Learning from the Masters, Again

Learning from the Masters, Again

Wherein we discuss Supplement V: Carcosa and the Vornheim City Guide.

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The Shadows Lengthen in Carcosa

Heh. I wonder how many people will get that. And of them, how many read the Robert W. Chambers work?

Carcosa intrigues me.
I may need to pick up a copy.

Also I have missed these articles greatly. Welcome back.

Oh and *raises hand*
I started a campaign about a month ago.
I am trying to add content from "The Starfairers Handbook" to a 3.5 game.
4/5 of my players will be surprised.

But I am having trouble with executing the transition. I put a lot into the initial world and hesitate to offer the expanded universe to my players.

Zak is a great guy (he marries pornstars and doesn't afraid of anything) and his blog is full of little nuggets of wisdom. (Hm, it's the second time today I talked about 'nuggets of wisdom'. The last time I was being ironic though.)

He had a great guide for 'scoring' an RPG supplement in which it lost points for fluff. I loved it. 'Lose a point if you write down that a place is a cathedral, then explain what a cathedral is.'

I'm torn about picking it up, because I love his almost-roguelike way of setting up elements on the fly and urban crawling in general, but I hate classic medieval fantasy. I might pick it up anyway, since I bet a lot of it can be transferred painlessly to a different setting.

I like the ideas presented, but I was hoping for something more than a review after such a long hiatus. Nice to see that Check for Traps is back, though!

Yay Check for Traps is back! I was beginning to think this article series was going away.

I think it is interesting to see the different styles at work here.

These books are aimed at creating a generic but playable setting. If you are just going to do some dungeon crawling, it doesn't really matter that your aristocrats are randomized, and so are the things you find on people's bodies.

But for a more narrative based story, all these things are important and specific. That aristocrat isn't random, he's the son of John of Feymere, the liege lord of the elf-heretics. On his person, if you choose to slay him or manage a pick pocket, is a medallion that opens the tomb of ur-Haraza. Or maybe it's just a picture of his father giving the players a target for a clairevoyance spell. Or maybe its a note describing his father's insane plan that caused him to banish himself... afterall he needed to save his younger sister that he cares for.

These are different things, different styles.

Zechnophobe:
I think it is interesting to see the different styles at work here.

These books are aimed at creating a generic but playable setting. If you are just going to do some dungeon crawling, it doesn't really matter that your aristocrats are randomized, and so are the things you find on people's bodies.

But for a more narrative based story, all these things are important and specific. That aristocrat isn't random, he's the son of John of Feymere, the liege lord of the elf-heretics. On his person, if you choose to slay him or manage a pick pocket, is a medallion that opens the tomb of ur-Haraza. Or maybe it's just a picture of his father giving the players a target for a clairevoyance spell. Or maybe its a note describing his father's insane plan that caused him to banish himself... afterall he needed to save his younger sister that he cares for.

These are different things, different styles.

Randomness doesn't necessarily preclude a narrative. All those options you noted could be the result of a dice roll. Then suddenly you have randomness adding to your game world. A narrative based story could be driven by randomness.

Zechnophobe:
I think it is interesting to see the different styles at work here.

These books are aimed at creating a generic but playable setting. If you are just going to do some dungeon crawling, it doesn't really matter that your aristocrats are randomized, and so are the things you find on people's bodies.

But for a more narrative based story, all these things are important and specific. That aristocrat isn't random, he's the son of John of Feymere, the liege lord of the elf-heretics. On his person, if you choose to slay him or manage a pick pocket, is a medallion that opens the tomb of ur-Haraza. Or maybe it's just a picture of his father giving the players a target for a clairevoyance spell. Or maybe its a note describing his father's insane plan that caused him to banish himself... afterall he needed to save his younger sister that he cares for.

These are different things, different styles.

Hmmm. The thing is Classic D&D has extensive systems for rolling up random dungeons, as well. The assumption inherent in the system is that some of the dungeon areas and treasures will be "hand crafted" and other areas will be generated with random assistance. The same should or could be true of gaming in a city. The son of John of Feymere might be hand-placed. But the random noble the PCs suddenly decide to rob in a harlot's den might need to be randomly generated.

