Friday, November 9, 2012


Stupid fucking dogdamn nifty city building sim game subsystems.

I like maps and city building. I can't draw for shit, but I love doing stuff like plotting out coastlines and drawing little symbols for mountains and my goofy little trees. Making maps is one of the things I love about GMing. I also love simulation games. I love managing trade and resource needs and production. I have put many days of time into playing Anno 2070 just building things and managing resources without once building a military structure or fleet of ships. I can't count how many hours I have spent looking at city construction optimization guides for Anno 2070. Finding ways to tweak roads and house placement and link up warehouses in an optimal way with production facilities and the resource gather facilities they need. It is kind of a sickness.

At one time I considered mapping out every alley of New Haven and Je'Clre. Luckily the players never did anything with Je'Clre, so it has kind of remained a shithole with about a dozen buildings. At one time I wanted to map out every square of Orcunraytrel that the players explored, but it was never feasible. I dunno, I have this weird fascination with having physical representations of the game world. I want my players to see what I see, I want them immersed. I want them to experience it the way I do. It's why I do things like have Jeremy make flags and why I want graphics in the campaign book and used to use minis with our battle mats when we gamed in person. This fascination was why I grabbed a fancy program like Campaign Cartographer, and while I think it is a fantastic program, I have trouble using it. I can get maps built, but it is never easy or intuitive and often leaves me frustrated. This is certainly in part due to user incompetence. The tools are robust and well designed, I just never seem to be able to get what I want out of them when making maps on a large scale. I have periodically used them to make scenario maps and hideouts and that sort of thing, but I tried making The Known World so I could throw a nice clean rendition of it into the campaign book, but I couldn't make it precisely the way I wanted to. I think part of the problem is that I don't understand layers or really how to manipulate the tools properly to make them work. I dunno, I just could not take my hand drawn map and make it look like I thought it should with Campaign Cartographer. I suppose I should really put more effort into the idea. I've established that I can't get what I want because I don't know what I am doing, so I should just try harder I guess. I dunno. Maybe someday I'll get all ambitious again and do so.

Back to the topic at hand.

When I first started the Orcunraytrel campaign I came up with some guidelines for the expansion of the expedition. Just some broad ideas about when certain things would happen. When certain goods would become available, when a town gets built, when the city gets a wall, when it gets better guards and so on. It was based on the bounty money paid out, which kind of acted as a gauge of how the faction's interests were being furthered. I tabulated the player's bounty rewards and because they are the stars of the show, I took a small percentage of their bounties and added that to the total again to account for other groups doing other bounties. It had no playtesting or balance or anything beyond rough guestimates to it and I changed the amount of rewards from bounties that elicit a change or improvement several times.

Looking at the Kingmaker stuff, with all of its maps and guidelines for kingdom creation and expansion, I find it satisfying my map urges and my simulation urges. It breaks cities down into districts of nine blocks each with a handy little grid thing with roads breaking up the blocks, and then you put handy little pictures in the blocks to show what is there. This builds the map of the city and allows you to have a scenario scene right there in your city without having to randomly assign stuff to Ye Olde Street of Tannery. It is already built.

I think what I might start doing is managing New Haven and Kusseth with the Kingmaker stuff, rather than my little goofy system I came up with on my own. It offers more structure to their expansion and doesn't rely on the PCs. I always say the world doesn't sit around waiting for the PCs to interact with it, it moves and grows and changes even if they do decide to spend a month in a dark hole in the ground, so maybe separating the advancement of the colonies from the players is the appropriate thing to do. Bounties and affiliations would still exist, but the pirates and Kusseth wouldn't need the players to fill them before they could do stuff like train better guards or put a cannon on the wall.

I think what I might do is use the Kingmaker stuff and just start running a simulation of their expansion based on how long they've been in Orcunraytrel (four years at this point in the campaign, with the players joining the expedition about six or seven months ago) and kind of make all the checks and watch the town progress. This would also give me a chance to come up with a clearer idea of who exactly is in charge, as there are all kinds of roles that need to be filled in the government, and having names associated with that kind of thing helps to make the place more legit, instead of saying "You guys go see official number 9." you have a name and race associated with the guy. 

The actions of the players still have their impact, for instance a recent email chain will now open up sorcerer's guild type options in the expedition, which is nice because they can now get spellcasting services and Eric can do things like by scrolls and that sort of thing. It will also allow them to grab magic items (within reason and as they are available) if they desire to. It also eliminates the need to go through the black market for stuff, which they haven't done, but still. 

On a side note, a mile in Minecraft is about 1600 blocks, it takes a long time to lay out that many blocks to form a grid around a tower. Especially when you have to use TNT to blow up intervening terrain. Sigh.

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