Tag Archives: games

Eve Online Will Not Beat Me – Growing Pains.

I think I’m getting this game; finally. When you first start playing, everything is so overwhelming that you become so sure that it’s almost impossible to know enough to fulfill the criteria in your head that would lead you to class yourself as “competent” – it’s as unattainable in those first few weeks as flapping your arms and flying to the moon.

 

Then, when you surround yourself with good people and put the time into fitting ships and getting blown up again and again but learning, then you start to see how things fit together, how you need a fleet composed of specific ships to do specific things if you want to beat actual people. Fighting NPCs is similar, but the human is the most fierce prey, ha.

 

We have a good number of people in the corporation now, to the point where I think we’re done with the first round of recruitment: let’s see how many of our amazing people can deal with my sub-par leadership to make it to phase two! Which shall be kicking off in little more than a month.

 

The project is going a lot smoother than I expected; the whole idea was to get people playing the game, interacting and having fun without a strict corp structure and scheduling – these things will still exist for events and fleet ops etc, but I have no interest in enforcing lots of imaginary rules in an imaginary game.

images

Other than that, we’re staring at our skill queue, waiting for doctrine ships to train so we can all go ratting as a fleet and rake in the monies.

 

Just a quick update for a standard week in the life of a know-nothing CEO. Until next time, fly safe.
Boboko Busanagi of EternalCosmicBeardCorp.

Tabletop War-Game Terrain & Scenery Part Three: Putting it all Together

In the last few weeks I’ve gone over some of the techniques for making battlefield terrain. The focus has been on buildings and structures and this week we’re going to finish that theme off by bringing it all together. I promised some multistory buildings too. Read on to see more of the good stuff and how I achieved the beginnings of some great results!

What am I doing?

I decided to make everything so that it would fit on convenient 15 x 15 cm tiles. This was so that I could orientate the same tiles to create different looking terrain, whether I’m playing Age of Sigmar, AoS Skirmish, Frostgrave or even some Dungeons & Dragons.

Similar tiles can be used to create urban scenery in Warhammer 40,000, which I’ll cover at some point in the future.

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

I also upgraded my hot-wire cutter. It was a little more expensive, in the £50-60 region, but the arm doesn’t flex, the wire doesn’t bend and it heats up consistently making its ability to cut through foam much better! Alarmingly, the wire does glow bright orange, which was a little disconcerting at first!

So how did I do, what did I do, and how did I do it? Read on…

A trial run…

I decided to test my formula for creating tabletop scenery with an unsuspecting volunteer. I quickly ran down the basic steps of creating the terrain piece, introduced the volunteer to a hot glue gun and Styrofoam, hefted a tonne of miniature bricks onto the table and allowed that person to run away with their imagination. This is the outcome so far (note, it still needs painting).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can see, it really doesn’t take much to get stuck in and have a go. Once again, there wasn’t a huge amount of planning involved in the creation of this quaint little tower – imagination provided the blueprints and away they went!

The Tile Set Blueprints

OK, so creating as many 15 x 15 cm tiles as required. To make my life easier, I got hold of some 1 cm thick black Styrofoam. It was an eBay purchase and cost me about £16 but may be cheaper in other parts of the world. Why did I buy these? It’s quite difficult to thin down thick Styrofoam on account of the wobbly nature of the hot-wire cutter.

So, not everything needs be to broken or derelict, no, there needs to be more so I’m going to build some complete structures which fit on the 15 cm tiles; watchtowers, tall walls, dead-ends, bell towers, warehouses, pig pens, shambolic defensive positions – you name it!

Because each tile is essentially 6 x 6 inches, I can fit four in a single square foot. Multiply this by four and you’ve got yourself an interchangeable, customisable and modular tabletop terrain system. I’ll go to town on some bigger open plazas with ruined columns etc in the future (to make it easier and give any missile troops a chance).

Footpaths & Plazas

From a design point of view, I’d like to build some footpaths, essentially narrow death traps that must be risked to get to different places on the map.  Here are some images of the test pieces I worked on. It can take time to get it right, so give yourself an open mind when you’re trying out ideas – you won’t put pressure on yourself and get worked up by perceived ‘failures’ at the end of your crafting session.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The dirt footpaths are 5 x 15 cm. By applying a lot of pressure with some scrunched up tin foil to the centre of the Styrofoam piece, and lighter touches to the outer quarters I was able to create the impression that the path had been used for many years. I cut some 0.5 x 0.5 x 15 slithers of foam and cut them up, weathering and aging them with the foil to look like curb pieces.

In the future when I attempt larger roads, I will use the ‘crazy pathing’ idea and simply trim the pieces down to compensate for the curb. I’ll also impress the foam in places to make it look like carts had been through, wearing down the road over the years.

The roads should be at least 10 cm wide and up to 30 cm long (the extent of my purchased Styrofoam sheets) – they will look good running through the centre of the board, or alongside the boards on bigger battle arenas. Details are important here, so I need to think about how I’m going to decorate the pieces to make them believable.

