Monday, May 29, 2017

Bow Ranges for Elthos

I finally found a reasonably definitive source on archery bow ranges, and it taught me just enough to extrapolate from in order to derive my bow ranges for the Elthos World. Here's the video:

From video, which seems pretty authoritative, I gleaned the following:

Bow Range Information
40lbs (up to 130lbs)

16 yards = 48' shot is max normal
12 yards = 36' is distance normal

12 yards = 5" penetration - normal distance for hunting
25 yards = 1" penetration - outside normal range

With this information I was able to extrapolate and derive the following formulation:

Yards Feet 40 lbs bow 80 lbs bow 120 lbs bow

Penetration Damage Penetration Damage Penetration Damage
12 36 5.5 1d6 +6 9 2d6 +9 12 3d6 +12
14 42 5 1d6 +5 8 2d6 +8 11 3d6 +11
16 48 4.5 1d6 +4 7 2d6 +7 10 3d6 +10
18 54 4 1d6 +3 6 2d6 +6 9 3d6 +9
20 60 3 1d6 +2 5 2d6 +5 8 3d6 +8
22 66 2 1d6 +1 4 2d6 +4 7 3d6 +7
24 72 1 1d6 +0 3 2d6 +3 6 3d6 +6

This actually works pretty well in terms of what I already had in my world. The 40lbs bow would be the equivalent of a light bow, the 80lbs would be fine as the standard bow, and the 120lbs could stand in for the long bow, though I don't know if longbows have 120lbs, but I heard in a separate video that a particular type of Turkish bow is around 120lbs, and that's pretty much the maximum, at least for natural old world style bows. So I'm going with the 120lbs as my longbow.

Then they showed the penetration into gel which is what the inches on my chart represent. Inches of penetration. This I then translate into dice. My short bows can do 1d6, standard bows 2d6 and long bows 3d6. And beyond that they do bonus damage based on range, which is what I gather is the underlying point of the video. Makes sense to me, and I think it certainly adds something interesting to archery in my world. The closer you can get to an opponent before firing the better, because damage is directly related to range. Neat, and ok. So that's what this chart resolves, and I think it may be good.

On the other hand I still question if I want the different bows to do different dice of damage, or should they all do 1d6 as the currently do? So keep the bonus damage per range values, but all three types of bows will do 1d6 for base damage. Hmmm... obviously adding dice really amps up their effectiveness. And remember, in Elthos RPG, which is what I'm using, Life Points = Strength * Level. In addition, it should be noted that Levels go up to 6 in the default configuration of the rules, and that's considered Paragon level.  3rd Level are Veterans, and generally considered stout warriors who can give and take some damage, especially when they're properly armored.  But as you'll see, combat usually doesn't last long in Elthos.  To give you an idea of the scale of stats, a 6 Strength Fighter at 6th Level has 36 Life Points.

But I like to start with average cases.  So lets take the case of a standard bow doing 1d6+5 at 14 yards, or 42', so average damage would be 3.5 + 5. That is on average 8.5 Life Points.

Now let's say our fighter is hefty with a 5 Strength and at 3rd Level, so 15 Life Points.  And lets say he has medium armor of leather and a shield absorbing 2 points of damage per blow.

So when he gets hit by this bow on average he takes 6.5 Life Points, or almost half.  Two of those shots, on average, would be near lethal, giving 13 hits out of 15.  Still, it would take that third shot, if everything goes by the averages, to finally do him in.  Hmmm... ya know.  I gotta say, for the way I want to play Elthos (fast combat), that works pretty well.  I like small numbers. It makes combat go faster. To me it's more exciting because every roll of the dice can be life or death.  No more 50 rounds of combat please.  Trying to cut down.  ;)

If I made that 2d6 instead of 1d6, the average damage would be 7 + 5, or 12 Life Points.  It would take one shot to take him down if a little luck comes your way. If his armor absorbs 2 points, then the fighter would actually take 10 Life Points.

But of course we also need to understand how often the fighter will be hit as well.  With Leather and a Shield, that's AC +2.  Damage absorption is 2.  If our Archer has an average Attack Level of 3, then it's a 3 to 2 attack, which means he has a 3 or better on a six-sided die to hit.  That's about a 66% chance of success.

