If you want "gritty" with a D&D-esque fantasy roleplaying game system you should REALLY be running Lamentations of the Flame Princess, not 5th edition.
This is why I think the edition-warring between Pathfinder and D&D 5 is bloody stupid. Like, people have had the gall to ask me, "TealDeer, why on earth do you write/create for Pathfinder when it isn't your favorite tabletop system?"
1. Because I enjoy money and it's way easier to freelance for Paizo than it is for Wizards
In truth D&D 5 does what I WANTED D&D 4 to do: it presents a streamlined, simplified version of the game that's great for introducing new players to the concept of tabletop fantasy role-playing in this particular genre. The emphasis in the rulebooks on improvisation and DM fiat is what brings 5th above and beyond 4th; 4th was so rigid that I think the continual comparisons it got to an MMORPG were actually fair. The DM barely had anything to adjudicate in 4th because everything was so regimented (as an aside, this is why I think the 4th edition board games were actually rather nice boardgamifications of D&D). 5 is... 5 is like a good old Western in some ways. You can play fast and loose with the rules, things are simpler, folks is folks.
Meanwhile, Pathfinder exists for those who want very fine modular control over every aspect of the game, and people who really want to have a clear, pre-existing rule for just about everything, but still want to have the flexibility in creation and play that 4th edition didn't allow. Is it too complicated sometimes for cranky ol' me sitting in my porch rocking chair to want to play on a regular basis? Sure! But I am so glad it exists for people who like that style of gameplay, and even though I like a simpler game, Pathfinder gives me a huge font of inspiration for how to adjudicate things in other games. Heck, just the other day I was coming up with rules for taming wild animals in 5th edition, and I turned to Pathfinder to get ideas on how to balance those rules.
/ramble ramble ramble TL;DR: D&D5 and Pathfinder sit at opposite ends of a fantasy RPG spectrum, and that's awesome and great for the hobby.
The way that a lot of my friends deal with HP is that HP isn't so much the actual damage you take, but your combat endurance. They supplement this with a Death and Dismemberment table. Instead of going into negative HP when you hit 0, they roll on a table. Bad result (usually like, a 1) means you're insta-gibbed. Good result (it's usually a d10, so, a 10) is you're at 0 HP but totally fine. Everything in the middle is stuff ranging from "You lose an arm / are permanently crippled" to "You break a bone and are ineffective at X things for Y days."
To put a counterpoint to this... my mom hasn't played D&D since 1983, and she'd only played like... two or three sessions, so I was essentially re-introducing her to the game. For her, starting out as a Ranger with very few options was way better. She was already super nervous about trying the game because she doesn't like games that are too complex (which is ironic because as a kid SHE was the one who introduced ME to Ultima Underworld and Might and Magic...) and scared she wouldn't understand the rules. It was the ENTIRE reason she never played 3.5 or Pathfinder with me -- I'd try to help her create a character and she'd go "This is just too complicated." and leave.
In this case, creating a character was much simpler, and it meant she had a lot of time to ease into learning the game without having to worry about too many options early on. She picked a race, a class, some skills, and a background, and was good to go. I also think Lost Mines of Phandelver is a wonderfully designed adventure in this regard too: it starts out with something simple (go punch some goblins to rescue your buddy!) and then slowly ramps up the complexity of each area (NPC interaction, ruined mansion, ruined castle, outdoor open-ended adventure, REALLY BIG DUNGEON OF DOOOOOM), so newer players can ease into the game slowly without feeling too overwhelmed.
As a veteran player, is it annoying to have to wait to 3rd level in a lot of cases to get the cool stuff? Yeah! But you have to remember, this game isn't just for veterans, and any game lives and dies by its casual audience and how many new players it can get into the hobby.
Monica Marlowe wrote:
And they didn't have these shiny ~terrain maps~, they had maps in NON-PHOTO BLUE printed on CARDSTOCK
THE BLUE BOX DIDN'T EVEN HAVE DICE. WE CUT OUT LITTLE CARDBOARD TABS AND PUT THEM IN CUPS AND SHOOK THEM UP AND PICKED OUT NUMBERS
Oh right, I forgot to mention: having the Criminal background lets my Warlock act as a poor man's Rogue in a lot of cases. He'll never be as good as a straight Rogue at sneaking, backstabbing, pick-pocketing, and the like, but he CAN and DOES do those things.
