27 April 2017

Building a Web Map, part 4

Well, the most difficult and time consuming part of the project is done; the DEM is finished. It's not perfect, but the original data wasn't perfect either. Here is the finished product, followed by an explanation.

The first thing I did was I identify points where I knew the exact elevation. There were just a few of these such as mountain peaks. For others I had relative elevations, such as the keep on the borderlands. the contour lines were marked as change of 25ft in elevation, but I had no base elevation. At other places I had general descriptions or average elevation. Also there were the maps from B10, Night's Dark Terror which had ridge lines of mountains depicted. This was useful for knowing the direction of slopes and adding more details to those areas.

In order to determine which method of interpolation was best, I did some testing with the keep on the borderlands map, which can be seen in a previous post. Interpolation is a mathematical method of predicting what the values of a certain geographical point will be based on the known values of surrounding points. I ended up working with the Topo to Raster tool which uses the ANUDEM method developed by the Australian National University Fenner School of Environment and Society. It is essentially a modification of the standard spline interpolation method, which can be described as taking a rubber sheet and spreading it over a given area and making certain it passes though specific points. The ANUDEM method is unique in that it allows for the input of more than just points; you can include rivers, cliffs, contour lines, coastlines, hydrological sinks, and lakes.

I first created contour lines, cliffs, and rivers. Then to create elevation points I created a single point for each hex from various maps, whether they were 6mph, 3mph, 2mph, or 1/2 mph. then I selected different hexagons within a certain area and generated random values within a certain range based on descriptions in the text. For the mountain ranges shown in B10, I detailed the values a little bit more meticulously. Though this may sound fairly easy and simple, it was extremely time consuming and took a lot of fine tuning to get just right. In the end there were over 8000 input points! I often had to go back and run test interpolations to catch anomalies and fix those points to better match the description of the text. Below is a screenshot of all my input data. From the final result I created a hillshade which I then placed over the DEM as a transparent layer and got what you see above. I will upload it to the web version shortly.

26 April 2017

The Open Table

When I was younger I would play D&D with my family and a few friends. Whenever there was sufficient number of people present at our house interested in playing, we would start a game. we all had multiple characters who we would use in different campaigns/adventures. some time we would have the same character playing in two different adventures at the same time. which adventure we played was determined by who was present and out mood. We also tended to switch DMs for the longer campaigns, the prime example of this my Federation of Dargunn Campaign/setting, there were 6 different people who DMed that one continuous campaign with no less than 10 changes between DMs. We never completed any single campaign or adventure; there was no distinct change between games, and everything was just seen as a different adventures we played in D&D. By the end of High School I had approximately 30 characters, only 2 of which reached 10th level(David a fighter, and Galron the elf).

Since then, I have found that the rest of the RPG community doesn't play this way, they tend to stick to one campaign with one character until that campaign is finished or falls apart. Play tends to be a lot less free form, and more structured; because of the very nature of committing to play at a specific time So, what is an open table? It is a style of game play that involves a large pool of players that play frequently in smaller groups among a shared world. Many modern gamers are amazed when they hear that Gygax and Arneson had 20 or 50 players; they imagine how dificult it would be to run that amount of players all at once. What is misunderstood is how they would handle all those players. They played in smaller groups and many solo sessions, but the players in a group would rotate so there was no constant single campaign occurring.

The open table consists of a large group of players who may each have more than one PC. Depending on who shows up to any single gaming session, the players pick the PC they want to play at that time.This style of play can encourage greater participation and engagement in the setting of the game. Dungeons aren't meant to be 'cleared', and if they are something will take up residence in the now empty dungeon. The wilderness is constantly changing, there are always new things to discover. The world may change because of the actions of another group of PCs. Different parties can interact with each other, and ultimately multiple DMs can run run different groups in the same setting.

Following are some ground rules for the open table I am starting an open table at the college. Any company of PCs who goes adventuring will be part of that group until they return to chapter house of the adventurers guild. If Bob the fighter, Sally, the cleric, and Jim, the Thief, go into the dungeon of scary things, and they don't return by the end of the session, then those characters remain in that position until the game is picked up later by the same players. Bob the fighter would not be available for play in a different adventure until he is played again and returns to a chapter house. In this fashion, each player may have several different characters on several different adventures simultaneously, and also may have some in reserve at an adventurer guild house. Once a character has returned to a guild house, he or she is available for play in a later session at any location with a guild house. I will detail the Adventurers Guild in my next post.

