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<![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - Malruhn]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/2573-Malruhn Pen and Paper Games hosts a very powerful, but easy to seach and join database of players and game masters in the United States and Canada. Our forums are also a great place to find the most recent news, product releases, tips, and rpg discussion. en Mon, 30 May 2016 08:48:34 GMT vBulletin 60 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/pnpg_style/misc/rss.jpg <![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - Malruhn]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/2573-Malruhn Fantasy Dungeon Creation http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1470-Fantasy-Dungeon-Creation Sun, 12 Dec 2010 04:26:01 GMT After getting a comment on how I build campaign world maps, I've decided to talk about how I create dungeon maps. I have a confession... it's easier than I want to admit.

There are three sources for dungeons - natural caverns, man-made (creature made!!), and combo dungeons.

With natural caverns, I just use squiggles on a piece of graph paper - or download an existing cave map (http://www.climb-utah.com/WM/Maps/NuttyPuttyCaveMap.pdf). Then I arrange the monsters with as much of an eye on defense as to functionality. More on that in a moment.

Created dungeons are built for the designer's desires - but keep in mind that unless he's using LOTS of magical help, underground construction takes a VERY long time and is EXTRAORDINARILY expensive.

Most are combo dungeons - take any existing cave system and make it better. It helps your purse and it helps you use the darned thing before you are collecting Social Security.

The most important thing to consider is functionality. There are some questions to ask:
1. How will we make sure we always have good air?
1. What do we do with waste?
2. Where/how do we get food/water?
3. Where will we eat and sleep?
4. How do we get in/out?

For those truly anal people reading, you may note that I have two #1 questions - that's because they are equally important. Bad air will kill everyone, and swimming in a cesspool is a sure bet to get people sick (even in medieval times, they knew that poo was bad for health).

When using existing caves, I fight over those first two (one) questions the most - and they ALWAYS are paramount to anything else. We gotta breathe and we gotta poop... everything else is secondary. I always find a place to place the latrines FIRST - and then worry about air - and, unfortunately, usually resort to some tiny crack that creates a vent... it is a tired trope, but it helps.

How do you get food and water down there to your minions? If the "bad" guys (SOMEBODY has to consider the PC's the "bad guys"!!) are at the entrance, are you going to starve? How easy is it to cut off your water supply? Sure, most water supplies were contaminated and water was notoriously dangerous to drink, but if you brew a crappy beer with it and let it ferment for about 12-hours, it was "safe" (they didn't understand the deal about the boiling of the water... they thought it had to be brewed...) Now - where do the minions eat? What do we do with scraps? Odds are that they'll be tossed into wherever the poop goes, but we have to consider that!!

The next thing to consider is sleep. Sure, it's fine to SAY that everyone will sleep on the floor - but until you've actually slept on a cave floor, you have never really encountered a bad night's sleep. It's unbelievably cold, and in 99% of the cases, VERY damp. Then you have the critters... it's worse than sleeping under the stars (which is very uncomfortable!).

Okay, once you figure out that - then we get to the last OMG thing we have to consider - how we get in and out. You have one entrance? Great! After the first knock on your door-step, the caverns will be uninhabited and you will be dead. You HAVE to have either a legitimate second entrance, or at LEAST a sally-port/evacuation route!! If you don't, then a single stinking cloud spell will be doom for all of you.

Now we have the basics. Look LONG and hard at your entrances and then we can start to build the rest. What's important??

Next is fodder for the fires. If you're gonna cook, you're going to need fuel for the fires - and propane doesn't exist yet (except as a poisonous gas!!). Wood/peat/animal droppings take up LOTS of room - and constantly need to be replenished.

How about a place to store food and drink? This is next on the list for MUST HAVEs... Mold will play havoc with your dry-goods unless you have magical dehumidifiers working around the clock. Candles help cut this and add needed light, but greatly increase the fire danger - and a fire in a cave is a death sentence.

How about a place for the ruler to sleep/eat so they can be segregated away and feel special about themselves? Sure, some will demand it - others will think, "I"m a man of my men, as we all live together!" Good for them - and it's great for junior leaders, but for the uber-boss, familiarity breeds contempt, and you HAVE to be separated.

NOW we can get to the "stupid" stuff.

Tops on the list is simple... what about some STORAGE rooms? How about a training area for the troops? A "greeting room" for guests or a place to show off? What of an actual "barracks" for the troops to sleep? Don't forget that there will be 24-hour guards - so that means there will be 24-hour sleepers as well - and they need a quiet place to sleep. A temple/place of worship? A smithy/forge for repairs?

