Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Silhouettes XXXIX

A special Halloween mashup edition.  These are all public domain, use them however you wish.
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Simple Pack Elephant +

The idea is that players can load their elephant up with cargo or passengers.  Each square is equal to one manifest sheet worth of cargo.  Players can write the names of characters riding in those boxes, or they can put an identifying manifest label for a portion of cargo like "provisions" or "caving gear."

Each manifest sheet has 60 slots at ~7.5 pounds a piece, or 450lbs.  That means a rider is figured at an average 225 pounds.  I'm okay with that figure for simplicity's sake.  For every big armored knight, there might be a hobbit or practically naked mage.  That also means old jumbo here can carry ~1800 pounds.  An elephant might carry more but with the mahout and howdah I think it's a reasonable figure.

You'll need to print out four manifest sheets for every riderless pack elephant.  I divided them into two halves for further convenience.  I'm hoping that will make tracking supplies for a big expedition easier.

The four silhouettes are meant to show the normal limit of riders.  Players could potentially double the number, but the pictures of tiger hunts I kept seeing didn't have very many riders per elephant.  I think I would keep the limit four for un-impeded combat and such.  More riders might have negatives to missile fire or be unable to cast spells because of the press of bodies and jostling.

Here is an attempt at a mammoth, as requested.  It isn't quite as symmetrical because I was trying to avoid obscuring the silhouette:
I feel like the silhouettes should be scruffier-- prepared for ice age conditions.  (Did I ever tell you that I loved the Dragon magazine article about Ice Age D&D?  Makes me want to create a blizzard/Arctic travel mini-game.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Simple Pack Ape +

  Every time you want to stow something on one of your many pack apes, just fill in a slot.  Once the slots are all full, the poor thing can't carry any more.

  The slots are meant to be roughly 7.5 pounds, or half a stone.  There are 45 here which works out to ~337 lbs.  This is based on someone with 18/00 strength in 1eAD&D being unencumbered, with the idea that the ape will be able to climb, swing, and move around freely with this much weight packed on.  Thanks to Darnizhaan for that strength suggestion. 

The grey checkboxes can be darkened when you determine the beasts hit points.  Then if it happens to take some unfortunate damage, cross off a box for each point.  There should be enough boxes for the hardier carnivorous apes (~5HD) if that's how you roll.

And here is a bonus simple pack Donkey:
Donkeys come in many breeds, but this is aimed at the smaller, burro types to distinguish it from the mules.  With 12 slots they can hold ~90lbs.  They should also be able to get by with very little food, though stubbornness might be an issue.

In talking about the possibilities making these pack animals less abstract could open up my buddy said "Man, I'd love to play a game where I had to eat my donkey."  I'm working on it, haha.

I'd prefer to give you tools to make your own beasts of burden.  But I can't think of an easy way to do it.  I thought of just making up a sheet with slots on it that you could darken to the number you want but 1) that's essentially lined paper, and 2) it gets rid of the main point of these-- letting players tell easily what beast type it is documenting and how much it can carry in comparison to the others.  So for now I guess I'll just keep making beasts that tickle my fancy or that you mention.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Serendipity XIX

Sometimes I find cool pictures when I'm looking for something else. These are all public domain, which means you can use them any way you wish.
This actual primate looks too Sword & Planet to be real. I like the colors.
 From something titled Adventures in Skitzland.  Saw it on the OBI scrapbook blog.
Guar, musk ox, American bison.  These bring back good memories of reading encyclopedias in my grandma's junk-filled garage.  I'll leave it to someone more skilled than me to remove the old paper color without messing up the rest.
Conan's end.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Praise for an old Flash Game

Caravaneer has been around for years.  I don't remember if I started playing this again recently and then thought to make the simple pack animals posts, or if it was making those posts that reminded me of this game I've played for hours in the past.  I think it is the most sophisticated flash game I've ever seen.  Even though it has simple graphics it offers a play experience that is reminiscent of Fallout 1 with less dialogue but more trading infrastructure.

In a nutshell, you're in a post-apocalyptic world and can take items from one little town to another for a profit if you can make it past the ubiquitous bandits.  In the early game you'll be limited to livestock as transport.  There is a pretty good selection with camels, donkeys, mules, horses or oxen and various carts to be pulled by the non-camels.
All these creatures require different amounts of food and water as well as travel at different speeds.  So you have to decide whether you want to travel more efficiently but slowly and have to fight all the bandits, or less efficiently and fast enough to outrun some of them.