21 April 2017

Keep on the Borderlands Hillshade

I used the elevation data from keep on the borderlands to test out DEM creation/manipulation. I used a ANUDEM interpolation tool in ArcMap, and from that I constructed a hillshade. below the original is is shown transparent over the hillshade both with and without color.

 The keep itself

The Caves of Chaos

I imported it into ArcScene so you could see it from different perspectives.
view from the road approaching the keep

view from the keep looking across the river

view into the ravine

20 April 2017

Wandering Stone part 1

Played a short session yesterday.

Date: 19 April 2017
Tavish, lvl 1 Dwaarf
Edge,  lvl 3 Mystic

Calendar Date 25-26 Kaldmont

We started out with just Tavish in the tavern in Luln. He asked the Barkeep if there was any adventure/work nearby. the barkeep told him about the haunted keep nearby, and that mistress Sascia might have some work for him. He went to talk to Sascia and she told him abut some bandits that had been waylaying merchants on the trail to fort doom. Tavish then went to the local brewer to fill up on mead, but he didn't like the price and wasn't able to successfully haggle the price down, so he left without buying anything. He left on the trail to fort doom and after a few hours came upon a border post. Tavish had to pay a toll to enter the Black Eagle Barony. after traveling for a few more hours night fell and he made camp.

In the morning Tavish found that he had drunk all his water so he quickly looked for a farm nearby. after about an hour he happened upon a farmhouse and was welcomed inside by a young mother. Soon after, Her husband came in from the fields for Dinner(lunch). They allowed him to restock on water and asked him to stay for the meal, but Tavish said he had to get going.

Later in the afternoon Tavish saw a strange spiderlike creature eating a horse on the road. After seeing him, the Rhagodessa attacked, and Tavish was almost immediately overpowered, but Edge happened to be traveling along the road at that instant. With Edge's help Tavish was able to kill the monster. 

XP: 125 each

15 April 2017

How are we not dead yet, part 3

Yesterday's game was kinda short, and I felt it was a little dull. Not every game is amazing though, and you have to take the good with the bad in D&D. I think part of the problem is my style of DMing because this has happened before with this group and others. I don't want to change because I view player choice as the fundamental heart of all RPGs, yet there are times when the players fail to make any choices. I don't want to push any sort of 'story' on the players; I try to present the world as it is, and it is the responsibility of the players to interact with that world. I am a referee or judge, not a storyteller. The story is a byproduct of the game, not what moves or creates the game; the players' actions and choices are the core of the game. Then again when sessions like yesterday occur I question myself and try to find what I did wrong or how I can improve.

Anyway on to the recap, the party finally picked a company name: How Are We Not Dead Yet (HAWNDY). Every adventuring group is part of the adventurers guild. The group is identified by a company name within the guild and may be composed of more adventurers than are currently being used. I'll have to write another post about the adventurer guild at some future point.

Date: 14 April 2017
Ozbrave, M-U lvl 3
Raveling, Thief lvl 5
Willem, Elf lvl2
Dilbert, Lizardman lvl 1
Dalia, Elf lvl 1

Calendar Date: 23 Kaldmont - 25 Kaldmont

23 kaldmont, weather = 11-20 degrees Fahrenheit, moderate humidity, 15 mph minds from north

We left off just after the party had defeated and captured an old elf hermit on an island in the bog. The session began with the interrogation of the Hermit. Ozbrave really wanted his spellbook, so kept asking questions to its whereabouts, but the mad ravings of the hermit were the only response he got, so he killed the hermit.

They then continued on to the forge. as they approached, they saw that there was a 20' tall wooden stockade guarded by kobolds and gnolls. they approached the gates, and told the guards they were interested in buying some swords which were supposed to be made here. The gnoll captain, Cosann, deliberated with them for a while and then left to go speak with his boss. After a few minutes he came back with an ogre named Graah. He showed them a blight blade, claimed that a wound from it would cause the victim to bleed continuously, and said they might be able to purchase one for 85 silver. he said before any purchases were made, he would have to talk to the 'Queen', but the party could stay inside the stockade while waiting for her reply. He left to talk to the the Queen, and Cosann led the party into the stockade to the gnoll barracks and said they could sleep there. after some initial non-conversation with the gnolls in the barracks, they decide to sleep outside.

