Sep 30, 2010

6th blog entry - A little about DM ethics

So, there's this thing that every DM needs to know. Okay now, I know I said you need not follow what I tell you, but at least consider this thing I'm about to throw at you in this post.

I've heard countless times about Dungeon Masters who, for some reason, got angry at players, and simply killed them ingame. Well, to me, that's just stupid. Being a DM doesn't mean you're playing against the fellowship. In fact, a DM is a player as well, it's just that his role in the game is a bit different.

First of all, before starting a campaign, the DM should point out to his players that he is also playing the game for fun, just as they do. Then, players should be told not to question DM's decisions, even if they happen to go against the rules, because a DM wouldn't do stupid or irrational things for no reason.

Be friendly to your players, give them a good campaign with lots of opportunities and fun, try to make the game smooth, and if they happen to mess up big time, always give them a way out of the trouble they've put themselves in. Having your player's characters die is a bad thing, and intentionally killing them is even worse. Of course, I'm not saying you should defend them at all costs, if they really deserve to get killed, there's nothing you can do, but you should always make sure they know what dangers lie ahead.

Here's a little example:
Player wishes to try and jump from one cliff to another. The gap is pretty wide, and the height is frightening. The fall would surely kill him.
  • DM: The cliff you're trying to jump on is pretty far, the difficulty class is 25, your jump skill is 7, so, a roll of 12 or less instantly results in your death, while on the rolls of 13-17 you still got a chance to grab to the side of the cliff and maybe pull yourself up. Do you still wish to proceed ?
  • Player: I do.
  • DM: Do you understand that you got more than 50% chance to get your character killed if you try to jump to that cliff ?
  • Player: I do, and I still want to take my chances.
  • DM: Okay, I warned you. Roll the dice.
Now, on the rolls of 13-17, a good DM would find a way for that character to save his life, while a bad one would make sure the character falls and dies.

Thanks for reading and have fun playing! :)

Sep 28, 2010

5th blog entry - Creating a settlement, part 3

Hello people, it's time for some more tips for Dungeon Masters, and everyone who want to become one x)

So, the 3rd part of this "Creating a settlement" tutorial shall be about different ways it can be managed and ruled, and also a bit about towns and their surroundings in general. Most of the stuff I'm gonna say here are taken from Dungeon Master's Guide and reworked a bit. So, here we go!

When you have decided on the size of your settlement and it's ways of getting needed resources, it's time to figure out who's gonna run the thing. Well, that's where it becomes interesting. DMGuide offers a few solutions to that, which are more than enough, and which i'll tell you about here. Of course, you're always free to come up with something on your own. In fact, if you do, let me know :)

  1. Monarchy - The rule of one man of royal blood, who is always drawn from the same family tree. He has an absolute power over military and economy, and usually deeply influences religion. The ruler usually has advisors and nobles who help him, or do the work in his stead. A monarch almost always resides in the largest settlement of his kingdom. Other cities are run by those chosen by the monarch. Regular citizens have little rights in such political system.
  2. Tribal or Clan structure - Tribes and clans are usually smaller settlements, up to the size of the village. They are ruled by a chief, leader or a warlord who has almost absolute power, and is chosen by either the rule of the strongest, or is voted out by the village elders. He pays respect to the elders, and to the religion, he's a supreme military leader, and influences the tribe's or clan's economy (if they have one). The difference between Monarchy and Tribe/Clan structure is in the way the leaders are chosen, and in the size of the settlement they rule.
  3. Feudalism - This is the type of political system that you can find everywhere throughout kingdoms ruled by a monarch. It is a complicated multi-layer system of classes. The lowest of people (peasants) work for their feudal lord, who "works" for the higher lord, who, again, "works" for even higher lord, all the way to a monarch. Peasants got almost no rights, and slavery is an often find, and the lords are in many cases cruel to their subordinates, and even to other, lower lords. Although the feudalism and monarchy seem to be unable to exist without each other, there are differences by which you can tell them apart: In monarchy, all soldiers are commanded directly by the monarch, while in feudalism, monarch (the supreme ruler) commands his lords, who command his lower lords, who command his even lower lords, who command soldiers.
  4. Republic - Republic is by far the best possible system, as it allows people to choose their representatives, who then gather in senates and vote for or against the propositions which concern the well-being of people. On the other hand, this is fertile soil for corruption. Democracy works best in city-states of any size. Regular people obtain the right to vote by a few means: Being born in an republic, by a bloodline, by paying for it, or by deserving it through a public service such as serving the military or performing a deed of bravery.
  5. Magocracy - Political system in which the ruler is either the most powerful spellcaster, or the oldest child of the current ruler, able to cast spells. Leader of a magocracy has an absolute rule over all aspects of his kingdom, but usually has a group of consultants and sdvisors by his side. Arcane magic is much more appreciated than divine, and divine spellcasters are often looked down on, although they are still treated better than those unable to wield magic. Lands with a majocratic political systems are rich with magic of all kinds. Divine and arcane universities are an often find, and even their military always has spellcasters in the ranks. If the ruler is the most powerful spellcaster, he may be challenged by those who believe to be even more powerful than he is.
  6. Theocracy - System in which the religion plays the most important role. Rulers are often clerics or druids, chosen as a representative of a deity. In some cases, leadership over the land is inherited through a bloodline. Once the ruler is chosen or inherits the throne, he usually stays on the function to the end if his days.
More about these six political systems i've shortly described here you can find in the Dungeon Master's Guide v3.5 pages 140-141. Other than that, the DMG gives a LOT if information and suggestions on economics, demographics, politics and various other aspects of a settlement or a kingdom. Be sure to check it out if you're looking to become a real Dungeon Master, as the well laid-out kingdom or a town is the base of an awesome campaign.

