Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dun-Jin is a fantasy map building game that uses the HitDice gaming engine.  The objective of the game can be randomized or selected, in either case all players know what the goal is at the beginning of the game.  Everyone starts in the entrance/exit chamber and may proceed in any direction that is available.

The game uses random Hex shaped tiles, that are broken into two decks, Halls and Rooms.  When exploring a Hero typically draws a Hall tile, but if there is a door they may draw a door card and is successfully bypassed, then they get to place a Room tile behind this door they explored.

I'm currently torn right now by using a Random Token system to be drawn after a room tile (which is the current implementation) or to implement this directly on the Room Tile cards (which would improve the art), but also increase the size of the Room Tile deck and lock the number of entrances to that particular room.  The current implementation is to Draw a room, and then Draw both Room Token and Contents card.  The token must be drawn first as some room types don't get a contents card, but rather have their contents specified.

The game objective is recommended to be chosen by player consensus, or possibly voted on, but many different schemes can be applied here.  For first time play the one of the co-operative objectives are recommended, where the party is playing as a team to "Win" the scenario.  There are a number of different types of these as well, but the common goal is to "Defeat the Boss" or "Pay the Toll".  In every type of game there is always an "End of Game" that is based on the number of turns or collapsing corridor mechanism, if this occurs then all players lose.

I'm playing with the idea of a "class-less" basic version where, essentially your skills are weapon dependent, so changing to a different archetype is essentially as easy as switching weapons.  That said, I do have classes or more correctly character types created, that probably will make it into the base version, which will make different characters more adept at different skills, these also have different starting items.

The heroes in the game can advance using a number of different methods, by exploring tiles the hero earns exploration tokens, these can be spent to improve various abilities.  By defeating monsters a hero earns Experience, which can be used to learn different skills and abilities.  By finding various support characters in the dungeon they my buy different items from them or learn different skills at the cost a gold, possibly with an exploration token or experience point cost as well.

Other ways to improve your hero is by finding items or materials to craft your own items out of, or by finding a shop in the dungeon one can buy (or even steal) items from these locations.

This game is designed as either an intro to a fantasy RPG with definite loss/win criteria, with some elements of role-playing mixed in.  The game is much more mechanical than a traditional RPG, but could be used as an introduction as to what an RPG feels like, as far as having a character with equipment and skills, and using these to the best of your ability to accomplish a goal.

The game also has the concepts of character advancement, shopping for items, crafting better gear, and a few other mechanics such as traps, puzzles and decisions that one would find in a typical RPG, but again these have a much more game-mechanical feel then what they would find in a full role-playing system.

I'm working on a number of different expansions to this game, which will allow it to be played as a 1:1 skirmish style or team vs team for more than two players, as well as an Overlord expansion where one player will setup scenarios for the other players, which will get even closer to a traditional RPG, but still bound many of the rules in more of a board game "feel".
The ultimate "end of the rainbow" idea here being, the full release of the HitDice RPG engine, with essentially everything learned in each of the other games will now fall into the Game-Master (GM) and Players realm, in which the story is told by the GM and players each control a hero in a fully open game system.  This was actually the first thing that I created, but have been working to fit it into a "step by step learning framework", that could be mastered one expansion at a time, as a road map for kids or introduction to adults that haven't played an RPG before.

All of these games will exist in the same "Game Universe" which is the already created world of Kraterra, the land of the Crater.  Which will not only help solidify the link for one expansion to the next, but provide increasing world knowledge from those that progress from "Dun-Jin" to ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zombie Streets...(Sneak preview)

Here's a sneak-peek at a side project of mine that I've been playing with for about six months.  I've been playing with card board hand drawn tiles with friends and family up to this point, but I'm about ready to run my first batch of official cards.  Once I do this I'll feel better about allowing others to play test, as they will not only get to comment on the game play, but the look and feel of the cards and tiles.

Zombie Town is getting close to being ready, but my biggest problem has been maintaining focus on this, I keep coming up with more game ideas, that I seem to have to pursue enough to get a good idea about how the game would "feel", then I go back to Zombie Town for a little bit.

Essentially Zombie Town is a typical zombie apocalypse game, the survivors are attempting to accomplish an objective, but they don't know what it is until all the streets have been placed, only then do they finally draw the mission objective.

The map is constructed by alternately linking Crossroads with Streets, such that the tiles "fit" together.  Then once the streets are gone an objective card is drawn, and the buildings can be explored.  The objects range from finding particular items and reaching a specific tile, to fixing a vehicle, to fortifying a building, to last man standing, to first one to 50 kills, to each drawing there own objecting, and more.

