Saturday, April 6, 2013

Drafts, Ideas, Noircana (Contribution 2)

I don't know if the general populace sees value in this, but Porky, Garrisonjames and me are having a great deal of fun finding out where the magic comes from, how it influences it's surroundings (be it regarding settlements, history, producing artefacts, etc.) and what signature a magic user might have (Porky's take on it  is here). Garrisonjames gave some stimuli regarding Geomancy and the great movie Excalibur (among other ideas...) and I hope he will dust off this thingy he was working on! The whole story is here and some more here at Porky's Expanse!

Noircana - Fantasy Roleplaying Geomancy Toolkit (0.2)

We have no exact definition what Noircana will come to be (but I love that word). What we know is what a subsystem like this should have as a result: the origin of any magic item (invented or "official"), the background noise for the impact of magic in a D&D-mounted setting.

This is the first part of my contribution. I'll try and structure some of the ideas in a way easy to process for me. So let's connect some dots...

CSI: D&D ( you know you want it...)

This should be one possible tool for a DM to construct a setting in a way that allows him to a) randomly assign Ley Lines and Holy Sites b) have an easy reference to where a random magic item may come from c) create setting appropriate magic items (with flavour and history) d) use the result as a world engine (balance versus chaos, the eternal struggle) and e) include connectors for the characters that allow a more investigation oriented game (which is really just an expansion of the exploration-oriented game we all like to call our hobby). Something like:

Fantasy Noir...
...or Hardboilded Fantasy?

Individual signatures for everyone using magic are just the next logical step. But as mentioned before, it's only the background noise for a setting. An attempt to give the arbitrary assumptions delivered by the rules some structure and make it that much more accessible for an investigation-oriented variant of D&D (I love the fact that D&D delivers so much room for tinkering...). I'm not saying it's easy or even possible, but sometimes the road taken is more important than the destination.

Ideas, Drafts, Shenanigans

Some basics first. Years ago (no worries, I won't start telling long stories...) we started to use Mana for spells (see here). Using a fanned out approach like this, showed me one thing: there is creative leeway between a wizards brain (INT) and a spell (INT + subsystem = same amount of magic and still compatible).

So INT is a connecting factor that is already established in the rules. My first idea would be to use the character creation process as a template for regions (I'd say hexagons with 120 miles per region is big enough, isn't it?). Every ability score could be interpreted as a regional feature (with 10 being the axis):

STR - Structure of the land, 10 is the sea level here.
DEX - Is an indicator for defences, could mean creatures, could
      mean lay of the land
CON - Fatness of the land, the axis is of obvious importance
INT - Centers of the Ley Lines, weak or strong
WIS - Holy significance
CHA - Beauty of the land

Old School = 3d6 in a row, please!

Now, rolling for ability scores generates a picture of a region. But there is more. Every time you roll a 6, a pair or a tripling, roll an additional d6, add the value and check Porky's d6 table (2d6 for triplets, keep rerolling 6):
Source Effect (1d6):
1 Decay
2 Reversion
3 Transformation
4 Enhancement
5 Enlightenment
6 Ascendance
The already known bonuses apply, but should be open:
Bonuses and Penalties
for Ability Scores:

1-2 -4
3-4 -3
4-6 -2
7-8 -1
12-13 +1
14-15 +2
16-17 +3
18-19 +4
20-... etc.
Alignment, Level and Class (only ideas so far)

Alignment could easiely be climate, with chaotic being equatorial, neutral being extreme (polar) and lawful being moderate. This is of course subjective and will change as soon as history is added, but it works in between the system (for now?).

Level is the history of the land and the challenges it had to survive. This is still a sketch, but I think with merits. If you start to develop a setting from the very beginning (like I'm assuming here), your starting point defines the "Level" (that is: the stages of change). A hyperborian setting would have a pretty low starting point (1d10 per region, maybe), high fantasy would be pretty high (1d100 or even more?) with cataclysms every 10+1d10 levels (cataclym will affect all regions).

Class should be like used in the game. This is a rather abstract approach, but it translates nicely into the system. This is important because of:


A D&D group should have a balanced mix of characters. GJ mentioning Geomancy made me check Wikipedia (here) and I'll quote the passage that helped me get the concept:
"If the sum of the chart is 96, then the resolution of the query will be "swift, and neither slow nor doubtful;" in other words, that all things that could be acted upon in the situation described by the query would resolve without delay nor ahead of schedule. If the sum is less than 96, then it will resolve quickly, and in a degree proportional to the difference between 96 and the total. Conversely, if the sum is more than 96, then it will resolve slowly."
So if a region is in disorder, "balancing" the problems out helps dissolving the problem. Take the Arthurian legends, for example. The land (highly magical) is in chaos and the king and his knights (all fighters) balance this out. To make this possible, the land spawns a magical sword and quests...

