Shadow World Mechanics: Essaence and the Moons.

The Kulthea and the Moons.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about game setting driving rule mechanics over the years, and one of the fundamental issues of Shadow World is how “magic” works in a world that exists in our own reality and universe. I expanded on our own views of Essence three years ago on this BLOG POST, but wanted to dive a little deeper now that I’m working on a few related projects for SW.

Ostensibly, the Essaence permeates Kulthea through a tear in our universe into another; the same universe from which the Orhanians originated. This is all well and good, but is really not much more than a hand wave that does little to ground the mechanics of magic in Shadow World. Plus, it raises an important question: where is the “source point’ of this tear? In my mind it needs to be on either Kulthea, one of the moons or on some artifact or techno-artifact somewhere in the system. Let’s examine the pros and cons of several of these options:

  1. On Orhan. This probably makes the most sense. The Gods live on this moon and being the choke point of this power helps explain their ability to channel to their followers on Kulthea–they basically control the well-head. We can than extrapolate that this fifth energy follows gravitational waves and therefore encompasses Kuthea’s magnetosphere as well.
  2. On Kulthea. Does it make sense to have the source of Essaence on Kulthea? The Pillar of the Gods would be the most likely location–it is a physical manifestation of the arrival of Essaence on Kulthea (via a wormhole/blackhole/etc) and would explain the power fluctuations around the region.
  3. Techno-artifact. I originally had the source of Essaence encased in some object (it was a mcguffin and I never identified it) at the Lagrange point of Kulthea/Orhan. This split the power between the planet and moon and allowed for a ebb and flow of power I use in my campaign.

However, I’ve been re-thinking my “Lagrange Point” solution and now am leaning towards #1. This still allows me to play with varying Essaence levels and solidifies the basis for the Orhanian’s “god-like” powers.

I’m pretty weak on orbital mechanics, but I understand that Orhan is on a ecliptic orbit and Charon is on a polar orbit. In my campaign this allows for a variance in Essaence (channeling) powers for followers of Orhan and the Dark Gods of Charon. Therefore:

  1. The Dark Gods are outcasts from Orhan. They were banished to Charon because it acts as a prison and limits their access to the Essaence.
  2. Charon only has normal access to the Essaence when it crosses the ecliptic–otherwise it has limited access to the Essaence elsewhere in it’s orbit. Thus the weakened nature of the Charon Gods and their powers on Kulthea. Channelers of the Dark God don’t have full access to their powers about 1/2 of the day.
  3. When Charon fully eclipses Orhan, then it is both ascendant with full access to the Essaence and it also disrupts Orhans connection to Kulthea. This is the “Night of the Third Moon”. Channelers of Orhan lose access to some of their powers. This makes the Night of particular relevance to Channelers all over Kulthea.

There are probably a few flaws in my approach, and while I don’t get the orbital timings exact during my game play it does add another strategic and narrative element to my SW campaign. It also creates a “moon magic” mechanic that meshes in with current RM spell law without the specific lists found in the RM Companion. It also adds another unique setting driven mechanic to shadow World.

Anybody else do anything like this?

Cities of Hârn

We have an English saying, which is in the same sort of vein as Murphy’s Law ( Anything that can go wrong will go wrong ) and Finagle’s Law ( hope for the best, expect the worst ). This one is to describe something as ‘just like busses, you wait for hours for one and then three come along at once.’

I know I have already posted today but I just got an email about the Hârn kickstarter and it fired two thoughts.

The first was that plenty of people seemed to like Hârn as a rolemaster setting. The whole thing being d100 based made adopting material fairly easy and the harsh realities of Hârn fits well with those that like their Rolemaster gritty and dangerous.

The second was the way that people, even to this day still reuse the Pete Fenlon maps and floor plans from the old MERP books as they have never found anything better.

Keep those floor plans in mind when you see some of the images below.

So I had an email from James Eisbert at Columbia Games, the publisher of Hârn promoting their kickstarter, Cities of Hârn.

