Overland game

22 January, 2013

You know, for a while I’ve been wondering how to do overland game, game that’s mesoscale.

In a computer game, you just have a big map. But you spend a fair amount of time just trudging from place to place. And in tabletop it just doesn’t work – asking players to move from one hex to the next. Actually, Kingmaker does make it work, but only because there’s an in-game excuse to visit every single hex.

Last night, I found myself saying to my players “Well, the main road through town clearly leads further up the hill and down into the surf”. Even in my dungeon, rather than draw out the rooms (because it was all pretty large scale) I was just saying “the hall has two exits, one sloping down, one on the level”. It was sounding a lot like a text adventure.

Bam! you know, that works. Divide your ruins, or forest, or island into regions. Encounter zones. Graph the connections (you know – the dual of the zones themselves). A road. A forest trail. A difficult pass between rocky hills. A gentle slope down to a river.

Yeah, I suppose it’s obvious, but my head was at “map the whole region”. With software, it’s possible to do that, to generate a detailed map. But it’s pointless, unless you want to play one of those games where you spend all your time holding down the “move forward” key to do overland travel.

Some campaigns actually divide the overland map up into difficult terrain with roads. The serpent’s skull game did that for Smuggler’s Shiv and for whatsisname town at the end of module 2. It works, it’s a shade obvious.

The mud-map with encounter areas will suffice for CENSORED, which the GG party will have to explore. The place needs to be big enough that we can have two parties exploring it without making synchronization a hassle (oh, it’s still before lunchtime at our table).

In fact – I’d say build the encounters first. First design what the players need to do, then fill in more detail about where it has to be done.

Summer, bloody summer

22 January, 2013

Man, January is not a good time for gaming.

Everyone’s head is fucked up. I’m depressed, Alix is not 100%, the players got no concentration. I outright forgot stuff because my brain told me my minis were at the shop. They’re not – there in a bag right bloody there where they always are. But – summer. Is it the heat? Of course it’s the fucking heat. It’s 40 degrees.

Not just that, but it’s light outside. No-one really wants to start game until 8. Interestingly, that’s when the pubs move trivia to, during summer. Daylight savings and longer days – people don’t want to be doing indoor things till it’s dark, and it’s not dark until 9. Shop shuts at 11. I’m lucky to run two encounters.

Another month or two of this shit, then colder days and we can all play some D&D.

Last week, we split the part. Half went with Tinkerbell to help out a dryad. The other half (my table) with Miston to check out some ruins – an old port.

First, my guys needed to organise some amulets of water breathing. A visit to the naga clan turned int a quest, as the elves were a bit WTF about selling a dozen of the things. Happily, a naga dropped in on the conversation and indicated that he would approve of the sale if the players could demonstrate their worthiness.

The party dealt with some aquatic troglodytes that had ransacked an immature pearl bed, and then dealt with the sahuagin that were behind the troglodytes.

The elves permitted the party to keep the pearls they got from the troglodytes (immature pearls – little better than rubbish. No magical use at all.) And permitted then to purchase the amulets.

The naga sent them on their way with a bit of a – Warning? Prophecy? “You do not know who you serve.”

And so they came to the nameless isle, home to an ancient port according to Miston. Why this port was no longer a port was a mystery. One side of the isle was cliffs, the top of them sloping down to a more or less sheltered beach on the other side.

Captain Haddock anchored and called for volunteers to search the ruins: “Any loot you find, apart from writings of interest to Miston, is yours to keep.”

Four volunteers. A ninja, a mage, a samurai and his pig, and a bard.

There were ruins of a town, very old. Curiously, the ruins extend down into the surf. The explorers spot a high point – an old temple or other prominent building. They head up to investigate. And are set upon by a leopard which had been stalking them, it nearly killing the mage.

After dealing with it, they determine that the roads seemed to head up the hill towards the cliffs and down into the surf. They decide to go up.

The road crests a rise and then heads down to a curious fortification set into the ground. A gaping entrance where there once were great gates stands before them. They head towards it, and are fired on by archers standing behind arrow slits. Charging forwards into the structure, they see three small twisted little creatures which drop their crossbows and magically enlarge to the size of small giants, drawing monringstars. Upon death, the revert to small size, their faces even in death still twisted with hate. The bard (or possibly the wizard) is somewhat at a loss to identify them. Plainly they are humanoid, they bleed normal blood, but there is something faintly otherworldly about them. They are not from around here.

Inside the structure it seems built into the hill, but not a nest of goblin-tunnels. No: a wide area with a vaulted roof – some sort of work area. A great passage leading down into the hill, towards the cliffs outside, and stone posts where (the sailors recognising it instantly) a pair of great capstans once operated, the ropes or chains of it pulling something up from the unlighted deeps. The floor is tiled with masonry tiles which, while old, still are arranged in a pleasing but practical geometric pattern. A smaller passage leads off into the darkness, it too is well made, tiled, and with an arched roof.

They investigate. They check for tracks, but the passage seems swept clean – not even the dust your would expect. A passage leads off to the left. They leave it for now and press further on. They come to a large room – a hall – perhaps a barracks, a mess hall, a meeting room. They notice the remains of a mosaic on the wall, the pattern of the design only just visible – a harbour set against cliffs, and ships.

It becomes plain. This hall is the harbour of which Miston spoke, the great capstans pulling goods up from the passage leading down to the water at the cliffs. But much is still a mystery.

At the pack of the hall are two smaller passages, one leading down, one level.

They choose to go down. The Ninja notices that the ceiling is suspicious – textured with a deeply cut geometrical pattern. They is nothing behind it at the entrance, but the texture is made to conceal something, without a doubt.

The bard conjures a small rubber ball and tosses it down the stairs. The mage, of all people, hears ever so faintly a sound.


The samurai elects to charge down the stairs, shield raised over his head. Two arrows rattle off it. The others follow, the mage firing a “sleep” spell into the darkness above the stairwell. They head down – 80, 90, 100 or so feet, perhaps more. And come to the waterline: the stairwell is flooded with salt water.

They have their amulets, of course. But after a brief discussion discover that they have no way to light their way underwater – only torches. They must turn back, running the gauntlet once again. Quickly they check the level passage at the back of the hall. It leads out to the cliffs, to a concealed lookout.

Unable to make further progress, they turn back, returning to the ship. The bard recounts their story. The scholar Miston tries to hide his reaction, but is unable to conceal his excitement at their description of these ancient stone ruins.

They ask for some waterproof light source, and it seems Captain Haddock has just the thing. It is an hour or so to midday.