Travel is abstract on a overland map that zooms in to a top-down battlefield.  Each character has a certain number of Action Points to expend each round and different actions, like firing weapons or reloading, take different amount of APs.

I'm a sucker for the dromedarys and their supper low food and water requirements.  So, I'll usually have a long train of them and then have to fight every step of the way to get from one town to another.  One good thing about this is that you can train up the number of APs and the gun accuracy of your people in these low risk fights for when you need them later in the game.

The game, like D&D, changes as you progress.  As you trade with towns it allows them to progress and grow out of the need for the very product you were trading and it becomes necessary to reach farther, to newer towns, to make money.  Eventually you'll need to upgrade your weapons and hire more caravan guards to even survive.  And then you'll probably want to upgrade to vehicles-- atvs, jeeps, hummers-- to outrun the deadliest bandits.

The game gets a little grindy (this is partially because of the slow travel I tend to use) and I think could do with less frequent bandit attacks.  It also feels like it rushes a bit to push you from one stage of the game to the next; you barely make 2 trips on your first trade route and the towns don't need those supplies any more.  A big flaw is that bandit partys drop all their gear.  It's cool to be able to sell some stuff when you defeat robbers, but It undermined the excitement of upgrading when bandits were dropping stacks of guns better than I'd seen in any shop yet.  I think all the detail spent on handguns is wasted because their window of usefulness is so small.

The game, though, is a perfect example of a computer being used by a game to do what it does best.  Water requirements, food usage, trading prices, all the number crunching is taken care of by the old mechanical brain.

Caravaneer was made by Dmitry Zheltobriukhov and is available from Sugar-Free Games as ad-ware.  I hear it is possible to find an ad-free swf file to downland. I could go on, but you should try the game out on your own.  And, Dmitry, if you see this, I'd buy a PC game like this, if you made one, maybe with the addition of setting up your own shops in towns so I could sell all the dang glass bottles robbers drop.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Five Weighty Spells

Palimpsest Pack
Load yourself to your limit with bags and goods and cast this spell. The pack will disappear into the luminous aether and return whenever you call it, requiring a turn to materialize.  You can cast the spell multiple times (one pack per level).  Wear a normal pack as well and carry all the comforts with you into the wild.

Baba's Ox
Cut the ox's throat and cast this spell before the last drop of blood drains from it.  It will pull loads silently while needing no water, no food, no rest, and no sleep, for as many days as you are powerful (level).  Peasants consider this evil.

My Pretties
Cry "Take These!" to call small creatures forth (1d6 per level) which will each take a few items from you (up to 7.5 pounds) and then scatter back into the landscape.  Cry "My Pretties!" to call them back and retrieve your items.  These creatures-- monkeys, opossums, raccoons, bats, rats, cats, anything that can grasp or bite-- will shadow you along your path as quiet as their kind, until called again.

Burdensome Kiss
Cast the spell and kiss someone within an hour.  That person will then feel the weight of all you bear for a week.  They will also know what you did.

Gold adds Light to the Air
A solid gold model of an object is made and the spell cast on it.  The original, will be light as a coin and perfectly balanced.  Hide the golden model somewhere safe.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wilderness Travel Mini-Games VII

For those of you just joining this series, I realized that the default for travel in the wilderness is usually-- nothing happens-- and that there was little to differentiate traveling through one type of terrain from another.  So I set out to try and create strategic games to both, give players something to do while travelling, and to make travelling through the desert feel different than travelling through the jungle.

Because I don't have any typical images in my head for travel through the luminous aether, I made this one a little more abstract.  Also, I don't have any experience DMing folks through planar journeys, but I imagine this could be modifiable to lots of different applications-- travelling through dreams or psionically, for example.  For that reason, though, I have no idea what unit to use here, whether it be time, space, or number of planes jumped.  I leave you to figure out the particulars.  Here we go:

The character that initiated the travel begins in the center.  The rest of the travellers are arranged around the initiator concentrically.

Every unit of travel each traveller must move one position as they are jostled about in the aether.  Before moving each player rolls a d6.  The position they can move to can only be their die roll or lower.  Only one player can occupy a spot at a time. 

If a player rolls lower than all adjacent spaces they must move to the lowest space next to them.  If a player on a 2 spot rolls a one or has adjacent spots blocked, they slip into the void.

Once a journey, players with exceptional intelligence can add their bonus to any persons die roll.