The end result is a game with very high replay-ability that you don't know what you really want for a map until you have your objective, but by then the map is already fixed, and they just have to explore the building.  I'm thinking of an alternate style where the building can explored as well earlier, but they could not cause the map to grow in height or width, so essentially you would need to know where the roads were going before a building could be explored...little more complex to explain, so I'm leaning toward the other where of initial planning.

The difficulty mechanism is determined by the over all activity level.  It's assumed there are infinite zombies, but only those near the activity are initially drawn to the area of the survivors.  The activity level increases by one for every turn a survivor takes, and again at the end of each round based on the number of noise that was made by the survivors over all.  The more the activity level increases the harder the game will get, as the main determining factor for what type of creature is encountered is based on the current activity level.

The enemies are collectively called "Zombies", but the actually type of creature encountered can be anything from a rat swarm or infected animal, to a shambler (slow moving once dead human) to various types of infected humans (faster moving still considered to be alive), to the Zombie-King (similar concept of a Rat-King) and then there's the Horde (a large mixture of various types of creatures gathered in an area).

The Streets and Crossroads really determine the map size and shape, the Building are where the majority of the items can be found.  In the typical game the buildings cannot be explored until all the road cards have been explored.  There are four more types of cards: Events (drawn by first player at the start of every Survivor phase), Items (drawn when a player removes a search token from a tile), Doors (drawn when a survivor attempts to enter a building), and the Building Propose (used to determine the type of building that was explored, or sometimes the current use of the building).  These are in addition to the Objective deck that was previously mentioned.

The current thinking is to possibly release the "Basic" version with just the Streets, Crossroads, Objectives, Events and most items, to keep cost down and allow people to try it out cheaper, than have a "Buildings Expansion", that will add the Building Tiles, Doors and Building Propose, as well as more items...and possibly other cards.

The game can be scaled by adding more Street & Crossroad cards that must be exhausted before building can be searched, this can allow for more people to play or could be used to increase the difficulty.  Or the opposite could be done as well, where less cards to be used to allow for less players or a solo version, or to increase the likely hood of winning.  Guideline will be provided for recommended number of players for easy, difficult and hard-core games.

Crossroads or Intersection cards:

Street cards (join Crossroads together, and provide location of building doors)

Building cards show the interior of building and the interior layout and possible interior room exits (these exits are trumped by roads, in which case they become doors).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Travel Tiles and Journey Roles

Well, nothing really new, but I did complete an actual set of Travel Tiles with each 3.75 in hexagon tile representing a 10 mile hex on the GM's map.  I created a hex for all types of common terrain (Plains, Scrub, Forest, Hills, Deep Forest, and Swamp),  and I did another batch of more exotic terrain (Barren, Desert, Jungle, Mountains, Lakes, and Oceans).  Pictured below are the Ocean, Plains, and Swamp Travel Tiles, you can see that each tile is broken up into 2.5 mile sub-hexagons that the party will typically make some progress even in the most difficult terrain.

These Travel Tiles can really add depth to the journey to the dungeon, cave or other quest goal.  I'm also going to include some game pieces in the set, so the GM can place Houses and Churches onto tiles to represent farms, villages, ruins or other places of interest that may be visible from a distance.  I also have "Stickered Pogs"  about 1.25 in across that will have the same type of terrain mentioned above.  These will allow a random Forest or Hill to be places on Travel Tile when the party is in the plains, or a few Jungle hexes to be added as the party crosses a tile of swamp terrain.  The orange and blue bars can be used for Trails and Streams (single bar) or Rivers and Roads (double bar).  A Blue disk could represent a lake on a prairie or forest, or an oasis in a desert.

I also completed some cheater cards for the GM and possibly players to know what the "Typical" progress required to travel each sub-hex (2.5 mile distance).  These show the typical values, but the GM can adjust these for their world or this particular forest or swamp, which may be more difficult or easy to cross than the one shown on the helper cards.  These are shown below, with an image of the front side of the deck as well.

The last cards I created are meant for the players to hold onto to represent the Role that their hero is currently in.  These are more defined in my previous post, but below I show the cards for the common Leader and Scout Journey Roles, and behind them are the specialty Journey Roles of Mountaineer and Navigator.

The complete list of Journey Roles are: Leader, Guide, Hunter, Gatherer, Lookout, Scout, Defender, Explorer, Wanderer and Porter (I did implement this one that I was still "iffy" about).  Then the specialty/optional list of Journey Roles are: Navigator, Ships' Crew, Mountaineer, Adviser, Trail Blazer, and Animal Handler (from the comments on the previous post).  Lastly I did a special type of Camp Role cards for the following: Guard, Resting, Crafting and Healer.

