Monday, April 12, 2010

Thinking about Things Western Marches

Portions of this are cut-and-pasted from my other blog, Imperial Dispatches. I'm duplicating it here and then adding, as this is where I'm talking about things OSR-related.

If you read the April 9 post, I talk about possibly making it a Western Marches style game. I had a chance to try that out last Saturday with my Champions group using the Pathfinder RPG and have some more data points to consider.
  1. My 4E world, dangerous frontier though it is, is actually too settled to make this work the way it is supposed to. There is supposed to be ONE safe point (the town/city) and everything else is supposed to be wilderness with no really safe places to end a session but the town/city.
  2. The only adventurers are supposed to be the PCs - no NPC adventurers at all. Goldland Crossing is mostly populated with adventurers (active or failed), which is the direct opposite.
Now I can see an easy way to work around Point 1 - just adjust the scale, drop a few fiefs from the map, and go from their. But I like the world the way it is, really and Point 2 is the really killer. There is just no way for the PCs to be the only adventurers with the campaign background. Plus, I'm planning on setting up a competing adventuring group as frienemies. (Shh! Don't tell them.) So what I'm really saying is: my Goldland Crossing Campaign will not become a pure Western Reaches-style campaign, but I may borrow elements from it.

By the way, the player of the eponymous bugbear has dropped out of the group for personal (drama) reasons, so I've changed the name of the campaign Goldland Crossing Campaign from Here Be Bugbears. Le sigh.

Southern Reaches
So Saturday (April 10), I ran a Western Marches style game in the Pathfinder RPG, which I call my Southern Reaches campaign. I also included the Resolve Points system discussed by Penny Arcade (scroll down to Gabe's post). The resolve tokens do a good job of illustrating how far the PCs can travel in a day without invoking any cumbersome math to slow things down: move a hex=spend a token, run away=spend another token. I plan on querying the PA guys for details on what else they envisioned. If they answer, I'll share it here.

Putting a token on the map showing where the PCs are (or think they are) and making them move it does a good job of focusing their attention on where they're going and making decisions rather than passively waiting for the DM to tell them when they arrive at an encounter. Did I mention I drew out the table-map on a 2 ftx3 ft vinyl battlemap? I did. Made several things easier:
  1. All the players could clearly see the map.
  2. I could write cryptic descriptors in several places, big enough to be read.
  3. The players could annotate the map as well (which they did).
  4. Easy to keep track of while still being portable.
I also did something I haven't done in ages - rolled for random encounters. I created location-specific encounter tables to provide a feel for each area. Right now I have one for the Edgewood (BTW, Thank you to Gabe of PA for putting that on his map - I stole it.) and a different one for the plains. I still need to make one for the (unnamed) hills south of Edgewood, the area around 3 Peaks, and the Spiderwood (in case the players go there - it will have many giant spiders and spider-based monsters). There are two small clusters of hills on the map and I haven't decided if I want specific encounter tables for them, but I'm fairly certain I will create them - I know whats there.

(Ah! I just remembered to add cross-region entries to the encounter tables. Need to do that today while I'm thinking about it. In fact...done!)

My next step is to create a forum of some sort for players to log onto and plan future expeditions. I need to add some cryptic remarks in the spellbook they found (hinting at other adventure locales) and post a copy of the map they can clearly see online to whet their appetite. Part of the point is to get the players to decide where they want their characters to explore ahead of time so I know what to have ready and to keep them thinking about the game, increasing their buy-in and excitement. Plus, I can recruit new players and point them there to join in the discussions. I'm thinking of either getting an Ascended membership on Obsidian Portal, which allows me to set up forums for each campaign, or setting up something through Google Wave, which I have an account with but haven't had a reason to use. While Google Wave is free, Obsidian Portal has a built in wiki, which is very handy for preserving information about a campaign.

Then there is the issue of time. Right now I run the following:
  1. A monthly Hero System game on the 2nd Saturday of each month (either Champions, Fantasy Hero [no OP site yet due to hiatus], or Pulp Hero)
  2. A monthly Pathfinder game on the 4th Saturday of each month (Naze Valley Rangers)
  3. A weekly D&D 4E game on Fridays (theoretically - see other posts on this blog)
I also play in D&D Encounters on Wednesdays from 6:00-8:00 PM.

The question is "Do I have to drop one (or more) of these to fit in my Southern Reaches game and still stay married?"

1 comment:

  1. Darn. I was checking out some of your posts and got really interested when I saw you're in Houston (from the Obsidian Portal post where y'all said you needed more players and maybe you should hit up folks at San Jac or CLAG). That was rapidly quashed when I found out that you're playing Pathfinder. Sigh! :-)