You can check it out yourself here

But it is this sequence of images that got me…

If we look at that last panel in detail you can see how they have atomised every possible common form of door, ladder, stairs and surfaces. That is going make setting difficulty mods pretty easy.

I also liked the whole zooming in from city to building to interior scope.

If you world need maps and cities then I think one could do a lot worse. If you buy in at the $1 level you get the first PDF immediately which I think is fair. For a dollar you get to see what you would be buying into.

It looks good value to me.

Testing Professions

Hurin write a forum post about how most of the RMu professions shape up. I have a little thought experiment to keep you all amused.

(I have included some Sci Fi, modern and post apocalypse stuff here because I know people have turned RM to all sorts of settings and I personally have used this with Rolemaster and Space Master.)

The Experiment

I want you to imagine a map. Don’t draw it, this works best when it is purely in your mind’s eye.

You will need five NPCs, two goons, two lieutenants and a villain.

The map starts with a door with a goon either side. On the other side of the door is a room with the two lieutenants. There is a single exit to a short passage and then a second room with the villain in that last room.

That is a fairly basic layout and it is genre and setting neutral but let us change that.

  • Sci Fi: The villains are terrorist and they have hijacked a starship. The door is an iris valve portal to the comms and navigation stations and the villain is on the flight deck.
  • Fantasy: the goons are outside the cave entrance and the door is little more than fir branches pulled over the cave mouth. The floor and ceiling of the cave slope sharply together giving a very uneven floor. The two lieutenants are stood over a fissure with an iron tripod, buckets and coils of rope, one end of which disappears down into the ground. The passage in the description above is the fissure and the villain has uncovered an ancient burial chamber.
  • Urban: The goons are on the street outside a one up, one down slum terraced house. The lieutenants are in the parlour and up the stairs, the short passage, is the bedroom with the villain; a corrupt merchant in this case.
  • Fantasy: The goons are palace guards outside a guest suite. The lieutenants are minor nobles from a visiting but passively aggressive hostile state, the short passage is a leap from balcony to balcony and the second chamber is the suite of the foreign ambassador who has evil plans in the making.
  • Post Apocalypse: The goons are mutants protecting a bunker entrance. The lieutenants are in the first chamber of an underground bunker and further down is the villain in a secure room.
  • Modern: The goons are on the street in an industrial area, the room is a massive warehouse, the passage are steps up to a gantry level and the second room a small office overlooking the warehouse. This is the base of a smuggling operation and the NPCs smugglers and thugs.

You can run several missions with this map, get a document from the last room without shedding blood, get a document from the last room by any means, kill the villain, plant a bug/incriminating evidence in the last room or release a hostage. That is just a selection. It is not necessary to be overly creative for this experiment.

If a profession is going to be viable or playable then they should be fun to play. Although we normally think of a party of adventurers there is never a guarantee that they are all going to be alive and well. It could be that the villain is the key to healing the party (poison antidote?) and the last character standing is the party Mystic.

You don’t have to make dice rolls, you can kind of assume that if they have a decent chance of at least partial success that they scrape by but could you come up with a viable plan for achieving these goals in these situations with each and every profession? What skills are needed, what spells are needed? Would there be a minimum level you would need to be?

A Plague On You!

I know I could do all the research myself but I thought this would be a fun post and something people could get creative with.

Here is the idea. Evil Villain (called Evie from now on) has a plan. She wants to infect rats with a horrible plague and then use the rats to infect the people and get the people to infect each other. This will bring the kingdom to its knees without Evie ever being in danger.

The biggest problem Evie can see is priest curing the sick so she has to be able to target clerics first. Get rid of the sources of magical healing and the plague becomes much scarier.

Evie is prepared to invest in her grand scheme so can research new spells, lets give her 2 years (104 weeks) to complete any spell research.