What about engineered traps and foils like a dumb, 3' wall at the end of a long hallway for archers to hide behind and get a huge bonus for cover, or a nice straight hallway with a wavy patters cut into the floor like speed-bumps? It's a perfect, "I'M GONNA CHARGE - oh, wait, I'm 20' into it and now I can't..." sort of foil.

You may have noticed that before I built any of the extra stuff, I mentioned the layout of the entrance. I did this for a reason. You HAVE to so you know how big stuff can be that you attempt to lug into a dungeon!! I don't know HOW many times I've adventured in dungeons and saw some gargantuan siege engine (ballista, usually) set up for defense, but there were so many abrupt right angles and 180 turns that there was no way it could be brought down there. Or that HUGE bed the boss-man sleeps on... you GOTTA be kidding, right?

The last thing I think about is improvements. What's the next thing to be built - and WHERE ARE THEY PUTTING THE RUBBLE? There will ALWAYS be some improvements going on - even if it's just to white-wash the walls - and there will always be rubble going up. The amount of rubble will end up being about THREE times the volume mined out due to expansion and not being packed in like it was. This means that there is a LOT of crap to be placed SOMEWHERE. What I usually do is build a compound around the entrance/entrances to allow for outside stuff that is too hard to do underground (tanning is both poisonous AND horribly stinky - a smithy is horribly noisy - and animals are just a nuisance. If we can put them outside until absolutely necessary, then GREAT!!

If we have critters like cave-life that we breed and eat, there HAS to be diversity. If not, we will be just like Ireland and the potato famines that drove half their population to the US, half starved to death and the other half were lucky as hell to live through it (ignore my math, I'm making a point). If you only eat one thing, if something goes wrong, you are screwed in a BIG way.

The second part I want to talk about is the subsequent owners. EVENTUALLY, no matter what you wanna do, the society is going to fall, and someone new will move in. In most cases, they'll use the same spaces for the same stuff as the last residents... but I always think about who had it first. If dwarves had it first, then there will be spaces to place raw ore, cleaned ore, and smelted ore/ingots. Don't forget - it will be about 5' for head clearance as well!! If orcs had it, there will be nesting/breeding pits and fighting arenas. I just run down the line.

The last part (thankfully!) I will touch on is magic and magic defense.

Unfortunately, unless a dungeon is HUNDREDS of years old, nobody will spend the money to prevent magical attacks, outside of a "Gust of Wind" scroll or two near the entrance to get rid of gasses/smoke. How do you defend against a "Rock to Mud" spell? You swim... and then run. Fireball? You have doors - or hanging things that may disrupt the line of sight. For the most part, you are screwed - unless your evil-grand-daddy was Dark Lord Bernie Madoff and they left you with bazillions of gold pieces... other than that, you'd better have LOTS of free spell-casters at your beck and call. The only way to get around this is through lots of agreements with powerful undead... or just lots of mindless undead. Don't forget that after a month or two, all of your scary zombies are now just scary skeletons - and the place smells like a charnel house. Anything able to become noncorporeal is great - but DANGED hard to control!!

You may ask, "Hey, Malruhn, you said you were going to talk about creating dungeons and all you talked about were social and biological stuff!" You are right. If you life in a FANTASY world, you can have 300 orcs hiding behind that door to a 10x10x10 room (I've played in many a campaign that had that!!), then my logic won't work with you - because you aren't using any. With MY way, there is logic - even to the detriment of the fantasy genre. A group of dungeon dwellers MUST think about the stuff I've discussed here if they are to be successful. Air, poop, food and sleep - and you START your journey to success.

Think about the TV shows, Survivor, or that new one on Discovery, The Colony, where people had to SURVIVE. What did they think about? In The Colony, they thought about air, because it was a plague-holocaust. Other than that, it was all about poop, food and sleep...

Help your dungeon become a place to SURVIVE for your denizens - and your PC raiders will love you for it. The first time a party in my campaign world ran into a dungeon privvy, they freaked out (Really? People POOP in D&D?!?!?!?)

Oh - and beef jerky makes for some GREAT treasure for SMART PC's to take with them. The first time a party grabbed a wagon-load of food-supplies and just DUMPED it at the door of a back-woods temple in a town that had been raided.... well, let's just say that the group is STILL hailed as heroes by the locals.

And, the first time a group is lured into a pit trap that was part of the middens (cesspool/sewer), they'll remember that day FOREVER.

