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Quests

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Quests

Unread postby icycalm » 30 Aug 2020 20:37

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Let's get the ball rolling on this by starting to lay down all the rules. First up is the main feature of the game, the Quests. These appear in the Battlegrounds app as you unlock them, populating the entire D&D universe for you, and you get to choose between any of the ones that you've unlocked (though sometimes the Quest is mandatory, more on which below). Completed Quests will show as such on your maps, and if the Cult Games crew can figure out a way to store chat logs of the game sessions during which you beat them, we'll store those in your Battlegrounds app save file, so you'll have a complete history of your moment-to-moment adventures in the universe, perhaps even with links to the streamed video content of everything that transpired.

The Quests come in eight flavors of roughly increasing scarcity and difficulty.


TRAVEL QUESTS

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When traveling via the Battlegrounds app from one location on the map to another, your group's trip will have a chance of being blocked by a Travel Quest, the chance of which depends on the length of the trip, and the percentages of which will be visible to you in the app while you're making your choice, so you can make an informed choice depending on circumstances and the various destinations that are open to you. Travel Quests are short adventures pulled from the countless ones published in D&D magazines like Dragon and Dungeon. You will have to deal with the Quest, in one way or another, in order to proceed. Running away is an option only if you've tried your best and been defeated, and are running for your life, which will be determined at the discretion of the DM, at which point the "Run" option will appear in the app for you. As long as it doesn't appear, you are expected to press on with the Quest, and will not be allowed to leave the area in which it's taking place before that.


ADVENTURE QUESTS

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These are the main Quests of Battlegrounds, consisting of all the officially published D&D adventures. These will appear in the app as long as you are in the vicinity of which they take place, and as long as your party meets the recommended power level to tackle them. Once you've picked one, and arrived at it (which trip might involve a Travel Quest if the app determines so), you are locked into it until its conclusion, whatever that may be, at the DM's discretion. It will usually be obvious when the Quest has been completed, but in case it isn't you can always check the app, and see if the Quest has a checkmark next to it, and if the map has been unlocked for travel.


TRANSITION QUESTS

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Transition Quests are Adventure Quests triggered specifically when traveling between settings. There are three ways to travel between settings, the three Transitional settings: the Planescape setting, the Spelljammer setting, and the Ravenloft setting, each with its own rules for setting travel (to be elaborated elsewhere). You will not be allowed to jump between settings for free, using e.g. Planescape like an elevator or Spelljammer like a taxi service; every time you want to switch settings you will have to go through a Transition Quest. First, the "Switch Setting" option will have to show up for you in the app, which has a certain percentage of happening every time you clear an Adventure Quest successfully (i.e. not running away from it). The percentage rises as the combined group level rises, so that the more powerful the group, the greater the chances that the Switch Setting option will appear for them in the app, with all the math being visible to you. Once you activate the Switch Setting command, the app rolls to determine which of the three transitional settings will be used (with unequal percentages, with the most likely Transition setting being Planescape, then Ravenloft, and finally Spelljammer). Once the Transition setting has been determined, the DM picks an Adventure Quest from that setting appropriate for your group's power level, and activates it, at which point it will show in the app with its cover and description. At the end of the adventure you are in the Transition setting, and will have to navigate it according to its rules in order to reach your destination setting, with whatever Travel Quests that might imply. You can also opt to stay in the Transition setting for as long as you desire, and pursue further Adventure Quests there, unless you've already activated a higher-priority quest like e.g. a Versus Quest, in which case you will be locked into whatever sequence of Quests is the shortest route to get you there.


VERSUS QUESTS

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These are Quests set up as rivalries between competing groups of players. Every time you successfully complete an Adventure Quest, the app rolls a Versus Roll to determine if a Versus Quest will become available to you; the higher your group combined level, the higher the chance that this will occur, with all the math visible to you once more. When your roll is successful, the app will show you a list of all competing groups in the entire D&D universe who are of roughly equal combined level to you (within a 20% margin) or above, with a number next to each group that is the group's combined levels. At that point, you can pick a group to attack, at which point the Versus Quest is activated, with its detailed resolution rules described elsewhere. If the roll is successful, but no rival group is available that's roughly equal to your group's combined level or above, the app will show the roll as having failed. You can also decline to attack a group, in which case the Versus Quest will disappear until your next successful Versus Roll.


