Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Project A Day 2 - Residents of the Wasteland

Locations - Overview
Today was devoted largely to expanding the Falling Skies campaign setting notes. I expected to have a chance to expand the setting through play but tonight's regular gathering didn't work out that way. Man, I love that I can add stuff like this to my CV or portfolio - it's essentially games design when you get right down to it, like writing a level design document. Exactly the kind of stuff that I spent last year's Games Design modules doing at uni.

I concentrated on typing up and filling out the existing notes on general locations, the town and people of Ketai and the city and residents of the City of Phire (shortened from the original Sapphire City). For the record, I don't believe I mentioned yesterday but that day was spent primarily in setting down the setting overview, economy (currency, common trade goods etc) and 1100+ years of history.

From the top, then! I started by looking over my (really sketchy and unpublishable) map of the region and making a list of the important locations identified so far, in no particular order. I then reorganised these into alphabetical order and went through them, again fairly at random, writing a paragraph or two for each location. Browsing this chapter(?) should give a reader a good overall image of the wasteland and know the important places they have available. It also serves to remind me of the intent and purpose of each location when it later comes to developing them in detail.

Key Locations : People
Which is what comes next. Each 'key location' has its own chapter, or sub-chapter whatever, which is further segmented into People, Places and Hooks (ie story hooks or potential quests). People and Places tend to be thought up together: for example, a shopkeeper and their shop naturally form as one idea. Hooks come later when the others are filled in. How can you have a solid quest idea if there are no places for it to occur in or people to initiate or be involved in it?

Seeing as I already had a bunch of notes on it, I started with the eastern town of Ketai - which you will realise is an analogue of Megaton from FO3, though there is not exactly a quest to destroy the town or render the tower at its centre safe. I started with my list of existing characters and began fleshing them out one-by-one. One note reads 'Martha - Guardswoman' and that's it. I remember from Sunday's session that she'd been the watch captain, sharp with the heroes, sounded tired and I had decided to use her as a vehicle to introduce firearms (though never directly calling them as such). A little thinking and a little writing, just letting my fingers work of their own accord, and I'm left with the following:

Martha – Human female Ranger 6 - Captain of the Watch
This tough, no-nonsense woman began life in the toughest streets of Phire City. After some now unmentioned event in her early life she was forced to flee into the wastes, where she was picked up by a raider gang. Several years later she turned up in Ketai, seriously injured and clearly traumatised. See was allowed to stay and when her combat skills became clear she was invited to join the town watch. Now in her late 30s, Martha has risen to lead the watch as captain. Her skills with the town’s one musket rifle are legendary and Martha’s reputation alone has fended off several would-be town raiders.

Which should be more than enough for now, and for any Dungeon Master to work with. Should her precise statistics be required, the DM in question should be able to devise a suitable stats block from the description, knowledge of their campaign's requirements, and the heading line: 'Human female Ranger 6'.

Key Locations: Places
Next came Places. The town description identified a few locations: namely the 'solid defensive wall', the fallen citadel and stores where trading might occur. Others had appeared in the gaming session, such as Liara's water bar and hotel. Again a list was made and in their turn the places were described in enough detail to suggest their general appearance, purpose and use. In the case of places of trade, some particularly common items were listed with their cost and how much of each item can be acquired in a given period. And I've just remembered I meant to add how many tips a vendor has available for trade: Liara the hotelier only has a hundred or so tips in liquid assets, while Felix the trader may be able to gather together a lot more given a little notice.

Finally, as mentioned, comes Hooks. These came from just looking over the places and people and jotting down the ideas that came to mind. I try to find around five hooks for any given location, in a range of styles - five combat-oriented ideas are less interesting than a couple of combat ideas, a couple mystery and one political just to pull a few out of the air. More than any other element, Hooks are there largely for inspiration for DMs to create their own plot points rather than hard-and-fast facts of the location.

In dangerous locations, like the raider-controlled Oasis or the crime-ridden City of Phire, hazards and threats would also be mentioned under a fourth sub-heading. As it is Ketai has its own dangers but they are so few they can be described under the relevant place or person.

Well, I hope this has been of interest and even better it would be nice to think someone could take an idea from this and use it in developing their own games and settings. For myself, this is a lot of fun and I hope makes a worthwhile addition to a future portfolio. The next step is to put some serious effort in to the City of Phire.

Au revoir mes amis!

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