24 Kaldmont, weather = 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit, High Humidity(misty), moderate rainfall

The party awoke just after midnight  when Graah arrived and said the witchqueen wanted to speak with them immediately. They were led to her residence, and talked with her in her foyer, which was decorated in demonic artwork. They negotiated with her and she led them on a tour of the facility, showing them the forge where Graah made the swords, the chasm where the blight was mined from the swamp, and her sacrificial platform above the chasm. They finally agreed on purchasing 10 swords at a total price of 850 silver. She said the crafting would take a few days, so they left and set up camp on the island outside of the stockade.

25 Kaldmont, weather = 15-35 degrees Fahrenheit,  High Humidity(misty),  15mph winds from North

At dawn, the a Merrow comes out of the swamp water and begins talking to the PCs. No one can understand him at first, but then he starts speaking in broken Lizardman. He asks for their help in curing a sickness and says lizardmen are the source of it. He dissapears back into the swamp. later in the day, Cosann and 5 kobolds come out of the stockade and say they have the swords. They deliver them wrapped in a bundle of hides. Ozbrave hands out the swords to the party members, and puts the extras in their wagon, and then they turn around ready to attack the kobolds.

XP: 40 each

14 April 2017

Building a Web Map, Part 3

I know its been awhile since I've updated the project; there's still a lot of work to be done before it's really finished. I just finished tabulating all the data from every source that gives information about karameikos.

Sources used include: 81 basic rules, 81 expert rules, x1, b5, holmes basic, 83 basic rules, 83 expert rules, b1, b2, ac2, sword of justice, ac10, b10, companion rules, chapel of silence, b9, elven home, x12, gaz1, b1-9, of nest and nations, wererats of relfren, in pursuit of the slayer, b11, ac11, tm1, tm2, b12, in the dread of night, tarfils tomb, hrothgar's resting place, night of fear, dda3, who's who among dragons, rules cyclopedia, dda4, warth of immortals book, novel ideas, ac1010, Ransom, champions of mystara book, karameikos ho, magic of karameikos, hail the heroes, classic dnd game, first quest adventure book, night of the vampire, menacing malady, voyageof the crimpshrine, kill bargle, karameikos kingdom of adventure.

I can finally move on and work on the actual map. YAY! Mapping is the easy part; data acquisition and preparation are always the most time consuming and difficult part of any GIS project. From here I am going to integrate all the maps from the above sources into my ArcMap document. I have already done many of them, such as the wilderness maps from b10 and ac2, but there are a few that need to still be added such as the map of the black eagle barony in dda3. At the same time I will be working on analyzing any topographic data and applying that to a Digital Elevation Model(DEM) from which any further basemaps will be developed.

In the morning I will be running my game continuing where we left off in the kelven moor.

11 April 2017

One Shot Session Notes

This last friday, no one showed up for the game at first besides one person, and I was about to leave and do some homework, when a new guy showed up. So because it was just the two of them and I knew I had to leave for work in a few hours I decided to run a short adventure I've done before, 'The Sword of Justice'. while the adventure is designed for 1st level characters, I gave them higher level characters because there were only two players. Later a few other guys showed up and I gave them some equal level characters. So without further ado, here are my notes:

Date: 7 April 2017
Orinthe, 3rd level Dwarf
Ozbrave, 3rd level M-U
Willem, 2nd level Elf
Aldren, 3rd level M-U
Ralph, 4th level Thief

Our party of heroes started in the town of Farstead looking for new adventures. They entered the Judges Inn and asked the barkeep if there was any work for them in town, who promptly directed them to a poster which Judge Miles had put up earlier that day. The poster simply said that the judge was looking for bounty hunters and to speak with him if interested. At this point Aldren and Ralph(we still only had 2 players at this point) went to the town hall and spoke with the judge in his office. He told them a story about a murder in town and the trial of an elf, Falrik, and how he had fled the trial and taken the sword of justice with him. After the elf had fled, the judge had discovered the true culprit of the crime was the captain of the watch. The judge wanted the party to find the elf so the judge could grant him a pardon and also to recover the sword of justice. he agreed to pay the party 200gp for the return of the elf, and 300gp for the return of the sword, and maybe 20 or 50 gp if they returned with clues about the whereabouts with either. The judge told them a peddler had seen an elf near the abandoned mansion of the wizard kanos, and that was the best lead the judge had right now.