What profession would have the spells needed? What is the lowest level that Evie could be to pull this off? Is a ritual to cast the 50th level Plague on a rat and then 9th level Animal Mastery to get that rat to just nibble on hundreds of other captured rats ( you could pay peasants a tin per rat to bring you live rats so that would not be a barrier). This would give you an army of plague carriers. Further castings of Animal Mastery could be used to target clerics.

Any thoughts?

I wrote the top half last night and was then thinking about Evie and had a second idea below.

Playing wound with 50th level rituals is fairly dangerous but there is another way and this is far more horrific.

Evie buys a few hundred live rats for a bronze piece. She kills one and then on the fresh corpse she creates and controls a type 1 undead. Not a zombie or a skeleton, no, she goes for a Lesser Ghoul. This bit is a bit rules fuzzy, Ghouls are not standard created undead but a bit of narrative dark rituals and maybe trading with shady dealers in necromantic antiquities and Evie could get hold of a part of a ghoul that could be regenerated into a ghoul.

With her captive ghoul she infects the captured rats with Ghoul Rot and Bubonic plague (See Creatures & Treasures or Creatures & Monsters and even Creature Law).

This is a much easier way of getting plague infected rats.

Control Undead will work on ghouls just as effectively as created undead so we are only looking at 2nd level for Control Undead I.

If the dealer in necromantic antiquities only had greater ghoul parts available then they are Type II so a 6th level Control spell is needed.

Evie could then control a single rat ghoul and send it into a church with the intention of ‘touching’ as many people as possible. No attack is actually necessary just their touch. The disease attack is not very high so not everyone is going to become a ghoul (30% chance on a fail) or get the plague or gangrene. Ideally Evie will get into the church during a service when there would be several clerics present and then send her rat running around and try and infect as many clergy and lay clergy as possible before having the rat running over the feet of the congregation.

Statistically about 1 in 5 normal people who are touched by the rat will become infected by Ghoul Rot and 2 in 5 will get gangrene or the plague.

This is a repeatable exercise if crowds gather to beseech the clerics to treat the plague victims that is a place to release a controlled rat ghoul.

The plague is contagious as is Ghoul Rot. In three or four days you have epidemic levels of undead infestation and disease.

Could the available clerics, that would need to have the Repulsions list, deal with the exponential growth in undead? That is on top of the growing tides of plague victims and those suffering from gangrene.

At this point I am thinking of the impact of releasing one controlled ghoul rat at a time to target the clerics in a community. Imagine if that evening Evie released a hundred plague and ghoul rot infected rats into the dock district or a towns warehouse district. You average barn contains hundreds of rats that will soon be infected or become carriers.

In a city a hundred rats into a sewer system could spread Ghoul Rot and plague right across the city in three days.

The speed and scale of Evie’s plan is limited only by power points. If she is around second level then although she can cast the control spell she only gets two or three castings a day barring any spell adder or multiplier. In RMSS the power point count is much higher and she could attack multiple temples and churches in a single day.

In RMu she could concentrate on multiple rats meaning she could achieve more in a shorter time. If she picked her moment to coniside with a major public religious festival she could get much greater access to high ranking clerics.

The chance of infecting a high level cleric is slim but there is always the chance of one or some failing their resistance rolls. If you picked a day towards the end of the festivities any visiting clerics could be infected and then take the infection away with them as they disperse but before the nature of the disease is obvious. That would make it harder to find and cure the possibly infected clerics quickly and make sure you got all of them.

Whilst the plan is not foolproof it is easily repeatable and if Evie has Control Undead, Repulsions and Cure Disease she is pretty much proof against her plans turning against her.

This is my take on how Evie could bring a kingdom to its knees and it looks like 6th level would be more than adequate to have the lists, spells and power points to carry it off.

Any better ideas?

Rear and Flank Bonuses: An Experiment

I just had a strange idea. I was thinking of the normal Rolemaster positional bonuses (+15 for a flank attack, +35 for rear), and what they represent. It seemed to me that characters got these bonuses because targets would find it more difficult to parry, dodge, and block attacks from these awkward directions, due to the fact that it is harder to see them coming and to turn to parry, block, or dodge. But what about a target such as a giant amoeba, that does not have eyes and does not parry, block, or dodge? Why should the amoeba’s attackers get positional bonuses against it?