It sounds easy, but it’s actually very hard to make simple open spaces and retain the feeling of interest and wonder. Because there’s likely no focal point to grab the eye, it needs to have a few extra details to keep the area ‘alive’ and quirky.

I’ve decided on a single gallows with some stakes rammed into the ground to keep people away from ‘justice’ being served…

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

I added some ‘crazy pathing’ for a bit more variety, weathering the whole lot with the tin foil method. To make the pathing stones I cut foam strips 2 x 2 cm then went over the corners, freehand cutting in irregular ways. I then cut the stones from the end of the strips at 0.5 cm, creating odd and mismatched but flat stones. In hindsight, I should have cut these narrow than 0.5 cm, maybe half that again to 0.25 cm.

Texture is also important, so I’ll likely be using some of the rolling pins from Green Stuff World. An example of my trial run with these can be found in the images below…

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ramping It Up!

Finally, I decided to have a go at the multistory building idea.

I wanted to make this bigger, but I also wanted to be able to use different parts of it at different times. To achieve this, I started with 4 tiles to make a jumbo tile and began building a wall which would interconnect. I added a ruined wall around the edges of the jumbo tile, leaving plenty of gaps and debris for cover and interesting features.

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

I then started to make a second story of brickwork, which I could lock or lay in place and built this up a few times. Finally, I made a third story set of brickwork, but this time to accommodate half a roof.

The roof in these pieces was made from foam board, which is light and tough. I cut out rows of packing card (the sort of thin card your Amazon books are delivered in). Each row was 2 cm high with a cut  1 cm deep every 1 cm along the row. I then just cut and hacked out pieces to create the impression of roof slates. This was time consuming, but quite rewarding. You can see some of the details in the image below.

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

Finally, here’s a series of images showing you how to connect together.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

OK, so its not complete yet (I mean, I did just complete an entire week of a UK LARP event!) So I’ll post some images next week.

That’s it for now, and the end of this miniseries for terrain and scenery. If you’ve learnt anything, or if you have some advice and tips of your own, please leave a message in the comments below.

There will be more on tabletop terrain in the future, but for now, I really want to get these pieces finished and have them lined up for some gaming!

Good luck, and have fun!

Ferris

Part One…

Part Two…

Twitter @FerrisWrites or @TheCConsortium

Facebook page!

Eve Online Will Not Beat Me – We Moved To A Wormhole.

Last week feels like a world away compared to where I am now with Eve. It’s safe to say that I’ve learned more than I ever have in this game during that time.

So, the previous article was published when our corporation had two members exploring relic sites in null sec. Eight days after that article went live, we now have around ten people and now own a base in a wormhole system.

Eve new start corp wormhole play 16 anniversary

Here’s the story; me and Lane Davaham – my second in command – talked about wanting to move into wormhole space to try and make some money or learn how to play this mysterious game by dying until we didn’t die anymore. I wanted to make my own Corp because I like being able to decide what is fun for me and what I want to do, with the hope being that I can assemble a cadre of like minded individuals and we can move forward together.

The corp was almost a joke, and designed with humour in mind; this place is lighthearted and laid back in the extreme and I wanted that to be our guiding focus.

I also received a ton of advice from experienced people who had run corps before, all of their advice amounted to “Don’t do this, you will fail.” Which is fine, and frankly expected. Failure is always an option during projects like these, but i find that if you’re honest about your expectations and your abilities then things tend to work out.

Eve new start corp wormhole play 16 anniversary

Then another person got in touch and offered to sell us a base in wormhole space for a relatively cheap price. We jumped on the offer and within two days we had control transferred over and both of us were sitting inside our own base just wondering how we got here.

Since then, we have begun to build a solid core of experienced players who constantly surprise me with their patience while I ask a million questions and try to learn everything I need to, to be able to give this place a chance to succeed.

We’re currently hauling ships into our system to hand over to new players when they join and hopefully give them some guidance on how to fit and fly their ships so anyone who is new can at least go out there and feel like they are playing the game correctly.

Eve new start corp wormhole play 16 anniversary

Going forward we will be trying to make some isk (I have been told staying profitable in wormhole space is near impossible) and have some fun. Many fleets will be formed in the coming days in pursuit of explosions; be they ours or our enemies!

In short; Eve Online hasn’t beaten me yet, in fact at the moment we’re going from strength to strength with the aid of some incredibly helpful and generous people; not just with their isk, but also their patience and capacity to withstand the barrage of ignorance and questions leveled at them from their know-nothing CEO.

EternalCosmicBeardCorp is currently recruiting! Our mission statement is evolving as we evolve, and I suppose that’s the message I need to get across: it’s going to be a long road, but we’ve taken our first steps and have not yet fallen on our face – we want to keep this game fun, for new and experienced players alike, and I honestly believe it’s the people involved that will make that happen. So come along and have a chat, you’ll be welcome.

Eve ship wormhole new player astero explore space game beard corp corporation

We’re determined to stay laid back, determined to have fun and determined to fail and learn. The ECBC way.