Now, about the other thing i wanted to tell you about... Creating a town in accordance to it's surroundings:

Well, this is quite simple, and thus, I'll point you in a right direction, and you'll soon realize how easy it is not to turn off the right road.

If you got a settlement with an approach to a sea or an ocean, it would be normal to find a lot of fish in the market. Also, almost everyone from the given settlement should have some points in their swim skill, sailor profession, fisherman profession and even some in craft (shipmaking). It just comes normal.
If you got a settlement which is in the middle of a desert or a plain, with no mountains or hills nearby, it would be strange for it to have massive walls made out of stone blocks. The primary source of food for such a settlement should be agronomy and animal husbandry, rather than fish.
If you got a settlement on a riverbank, make sure they use that river for fishing and transport.
And so on...

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial. Until the next time, may the sword and sorcery be with you!

Sep 25, 2010

4th blog entry - Creating a settlement, part 2

Allright, so far i've told you about different size categories of the settlements, and the resources that every one of them need. This time, we talk about what's inside the city walls.

So, every settlement, regardless of it's size, has got have buildings, of course. I dedicate this whole post to naming each building that could find it's place in a settlement. Here we go:

  1. Inns - Places where people come to mainly eat, maybe have a little drink, and go to sleep. Inns provide mainly food and bed, and only a few of them got alcohol on their menu.
  2. Taverns - Typical party houses. Music, prostitutes, lots of alcohol, drunkards, fights, etc...
  3. Blacksmiths - Blacksmiths mainly craft tools like hammers, scythes, rakes, shovels, hoes, etc...
  4. Healers - Healers could have their own houses which could serve as clinics, or could have a larger place, something like a hospital, where they would come work. Their healing can be magical, herbal, or both.
  5. Weaponsmiths - Blacksmiths specialized in forging weapons. This is where you'll find the best and the largest selection of weapons a town can offer.
  6. Armorsmiths - Armorsmiths are, like weaponsmiths, blacksmiths specialized in forging armor plates, and then putting them together. Note that armorsmiths craft only armors which are made out of metal, and those would be medium and heavy armors.
  7. Bowyers - Craftsmen skilled in bending wood who produce bows and crossbows.
  8. Magic shops - These are those interesting shophouses, usually all colorful and with a long-bearded spellwielder sitting in front and selling spellbooks, scrolls, magic items of all kinds, spell components, etc...
  9. Merchants - Places where you can buy almost everything. Merchants are typical grocery stores where you can get everything you need in a daily life, plus some exotic goods, which they bought from other travelling merchants.
  10. Leatherworkers - Shops where goods made of leather are made. Boots, gloves, light armors, belts, backpacks of all kinds, caps, etc...
  11. Tailors - People who sew regular clothes.
  12. Jewelers - Those shops which you'd most definitely love to loot. Here you can get your hands on various jevelry, including rings, bracelets, amulets, tiaras, and who-knows-what else.
  13. Cobblers - Craftsmen of shoes, and other footwear.
  14. Fishmongers - Fish and other sea stuff. They usually buy from fishermen, and then resell it.
  15. Farriers - Guys who make horseshoes, and somehow manage to put them on horses hooves.
  16. Carpenters - Builders who make objects from wood. They know wood's durability, strengths and weaknesses, and know which type of wood to use for which building.
  17. Masons - Builders who make objects out of stone. Like carpenters, masons are also proficient in what they do.
  18. Herbalists - People who know a lot about different types and species of plants. They are the ones who brew the best potions.
  19. Temples - Holy places where people go and pray to a certain God. Nothing else needs to be said.
  20. Stables - Large wooden halls. Horse inns. Farriers are usually closeby.
  21. Guard houses - Small houses where guardsmen come just before and after their shift to gear up or gear down and maybe have a drunk with other guardsmen.
  22. Guard HQ - Something like a main guard house. This is the place where guard leaders gather, and where the chief executive of the town's guard is sitting and giving orders.
  23. Watchtowers and walls - Name says all.
  24. Guard armory - In smaller towns, there's usually only one guard armory, while in the larger ones, more than one ar an often find. They are usually adjecent to guard houses and headquarters, or can even be in the exact same building as them.
  25. City HQ - This is the town hall, a place where the mayor makes all the decisions regarding the settlement. Place where businessmen and respectable citizens gather to discuss town-related stuff.
  26. Wizard tower/colony - Place where magicians of all sorts can practice their skills without affecting and disrupting normal citizens. Usually separated from public by a high wall or hedgerow. This is usually the place where old and high-level spellcasters live and study their books.
That's about it. In the next entry, we discuss types of government, and types of settlements, according to their surroundings :)