Giving a region a class would then result in legends, specific magic items and folklore. And this is what we wanted to happen, right?

Ley Lines, Holy Sites (and finishing thoughts)

To assign the centers of the Ley Lines (or Holy Sites), the raw result of the 3d6 for INT (or WIS) could be used as coordinates in the hex field. It would look something like that (Sorry, I just had paper, a pencil and a glass... ah, well):
Something like this could be part of a Region Sheet.

To make this work, the results need to be alternating. Another roll on 1d8 should to the trick (1D8 for positive or negative coordinates: 1 x, y, z = +; 2 x, y = +, z = -; 3 x, z = +, y = -; 4 y, z = +, x = -; 5 x, y, z = -; 6 x, y = -, z = +; 7 x, z = -, y = +; 8 y, z = -, x = +).

This could work for STR, too. As soon as regions are connected, this could be a tool to create elavations like mountains randomly...

Next up will be a regions sheet.
This is not finished, but maybe it's mapping out what needs to be done to get there and where the connections between all those nice ideas are... 

Some stray thoughts:
- Big Cities could be regions on their own (with a destructive effect on the region).
- I want floating islands (lawful region turned chaotic with high INT and DEX and maybe Fighter as a class)
- Porky's signatures could work with region level.


  1. It's magical. You've bumped the whole thing up a notch or 11 with that. I love the idea of building regions using the core character elements like attributes, class etc. It's clean and familiar, and if it ain't broke.

    I like your mana system too, and it could be linked in with this very easily by having certain sources, or all of them, be the cause of mana recovery, i.e. the amount of mana restored per day depends on where you are. The HP burning aspect from that post makes sense to me too, and I've taken a very similar route:

    Great minds don't necessarily think alike, and we don't always think alike of course, but we have some good points of crossover to build on, like this project. We're very much on the same wavelength.

    I also like the idea of using the 1d6 source effect table for more than just magic and holy sites. It could tell us a lot about the state of the region. For example, for populated areas - and with any species even - a result of enlightenment or ascendance for CON could suggest the stirrings of a major evolutional development, or a civilisational step change, from gathering to agriculture, or maybe the first sparks of an industrial revolution, for CHA maybe a new school of art or even a new form of perception, or just the potential for these.

    Level for history is very interesting too, and it could definitely work for geological and prehistory as well as recorded. Worlds could vary greatly in age and origin, but this seems flexible enough to cover most or all of the more usual possibilities.

    The balance is a real thought-provoker. I like the idea of it providing the essence of a world or campaign, playing to the genres, but even if the GM didn't want to feed the ideas into events too greatly, keeping track using that kind of system could be a real boon for second-guessing and inspiration. Great potential tool there too.

    For the locations in the hex, to avoid having the ability score determining intensity and position, and so creating a more regular patterning, it could be that there are always, say, three key sites +/- the ability modifier, i.e. 0-6, and that each of the sites has a location unrelated to score rolled specifically. As a system for generating points and lines, this approach is ideal.

    There's a lot to explore here and much more leading off, loose ends that can be followed and tied in at some later point. I'll mull it over and see what I can suggest next. Do you know which area you'd like to focus on first?

  2. Thanks, I hoped you like it! It's merely a summary of what was already established in the comments and in your posts. And sure, there are many loose ends.

    Yeah, I thought your d6 table would connect with all ability scores (or rather connect the other ability scores with either INT or WIS). Your suggestions are spot on! There is an aspect of opposition that needs to be fleshed out. Something like, there are forces using those high ability scores out of selfish needs (high CHA = tourism, maybe?) and those complementing them (in this case an Art School would go to a low CHA area and enhance the stat with it's presence!). This would lead to a mechanism where over time ability scores get influenced (either drained or pushed), falling (mostly) back to their natural state after every cataclysm (this would be places like stonehenge or ruins of lost cultures). But with Magic being part of the system, the land could react by giving omens and/or items (the bonuses of the ability scores, too?) to force that balance, with weak regions being prone to abuse an strong regions being able to defend themself (directly connected with Balance...).

    In conclusion the land offers possibilities for the opposing forces to strive for evolution (and diminishing the land in the process...), just like you indicated! I like that.

    Locations are tricky. Your idea sounds great, need to think about this more. It works for INT and WIS (that would be 2 and that's not too much). Connecting regions is were it get's more interesting. You'd have those centers (holy or magical) with possible connections to the other stats (d6 table) and you'd get the Ley Lines by just connecting the centers. Doing the same with STR, you'd get the flow of the land (mountains, canyons, lakes, etc.). So for those 3 the coordinates could work. Using the bonuses for the rest sounds really good.

