Sunday, May 27, 2012


I've made it up to the mountains again.  It's quiet and cool and I've seen quail already.  I plan on doing some hiking.  If I get a chance to just sit and think with a lot of coffee in me I think I'm right on the cusp of a cool system you all might like.  Here are a few ideas I had since my last post:

What We're Fighting For
I know folks have different ideas about what hit points represent.  I prefer to keep them loosely connected to physical health and wounds.  But what if after a festival, wedding, or Ewok-style victory party characters got boon hit points that would last until lost (in other words they don't heal back.)?  Maybe half the character's current total if they are low level.  I think it would give a sense that the positive, productive events that happen in the dire borderlands are worthwhile and make players look forward to them more, as they give a protective glow long after the last lanterns are put out.

Burnt Forest Wilderness
A forest that has suffered a fire is very different than the norm and can take years to recover.  I know it's part of the biological cycle but the burnt forest looks grim.  Visibility is much higher with all the low hanging branches and underbrush gone.  Only changes in elevation get in the way of seeing quite far.  I think getting lost should be harder and missile combat easier in burnt forest.  Foraging should be harder but hunting might be easier as deer and game moving through the area would be easier to see.  I think it would be cool to have different monsters to encounter: wounded dryads and things that utilize the burnt landscape for camouflage (see this post from last year).


  1. I find both these thoughts very interesting. I once ran a forest fire in my game, and it had a profound impact on how the players interacted with the area afterward.

    My first instinct is to try to find a different mechanic than hit points to reflect the afterglow effect, but really it's the way to go for something like that.

  2. The burnt forest could be a really cool setting, whether it's fresh and still smoldering or years later as it recovers. My players would probably immediately think "Dragon!" but of course that's just one way to tie it in to the current adventure or the history of the campaign area. Even if it has nothing to do with anything "important," it gives a great sense of desolation and foreboding, or the cycle of death and rebirth, depending on how you spin it.

  3. There's a tendency to think of wilderness as static, but it's anything but. Thinking also about the flooding of the Amazon and how that changes things (suddenly there is no land, and you can interact with the lower layer of canopy directly from your boats), avalanche season in the Alps, hot dry winds off the desert or withering Siberian blasts. Calving glaciers that might reveal stuff that'd been locked up in the ice for millenia.

    The underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli get mentioned periodically, but not the really striking region they're in: Cappadocio is a big region of easily-carved volcanic ash. People dig their houses out of the "fairy chimneys" formed by water runoff. Which is great and picturesque and fantastical except that the houses are wildly unstable: if you get a hard winter freeze, ice gets into the porous rock and levers it apart. When the thaw comes, there are landslides alk over the place, so as a result when you visit those fairy chimney houses you can see not only windows and doors cut into the cliffs but also halves of abandoned living rooms and bathrooms and corridors, where the thaw has taken a chunk of someone's house away.

    Re HP; I love it. Works something like permanent SAN gain when you triumph against the monsters on CoC. I once (only once) had a CoC character who refused to follow the death spiral built into the game: he kept making net SAN gains. I've been thinking of turning HP into a proper "luck" stat and rolling against it etc, allowing permanent losses.... have you seen Zzarchov's NGR? Very interesting approach for this.

  4. Thanks for the comments, all. I really like packing more interesting exploration into the same space so the idea of seasons or catastrophes affecting a landscape is really cool. In fact I'm not sure why I wasn't thinking of it sooner, probably because I was struggling with the abstract idea of wilderness in my mind.

    @Richard: Cappadocia sounds fascinating from what I've seen would like to see it some day. I've seen NGR but it's been a while and The pdf he kindly gave me is down the hill. But my initial reaction to luck stats is that I don't like how they give players a mechanic to change things that have already happened rather than forcing them to interact with the world through careful choices. There seems to be some fuzzy new school/old school line that's crossed there for me.