Sep 23, 2010

3rd blog entry - Creating a settlement, part 1

Hello again, we got work to do today, so let's get started! Some of the stuff you'll read here are things I learned from Dungeon Master's Guide, and others are those I figured out myself.

In Dungeons & Dragons, settlements have been divided into eight size categories:

  1. Thorp ( 20 - 80 inhabitants )
  2. Hamlet ( 81 - 400 inhabitants )
  3. Village ( 401 - 900 inhabitants )
  4. Small town ( 901 - 2000 inhabitants )
  5. Large town ( 2001 - 5000 inhabitants )
  6. Small city ( 5001 - 12000 inhabitants )
  7. Large city ( 12001 - 25000 inhabitants )
  8. Megalopolis ( >25000 inhabitants )
Note that the number of inhabitants you see here only includes adults, so the final number of inhabitants would be 10% - 40% more.

Now, when you decide how big your settlement will be, it's time to start creating it step by step (size of the settlement usually depends on the number of inhabitants).

Advice: The larger the settlement is, the more opportunities, in the means of experience-earning and money-making, it gives. Putting the characters in such an environment, full of opportunities, could make them stay there for longer than you expected, thus disrupting DM's plans.

Next step is to figure out the geographic aspect of the settlement's location. They are almost always founded near water, and on a high terrain, compared to the surroundings. Nearby mountains could affect climate, give valuable resources, and even provide protection. Simplified, people need water, food, protection and resources to build an economy on. In fact, there are very few settlents which are self-serving communities, and do not import nor export products. Those are mainly Thorps and Hamlets, and maybe some Villages.
  • Water comes from rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, wells, etc.
  • Food comes from farming, fishing, livestock, etc.
  • Protection comes mainly from high ground and distance to cities which could provide military support.
  • Resources could be any, or all of these three, plus a lot of things including natural and human resources.

That's it for part 1, next time we go under the hood ;)

Sep 18, 2010

2nd blog entry - Village map

Hey hey, I got something for you!

Yesterday while thinking about what will I make my second blog post about, an idea stormed through my mind: I remembered I have a neat map of a village that I drew about half a year ago. So, here it is, and again, feel free to use it! ^_^

That is a river you see there, and a bridge across it, population should be about 300 people, which makes it a Hamlet, larger buildings could be taverns, guard barracks (if any), stables, inns, town halls, temples, prisons, etc... The squares with an "x" inside are supposed to be guard towers

In my next blog entry, I could tell you a bit about how I create villages/towns/cities for my campaigns :)

Google removed my pic :|
I'll have to re-scan it and upload it again.

Sep 16, 2010

1st blog entry - Map of a dungeon

Oookay, my first post!

Being a Dungeon Master can be extremely boring and difficult, especially if you got a demanding company of experienced players. I know it all. That's why I'm here to help you, Masters of the Dungeon, in your attempt to lead an awesome campaign.

I've been doing the DM thing for quite some time now, and although I'm definitely not the smartest and most experienced DM on Earth, I think I found out a few things over the time that I'll share with you. Read my blogs, share it with other people, think about what I say, and in the end, if you like the tips I've given - follow them!