Sunday, May 8, 2011

OSRCon Mapping Update

I announced a couple weeks ago that I am running a Labyrinth Lord game at OSRCon in Toronto in August. The home-brewed adventure I will be running is called The Tower of Death. My initial thought was to base the adventure's first (ground) level off of a well-known published dungeon map (randomly re-stocked), and then to construct the other levels by using geomorphs designed by various OSR bloggers. This would both ensure a degree of randomness (which I'm quite fond of in my dungeon design these days) and would show off some of the great stuff the OSR community provides by way of adventuring aids. A foolproof plan!

But now I have printed out a few randomly assigned geomorph-based dungeon levels from Dave Millar's Online Mapper and I have to say that while I really like a couple of them, the regularity of any geomorph-based dungeon level -- despite the wonderful creativity of the individual geomorphs themselves -- is proving to be a bit of a turn-off for me. I want even more unpredictability and physical irregularity in my dungeon levels, at least for this convention game, so the necessary predictability by which the individual geomorphs fit together is spoiling my plans somewhat. Sure, I could modify them, but if I am going to commit to that degree of design work anyway. . . .

Thus I have decided to scrap all but one of my geomorph levels and to fill in the gaps in The Tower of Death with hand-drawn, self-designed dungeon maps. I am not claiming to be a particularly talented or inventive mapper by any means, but I do know what I like, so mapping the dungeon myself allows me to throw in the kind of unusual features and idiosyncratic touches that I most prefer. Furthermore, as Spawn of Endra pointed out to me when I told him of my change of heart, self-drawn maps will breed increased layout-familiarity for me on game day -- I will know the contours of my own dungeon better than if I used random geomorphs. And that alone would seem to be an advantage since one of my principal aims of the Con game is to keep the action and the play moving along quickly for the players. THEY can waste as much time in-game as they like (within reason), but I feel a duty to know the rules and the map pretty well so I can keep the pace up at the table.

I will still retain one geomorph-based level, and I also still plan to randomly stock the majority of the dungeon as a whole. I will "plant" a few key monsters that I know belong in the scenario, and will include a few custom thematic locales as well, but I estimate that roughly 75-80% of the dungeon will be stocked randomly. This is for two reasons:

1. Random stocking is FUN! I have been getting a huge kick out of randomly stocking that DMG Sample level lately. I feel that responding to the results of the dice and finding clever justifications and "back stories" for the monsters and traps and treasures I roll up has been some of the most fun I've had as a DM, period. It is quite similar to what I like most about game play itself: responding to the "random" (or at least unexpected) elements the players introduce, and weaving those (as much as possible) into the ongoing adventure world. Indeed, response to X-Factors is indeed a hallmark of Old-School play and an especial favorite activity of mine.

2. I want the game I run at OSRCon to consciously embody as many old-school techniques, materials, and values as I can. And random stocking is SO Old-School!

So that is my progress report. I will surely continue to post about my preparations leading up to OSRCon, and as always, I welcome comments and suggestions about how I might make this process easier on myself and more fun for the players at the Con!

Shameless Plug: I want to urge all my readers to take a look at the OSRCon website and blog, and to consider making the trip to Toronto to play some frikkin' GAMES this August 12-13! In addition to my Labyrinth Lord game, it looks like James M. will be there running Dwimmermount (!!) and there are sessions featuring Pendragon, Call of Cthulhu, and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks as well. OSRCon registration is only is $20 CDN until July 1.

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