Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mapmaker, mapmaker...

I like maps; I like them for their aesthetic value alone, but I'm old-school enough to want maps for any location my players explore. I'm not adverse to making them up as I go along, but I feel even then that preparation improves improvisation. In any case, being spatially precise helps me visualize the scene and makes things like combat easier to adjudicate.

Some posts about random and semi-random map generation caught my eye recently. I almost never go by random generation alone in anything, but I certainly use it as inspiration. This post, while about computer methods for an as-yet unpublished video game, got me to thinking about how to create random maps in a way that doesn't generate strangely incongrous results.

I took the method described above, and developed my own manual procedure, as outlined below. It requires a little aesthetic judgment, but is still pretty fast:

  1. Start at the center of the map. Roll 3d8+1 to determine the size of the room, in squares. Do not worry about doors at this point. Immediately, we have two considerations:
       a) Rectangles are the easiest shape to draw on graph paper, but can get boring fast. So you either need to round up or down to the nearest factorable number ( 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25 ), or you need to add alcoves and projections to get the exact number you rolled.
       b) If the room is not square, determine which way the long axis runs with a simple d6 roll: 1-3 = the long axis runs north-south, 4-6 = it runs east-west.

    There's an upper limit of 25 squares with this method. Borrowing a concept from Tunnels and Trolls, however, whenever you roll triples, note what size that would be and roll again. Stick these two smaller rooms together to make one larger one.
  2. Starting at the 12:00 position, roll another room in the same fashion. Place it somewhere above the first, spacing it out by rolling 1d4+1. This number is the number of squares between the top edge of the lower room and the bottom edge of the higher one. Place the room somewhere at this point; it probably looks better if the centers aren't perfectly aligned, but that's a matter of taste.
  3. Continue in a similar manner at the 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 positions.

    At this point, they're just a series of boxes with no relationship. 

  4. Now, starting with the second room you created, repeat this process for every direction that doesn't already have a room filled. In this case, it means that the 6:00 position will already be filled.
  5. Iterate this process in order of room creation, if possible. Some rooms will have to be skipped because all of the adjacent spaces will be filled. Continue until your map is filled, or the number of rooms is otherwise to your liking.
  6. Start connecting the rooms with a Minimum Spanning Tree. Don't worry about the math. Basically, all it means for our purposes is, start drawing corridors connecting rooms that are two squares away, then three squares, etc., until you have a path that connects every room.
  7. At this point, there should be no looping paths, so add a few corridors to create them.

    The room just north of the center was the one I started with.
    The spaces enclosed by looping paths have been darkened; these
    are important because they give multiple routes through your map. 

  8. Add entrances and exits as you will.
This process can be done in about a half hour, and creates functional, decent-looking maps. There is certainly a good amount of corridor space in there; I'll show a method of generating more closely-packed rooms at another date.

Of course, populating the area is another matter altogether. When in a pinch, I'd recommend some of the stuff you can find at hackslashmaster. But I often find myself needing a layout for a scenario I've already anticipated, so this step isn't usually a big concern.

cheers, Adam

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Trust in a Savage World

I find the frequency with which I blog mirrors the frequency with which I game, and the last couple of months have been scarce due to a variety of issues, not least of which being a bout of Strep. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

But I just GM'ed a session of Savage Worlds, and tried to apply some of the wisdom from hackslashmaster while doing it. Primarily, I was going to give the players all of the information they needed to play, without requiring spot rolls or perception checks; if they said they were looking in the right place, they'd find any relevant information.

They kept on asking to make notice rolls anyhow, and in the spirit of making the game go faster, I let them roll; Savage Worlds is a game where, if the characters want it enough and are willing to spend the Bennies to make it happen, they will be successful far more often than not. I don't think anyone missed a notice roll all night long.

The setting was pulp sci-fi in the style of '30s-era Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. They were members of an underground resistance on a moon orbiting a Saturn-like gas giant, in a city modeled after Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The adventure was twofold: first, their previous excursion had almost been sabotaged due to a traitor in their ranks, and since they were also under suspicion, they wanted to root out the mole.

Hidden information is something that requires a die roll in most game systems, but I let them know that three members of the resistance were in a position to be the mole, and they basically guessed the right on on the first try. I role-played a bit of him trying to get one of them into his chambers, where he'd set off a bomb that he could conveniently hide from and survive. That didn't work, and after a few intimidate rolls, he cracked and let details slip that only the mole would have known, at which point I had notified them that the city guards were bearing down on their underground hideout.

That's where phase two came in; I drew up a simple map of the corridor they were in: on either end of a 140' hallway, two empty elevator shafts provided entry for teams of rappelling guardsmen. Crossing this hallway at two points were shorter hallways, and on the end of those, I placed escape routes in the form of maintenance access shafts. I told them that three out of the four shafts were guarded, and let them do as they would.

Long story short: the next session is going to be a jail break. What I thought would be the obvious thing to do--see where the guards were coming from, go the other way--wasn't as obvious to my players. They did a decent amount of damage tactically, but I let them know that the guards would keep coming in waves. Instead, they tried to go up a shaft from which guards were sprouting, so I informed them that they'd not be able to get past them in such a narrow space, and the reinforcements from behind them would catch up soon enough. Even if they shot a guard, he'd only fall down--on them--and obstruct their escape.

I guess the moral of this story is, old habits die hard, and the players didn't take up the information that I was handing out to them. Sometimes it's hard to trust the GM. But hopefully, if the games keep being fun, I'll be able to condition them until they do.