Saturday, January 27, 2018

Fighting Goblins in a Creative Wasteland

D&D's Goblins Started Dull
Recently Cecelia D'Anastasio of the relatively mainstream web publication Kotaku published a long piece on the subject of Fighting Goblins in Dungeons & Dragons, and how it is "The Worst".  I don't disagree with her that the sort of tedious back and forth of melee attacks until the inevitable conclusion where the victorious party of adventurers stands atop a pile of dead goblins she describes is "The Worst" of tabletop gaming, and agree that the reasons she identifies describe the problem fairly well:
  • Annoyance at a mundane direct conflict and head to head combat where the opposition does not and can not bring complex tactics to the fight and where because of their perceptions about the enemy the players don't feel risk or excitment. 
  • Boredom and frustration created by a the lack of notable or intriguing elements about the monsters to make them wondrous, interesting, exciting or compelling. 
The problem D'Anastasio identifies is thus complex and two-fold (at least) both diegetic (relating to the story or narrative and how it's told) and mechanical (relating to how the gamified rules and procedures of combat function). In D'Anastasio's game, and many others I suspect, a goblin encounter is both boring and frustrating because there's nothing interesting to learn about goblins or the setting from the encounter and there is no risk or tension in the encounter.  This first problem is the one D'Anastasio provides a prescription to and her prescription, like her diagnosis is fundamentally right, but doesn't go very far.  D'Anastasio suggests that the GM "combine the cliched combat encounter with any of those other things [puzzle-solving or story development, discovery]".  This creative impulse is good, but might not get one very far as long as "goblins" remain two-dimensional known quantities that present no threat but can only be encountered in combat.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Map - but not the one you want

I jest, a reader asked for some maps related to my ongoing HMS APOLLYON
project - but I don't feel like publishing those, so here's a map of a twelve sided
folded unnatural space.

I am keying it up as a combination of the ruins of the folded city of an ancient
Carcosa imposed upon by the last bastion and hidden bunkers of the Iron King,
Hawberk I, who was deposed by its current Ragged King.

It's a bad place where refugees from Carcosa find themselves scavenging.

The project contains rooms like this: