Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday Recap: Valley of the Lords Update

Day 82: still no dragons sighted
The games in the Valley march on. I can't really say this has been a D&D hiatus, since we have been playing nearly every weekend, but we simply haven't had enough of the long-form D&D campaigns to create recaps for the past few weeks.

However, as I said, the Valley is still moving ahead. And I've expanded the shop list, so now there are four shops available. The Church of Pelor doesn't sanction a shop, but they offer spellcasting services and equipment for their members.

Ena's Sundries (Smithing Supplies)
Gennal's Leatherworks
Dogroic's Laboratory (Magic and Magic Item Crafting)
Scouts of the Roses

I'll expand a bit more on that last one. I realized that players might be able to find maps or hear rumors containing adventuring sites, and learn about those sites without knowing what danger level those sites were. We had an early game where a group of level 2 characters traveled a long way, only to find the site they were seeking was meant for level 3 characters. They wandered a bit before they found a level 2 site.

I want to avoid that issue by creating a system for characters to hire scouts to check out locations for them. That way, for a small fee, they can figure out if its worth traveling all that way, or if they should gain a few more levels first.

Another problem I've run into is a gap between new characters and established characters. Even characters a few games in are significantly more powerful than those just joining. In a game where old and new characters can go adventuring together, this leads to very dangerous situations for some, or very easy situations for others.

Fortunately, one of my players and I have worked out a solution: starting new characters at higher levels. And because of the established settlement growth mechanic, we already have a way to implement it.

Currently, New Ashe is considered an Outpost. Well, four outposts for different factions, and a tavern. There's no civilians, no general stores, no farmers, and certainly no official leadership structure outside the factions. But a group of veteran explorers spent a lot of time and gold mapping significant parts of the area around New Ashe and its peninsula, prepping the land to be used in construction, farming, and defense. With enough resources, the Outpost will soon be categorized as a village, and that means more people will be coming.

The main things the village will need is housing, a general store, and some sort of leadership in the form of a Reeve, an appointed agent of a noble that settles disputes and collects taxes. Since New Ashe is mainly ruins, housing will be easy to find but tedious to repair. Some people may prefer to build homesteads and start farmland instead. The tavern and general store will form the hub of the village, and will serve as a home to travelers passing through the area. And of course, the Reeve will need a home, which will double as courtroom and common house.

These additions will make it easier to live in the settlement, and will attract more skilled individuals to assist explorers. This means new characters can start at level 2 instead of level 1, and some new subclasses will become available. Not many - the village will simply have a few travelers stop in that can teach the next generation their skills. The reference manual will be updated as well.

This also happens to solve another problem I've been facing: running low on sites. At this point, the hexes around New Ashe are pretty thoroughly explored. Particularly, the level 1 sites are fading quickly. So, by starting people at level 2, I can effectively raise the bar and allow characters to explore the sites that used to be inaccessible at their start.

So, the plan now is:

  • Outposts (immediate): level 1
  • Villages (1 month after resources found): level 2
  • Towns (10 months after resources found): level 3
  • Cities (1 year after resources found): level 5
  • Metropolises (10 years after resources found): level 7

Obviously, it will be a while before the group is automatically starting at level 7. Perhaps never, unless New Ashe becomes the New York of my world. Which is possible, I suppose, if we keep at this.

But on another level, this encourages new Outposts to be built. As characters explore the valley at level 2 or 3, they will find plenty of level 1 sites that aren't worth exploring. This makes it a good idea to set down an outpost there, and start some new level 1 characters to venture into that part of the valley. Then, the cycle can repeat!

On the trail towards this New Ashe place I've been hearing so much about
Finally, I think I finally found a good solution to adding DMs and helping me grow the Valley, courtesy of my brilliant player once again.

When I last had a guest DM, she did her site just fine but struggled with travel, resources, and staying in line with the established lore of the Valley. The solution to this? Handwave travel and lore! This can be accomplished by creating a standalone site which requires multiple sessions to get through, like an ancient castle or expansive ruins. The site itself can have lore that is only vaguely connected to the overall Valley lore, and travel to and from the site can be reduced to a number of days and gold. Then, the guest DM can run the site on their own terms (just telling me how many days the group is in the site), and not have to worry about fitting in to the larger narrative.

And the best place to do this? The Underdark! There have already been a couple sites that lead deep underground, and it's expansive enough to give a DM tons of room to grow. I don't have much written yet about the Underdark, making it rife for adventure and exploration. And as a bonus, it won't affect the expansion on the surface, but gives more opportunities for gaining levels, catching up, and getting that sweet sweet loot.

That's all that I'm updating for now. This is really a work in progress, but I have to say the format is really enjoyable. In a couple games, New Ashe (and the entire campaign) are going to level up!

Thanks for reading!

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