Happy gaming! ]]>
Malruhn http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1470-Fantasy-Dungeon-Creation
<![CDATA[World Building for Budding DM's]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1445-World-Building-for-Budding-DM-s Sat, 13 Nov 2010 00:52:21 GMT After a question from Blud about how to create a campaign world, I decided to create this to show folks just how easy it CAN be... if you LET it be... After a question from Blud about how to create a campaign world, I decided to create this to show folks just how easy it CAN be... if you LET it be easy.

I started with a Google Map of a town with which Blud may be familiar (it's his hometown!!), Republic, Missouri. I start with a new name... and welcome you all to Morlic (twisting the actual name around)!

I then get a screen shot of the map version of the town, and decide which direction the local port is, and which direction the next major town is in - PURELY to orient the map in a different manner. Arbitrarily, i will decide that Wassarfount (liberally twisted from HORRID German and imagination, it means, "Springfield"), is to the north and the port is to the south - so I will rotate the map 90 degrees to the left, like this.

Then, using a simple drawing program (Paint, Gimp, Photoshop, Whatever), I create a simple line drawing of the town, with roads, river, walls (if any) and land-borders (if any), like this.

Then I white out everything other than what I drew, like this.

My last step in mapping is to add some major landmarks and a legend... like this.

Now, I have an entire village - with a keep, one major temple (complete with cemetery), two market places (arbitrarily, the one to the north has more food, the one to the south has more wares/goods), a wizard's tower, and a bunch of farmers' fields - at least for the more wealthy farmers. Since I said that the major port in the area is to the south, we know that the river flows from top to bottom on the map, and Wassarfount is upriver. PLEASE keep in mind that the pics are crappy because of bandwidth!!!

Now all I need to do is to populate the place with the various people that are sure to be met/known. Note that their names are twisted variations of the actors that portray the characters. You can do the same thing with relatives, teachers and others... just twist the names enough to make them unrecognizable.

1. Ruler: Easton Shine - Fighter, old, speaks in a raspy, throaty voice that sounds VERY menacing when he wants it to. White hair, very slender (he's Clint Eastwood!!).

2. High Priest: Rickala Alman - Cleric (duh!), speaks VERY condescendingly and seems aloof. Black, greasy hair and wears long robes (Professor Snape). He's got ONE acolyte (named Wenham Dav) that has tonsured hair and seems forever bumbling (priest/monk from Van Helsing). (all these guys need is a deity, and the temple is done!)

3. Smith: Duncan Clarke - A HUGE man, bronzed by the heat of the forges. Speaks very slowly and it's obvious that he has little formal education. Will NEVER take action to harm another. Makes armor better than weapons (John Coffey from The Green Mile).

4. General Merchant: Siyra'ah Billay - Middle-aged man, long hair and "soul patch" beard. He seems simple but has a big heart. Always wants to entertain visitors with a song about lost love. He'll never be rich because he just can't take advantage of people like a rich merchant needs to. Has very pretty daughter (Billy Ray Cyrus - from Hannah Montana).

5. Wizard: Rappala Sint - Red haired wizard that looks WAY too young for the title. He's capable but his successes seem almost "accidental". Speaks of a beautiful goddess of a sorcerer that he wants to marry one day... if he can work up the courage to tell her his feelings. (Ron Weasely from Harry Potter).

6. Captain of the Guard: Davis Orusa - Older man with reddish blond hair. Speaks haltingly as if he's searching for exactly the right words. Continuously plays with his helmet visor (Horatio from CSI:Miami).

This has taken me just over one hour - and that includes creating an Imageshack account and uploading the pics, deleting a bunch of pics from Photobucket (I'm multi-tasking!), and typing all this up... it could have been done in less than 20 minutes - and could have been done in about 10 minutes had I printed the map and traced it with markers instead of using Gimp/Paint. ]]>
Malruhn http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1445-World-Building-for-Budding-DM-s
Background Info http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/958-Background-Info Sun, 24 Jan 2010 23:29:29 GMT After reading lots of threads and several different boards about how to establish a campaign world (or just a campaign!), I thought I'd wax poetic here about my methodologies that have developed over the years.

I went on forever about how I do the big background stuff in my first entry, so here's more of a nitty-gritty view.

My world works... that's as clear as I can get to it. There are kingdoms that are foundering and failing, to either just disappear or be subsumed by another ruler, and there are kingdoms that are doing everything right and are thriving as centers of commerce and knowledge.