So it would take on average 3.5, let's say 4, melees to take the guy down by an archer.  So that's four bow shots and he's down.  I think I have the math right, though I'm going by thumb towards the end here (it's late).

Anyway, I can extrapolate from there in terms of the 3d6 Long Bow.  There's a bit more nuance in there if you look carefully, but I'm off to bed.  I still have to wake up early.  I just thought this interesting enough to jot down so I can come back to it later and make a final decision on it.  What do you think?   1d6 all around? Or beef em up as they go up in lbs?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Great Debate: Story vs Rules

Bannister Nicholas posted some interesting thoughts on the topic of Does Story Trump Rules?... it's a messy subject because there's a huge amount of room for debate, and the terms are not really definitive, and there's a great deal of emotion vested in this topic by many players of RPGs. So, that said... here I go. Diving into the mess head first.

I got to thinking about this never-ending debate between RPG Gamists and RPG Storyists. Which takes precedence over the other? Story or Rules? Usually the answer is related to what people on either side of the debate claim is more "fun". Some think story is more fun (as long as the story goes the way they feel is fun ... some stories are actually not fun, though they are definitely stories. For example, as Bannister points out, Romeo and Juliet is a classic tragedy).  Other people feel that playing RPGs as a game is more fun.

Of course one might immediately notice that "fun" is completely subjective. For some people playing an RPG as a game is the most fun. For other people playing an RPG as a story is the most fun. Usually the debate turns into a burning pile of turds when either side claims that what they think is fun is the only true fun, and what the other people think is fun, to borrow a nasty turn of the phrase from yesteryear, is BadWrongFun. This claim that one group's fun is wrong is at the heart of the entire controversy. I've written about this in the past and don't care to regurgitate my position endlessly on this, and it's all old history by now anyway, so I'd like to move along to what occurs to me about all of this.

So there's two orientations for RPG Players (more, actually, but let's keep it simple for this discussion). There's Story Orientation and Rules Orientation. Sometimes people want to orient their game towards Story, sometimes they want to orient towards Rules. For those who prefer Story-Orientation, the objective is often stated to be Immersion. And since Immersion is fun, Story wins for them. In the other case of Rules Orientation, the objective is to play a Game, and for those people this is fun.

What seems to be the case, and what makes this so messy and un-resolvable, is that RPGs appear to straddle this strange realm between these two incompatible worlds of desire.  What makes it so difficult to resolve is that most players seem to want both from their RPGs, but in differing degrees based probably on something as whimsical as their mood of the moment while they're playing.  In one turn strict adherence to the rules seems perfectly justified to them, while in the next a fudged die roll so that the plot does not get derailed by an errant bit of bad luck feels just as justified.  It's kind of schizophrenic, actually.  But I do see it quite often among most of the players I know.  It's odd, but there you have it.

What is almost impossible, I think, is to actually balance the two objectives. This is because, I think, in the case of Rules it's a binary proposition. You are either following the rules, or you're cheating, and in games cheating is not allowed. But for Story Oriented players cheating seems ok so long as the story is interesting, or meaningful, or at least fun, and it doesn't happen constantly.

There are risks with both styles. For story oriented players the risk is that the GM will railroad the game in order to create a "fun" story.  Usually this means, in most cases I've encountered, that the Players win.  They save the princess, get the loot, kill the monsters, or what have you.  However, the problem is that this takes away their agency as players and that ruins their fun because it eliminates challenge in the game. On the other side for Rules gamers there is a risk the GM will secretly or overtly cheat (or make mistakes), or the players will cheat (or behave like munchkins), which ruins their fun because cheating is Not-Fun.