Our public channel in Eve: EternalBeardChat

Our discord: https://discord.gg/nzsBfuW

Link to last week’s article: https://creatorconsortium.com/2019/04/27/eve-online-will-not-beat-me-i-lost-200-million-isk-this-week/

Eve Online Will Not Beat Me – I Lost 200 Million Isk This Week.

I lost 200 million isk this week. That might sound a lot – to some it’s truly just a drop in the bucket; to me it’s a big chunk of change, but the lessons I learned while losing it were incredibly valuable. Let’s talk about happier things first.

 

We’ve had a couple of people join the corp! Which is awesome. We’re working out the kinks and trying to really figure out what we want to do. Lane Davaham; our chief navigator convinced me to go exploring in wormhole space, which opened my eyes to a whole new side of Eve.

Eve ship wormhole new player astero explore space game

You can make a lot of money in wormholes, just scanning down anomalies and doing relic sites, which is all my PvP hybrid astero is equipped for. i think I started to average around 40 million per hour, which, with more time spent skilling up, will increase steadily.

 

The plan is to start killing NPC ships in combat or sleeper sites and salvaging all their goodies. To do this, I need to buy a far more expensive ship. To understand why I am nervous about that, I need to confess my acts of stupidity for the week.

 

We came across a relic site in a C3 wormhole that had 3 cruisers and 3 frigate NPCs in it. I, not knowing the first thing about combat in Eve, said to my corpmate “I can take them”. I was wrong. I was really testing whether I could lure each ship away one by one, which might give me a fighting chance, but not understanding effective distances in the game proved my undoing as they all immediately pounced on me, killed my velocity and my ability to warp, then exploded me in under a minute.

 

You’d think I’d learn, right? Well, a few days later I’m hauling 40 million worth of relic loot and think “just one more site”. Sure enough, NPC sleepers are present, but there’s one relic box quite far away from the mass of enemies. My plan is to approach the box, align away from the enemies and gun it while deactivating my cloak to see if they could target me at that distance.

 

What actually happened is that I got too close to the box, it decloaked me before I was ready and they exploded me in under a minute. Oh well.

 

Now I’m thinking of either just knuckling under and making my money back while training into better and better ships, or taking the plunge on a Stratios (Cloaky cruiser which is more versatile, tanky and pew pew, but slower) or just buy one now and see how It works out with a fit I can use with the skills I have.

Eve ship wormhole new player astero explore space game

I know it’s going to explode. I just hope the increased price (almost 300 mil after fitting it) will make me more cautious and i’m able to fight some sleepers in C2 wormholes to support my exploring corpmates.

 

EternalCosmicBeardCorp is currently recruiting. Our focus is to make Eve fun and to introduce new players to activities that make them feel part of the game and part of something new and exciting. We’re all learning this thing together, whether old or new. There will be many challenges along the way, but this is a wonderful game that presents so many opportunities for meaningful experiences.

 

No drama. No pettiness. Going forward with a will to accept failure and to learn; with fun as our goal.

 

That is our motto, and the Beardly way.

Eve ship wormhole new player astero explore space game beard corp corporation

Discord link for ECBC: https://discord.gg/nzsBfuW

 

Fly save ya dinguses. O7

ECBC Logo by @smidgedraws on instagram.

Eve Online Will Not Beat Me.

I’ve been an Eve Online player for over ten years. I’ve had two separate accounts on two separate occasions. I’ve been part of corporations with thousands of members and participated in fleet battles where space station-sized ships owned by players have warped in while I goggled in surprise and wonder. I’ve plumbed the depths of player owned space on my own, under the noses of others in better equipped ships with far more skill at the game; hunting for secret relics and hidden caches of valuable items, all while frantically looking over my shoulder for player hunters and occasionally running for my life when they found me.

eve online space station new player

There’s a lot to do in Eve and I’ve done a lot of it, but I can honestly say that I have never understood the game.

 

It’s such a strange experience because it’s such a vast experience. The game is played with everyone all being on the same server. The mostly player-run economy means that you can make a living doing anything you want: mining, salvaging, battling, exploring, war with other players and much more. You undock from a station and every time you are confronted by everything and it’s so intimidating, even for a gamer like me who has spent hundreds of hours grappling with Dwarf Fortress.

 

The menus in Eve are complicated, the combat, the movement, the player interaction; everything presents you with numbers and ratios and systems with nested subsystems and to be competitive you absolutely need to atleast understand them.

eve online mining new

 

This is what keeps bringing me back and also what keeps me away. There are no amount of tutorials that can prepare you for what awaits as the game eventually spits you out and says “go and do stuff”. It’s a profoundly baffling experience if you’re on your own.

 

Ofcourse, guides tell you again and again to join a player group, or “Corp” and yes, it’s true that this is by far the best approach to learning the game if you are confident enough. But if you’re not, or you feel like your schedule won’t match up with others, or any number of reasons why you might not want to join a player group while you’re still learning the game, then Eve won’t hold your hand. You’ll need to read and read a lot.

