tree, one starts with a natural structure -- the tree.  The tree is grown (or made to resemble) a natural form.  Over top of the tree, we add lights as a structure to pull our view from the bottom to the top of the tree, highlighting all the character we will add in between.  Next we add garland to spread the lighting more diffusely and to add color.  Then we add ornaments that give us points of interest on the trees.  Some may be generically the same, while others are unique.  We add tinsel over the ornaments to increase the twinkle.  Finally the tree is topped with a special angel or star to finish the look.
In our dungeon, we also need to start with something natural.  What was this area originally?  Was it an underground mine?  Was it a prison?  Was it a series of smugglers caverns?  Whatever the original purpose of the area wa…