Thursday, April 15, 2021

Scale and the Woodland Pathcrawl

 On working up my procedures for the Woodland Pathcrawl I had to contemplate scale in both time and distance. The 10 minute classical dungeon exploration time-frame could be used but it would take forever to explore the are designated by a typical wilderness hex and while I do want to slow things down but getting in closer I don't want it to drag on and on, so 10 minutes and feet traveled are out. Next up the rules generally only cover daily movement rates across fairly big hexes, I certainly don't want adventurers exploring forests at the rate of 12 miles a single day long turn so that's right out.  Determining the scale of action is going to enforce the flavor  a woodland hex crawl isn't a constant race agaisnt the clock and while paths resemble a dungeon corridor in some manner one also has to consider the impact the terrain and distance really has.


An oddly useful measure that helped me zero in on the much smaller measure I eventually settled on for further calculation and signifigance is the league. Now this measure is specific in the modern world but in older times when measure were not uniform a league came to be identified in the distance a man could walk in an hour and this typically falls somewhere between 3 and 3.5 miles with a healthy unburdened person on a fairly easy route. Interestingly the Japanese have a unit of measure figured similarly to a league but here it is how fast a man can carry a load on a mountain road and this Ri comes in a bit under 2.5 miles. So two hourly travel based distances within slightly different parameters made it easy to zero in on the lower measure of 3 miles for the league I'll be using.  A league is still a large distance for small-scale travel but it also serves becasue t isn't one tightly tied to us in modern life and a league is a league to those of us that travel mile after mile or kilometer after kilometer.The league is also a handy measure if using 30,24,12, or 6 mile wilderness hex maps becasue they all break down evenly into 10 league, 8 league, 4 league, and 2 league hexes. The league measure let's us see how quickly a distance could be traveled in hours if everything was relatively ideal.

 

The league was however only useful for a larger big measure  scaling down we have miles and kilometers both of which are too large and too tied to modern measures for me to be comfortable with so time to go in closer.  Feet, yard and meters are all too small as we'd quickly be using 100's of those in covering ground in any meaningful fashion even when wanting to use a more granular measure. This led me to look into traditional units of measure which got hammered into imperial units later in history but also had some bearing on how people related to the distance and time in the pre-modern world. 

 

Looking into the pre-modern agriculturally derived measure led me to the useful measurement of the furlong. A furlong is traditionally defined as the length of a furrow an ox team could plough without resting. While the actually distance would vary on the quality of a plow, the land be ploughed, and the strength of the oxen used it has come to be standardized at 220 yards (660 feet, just over 201 meters). while it's not a measure we may all use now in our regular lives it's an easy one to envision with practice and splits up into other measures fairly well. The furlong being 220 yards in length works out to there being 8 furlongs in a mile. 


The furlong and the 3 mile league come together in a handy synchronicity. Since there are 8 furlongs to a mile there are as such 24 furlongs in the league used here. This is a very handy measurement in oldschool fantasy gaming wherein the original rules had a man moving at movement rate of 12" (later refined to 120 feet or just 12).  So in an hour an unburdened character could travel a league or 24 furlongs. Deciding 12 would be the base movement rate for conformity to classical rules and ease of math this lead to settling on 1/2 hour for the time-frame of the woodland pathcrawl.

 

The half hour long Woodland Pathcrawling turn works out nicely in my estimation. A furlong is about a bow shot in distance it's possible to relate to this in play as "oh it's about a bow shot away from you" isn't difficult to hold in your head. If one has their wilderness hex maps scaled to 2 leagues that also let's us have sub-scaled maps that would be 48 units across, not too many to deal with but certainly granular enough to have the Woodland Pathcrawl play out more like traditional dungeon crawling than zooming about the map at miles eating pace. It's also possible becasue we are using a relative term to describe distance (the furlong) one could stretch or shrink it to fit their larger scale maps without needles worry and math; the world will not break if your originally 5 mile scale hexes are now 2 leagues across or if your 8 mile hexes are 2 leagues or 3 leagues across as the smaller scale distance and times are still relative and not unreasonable.