The group then left town and traveled along an old trail leading to the mansion. On the trail they met an old witch gathering herbs, who they traded with. they gave her an enchanted dark ritual black candle in exchange for some snakespike, which can be used in a healing tea. 

When they arrived at the mansion Ralph circumvented it looking for other entrances and anything interesting. Aboiut 3/4 of the way around the house he found a well and a small side door. from the well he heard a voice calling for help. they rest of the party came around to look, they threw some rope and burning cloth down the well and determined no one was there, so they entered though the side door.

They kicked down the door(yes literally), and entered a kitchen which had been obviuposly ransacked before. It was long before they woke up and had to fight a gray ooze blending in with the kitchen table. After ransacking the kitchen some more, they opened the door to their right and entered that room. this was a dining room with a gold cutlery set and crystal goblet at the head of the table. As they were inspecting the room, a phantom figure(dressed like a butler) entered the room, and the whole party, besides ralph, were scared out of their wits and ran back to the kitchen. After gathering their composure, the rest of the party went back to the dining room and discovered the phantom just standing next to the head of the tale and nothing they did could get it to react to them.

So the party opened the door to a small bedroom and were attacked by a crab spider, which they subsequently killed. During the fight Ralph was poisoned by the spider. On killing the spider they all went into the bedroom, to look for loot. When they entered that room with the gold cutlery, the phantom in the dining hall smiled and dissapeared. they found a few coins of various denominations in the bedroom and then left to go back to the dining room and opened another door and went upstairs to one of the towers of the house. there they found a giant lizard which they killed. under the lizard they found a trap door with a key hole which they opened. When the trapdoor opened, noxious fumes were relaeased and everyone but Aldren fell asleep. Aldren was able to wake everyone up but ralph, who died from the spider poison. They then found a chest with some treasure under the trapdoor.

We ended there, and I told them that they went back to town and told the judge that they found no trace of falrik.

XP: 292 each

04 April 2017

Making mistakes as a DM

It can be difficult to run a good game. Dungeon Mastering is a performance, and can be very stressful. You have a number of people depending on you to entertain them. That doesn't mean all the responsibiliy lies on the DM to ensure the players enjoy themselves, but only that the players depend on the DM. A player won't enjoy an RPG session if they don't put in some effort, yet none of the players will be able to  have a good time if the DM doesn't perform well. The DM could be termed the fulcrum of a session, if you will. Everything hinges on him/her. Thus, being a DM comes with a lot of responsibility, and not everyone is willing to take on the job. Every DM has their ups and downs; nobody is perfect and sometimes we screw up.

My game a few weeks ago is a perfect example of this. The party was traveling to a village where they had learned an evil cult was going to receive a shipment of weapons. On the journey I rolled several random encounters and they stopped at a few towns along the way until they reached their destination. It was at this point that I realized I had neglected to have an event occur at a specific location on the journey. I was so focused on making the travel itself interesting and actually feel like there was some distance between towns that I had forgotten about the adventure. I faced a dilemma, either I could improvise and move on in the adventure as if nothing had happened, or I could 'rewind' and erase half the journey so that the group could experience the event before they reached their destination. I decided to ask for the opinion of the group. I let them decide whether to continue or go back. they opted to rewind the journey.

Many DMs would not have done what I did, they would have continued as if they had not made a mistake and continued to roll the adventure onward. I think that it is ok to improvise past mistakes if they have minimal impact to the game, but where there is a major error on your part the players should be informed. I realize it breaks the flow and immersion of the game,  yet it is also important to be honest with your players. T Here needs to be mutual trust between the DM and the players. It is often necessary to get player opinions, and cater to their desires. There are multiple arguments that can be made for or against what I did in the above scenario, but I think it is important to admit your mistakes to the players and try to fix them as a group.

What mistakes have you made as  a DM, and how did you rectify the situation?