The other thing that got me thinking of positional bonuses is DnD 5e’s system of positional bonuses — or lack thereof. (My group plays DnD about half the time and about Rolemaster half the time, so I am always comparing the two systems.) The 5e player handbook, which contains the core combat rules, uses no positional bonuses at all — not even flanking. That is of course terrible. However, the Dungeon Master’s Guide lays out optional rules for flanking and facing. Flanking provides advantage (i.e. you get to roll 2 d20s for your attack and take the higher one), which is neat, but can become a bit overpowering; and the downside is that to gain flanking, you have to be on the exact opposite end of the target square/hex from an ally who is also attacking your target. This leads to odd combats that devolve into the famous ‘conga line of death’, a long line of combatants, alternating ally – enemy – ally – enemy, as everyone tries to get the flank bonus by aligning exactly on the opposite edge of an enemy. That isn’t really very realistic and kind of makes a mockery of formations.

The 5e DMG also offers optional rules for facing: attacks through the rear arc benefit from advantage and the target does not get a shield bonus. The shield bonus only applies to attacks through the front and shield side arcs. This is better, and also contains the stipulation that some creatures, such as ‘an amorphous ochre jelly’, do not have rear arcs, as well as more detailed rules for playing on both a square and a hex grid. The downside of the 5e DMG facing rules, however, is that 5e does not have sufficiently developed rules for ‘sticky’ combat: characters only get attacks of opportunity when opponents leave their zones of control too hastily, not just when they move through them too hastily. This means that in 5e, you can circle strafe to an enemy’s rear and attack with advantage all in the same turn with virtually no penalty. Oops — this is the reason why turn-based systems need some ‘stickiness’ to their combat, so that characters have a reasonable chance to react to the actions of their enemies.

To fix DnD 5e’s rules, I’ve brought back 4e’s rule about moving through an enemy’s zone of control: moving through or out of an enemy’s zone of control now provokes opportunity attacks if the movement is hasty (i.e. not using the ‘withdraw’, ‘disengage’ or ‘5-foot-step’ action). This houserule change largely solves the strafing issue. I can now use 5e’s facing rules without getting too annoyed.

But making this change also got me thinking of an innovation to eliminate the ‘conga line of death’ and make formations matter more again: instead of giving advantage in the case of two combatants being on exactly different sides of their opponents, I would only give them a +2 flanking bonus. Similarly, attacks from the flanks (back left and back right on a square grid) would only get a +2 flanking bonus. To get advantage (i.e. the right to roll 2 d20s and take the higher one), you would have to attack through the rear arc only, because advantage can be a huge bonus.

Then I went a bit farther, and thought, instead of flanking bonuses, why not just say that targets don’t get the benefit of any Dexterity bonus against attacks through the flank? Because really, the flanking bonus is meant to represent the fact that it is harder to dodge/block/parry an attack that you can’t really see coming very well. So wouldn’t it be easier just to eliminate the set ‘flank bonus’ altogether, and instead just say that targets don’t get a Dex bonus vs. flank attacks?

Thinking of how I would fix DnD 5e’s positional rules in this way also led me to think about an experiment in applying a similar rule to Rolemaster. What about instead of set bonuses (+15 for flank, +20 for rear) for positional modifiers, we tailored the bonus to the situation and the abilities of the combatants in a more realistic way? What if we said this:

–A Flank attack is an attack made through the left flank or right flank hex. Because such attacks are harder to see and therefore defend against, the target cannot benefit from any shield bonus, and receives only half his quickness and/or parry bonuses.

–A rear attack is an attack made through the rear hex. Because such attacks are especially hard to see and defend against, the target cannot benefit from any shield, quickness, or parry bonuses.