 

But for all that, you can’t ever get away from the fact that you’re playing a true space sim, set in a living and breathing universe where real humans go about their tasks with goals and ambitions. There are pirates and danger around every corner. Real intrigue between real people who head huge organisations who run regular missions with real goals. What other game ever made can boast that level of persistence and completeness? The immersion is both minimal, as you tab out or grab your phone every five minutes to check up a rule, or stat, and simultaneously tremendous as you desperately try and lose a pirate who wants nothing more than to kill you and take your stuff.

eve online pirate hunter new player how

The game is about control and Eve puts everything and the kitchen sink into your hands and says “tell me what you’re going to do with it”. Even playing the game is a challenge that you must overcome, and who every player also logged in either has or is still in the process of overcoming. What a unique thing to be a part of.

 

So take your WoWs, your Guild Wars, your Fortnites. I need Eve. In the articles that will follow, I shall hopefully bring you all the trials and tribulations of a Newbro trying to make it in a big universe.

 

To be continued,
Boboko Busanagi, CEO of EternalCosmicBeardCorp. (We’re new, and recruiting!)

Exploration in RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons: Putting the Adventure back into Adventuring

It seems that much of the content out there today for role playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) focus heavily on dungeons and politics or rescuing the village and various other tired troupes. Whether this is the case for you or not, I’ve noticed that many adventures are lacking the element of exploration, which leaves a huge untapped reserve of mystery. Sometimes people refer to this as the sandbox game, where the players are going in their own direction and the GM keeps up, supplying the adventure as the game progresses.

For me, what has been lacking from games over the last several years has been the mystery in exploration. All to often it seems that exploring has been dumbed down or glossed over by the need to keep the story going, to keep the narrative on track, keep the momentum bouncing. This isn’t a bad thing, but the details, the efforts of travelling in a (fantasy) world are completely missed.

dungeons dragons adventure RPG DnD tabletop games

This is a shame, because years ago the old AD&D adventure modules contained heavy elements of exploration, where the players were encouraged to explore and reveal the mysteries of a forgotten land. Adventure modules such as the Isle of Dread (X1, 1981 & 1983), a wilderness adventure designed for beginners back in the day (a long, long time ago) were designed purely with exploration in mind.

In my hunt to recapture the feelings of excitement and wonder (a running theme in my blog articles at the moment) I did a thing. I’ve sailed the ‘net sea, battled excessive blogs and wrangled with the web in the search of good, wholesome and entertaining ideas to make travel and exploration exciting again. Here are my thoughts and the results of my search with some helpful links at the end for your own ‘further reading’ on the subject.

If you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…

Perceived Problems with Exploration

Mention in-game travelling and most players will groan. Understandably, players have not really had a series of exploration adventures that has given them a fun game, even popular digital games such as Skyrim or the classical Baldur’s Gate allow you to travel instantly or in a series of chunks in seconds. But that’s OK, it’s why you’re here reading this article.

Exploration games are said to take their toll on the GM / DM both in preparation and in running the game session. This is a fair point – as the GM of any game you are responsible for hours of planning (or maybe just 30 minutes before the game, if that’s your gig), which often you don’t want to see wasted and unused in the event of player party mistakes. So why would you waste hours of planning on just travelling and exploring new locations?

Finally, keeping the flow and narrative exciting can be a challenge. Inclusive adventures must bring elements to the gaming table where any character of any build or design with even the most jaded of tastes, offers a challenge to each player, a chance in the spotlight.

Are these issues insurmountable? Of course not!

So here are the suggestions I’m putting forward for you, should you ever consider running an exploration themes adventure game of your own.

dungeons dragons adventure RPG DnD tabletop games

Setup & Writing

Character & Plot Hooks

It’s always important to have your players hooked into the concept of the game right from the start. How do you write or plan this sort of thing? Well I’ve written a previous article which you can find here, it gives some suggestions on how to approach a character hook by making the hook relevant to the character, which, hopefully, will entice the player too. As always, it’s best to get a feel for what your player wants from the game, and hook them in based on this information.

It may be that your party is simply travelling overland to get to a place that is uncharted, and the plot of your story is already written. This makes it very easy as the plot hook is the adventure idea you already have.

I’ve written a few examples here to give you an idea:

  • Searching for a missing person(s) of importance: perhaps they were kidnapped and the characters have been hired to locate and return them safely (imagine King Osric’s daughter from the Original Conan film, 1982).
  • Searching for a lost city or civilisation which may hold the key to discovering how to deal with a threat to a characters homelands.
  • Manhunt – a traitor, criminal, dangerous individual or group has evaded the law and must be hunted down to pay for their crimes.
  • The player characters are being persecuted either on their own or with a group of people and have been forced to flee into the wilderness or an unmapped land.
  • Expedition – the player characters are hired to explore the new world and discover its rich resources and lift the veil on its mysteries… and its threats.

dungeons dragons adventure RPG DnD tabletop games

Setting up the Player Party

Every expedition known to man has always had planning at the forefront. Without planning, any expedition is doomed from the moment it takes its first step, leading to a variety of disasters, starvation being the primary one. So it’s important to get your players into the frame of mind that travelling and exploring brings its own dangers. Sure, there will be monsters in the untamed wilds, but losing your food supply or drinking all of your clean water, brings challenges all of their own.

