Wednesday, March 27, 2013


The last fantasy campaign I ran was as close to a West Marches-style campaign as I could get away with without being back in college.  My new campaign, Blood, Gold, and Lizards, will also borrow heavily from the West Marches style, meaning that it will be exploration driven, not plot driven.  I have some ideas how the world will change over time in the background, but player actions should have the spotlight over DM planning.  (Plus I can only afford to dedicate minimal time to background stuff while I work on Draft 3 of my novel.)

For exploration campaigns, maps are vital. Last time I started with a map that I thought was large enough because, well, it took up six 11x17 pieces of paper covered in 1” hexes. This worked well enough at the start, but when the players started hitting the edges of the map, I was not ready as I had not mapped anything beyond the edges. At least once I had to put up a “This Area Under Construction” sign and ask the players to go a different way.

That is not going to work for me anymore.

So this time I’ve mapped the large scale first and then zoomed in for the detail work. My top level map (which fills 2 11x17 pages, long-side by long-side) uses quarter-inch hexes scaled to 1 hex = 75 miles. I then selected an area to detail and zoomed in to a middle-sized map where 1 hex = 15 miles. I created one of these for the New Zwicke area, covering the end of the island the colony was established on, and one for the Lucan’s Clock area, showing the environs around it and some of the interesting terrains to the south, over the mountains. I then selected the specific start areas and created maps where the scale was 1 hex = 3 miles. This last set has the initial encounter areas and will be enlarged to create the table maps the players will explore on and mark up.

This means each starting area takes a total of four maps to become “playable”, which is fine for me as I love making maps. Maps are what drew me into playing D&D originally. Games Magazine included D&D in their Top 100 Games one year (late-1970s) and included a sample map of an inn with a secret passage from the basement as an escape route. I was immediately hooked and never looked back.

I still need to create the table maps for the players, but I have the actual areas mapped already, so that won’t take much effort, especially as the maps will start out mostly empty. I’m going to experiment with the Long Distance Sighting Rules put forth on Bat in the Attic (follow the link). I like PCs having the ability to take a look-see by climbing a nearby tree (assuming there is one).

That’s it for today. I want to post maps of the starting areas, soon, but need to do some other stuff first – like finish the encounter tables. I have them for the island of Majica (where New Zwicke is), but still need to do them for the mainland (where Lucan’s Clock is). One word for both maps: dinosaurs!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Starting Locations

Here is the color text I sent to my players for my new campaign: Blood, Gold, and Lizards

New Zwicke

Welcome to the County Palatinate of New Zwicke!  Count Arman, Colonial Governor of the Lustrian Colonies, bids you welcome.  Please mind the laws and do NOT bring any trouble back to town and things will be most agreeable for you here.  Appointments to meet with members of the government are taken Mondays and Tuesdays, actual meetings happen on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, executions are scheduled for Thursdays (in Justice Square), and legal proceedings start on Fridays.
Every full moon there is a Sanctioned Auction.  Everyone may attend and bid at the auction, but only licensed sellers may submit items for the auction.  Licensed sellers include members of the Hansa League, legal representatives of all registered guilds, and members of registered adventuring companies.  Please be aware that bidding at the auction and then failing to honor your bid is a crime with penalties including the confiscation of goods and property equal to the defaulted bid, plus 20%, and the colonial government claims the item bid on.
Members of registered adventuring companies are permitted access to [the adventurer’s quarter] where several fine establishments will meet their needs.  Please see the Adventurer’s Ombudsman’s Office for details of taxes and fees due to the colonial government by registered companies.
Once again, thank you for joining the Lustrian Colonies.  Now please move along before I have the guards remove you.

Lucan's Clock

Howza, mates!  Welcome to Lucan’s Clock, official colony of the Republic of Sartosa in these parts.  Mind the Code and deal with your own problems and things’ll go well for ya.  We don’t stand on fancy laws or drinkin’ with our pinkies out like that lot on Majica.  Anything you want to do that doesn’t leave a dead body is fair game, but that won’t protect you from angry reprisals, so watch it.
Commodore Baldomero Teobaldo Espina, Captain of The Foul Wolf of the West, is in charge of The Clock.  (That’s what we call Lucan’s Clock around here.)  The Commodore will see you if he wants, but you might get a word in edge-wise if you try talking to him when he’s at a saloon.  Or you might get shot.  Could go either way.
Every new moon there is a swap meet here at the square.  It’s not as fancy or boring as that auction over in New Zwicke, but you’d be surprised what things you can find at the swap.  Very surprised.  Be ready to haggle and deal or you might just find yourself in possession of a lead bird instead of the ancient heirloom you was thought you was tradin’ for.
One other thing.  It’s a hard scrabble to make do here, so expect to pay a pretty penny for the nice stuff.  You can get the cheap stuff, but it might turn on ya as you get what you pay for.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a saloon nearby that has a drink with my name on it and wench or two to I aim to bed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quick Update

Sorry for the radio silence, busy with a side of drama llama the last couple of weeks.  I'm starting to get back on my feet and on something approximating a steady schedule...just in time for my in-laws to visit, my 14th wedding anniversary to roll around, and then my mom to visit.  So while I'll be taking two weeks of vacation over the next five weeks, I'm still going to be busy.

On the novel front, I've got feedback from all but one couple and have set aside large chunks of this weekend to organize the feedback and start applying it.  I'll deal with the grammar issues first, because it is the smaller component.  Then I'll break things apart, pull out scenes that do not involve the focus characters, and see what's left.  Then I'll write back in the removed content, but as seen or experienced by the focus characters.  This should address two common issues - too many characters to easily keep things straight and not enough insight into why things happening are significant to the characters.  That will become Draft 3.0 and it'll go out for a reading again.  That probably won't happen until closer to the end of the year unless my schedule shifts and tons more writing time becomes available.

Why would I need tons more writing time?  Because I'm also starting up a RPG campaign in April.  This will be a West Marches-style campaign with two groups of adventurers adventuring in the same world.  I have 14-15 interested players, which is too many to run at once, so I'll run two sessions a month, each session with a different group.  There is the possibility of some overlap as there are 5 reserved seats at each session and floater seats to bring each session to 8 players maximum.  I think the totals will be smaller due to player availability, but we'll see how it plays out.

In the meantime, I'm creating and populating the play area and setting up encounter areas.  I'll provide more details as I get things nailed down.  Next week I'll post the color text I sent out to the players introducing the two potential starting areas they have to choose from.  They are quite different and have strengths and weaknesses that I believe balance them out.