Had a similar case in a game I DM'd with a Cleric with the Criminal background. That did not save him when he used Disguise Self to infiltrate a Goblin camp... and totally did not know how to speak Goblin.
Petty Alchemy wrote:
What would you change about Warforged to make them more interesting?
I think a lot of the light touch on Warforged (both here and in the original playtest) is that people are afraid of making them overpowered. Which to me is odd, since the Dragonborn beat the bejesus out of Warforged in terms of power scale right now.
*e* that and I've never cared much about mechanical balance, so much as I have cared about leeway for the DM to go "Oh no you don't do the thing" which this edition seems to emphasize above all else.
Thanks to Searing Light, my groups have taken to calling any cleric who takes it a Laser Cleric.
speaking of customization... you really, really can go a long way with this system, WITHOUT having to delve into the headache that often results in 3.5/PF from sitting there going "do I take THIS feat or THAT? do I use THIS skill or THAT? do I plan a dip into THIS class or go straight for the PRC or THIS archetype and do I use THIS racial blah blah blah"
I made a Fey-Pact Warlock with the Criminal background the other day for a pick-up convention game, and he feels ENTIRELY different from every other Warlock I've seen or played. I didn't bother taking Eldritch Blast -- he's a Wood Elf, so I took True Strike instead, and use it with his longbow. ALL of his spells and Invocations thus far have been non-combat, things like Charm, Sleep, etc. The game we're in is very, VERY heavy on social interaction, so thus far he's been a powerhouse... and again, he feels ENTIRELY different than the blasting-focused Star Pact Warlock I played with in a Lost Mines intro adventure, both mechanically AND RP-wise. It's always wonderful when roleplaying choices not only align with your actual mechanical choices, but ALSO don't completely bone you if you picked something technically sub-optimal.
I'm either going to try to sell it to ENWorld's new 5e magazine, or just release it as a free PDF when it's done :) I'm buried under a copyediting job right now though x_X Either way, I'll send you a message when it's done. I do like some of the MECHANICS Wizards introduced for handling Infusions, I just think there can be more flair there.
I also agree with you on ALL other points. I've played every edition of D&D -- I was introduced to the game through my mom's old Blue Box -- and this one is my favorite. It combines the flexibility of 3rd / OGL with the streamlined simplicity of the original 1st edition stuff. Other folks in other threads have pointed out other reasons this edition is so good. I'm just so worried that they're just not going to bother to support it, simply because for Wizards and Hasbro, it isn't a cash cow or a priority at all :(
Also as a lady in the tabletop industry it grinds my gears to see that they have NO WOMEN on that core design team :( That's a place Paizo has always done so much better, mostly because Lisa Stevens.
SmiloDan -- the Proficiency to AC is an interesting idea :|a I think 5th got rid of the concept of bonus stacking though, like, there's no typed bonuses (like Insight vs Natural) there's just straight up armor bonuses. You COULD probably just say "this bonus doesn't stack with any other armor bonuses though."
I'm acquaintances with Keith Baker over on Google Plus, I may poke him a bit about that idea (he's kind of busy with his new game though)
Monica: Oh jeez D: I hope everything goes well for your dad.
Re: conventions, one of the nice things about doing any sort of freelance RPG work whatsoever that you're paid for is that you can write conventions off your taxes ;) It's how I afforded two PAXes and a MAGfest last year.
Speaking of, I'll be Enforcing at PAX East this year unless I land a really good job between now and March 8, so if you're going, feel free to say hi! I'm always up for tabletop games of any stripe :) Uh, I still need a hotel room though ._.
I'm also trying to make GenCon this year, but that's a difficult thing. The volunteer process is like 500x more complicated than PAX.
I only made it into Round 2 as an Alternate, as you all know. That means nobody got to see my map.
However, I really want feedback on it! This was my first time drawing a for real game map that wasn't just something I scribbled together right before a game based on an existing map, so I really want to improve and get better... so that next year I can kick butt and take names :)
What I want from you: Please critique my map as though it were an actual entry (if you have the time!)
I'm not going to put in commentary yet: I'm going to treat this like a for real entry, so, for the next... let's say a week, I will not publicly clarify anything or respond to any critiques with more than a vague "Thank you for your comment."