So in all there are 21 different roles.  Typically while traveling each day the hero will be in one role, this really represents their "Main" job, then at camp, they will likely be resting for two March Turns (a 4 hour block of time) and Guarding for another, but it is possible for the hero to switch into a different "Camp Role" for every March Turn at camp.  A typical night is three March Turns, in which they could, Craft for one, Rest for one, and Guard for the last, and on the next day assume their Travel Role again.

I don't have any "Action Shots" yet, as I'm still only halfway done uploading the images and stuff, and trying to decide the best way to package these...Currently thinking 12 terrain types x 5 tiles each = 60 (3.75" hexagon) tiles.

These Roles are unique ones, only one player at a time can be in them: Leader, Guide, Adviser and Navigator(4), and these are probably never going to have multiple people in them: Lookout, Trail Blazer and  Animal Handler (3).  These I could see parties doubling up on: Hunter, Gatherer, Scout, Wanderer, Defender, Porter, Healer and Mountaineer (so 8x2 = 16).

Then assume a three possible in these roles: Explorer, Mountaineer, Crafting and Ship's Crew (4x3 = 12), and assume a five person party for Resting and Guarding (2x5 = 10).  Then include a copies of the reference helper cars (2x3 = 6).  The total deck is 4+3+16+12+10+6 = 41...Might adjust the number to give a few extra copies just in case they get damaged...Maybe shoot for 60 here too.

Then throw in 20 blue stick, 20 orange sticks, ten houses, four churches, three lake discs and probably four pogs of each type of the 12 terrain, and another 12 specialty terrain (maybe replace the houses lakes with more of these as well)...say 40 sticks and 80 pogs w/ stickers.

Monday, February 4, 2013

(Not So) Random Encounters

I'm a huge fan of the complex non-standard randomly generated encounter that doesn't appear random at all...As opposed the obviously generated encounter, that the party knows is simply a battle to be fought.

Poor Example of a random encounter: "Ok, so you guys are setting up camp?  Are you posting a watch? Ok, so who's on {roll} 3rd watch?  {Multiple Rolls, and grabbing the Monster Manual, followed by another roll} You hear some twig snap in the brush off to the east of camp, followed by six armed Bugbears breaking through the tree line".

     In this example, the players should realize that the encounter is simply the result of some random rolling that was done, which is done every day by the GM to determine if an counter takes place.  The fact that the Monster Manual was referenced might give clues to insightful players that this was not something in the module (or maybe it was, but the GM wanted more details on the creatures stat block).
     In any case, perceptive player would quickly see this as likely not relevant to the story arc, or completing the adventure, and would likely treat this as an opportunity for a few more xp and loot.

The proposed method: While the party is doing their daily Journey Role activities and rolls for the amount of progress for the day, which the players make progress on the Travel Tile.  At this time the GM may roll a few times for random events and then determine when they will occur during this day (which hex if during travel), or if it will occur at night time, if so determine which watch. The GM asks the Scout to make a roll when they enter a given hex, followed by a roll from the player who's hero is in the Explorer role.

     The party is aware that the Scout rolled poorly, but the Explorer rolled very well.  The GM can make opposing rolls (or just roll for the sake of making it look like something).  So, in this case the Scout missed the clues that they are entering an area inhabited by a tribe of Bugbear.  The Explorer however found a human skull on a stake, who should realize this is an area controlled by some non-human tribe...Further investigation may yield more clues as to what race or even what tribe.  Ignoring these signs or not following up by rallying the Scout and Hunters may then trigger a follow-up encounter during the day of travel or the evening during watch.
     When/If this encounter takes place is not based on anymore random elements, the fact that they entered a pre-determined hex on the GM's map, or group of hex was the triggering mechanism.  Beyond this the GM uses the parties own dice rolls or questions and role-playing elements to determine how to play-out the event.
     If the Explorer simply examines it and determines it to be a few years, possibly even decade old, with no visible tracks or trails around it, they may not alert the party...In which case the Scout could be leading the party right into an ambush, or worse be the sole target of the initial phase of the assault.  If they Explorer does alert the companions, the Scout and Lookout may get additional attempts to uncover some additional clues, and possibly spot the ambush before they all victim to it.  Or maybe the party as a collective decides to skirt the edge of the Bugbears territory.
     In any case, this encounter seems anything but random, and gives players much more of a role-playing opportunity.  The party would few any encounter as "their fault" for not heeding the warnings, plus the whole scenario plays much more as "part of the adventure", rather than the result of die roles.

For these encounters to play well, it does require a little prep work from the GM.  However, the work is not hard, and really only involves rolling the random encounters during the "offline" time that they would be prepping the adventure.  Rather than rolling everything at the gaming table, which makes things nearly impossible to not seem random.