Going fourth on Woodland Pathcrawl posts distances will be given in furlongs and the procedures will be based on that.  Unencumbered parties of man-like adventurers could travel two league in but 4 Pathcrawl turns, if the road were straight and no impediments were present but where would the adventure be in that?


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cataclysm Dark Days Ahead

 I've been playing a fair bit of Cataclysm Dark Days Ahead lately. I somehow managed to be totally ignorant that this post-apocalyptic rogue-like existed for years until a couple weeks ago. The quickest way to describe it would be Minecraft in a post apocalyptic setting with simpler graphics and richly detailed approximations of reality. It hits a lot of computer gaming itches for me: it's turn based so I can play at my pace, it's customizable, it's got cyborgs, it's got hunting and gathering, it's got annoying cars, and it allows for planning and tracking a whole bunch of fiddly moving parts. The player character is generally a lone survivor facing off against foes such as cyborgs, giant spiders, giant ants, mi-go, triffids, other survivors (but all the other survivors are not foes), wild dogs, a whole bunch of different Zombies and more.

There are so many options and after spendign a day or so poking at wikis and forums I decided to fire up a random character in a random starting position. I suppose I got immensely lucky becasue while my character Sally isn't particularly impressive she's a quick learner and had a few survival skills to start out with which couple with the remote LMOE shelter she started in has made it possible for her to survive over 45 days days on winter in post-apocalyptic zombie and mutant infested New England.

The scramble at first to not freeze to death while gathering supplies was the biggest threat of  all and she almost lost her life and her hands due to frostbite but I managed to keep that from killing her and was able to scrape up enough supplies from a nearby farm house to then chase a horse down in a barn and kill it with a hammer so it could be butchered and keep Sally alive.

Further explorations have revealed a gas station, a motel, a school or library with an automated defense system, other farm, and a whole town not too terribly far away by the name of Goffstown (about 30-40 minutes away from me by car in real life). 

I like this game becasue the only path to success isn't being a killing machine. Focusing on combat over anything else will kill your character. A problem I have with some online multi-player post-apocalyptic games are how they devolve into bully wish fulfillment for many players who have no real reason to act moderately decent to other players, this being a solo-play experience there's none of that to deal with but there are NPCs who do more than attack you out there somewhere in Cataclysm DDA.

Currently Sally has upgraded her pathetic staring gear to a shocking excess of clothing and some armor even thanks to a crashed military vehicle recently discovered. She's gone from a paleolithic stone hand axe, to a more proper stone axe, and now thanks to wider scavenging a proper honest to goodness steel wood axe and that makes not freezing to death and cooking a whole lot easier. She's become competent with her bow and has scavenged a couple of guns with a handful of bullets and has managed to hunt a few critters. I'd recommend not eating the giant mutant spiders but giant ant seems to be safe enough to eat despite being dangerous prey sadly the nearest ant colony is being attacked by some sort of armed group with some high-tech and high capacity weapons that have shot at poor Sally but not pursued her, they can't be doing too well because just a couple days ago she spotted one of them zombified while she was butchering a rabbit on a bridge.  So far she's only tangled with 4 or 5 zombies total having avoided to roaming hordes and notgotten pinned down by zombies in the edge of Goffstown just yet. 

I've probably jinxed her by typing about the game here but its good fun and I wanted to clue anyone in who may have similar interests to me but managed to not know about the game yet. 

Here's the wikipedia page about the game https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cataclysm:_Dark_Days_Ahead

and the actual page for the game: https://cataclysmdda.org/



I don't want to kill him and rob him after we broke into his home.

"I don't want to kill him and rob him after we broke into his home." - my younger son in our last D&D session.


So my youngest son is making life interesting for this old DM and his big brother, it seems he doesn't like kicking in folks door killing them and taking their stuff. He's totally fine with killing giant rats and laying low the undead but doesn't feel right breaking and entering and stealing from walking talking folks.

