Friday, December 11, 2009

Long-Term Planning

As has been pointed out once or twice around here, while in LA I play a slimmed-down version of 3.5 rather than my beloved AD&D.

One of the bugs/features of 3.5 is a more rapid level advancement than is right and proper, I mean, um, than I'm used to...

Anyway, one of the nice things about this is it allows me to sort of imagine a campaign where my players might actually one day be able to start out at level one and move up to fighting on the crazy high-end of the game and try to fight Orcus and whatnot sometime before the group all breaks up and moves to different places or has kids or gets new jobs or is drafted or whatever.

Which, no doubt, was one of the original intentions of that feature of the game so duh.

Anyway, I have a relatively stable group now, with 2 second-level players and one 4th level player and I am beginning to dream long-term gonzo sandbox dreams.

Since most of the players have never played in a long-term campaign before and all of this is new to them, there's no reason not to use a ton of classic materials. They don't know who Acecerak is.

So, a few considerations...

-This has got me all excited about The City-State of The Invincible Overlord. The original version--it'd be pointless to run it for my group without all the politically-incorrect '70s rules for women.

-Killable gods. It's going to happen. One day. (At some point after they all learn what "AC" and "HP" stand for, presumably.)

-The Tomb of Horrors is going on the map, somewhere... Again: the original. However, this is tricky--it's a module that demands that your players be operating at a very high level, not just their characters. We'll see if that ever happens. Has the original been re-printed?

-Vault of the Drow. Oh, so you're a Dark Elf? Meet the family.

-Cities. I like a nice big pre-packaged, detailed city module that I can take a razor to. I like knowing no matter what building the PCs go into, there's something there. So far we got the Vault and the City-State--can anybody think of any others? Let me know and I'll be grateful. It doesn't have to be old-school.


  1. Three thoughts on cities:

    Huzzuz, City of Delights for the 2ned Al-Qadim setting. More high-magic and D&Dy than I like, but full of possibilities for those who like razoring.

    The Lexicon from Bard Game's Antediluvian Trilogy. It's the world-book, but there are plans for several cities (Atlantis, Acheron, Tartaross, and a Chinese one), with prices for goods and little details (like the number of public advocates you can hire in the Chinese city).

    City-State of the World-Emperor, obvious if you're using the Overlord's City.

  2. The Morrigan Press revamp of the Bard Games setting (the Antediluvian/Atlantis setting) is pretty well put together if you cannot find the Lexicon. That entire setting was so awesome because of the depth of culture and less reliance on dungeoncrawls.

    As far as 3.5 goes, I am also getting a Pathfinder (cleaned up 3.5) game going. The oldschool games are still better, though. Too many fiddly bits with 3.x+.

  3. There is a "Return to the Tomb of Horrors" box which contains a nice reprint of the original, plus a new scenario which, well, returns to the same place, only 100s of years later or so.

  4. Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess is a good idea starter, and the surrounding region is chock full of adventuring stuff.

    The Lankhmar paperback of old has a lot of good material and a great map, too. The notes on running Nehwon via AD&D will get you thinking in different directions (esp. the social ranks, and an interesting take on clerics and magic-users). Although I've not done it, I think it would fit in well with CSIO elements.

  5. Heh. My wife has been gaming most of her life and she has no idea who Acecerak is. Not everyone is as obsessive compulsive as we are when it comes to RPG geek lore. ;)

    When it comes to classic adventures, I'd recommend the following:
    * Village of Hommlet (T1)
    * The Sinister Secret Of Saltmarsh (entire U series)
    * Slave Pits of the Undercity (entire A series)
    * Isle of Dread (X1)
    * Ravenloft (I6)
    * Pharoah trilogy (I3-I5)
    * Forgotten Temple Of Tharizdun (WG4)
    * White Plume Mountain (S2)

    As for cities, I ran a long urban fantasy campaign on the Ptolus maps that are available on Drivethru. (Not the $100 monster, but just the beautifully detailed maps). Shadowspawn's Guide to Santuary by Green Ronin has some great urban character and location writeups that are begging to be cut and pasted into other campaigns, and it has some really great charts for randomly determining buildings, shops, residences, etc. If you have to stick to just old school, then the TSR Lankmar City of Adventure geomorphs are really useful.

  6. Detailed city supplements can be pretty pricey. For example I own Ptolus and it is ridiculous in its detail. So was the price.

    I think that Bluffside: City on the Edge might be nifty. It's really affordable and has a nice visual presentation.

    Monte Cook's Ghostwalk was also pretty bitchen. Characters can play ghosts.

    Based upon your style, you might like Hollowfaust: City of Necromancers.

    I hope these suggestions help.

  7. More Judges Guild city goodness available in "Tarantis" and "Modron". There's also a couple of kewl cities detailed in the latest issues of Knockspell and Fight On.

  8. I would also recommend Judges' Guild's VERBOSH as a classic old school D&D city that has a fair amount of sandbox already attached to it. There's a goofiness to some of the tropes that are built into it (having to save against wanting to kill the local overlord for his incessant complaining a la Rodney Dangerfield) but if that isn't your style that stuff can be neatly excised.

