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Monday, November 16, 2009

Return to Moria: First Victi... err Characters

I thought I'd give a brief update on the status of this campaign setting. I took a few days off after my last significant post on the subject, primarily to let things stew in my head for a while. Since then things have moved forward a bit.

After I tweaked the available characters and racial level limits a bit, I opened up character creation to the players. Since the group that's going to be playing this is scattered over three states, we do all character creation via email. There are three methods of attribute generation available:
  • Pick from a pre-generated list.
  • Roll using a 4d6 drop lowest, in order method.
  • Roll using a 3d6 best of twelve, choose order method.
The third method generates the weakest rolls, but is the only method that allows the player to order rolls. The pre-generated attributes provide rolls that support any allowed class. Each player rolls two 1st and one 2nd level character. So far the tally is:
  • A pair of Iron Hills Dwarves, fighter (2nd) and cleric
  • A Man of the North magic-user
  • A paladin of Gondor (2nd)
  • An Iron Hills Dwarf cleric
  • A human cleric (race TBD) (2nd)
  • A paladin of Gondor (squire of the other paladin)
  • A Western Dwarf fighter/thief with extremely low HP
  • A ranger of Gondor (2nd)
  • A Hobbit thief
  • A lame Dwarf cleric (the only character rolled randomly)
As I expected a very Dwarf heavy party (a common theme with this gaming group). There are still seven or eight more characters to go. I expect at least one elf will put in an appearance.

[My players, stop reading!]

I've spent a fair bit of time laying out stat blocks for the various creatures and races inhabiting Moria. When populating a dungeon like this I try to come up with at least three variants of each major inhabitant, and for important races, five or six. I've also laid out the named NPCs found in the dungeon. Using Goblins, as an example, I have the following information:
  • Three main tribes, each with three or four important named NPCs.
  • Seven variants of basic Goblins (including sneaky, tough, very tough, spell using, and leader types).
  • Three creatures that associate with or are used by Goblins.
  • Relationships between the Goblin tribes and the various other groups in Moria.
This may sound like a ton of work, but since I'm using old school rules, stat blocks are nice and short (most are one line of stats plus a line or two of text).

Dungeon Layout
I've finally settled on how I'm going to map out Moria. The sheer size of the dungeon is rather daunting and I spent some time spinning my wheels as I contemplated how to map the beast. I finally decided to use three detail levels to lay things out.
  1. A top level map. This corresponds to a standard "level layout" map, showing each major area as a simple block diagram. I've altered the maps in the linked post a bit, but they're a good approximation of the top level maps I'm using.
  2. Level maps. These are block diagrams that show the overall structure of each level in Moria. There's no real detail beyond general connectivity and a note or two for each main area.
  3. Detail maps. These will be traditional dungeon maps, showing actual corridors, walls, tunnels and features. I plan on doing unique maps for some areas and using generic maps for others.
Using these three detail levels I can manage the potentially huge maps in a piecemeal fashion, and provide reasonable detail of any area at a moment's notice.

The other thing I've been pushing on is fleshing out the NPCs in Hollin, the starting town outside Moria. I have a pretty good handle on the main NPCs now, and have most of the locals at least sketched out. I used the NPC trait generator from the 1st edition AD&D DMG to fill in some of the blank characters in the NPC list. I've based Hollin's cast on a popular TV series from the recent past so I have a clear picture of how things work in the town. I'll be curious to see if any of my players pick up on the relationship.

Next Steps
That's about where things stand for now. This week I'm planning on finishing out the level maps for Moria, polishing off the last NPCs in Hollin, and starting on some detailed dungeon maps. Stay tuned.
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