The "maybe more?" Is that I'm also considering putting in this thread a revised version of my magic item, along with my build process for that item and backstory... but that won't be till we're done with the map.
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, JENSEN'S MAP ENTRY:
Thank you in advance for your feedback and comments!
If Psion is a subclass, it will be of the Sorcerer, since Sorcerers already have power points, essentially. I'm planning on making a quick-and-dirty Sorcerer path of that eventually...
As for the Artificer, I couldn't agree more. I'm actually in the process of (slowly, between pro comissions) creating a 5e Artificer class. I do think this version brings in some cool mechanics that I'm going to steal for the base class, but it won't be ~lol wizard subclass~ that's for sure.
The three paths I'm going to have for Artificer will be Golemancer (make construct friends! whee!), Alchemist (based on the Pathfinder class), and Tinkerer (MacGuyver meets Jackie Chan).
But yeah, overall I found the Artificer sorta disappointing. This also makes me nervous that they're never really going to release splat books. Combined with the news that there are now only 8 designers/writers TOTAL working on D&D (and NO WOMEN on that team, wtf) , I have a lot of reason to be nervous :\ I get the feeling that Hasbro doesn't care about D&D beyond having an IP to sit on.
I wrote a big rant on Tumblr about the thing I most want to see. I won't repeat the whole thing here, so here's a link:
TL;DR -- For the love of all things holy, release PDFs.
I know people have been on Mike Mearls on this already, but seriously, Wizards, get with the program.
I'm not kidding about the offer on the bottom, either; I'm a professional layout artist (I work with AdventureAWeek right now), and I would do it for that level of terrible rate just to get it DONE.
Ken Pawlik wrote:
Unlikely as I may be to get them, and assuming there's nothing in the license that prevents them from being produced, I'd like to see 5e converted collections of the original three Dungeon magazine adventure paths: Shackled City, Age of Worms, and Savage Tide. Other than that I'm content with the current slow release of materials.
If the license allows it, I'd love to see this. If it doesn't... I'd be happy to make a free PDF conversion under Fair Use laws ;) Conversion is my favorite thing to do in the world.
Same with a 5e Ravenloft conversion.
Monica Marlowe wrote:
Did you all see the news piece about projecting D&D maps?
haha we used to check out computer labs in college and do this with the whiteboards and projectors
AHEAD OF OUR TIME
*e* Not really an "interactive" map in that case though, it was just me as the DM scribbling around with a dry erase pen
still easier than using LEGO minis like we were doing.
Puzzles are also really, really hard to do in a way that don't feel arbitrary and stupid. I remember in the First Steps PFS adventure I played Monday (it's been 3 years since I played Pathfinder, figured I should refresh myself on the rules if I'm going to continue to freelance with 3pp Pathfinder publishers), there is a puzzle where this jerk randomly locks you in his basement and forces you to solve a really stupid puzzle involving 3 boxes. I got frustrated and spent the entire time glaring at the DM and trying to find ways to subvert the puzzle.
There are two types of truly good puzzles. The first is when Stupid B@$@&~!$ Puzzles are part of the buy-in to the adventure. White Plume Mountain and Tomb of Horrors are good examples of this: every puzzle in there is absolute bull, but you know, going in, that these are Absolute Bull dungeons made by Crazy Jerk Wizards. Plus, there's ways to subvert / hijack those puzzles to your own needs.
The second is when the puzzle naturally evolves from the environment. These are both much harder to create but also much more rewarding in the end. Good examples might be solving a symbolic language created by local thieves to try to find their hideout, working with a sluice in a dam to unleash a flood to take out a monster (this is especially good bc the party thus has two options: solve a puzzle, OR fight a monster).
Another good example: in the same First Steps adventure, there's an old rotting warehouse the party is supposed to investigate to get a box out of it. I believe the adventure is written so that you have to deal with a combat encounter, a trap, and a puzzle. You have the Quest Item, a crate full of paperwork on a precarious perch of two boards set over a huge rotted hole in the floor, a winch for moving crates in and out of the warehouse, a bunch of Dire Rats with disease to attack the players (maybe some more stuff, there were coffins in there...) and a trap consisting of rotted planks around the hole that give way if you try to get the box. I THINK the way you're SUPPOSED to solve this room is fight the rats, find the trap, and use the winch to get the box.
