Sunday, July 31, 2011

Medieval Castle Interiors

A quick way to gain inspiration for a setting is to do a Google image search.  It's important to use some specific but not too specific keywords.  One might get some great exterior shots of Medieval Castles with those keywords but to get some inside shots, which can help inspire encounters and RPing scenes within settings, add the word Interiors or the words Dining Hall or even Dungeon.  Setting influences gameplay at the encounter (and not strictly combat encounter) level.

A Game Master needs to think of himself as does the director of a film, looking for the right location and deciding how to shoot that location when the players are on the stage.  Of course, the players in this case have much more volition than do actors with a script.  A GM also needs to be prepared to pan the view with the choices made by the players.  Because of this mandate, a GM will often fall back on a battlemat or other style of overview map that gives a bird's-eye-view of a location.  If one is trying to keep players immersed in a game, this strategy can backfire.  It pulls back from a scene in a way that takes players out of the location and makes them think in terms of direction of the scene as a whole rather than from the perspective of their character.

Even if a GM is going to pull back in this manner as a way to plunge into combat, he should keep some descriptive elements available that imagine the setting location through the eyes of someone with boots on the ground.  Prior to play, or on the fly if the players are moving into areas that have yet to be fleshed out, it will serve the roleplaying aspects of any tabletop RPG if they take the time to think in terms of the five senses, and in particular the five senses of one or more of the player characters in the room.  Get the PCs in the scene, keep them in the scene, and then allow the scene to unfold based on player character actions.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mythology Guide

If you have been stumped while developing your own setting, you could do far worse than to model some of your homebrew setting mythology on the classics.  There's a pretty good primer available on Greek and Roman mythology online at the Mythology Guide.  Certainly, you could just grab stuff wholesale or even file off the serial numbers by changing the names around a bit, but I would suggest reading through them and making some notes on whatever inspires you and using those notes as the basis for something even more your own.

As a Harryhausen fan, you know I love the tale of Jason and the Argonauts.  With not a lot of effort, one could take just the tale regard The Golden Fleece and turn it not only into the basis for an adventure but also to flesh out the locations as potential static encounters or ports of call for many gaming sessions.  Remember, for a truly dynamic setting, you can't just build a few encounters and funnel the game toward them.  What you really want to do to foster awe in your players is to have many places of wonder dotted around the map with some of the more likely destinations detailed more fully right away.  Then as you learn what hooks seem to be interesting your players, and it's fine to ask them more directly, fill in the less detailed locations based on what they tell you they would like to explore in the near future.  It's okay to wing it, to, to finish out an evening of gaming.  Just be sure that you spend some time between sessions really putting some polish on the most favored places so that the players never feel as if they are going beyond the borders of whatever map you present.  Players know, or should know, that a GM can't do everything at once.  They will be happy working with you provided you show them that the wating is worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Quasi-Arthurian Setting Idea

I’ve been running a summer Prince Valiant campaign for a few weeks and mostly it’s been very Player Character focused.  I’ve kept the true legends and myths at an arm’s length to avoid having direct contact between PCs and “named” individuals from the classic stories, both from the Prince Valiant comics and the traditional Arthurian legends.  I wanted the feel but without the baggage, and without the predictability that tying too close to already-told tales can produce.
We are now far enough along in the campaign that the PCs will be traveling the wider world, beyond their home kingdom and the near-surroundings.  While I want the players to be able to use Britannia as a rough reference for their sense of place and scale, I also want them to feel as if it is still unexplored by their characters.  This is a tricky line to tread.  I need to make it fresh while still making it familiar.  One of the ways I am going to do so is by using the names of major settlements as renamed by the indigenous people after the Romans have left.  I’ll go into that more in future blog posts on the subject and as I develop the map we will use at the table.  Until then, ponder this concept of familiar and fresh and how someone could do this not only with an Arthurian setting but with any setting used for a tabletop RPG.  I dare say it comes into play more often than one might imagine at first blush.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Choose You, Machu Picchu!