If the party is attacked while travelling, characters receive penalties to combat depending on which ring they have been jostled to: the three spots are -1, and the two spots are -2.  A player lucky enough to be on the six spot receives +1 to combat that round.

So, it isn't too likely for someone to get jostled off unless the party travelling is large and starts blocking each other.  But with the penalties to combat, players will still want to stay as close to the center as possible.

What does slipping into the void mean?  Seems like a pretty good adventure hook to me, probably they end up in a plane they least expected.  What happens if the initiator of travel slips off?  Ooh, seems like they'd take everyone with them, don't you think?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beasts of Burden

   So I went back and added spots for name and owner as you can see. The checkboxes are for hitpoints. You darken the outlines of all the hitpoints a particular animal has. There was some variation between rule sets so I just put down 24 for mules and camels. That's enough for 3 eight sided hit dice and you can use less if your ruleset uses d6 hd or whatever. In combat you pencil off checkboxes as they take damage.  You could even put little asterisks or colored marks between boxes to flag when an animal would try to flee or go berserk (thanks to Carjacked Seraphim Jim for that idea).
   Here is an elephant with a mahout and howdah meant for tiger hunting. I couldn't find any pictures of elephants straight up carrying loads. It seems there were either used for transport like this or bulldozers moving logs around with their tusks.  So I'm not sure what to do with them.  I have some ideas-- maybe put silhouettes for how many armored adults they can carry, or insets that will blow up to full cargo sheets of 450 lbs each.
   But I'm not sure how much Indian elephants can carry.  Such a simple range to want to find and so hard to find online.  Same with gorillas, I saw that they were anywhere from 6 to 13 times as strong as a man.  That's arm strength though, doesn't mean you could even fit all that weight on their back.  I'm thinking they might only be capable of carrying a smaller pack, something closer to the mule, but come with the extra capabilities of opening doors and bending iron bars like a beast.

   If you have suggestions of carrying capacity for different creatures, or know a place that has them let me know.  I keep looking at the AD&D Wilderness Survival guide, but they gave 500 pounds for a mule which made me doubt their judgement (some mules could do that, but I think the average mule was smaller).  How about dinosaurs or mythical creatures?

   Oh, and the elephant has enough boxes for 10.5 eight-sided hitdice.  If that isn't enough for a particular ruleset let me know, but I wanted it to look aesthetically pleasing too.

   Late night addition: It's pretty cool learning how these different animals are good at different things maybe this is the first step to having these kinds of creatures more real in my world.  For example, llamas carry less than all the others but eat less and are even better than mules on treacherous terrain.  They are fine in the cold too.
   I'm not really happy with the llama's silhouette, but that's the best I could do after hours of looking.  Only 10 slots here which gives you ~75 pounds.  Again, bigger individuals could probably carry more, but we're shooting for an average to take extra rough trails into account, etc.  Not sure how many hit points they'd have.  I just left the mule's checkboxes because they are symmetrical.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Simple Pack Camel

Here's an attempt at a simple list based encumbrance for dromedary camels.  With 55 slots that are roughly 7.5 pounds you get a little over 400 pounds.  This is an average-- bigger camels would carry more and most camels might carry more but for limited distances.

I like that is sort of in scale with the mules.  Players should easily see that the camel can carry more.  This will be harder to continue if we get a creature that needs more than a page for all its slots.  I suppose I could do two sides of the page or something.

With the slots divided up into groups, players with lots of beasts of burden won't have to track every little thing, they could just have certain supplies in chests or bags that are kept track of and put on the beasts loaded, pretty much like a real expedition would.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Simple Pack Mules

I've had this in mind for a while and had some time to sit down and make it today.  The idea uses list based encumbrance.  Players write down things they store on the mule and once all the slots are filled the mule can't carry any more.   I had to look back at my old encumbrance post to see that I settled on 7.5 pounds per slot-- a mid point between heavy weapons and lighter daggers.  That means with 26 slots per mule they can hold ~195 pounds which is about right.  You can assume 5-10 pounds for a pack saddle and harness etc.

I've long wanted to standardize how much sacks, bags, and chests can hold in my game.  See The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms for some recent posts on this.  If I do that, I can not only tell players how many coins they can stuff in a sack but know ahead of time how many slots a full sack would take up.  (This is probably amusing to folks good at calculating in their heads, but I figure it will help players visualize their choices too).

