So we’re spending this evening mostly helping Lady W set up a character to join in the DDC adventures. We’re having a quiet evening as people are just feeling a bit wiped out, and it came up in conversation that she had felt unable to join the group as she hadn’t been around for the first session.
We immediately disabused her of this idea. As Lady W has never played D&D before, we’ve been making use of the Roll20 Charactermancer and a copy of the Player’s Handbook to help her create a new persona.
There is much jollity, silliness, discussion, and explanation going on – and therefore a good wind-down to the week. It may not be the D&D session I’d planned, but I think its the one we collectively need today
I spend a lot of time, even if only inside my own head sometimes, preparing material for my tabletop game. Sometimes its thinking of names, or external events for the players to react to. For the most part I’ve tended to think on a mechanic level of what rules to brush up on, or the best tactics to pose a suitable challenge during the game.
What I’d only ever really fleetingly touched on before, however, was open up some of that preparation to the players. In particular, I’m thinking about the bonds and history between them. I’ve never been one for the trope of “you’ve all met down the pub and a mysterious stranger offers you a job” but it has tended to be brief discussions during character creation.
That’s easier to do with everyone around the table than remotely of course, which is why I welcomed Mre B’s suggestion for a formal session zero to kick off the new group. It wasn’t a concept I’d ever encountered before, but a quick read through suggestions online and through a comprehensive guide sheet that they pulled together firmed up the belief that it was a good idea.
I’ll be putting together a page under the Gaming section based on the document Mre B composed. Essentially though the session is not just one of working out links and shared history between characters, but also of ensuring respect at a player level to settle the ground rules of play and engagement.
I’m paraphrasing and simplifying wildly for the sake of brevity here, but it was extremely useful as we had a number of people who didn’t know each other that well, and who were also relative newcomers to tabletop gaming. No other game I’ve run has had quite that combination.
It sparked, and has continued to spark, a wealth of role-playing material and plot hooks, and laid the foundations for one of the most fun and diverse groups I’ve DM’d for in quite some time.
A colleague and fellow geek introduced me to a new game just before Christmas, and to ring in the new year for our Monday group I decided to playtest it. Admittedly this was because half our players were still scattered around the globe, or attending to a number of emergencies. So with two players in attendance, I introduced them to “The Witch Is Dead”
Now, the rules for this roleplay game are simple. So simple, that this picture is the entire rules and scenario:
Looks simple, doesn’t it? Go on, have a game with some friends; grab a ten sided die, or jury rig some mechanism for generating a number between 1 and 10; now try playing. Oh, anyone who isn’t the same species as another needs to work out how to communicate.
I can’t wait to hear your stories.
So, anyway, last night the players rolled a rat and a spider, with the powers of confuse/distract and conjure dinner accordingly. With their witch dead, they worked out they weren’t about to eat each other, and that the rat moved fastest. A trail of blood led to a path, so it all seemed simple.
The rat carried the spider on its back down the path to the nearest village where many rough looking humans were milling about under strands of coloured cloth between buildings. After a few false starts to get up on a roof, the players realised I was badly describing bunting and a village fair.
This was, to be fair, entirely deliberate on my part as the sort-of fluffy woodland creatures couldn’t read, and had no understanding of what they were seeing.
After dodging dive-bombing pigeons, summoning a large dinner to attract said pigeons, and casting a distraction on the humans wondering why food was falling out of the sky, the animals left a small riot breaking out, which drew the attention of the guards. Meanwhile the rat and the spider kept crisscrossing the street on the bunting.
Several false starts later, they identified a large building with noisy drinking people in it as the location of the cowardly witchhunter, and found the kitchen doors ajar. A number of stealthy maneuvers later, and the navigation of stairs and closed doors achieved, they snuck into the room where the witchhunter was drunkenly disrobing and cleaning his axe while trying to eat dinner.
We may have been drinking a bit by this point.
What followed was the application of several confusion charms, the summoning of multiple dinners, and some desperate lunges. The result was a broken mirror, gravy everywhere, an axe toppled on the floor, a knife stuck in the wall and an unconscious witchhunter who had knocked himself out on the bedpost.
Some more shenanigans to maneuver the knife were required to finally slay the foul human, and then the attempts to remove the eyes and transport them to the witch began.
Dearie, dearie me…
You’ve not lived until you’ve heard otherwise sane people describe how their spider might remove an eyeball, or have a debate about how intact the eyes needed to be.
I won’t tell you how the rat transported them, or the spider retrieved them (this is a game of imagination after all), but they managed to complete the task within the allotted session time.
I started to write up some game sessions, but couldn’t concentrate on those and talk with Charleesi at the same time (multitasking fail), so I’ve uploaded some more of the maps I’ve used in the Roll20 sessions.
Specifically I’ve put in there the Airdocks, a beach in the jungle, and the Rose Quarry ruins (which are absolutely enormous) – if you’re using the maps, have fun…
I’m still slowly adding maps from the Eberron campaign in the Notable Locations section of Wartorn – another couple have gone up this evening under the Dorasharn Forge Cavern – a scene from the beginning of the adventures
I’ve been using the pyromancers.com website to handmake the maps I’ve been using in the Wartorn Roll20 campaigns over the last year or so, but it’s not the only resource I’ve been making use of.
There’s a few more websites that have recently caught my eye, and I’ll probably start dipping in to using them from time to time. A few of the maps that my group have yet to encounter have been made up using graphics from these sites, so I’ve tested them for ease of importing the resulting graphics in to Roll20. So far, each has been useful in different ways.
The first – ANAMap – is a map generator that allows me to make old-school line drawing maps and export them as PNG graphics, which are fully supported by Roll20.
When you start up, you are presented with a blank sheet of graph paper-style unreal estate and a series of tools on the left hand side that allow you to carve your nascent dungeon with a few simple clicks. Each square on the “graph paper” is cleared as you click on it, and refilled if you click back on it again, making editing and changing your mind a simple task as you go along. The palette is simple, and the icons are rudimentary, but if you’re looking to generate something quickly with a clean set of lines, this is probably what I’d prefer to direct you towards at the moment. As an added bonus, the site does remember where you got up to, and so you will see your most recent edit when you go back.
You can save and reload maps as you need to revisit them, which is a nice touch and making the grid disappear is a matter of clicking on the Draft button. The Dark theme reverses the palette to make a neon dark blue and glowing walls effect, so that might prove useful if you want to do some mirror-world or dreamscape representations of maps.
The other site I’ve started using has been more for inspiration or throwing together very quick locations, and I think I’m only really starting to scratch the surface. Dave’s Mapper uses tiled templates to randomly generate areas. It too allows you to export maps as PNG format graphics and these can be resized as required when you import them into Roll20.
There are all sorts of filters available to choose the style and design of the tiles used, and whether the maps are close edged to make a contained location, or open-edged (for generating a location within wider streets or tunnels, for example). By default though, the maps tend to resemble the example here, reminiscent of classic hand-drawn dungeons in original D&D products back in the days of yore. I really like it, and I might use it for generating treasure maps for handouts to players, using them as a template for a map put together with the pyromancers site instead.
Hopefully, one or more of these resources will be helpful to you too, let me know in the comments, or feel free to suggest other map making resources that you treasure.