Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Locations and Dungeons"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 22- Favorite Locations and Dungeons
            Dungeons and Dragons is both a game and a story telling tool.  The fictional “When” and “Where” the narrative takes place changes how the rules are utilized and in an effort to keep things tonally consistent the game provides many different tools to help Players and GG’s know what to expect.
            While monsters are by a wide margin the most versatile tool the GG has to change the challenge and feel of the game, as one fighting devils feels and plays vastly different from one spent fighting animals or elementals, there are other factors that have impact.
Can you guess what sort of setting a Sand Golem would be most at home in?

My Favorite Type of Location
            In 3rd edition, 4 books were released as a mini-series exploring campaigns that dealt with specific environments.  These were “Frostburn” (Frozen North, Viking-ish), “Sandstorm” (Burning Desert, Egypt-ish), “Stormwrack” (High Seas, Kind of lacked a cultural core, I consider it the weakest of the series), and “Cityscape” (Urban Spaces, Victorian-ish).  Each emphasized environmental factors, monsters, cultures (with a European style bend), and encounters that could be used to make the game feel more like its chosen environment.
            Of these books, I got the most use out of “Sand Storm” and I thought the Egyptian and Desert inspired stuff was cool enough to buy on release.  I wanted my players to fight a giant mummy octopus who swam thru sand and whose touch drained targets of moisture turning them into dust.  It did, and still does, sound awesome.
It is called "The Crawling Apocalypse" and it is amazing.

            You might then think the desert is my favorites location, but no.  Having looked over the 4 books, “Sandstorm” is the best written and I got the most use out of it, but it is not my favorite type of setting because deserts by their very nature are desolate and I take almost the opposite position, I much prefer Urban adventures.
            Setting the game in an urban environment allows me to have numerous diverse NPC’s all within walking distance of one another with an emphasis on politics and wealth.  The players have contact with the world around them, they have a base of operations that might need defending, their enemies have headquarters that can be located and attacked.

Ravnica, an entire world that is a fantasy city, is my favorite Magic the Gathering setting.
            In an Urban setting when things go bad there are repercussions for actions, one of my favorite little moments from a game is a player saying the words, “We could rip them off, but they’ll sue us.”  You don’t get those kinds of scenarios if all the adventures take place in the woods.

My Favorite Type of Dungeon
            Ruins make for the best sorts of dungeons.  I enjoy civilization, and as I have mentioned before, ruins are sort of the skeletal undead remains of civilization.  Venturing into a broken-down city half submerged from the earthquake, flood, or avalanche that killed it and trying to find the few good bits that are left behind, all the while fighting other scavengers (monsters and evil NPC’s) and the bad bits left behind (Undead and Traps).  This is adventuring.

More art from Ravnica.
            I try not to make things too insanely sprawling (there are levels in “Skyrim” that I find to be a hassle rather than fun because of their girth) but the idea that a whole dead city is the “dungeon” and that different buildings are the “rooms” there in is pretty cool.  You can logically camp in such a massive dungeon and not have to worry about monsters literally in the next room trying to get in and kill you in your sleep.

My Own Setting: The City of Bone
            I know the name is derivative, but you can’t imagine how miffed I was to learn there was a book series whose first entry was “Mortal Instruments: The City of Bone”.  Now if I ever want to publish anything I will have to shake up the names just to not pull aggro and confusion from the YA market.
            Anyway, here is the general setup of the city’s politics that the players start pushing around.

            Ten years ago... following the execution of the prophet Necess, there was a rebellion.
            The Dictatorial Lord of Bone, Prince Constantine was met with an ultimatum by a collection of civic leaders.  Guild Master Wilhelm threatened a strike throughout the city, High Priestess Andrea promised a religious demonstration, the Father proposed a halt on all theater and sporting events, Captain Red claimed he would have his guards stand down, and Lady Mist said she would personally kill Prince Constantine unless a formal apology for the death of Necess was issued and reparations made to the community.
            Needless to say, the Prince was dissatisfied.  Constantine ordered all of these community leaders to be arrested and supplanted by members of his court and the royal family.  Rebellion came like a bolt of lightning.
            Captain Red (Now calling himself Governor General Red the Infamous) killed or held captive the entire North East Burroughs and all of the aristocratic members within.  Father ordered hundreds of gladiators worked into a makeshift army and began tearing their way through Big Town at the head of an angry mob (a mob that carefully avoided foreign embassies).  Wilhelm called out all his guild houses, with masons and farmers using their tools as improvised weapons beside a religious militia that had been orchestrated in secret by the Church.
            All of these events overwhelmed the Prince's law enforcement and took control of the agricultural stores in the city.  Lady Mist went on a killing spree of government VIP’s looking for the Prince but he had managed to flee the city.
            In the unrest that followed, numerous parties jockeyed for the position of sovereign, civil war and pandemonium seemed inevitable.  But a new player took the center of the action.
            This previously unknown party taking the initiative was Ezekiel the Necromancer.  He had been an archeologist leading a group called “The Readers of Braille” in secret operations all over the city and had a powerful legion of undead he had been using as a labor force, now used to impose peace.
"Ezekiel cried dem dry Bones."
            Rather than make himself king, he proposed a joint government called the Oligarchy.  “I prefer my studies,” was the only explanation Ezekiel gave.  Each group controlling bits and pieces of the city with Ezekiel’s new Bleak Academy and Militant Mourners taking seats at the table along with Infamous Red, Mayor Wilhelm, Father of the Cabal, and others.
            The Militant Mourners would be a police force made of the undead from the rebellion, and the Bleak Academy would be taking over the heavy lifting of public education.  3 years later Ezekiel disappeared leaving his young friend and protégé, Claudius the Grim as head of the Militant Mourners, and Lady Mist, Claudius' wife, as head of the Academy.  There are currently 9 seats on the Oligarchy each with their own domains and responsibilities.
Again, the resemblance to the Guilds of Ravnica and their designated responsibilities via the Guildpact.
            I wanted to create numerous groups with their own goals and worldviews so that when the players start doing things to shake up the balance of power I could have repercussions happen.  What is more, the city itself is still in ruin in many parts because of the rebellion and its ancient status to begin with, there is an under city, necropolis, and Detroit style abandoned sections, all of which can serve as dungeons within the city.
            When I create a place, it is with the intention of it being uniquely broken and shook up.  I have run multiple campaigns with it and each has been quite different.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about a key aspect of dungeons, Traps and Puzzles.  This things have actually grown on me lately.

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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