I suppose there are GMs who keep their campaigns on such tight tracks that they would never need the sort of mechanics that Zak (and I) like and use. But as the column name "Check for Traps" hints at, this column is squarely aimed at GMs who run sandbox-style games, not narrative based stories. You can read some of my earlier columns ("It's Not Your Story") for discussion there.

Formica Archonis:

The Shadows Lengthen in Carcosa

Heh. I wonder how many people will get that. And of them, how many read the Robert W. Chambers work?

I was hoping someone would get it. Thanks for noticing! You've made my day.

StreetBushido:
I like the ideas presented, but I was hoping for something more than a review after such a long hiatus. Nice to see that Check for Traps is back, though!

Sorry for the long hiatus. I failed a check for traps roll and was caught in a 60' pit filled with poisonous goat-spiders. It's taken my months to escape.

It's good to be back!

The Random One:
I'm torn about picking it up, because I love his almost-roguelike way of setting up elements on the fly and urban crawling in general, but I hate classic medieval fantasy. I might pick it up anyway, since I bet a lot of it can be transferred painlessly to a different setting.

Honestly I'd recommend picking it up regardless. The systems and mechanics are so clever that you could and should adopt them for any genre. For instance, I think you could use Vornheim to run adventures in Coruscant using Star Wars D20, or adventures in Night City's combat zone using Cyberpunk. You'd have to create some new charts to replace the medieval ones, obviously, but the template is there.

Archon:
Sorry for the long hiatus. I failed a check for traps roll and was caught in a 60' pit filled with poisonous goat-spiders. It's taken my months to escape.

I've heard of spider-goats (http://www.physorg.com/news194539934.html), never heard of goat-spiders. :)

Yay, Check For Traps is back! :D

Both of those sound like interesting reading. I confess that I struggle with the random element in games, even as I acknowledge that it's necessary. Anything that smooths the path is highly welcome!

Archon:

Formica Archonis:

The Shadows Lengthen in Carcosa

Heh. I wonder how many people will get that. And of them, how many read the Robert W. Chambers work?

I was hoping someone would get it. Thanks for noticing! You've made my day.

My pleasure; I got quite a kick out of it as well, as it's not often I see that outside of more blatantly Lovecraftian things and even then it's rare. Only other time I saw it completely divorced of context was in an image (a bit NSFW and creepy) and that time someone beat me to pointing it out (Danbooru link, very NSFW ads).

Great read - and as an occasionally frustrated GM, good to see the article back :)

Thanks for the article its made me look into the game vornheim is a part of(lamentations of the flame princess) and im seriously considering buying both the grindhouse edition of that game and a copy of vornheim later this week when i get paid.

Archon:

StreetBushido:
I like the ideas presented, but I was hoping for something more than a review after such a long hiatus. Nice to see that Check for Traps is back, though!

Sorry for the long hiatus. I failed a check for traps roll and was caught in a 60' pit filled with poisonous goat-spiders. It's taken my months to escape.

It's good to be back!

you write a segment called "check for traps", and fall in a trap.... Should we be listening to you?

JK

Glad youre back. I was actually half way through writing a message to you yesterday about my desire for the continuation of the series when I had to go to work, came back found there had been a power outage and well, there goes the RAM data.

I do think "show, don't tell" as in "give us rules to guide us, rather than fluff to live by" is not always a boon. Outside the realm of GM-created worlds (where the players are bound to have no, or very little idea about what goes on), providing generalized descriptions of areas, inhabitants, customs and such that are fixed (rather than a table of possibilities) can serve to provide a common understanding.

For example: our group is currently running an Exalted Dragon-Blooded campaign, which involves a lot of politics between the 11 Great Houses. As you'd expect from a White Wolf production, the general attitudes and goals of each house, along with their allegiances, is described for what the game designers decided they should be. In general terms of course, and there are exceptions (each house has hundreds of members after all). Still, rather than the GM needing to spell this (and importantly, many other details) out, the players, who are reading the book anyway since they use it to create characters, gain a general idea of the world and the setting from it. They are, no pun intended, all on the same page about what the world is and how it works. The GM can then freely confound expectations from there (which I as GM find to be a valuable tool in making memorable campaigns).

That doesn't preclude sandboxy games. It is the difference between having a lot of individual building blocks, and having a fully assembled foundation.

I'm just so glad to see you back. This series has improved my GMing so much.

 

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