VERSUS ADVENTURE QUESTS

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When two groups unknowingly activate the same Adventure Quest at the same time, they are thrown in the adventure simultaneously, and must compete for its conclusion. The DM will modify the adventure to introduce a competitive element to it; if for example, the adventure is about clearing out the haunted ruins of a castle, perhaps the mayor of the town will offer a large prize to the group that clears it first, or induct its members as officers in the town's military, which can lead to strategic-level ramifications and so on later in the campaign. Whatever it is, the prize to be fought over will be very valuable, on top of whatever spoils the adventure already contains. Since the groups will likely not activate the adventure at the exact same time, and one of them will likely already be in the midst of it when the other steps in, the DM will adjust the adventure in such a way for the newcomers' entrance to make sense plotwise. The DM will also make sure that the challenge is balanced for both groups, aiding the weaker group if necessary with such aids that roughly equalize the power levels. If, for example, one group has a combined level of 20, and the other 25, the weaker group will receive more favorable treatment from the NPCs populating the adventure, up to and including some of them joining up with them, and less aggression from the villains. Both groups will be made aware of the Versus Adventure Quest as soon as it is activated in the app. Both groups will be locked into it until it is resolved, not necessarily with one group being wiped out, but with the Adventure Quest being completed. At that point, the groups might decided to continue their rivalry for as long as they want, or pursue other Adventure Quests in the area, and drift apart.


REVENGE QUESTS

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If at least one character from your group is killed by a rival attacking group in a Versus Quest, a Revenge Quest option will appear in the app as long as any surviving team members of that character exist in your group, or if the dead character is resurrected. This applies only to the defending group, the attacking group that initiated the Versus Quest does not get such an option no matter how many of its members were killed by your group. The Revenge Quest option remains visible in the app even as you clear other Quests, continually tracking the rival group's combined power level for you, though not its location in the universe, and you can activate it at any time in which no other Quest is active. Once you've activated it, Versus Quest mechanics take over to guide you to your prey, effectively condemning attacking groups into living the rest of their lives with a mark on their backs, not knowing when the next act in the ongoing vendetta will unfold. On the other hand, if they kill everyone, they won't have to worry about revenge.


EPIC QUESTS

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Epic Quests are Adventure Quests consisting of the greatest epic sagas ever published for the D&D universe, such as the Forgotten Realms Bloodstone Saga, or Dark Sun Dragon's Crown. These appear in the app for you immediately after you've defeated another group, even if the saga is way above your level, though not if it is significantly below it. Unlocked Epic Quests remain visible in the app even as you pursue other Quests, and can be activated at any time you're not engaged in a Quest, unless your group's combined level exceeds 20% of the Epic Quest's recommended level, at which point the option disappears.


CO-OP QUESTS

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There are a few epic D&D adventures that, instead of requiring the typical 4-6 player characters, require larger numbers of characters up to 8, and these are the Co-op Quests. They will appear in the app after successful completion of an Epic Quest, and will stay visible there according to the same rules by which Epic Quests remain visible. On activation, the app gives you a list of all groups in the universe with their combined levels, and you can choose to message them via the app to team up for the Co-op quest, with both groups being locked into whatever sequence of Quests is required to get them to the starting location. If the invited group is wiped in the process, you can choose to message another group. If the initiating group is wiped, the Co-op Quest disappears also for the invited group.

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icycalm
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Unread postby icycalm » 30 Aug 2020 23:13

Couple of things to add.

First off, I added illustrations to the OP. Check them out. They make the dry rules pages much more evocative and inspiring, I believe.

Second off, I am considering at least two additional types of Quests: Location Quests, and Novelized Quests. The reason I am considering these is because the D&D settings are very uneven in terms of content, some of them have tons of adventures for all levels, some have few, or their adventures are clustered mostly in the high levels or the low. So when your party rolls into a setting with few or no adventures for your level, we are in trouble. Now, we could skip the randomized spawns and I could place you somewhere I know there's adventures for your level, but I feel the randomized spawns are crucial to the game I am trying to set up, because they make the universe feel truly interactive. Moreover, the more things that happen that the DM doesn't control or guide, the more fun it is for the DM. At least that's how it is for me, I can't speak for other DMs. So the more that's left up to the players or the dice, the more surprising the campaign is for me, and the more fun I am having. I WANT the players to roll for starting planet, among the best and biggest ones available, and I want to feel the thrill of "gambling" in a sense when the dice roll, and the result is announced. And I want this feeling to recur every time the players start over. But due to the uneven nature of the settings, sooner or later we'll run into issues with no suitable adventures being available, and we'll have to find a solution. And my solution is location-based and novel-based quests.


LOCATION QUESTS

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In the D&D universe there are countless sourcebooks for all manner of areas on the maps. These aren't adventures, but thick tomes or boxed sets that merely describe the locations, their inhabitants and villains, providing stats for everything, everyone's desires and motivations, conflicting trajectories between groups, floorplans and monster stats, and so on. So what I may do is put those on the map somehow, and devise rules with which the players can visit these places and interact with the people and stories there. And there ARE stories featured in these books, or story HOOKS to be more precise, and it will be my job to throw those at the players and see how they react, and play out the results. These will of necessity be more freeform than regular Quests, but still by no means improvised entirely by me, like most conventional campaigns run by most DMs. My goal here will be to invent as little as possible, and follow as closely as I can the location's lore and its inhabitants' personalities.


