Friday, October 19, 2012

Masterwork Adventures: The Making of a Campaign Session

I love playing D&D. Is is an amazing game. It has so many different facets, all of which are amazingly fun and engaging. You get the joy of building a character, realizing a character concept, helping to write a collaborative story, seeing your hard work pay off as your character advances in levels and becomes even more powerful, and getting to spend real quality time with friends. I love it. But the one thing I love more than playing D&D is actually running a game of D&D. Being a DM (Dungeon Master) comes with its own set of trials and tribulations, but the rewards are more than worth it. Running a game for my friends is some of the most fun I have. I absolutely love it.

For the next session I run, I am wanting to make a fairly detailed adventure. I have decided to document my process here on my blog. None of my players actually read my blog, so I should be safe in detailing this adventure here.

The first step in doing this is to come up with an idea. Seems obvious, I know, but this is a detailing of the process, and that's the first step of the process, so there you go. The idea I have is an old, decrepit mansion owned by an ancient vampire. I want it to be a little different, though. I want the mansion to be run and "maintained" by the ghosts of the vampire's victims. In Pathfinder, vampires can make servants out of their victims. However, I like the idea of this vampire's servants being the spiritual remnants of their former selves. The conceit for this is that the mansion is secluded and out of the way. Once upon a time, it used to visited frequently, either by travelers, or maybe the mansion is located in a ghost town that used to be quite lively. Either way, it rarely gets visitors now, and the vampire has not been able to renew its servant stock. They all died and decayed, leaving only their spirits behind to tend to their master/mistress. The vampire, itself, has gotten too weak from starvation to venture from its home to find food and more servants. However, it has found a way to retain most of its strength while in the vicinity of its mansion. I already know how it manages this, but, just in case any of my players *do* stumble across this (and they won't), I will keep it a secret for now.

What I am really going for, here, is a creepy, scary atmosphere. Not immediately threatening, but having the potential for some really bad stuff. So, I like the idea of a ghost town. The town itself would set the mood before anything supernatural was ever encountered. I think we'll do that.

So, we have ourselves a solid concept. Now what? Well, I'm going to start off doing some research into floor plans of different mansions. I am not the best floor plan designer, myself, so it would help me greatly to get an idea of what a proper mansion should look like. I suppose I could copy the design of the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil, but no. I'd rather not. Also, despite the fact this campaign is set in medieval times, I'm going for more Victorian era feel. So, a Google Image search for "Victorian Era Mansion Floor Plan."

The Osborne House floor plans look like they have a lot of potential. It has a separate guest area, and a more secluded area for those that live there regularly. Perfect for what I have in mind. Let's see if I can make a map based off this floor plan.

The mapping program I use is called Dungeon Crafter 2. It is, unfortunately, an abandoned project that will never be finished, and is difficult to reliably get tiles sets for. However, it is the best mapper I have ever come across, and I have looked several times. I cannot find good door objects for the program, and all the ones I try to make myself look dirty and messed up for some reason, so I am forced to leave gaps where doors should be. Luckily, I use a different program for running the game, D20Pro, which has a built in mapper of its own. The mapper isn't as good, but I get to easily add doors to the maps I make in Dungeon Crafer 2.

The floor plan has a handy measuring tool, so I re-size the image until 10 ft. equals 1 in. (aprox.). Then I count the inches across and down. Neatly enough, it comes to about 28 in. both ways (maybe a little less on the up/down axis, but for simplicity's sake, we'll say 28 in.). In Pathfinder, a single square on the map traditionally represents a 5 ft. by 5 ft., or 25 sq. ft., area. In my mapper, I go 7 squares down, and seven across, then make a tile. This is my starting corner. I leave the space to have room to play around in, if I want to. Now, it's 28 in. in both directions, each inch representing 10 ft. However, we are dealing with 5x5 squares, so we need double that number, or 56, squares in each direction, across and down, to get the dimensions of our planned floor plan. I place two more tiles, one 55 squares to the right of my first tile, and on 55 squares down from my first tile. Including the first tile, that makes 56 in both directions. One more tile marks the last corner to complete the square area that I'll be mapping this mansion in. Now, I'm not going to follow the floor plan of the Osborne House exactly, but I'm going to take some of the basic design elements from it. I also want there to be at least two more levels, a second floor and a basement. The original Osborne House had at least one other floor, but I only got the plans for the one floor. However, it doesn't matter. Once I get the main floor mapped, the others will be based on it, not the original floor plan.

Using the same method as before, I block out the area used for the private area design. This will be where the vampire spends the majority of its time while the PCs are there, and also where its secrets are locked away. The PCs will be free, more or less, to roam the rest of the house.

This is the basic floor plan I will be working with. It will serve as the template for all of the floors I map for this adventure. The grey dome shape on the North side of the North-West corner is the second floor balcony, and will not be visible to the PCs on any other floor, assuming they even make it into the private area to see it. As you can see, the mansion looks drastically different, while still keeping some of the main design elements.

This is what the finished first floor actually looks like. I took some queues from the original floor plan, but changed it up a bit. I like my castles and mansions to have a lot of big, empty space. So I used a lot of big rooms and a 15 ft. wide hallway that snaked across the building. The hallway that leads to the private area is 20 ft. wide to denote its significance to the players. Though it is possible the PCs will never see the inside of the private area, I have still decorated it with private versions of the rooms in the guest area, minus bedrooms which will be upstairs. There is a staircase leading down in the kitchen (lower-leftmost room) that is supposed to lead to a cellar. I probably won't bother to map out that room as it has no significance at all. However, the downward staircases in the private area (the top-most ones) lead to a separate basement that will be mapped out, as it is the primary lair of the vampire.

This is taking longer than I expected, and while I knew this would be more than one part long, I did hope to at least finish mapping. Sadly, that is not the case. However, the next two floors won't be nearly as hard or as big, so we should be able to get through them fairly quickly next time. Then, it's time for the hardest part of all. NPC character creation. Woo!!!! See ya all next time!

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