Ask the players some of the following questions before you plan to start your game:

  • How much can your character carry?
  • What food and water supplies will you be taking?
  • Are you equipped for exploration or a dungeon crawl?

An important aspect of any RPG is the role play, above all else it is what glues the game together. Some people find this awkward, but when players have something to talk about, the role play becomes natural. Asking player characters to assume one of several roles in a travelling adventurer party is a great way to overcome this, and also lends itself to more of a game.

These roles are real life examples of what we often overlook during play. In reality, how many of us note down how much of our rations we’re eating? Probably not that many because it’s considered a minor portion of the RPG experience.

Giving the players extra roles also reduces some of the work for GM / DM. By allowing the players to organise themselves and keep track of encumbrance, rations and other supplies, along with mapping duties, it frees up the GM to give a greater insight into surroundings and encounters.

Here are some of the role ideas:

Leader / Voice

The leader is responsible for announcing all final party activity to the GM with regards to direction and pace. Characters can still act in a solo fashion as normal. The leader also consults with and organises the marching order of the other characters present, including any allies that may be travelling with them.

Watchers / Castellan

Let’s face it, you will be stomping through unknown and wild lands, it pays to give someone the task of checking the horizon for trouble, the bushes for traps and the camp for snakes! Watchers and guards are also responsible for finding a suitable place to set camp and how the camp should be organised. For the GM, this gives them time to decide what happens in the night, or if the player party gets surprised.

Navigator / Cartographer

The navigator and cartographer are responsible for guiding the player party on their adventure, keeping a look out for points of interest and landmarks. Their role also involves the blank hex map you will have provided them (more on this later), updating and annotating as they travel. In this way they answer the questions of other characters in a role play manner, rather than relying on the GM to constantly keep checking their notes.

For a character to create a worthy map in game will require some sort of cartographers tools (for D&D) or a surveyor’s kit. Get the players to roll any necessary skill checks to determine the quality of their notes and drawings in case they get lost, or someone else relies on the map in their absence.

Hunter / Quartermaster

Hunters and Quartermasters keep track of resources and the carrying capacity of the party and its allies. Their most important role is to keep track of food and water and find replacements when they feel times are getting desperate. This has a great element of role play as the characters fret over how much they are going to use and what happens if they start to run low.

Generally if the quarter master has no record of something, such as equipment, it does not exist within the party. And if there’s a tonne of things to keep track of, there’s no reason why two characters can’t assume this role together. All characters should have their own equipment list, but the quartermasters will keep a copy of that and update it, especially if one character is lost down a ravine while carrying all of the rope!

(Re)Defining the GMs Role

The GMs primary roles will have lessened from traditional expectations. The key responsibility, other than role playing villains and monsters and refereeing the turn sequence and dice rolls etc, is to keep a track of time. In an exploration adventure keeping a track of time gives the gaming session more purpose and also allows the players to note down exactly what they’ve used up or require more of. It also means the players are told when they are getting tired or possibly feeling the effects of fatigue.

mountain surrounded with trees

Friends, Enemies and Adversaries

It pays to have non-playing characters (NPCs) with the player party, at least for some of the exploration, particularly if you think that there may be character deaths likely to happen – you’ll need a way of introducing new characters for the players when this happens.

Adding allies to mix will also give the players some impetus if the motivation dips during play, because allies need help and tasks undertaken which they could not normally do on their own. Here are a few examples of NPCs to keep in mind, depending on the type of exploration adventure you’re writing…

Allies

The expedition financier or their representatives, the young noble out to cut their teeth, the enthusiastic but clueless scribe seeking lost lore, or the mysterious elf apparently seeking to discover the lost homeland of his or her people – these are all NPCs which can give motivation to the players when they are out exploring. It’s probably best if these NPC stay at base camp, several days behind the party. These can provide quests literally or inadvertently and give guidance if the player characters are struggling with concepts.

Collective Adversaries

If you want to quicken the pace of the adventure and give the players some tension when they are making the important choices, you can introduce another adventuring party who are seeking similar goals. This competition can be right behind, or always one step ahead of the ultimate goal, or they can be unfriendly and unhelpful if they’ve managed to get across the ravine but cut the ropes to the bridge!

Perhaps these other adventuring groups need rescuing instead, the price of their impetus or ignorance!

Enemies!

Perhaps the land under exploration is not entirely empty, and savage tribes use it as a hunting ground. Perhaps one of those tribes sees the party as a target for initiation into adulthood or worse, required components in a bloody ritual!

two person riding boat on body of water

Mapping: Hex or no Hex, you’re travelling

Hex maps have been around for decades and carry with them a nostalgic feel for the days of mystery. Whether you like them or not, the humble hex is a great way of mapping out where the player characters have been, are currently and where they will be, because a hex is more dynamic than a square and easier to handle than a circle.