I think I've been saying 30lbs of coins in a sack, so that would mean 4 slots and ol' Henry here could carry 6 and a half sacks of coins.  Or, if you are using 10 coins to the pound, 1950 coins.

I want to do this for camels and dog sleds and maybe weird stuff like gorillas too.  Also, it would probably be helpful to have a visual key showing how much various container can hold.  I think for simplicity's sake I will make the slots they hold equivalent to the slots they contain.  That way you can just toss your bags on the mule, or tie on a chest without worrying what the chest weighs.

I'm just realizing it would probably be good to put a line for names and characteristics of different mules and maybe even simple meters for wounds or exhaustion.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wilderness Travel Mini-Games VI

The desert is a grueling waste and the best way to deal with it is spend as little time there as you can.  For every three days the party travels in the desert their food and water needs will multiply.  Each day the party will see features that they can choose to explore or ignore.  Exploring them will require an extra day.  The features that might be seen during each three-day-span are linked with dotted paths.  Landmarks are tombs and ruins or ancient stelae which might hold riches in gold or ancient knowledge.  An oasis will provide food, water, and shade to a party for as long as they like; will allow them to re-stock their supplies; and will reset their place on the chart to the start.  Caravans can offer food, water, and unerring transport, but may also be hostile bandits or slavers.  Unfortunately, 50% of the time any of these will be mirages.  And 25% of the time they will be one of the other two features.

Once a party member cannot meet the food and water requirements they must make a save each day to continue.  Failing this save means they are unconscious.  Each day they are unconscious they must save or die.

Every landmark visited will offer a bonus against getting lost on subsequent journeys through the same area.

Note: I probably should have put a couple check boxes for local guides or rangers that give you one free non-mirage.

The idea here is that the desert becomes more and more deadly the more time players fiddle around in it.  They may decide to strategically search for an oasis or caravan if supplies start running low.  A DM would need to prepare several landmarks ahead of time.  These could be anything from full blown dungeons to just obelisks.  I envision using my trackless wastes chart to help players know where they think they are going.  I also envision using this with the normal getting lost chances, which could make excursions into the desert very dangerous.

I can imagine situations where a few tougher party members desperately seek out an oasis or caravan with all the rest of the party left behind, unconscious.

Update 10/12:
I simplified the chart to three sections and lowered the multipliers to the still easy to remember but more believable 2,3, and 4x.  I like this better, it looks cleaner. 

I would have the multipliers just apply to water now.  I think it fits the tropes better.  I also added the reminder boxes for rangers and locals getting one free I'm-certain-that-is-no-mirage per journey.  (funny how I put rangers and druids and such on all these charts when I don't even use them in my campaign.  I guess that is just me trying to be helpful to you all-- rangers, druids and equivalent situations-- players with magic items or special backgrounds-- should all work equally well on these simple rules).

I was in the process of changing the three day increments to four but reverted them back, I think, while I had it too brutal before, it needs to feel like a dangerous and slippery slope-- four days of travel equivalent to just being on a normal road was a little too easy to do that in my opinion.

Also, I don't think I ever mentioned that the whole dotted line mess isn't just for aesthetics, I was trying to limit when players might find certain things.  I didn't want a party, fresh and confident, checking to see if every oasis is a mirage.  But as things get desperate there are chances available to get out of the situation, like being picked up by a caravan.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Port Specific Trade III

Here is my best shot at making a reality of what I had in my mind.  A cool isometric view of an actual specific port.  Size and layout of sections can generally correspond with importance of results you want to get.  Here are some more ideas:
  • It's a little busier than I would want.  I like the idea of giving the sense of the port, but the main job should be to be easy to read by people sitting around a table throwing dice on it.
  • Imagine the icons here were separate tokens you could move around and mix and match on top of the map.  If trade changes in a city, you could rearrange the tokens rather than having to create a whole new image.
  • Better yet, imagine a web-thingy like Telemonster that has a dice drop map as a blank template and you can put whatever image you want in each spot.  Infinite visual charts, baby!
  • I included icons that could represent piracy and disease to show how random events might also be incorporated.
  • I left some spots blank thinking maybe there are times or seasons where there are no buyers for particular cargoes.  But you could put other goods in those spaces too.
  • You could also use small numbers next to the icons for prices or to convey extra information.
  • If the spaces around different buildings come up, maybe those could have specific meanings.  The lower left looks like a church- a random church-related event?  The town is central-- guild issues?, then a fortress to the right-- embargoes?
  • Again, are these the biggest trade goods this port is exporting, or just the most likely cargoes to be found coming or going?  Do we just roll on here to determine gluts, or demand?  I want to accomplish everything you'd ever need on this one page, but maybe that's too simplistic.
  • Yeah, so I'm sort of working the implementation backwards towards what it's supposed to be solving, but, man, I really have a sense this is the right direction to be going.  Imagine adding a bunch of possibilities for players and a sense of a more real, working world to the game with just a few pages.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fear what you See

