måndag 5 november 2018

The Ruined City of Vrotrak Valley

Excerpt from my design document for Vrotrak Valley, a post-apocalyptic Hex Crawl:

7 hexes. A haunted old metropolis, filled to the brim with dungeons in the form of abandoned warehouses, apartment-complexes and office buildings. Populated by bandits and predatory animals. Ud stands for Usage Die.

  1. A “haunted” suburb that used to be a popular spot for rich and wealthy people. They all had servant robots programmed to love them. After they all died, their machines formed a suicide pact. Robotic body parts litter the area. They can be looted for scraps and fuel, but nothing mechanically useful. The houses of their former masters are filled with fancy technology and the occasional rare artifact. The last robot standing can be reactivated, explaining that it was left here to remember the events that led to the apocalypse. It will refuse to say, or can’t say, what it remembers. 
  2. A giant shopping mall that has collapsed into the asphalted-over wetlands it was built on. Inhabited by crocodiles, snakes and unsavory types, it is slowly sinking into the ground, destroying the valuable technology there within. A Wandering Mega-Beast wishes to enter and will cause the structure to collapse within Ud8 rounds. 
  3. In a town square, an endless street-fight has burst out between warring factions of Meltskin Warriors, humanoid beings that rise out of toxic sludge and dirt that had infected the soil of two neighboring graveyards. The two neighboring graveyards belonged to two different denominations of an ancient Christian religion. Their muddy faux-skin melts off and regenerates instantly every two seconds, occasionally revealing a strange, metallic skeleton. They fruitlessly wrestle each-other in the streets, constantly dying and being resurrected. They are not capable of explaining why they are fighting. There are 5d20 Meltskin Warriors of Each Faction present in the square at any time. They are HD1 and their attacks trigger a Constitutiom roll to resist radiation poisoning, but they will not attack PCs unless provoked.  The abandoned graves can be looted for valuables, but players must roll to resist disease or radiation when spending any time in them. At the center is an abandoned, fully functional tank. 
  4. An industrial zone taken over by The Synthwavers, a gang of 80’s-loving mutated humans, led by a tiny psyonic intent on re-introducing the glory of ancient commercial Brands (Bepsi, MockDonalds, Cantucky Flopped Chickies.. you know!). An abundance of resources can be found in the warehouses, factory plants and car retailer joints, but only so much can be taken back without facing the wrath of The Synthwavers, who ride forklifts and possess bazookas. 
  5. A huge skyscraper protected entirely by a colony of Fungi-Spiders, dog-sized spiders which filter out toxic air through fungi in their back. The HD 10 Spider-Queen rests on the top of the skyscraper, producing spawn and looking for prey to feed it’s young ones. Inside the skyscrapers live the 15th generation of 4 families of master scientists, humans who will protect their (faulty, inaccurate, outlandish) research against anything perceived as a threat. Unfortunately, they perceive everything as a threat, and will attack intruders with machine guns. In their libraries are contained 1000 Coin worth of Invaluable Scientific Research. The fungi on the spiders back can be used as air filtration for the settlements and protect against radiation poisoning Ud8 times (for the Spider Queen, Ud10). 
  6. A group of pacifist mutants has made this local park into the meeting place of a debate club, wherein the mutant population gather to debate the serious topics of the day. Reasonable and respectful, they invite the players to compete in the art of debating. They don’t mind that a group of Mega-Vultures occasionally swoop down to catch and fly away with whoever decides to go on the make-shift  stage.
  7. At a make-shift farm settlement on the outskirts of the city, a legless, three-armed Psionic child has fooled the entire group of survivors that he has a direct connection to a man living in a space-ship in Earth's orbit. Most worship him, but some fear him. He can mimic any voice and will accuse any outsider of trying to destroy the settlement. If you want to destroy the settlement, the Psionic child has rigged a set of explosives to go off if his ploy is uncovered. 
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söndag 4 november 2018

Inherent Tension

Expanded from my dice.camp thread:

Besides the cultural reasons, the fact that violence is employed in games has to do with the fact that it carries with it inherent tension, which is how I'm thinking about design a lot these days. Inherent tension means the very nature of the action your character takes carries with it significant and immediately recognizable risks.

A move that lets you research the lore of the world or location or person is useful for the player and the world, but it is not dramatic. This doesn't mean that the lore of the world is meaningless and ungameable, just that it is not going to drive the game forward on it's own. If, however, you need to speed-read an ancient scrolls to find the magic word that will stop the arcane death traps closing in on you, that carries with it inherent tension.

I've been moving in the post-apocalyptic design-space for this reason - it carries with it inherent tension. How do I survive? Any character need to answer that question, and thus part of "why is my character engaging in this world" is already answered. Anything in the game-world that can then be engaged with is then filtered through this inherent tension - dungeons contain various things needed for them to survive and thrive in a harsh environment, the mutated fish are eating all the algae needed to feed the nearby underwater domed city.

You'll notice that inherent tension usually means that the character succeeds, or they die. But that's not necessarily always the case - if you can't recover the food from the abandoned supermarket, you must find it elsewhere and take on more risk. In Eye of Poseidon, becoming unable to deal with the conflicts in the crew means there is a mutiny and players lose control of their immediate environment. Failing to subvert the tyrannical warlord means a thousand years of oppression.

This way of thinking helps your gaming become more driven and eventful, and means that the players are going to care about what happens. If your game, GMing style or even playing seems uneventful and dull, think about the various tensions that you can fill your design or sessions with.