What is really at issue here, I think, is that from the days of yore, RPGs have attempted to fuse into one game, two completely different and incompatible objectives. Making a game both Story oriented and Rules oriented at the same time is, well... seemingly impossible.  The problem is that this goes back to the very foundations upon which RPGs are built, and has its roots in the difference of style between Gygax and Arneson, if I have the history right. Gygax was a Rules oriented player, stemming out of his love of Wargames, as is reflected in the development of the miniatures game Chainmail, which became the original Dungeons & Dragons. On the other hand Arneson, whose focus was on Story, came out with an alternate view of the game, of which Blackmoor is a quite wonderful representation, that focused more on the story aspect.  So the schizophrenia of RPGs was born at the dawn of the hobby, it seems.

Since then the game has twisted into a rather complicated braid of Rules and Story with a zillion variations on the mix.  And since the struggle between the two orientations has been going on since the dawn of the hobby, and will probably continue to be debated for a long time to come, I don't think it is likely there will be answer to the question "Which is better?" any time soon.  This is probably ultimately because one's play preference totally subjective.

All I ask is that people not claim that their own preference is the "One True Way", because neither preference is better than the other. And in most games, there is a fusion of both aspects. One of the principal roles of the GM is to balance the two during the course of each game. Sometimes the Story gains the upper hand, and the GM adjudicates things along Story lines, maybe fudging a die roll, or placing a monster somewhere other than directly behind the next turn of the corridor. Sometimes the Game predominates the GM focuses on the rules, battle map tactics, and the exact factors involved to accurately derive the necessary die rolls needed for success. I see GMs swinging back and forth between the two all the time. I know I do. Because frankly, I like both aspects and I think both are necessary for me to have a truly enjoyable game. But dang... it really is a difficult thing to balance well! It takes the right feel for the thing. And I don't think you can teach that easily at all. It just comes from experience... or intuition.

So for those GMs who may be new to this debate, and who are hearing both sides tugging at their sleeves with "Do it my way!", I just want to mention, there's a difficult but rewarding middle way.  You can see it as the small red region on the diagram above.  My experience tells me that this is the target to shoot for when GMing, as difficult as it may be to hit.  Good luck, and happy gaming to you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

On Racing Against the Clock

Ok, I just finished reading Sax Rohmer's "The Mystery of Fu Manchu", which, by the way, was an excellent read. At the end of the book there is an exposition titled "Appreciating Dr. Fu Manchu" by Leslie S. Klinger. She writes:

"... Fu Manchu stories combine demonization of Eastern culture and denigration of effete intellectualism with high adventure and gripping suspense. The emphasis is on fast-paced action set in exotic locations, evocatively described in luxuriant detail, with countless thrills occurring to the unrelenting ticking of a tightly-wound clock. Strong romantic elements and sensuality described, sexually attractive women appear throughout the tales, but ultimately it is the fantastic nature of the adventures that appeal."

Now it seems to me that any Gamemsaster worth their salt is going to do well at most of these things, should they happen to want to replicate the kinds of adventures found in "The Mystery of Fu Manchu" (and who wouldn't?).  High Adventure and gripping suspense?  Yup, we got that down.  Fast-paced action set in exotic locations, evocatively described in luxuriant detail?  Can do!  Countless thrills?  Yup! No problem!  However, there is one sticking point. And it's an important one. It's that bit about "countless thrills occurring to the unrelenting ticking of a tightly-wound clock".

Here's where the RPG as a modality grinds up against the imperatives of Pulp Fiction. The fact is, with a novel the author controls the characters, and so at that final crux moment when all seems lost, and the hero figures out some fabulous solution to the peril and thwarts the diabolical plan, and it all makes perfect sense and is thrilling and awesome - it can happen just like that. That's possible achieve because he author knows the villain's entire plan, and can sit and think for hours, days even, about how the characters will respond in just the right way, at the exact right time in order to elicit the greatest suspense for the reader, and final cathartic victory of the heroes.  It's wonderful, and we readers joy in the thrill of the chase and the final culmination of Aha! at the end when the hero wins the day.

We poor Gamesmasters, however, do not have this luxury at all. Not by a billion miles. First, we have no time to think whatsoever. Once the ball is rolling it is our job, of course, to keep it rolling as fast and furiously as possible. Two, the players control the characters, our heros, not the Gamesmaster/author. Three, the players are (usually) the audience and protagonists at the same time, which creates perplexing conditions in relation to our objective. And lastly, the player is rarely if ever privy to the knowledge of the machinations of the antagonist, nor can they be, as that would ruin the fun of the thing for them as players. The result? Well, I won't say "disaster", exactly, but let's just say - this is very hard to pull off in a traditional style RPG.