The prep work gives the GM time to "Think" about each random encounter that they are creating for the adventure, and even though they may be randomly created, this can simply be use as a skeleton of basic idea of the encounter.  It's amazing how much flavor can be put in an initially Random dice roll with only a few minutes of thought.

Additionally, as a GM you can think about how encounters that may have occurred close together actually fit together.  This can turn something like a Displacer Beast battle in the morning followed by a band of Gnolls in the early afternoon into, something like: the Displacer Beast was initially wounded by the Gnolls, maybe even have broken arrows in it or claws wounds that are still bleeding, but the beast escaped.  Later in the day the Gnolls that were tracking the beast stumble across the party while they are following the beast's blood trail...Or maybe the beast was a pet of theirs that escaped over night and was roaming free, and they were tracking it found its remains and now seek those responsible for killing their animal.

When events "make sense" it's much easier to tie them together or if they don't make sense, than simply ignore the encounter or roll another one.  No one has to know, but when your actually randomly rolling right there at the table for everything you may not realize how awkward the events are when played together, and simply go through the motions of another senseless battle, with no gain to the story or campaign.

If an entire evenings random encounter deck is pre-generated then as the GM looking at everything may prompt for additional story arc or side treks between encounters from days earlier, or even changing the order of the encounter may make all the difference in the world as to how the events play out.  By placing the lone Druid after the battle with the Giant Spiders, there maybe an opportunity for one of the heroes suffering from the effects of poison to be saved, or wounded party members to be healed, rather than the other way around, when the Druid would be less useful.

Doing the encounter before hand allows the GM a chance to weave them together, and use them to aid in the existing story arc of the campaign, or begin putting the hooks in for the next arc.  If however during play the players rolls or actions are such that they either totally avoided one encounter that made the next one occur, you as a GM can simply pull that entire side-trek out and possibly use it in another session, maybe even on the return journey.  The key is to not waste prep time, once you begin to do this you'll realize that the cave that the Troll lived in, which the party ignored (due to not following its tracks back to its lair), makes a great camp for the Orc hunters that the party encounters a few days later.

The important thing to remember is not to force pieces that don't fit, if something seemed great when you were prepping, but the time is such that the party is running way behind schedule now, and you were hoping to wrap up this arc of the campaign, then its ok to give the party an extra day or more without any encounters for the sake of speeding them along...Or if the party is progressing through the journey much faster than you had hoped, then why not drop in an encounter the was slated for a different location for right now, so long as it works?

To aid me in planning these "Not so" random encounters I've created some rather complex tables, using my own version of the TableSmith application.  It basically supports the exact same format, but is much more extensible. Plus, I wanted it to run from a website (thus usable from a mobile device in a pinch) and not as a desktop application, which would require my laptop to be present at the gaming table.

I've got the application working, but I can't provide a link to it here, as I need to find someplace to host it.  Once I get this up and running I'll probably write a blog post dedicated to it, explaining its usage, and I'll add a comment here pointing to the other post.

Briefly I'll describe the initial dice system that I currently use.  Essentially every hex on the GM's map is assigned a difficulty (to avoid cluttering my map, I default to general terrain type values, or define zones outlined in various colors as +1 to +5 off of there typical default value, purple=+1, blue=+2, green=+3, orange=+4, red=+5), then I simply roll 2d12 + the hexes assigned difficulty.  Results of 10 to 16 are typically "No Event", Results under 10 are non-creature events, such as lost items, abandoned campsite, strange tracks, etc.  Results over 16 are more typically creature based encounters, with typically the higher the value indicating the more powerful or rare the encounter.

This initial table simply defines the favor of the encounter or event, and this branches off to other tables that further defines the details of the encounter.  This large encounter spider web of tables forms the basis of the encounter, and with some thoughtful adjustments like those describes above, will allow randomness of the event seems to be removed.  This allow for the dice roles and decisions the players made, essentially determine a starting point of how much initial information they are given about the event that is about to occur.

I have another slew of tables that help me prep for the initial launch of a campaign, which generates a bunch of random tribe of non-humans, a set of powerful NPCs in the area that the players may come to know, as well as a list powerful creatures in the area that may be the source of the trouble that the heroes are tasked to correct.

These lists are randomly determined random tables that I then use as a part of my daily encounters. I also apply large territories for the non-human tribes (that were previously generated), that overlap and assign lair locations to the major creatures and NPCs. This aids in my "Thinking" process as to what is going on when I attempt to inject reasons into encounters.

Of course everything does not require an reason for happening, but it does make for more interesting role playing when the random tables specify results that don't make sense initially, "Orcs of the Black Hand are hunting in the High Moors?  But their base is 100 miles away, is this a band of exiles? Are they on a mission for their chieftain?  Maybe this is some advanced scouting unit of the band, that is attempting to expand their territories.