  9. Wow, you guys really came through on this--thanks everybody!

    Now I gotta go shopping...

  10. 2nd vote for Ptolus

    Not an entire city but nicely done sites are found in the CityBook series by Flying Buffalo.

    Chaosium's Cities if your after an old-school tables of random encounters/stuff to fill in a city. Lots of resources like that. I bet most are good enough, the important thing is to have one.

  11. Yes, Ptolus sprang to mind immediately. There's enough detail in there for a whole campaign.

  12. I'm gonna pimp my expanded Wandering Harlot Table, which builds on everyone's favorite subtable from p. 192 of the 1E DMG. It's intended for Gamma World/Mutant Future, but would totally work for an Arduinian game, or Carcosa, or something like that.

    A slightly-stripped-down version can also be found in the brand-new Fight On! #7.

    I did run a 3.0 and later 3.5 game--it took us about 8 years of playing every three or four weeks on average....well, we played *that game* maybe 8 weeks on average?....for the first of the characters in it to reach 20th level starting from 0 XP. I don't think his character died (I played with "if you die, you go back to the middle of the previous level" rules), and he made it to most of our sessions.

    So, yeah, 50-60 game sessions sufficed for 20 levels, which would be (according to stated 3E 11-encounters-per-level) 3 or 4 encounters per roughly 4-hour session, so that's about right.


  13. The No-Name City which later became the City State of the Overlord map is available in limited quantities on ebay.

    Grognardia covers it here:

  14. Here is another one. It's a tomb city. The game is Mazes and Minotaurs. The link for the tomb city is here:

    A review of the tomb city and why it's awesome:

  15. I really like AEG's Adventure I and II. Lot of great scenarios and ideas in both books.

  16. Ara--
    I was deeply attracted to the tomb city on account of its freeness. Downloaded and printed--thanks! Now all I have to do is spend a few hours editing out the togas.

  17. Sorry Zak, I forgot to warn you about the togas.

  18. The Waterdeep boxed set for Forgotten Realms is great for having a very detailed city to work from. Extensive, extensive maps as well as detailed city tables and such.

  19. If you can hunt it down, the old "Thieves' World" boxed set that Chaosium put out in '81 is fantastic. It details the city of Sanctuary that was the setting for the Thieves' World fiction anthologies, and has stat sets for something like 8 or 9 rpg systems, including AD&D. My current campaign started there, and stayed in that area for several levels (until the party scampered off when they pissed off The Purple Mage...)

  20. Any of the old Dark Sun materials have great city stuff in them. Enough to whet your appetite for creation, not so much that you're stuck wondering where YOUR ideas fit in.

  21. You need to check out Sharn city of Towers, the 3.5 source book. I get the feeling you're into noir and horror, this place has it all, in spades. Since 4E is the new shiny thing, you should be able to pick it up cheap.
    It also has information on the various competing factions (dragonmarked, demonic, cults etc). I've been running my campaign based from there for the last 5 or so years, and it has everything i need as a backdrop. A couple of necropolises, an "undercity", monstrous districts, citybottom etc. It can all be easily used for a more generic campaign world too.
    Dragonmarks by the way are kind of magical tattoos...

  22. xeno-
    i know.
    but thanks anyway.

  23. You could take a look at Cadwallon - it's not a D&D-based rpg, but the entire setting takes place in a city and its surrounding area.

    You can just ignore the rules and let the gorgeous art and fluff inspire you. You should be able to find the player's guide for cheap.

  24. You could look up Ankh-Morpork for ideas of cities.

    As described in the Discworld Book "Mort" (rough re-translation):

    "Poets tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They couldn't. Maybe it was the energy of the place, or perhaps because a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers was too much for poets, who naturally prefer daisies. Well, let's just say that Ankh-Morpork is so full of life as old cheese in a warm day, as loud as cursing in church, as bright as a spot of oil in the water, as colorful as a bruise and as busy, through and active as a dead dog in an anthill.

    There were temples with open doors, filling the streets with the sounds of gongs, bells and, in the case of the more conservative fundamentalist religions, the brief screams of their victims. There were stores whose strange products reached the ground. There seemed to be a lot of nice girls without money to clothe themselves. There were torches, jugglers and sellers of instant transcendence."

    I'm not sure if anyone detailed it enough to use as a setting, but a little research will show you it has very interesting ideas for a city to throw your players at.

    It has the requisite Wizards' Guild (The Unseen University), forbidden to non-wizards where everybody inside is extremely busy trying to get promoted (likely by filling the empty shoes and hat of their predecessors). There's the Shades, a dangerous place to be alone... or in small groups... or large groups... a dangerous place altogether. The River Ankh, which is so think you don't need to be the avatar of a God to walk over it, and which not even the Gods know (nor want to) what lies within its waters. The Palace where the Patrician rules the city with a benevolent Iron Fist, most notably making mugging legal and therefore forcing thieves to register themselves and pay taxes. The Night Watch, composed of a whole squad of 4 members, total, for the whole city. The Assassins' Guild where people learn to wear black and charge in advance to kill.

    It's like Disneyland to adventurers, who can always rest assured that no matter how much damage they do, they can't top the Great Fire of Last Month and being drunk is second nature to all citizens.