The thing is, in order to create suspense for the audience (in this case the Players) we can not divulge the villain's secret machinations to them until the absolute last second, if at all. It's up to the players to puzzle things out and come up with the right answer.  That's the fun of the game, after all.  And so the result is that the players having to make split second decisions with incomplete understanding, are more often likely to fail than succeed - just as the heroes in the novel are - except for them the author does a splendid job saving them with their great and just-in-time wit and wondrous luck - something we Gamesmasters aren't in a position to do without breaking the rules of the game!

Really, if the machinations are properly planned by the antagonist then the solution is not likely to be dead obvious. And this of course leaves plenty of room for the player to make the wrong decision. In fact, it should be likely for the player to make the wrong decision, unless we have our master-mind antagonists be actual imbeciles. Fu Manchu, it should be said, is not an imbecile. Rather our heroes were either incredibly brilliant at the right moment (half the time), or incredibly lucky (half the time).

But can our players be expected to have to be both, consistently?  After all, every 50/50 chance taken via the roll of the dice decreases the overall odds of survival dramatically! It becomes, I'm afraid to say, a preposterous proposition for our players. If we created the scenario with integrity (meaning the antagonist plots things out as they ought to) then the player characters are very, very unlikely to actually survive the game. Not because the Characters themselves are not as resourceful and lucky as Nayland Smith, but because the dice and the lack of Player knowledge make it nigh on impossible.  Too many split-second decisions must be made with brilliant deductions, nuanced thought, pin-point accurate recollections, and against too many live-or-die dice rolls to make the odds of success more than infinitesimal in a real game.  In a novel, everything just happens with wondrous synchronicity because the author makes it so.  In an RPG nothing of the sort can happen.  We rely on the player's wit, and their luck, to see how things turn out.  It is a very different animal.

So the kind of game that is required in order to create the same atmosphere and suspense as a Fu Manchu novel is not very well embodied by the traditional style RPG, I'm afraid. And so I think it is fair and interesting to ask, how would one design an RPG so that the effect, the suspense and thrill, can be obtained?  I think there are probably dozens of answers to this in the great wide world of Indie RPGs... however, can one devise a way to do so without the loss of the core mechanic of players rolling dice, and experiencing the same mystery, awe and fear as the characters in Sax Rohmer's novels?

In other words, I put this puzzler out there for my Old School friends - how would you as a Gamesmaster, or player, solve this problem with a traditional style RPG? All answers, thoughts, and angst-ridden soliloquies are welcome!

Please visit to join the Free Open Beta of the Mythos Machine!

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Twin Lords of Whitewode

Spoiler Alert!

(don't worry folks, as it happens my players never check my blog - it's ok ... shhh ... it allows me to post out here for you guys while we play).  hee.  Later they'll be like "omg".  shhhh.
Brothers of two feathers...



The ancient and accursed township of Whitewode holds from time to time one or the other of these twin masters of evil.

Scarparelli as he appears in the Mythos Machine 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Tolkienian Magic

I was on Imzy today browsing around and OculusWriter asked a question which got me thinking...

"Discovering how magic systems work can be the most geek-worthy part of reading fantasy stories. Do you enjoy one detailed magic system, or many interlocking ones? Let's spark some awesome! Share your favorite magic system moments!"

Here's my reply:

My preference is for Tolkienian Magic ... as discussed here ...

While I have yet to work out exactly how I wish to implement this in my World via The Mythos Machine ( I do plan to do so sometime within the next ... oh ... eon or so. Hopefully. At any rate, that's the style I would like my system to embody for at least one of my Worlds.

The hard part is divorcing from the standard, which is this kind of awful focus on Weaponized Spells, such as Fire Ball and Lightning Bolt. Really overt Kill-Magic. Nothing could be less magical, in my mind, than a "Magic User" standing there and casting a Fire Ball from his fingers. Magic should be cloaked, mysterious, unfathomable, even while adhering to it's own occult laws.