A hex has six sides, allowing you to plan the direction of the party – there are 8 easily identifiable paths the party can take on a hex, using either a flat side of the hex tile or a point of the hex. If you make your map and overlay a series of hex tiles onto it, you can track the adventurer’s progress with distance, speed and direction.

I suggest you start by making a world map, nothing larger than you need for the landmass your adventurers are crossing or exploring. Each hex should cover maybe a half or a full days worth of travelling, so in theory the party is moving one or two hex spaces in a session. This gives you plenty of opportunity to write and pace the adventure.

Look at your map and make a note of the terrain type of each hex, or whichever is more dominant. Terrain types can be forests, plains, desert etc. You can go one level deeper than this to have varieties of these terrain types, such as adding a height or incline like hills and mountains or valleys which can block or provide a line of sight (more on this later).

Once you’ve got this sorted, you can begin to define potential problems with different terrain types – it can be as simple of slowing progress or speeding it up, using important resources such as food and water, or allowing the characters to restock. There may be monsters which lurk in certain parts of the map, such as green dragons in the forest, or trolls in the swamps (or whatever). Think about your land of mystery and get creative. As the adventure grows you’ll likely want to think about the same challenges repeating. This could get bland so be prepared to allow some hex spaces to be easier to get across.

pine trees by lake in forest against sky

Creating a Map

You’re going to want potentially a large map with plenty of areas and space to explore. Sometime over the next week I’ll write small tutorial on how to put in hex grids in programs like Inkarnate (the free version) and the GIMP . In the meantime, you could do some planning of your own and take into consideration some of the important aspects of your map.

Whether you’re creating something entirely home-brew or using a pre-written adventure or setting, you need to consider the ecology of your map. Just like anything in the real world, things in a region or area run alongside each other and effect each other like an ecology. This won’t apply so much in a fantasy setting, but your map should reflect a realistic expectation so that your players can make logical choices in how they travel and where.

Consider some of the following suggestions and ideas…

Travelling Speed

As a guide, you can break each day down into 4 hour slots, of which most characters will require sleep and rest for 8 hours. How far they can travel will depend on what they wish to do, and how fast they travel, such as by foot or on a horse. As the GM, you will know how far each hex is in miles or kilometers and can set the pace of travel accordingly.

Landmarks

Landmarks are vital to the exploration and travelling game. Without landmarks your players are simply making arbitrary choices based on cardinal directions on a compass. This is incredibly dull and likely to put your players off right away. Landmarks give the players a real choice, offering tantalizing bits of mystery and story to get them to move and explore.

But what can they see?

Well it’s fairly simply: when the players arrive at the edge of the map they will want to plan their direction. Did anyone pack a spyglass? Good – then they can start scanning the horizon. Are they in a forest, is there anything obstructing them from scanning the distant horizon? If so, they’ll need to get to higher ground… and already they’ve determined their first objective – find higher ground.

As a general rule, player characters can probably see about 3 miles over flat ground, far less in forests or hilly terrain unless they’re at a peak in the region.

The player characters should be encouraged to scan the horizon each time they stop to rest. As the GM you can now give them tidbits of information about the surrounding area (hex tiles) allowing them to assume control of their own destiny.

Landmarks also give the players something to talk about, mark on their own maps or confirm their location if they get lost – everyone gets to use the role they have been assigned or chosen when they planned the expedition. Let’s hope they packed some sort of compass…

Landmarks can be constructed buildings such as towers, or natural phenomenon such as giant waterfalls, unusual rock formations or the sun bleached bones of titanic creatures!

white and black abstract painting

Locations

Locations  can be considered like any other encounter in RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. They will be the meat of your adventurer meal. Don’t overlook the dangers of exploring. Exploration is dangerous in real life, and so it should be more so in a fantasy RPG! Stay your hand though, exploring locations should be about the story and not everything should be dealing damage or killing off players! Instead, capitalise on the mystery and narrative of discovering a new land – temples, hallow cities, strange structures and signs of ancient battles – not everything will be covered in traps or occupied by hobgoblins.

This is the hardest part for the GM, but should also be the portion of planning that takes up the most time. Once your map has been created, you should start to focus on the set pieces of your adventure (because it is still your adventure). A location, like any good dungeon should offer potential challenges to each character type in your player party, whether that’s physical obstructions, strange traps, ancient lore, riddles, clues or puzzles which help unlock or reveal something about the area. This shouldn’t always be the case though – otherwise it may become a formulation of ‘we need to use the rogue, and now the fighter and now the mage,’ which takes the narrative aspect of the game away.

If you can tie the revelation of this location into other locations, you begin to knit your world together. For example, let’s say the player party successfully breaks into an ancient temple and reveal a mysterious artifact, such as a key. What does this key unlock? Does it tie into a different temple or building in the region? What does it unlock, treasure, monsters, a terrible and ancient evil?