Rather than giving creatures set bonuses, then, we would instead be limiting their defenses in a more realistic way. There would no longer be any abstract ‘flank’ or ‘rear’ bonus that worked the same for every creature and combination of battlefield conditions; rather, flank and rear attacks would be deadlier against combatants that rely on seeing attacks coming and actively defending against them, and less deadly on creatures that don’t defend or even see at all. Amoebas, Gelatinous Cubes, and amorphous ochre jellies everywhere would rejoice (though we’d never hear them, since they don’t have mouths). And we will no longer have any conga lines of death!

Has anyone ever tried anything like this?

Emotional Beats

Emotional beats are a game feature that designers try to identify and maximise. I will try to explain what they are and then why they are important to Rolemaster.

Every roleplaying game I know goes through the following process.

  1. The GM sets to a challenge
  2. The players plan their reaction
  3. Dice get rolled
  4. GM describes the result

So that cycle could be a combat round as easily as a negotiation or hanging off a place balcony as the mortar crumbles under your grip.

The player is focused on the challenge as the GM describes it. Then focuses on their character and the options they character has. They make their rolls, while trying to get as many bonuses as they can and then they wait for the result.

The emotional beats start with anticipation as the challenge is described, then a level of anxiety is common if the right skill isn’t known or the character is forced into combat when they are weak. When it comes to the roll we have heightened anticipation while they await the result and then a sense of elation upon success, the resolution stage.

What professional game designers do is minimise the time delay between the dice roll and the completion of the resolution step. The reason is that the longer that time delay is the less the feeling of elation and importantly elation releases dopamine into the players blood. A game with a snappy skill/conflict resolution system is quite literally more addictive to play than a slower game.

Games with hit point attrition can still have fast emotional beats or rhythm. With each successive combat round the odds are changing and the risk to the character increasing which heightens anticipation and when victory is achieved the sense of elation is greater and that leaders to a bigger dopamine hit.

Looking at Rolemaster through the lens of emotional beats you can easily see how and why the ability to one hit a foe makes you feel so good. You instantly know if you have made a great attack roll and the likelihood that you have an E critical. You then roll 66 and you just know that it is curtains for the bad guy. What the GM eventually tells you is just a cherry on top, you already know the beastie or villain is dead meat. Instant resolution. instant elation and instant dopamine.

As a game designer there is a danger of ‘getting high off your own supply’ (I think that is a hip hip lyric from NWA but don’t quote me on that). You see a potential problem in the rules (anticipation), create a special rules to fix the rules and test it (moments of anxiety) and it works (elation and reward). The problem is that the temptation is to create endless rules and complications; as the simple act of adding them to the game makes the designer feel good.

One of the reasons the damage calculations from the size rules were unpopular, looking at it from an emotional rhythms point of view, is that it puts a delay into the resolution stage. Worst still it happens before the real resolution, the critical, can be calculated and resolved. If you are fighting something and size rules are reducing your attack size this is even worse as it is the wrong sort of anticipation. Positive anticipation is waiting to see if you have succeeded. Negative anticipation is expectation that things are getting worse. Having your E critical turned into a C is not something to look forward to.

In another part of the RMu rules we have spell casting going from 2 rounds prep to zero rounds of prep. This is great. Although there is technically less anticipation time the player still gets to cycle through what spell to cast, the spell casting roll and waiting to see if their spell worked and the effect it had. Without the prep delay the emotion rhythm is much faster.

Looking at skills, if RMu piles too many penalties on to the characters it is in danger of breaking the emotional cycle. By that I mean if failure is more common that successes then the anticipation is negative and the elation is diminished if it came from pure chance rather than your skillful play and choices.

I think the character creation time is another point at which the reward, getting to play, is too far from the start of the challenge. This is also an area where the playtesters and fans are quite vocal.

Game design by fans, for fans is not always a good idea if they lack the actual skills to pull off a great design.

Micro Settings

I saw a discussion on the Tenkar’s Tavern* discord server today. One participant pitched a suggestion for a game setting to get feedback from the community. I will call him the Pitcher as it is nicer than participant. The Pitcher was actually looking to do an entire world building job. I had already read a initial draft of the first book and that ran to 86 pages without any game stats, maps, NPCs or art.

