Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hexcrawling a City, an early look

One thing I've been slowly working on for the last year is another fantasy sandbox campaign.  My prior one was generally map-based, although a city featured prominently in it.  As time went by, it lost a lot of its "sandbox" quality and became more directed on my part.  In the process, I think it lost something.

So, after being away from fantasy for a solid year, it's time to get back to it.  I spent some of that last year thinking about cities.   Some fantasy RPG treat cities on a very detailed level, with maps of streets, etc.  But while that's fun "map porn" for GM's, how often would the players actually be seeing or using a map like that?  And how long would it take for them to just accrue that knowledge by exploring the city.  I've lived in my current city seven years, with a car, and I don't know how all the cities line up.  What I know are areas, neighborhoods, etc. some intimately, others not so much.  And if I was going to a new city, I would get to know it on a fairly abstract level at first as well.

All of which is the long way of my saying that I'm experimenting with the idea of creating a "city hexcrawl."  Unlike a wilderness hexcrawl, the hexes aren't necessarily exact discrete units of distance but represent distinct regions of the city: e.g. "Common temples" or "The Wizard's College."  You'll have to go through certain parts of town to get to others, but I'll understand that while the actually pathways are abstracted,  the time to travel will be a pretty standard rate (with the understanding that hexes that represent larger areas, like the Artisan's Market, will be easier to traverse than The Guardhouse.

So my yet-unnamed city has 22 hexes (that the PC's can knowingly identify) in a city that is stratified by class.  Areas 1-13 are the lower class. common areas.  Areas 14-19 are the artisan class where professionals, lesser nobles, and other specialists reside.  Areas 20-22 are the section for the elite, including the castle in Hex 22.

Movement is not free from region to region.  Low-level PC's will likely not be allowed into the upper two regions unless accompanying some patron.  That will mean that sections of the city will remain a mystery to the PC's as the campaign evolves.  The blue lines represent the walls, interior and exterior, that block off the sections of the city.

Each hex will have its own "character," its own style, with random or established encounters, NPC's, etc. for each of them.  Since whole sections are blocked off, I don't need to do the whole area at once; just the first 13 hexes, really.  Plus there's the possibility of areas outside, or under, the city as well.

That's the current state of my project.  Thoughts are welcome.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summertime Gaming, Part Two

There are times when I think to myself, "you know, you could have done a better job being a GM that time."  Last Friday was one of those times.

In my defense, after literally having no one show up for the previous June session, I went from having four, to three, to two, then back up to four people signed up for last Friday's session.  When it was down to two, I scuttled the whole thing and stopped planning.  Then, literally the day of the gaming session, two people pop up as planning to attend, and I'm scrambling for content.

And with a game whose dice mechanic can be as jammy as Bash can be, that meant that we were done way earlier than I thought, and I didn't have much in the way of fallback material.  Like I said, a less-than-superlative job there.

It reminded me why I dislike doing "story" style gaming, because there is always the issue of timing: sometimes you get four-fifths of the way through the story and you've gone way long in the session, meaning that you either press onward or save the one-fifth for the next session, which won't take up the whole time.  Or you speed your way through and end up with nothing to do, like this time.  Rarely are you so on-track that you finish a story at the end of the session at exactly the right time.

Dragging a single story over multiple sessions also has the huge handicap of my inconsistent group.  You start the adventure with one party, end it with another, many of whom don't have the background or emotional investment.

I would consider dropping the whole thing in favor of a more open, exploration-themed campaign, but a lot of people like Bash and their characters, despite how the campaign sometimes plays out. As a solution, I'm considering trying to run multiple sub-plots instead of a single story.  If I stockpile those plots, I can toss them in whenever is convenient.  I also want to do more with the PC's backstories--I rarely ever explore them in the context of the campaign, and plenty of the players have put some work into them.

Hopefully that means that I can continue to keep this campaign humming throughout the summer and into the Fall.  Thanks for reading, and comments welcome.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summertime Gaming, Part One

Wow, it has been six weeks since my last post.  Well, a lot has been going on.  A ton of person transitions, some vacation time, etc.  But that's not what this blog is about.

Over the last six weeks, my friend John wrapped up his West End Games Star Wars campaign.  I'll admit that I wasn't in as many sessions as I might have liked--another consequence of my many responsibilities these days.  This campaign started as a closed game with a limited number of players but slowly creeped up to around seven or eight.  That's on the high side, and a lot of overlap between certain characters started to show (e.g. who flew the ship).

In the final episode the GM decided to split the party.  This is always a gamble, and I'm not sure if it paid off.  This wasn't the fault of the GM, but rather the fickle hand of fate (and some decision making on the part of the players).  The first half managed to handle their scenario in a very brief period of time, but the second half took a long time--almost an hour.  That was a long lag time for the first group, who ended up getting restless, looking at their phones, wandering off, etc.  As a person in the first, group I can say that I felt for everyone involved, including the GM who was clearly trying to move the second group along as best he could.

But now that campaign is over and one--another one in the books.  I really enjoyed the way that the GM used the stunt system from Fantasy AGE as an alternative to just boosting the success on the Wild Die.  I also just love the old WEG system.  It's relative elegance and ease of play reminded me of why the game was so important in the development of RPG's.  I do know that it is breakable by people intent to break it (and being a Wookie with a vibroaxe certainly had its advantages).

In the meantime, I'm trying to get my Bash game back on track.  I can see it going at least four more sessions, which at this rate will take us well into the end of summer.  I have to say that Bash continues to be a game I like but don't love.  The system is sort of just there, not really adding anything to my enjoyment of the game.  It certainly doesn't inspire me.  And I'm not exactly sure if the game has a clear sense in-and-of-itself sometimes about how it is played.  By that I mean it isn't always clear if the game should be played with miniatures, without them, etc.

Finally, my local gaming store is closing this summer.  After 25 years, the store was struggling to make ends meet.  If I had to hazard a guess, the expansion of a local popular comic book store getting into games and gaming was the death knell.  But I did manage to pick up in the fire sale a fun stuffed owlbear who currently needs a name.  So feel free to make suggestions in the comments below.

More later, and thanks for reading!

Over at Strange Vistas