By all means include things to fight and slay, but try to ensure that the fight isn’t just a random event. It makes much more sense to disturb a nest or lair, or tackle a timeless guardian creature than hack their way through hordes of pointless minions. Use the monster or creature wisely, build up to its big reveal and make the fight mean something. If they can’t defeat it, they must flee… but where do they flee to? Are they in any fit state to fight, should they fight? These are the tension building moments for your player party in an exploration game.

Throw in monsters and creatures that they clearly cannot defeat to get the player characters to consider their options more deeply, but again, don’t make a habit of putting in impossible odds all the time. That sleeping dragon can be left to sleep if they just tiptoe backwards slowly and come back another time!

beautiful countryside creek environment

So how do they explore a hex tile?

First of all, describe exactly what stands out about a region or hex tile – does that rock formation look like anything? Then, if they decide to stop and explore the area in more detail, you can begin a series of encounters. One very simple suggestion is to draw up a small chart based on how many hours the player party wishes to explore the area. You can begin by asking the players how long they intend to stay and search the area in terms of hours. Then, consulting your small chart you can determine that if the party stops and searches for say 3 hours, they will come across up to 2 encounters for that region. Here’s my example:

  1. Hour 1 – They find nothing, but are slowed by the forest and rough terrain
  2. Hour 2 – As above
  3. Hour 3 – They stumble upon the grotto of a forest troll, roll against the parties passive perception to see if either side is surprised.
  4. Hour 4 – They find a cache of old supplies and a few ripped up skeletons, likely the result of a troll attack.
  5. Hour 5 – A small hatch in the earth that looked like a bolt hole for a temporary encampment ( a micro dungeon).

The party may not stay for too long, or they may wish to camp, in which case the troll may come out at night looking for food (an encounter in itself) which provides something for the watchers and guards in the party to deal with before the attack starts in full.

How fast they move, how much attention they decide to dedicate to the searching and investigating is up to the players. They will soon learn that just stomping over ground in the hopes of bumping into something may prove detrimental!

Getting Lost

Sometimes even the most experienced rangers can get lost, particularly in a new land! Becoming lost should always be an option and you should never allow the players to simply retrace their steps if they’ve surged onward without paying attention or exploring different regions or hex tiles.

Perhaps permit them to roll for skills to see if they can get back on track by setting a high difficulty based on the terrain they are in, and any landmarks they can see from where they are, lowering the difficulty for each point of recognition they can muster. If they fail, they are lost and must spend time (and resources) trying to find their original path!

photography of mountain range during winter

Keeping the Motivation During Play

How do you reward characters in exploration adventures? We want to reward the players for exploring, because we want them to enjoy the exploration aspect of the game alongside all the other aspects of RPGs.

Well, I think it depends on the scope of your adventure and the desire driving the party onward. Beyond gaining experience for slaying monsters and villains, perhaps the player characters also receive experience for discovering new areas, locations and landmarks, BUT they then also get experience for making a region safe (multiple hex tiles in the same region) for anyone following them, such as the baggage train.

If you feel a particularly hard region to explore exists because it contains high powered monsters or traps, you could assign different hex regions a challenge rating to reflect the adversity of making it safe.

Perhaps early locations were inaccessible at the start of their adventure, but now they’ve discovered a key, a token or something which will help them get to the that earlier region. This is a great idea because it means that previously explored hex tiles and areas or regions are not simply redundant after use. It can also lead the player characters to explore for specific things, giving them even more motivation to search and explore areas!

Phew! That is quite a long article, apologies!

If you think you’ve benefited from any of this information, leave a comment below – it really helps us if people think we’re doing good, and gives us direction for future articles!

Further Reading

How to be the Dungeon Master (DM)

How to be the DM (new and old) Part 2: Setting the Atmosphere

D&D and Dice Manipulation – Two opposing styles of Dungeon Masters

The Retired Adventurer

The Angry GM (really angry and potty-mouthed!

Giants in the Playground

Martial Art – The Card Game: Simplicity and Complexity in Equal Measure, here’s why…

Martial Art and it’s expansion, Battlefields is a two person card game from Spider-Goat Games. Set in Feudal Japan, you play as warlords vying for control of different regions.

The game is simple to learn, and the more you play, the more you realise that it is ultimately a game beyond measure. But I’ll get to that soon, first, let’s look at the game from the players perspective:

Setting Up the Game

It’s super quick and very simple. You start by separating the deck into the lands cards (the nice sea image), the battle deck (the black bird image) and finally two supply cards and the legend cards. The table space should look like this (only the cards in your hand are to be kept to yourself!)

martial art Japan card game war game feudal Japanese battlefield spider-goat games

Each player takes a supply card and then draws four battle cards. With more players (requiring another set of cards completely) the setup is only fractionally more complex, drawing two land cards but only looking at the special rules for the second.