The Medusa turns you to stone by looking at you.  The Catoblepas' bloodshot glance can kill outright.  So too, the gaze of the Basilisk.  A creature's gaze might put you to sleep or make you drunk.  Blind Agnes steals your eyes, so you see what she sees.   Imagine creatures invisible in light but visible in twilight.  Shadow People and, perhaps the Horla, can be seen only from the corner of the eye.  The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal will not attack you if you cover your eyes.  Imagine a hot room jostling with demons that your character must walk through blindfolded.  The Endermen of Minecraft will only attack if you look directly at them.  They can also teleport and, once hostile, will teleport behind you in combat.  The Weeping Angels will only attack when you are not looking at them, otherwise they appear as statues.  Which brings to mind Caryatid Columns which become hostile and animated when triggered, which could be from just looking at them.  But even creepier for me is SCP-173, pictured above.  If someone's gaze is not constantly on it, it will quickly move in destroy all life in its presence.

The SCP Foundation is a rabbit hole worth exploring some winter afternoon.  You can start with the top rated pages.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thoughts on Realism

I wrote this back when Realism was the topic of the day, but didn't publish it because it didn't seem to add anything new, but what the heck, work is eating my brain so have my 2 cents on realism:

I think when people talk about Realism what they are talking about is specifics (how many people live in this village?) that are actual-- match up with the best we know from historical records (in England of 1100 the village would have between x and y villagers).  Actual might drift into plausible for space or hero games, but what we consider plausible is based on our actual experiences anyway.

Specifics communicate the imagined world we're sharing (You're on a cobblestone road.  You can see a village with thatched roofs in the distance).  Without enough details a player might only have a hazy sense of the world, might not even know what they can do or where they can go.

Genre helps a lot with this by acting as a shorthand for a shared set of assumed specifics.  If I say we'll be playing a Western game like Boot Hill, it does a lot of work for me as a DM because we have a shared set of cultural tropes we can draw on.  I don't need to tell you we'll be in Kansas in 1870 for you to have images of six- shooters, saddles, and player pianos.

Many of the tropes we associate with particular genres are inaccurate, or at least very vague in the sense of the time they happened historically.  D&D's weapons and armor and equipment, for example, are pieces that appeared at different time periods in history.

The Actual
Accuracy can become important when specifics break player expectations.  If we all have the sense that our campaign is viking-style, maybe circa ~900, full suits of plate could seem jarring and weird.  If you aren't playing a more gonzo-type of game, modern ideas and philosophies- like druids that are conservationists- might seem weirdly out of place.

Actual details can also be important just because it's so much work for DMs to invent specifics from scratch.  If you want to create a new world you need to come up with the clothing, customs, languages, weapons, religions, and history.  The list goes on and on.  This is a hobby of its own, but takes an enormous amount of time and investment.  Instead, I can read about medieval villages, how they're laid out, who lived in them, etc.  If I read enough, I can internalize a sense of a "typical village" that makes it much easier to create a new village on the fly or field any questions players have while visiting a village.

With this sense of confidence that knowing about actual villages gives me as a DM, I can make villages that are larger than normal or odd in different ways.  I can make it interesting.  But more importantly, I can confidently provide details that help players "see" the place and make choices.

One problem is when specifics get in the way of actual gameplay.  Examples of rules being more specific than needed are numerous: the idea that because weapons have length and weight that combat should incorporate reach and weapon speeds, or because weapons damage in different ways there should be damage types for blunt, piercing, cutting, etc.  All this detail adds steps to combat resolution and thus time.  The more specifics the longer and slower combat becomes.  Specifics have a price when resolving rule subsystems.

I think the biggest problem with too much emphasis on actual details, being really concerned with historical accuracy, is that very few people are knowledgeable about actual details in a way that will help them see the game world more clearly or give them more choices as players.  So, if you spend enormous amounts of time determining how a game set in Kansas 1870 will be different than Missouri 1880, it might help you as a DM with confidence and specifics you can use to describe the world, but most folks will only have those hazy Western tropes in mind.  You can't expect players to know these specifics any more than they know the specifics of you fantasy land you entirely made up.  We all aren't history majors.  Heck, even history majors specialize in certain eras.   If you set up the game to require them to know these facts, you might be setting up a lecture more than a game.  At the least, players won't see choices that you might consider obvious "You should have asked for help, the way feudalism works means . . ."