Night before last the four valiant adventurers played by my sons returned to the dungeon hiding under a nearby village and discovered a new passage that was blocked off by a recent collapse so they went back to the rat shrine they discovered before and had a desperate fight against 3 skeletal rats and later an authentic "GIANT RAT" that was quickly killed by a desperate spear charge by the feeble Strength 5 Healer in the party. The secret door they posited was there in the shrine last year was certainly there but they couldn't figure out how to open it so they did the most logical thing...they rented a pickax from the gremkins they tangled with but spared last session.

 Working away at the secret door almost got them taken out by a sleep spell from a Boggart which still caused two members of the party to doze off. Luckily they still dealt with him quickly and that's when my youngest son said the line above... preplexing my older son. They eventually decided on tying him up and questioning him after taking his lapis ring and leaving him his scroll fragments and sack of coins. After some amusing discussion he agreed to show them him his escape tunnel and way in and out if the dungeon.

The group later returned to the collapsed tunnel section and managed to get all but one of the characters badly stuck in another collapse. The remaining mobile character hired the gremkins to help him free his companions and then they all came to an agreement to work together to clear the collaspe. It was an expensive endeavor but lucky reaction rolls (known to the players) and substantial fees (for the situation at hand) paid off and the young adventurers were able to discover a connection to a slightly more distant dungeon through a magical goblin door.

--

If it wasn't for the lapis ring they'd have spent more money than they gained but they did discover two new routes in and out and earned enough experience points for the Petty Dwarf Mage Thorn to level up to level 2 with the rest of them very close behind.

My equipment wear and tear rules are working out okay with the low quality gear they have and limited range of choices available in the local villages motivating more travel and treasure seeking.  Want to motivate your players to have simple early goals and encourage them to think? Start them out with the equivalent of 50sp in gear as opposed to 100 GP (or more).

Monday, April 12, 2021

Name that monster

A handy d20 (x3) table to whip up some monster names.

 





1

Gnatty

gnatter

gnat

2

Nuckering

nucky

nick

3

Boggling

brag

boggle

4

Chittering

yammer

blat

5

Lopping

hew

slash

6

Lanky

spindle

lean

7

Harrying

fluster

harsh

8

Lurking

hind

kew

9

Skulking

wiggle

puck

10

Jibbering

yap

maw

11

Howling

blotch

hound

12

Scampering

pillage

rake

13

Pilfering

scamper

dash

14

Drooling

green

coot

15

Wiry

throttle

gong

16

Stringy

sinew

lash

17

Raging

cuttle

claw

18

Bloody

muck

hook

19

Screaming

marrow

monk

20

Withered

thorn

jack

Apply stats to taste (or lack thereof)

Thursday, April 8, 2021

On The Woodland Pathcrawl

 There's an allure in wandering into the woods and distancing oneself from "civilization" and getting back to nature. Of course the woodland most of us experience has been shaped by hundreds maybe thousands of years of contact with humanity. The woods I camped in and explored as a child in New England are full of forgotten trails, forgotten foundations, and seemingly misplaced rock walls (the forest they cut through was once cleared out farmland); the woods near a favorite country resort my family enjoys has century old middens and disused roads that once connected points no longer important enough to reach by foot or wagon. These are the sort of woodlands I want to play RPG adventures within not primordial otherlands but he land next door where civilization intrudes but gives way as often as it advances, where secrets are hidden by a row of trees for years because nobody has wandered off the trail in that direction for a long time.


The pace and nature of woodland pathcrawling is different from the mile eating pace often assumed by wilderness adventuring and by slowing down the pace to poke at smaller features and secret places the woodland starts feeling more like the dungeon a mysterious labyrinth that is a host to unknown horrors, hidden wealth, and unseen challenges just ahead. Of course this is a dungeon without (frequent) walls as instead of being restricted by abrupt barriers of stone the difficulties of pressing ahead through bracken, brambles, bogs, and hillocks lead to be guided by tracks, trails, paths, and even roads. While the woods may overgrow farms and overtake and eat into structures over decades and centuries there are still clearings that create little tiny islands of normality or foreboding otherness; these clearings serve much the same functions as the room does in a dungeon and the paths serve as a combination of terrain and corridor.