I didn't even find out about this setup. I looked out on the water and went, "Hey how high above the water is this warehouse at low tide?" "Eh, 15 feet I'd say." "Cool, we take the boat tied up next to the warehouse at low tide an row under it." "You find a giant hole with the box on two planks above it." "... THAT WAS TOO EASY. THIS IS A TRAP."
And it was a trap just... not for those of us under the box. Our Halfling Arcanist climbed in through the window instead, because she hadn't talked to the rest of the party and didn't know we were doing this (she'd wandered off alone. sigh.) She was how I found out about the interior layout and probable EXPECTED solution, because she accidentally set off the trap... dropping the box right into our boat (and... knocking my poor gunslinger into the water, where she started screaming MY BLACK POWDER MY BLACK POWDER NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO)
This is a puzzle that:
1. Has more than one solution. You can use the winch, OR take a boat under the hole and grab the box that way.
THAT is a GOOD puzzle. It makes sense in context, it has multiple solutions, and multiple failure modes that aren't total gotchas (I imagine if you got the box out of the water fast enough, for instance, you could get the papers. Setting it on fire, uh, well, that's your own fault).
Meanwhile, "Lol a crazy guy locks you in a vault with random hidden keys and some boxes :V " is arbitrary and rude and boring.
So... TL;DR -- puzzles are REALLY HARD. I do think they'd make a good RPGS challenge, but Owen pointed out reasons they don't always work... and again, super, super difficult. I could see creating a puzzle encounter instead of a monster encounter for a penultimate round though.
Yeah, I'm already doing layout work for Adventure A Week (though I gotta talk to them about rates soon...) and THIS VERY DAY I'm going to be pitching some 5e stuff to ENWorld. I'm actually considering heavily re-vamping my magic item for 5th edition and handing that over (if... that's allowed. It's enough of a revamp that while the theme will be the same the name and mechanics are going to be very different, and, well, different rule system).
I'm also hoping that Judy Bauer gets back to me soon-ish about copy editing work for Paizo. I should probably shoot her an email this week about that. She said she was interested and I responded, but, well, y'know. Peeps be busy.
*e* My thing is, for the past two years, I've tried desperately to land A Stable Respectable Office Job, and that's only ended in stress, pain, and tears for me. Trying to do Respectable Office Work with a learning disability whose symptoms can be boiled down to "Does not behave like a respectable worker and can't focus during meetings" doesn't make for a stable career. Doing freelance RPG work isn't paying me enough to really live on yet, but it's so much more rewarding and with far less risk of Terrible Stuff happening because I zoned out during a meeting or had to ask the same question sixteen times or got distracted for an hour. When you're a freelancer, no one knows you're secretly a kitten with a keyboard as long as you get the work in by the deadline.
My pit crew are all deliberately people who don't come to this forum (except the esteemed Dyson Logos) for this very reason. Hell, a LOT of them don't even play Pathfinder. Many of them hate Pathfinder. In my opinion, a good entry should stand on its own, without explanation. I am still super tempted to give the backstory and explanation for the design of my magic item, to defend it in a huff... but that's not the point. A magic item should stand on its own without backstory, explanation, or clarification.
The same is true of a map. For a great map, even a map of a specific, already named Golarion location, the map should be something that anyone using any d20 / D&D / fantasy RPG system should be able to pick up and use for their home game off the bat without knowing, say, Chelaxian politics. It should be something that any cartographer could pick up and be able to turn into a fine full-page glossy map without having to have to email you and go "uh what is this symbol? is that a hallway or a wall?" It doesn't have to be super fancy for that, it just has to be clean and clear. This is why I have people who don't play Pathfinder look at my maps -- if my map could work just as well in Lamentations of the Flame Princess or D&D 4e, then I've done my job.
I neither need NOR WANT my pit crew to come in and explain anything. If someone misinterprets my map, that's on me to make it better next time.
If I get my submission done before 5 (eek) and if someone else isn't done yet, I hereby offer my Photoshop services to make sure your images are correct.
Once I'm done, I will be at MAGFest. If anyone else is there, please feel free to buy me food (I'm trying to quit drinking so no booze, please). I'll be dressed as Tuxedo Mask tonight, Razputin Aquato tomorrow, and (a very small, feminine, and not at all Jack Black like) Eddie Riggs on Sunday.