The general reaction of the active people was that they thought it would be fun to play for four or five sessions.

I was quite surprised at that at first and it got me to thinking about what makes a setting have longevity?

I suspect that deep down we all want to win. Role playing games are not supposed to be about winning. They are open ended stories that could play out forever. In reality they don’t. After the third time you saved the world it is time to hang up your shield and enjoy your rewards. You have faced impossible odds and won.

The pitch I heard today was such a bleak world that winning would have no purpose. It may have been a case of there is no point in trying to win in a world full of so much suffering and little comfort.

I skimmed the list of most recently released games and eight out of ten were dark, grim and very negatively portrayed worlds. Skipping back a ten years and the games were much more upbeat and about exploring rich worlds and looking for adventure.

Even my own RMu adventure path is about a conflict between two evils, not between good and evil.

I wonder if this is a case of follow my leader. I could imagine one publisher thinking that they could make their game stand out by going all dark and moody. Other publishers see the sudden success of the trend setter and next thing is that we have a fashion or a movement for bleak game settings. Will these games have longevity?

Game of Thrones was bleak and miserable but that has now gone. I am guessing that everyone who wants a bleak and miserable game setting already has one. So how big is the market for more of the same?

More interestingly, I don’t think the setting writers and world builders are going to fall back to high adventure heroics. They have done that and would want something new.

Pugmire, Ironclaw and Ponyfinder all seem to have zeroed in on a particular niche, of animal heroes. In Pugmire you play talking dogs, Ironclaw you can be different woodland creatures and in Ponyfinder you play horses.

Although I read and enjoyed the Martin the warrior and Redwall Abbey books I don’t want to roleplay them.

I think in the fantasy genre people still want elves, dwarves and the rest of the Tolkien races along with vampires and dragons.

The question is how will the world builders pitch that so it is neither high adventure or bleak and pointless?

*An OSR centric discord server.

RMU Update: An Action Point System in Action — Divinity: Original Sin 2

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Each character gets 4 Action Points to spend on activity each round. Spells like Haste increase that number. You can spend action points to move.

That sounds much like RMu’s new action economy, but in fact it is also the system in the videogame Divinity: Original Sin 2. I am blogging about this because I think the RMu’s new action point economy sometimes gets dismissed by players before they’ve really tried it — who wants to change a system you’ve been using for decades? But I wanted to suggest that if you are on the fence about this issue and really want to experience a game with an action economy like RMu’s, you can try Divinity: Original Sin 2. (I recommend you try Divinity 2 rather than 1, because for reasons I explain below, Divinity 1 had a somewhat different system). If you liked the old isometric Baldur’s Gate games, I think you will probably like Divinity. And note that the studio that made Divinity (Larian Studios) is now busily at work making Baldur’s Gate III.

Basically, the idea behind an action point economy is that instead of actions costing a percentage of your round’s activity, they instead just cost points. This simplifies the game math because you’re never left with 17% activity remaining in your turn, trying desperately to find your calculator to figure out what 17% of your BMR of 45′ is, and whether that will get you within melee range of the orc archer over there. You either have a point left for movement or you don’t, and you either spend it to move up to your BMR or you don’t. You also don’t need separate rules for all the combinations of things you can do in a round, like ‘move-and-melee’, ‘move-and-cast-spell’, ‘react-and-attack’, ‘press-and-attack’ and all of the other combinations RM2 and RMSS tried to account for. You just spend your points and combine your actions any way you want.