The question is - WHY??

Simple - it's the rulers! I personally know every king and queen. Don't get all excity and think that I've lost my marbles (they are in a small bag next to my computer monitor!!) - I don't know the characters, I know the PEOPLE!!! King Eustain of Elbac can be described as if he's sitting right in front of me... because he used to. Mr. Eustis was my sixth grade science teacher in my home-town of Cable, Wisconsin. He's heavyset and has nearly no chin and most of his hair has escaped (but he obviously fights to keep the last of it - comb-over and all!), he was one of the quickest people to I've ever known to holler and shut kids up, but he laughs quickly as well. As a King, he's much the same - quick to anger but quick to smile and take mercy.

ALL of my big movers and shakers are the same - I met them or knew them some time during my life. Some are former PC's and NPC's from campaigns that I've run - and it's kind of funny, but I think that I know them better than the people I knew in REAL life!

The Kingdoms in my world that are failing will leave a history around to be discovered by adventurers some day, whether the Kingdom sinks into the swamp or is overthrown by a rival.

I've gone in and done calendars for my world - and I know that one fief over here will fail in 22 years after the present leader dies and has no heirs. I know that that one Kingdom over there will suddenly become a world power when they find a huge vein of gold and platinum in seven years. That's all long-range planning, and most of us do that stuff.

The short range stuff has more of an impact on the PC's.

Do your PC's become movers and shakers in the world, or does it go on without consideration of them? In my world, it's a mix.

When I start a new campaign, I ask the players, "Okay, your character is nearing the end of his/her days, and a small child comes up to them as they are rocking in their chair on the porch and asks, 'So what did you do in your life?'" It's up to the player to answer.

Oh, sure, some default to, "I was famous/rich/powerful," and those are the easy ones to DM for. Some are the campaign movers, though... they're the ones that say, "I slew the great Dragon of Antioch" or "I became the King of Saltania."

I then start coming up with a campaign for the ones that gave me concrete dreams of greatness. I merge storylines for slaying the Antioch dragon and becoming King of Saltania into one campaign. I map out milestones for both story arcs and begin to flesh it out in my mind.

Then I go back to the calendars that I have. I know that the party should be in Smallsville in late Octember or Septober and my calendar says that Smallsville will be attacked by Orcs late in that year. Whether the party is there or not, the attack will happen - if they are gone, they'll hear about it - but if they are there, they may change the outcome.

This is what makes them movers and shakers in my world. When the party hears that there was an attempt on King Andar last week, they know that there is a much larger world out there than what surrounds them.

It's just something else to keep those pesky players interested! ]]>
Malruhn http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/958-Background-Info
<![CDATA[The Play's the Thing!]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/845-The-Play-s-the-Thing! Thu, 12 Nov 2009 03:26:31 GMT I've changed my gaming style several times since I began playing. I began in late 1980, with the first edition (lower case, as it wasn't an "official" title!!) set of the six little books. I have been told that my first character was a Dwarven Fighter, but I don't remember... it was all a haze...

It began earlier that year when I began my life at college. I quickly found a couple of friends and began doing what all college students did when the drinking age was 18... drinking and looking for women of loose morals (not necessarily in that order!!). I began pledging a fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and one of these friends began pledging a rival frat, Sigma Tau Epsilon. Of course, as you may expect, for the next month, we kind of lost touch.

And then the magical day came!

I went to breakfast and there sat my friend, looking like something the cat had puked up. I sat by him and asked if the Sig Tau's had started "Hell Week" already - and he just shook his head in the negative. I asked what he had done the night before, and if she had been cute, and the most amazing story was told to me on the cool, fall day.

"We were traveling in the forest and these wolves attacked. I've never been so scared in my life! I pulled my battle axe out and started hacking at them, but they were too fast! I got bit twice, but they weren't solid bites, so they didn't do that much damage. The whole group was hacking and slashing and it seemed like we were going to lose, but the damned gray beasts started going down. I killed two of them, myself! And just a little while ago, I had just finished skinning one of the wolves and stood up, when I saw this huge, white wolf that breathed frost - even though it wasn't cold enough for it - watching us from on top of the ridge. We had to break and I came straight here..."

It wasn't so much the fantastical story he had told, but his EYES. The expression on his face was one that showed that he wasn't just telling a story, he was reliving it! In an awed voice, I asked him what woods he was in and what he had done with the pelt (keep in mind that this was extreme northern Wisconsin, so woods, wolves and pelts were commonplace).