A recent travel feature on Machu Picchu got me thinking about the inherent setting possibilities in this mystical location.  It's a decently detailed article not only of what typical travelers can hope to view on a trip to Inca-country, but also expounds on five additional locations for those explorers who wish to delve a little deeper.  The article even mentions some architectural and geographical points that will aid in further online searches for more information of a less mundane nature.  Check it out!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grymvald Pedigree - Let's Not Forget the Movies!

Thus far I have mostly discussed the early reading and other types of games in relation to what has influenced my world-building efforts.  What I add now includes influence that began early but really didn't kick in full force until closer to 1980.  I think this is true largely because until that time any movies that I saw were either in the theatre or what could be caught on television whenever such things were scheduled on the very few channels that existed.  Television shows that could have a direct affect on gaming were few and far between.  The VHS recorder and tapes (I'll leave aside any discussion of BetaMax) changed all that, though mostly in regard to movies available.  Of course, I remember the films of my youth, monster movies, the sword-and-sandal movies, and adventure and other fantasy films that could be watched on weekend afternoon and evenings.

Some of the favorite monster movies were shown as part of the Creature Features programming with that great Henry Mancini Experiment in Terror music playing.  Listening to it now, it still gives chills.  Of course there were all of the classics, the various Frankenstein movies, Dracula films, Werewolf and Wolfman movies, anything with "creature" in the title has a good chance of showing, like The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I even collected the Aurora Models associated with these monsters.  Add in the really big creatures, King Kong, Godzilla, Mothra, and on and on and all the variants, and I probably have similar reference points as many gamers my age or there about.

The sword-and-sandal flicks were more rarely shown, as I recall, but no less enjoyed.  Often the mythological aspects held my attention the most, but even when the fight choreography was sloppy, the swordplay drew me in.  (I just recently re-watched The Colossus of Rhodes, a 1961 Sergio Leone film with Rory Calhoun, the actor whose standing and walking impressed Monty Burns, and I was struck by how intricate the plot was, and by the number of secret doors.)  Any of the Hercules movies, or the knock offs, glued me to my seat.  I especially liked when the strong guy, whether Hercules or some other, faced creatures of great size or strength.  And, yes, I liked the Gladiator movies, Captain Oveur, so quit asking.  I'll set aside comment on the various Sinbad movies and their ilk for a separate article, in part because I think of them independent from this style of film, but also because it will allow me to wax nostalgic most extensively on the contributions of Ray Harryhausen, a film maker and special effects artist whose contributions to my gaming psyche cannot be overestimated.  Don't get me wrong, I love today's CGI and other effects, 3D and all that comes with it, but the Harryhausen stuff so profoundly affected me that I find it hard to believe when I sometimes run across a gamer who is not familiar with him or his work.  Check out my Ray Harryhausen from a Gamer's Perspective essays on the CMG corner of the blog triad.

I'll post more about movies and how they can influence setting in RPGing, and specifically how they infouenced me and my own creations, in future Grymvald Pedigree blog posts.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hobbit Movie Production Blogs

I have been, up until now, adding some updates on The Hobbit movies {The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (2013)} on the CMG corner of my blog triad.  As I've watched the production blogs I realized how much of what happens speaks more to setting, in regard to how it relates to tabletop RPGing, so I am going to continue the updates but have them reside on the Grymvald Gazetteer corner of the blog triad instead.  Thus far, I have only linked to the various photos, mostly of Dwarves but here are the first three production blogs from Peter Jackson and company.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Well, I think we can see some nods to a bleak setting in the new Conan the Barbarian (2011) film trailer.  We can also see why it will be rated R.  It will be a good way for tabletop RPGers who like grim and gritty gaming styles to cap off their summer movie going season.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

John Carter (2012)

The new Disney trailer for their John Carter (2012), based on the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs series of stories, looks very promising to me.  It's rife with setting-oriented opportunities for inspiration.  Enjoy!