Monica Marlowe wrote:
nooo it's in my nature to panic ;_;
but I do have 24 (well, 23 now) more hours. And even enough time to fit 8 hours of sleep and some food in. Still. Failing Will save vs Anxiety attack (the DC for that is like 24 in my defense)
Taylor Hubler wrote:
I am also wondering about this. Say, on a dungeon map, having numbered rooms and being like
2. Goblin bathroom
3. Much cleaner Hobgoblin bathroom
4. Cage for T H E O W L B E A R
5. Banana storage
*edit* Also, tips on indicating elevation would be good...
Jeff Lee wrote:
Tomorrow morning, 9 AM, I start my research crunch to figure out wtf I'm gonna draw. Thursday, drawing crunch as I draw the thing. Thursday night, turn to pit crew, request critique. Friday, polish, submit.
I'm burning rubber and every candle I have. I have no fear. I know the mindkiller. I gaze into their eyes, and say, ye, I am still here. Victory will be mine.
(I can't help the anxiety sometimes, unfortunately. My health is terrible. The key, though, is knowing when to give ground to the beast, and when to hit back. Hit back: tomorrow morning, 9 AM est. It dies. I drink its blood. I continue. I endure, and in enduring, grow strong)
(it may be late & i may be sleepy)
Before I go to bed to prep for tomorrow's grind of "oh god I gotta read the Inner Sea guide" and "oh god I gotta make a map..."
For my fellow superstars! The damn song that's been in my head since I entered this bloody contest ;)
If you are what you say you are, a superstar
Yeah, uh, a fresh cool young Lu
Did you improve on the design? Did you do something new?
I can't concentrate due to anxiety, so... intro post, I suppose.
Hi, I'm Jensen Toperzer. I am the 4th alternate. I'm currently a freelance copy editor, editor, and layout specialist because I can't seem to get a steady job (LF JOB). I have a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing: Nonfiction. I'm a PAX Enforcer. In the past, I've worked for ZeniMax Online Studios on The Elder Scrolls Online (as a QA Functionality Tester, nothing glamorous) and Wired Magazine on a lot of things. My life is very strange.
It's been two years since I last played Pathfinder, so I think for that I didn't do so bad.
I first encountered tabletop RPGs when I found my mom's copy of the Holmes Basic set (3rd edition, 6th printing, published 1979 with Keep on the Borderlands instead of In Search of the Unknown)somewhere in the attic. The set was complete with dice, my mom's miniature, and two of her old character sheets, one of which was on the back of a playbill for a summer stock theater company she was in. She only ever played one game, to her knowledge, on tour with Oliver, and loved it so much that she bought the boxed set... only to find that she didn't have the time to play, and none of her friends were interested.
I immediately fell in love. I wanted to play so badly, but I didn't have any friends who were interested at the time, and my mom was too busy (she's a theater professor and an actor). Eventually though, in high school, I finally found a group of people through a summer camp who wanted to play 2nd edition. My first character ever was a 2nd edition Wild Mage named Blayze Auren.
I then picked up 3rd edition, and later 3.5, which is when the bulk of my playing took place, during college. My original DM decided that he hated 3.5 edition and stuck to 2nd. When 4e came out, my friends mostly played that, though some turned to Pathfinder. I dabbled in both, but then Graduate School Happened. I managed to get in a few more Pathfinder games, before getting sucked into the Old School Renaissance by said old "I hate 3.5" DM. I actually had a LOT of fun playing old school style D&D.
After leaving graduate school, I landed an amazing 6 month internship with Wired Magazine, my absolute dream job. After those 6 months... I couldn't hold down a steady job at all. A combination of dreadful family tragedy with health problems meant that I just couldn't deal with the pressures of the workplace. After my most recent disaster with trying to be A Good Office Worker, the very same "I don't like 3.5" DM suggested that I try to apply for the Paizo Developer position (he's since softened his views. he still doesn't like d20 games, but he respects the OGL and the system for what it is. Also, he loves 5th edition, so there you are).
I did, and... I failed! But Wes Schneider was kind enough to say that he felt I had talent and he hoped I stuck around. He sent me a few leads on freelance work. He suggested I go for RPG Superstar.