He just looked at me and said, "We were in the Sig Tau [frat] house."

That night, I broke all fraternal bounds and entered this mystical Sig Tau house and played my first session of D&D. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Those first characters were pretty sad, in retrospect. None had names, and since the Monk class was hardest for which to qualify, we all figured that it was the best. We would have entire parties of Monks, one opening doors, two with bows covering the doors, and one or two more to dash in and engage whatever horrific monsters the early books allowed. For all intents and purposes, we could have made Xerox copies of our character sheets and nobody would have known, outside of differing amounts of treasure that we had collected.

It was only two weeks before I began my career as a DM, running a campaign based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter from Mars series. I am being very generous when I say that it sucked, but such is the life of a new DM. I still played heavily back then at the same time, and each day was nearly the same.

Fridays would start at about 4:00 in the afternoon - and we'd game until 5:30, dash to the university dining hall, then dash back to continue until 11:50. Then we'd sprint down to the local 7/11 to get OJ and those little, white, powdered donuts before the store closed (no it wasn't 24 hours!!). Then we'd game until 3-4:00 in the morning before crashing in the dorms wherever we happened to be playing. Someone would wake up about 8:00 a.m. and we'd start again and play all day Saturday, then all day Sunday. Monday through Thursday were alternating between playing until 1 or 2:00 or drinking and looking for girls. We usually did better playing, so there weren't many drunken-girl-hunts.

Is there any doubt as to why I got a 1.11 GPA my second quarter in college?

Anyway, it took about three years before my gaming philosophy began to change. I was stocking a newly drawn dungeon with monsters out of the tables in the back of the DMG, and it suddenly dawned on me that it didn't make any sense. Why are a horde of hobgoblins in a room right next to a small crew of goblins? According to the descriptions in the Monster Manual, hobgobs ENSLAVED goblins... so why didn't these do that? So I did exactly that.

I had left college (you know that agreement some parents make with their kids, get good grades and we'll pay for college? Well, mine kept their side of the agreement!) and had enlisted in the Army - then got caught in a RIF (reduction in force), and was sent home after a year. After a year of cooking at a jail in Louisiana (now THERE's some stories I could tell!), I went back to the same college.

With the new philosophy, I had my very first acknowledged TPK. Sure, it used to happen all the time, what, with encounter tables saying 10-100 gnolls at a time? It happened ALL the time!! But it had never happened to a group like this before... or at least one of MY groups. The players were aghast! "What the hell was that?? They were working TOGETHER!!!" Well, like many times before, they all took five minutes to roll up new Xerox-worthy characters, and they were off again - but this time they were cautious.

Cautious and victorious!

Shortly after that, I began to think the same way about my characters. Why were they all carbon copies? Why not any variation? Were all PC's just Conans and Grey Mousers and Gandalfs? Why not a short, fat wizard that hated pointy hats? Why not a giant that was also a thief? Why not a Les Nessman-style fighter?

That was the last major shift. From there, I just kept thinking about the game itself - and always asking, "Why". When drawing a map of a continent, I would wonder why I wanted a cliff right there... and a river over there... it drove me to distraction! But I think it helped.

I began researching geology, and from there I planned out an entire planet for my campaign world. I know it's elemental makeup, I know the directions that the various continental plates are moving - and how fast - and I know where the civilizations are located. I know where the ruins are - and who lived there before... and before them - and I know what is there to find for loot.

Why do I do it? The HUGE majority of crap I've designed and planned will never be known by my players... so WHY??

The PLAY'S the thing!

You know the feeling when you watch a good movie or read a good book, you get pulled in, and you forget that there is a REALITY out there? Suddenly a baby howls or you have to pee, and you snap back to this realm... and it almost hurts, and you can't wait to get back to that alternate world... That is what I call "playing"!

When a new person rolls up a character for my campaign world, it will make sense. There won't be moments of disbelief as to why there is a river flowing in one direction here, and a quarter mile away a river flowing in the other direction... There won't be moments of confusion as the player asks, "Why" something is happening... at least why something didn't make sense in a gaming sense. If they have to stop and ask, it will be a plot device... just like REALITY.

When a person wants to become a part of my campaign world, they become a mover and a shaker in my realm. They may avert a great war... or they may start one. I have calendars set up for things to happen - that, unless foiled by the characters, WILL happen. They may never know - until hearing it from a town crier - or they may be part of it. Why?

It's all about the playing. The Play's the Thing! ]]>
Malruhn http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/845-The-Play-s-the-Thing!