Thursday, November 14, 2013

Foundations for the Setting

Several factors went into designing the setting.

  1. Prep time
  2. Available resources
  3. What I wanted
Prep Time
My work schedule actually leaves me with quite a bit of time to work on game prep.  My usual system for starting a new campaign follows a series of steps.

  1.  I start planning before the end of the last game.  In this case I saw that my Shadowrun game was going to fade out pretty quickly. The players didn't have the buy in I wanted, and we were looking for different thins from the game. At the same time my son approached me about running a second game for him and his friends. I gladly said yes and started planning that game. That game became Spiderweb in the Corner.
  2. I front load as much of the work as I can.  For the last few weeks I have been mapping, making monsters, designing traps, building NPCs, etc. I prefer to have as much work done as I can ahead of time. This allows me to focus on the fall out of the PCs actions after the game has started.
  3. Then in the last few days I review and fine tune as much as I can.  That is where I am today.  I still need to make a few PCs, for the players who didn't have a chance or want to build one themselves. I also need to populate a few more rooms in the dungeon to be comfortable.  I don't think the players will get that far, but I want to be ready.
Available Resources
Like most game masters I have accumulated a large pile of gaming goodness that I have never had the chance to use.  That coupled with the resources on the net and so forth, I felt like I had more than I needed to build the setting.  I pulled things from all over, maps from other settings, random generators from the web, ideas from blogs, ideas from old copies of Dungeon and Dragon magazines, and one that I am really excited about from a book on tape I am listen to as I commute to work.  Some specific things I am using are

  1. Castle Falconflight from 0one Games.  This will have some above ground encounters as well as serve as the first entrance to the deeper levels for the players. One thing I am looking forward to is re-stocking this area after the players have gone through it.
  2. Dungeon Fantasy rules set from GURPS I have been a GURPS fan for a long time.  I love the rules and the way they play on the table.  The Dungeon Fantasy series distills all of the massive options GURPS offers down to what you need to run an Old School Game.  I may not use all of the books from the series.  Summoners, Clerics, and Psi probably wont make the cut.  Summoners because I don't want PC necromancers. Clerics because I don't anticipate needing that level of detail in the religions of the game. This might change if the player of the Cleric wants to get deeper into the rules and setting.  And Psi, because I just don't want to add them to the mix for the PCs.  Not saying the monsters or other bad guys wont have mind powers, but I know the PCs wont.
  3. ronjon I generated the dungeon map using this random generator.  I then modified the maps a bit, making sure they had elements I want in them.  Things like more ways to change levels, longer hallways, and less rooms leading to other rooms.  I may come back the random encounter generator to help fill out my Wandering Monsters chart.
  4. Dungeon Fantastic has been the biggest inspiration in the development stages of the campaign.  Peter V. Dell'Orto has done an outstanding job of sharing his insights and planning processes. I learned a lot from his series on Megadungeon design, and the play reports are just good old fashioned fun to read.
There are others, but I have used them to a lesser degree.

What I Wanted
There are a few things I wanted from this game.

  1. It needs to be episodic. The group I play with often has a player or two missing on any given week.  By making sure every session ends with the PCs in town, the players missing the next week are much easier to handwave away.
  2. It needs to have a narrow focus. My last game was too large in scope for the people I play with.  I built the game with a sandbox mentality.  The players were not looking for that style of play. That is neither good nor bad, it just didn't match up. With the narrower focus, the players should feel more in control of the setting.  Don't mistake the narrow setting for a railroad.  Within the setting they are free to do as they please.  Within the setting there is no reason to roam afar. There is no reason to go to the next town, or go visit the King or whatever. The premise of the game is the PCs want the loot.  The loot is in the Dungeon.  To get the loot the PCs must go and explore the Dungeon. How they explore, where they explore etc. is up to them.
  3. It needs to have balance. In the last game, a few of the PCs tended to hold the spotlight more often than the others.  This was a failing on my part as the GM. I am going into this game with that as a key factor in the design of the encounters, traps and treasure.
That is the ground wok for the game. Future posts will go into more detail about the setting itself, the social contract, and the things that happen behind the curtain.


  1. I'm glad my blog and blog posts have helped you get set up for a game. That's a large part of the reason I post - to help people learn from my mistakes without having to make them themselves.

    I look forward to seeing more!

  2. Not to plug my own stuff here, but the latest issue of Pyramid has a pretty useful random trap roll table. As a aside, you're style of planning seems to be very similar to my own. :-) Also, I've added your blog to the links section of my own.

  3. @ Peter, thanks for the ground work you did for me. It has saved me a lot of time!

    @Christopher, I already have it, printed and added to my big big binder of DF pdfs.

    1. I'll be curious to know how it works :-) I've got a few other random tables, I suppose you could call them "dungeon stocking stuffers," similar to the Traps issue that I might put out there if this sells well.