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Friday, January 8, 2010

Return to Moria: Lost in the Maze

It's been a while since I've posted anything about my Moria game, so I thought an update was in order.

Characters

The holidays threw a wrench into my schedule so there was a lull in my side of the process. Most of my players had some time off over the holidays, so everyone has finalized their characters. We've also done a bit of preparation via email, so everyone knows a bit about the locale. The group has discussed their clues and potential entrances to Moria, and have determined they're going to follow the map the trio of orphans from up north received from their uncle. From my perspective, the character side of things is pretty well done, a good thing, since there's a lot left for me to do elsewhere.

Maps

I've finished off all the broad scale maps of Moria. These reflect each level of the mines in broad strokes and provide a framework of connectivity and general layout. I posted up a sample of this style of map here. My mapping work is now focused on two separate tasks:
  1. Geomorphs - I've been sketching out general purpose mini-maps for use and reuse throughout the session. These maps include stuff like variations on clan halls, defensive works, mines and tunnels, and similar common features.
  2. Singular maps - These are maps of one shot areas, unique locations that need a map to clarify the layout. I'm trying to minimize these as Moria is huge. Doing unique maps of every area is a near impossible task.
I've made mixed progress on mapping. What I'm finding is that as I write up encounters and area descriptions I can capture the detail in text better than with a map. The jury is still out, but right now I'm finding the emphasis shifting from maps to area descriptions.

Area Descriptions and Encounters

This is where my activities are really focused now. With a firm commitment from the players on their entry point, I've been able to buckle down and start creating content. After a bit of flailing about with some standard templates for TiddlyWiki I've finally started making progress. I've mapped out the three 'levels' surrounding the party's chosen entrance in preparation for their arrival, and I plan on expanding this coverage over the next couple of weeks.

The problem I'm facing now is with sprawl. There are four additional levels connected to the area I've already mapped, and each of those levels leads to four or five other levels. I'm planning on taking an organic approach and expanding the coverage in all directions as the mood strikes. If the players choose to fully explore the area I've already mapped I have plenty of material for the first weekend session, but players never do what you want. I'm sure they'll go haring off into undefined areas within a couple hours of play.

Speaking of sessions, readers might be thinking this is an awful lot of prep work for a single session game. I should probably explain. The group I'm running this for consists of people I've gamed with for many years (in some cases 30+ years). We're now scattered from Indiana to Maryland, so we only get to game together a couple times a year, and the sessions are weekend-long affairs lasting from Friday afternoon til mid-day Sunday. We probably pack in 6-7 'normal' sessions during these games. Even with a minimalist approach to prep there's a substantial amount of stuff to get ready, and I'm not really a minimalist on the preparation front.

Yeah, I'm sweating a bit.
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