    The rest would be how those ability scores interact (character of the land). Strong CON paired with strong DEX could mean big and nasty critters, while strong DEX with strong CHA could mean a very dangerous landscape. Most of that comes pretty naturally, I hope. Even opposing forces are self explanatory, at that (first scenario would be monster hunters, second could be harvesters of some kind).

    Another tie in should be high level characters and immortality. Power levels in D&D are huge and it could be interesting to see this from a rearward point of view (like every interim between cataclysms will have 1d6 level 36 characters having an impact, assign starting position randomly and see how they influence the regions, maybe with a similar rule, something like they change their location randomly every 1d6+4 levels...).

    Which reminds me of the stuff I tried to do with PC/NPC interaction. The basic idea is to have the randomly generated reactions and NPCs be directly connected to the characters and their interaction with the world. So having the group of characters, gives you their surroundings and shapes the world with them just being there. Could be the angle for regions, too. Here is a link:

    With a fully developed region sheet, the result of the number of NPCs achieving level 36 and the tables from the post above, you'd get class, alignment and the general motivation of those shaping the region (right?).

    Other races should be different factors, maybe even scipted like I tried with halflings (but, of course, the other way around would be better):

    Anyway, much too long... Right now I'm working on history, hexagons (stocking and Ley Lines...) and a Regions Sheet. Whatever peaks first, will be posted. Anything you come up with will be very welcome. And I agree, we tend to think the same directions with this one!

    Thanks for the link! Looks like an interesting approach and a good discussion! I'll give this a closer look later today.

  3. One more thing, this could easily be connected with collaborative play, like you wrote about here:

    Mostly because this is not in-depth but more about the evolution of a setting. Would have the benefit of the players knowing the setting very well. There is a competitive aspect with the regions and the opposition and regions will have a goal (balance).

  4. Again, a lot of good material to think about and apply.

    Using a rate for high-level character appearance definitely opens another major door or two, whether the past and present characters are directly involved or just a factor through the customs and institutions they've left behind, and the physical artifacts, the temples to them etc.

    That character interaction system has potential for sure. If the land is using character mechanisms, it seems possible to think of a realm of linked regions rather as if it's a party. As realms expand, contract and shift over time, it could be the party composition changing. Different abilities could complement each other to bind the realm together and help it over time, in interactions with different realms.

    If the level 36 idea was linked to this, it could even be assumed that each such high level character was, or had effectively become, a region, or even a realm.

    If you wanted to change the 1d6 table in any way, reorganising the entries for example or replacing them entries you think would be a better fit, go right ahead, and the same is true if you wanted to link each entry in the list to a specific ability score. That could produce interesting interactions too, a path through which changes flow.

    I like the way you're taking it all together, looking to form a coherent system from these elements. I don't want to step on your toes when it comes to hammering out how the regions work, muddy the waters by suggesting too much. We can see which of the elements you're working on emerges first and I can give feedback on those specifics, which might then influence other elements still to come.

    Too avoid it until things are clearer, maybe I'll stay at the signature level and look at related systems, for determining which sources left a signature for example, and tracking movements, and make a start on related spells. We could eventually develop spells for the higher-level regional elements too, like shaping of land Populous-style:

    That could be a helpful game series to look at for inspiration. Interestingly, mana was used there too, a link to that earlier idea.

  5. It's been some time since the name of that game was uttered in my presence. Good memories :) But yes on all accounts. I hope we can make this work!

    New spells is a whole new can of worms, but I like it. Or the other way around, how did spells evolve in a setting (the ones D&D delivers by default)? Could be another scripted guideline (we know the result, but not necessarily how it came to be)?

    So far this could be something a DM does on his own to build a setting (like How to Host a Dungeon), a collaborative effort by the group (and the "real" game starts after the last cataclysm) or just an inspirational tool. I'll post something tomorrow...

  6. I like that idea of working backwards. So far I have the drafts of three to four spells that can be combined in interesting ways. They build on the signatures and link into the larger themes of the magical landscape and party-as-private-eyes.

    In the process it struck me that one way to resolve the effects of sources of power on material is to give the sources of power recognised spell effects. Like ability scores for landscapes, this would work with the proven value of what's already out there and make the system more familiar and easier to pick up and use.

    As for the flexibility in the toolkit, I agree - there's a lot of approaches that can be taken to what we've come up with so far.

  7. Cool, the spell effects could be connected to either the regions level or the cataclysms (so far I think these are the game-changers where imbalance is created). Of course I'm very curious about those spells!

    Regions classes go very well with your idea of having special properties/abilities per region. I, too, believe this goes well with the core system. Ny next post will address the set up (number of regions and size, maybe I go into classes, opposition and balance bit) and the possible tesults of the end game (cataclysms).

    Evolution, struggle and expansion, cultural or economical, will be tricky, I guess. But I'll give this a test run today and see what clicks and what not.

    More later...



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