So... I went ahead and tried. Like I said, I haven't played Pathfinder in two years, and even when I did play it, it wasn't for very long. But as I said in other threads, the whole key to being a prolific freelancer is quickly adapting to rules you DON'T know... so I went for it anyway. I didn't expect to make it past cull--I knew I'd screwed up my formatting & certain other aspects of my item. I CERTAINLY didn't expect to be an Alternate. Yet here I am, typing to avoid the terror of reading through Pathfinder books to try to figure out what on earth I'm going to map.
I've been slowly picking up some freelance gigs in the meantime. I most recently re-did the layout of Adventure-A-Week's A08: The Search for the Tri-Stone. The new edition of A09: Rogue Wizard should be coming out... soon (some issues with the printer occurred). In terms of my OSR work, I edited Deep Carbon Observatory (though ugh, the original authors kinda un-did a bunch of my edits, and somehow misspelled my name in the final product x_X) and Under the Waterless Sea. Currently, I'm hoping to become a freelance copyeditor with Paizo (I did hear back from their freelance coordinator re: rates, but not yet on if they have any work for me. Here's hoping!) I might have a few other freelance gigs coming up, and I have some articles for ENWorld in the cooker (hopefully my editor will understand that Because Superstar, I'm going to be late...)
My screenname is TealDeer because I'm excessively long-winded. How could you tell???
TL;DR -- hello i am long-winded freelancer cranky grognard.
Also in regards to the earlier post complaining that "but I don't know Golarion!"
I don't know Golarion either. I've played in that setting a grand total of once -- some kind of snake temple, I was a half-orc savage skald from some northish icy place or other, I had to bail everyone out bc somehow this party kept getting killed.
But, as a budding freelance editor, layout designer, and writer, I can tell you that one of the things you HAVE to do as a freelancer is very quickly adapt to the home campaign setting of whoever you're working for. As an editor, you have to know the proper spellings of blah blah continent and whosiwatsy the Grand Poobah. As a writer you MUST know that THIS place is the vaguely middle eastern themed desert land and THAT ONE is the German gothic spot. You COULD put a German Gothic castle in the desert land but by god you need a kickass reason (The more I think about it the more weirdly cool that juxtaposition is but man you'd better have a good reason)
That goes beyond tabletop RPGs and into... I mean basically everything you do. Every company you work for, even if you're not working with their IP, is going to have different practices, different styles, different expectations on turnaround time. Some companies give you a bunch of material to read and a nice long month (of... not getting paid >>; ) to do it in. Others go "Kk I need you to edit 100 pages by tomorrow, sound good?" and you gotta figure out, on your own, that this character is in fact female and that the author accidentally using the wrong pronouns is just them being bad at grammar (TRUE STORY. Could NOT figure out character's gender till page 3 on a novel editing job, realized that it was bc author just was bad at using pronouns in general & this wasn't a genderqueer character or a magical gender-changing character).
So yeah. Tight deadlines, abrupt changes in what the author wants ("hey I know you just spent 12 hours working at what came out to $4 an hour on this print layout but I forgot to tell you that we need a hyperlinked digital version too can you do that?"), suddenly needing to absorb vast amounts of information... that's just freelancing.
Another friend just posted a bunch more links about map and dungeon design, so I'mma link his links! This is all more about area design and stocking and less about drawing, stuff like why do you make rooms the way you do and what do you put in them?
This is all about dungeon design, not about map design in general, so it won't help if we have to do, say, a town, city, or region. But it still has a lot of good advice about design -- like how while a lot of real-world buildings might be functional, they're also kinda boring, long series of identical rooms and whatnot.
I also found this while browsing around today:
This is GREAT. It gives you nine ways to arrange five rooms... and then ideas for more. The thing doesn't have to be a dungeon, it can be literally anything with five rooms, and the five rooms can be any shape... it's suggestions for how you CONNECT those rooms, and why you'd connect those rooms in that particular way. This is invaluable! I especially love the example at the end, which shows just how unique you really CAN make a 5 room dungeon with a little tweaking.
From my own perspective, I think that looking at theme park design is a great way to think about dungeon and area design -- even town design in games. A theme park is designed to move guests to the Cool S&+! in ways that entertain and entice them. Add a bit of playground design to that too: what's fun to climb on? What creates interesting interactive spaces? What gives guests neat ways to interact with the park, with the staff? And then... utilities and usefulness. Where's the food? the toilets? Is there a backstage? What's back there? What areas will have multiple ways to get there (thing that annoys me to death in modern dungeon design: completely linear structures where there's only ONE WAY to get to places like THE KITCHEN or THE DINING ROOM) and what areas will have only ONE WAY in (and then the inverse, bank vaults or treasure rooms with multiple, non-secret entrances).