How to get there from here is my challenge. I accept. Just don't expect me to work it out quickly. I don't do anything quickly, it seems. Ah well... I must learn to accept this and keep plodding. Maybe my totem animal is the tortoise.

Of course one of the biggest problems with implementing Tolkienian Magic is that Wizards are extremely rare, and are in fact celestial avatars named Istari, and manifest in the world for the specific purpose of fulfilling Illuvitar's Almighty Vision. There are only five of them in Arda. So ... that kind of puts a damper on the whole "I wanna play a magic user!" kind of thing, if I develop my system based on Tolkien's vision of Magic. For Tolkien's Arda it makes perfect sense, and goes a long way to making magic balance in his world.

The problem with the standard RPG model is that were a world like that to actually exist, it would very likely get torn apart by competing magical forces and factions, and would rapidly devolve into chaos and insanity. Read OD&D's magic list and think. What would our world be like if during the medieval era something like 20% of people had access to this list of spells? And magic items? In my mind I see a world of fire and ice, and endless intrigues and destruction untold. My guess is that if you toss in mythical monsters, and powerful evil forces... yeah... I kind of think we'd not have a world for long. It would be overrun by monsters, and the last straw to seal the deal would be human pride, greed and lust of power. So as I see it, magic as D&D posits it is only workable because GMs curtail what the evil forces of the world would actually do with it. Otherwise, we'd not have a game for very long. And that's the only reason magic of this sort works in RPGs.

So the first thing to tackle would be to figure out how to have a world of very rare magic, and very rare magic users, and not unbalance the game to the point where the players feel like they can't have all the fun they want. After all, at least 20% of my players want to play Magic Users.

So ... how to get there from here ... It's a puzzler. But this would be the first step at least in the process of working out how to turn Tolkienian Magic into an RPG system. So catch me in an eon or two and I think I'll have worked it out by then, possibly. In the meantime, any thoughts you may have are quite welcome! :)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Setting up the Business - The Challenges Thus Far

As I go through the process of starting my own online business I am discovering some interesting, odd, and frustrating things along the way. It seems there'a a lot of confusion as to how to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that is both economically realistic, and legally valid. In fact, those two are at such odds it almost feels at times like it's impossible to do both.

I'll provide a few examples.

1. COPPA. As some of you know I've run up against the COPPA laws earlier and paid a fortune to my lawyer to resolve the question. It was incredibly expensive to finally get an answer. So it was NOT cost effective at all to go through all of that. And even when all was said and done, I'm still potentially vulnerable to accusations of COPPA non-compliance, though at least now I have a reasonably well founded way of arguing my case in court, should it come up. The tricks involve not allowing anyone under 13 on my site (legally - ie - the terms of service prohibit it), and to also not collect any personally identifiable information (which may hobble my marketing efforts, but what the hell - I'd rather be a little hobbled than in jeapardy of the Government's $60,000 - $360,000 dollar fines ( The odd part about this one is that I notice many popular websites in the RPG community are completely ignoring this threat. Ok. Good luck. It may turn out that the Government is a gigantic paper tiger and just tries to scare everyone into giving them money but in fact never actually gets around to dealing with companies that scoff at their laws. Could well be. No idea. But apparently that is the gamble many of our RPG online services are gambling on. Ok. Best wishes.

2. DMCA. You need to have this protection if you have a website where people can upload or create content. It protects you from copyright infringement by your users. Another legal barrier, but at least with this one I was able to figure out a way to make it not-soul-crushingly expensive to deal with. In this case the standard procedure is that you get a DMCA Agent to handle DMCA requests and pass them along to you with a tad bit of advice. Typically however, DMCA Agents are lawyers who charge you their standard legal fee for handling incoming requests. That might run somewhere between $100 - 400 per DMCA request. The problem, actually, however comes from the fact that they will charge you that standard rate for processing anything that comes into their office via whatever means it has been sent. Since the law has it that you must put in your Terms of Service your valid DMCA Agent contact information, which includes an email address, phone number and physical address (PO Box not allowed - it must be a valid street address), what do you suppose happens when spammers get a hold of that information? They spam away, of course. And guess what? The DMCA Agent will very happily go on to charge you for their time in weeding out spam from legitimate DMCA correspondence. Funny that. The solution? Get a Street Address box from UPS for $350 / year (roughly) and handle the DMCA take down requests yourself. Yes it's a cost. But it sure as hell beats the $2500 setup fee that the DMCA Agent wants to charge, and then the ongoing fees for processing the copious amount of spam that is likely to start coming your way after the spammers get to your Terms of Service.

