Monday, December 7, 2015

Wilderness Fatigue, Quantum Caves

I get the feeling that there is something I'm missing with the mid-level wilderness game.  I'm not super-excited to prep and run it, and my players don't seem particularly excited to be playing it.  On my end there is definitely the possibility of some DM fatigue (supplemented by ordinary work-deadline and performance review fatigue), but I think it's worth considering the pain-points.
  • Wilderness travel is slow
    • It is slow in game-time because of plate and bad terrain.  One good solution to this could be horses...  or rocs.
    • It is slow in real-time because of counting hexes and multiplying for bad terrain.  This is a surprisingly challenging operation to do mentally when crossing multiple terrain types with different multipliers in a single day of travel.  Could definitely stand some automation operating on hexographer map files.
  • Logistics (estimating how many mules they'll need to carry their water) is not exciting, and also time-consuming.
    • Again, automation.  You hire an NPC muleskinner, you tell him how many mans, how many days, and how much slop factor you want, I put that in a script, and I tell you a number of mules and a rations-cost.
    • Logistics gets a lot more exciting if hungry monsters target the tasty, tasty mules over the guys in plate.  The problem here, though, is that if this happens near the end of the journey, your mules are probably mostly empty, and if it happens at the beginning, you can just return home.
  • Random encounter results so far have been unsatisfactory
    • Part of this is that the default random encounter tables don't really fit my setting.  I need to rework them, but for that I also basically need new monsters, and I don't have a good source for monsters in quantity.
      • I want to do Western Marches-style per-biome (Blight, Cinderwood, Bjornskog, Bjornfells, Dvagrfells, Mithrskog, Vestrifen, ...) encounter tables, but hexographer doesn't have a good way to draw biome-division lines.
      • I should also remember to include natural hazards, "roll on adjacent biome table, no chance of lair", and "roll twice and combine" results on these tables
    • I think I've also been confusing the wilderness encounter rate for borderlands travel with the one for fixed settlements in the borderlands, which has led to unusually infrequent random encounters, hence boring travel except when they stumble upon a pre-placed lair (more on that below).
      • I really want to check the math on the radius of civilization that gets generated by large settlements.
  • I've been failing to use dynamic lairs (again).  So far my PCs' routing has taken them through or within spitting distance of some fortuitously-placed lairs, but there are also some that they're basically never going to hit.
    • I also want to start placing dynamic nonlairs; dynamic points of interest.  Wilderness shrines, circles of standing stones, moon portals, magic pools, barrow mounds, runestones, &c.  I call them quantum caves because they're just probability distributions on the random encounter tables until collapsed by observers.  No relation to quantum ogres.
Two things that are going OK are forced marches and my weather subsystem.  The choice to forced-march is one that my players have been making regularly, and they are well-aware of its risks and tradeoffs.  I like that it is a simple choice with consequences.

2 comments:

frijoles junior said...

"I think I've also been confusing the wilderness encounter rate for borderlands travel with the one for fixed settlements in the borderlands, which has led to unusually infrequent random encounters, hence boring travel except when they stumble upon a pre-placed lair (more on that below)"

I guess fixed settlements rate in the borderlands is one week per check? Seems infrequent to my expectations, which I think are still calibrated to one check per watch/4 hours. Since borderlands regions are bands that can be traveled through in a day or two, that seems to more or less take encounters completely off the table except in wilderness or on a time scale that matters for the domain game but not really on the expeditionary timescale.

So is there some hidden rule that borderlands travel uses wilderness encounter rates or keeps the extra encounter roll per new hex (per 24-mile campaign hex)rule? I didn't find any useful forum posts other than the one from Alex that only listed once a week for borderlands, but your comment made me think I missed something

John said...

So what I think I meant by that (18 months ago, so it's hard to say now) was that yes, the rate for encounters for fixed settlements in the borderlands is 1 check per week, but the rate for travel in the borderlands should still be 1 per hex. I'm not sure if that is consistent with ACKS' RAW, but I agree that otherwise, borderlands are more like boringlands.