And then beyond all that, beyond practicality and funneling, think: what's fun for PLAYERS? and, what's CHALLENGING for players? It doesn't even have to be fancy: maybe you've designed a nice ornamental garden and you put in a cool arch bridge over a pond, with stepping stones across the pond.
This gives you a body of water, stepping stones, and a high place for ranged characters to snipe people (or for ranged NPCs to do the same!) all of which opens up neat tactical possibilities.
!!! I SEE MY ITEM!!!!!!
Which means I survived the cull!?
Also haha whoops I just noticed some formatting errors ;-; Nothing that actually breaks Template-Fu, just little things that I would have done differently.
But hey, it's up against a really mediocre item so hey little item of mine have an upvote.
Woah. That item is so simple and so elegant despite the name basically being a joke on an existing item, but like. I'm surprised that this thing hasn't existed in PF or even D&D in general before, especially given Gygax & Arenson's fondness for stupid puns and self-referential garbage.
like I was expecting a pure joke but no this is actually just so simple and elegant without being boring.
*e* Also I LOVE LOVE that it describes what it can do WITHOUT being like "this gives a +5 bonus to basketweaving." as a DM I would absolutely give ad-hoc bonuses to a whole slew of actions for using this item, but it doesn't lock you into what those bonuses are. So many possibilities!
so I'mma talk about backstories here but actually offer advice along with talking about backstories.
To people who have put backstories in your items...
DO: come up with a backstory. That can often inform how the item works and its weird quirks. I know with my item, it not only has a backstory, it has a specific time and place it's created in and a specific use it is for. This caused it to have one ability on it that on reflection I PROBABLY should have taken out for simplicity's sake, but it really helped unify the theme.
Once you've removed the backstory from your item, take another look at it. Is it boring now? Does it now make zero sense whatsoever because its abilities are so disparate and weird? If so, MAKE A NEW ITEM.
When I was making my item, the first draft was boring and didn't make sense without the backstory, so I re-worked it with the newfound extra space to make it more universal and more interesting. It now has no backstory, though my hope is that its abilities would inspire a DM to come up with a backstory for it.
DO NOT: include the backstory in the item's description. If your item's abilities are thematic and interesting, they should evoke a backstory in the DM's mind, and give them an idea of a place in their campaign. Maybe it's not the same backstory or place as your original idea, and that's OK, because a truly Superstar item would be one that many (maybe not all, but many) DMs would love to use, and gives them new and crazy ideas for how such a device would fit into their universe.
DO NOT: make an item of which there is only one. Maybe your item is sort of rare or created for specific purposes, or invented by somebody, but there shouldn't be only one, that's not how magic items in Pathfinder work. If you want there to be ONLY OOOONNNNNEEEE go back and play Labyrinth Lord / Lamentations of the Flame Princess / Dungeon Crawl Classics, or jump ahead and play 5th Edition D&D.
TL;DR -- backstory OK in drafting process, no good in final product. With a lot of these items if there's backstory I've been copy-pasting out the actual mechanics into a txt file and finding that without the explanation, it's super boring.
Also also: I am not super hyper familiar with Golarion and Pathfinder mechanics (obv I have played the game and played in Golarion, I'm just not a super expert). Referencing Golarion / using PF mechanics = good. Making an item that only someone who has memorized every single splatbook Paizo has ever released would understand or care about = bad. If a totally new player can't pick up an item and find it cool / interesting, I honestly don't think it's a good item. Which means that if I look at your item and find my eyes glazing over because you've referenced 90 different obscure mechanics that only work for multiclass bard summoner alchemist half-android half-kyton space paladins, I'm not going to care what it is.
I dunno about anyone else, but I for one have been sad and unemployed.
On a more serious note, Google Plus. I know everyone makes fun of it for being where ~boo hoo nobody is~, but there's an ENORMOUS community of DIY game designers there. It's where I've learned everything I know about DMing and game design, and where I got most of these links.