Playing the Game

Simple really, you draw the top card from the lands deck and place it face up. This will show you the region the warlords are trying to capture. Some of the cards have a special text, which gives the locations and lands a feel for the hardship of the battle in a narrative way, such as Kanbara which is covered in snow – the player with the highest strength card must discard a card… its taken it’s toll to win this battle, on account of all the freezing weather.

Each player then commits a single battle card, face-down to the battlefield. When they are happy with their choice, the cards are revealed and the special rules (if any) are resolved. Each card has a strength rating which normally determines the winner.

Normally…

However, some cards can be played during the battle to weaken your opponent, bolster your own forces, or kill them before they even arrive. This is where the complexity of the game really comes in: you’ll need a poker face, a strong one, to fool your enemy. You’ll also need to consider how much you want to commit to each battle – sometimes winning isn’t worth the cost, as we found out. It is a strategy in itself to decide if the prize is even worth fighting for. But fear not, you will always have the Supplies card in your hand, which has a power rating of 0 and you can never discard it. Instead, it allows you to draw an extra card that turn.

Once the battle is resolved, the winner takes the land card to keep score, and each player then picks an extra battle card from the top of the pile.

The first to 12 land points or 3 bridges wins the game.

 

 

Components

The core Martial Art game consists of 60 Battle cards, 12 Land cards and the rules leaflet (which is very well written).

The Battlefields expansion consists of 8 terrain cards, 8 weather cards and 8 war cards, plus another clear and concisely written rules leaflet.

What makes it good?

There are a variety of cards in the battle deck. Some are simply different soldiers or troops with a power rating, whilst others are weaker with special abilities. The battle cards are colour coded, red for damaging, white for supporting and purple for supplies. Generally, there are only 2 of each card type, so if you happen to draw both you know you’ve denied your enemy.

Some of the battle cards are simple yet amazingly fun and amusing to play: got a card hand of a lot of chaff? Well hope for the peasant battle card, which gains strength for each card in your hand… literally a horde of angry peasants come to fight for your warlord and they’re unlikely to be swept aside!

The supply cards, those troops and specialist forces with the white border, really mix up the focus of the battle. Some, like the archer, will provide a strength bonus if you’re original battle card was strength 7 or lower. The Scout allows you to look at an enemies card hand BEFORE the battle takes place so you can see what they may play, or the Geisha, who presumably disarms your warlord or warriors enough to distract them, removing any special rules text from the card your opponent played.

The land cards are not single point lands, rather they can come with heavy rewards, such as a land card worth 4 points, such as Kyoto. In such battles, often the supply cards can fall fast to try and lever the battle in your warlords favour.

The fact that 12 land points or 3 bridge points can win the game means an opponent can lose sight of the bridges score, allowing you to sneak a victory by capturing all the choke points across feudal Japan.

And it gets better – with the recent Kickstarter completing, the second printing of Martial Art is now complete, with an expansion simply called Battlefields. The Battlefields expansion brings persistent weather effects in the form of land cards, and terrain cards to better exploit your opponent or bolster your own forces. Some of the support cards have also been modified to emphasize the war off-pitch, such as Geisha influences and other nefarious and cunning medieval tactics.

Why did I back this on Kickstarter?

The art. Originally I saw the cards and was entranced by the artwork, which is all taken from historical documents. There’s nothing more atmospheric to a gamer set in feudal Japan than the actual artwork of the time. Colourful, beautiful and utterly alluring, you could spend a fine moment appreciating the detail and energy each picture offers.

That aside, I wanted a game which was quick to play, easy to transport and simple enough for even a novice gamer to pick up and play. Martial Art does this. It took us minutes to understand the concept of the game, and it cost us in headaches and frustration when we realised, one at a time, that we had just played the wrong card, or failed to exploit a weakness.

red and black temple surrounded by trees photo

All that aside, the price tag was good too. To buy the game now, direct from Spider-Goat Games will cost you $22 for both the core and expansion combined (or more if bought separately). I think this is worth it, for a game you can pick up and play in a coffee break with your elderly grandma or novice player.

Can you stretch to get two of each? I think it’s worth it. For a card game it might seem as little expensive, but for a 4 player game of this sort you’re going to get a lot of use. No doubt I’ll update you all at the bottom of this article in a few weeks telling you about the fun times we’re having!

20190216_212321

A nice little side note…

Spider-Goat Games are cool because they have a little blog on their site about their Kickstarter antics, highlighting where they went wrong and what they have learned. For me, this is a great way of touching upon the minds of the gamers because it shows them to be human. We can also all learn from each others mistakes, a concept which we at Creator Consortium are always keen to express.

Extra Points

Martial Art and the Battlefield expansion combine a great game, but even if you can only get the core game, it will keep you going to hours. If you can stretch yourself to get two copies of each, you can battle it out with up to four players. This would make each game last a little longer as each warlord gazes across the table in suspicion. Play some soundtracks from Total War: Shogun or The Last Samurai and you’re at the gates of nerd heaven!

You can buy the card games here.

That’s all from me, let me know what you think.

Did this article help you decide to try it out, or not? We’d love to know!

J.D.Ferris, CC