Friday, March 30, 2012

Some Aberrant doodles by NJ

We've been getting into the Aberrant game and NJ is finally recovering enough to draw again (she had a sprained rib joint from an incompetent chiropractor) so she's been producing some doodles of her Aberrant character and mine. For context I'm the pretty one, she's playing the chubby guy who transforms into the giant monster. They fight crime!

Jimmy and Rubeto hang out
Jimmy and Rubeto hang out EVEN MORE
Rubeto's transformations

Sunday, March 25, 2012


So the last week has basically vanished from time. On Tuesday I came down with some kind of hideous stomach...thing. I don't know but all of a sudden it's the weekend. Now that nightmare is over I've been trying to get myself back on track mentally and physically.

So...for now just posting about some of the stuff I've been doing recently.

Gaming: The Order of Magnitude game is currently on hold while one of the players is off at cooking college. Currently I'm acting as a player for the first time in quite a while for a game of Aberrant. My Nova is Jimmy Budo a C-list martial arts movie extra and stuntman whose now-superhuman reflexes, toughness and strength have made him a superstar. He's also a moron, but still hilarious. I'm also running an off-and-on game for a group of total RPG newbies who've proved to be absolute naturals. The game is Questers of the Middle Realms using the Keep on the Plaplands adventure. I've also been recording these sessions so I'll probably post them soon as well along with the Order of Magnitude recordings.

Creative: Because one of the Order of Magnitude players proved to have a talent for funny voices me and NJ are planning to recruit him for a series of simple flash cartoons based on the Order's adventures. It should be most amusing.

Writing: Still doing some work on Battle Royale but things have slowed down a bit while I wait for NJ to recover. She'll be doing the art and since she's been unable to work recently it'll be a while till she's up for helping out again. Meanwhile DICE is still on the backburner while I am currently working on a new idea for a core RPG system called DRIVE.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Improving the World's Largest Dungeon: Region F cannot be salvaged.

So, when I originally created my new map of the WLD to give it a more linear, less sprawling layout I placed Region F after region B. F was the same "level range" as C and it fit the new layout a bit better. However, now that I'm done with Region B and I've been reading through Region F to try and work things out I've come to realize something...Region F cannot be saved and it must be deleted. 

This may seem extreme, after all both A and B were riddled with problems and I still managed to do something with them didn't I? Well, that's true...but the problems with Region F run much, much deeper. It's not a matter of tackling the issues room by room, in order to make F work I would have to basically rip it apart and start practically from scratch.For those who might want to hear me rant a bit here are my reasons:

The Warp Gates: Region F is called "The Maze" and that name certainly's full of minotaurs and it's got lots and lots of of twisting corridors and dead ends. But that wasn't enough for the designers, in addition to these standard difficulties they created a system of warp gates. Warp Gates look just like ordinary doors (except for extremely tiny symbols engraved on the doorjamb) but when you step through one it will lead you to another randomly chosen warpgate somewhere else in the dungeon. By itself that would be a pain...randomly popping the party all over a huge dungeon Region is going to be a nightmare both for the party and the DM. However there are two things that make it even worse...
   The first isn't immediately apparent because it's not part of the description of the Warp Gates found at the start of the region. But once you read each room description it tells you that once a creature passes through the door of a warp gate it will close behind them. First of all, this is pretty bad design because it doesn't address the obvious questions (what happens if someone tries to block the door or leap through before it closes for instance) but the biggest problem is that this automatically splits the party. If someone goes through they'll end up in a random location throughout the dungeon, the door will close and there's only a 1-in-10 chance that when it's re-opened it will lead to the same place. 
   If that wasn't bad enough there are side effects to using the warp gates. Anyone other than a Lawful Good character will be stricken by some unpleasant and random effect. These effects range from various status ailments (lasting anywhere from rounds to hours) up to permanent insanity, feeblemind, petrification or death. That's right, if you didn't roll up a Lawful Good character when you started this dungeon several regions back then you now have a 20% chance of being forced to save against a character-destroying effect. In fact, being killed is probably the best least that can be fixed with a raise dead spell, something a cleric might get in a level or two. If you're hit by insanity the lowest level spell that can fix that is Heal...and since this region is supposedly rated for characters of 7th to 9th level there's not much chance of anyone being able to fix you anytime soon. 
   So let me give you an example...a party of 4 adventurers...a paladin, a rogue/bard, a cleric and a wizard...come into Region F via F22. They come across a door that's a warp gate. The rogue/bard checks for traps...he notices the runes on the door but is able to tell that it's not trapped (the gate doesn't count as a trap). The wizard detects magic and reads strong conjuration...but that's all he can tell. The paladin is impatient and volunteers to test the doorway...after all they've got to go somewhere. He steps through and is transported to room F43. He's not harmed at all but the gate closes behind him. Alarmed he turns around and opens his gate which has reset itself to room F62 with no sign of his companions. Meanwhile his companions open the door (which has reset to F90) and see no sign of the paladin. They're confused and call out through the door a few times but of course receive no answer (the paladin meanwhile is waiting to see if any of his companions appear in the room with him). Finally the bard gets frustrated and steps through the door, hoping to be transported to the paladin. He steps through and the door closes again...unfortunately he made the mistake of not making a LG character so he steps through and becomes exhausted (failing the DC 20 fortitude save). The door near the cleric and wizard has set itself to F23 and the bard's door now opens to F37. So now this group is scattered through three different parts of the dungeon, separated and only the paladin can actually step through any of the doors without risking death or status ailments. Any attempts to find each other will almost certainly lead to them being more lost than before or running into dangers on their own (for instance the paladin is only two doors down from the lair of an 8-headed cryohydra). 