 

The most obvious feature (beside the ever-present woodland) for the Woodland Pathcrawl is the paths themselves from the freshly laid track to the ancient cobblestone road. These forest paths will set and restrict the pace for adventure. Each type of path should express limits and benefits of taking that route. A freshly laid track will mostly aid navigation and perhaps quickly lead to someone or something else traveling about the woods. The wider and straighter the route the easier it is to see and be seen in addition to how quick a pace one may set on foot, astride amount, or with a cart full of goods. Paths are not all straight and direct channels to places you may want to go now however as they may have initially been laid by wandering game animals and broadened by hunters and lumber men, a work camp at on end may have connected to a hamlet but a coupe miles away that was long since abandoned and reclaimed by the forest; the span of cart path you are walking along may indeed lengthen your journey but it keeps you from stumbling through a bothersome bramble.

 

So in future posts I shall outline procedures for blazing trails and wandering about woodlands, along with the mapping and stocking them out for play. A dungeon with few to no walls can be as deep a labyrinth as any other. There chart I posted last time was a teaser and a point of reference for these forthcoming posts and I hope to provide some useful tools and interesting tidbits to for your old-school and new fantasy RPG campaigns.



Friday, April 2, 2021

Pathcrawl Teaser Chart

 A chart for Pathrcrawling in The Fantasy Wood presented here as a teaser and reference for future posts.


Pathcrawling Master Path Chart. (Teaser/Draft)


course of path

Path

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

2 Fresh

Track

Crossing

Widens to Foot Trail

Straight

Zig-Zag

Bend

Fades

Away

Loop

Wander

Fork

Clearing

Straight

3 Old Track

Turn

Crossing

Widens to Foot Trail

Loop

Fades

Away

Bend

Turn

Fork

Degrades

to Fresh Track

Clearing

Straight

4 Marked Track

Turn

Widens to Foot Trail

Crossing

Fades

Away

Loop

Bend

Degrades into

1-3: Old Track

4-6: Fresh Track

Fork

Clearing

Straight

Wander

5 Game

Trail

Turn

Crossing

Widens to foot Trail

Fades

Away

Fork

Loop

Bend

Degrades

into

1-3: Old Track

4-6: Fresh Track

Clearing

Straight

Zig-Zag

6 Foot Trail

Turn

Fades Away

Crossing

Widens

1-4: F,Path

5-6:

H. Trail

Bend

Fork

Loop

Clearing

Straight

Degrades

to

Marked Track

Fork

7 Horse Trail

Zig-zag

Crossing

Fades

Away

Widens

1-3: H.Path

4-6: 

Cart Path

Turn

Bend

Wanders

Clearing

Straight

Loop

Tunnel

8 Foot Path

Zig-zag

Fades

Away

Crossing

Loop

Widens

1-2: H.Path

3-5: C.Path

6: Road

Bend

Clearing

Straight

Degrades to

Foot Trail

Wanders

Tunnel

9 Horse Path

Wanders

Fades

Away

Crossing

Loop

Widens

1-3: C.Path

4-6  Road

Bend

Clearing

Straight

Degrades

to

Horse Trail

Turn

Tunnel

10 Cart

Path

Wanders

Fades

Away

Fork

Crossing

Widens

to

Road

Loop

Clearing

Straight

Degrades

to

Horse Path

Turn

Tunnel

11 Road

Loop

Fades

Away

Turn

Fork

Crossing

Clearing

Straight

Degrades to 

Cart Path

Improves

to

Paved Road

Wanders

Tunnel

12 Paved Road

Fades

Wanders

Fork

Degrades

to

Road

Crossing

Clearing

Straight

Bend

Loop

Turn

Tunnel

The table above is squeezed in and not too amazing to look at yet, I'll get to explaining entries and prettying things up in future posts.