I’ve learned a few lessons from playing Divinity’s Action Point system. First and foremost is that everything is easier if you just charge Action Points for movement rather than if you try to make movement some sort of different, special action that doesn’t cost points and has its own rules. Making movement a different beast creates a whole host of problems that you can already see in 5e Dungeons and Dragons, which treats movement differently than all other actions (a backwards step, IMHO, from what 4e DnD did in that regard). One problem is that you need to write entirely different rules for the different types of actions: not just normal actions vs. movement, but interactions (for opening doors, drawing weapons, etc.), bonus actions, reactions, etc. Not only does this lead to rules bloat, but these types of actions are now even less comptabile and interchangeable now than they were in 4e DnD. In 4e for example, you used to be able to spend your standard action to charge (move-and-attack), but you can no longer do that. In 5e, characters have to buy a feat in order to be able merely to charge! Similarly, our group has been playing 5e (on and off) since it was released, but it was only last month that we realized that casting a spell as a bonus action prevents you from casting another spell as your normal action in the same turn. Who knew?

Another lesson that the developers of the Divinity series learned is to resist the temptation to give quicker characters more action points. Divinity 1 actually allowed this: characters got a bonus to their number of action points dependent on their Speed stat. This was unnecessary, however, because Speed already gave boosts to distance moved and initiative. It also created balance issues. So, in DOS2, all characters get the same number of AP to spend each turn (barring spells and special abilities).

The big news recently, which I mentioned above, is that Larian Studios is now busily at work on Baldur’s Gate III, which will use the 5e DnD ruleset. I will be eager to see what they do with it. Will they try to implement the 5e DnD style movement rules, which treats movement as a separate action that has different rules than all other types of actions? Or will they try to implement a more streamlined system like the one they used for the Divinity Games? I’m guessing the former, but I will be eager to find out.

For now, if you want a preview of what the RMu action economy is like, you can get a pretty good picture by playing Divinity. I have to say, it is not only simple and intiutive, it is also a lot of fun!

Edit: I just realized I should have noted that RMu currently offers two ways of handling movement: it allows you to pay AP to move, as I explained above (it calls this ‘Sequential Movement’); but it also allows you the alternative of not paying AP and instead incurring pace penalties to your actions for how far/fast you move. So if you really want to require your players to pull out a pace chart every time they move, you do have that second option (yes, that’s sarcasm!).

Edit2: One last thing to note is that Pathfinder 2 is going the Divinity route, and making movement just another action like all other actions (and without separate rules). In Pathfinder 2, players get 3 actions per turn instead of 4, but the basic idea is much the same. The developers quite eloquently explained why they made this choice, and how it enabled them to simplify their action economy and reduce the number of special rules they needed for unique types of actions, right here:

Adventure Writing

I saw this exchange on Reddit today…

Adventure Writing

Hey guys, I am writing an adventure for a campaign set on Skull Island and I was wondering what advice you guys can offer to make the campaign and adventure great. 🙂


Don’t “write adventures”; doing that creates a tendency to railroad players. Instead, create interesting situations, with an idea of how they might develop over time free of PC interference, then throw the PCs at those situations and enjoy watching them kick over all your sand castles in new and inventive ways.

I really liked that reply. It is pretty much the approach I took in the Corrupted Jungle. There was a villain with a plan and the players may or may not thwart those plans, the villagers had an agenda, there were locations with inherent dangers but there was no actual compulsion for the characters do do anything or go anywhere. If they were completely inactive then events would over take them and they would be swept up in them.

I quite like this style. Sometimes players can become paralysed into inaction. I try and avoid any castle or tower assaults in my face to face game as my players desperately try to achieve the perfect plan with such poor information that their planning discussions simply become circular and the game threatens to break down.

With a gathering storm or wave of events that will happen regardless of the characters inactivity the characters will be thrown into a situation and they can be either proactive or reactive but the only option that isn’t there is being inactive.

Writing this sort of adventure is a strange experience. You cannot really plan a climatic scene where they face down the villain, save the prince or rescue the kitten from the well if you don’t know what the players are going to do or how they are going to react. It becomes all about planning for contingencies.

I have used this approach in the July issue of the Fanzine. The elves are doing their thing, the humans are doing something else and between the two is new(ish) NPC antagonist with their own agenda. Put enough explosive ingredients into a small space and add the PCs you hopefully fireworks will fly.