3. Subscription Service State Tax. It used to be that websites were exempt from sales tax, and no states charged a tax on services run via the internet. That was great for early startups. Now? Oh noooo. Now everyone has to pay the State Taxes wherever the individual States have determined that they charge for Internet Subscription Services (Software as an Service aka SaaS). A lot of States don't, but a lot do. And not only that, but they may charge different rates based on the exact street address of the customer. So two guys living next door to each other may wind up paying a different sales tax rate on your subscription service. And you have to account for it, and pay those States the correct tax per customer. Yay. Fun stuff. So how are you expected to do that? Well I'm trying to work that one out now, but it's a bear. So far I have it that if you sell PDFs through DriveThruRPG or IPR then you're covered because they are responsible for handling the tax.

But what if you are running a subscription service that does GMing functions, like Roll20, or CityOfBrass? Well, then you're pretty much SOL so far as State Tax requirements are concerned. You have to pay them, or you risk running up against the IRS. And who really wants that to happen? Well, apparently some of the existing companies running SaaS services for the RPG community don't actually give a fig about it, because it seems that they're not charging any taxes on their subscription services. Or at least if they are they are giving no indication of doing so - and I think that if they are, then they actually do need to be indicating that they are doing so on the subscription payment page. Maybe they are. But I see no indication of it so far. At any rate, what's the solution look like? It's hard. As far as I can tell what you can't do is use PayPal for subscription services because their method of maintaining the tax information is not only completely manual, but also limited to entering one tax percent per State, which isn't what is required. Too limited, and so you may still run up against the IRS if you take that route. So that's not an answer. An alternative is to use a service like ChargeBee, which does payment services, and integrate that with another service named Avalara, which handles State Tax rates. The two of them combined ought to provide you with a means by which you can handle State Taxes automatically, without having to get your hands dirty with a manual process. However, setting that up seems to be a bit complicated. At least I'm unclear as to the process at this point. Maybe it's easy in the end. But I'm doing a lot of research in advance to try to figure this out, and so that's chewing up a lot of my time. In the end, the solution may turn out to be really easy and not too expensive. But I'm not there yet. So I don't know. I can hope, though, right? And don't even get me started on the EU VAT. My solution to that is simple: I'm not offering my service outside of the USA.  Period.  Tooooooo complicated.

Anyway, these are some of the business-end issues that have been consuming my time and resources while I try to establish the Mythos Machine as a going concern. The fact is, though, I have zero indication that the product I'm trying to develop will be accepted in the Market. I do know I've put in a huge amount of work on it, and I also know that I personally happen to really enjoy what I created and find it very useful for my games. But that doesn't mean anyone else will, right? So time will tell. And in the meantime, I'm committing myself to an enormously time consuming and expensive effort to get it out there. It may be a huge mistake. Probably is, frankly. The market is fickle, and competition is fierce. And in fact, the expense of doing so is just high enough that it may turn out that I can't afford to run the operation unless a sufficient number of people decide it's worth contributing money to. Thus far, no one other than my mom and my girlfriend have contributed a dime. Which is fine. It's my gamble to make. The point of my mentioning it at all is just to record what the process has been, and where my decision making has come down. I want to try to give the Mythos Machine the best shot possible, to find out if there's a market for it or not.

There's a good chance that what I created over the past 20 years (I started working on project this in 1997) will find a niche market of fans who think it's great. And if I have enough support from them then I think I can keep the project afloat financially. I hope so.

