July 19, 2011

Farstead Part Four: In Play & Change

In Play Mechanics
Now that the world is set up we can start playing. For the exploration, I will take a look at how many potential special items the characters can find. From there each member of the party will make a Nature roll with a DC20. For every success, the group will have found one of the special items from my list per day of exploring.

The understanding is that the group is making a diligent effort to explore the entire hex; this means they are traveling into dells, into hidden places, into every valley, behind every hill. I allow those who made the Nature roll to randomly roll to see which of the available special locations they discover in the hex. Eventually they will discover all the special features/items and the hex is then considered fully explored.

If the party manages to roll no successes it means they have gotten lost, doubled back on themselves, had to go back over terrain they had already covered because the terrain would not allow them to progress further. It also means they have a random encounter. For my random encounters I roll on a chart based on the hex number they are in, The results vary in level range, as well as the terrain and other hex conditions, but do fall within certain parameters. From there, I also wrote up some Unique Encounters. The non-unique ones can be used multiple times, but the unique ones are meant to be used once only.

Upon returning to the town of Farstead, the party is rewarded with 100g and 100xp per hex explored. This reward is further increased by how many hexes out from Farstead the hex explored was; x2 if the hex was 2 hexes away, x3 for 3 hexes out, etc. In essence exploring a hex is the equivalent of a Minor quest. It also allows for a faster leveling process, something I wanted to do since with our groups play time (3-4 hours every two weeks) is limited and leveling up can take many weeks of real time. Again, an added wrinkle designed for my group; other group’s composition and players will vary.

I am anticipating changes within the setting as the game progresses, especially in regards to Farstead itself. The plan is to have Farstead grow along side the characters. As they gain levels the thorp will grow as well. Since it is a colony it is easy to inject population as needed; the Motherland will continue to send colonists as time goes on. Here is my projected progression. This is of course subject to change dependent on the character’s actions. For example, one of the characters is a priest of Avandra; it is possible he will have a church built to his god before it occurs on my chart.

Of course with the growth of the colony I will have to add to the details of the town as time goes on, which will likely entail a lot of additional work. To my rescue comes one of my older books I bought awhile ago and never got around to using. Seven Cities by Atlas Games (published 9 years ago) has seven communities within it, ranging from a thorp to a large city. The book describes each type and populates them with more than enough details to keep it interesting. In addition, larger settlements often carry over details from the previous settlement type, thus allowing me to basically build Farstead from a thorp to my maximum potential size. I will have to make some minor adjustments, but the majority of the work needed has already been done for me.
Reusing older gaming materials can make world-building and GM prep a lot easier.

Since the time I started writing this article, we have run a couple of adventures and the characters have reached Farstead. One of the first things they did was ask how to claim some land as their own. It is my theory that, by nature, players like to build things (see my previous article talking about this http://bigballofnofun.blogspot.com/2010/02/players-are-builders.html). The players want to see the village grow and they want to be part of that process.

I gave the players some quick rules for claiming land. Within the immediate area, the hex the town is in, they can claim up to 300 square feet each. However, the land must be worked and progress must be shown that the land is being developed after a year’s time. For now the characters opted to wait on claiming land and instead focus on exploring the surrounding region.

However, having the characters invested in Farstead is a positive thing for me and the campaign. Exploring the surrounding region is not just about mapping and looting, but now also about removing any potential threats to Farstead. As the game progresses threats to Farstead can become a further catalyst for adventures; and those adventures will be less about killing and looting and more about protecting something the characters and players care about.

In addition, I am going to be changing the world and hexes themselves. I miscalculated the speed at which the characters would level (despite the fact I have purposely sped up the process). They are already 4th level and there are a lot of low level hexes they have yet to explore. I allotted too many hexes per level of encounters. However, there is nothing that says I can not change the content of the hexes they have not explored yet. I will likely reconfigure some of the hexes. This will entail shifting around delves between hexes, dropping delves that are weaker, focusing on filling the hexes with higher level delves. Also, the Lost City by Kobold Quarterly Open Design looks perfect for the setting of this campaign so I will likely slot it into a few hexes the characters haven’t reached yet. A setting is not set in stone until the characters have interacted with it.

Thus ends my initial look at the creation of my Farstead 4E hexcrawl/sandbox. In time I may add another article or two as the campaign progresses, but for now this is done. I hope I was able to share some useful insights into the creation process.
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