Thursday, March 11, 2021

New Philosophies

I haven't been posting recently, partially because I've been re-evaluating some philosophies of mine in relation to role playing games. I'm gonna outline what these changes are real quick and how I plan to incorporate them into my works.

The Players' Levels Change, Not The World's

I used to be a weirdly firm believer in balance, and that monsters, traps, treasures, etc. should be balanced to the PCs. But the world doesn't work like that. If the level 1 adventurers decide to face off against the Archdemon Scolendra, Queen of Vermin, they're all going to die. I've decided I'm going to extend that philosophy to dungeon design as well, and stop caring so much about balanced encounters and scaling monsters to suit the party. Obviously in a megadungeon deeper levels will still be more dangerous and hold more treasure, but I'm not going to worry about the exact specifics of what that means. I'm going to try to go with my gut.

Smaller Is Better

I've had a home setting, the world of Visterra, that I've been working on on and off for a few years, but the scope keeps being way too much for me. I have so many places I want to detail and it all becomes too much. Certain areas are more detailed than others, and its all just a big mess, and as my interests change so do my desires for what I want the setting to be. So, I've decided I should fragment it.

My dark fantasy setting featuring cultists and otherworldly monstrosities plaguing the crumbling ruins of a fallen Empire is now called Velonia. 

My pulp inspired jungle inhabited by serpent-folk sorcerers, cavemen, and scientifically inaccurate dinosaurs is now called the Forgotten Island.

My folk horror setting of barghests, redcaps, hags, and woodwose terrorizing small villages in a land inspired by the British isles is now called Avilion. 

And of course I've already posted about the Silent Hill/Ravenloft inspired setting of Raven Hill. 

These settings were once all part of a larger setting called Visterra, which I've decided I'm going to kill for its own good. My ADHD addled mind isn't fully capable of dealing with a large setting featuring so many different tones and themes. Its much easier to sort things into smaller, bite sized pieces.

I'm going to be applying this philosophy to dungeon creation as well, making small, highly themed dungeons. If I do make a megadungeon (which I have plans to do), it will be more like several small dungeons linked together, not massive dungeon levels. 

I hope that with this philosophy I can prevent burnout.

Focus On The Fun

I want to create and referee things which I find enjoyable, and what I find enjoyable are cool monsters, weird NPCs, interesting traps, and strange magic items. I'm very much a dungeon crawl kind of guy, and I should focus on that style of game because it makes me happy. I know that dungeon crawls have somewhat fallen out of style in the RPG community as a whole, even to a certain extent in the OSR, but screw it, that's what I like.

Hopefully I'll be making some more posts soon! (Like finally working more on the Monster Manual Review).


  1. How do you make dungoens that aren't colonialist? I thought so much about it but OSR without dungeons seems hard to do and dungeons without unfair Othering of monsters, painting one side as evil the other as good, seems impossible. It boils down to horrid stealing from beings or factions that did nothing but exist a little differently from the status quo of the campaign world.

    This racism keeps me from going further into it and you tell me how you manage to deal with it.

    1. A dungeon doesn't have to be colonialist - all it is is a building full of people who don't like you and stuff you want.

      The Grand Imperial Bank could be treated as a dungeon, creeping through to get into their Outer Vaults and hopefully, eventually, cracking into the center to get as much money from the horrible nobility of the Empire as you can carry.

      Or, if you want to be directly anti-colonialist, the manor house of a rich "explorer" who filled it with cultural artifacts you're breaking in to *return*.

      You don't have to abandon the format of the dungeoncrawl, it just takes a little bit more thought about what the dungeons really are.

    2. As Luther stated, a good way is to have it be the home/base of rich exploitative nobility.

      I typically try to avoid usage of traditional humanoids like orcs or goblins, usually relying on the undead or animalistic monsters like giant bugs to fulfill the role of things that can be killed justifiably. Undead, at least unintelligent ones, aren't really evil as much as they are simply dangerous, which helps reduce the whole "kill the people who are different from us and take their gold" bit.

      I also usually have the treasure be the lost hoard of some old noble or the family crypt of a wealthy family, instead of relying on tropes like ancient temples full of gold idols and whatnot.

      If you do want to have more intelligent "monsters", give them reasons to be there, motivation beyond just being an obstacle. For example, if you want to have a gaggle of goblins roaming about your dungeon, maybe they are a scouting party for the unseelie court of the fae, searching for a new spot to make a gateway to the faerie realm. Then this dungeon isn't their home, and you can have interesting conflict between the goblins and the party. The goblins are simply grunts in a larger grab for power by the fae nobility, but are working towards a goal which could result in harm to mortals. However, the goblins might not be aware of this harm, or may believe that the harm is worthwile, leading to debate between the parties which could end in violence or could result in the goblins abandoning their original goal and deserting.

      Also, if you are going to have an area be a "home" for "monsters", rely more on humans than humanoids. A devil cult which makes its lair in an abandoned castle and brings human sacrifices up there to be slain, who you've been tasked with putting a stop to by one of the victims' families, comes off a lot better than a tribe of orcs living in a castle who have gold the party wants.

  2. Looking forward to more Monster Review - and really enjoyed catching-up on Raven Hill.