Anyway, that's where it's at. It's been a vastly interesting amazing even, learning process. I'm expecting to have all the pieces in place reasonably soon. The last piece being the Subscription Tax issue, which I'm still working on. What's gnawing at me is that I see other sites comparable to mine appear to have completely ignored the question. I find that puzzling as can be. Can you really afford to just ignore this stuff? ... I guess in the view of those who are doing it the answer is "Sure. Ignore it." but I feel that somehow this is probably such a terrible choice in the long run that I'm pretty sure I won't go that way. After all, I'm not in this to grab everyone's money real-fast and then run off to my underground Luxury-Fortress. I'm in this to provide a long term solution that helps gamesmasters create their own wondrous worlds and support them for decades and eons to come. So I'm thinking I need to set this up right, and not risk the business just because setting it up the right way was, well, kinda hard, and pretty expensive and took a long time.

And that's it for my report. I will post again on the solution for the SaaS State Taxes when I've worked that piece out.

Best wishes fellow Entrepreneurs! It's a hell of a ride, but the rewards are great if you can work it all out!  And remember... it's always darkest before the dawn!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Plot Map - Battle at the Church of Whitewode - Explaination

Spoiler Alert!

If you are one of my players you may not want to look at this until the end of the Campaign.

This is the current Plot Map for the Whitewode Campaign in my world of Elthos.

What is a Plot Map?

I'm glad you asked.  This is a technique that I've been experimenting with to provide myself with a visual queue card while I am Gamemastering.  It shows a great deal of information about the current state of the Campaign, including where the main Characters are in relation to one another, what paths they have taken, or may take, where the key places and events are, and the array of forces in the scene.  It also may show symbolic references that remind me which Elkron are in play, and what they may be trying to accomplish.  This one Plot Map acts as a snapshot of the game in it's current state.  Together the Plot Maps form a visual history of the Campaign, so that later I can use them to recall major events, characters and influences.  It's been extremely helpful for me while GMing, and also a pretty cool form of documentation on the Game Story.

The key to it is include as many of the major elements as possible in a small a space as I can manage.  This way, one sheet can be used to remind myself of important points during the play of the game.

To give an idea of how this works in practice, if you take a look at the lower right corner you'll see the Church of Whitewode (which is on fire) up on the ridge overlooking the town towards the West Gate.  There is a beam of moonlight hitting the Church steeple in which Hermel (H.) and his daughter Peaches (P.) are attempting to use the silver bell in the steeple to reflect the moon beam towards the blacks sphere of darkness atop the West Gate Citadel, in which the obsidian alter is located.  Nicholas Blair is attempting to cast a massive spell from atop the tower to thwart the Pech and Gnoll Armies situated on the marshes before the township.  Just outside the Church are Thorgrim (T.) and the Gnoll (Gn1) waging a fierce battle against one another (revenge), while below the Church are Reverend Russel (Rev R.) and Reverend Trask (Rev T.), each of whom are taking different routes.  Reverend Trask has taken the Treasure of the Lizard King and the escaped prisoners to the West Citadel, while Reverend Russel is attempting to climb the stairs to the Church to aid Hermel and Peaches in their task.  You will also see that the Gargoyle (Gg.) is on his way to also provide aid to our heroes, while the Gnoll's brother (Gn2) is simultaneously making his way towards Reverend Russel to kill him before he can aid anyone.  Just below the crescent moon you can see the Spire that is White Tower, near where Delvin is actually located with the 12 musical children whose rescue is the goal of the quest.

Ok that's the lower right hand corner.  You can see how glancing at the picture would be far easier for me during the game than peeling through my notes. Obviously this wouldn't be necessary were it not for the fact that the Whitewode Campaign is enormously complex.  It is the equivalent of a Soap Opera in RPG form.  But that's a topic for another post, why I decided to create the Campaign this way, how I approached it, and whether or not I think it's a successful method. Stay tuned for that post as well.  I will publish it after the completion of the Campaign.

In the meantime enjoy the Plot Map, and hopefully if you're also running a complex Campaign this concept of Plot Mapping the thing may be helpful to you.  Best wishes and happy gaming!