Reason being, G+ has built-in video chat (Hangouts) that's MUCH more stable than Skype, AND a bunch of people have written Roll20-like tools for Hangouts, so people gravitated there as an easy place to set up, plan, organize, and run games. Zak Smith of "I Hit It With My Axe" fame is there (I've actually played games with him via G+), as is James Raggi of Death Frost Doom and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
This group is a great place to get started. 6,000 members!
One odder thought: if you want a Truly Weird map that doesn't necessarily conform to the average castle or dungeon, try looking up modern museum floor plans. The great part about museums is that they're designed around "encounters": funneling people into specific areas where they're going to Do a Thing. This leads to some really cool spoke and hub designs that can make for good times... and heck, an adventure set in a museum would be pretty cool on its own. Off the top of my head, I can already see the National Museum of Natural History and the National Botanic Garden as having great layouts -- both have a central area but with a spoke-and-hub design made to move people in a circular pattern throughout the space but with ways for them to branch off and take unorthodox routes -- GREAT for an adventuring party. Both also have multi levels and weird features. Also: UNDEAD DINOSAURS! DEADLY PLANTS!!!!
Same thing for theme parks and zoos. Disney especially has the concept of funneling people to The Interesting / Important Thing while allowing them the illusion of choice down to a science.
(wow are there rules for reanimated taxedermied animals? would those be undead or constructs? i guess it'd depend on the animation method, negative energy vs animate object...)
Irony: I have drawn very few maps in my life. This is all me trying to learn how to do the thing :P
Holtzman shields and Lasguns. Interaction causes a nuclear explosion.
I like it.
Here's a whole bunch of resources I got when I asked my friends for assistance. Warning: ENORMOUS LINK DUMP INCOMING.
Draw Maps like Dyson: Dyson Logos has made a series of simple tutorials for very clean map drawing. Even if you have zero artistic talent, you can learn from his techniques and use these simple tricks to create a clean, easy to read map.
Jaquaying the Dungeon This link is pretty specific to dungeon design, but I think it can be helpful for ANY map where you intend to have encounters. Jaquaying is the art of ensuring that your dungeon (or whatever) is non-linear, consisting of looping paths and places where real player choice is involved, making it so that there's more than one path from beginning to end. This is a really common pitfall I see, even in past Superstar contests, where your encounter map is just one straight line funnel from start to finish. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, learn from these tips, and don't be afraid of letting players go the "wrong" way around... by making sure there ARE no wrong ways to traverse a map.
The name refers to legendary map designer Paul Jaquays.
Melan Diagrams Related to Jaquaying are Melan Diagrams. Named for their creator, a Melan Diagram is a highly abstracted layout of your area that shows you the space not by its physical dimensions, but by encounter locations and places where player choice will change how they approach each encounter and in what order said encounters are discovered. Again, this is a really good way to ask yourself "Is my map dynamic and unique, or did I just create a straight line to railroad the party to my Really Awesome Thing at the End?"
Newbie GM.com tutorial on drawing a map using GIMP This one is more technical and more on the drawing than the design side.
Fantastic Maps drawing tutorials This one is, again, more drawing than design, but they're much simpler tips focused more on clarity, and there's other advice in there that applies even to basic maps (like, "yo your location names should be clear, dude")
One Page Dungeon Less tutorials, more examples. One Page Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin: one page dungeons. Really great source of inspiration and ideas.
Random Cave Generator (Warning: PDF) I would not suggest using any random generator to make your final RPG Superstar Entry (random is not usually superstar) but this PDF would be a great way to practice. More importantly, it gives definitions and terms for various cave features you can use as inspiration for what to put in your caverns beyond "uhhh it's a cave???" You KNOW you want aragonite trees and cave blisters in your next cavern.
Map tips from Roleplaying Tips: Some of these don't apply, like laminating your maps, but experimenting without using a grid (and LATER applying one) and the mapping software links are pretty great.
Adventure Essentials: Inns, Taverns, and Restaurants: this one is more about location design overall, but it has great suggestions for how to flesh out standard urban locations.
Also, yes, I know a lot of these are focused on Old Skool aesthetics and design principles; this is because most people I play with are Old Skool Renaissance types and we play a lot of 1st and 2nd edition-ish stuff. Even so, this stuff has stuck around for a reason.
38. Enjoy "working" at a game store.
You're not in the DC area, are you...?
or maybe all gaming stores look the same :|
45. Queue for League of Legends matches (eyyy I'm LucidSeraph someone fite me) (or don't, I'm like level 7)