I think the reason D&D has been largely a pseudo-medieval setting is because doing that manages a balance of these two: we have images in our head of what things are like, but we don't have to have PhDs in history to play the game.

Everything I do is trying to add the flavor of the real-- whether with trade, toxins and drugs, traveling the wilderness-- without bogging down the fun of the game.  I think this is counter-intuitive.  I imagine as long as there are rpgs someone will be trying to add weapon length to the combat and devising population density algorithms for hex crawls.

I'm sympathetic with folks that care intensely about actual specifics because I like learning and also because I completely understand someone looking to the actual to help them know a range of possibilities.  I create my baselines-- what are the 20 fundamental potions?, or rings?-- for the same reason: to help me, as DM, make rulings and describe my world.  And DMing is hard, so if someone spends tons of time reading up on vikings to help them run games, that's cool.

There comes a point though, where a person has to actually be obtuse to not observe how long things are taking in a game or what players are actually getting out of play.  I am ultimately on the side of players here and I have little patience if after thirty years of this game being around you still get hung up on detailed encumbrance or price lists because how the game works "just doesn't feel right to you."

My advice: read to learn and enjoy, communicate clearly to players the genre and tone of your game, and include as much actual detail as you can without bogging down play.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Misc V

Dungeon Telephone
Run your players through your average dungeon.  Ask them to map and don't correct their errors.  Next party, run them through the dungeon using the first party's map as the literal dungeon.  Repeat.  I wonder what the dungeon would eventually look like.  My guess is that it what devolve into a 10' corridor in a square with rooms off of it.  Maybe eventually eroding into a single straight hallway with a few rooms.

Alternate experiment run another DM's dungeon making clear additions and revisions to your own taste, then pass it to another DM who will do the same, and so on.  What would that dungeon eventually become?  I have a feeling it would look very much like a megadungeon made by a mad archmage with giants in rooms next to orcs with pies.  I'm not certain of that though.  Maybe it would be come more bland over time, something like caves of various humanoids.

Precision Backgammon Dice
I'm ashamed that I consider myself a lover of precision dice and didn't know until last week that you can actually buy nice round-faced backgammon dice that are milled from acrylic like casino dice.  They are pricey, but I'd like to buy some eventually.

Minecraft Nascent Module Properties
I almost made a whole post for this but I'm not sure how many Minecraft players I have as readers.  Imagine a procedurally-generated sandbox game that you can build whatever you want, like Lego.  What do you do?  It seems after mastering the early survival phase of the game people often crave challenge created by human brains.  You can download free maps made by people.  There are several types of these, but the most popular by far, are called CTM maps, or "Complete the Monument".  So, they give you a clear goal, find 16-19 doodads and bring them safely to a particular place.

What interests me most is the conventions that have become accepted through play.  First, there is no pretense at a natural setting or reason for areas, like a megadungeon, you just have snow-themed area A over here and Lava Lake B over here because.  However, these are laid out on a very clear grid pattern with intersections.  The intersections have four directions and each are is named with signs.  It seems players getting lost is considered the height of unfun.

Another odd custom, is that the main threat of these maps, monster spawners which can be destroyed or disabled by lighting them up, are put out in clear sight.  Sometimes they might be hidden behind one layer of shallow wall, but the courteous convention seems to be making sure players know exactly what threats lie ahead of them and where.

I'm not sure what to make of this.  On one hand I have the feeling these are attempts to set up challenges that don't require you reading the Map-makers mind, which is great.  On the other hand there is a weird contradiction here of players clamoring for difficult, but not too difficult challenges.  The maps have a reputation as being hard, the most well known series being called "Super Hostile," yet there are chests placed about with resources and weapons for the player in phases of the map where they will need them.  This gives the whole thing a very video-gamey Super Mario feel to me.  There might be some of the same balancing of threats to capabilities in my own games but I like to think I try to hide it behind the veneer of plausible verisimilitude.

p.s. Almost have my Secret Santicore request finished.  Just one more idea to nail down then I'll mail it off.  I'll blog about it after the collection comes out-- I think surprise is part of the fun of the endeavor.