The warp gates alone would be a good reason to toss this entire region into the trasheap but that's not the only problem. 

Wasted Space: On top of confusing layout and random teleporters-of-doom Region F is just mostly...nothing. A quick survey of the region shows at least sixty empty rooms. And I don't mean rooms that just are marked as "nothing here but bones and dust. Nothing of interest". I mean rooms that are not even marked at all, not given any sort of description or notation. For example if you come in from one of the southern doors of Region F you could wander through 8 or 10 rooms before you reach one that has a description. Empty rooms connect to empty rooms and it's all just so...dumb. I mean obviously not every room is going to be full of treasure or monsters...but at least give us some sort of idea what we're looking at when the party opens a door. Even if you've got to mark several rooms as identical. This is just sloppy unfinished work. 
  And of course those rooms that are not empty are going to probably be full of minotaurs. Minotaurs after minotaurs after minotaurs. If you thought Regions A and B were uncreative with their hordes of darkmantles and goblins then prepare to see the light because they're veritable thriving biospheres compared to F. Almost every single encounter in F is could count the other encounters here on a d12. And the other creatures mostly just seem to be thrown in at random when the designers couldn't fit them into other parts of the dungeon. A cryohydra here, a sphinx over there, a raskshasa (massively overpowered at CR 12) and some harpies for good measure. This leads to the final problem. 

Bad Encounters/Bad Writing/Bad Editing: The endless hordes of minotaurs are not only painfully boring...but they're senseless as well. The minotaurs are all over the dungeon, which means that they're using the warp gates. Of course several are noted as having warpkeys which allow the gates to be set to specific locations...but these keys don't protect from the lethal side effects of the gates...why are there not petrified or insane minotaurs all over the dungeon? Like the other parts of the WLD the editing is addition to the bad encounter conditions there's a whole lot of incorrectly labeled CRs. And of course there's the ever-present question of just what is the purpose of this area? Randomly teleporting doors? If this is meant to be a prison why not just...I don't know...not allow your prisoners to wander the halls to be randomly teleported in the first place (And wouldn't having escaping demons teleported at random across the region make it harder to track them down and recapture them). Even if we assume that these teleporting doors are more reliably than locked doors why not have the teleporters just loop back into the prisoner's own cell so they can't ever escape? And why, why WHY are we punishing those who chose to make their heroes Neutral Good or Chaotic Good (or any variety of Non-good for that matter. Shouldn't that merit a warning at the start of the book?). Heck, not even all of the celestials were lawful good, and not even all of them were celestials (inevitables were part of the dungeon's construction as well). It's just painfully bad.

If Region F has taught me one thing it's to appreciate Regions A and B...hopefully the rest of the WLD looks better in comparison as well because F is depressingly bad. It is not worth the effort to save and it's staying in the garbage. 

I'll look over the map and see which region to swap out for F. Probably C or E depending on what seems to work the best.