NOVELIZED QUESTS

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As for novel-based Quests, those will entail a whole lot more work from me, but the upshot is that they will double the universe's possibilities because there are hundreds of novels published for the various settings. My job will simply be to read them and adapt them into playable adventures. This way, the most important part of any adventure, the plot, will be guaranteed solid, and then all I'll have to do is the mostly humdrum job of producing the floorplans and locations, and enemies and such, which will require little in the way of inventiveness because most of it will be described in the book. Very few of these novels are actually great novels anyway, only a handful of them are, and if you feel like reading a novel your time is much better spent on proper literature. So really, these novels are a waste of paper, but as playable adaptations they will be valuable, so I'll see what I can do to use them in that way when all other options for an adventure have been exhausted if the players happen to spawn or otherwise find themselves in a bare patch of the D&D universe. Of course, they might slow the game down due to the amount of work I'll have to do to adapt them, but I'll do my best to avoid undue disruption to the campaign.


There is also the Empire phase that can help alleviate issues with lack of adventures, and I'll be explaining that soon, so keep an eye on the forum for it.
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icycalm
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Unread postby icycalm » 09 Sep 2020 17:34

I've debated about this in my head for a long while, and I've finally come to a conclusion: each adventure will only be available ONCE in the D&D Battlegrounds universe. Once a group has tackled it, regardless of outcome, it's going away and never coming back.

This was a tough decision to make, because it'd be a shame, especially for the best adventures, to restrict them to a single group. Should only ONE group get a crack at Dragon's Crown? What if they die in the first few pages? So I was thinking of giving some adventures a second chance with alternate groups, especially if the adventures were failed early on by the first group, and the group got wiped so that they'll never meet the second group and have a chat with them and realize how weird it is that both of them went through extremely similar sets of circumstances.

In the end, I decided against it. Back in the early-'90s, I might have gone for duplication, but today it makes no sense. Yes, some adventures are incredible, and it'll be a shame to throw them carelessly away. However, there are simply SO MANY OF THEM by this point, that even with three groups playing, we would still take many years until we exhausted them. Moreover, by the time that happens I'll be ready to write my own, I am sure. I'll have studied these worlds inside and out, and I'll have thousands of pages of lore in my mind, written by experienced authors, waiting to be shaped into epic adventures by me (and by dan if he sticks around that long). So not only am I a good writer right now, but in five or whatever years' time I will also be a tremendously experienced DM, unlike the vast majority of DMs who write their own stuff who are both bad writers AND utterly inexperienced. And when I talk about "experience" I mean experience WITH PUBLISHED, PROFESSIONAL ADVENTURES, not experience in butchering the game by forcing your shitty improv plots on your poor players. The way almost all other DMs run the game, they NEVER gain experience no matter how many years they "play" (in quotation marks because they aren't really playing D&D, they are just collaboratively daydreaming).

So there you have it. In D&D Battlegrounds, whatever adventures you choose to play—or the dice may foist on you—will be uniquely yours. No one can control the dice, but you can control your choices, and your choices will matter. A lot.
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icycalm
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Unread postby icycalm » 25 Sep 2020 02:30

I have some more details to share on how Location Quests will work.

By now you know a bit about how Adventure Quests work: you've already chosen one for your group and that's reflected on the overworld. Once the first session begins, you're locked into that adventure until you either finish it victoriously, give up and flee (at which point the adventure will be marked as failed on the map by you for everyone to see), or get wiped out and roll a new party.

Location Quests, on the other hand, don't work like that: they don't lock you in. You can start and stop them at will, repeatedly even. And moreover, more than one group can be active in them at any given time.

Let's give an example so I can show you why things should work this way. Take the Ruins of Undermountain boxed set from the Forgotten Realms:

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This isn't a book, it's a box with tons of stuff:

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(Each of those maps is not A4: they open up and EACH of them covers A WHOLE DINNER TABLE: so there's FOUR DINNER TABLES' worth of dungeon in there.)

Aside from the sprawling maps which detail dungeons orders of magnitude more complex than in any videogame you've played or will ever play, you see that book titled "Adventures"? Most of these location materials feature a book or chapter like that which provides plenty of ideas for adventures, story hooks, NPC plans and motivations and so on. So, as a DM, I have the whole thing mapped out, I have the enemies and the treasures: I have everything. The only thing I don't have is an actual plot.

Now normally, I would say that's a deal-breaker, and that's why the staple of Battlegrounds are the published adventures. However, as a CHANGE, as SPICE, it's actually a good thing that the sourcebooks are more freeform. Because this is where you can go to have more freeform adventures.

This gives us certain benefits:

1. Above all, it's super-exciting for once to be able to decide in which direction to head, out of the entirety of the compass. Look at those dungeon maps above. You can go north, south, east, west, or up and down, or even across dimensions: and you will have a very different fate depending on which. There won't be any NPCs or contrived plot events pulling or pushing you along. Well, there will be SOME NPCs trying to influence you, but you will have complete freedom here without having to worry that you might fail the adventure and lose precious progress and loot while your rival groups grow in power. There is no adventure here, and thus nothing to fail: you set your own goals in the context of the location's features, and you cut your own path and make your own destiny. And you can stay here as long as you want—all the while the other groups can see exactly where on the overworld you are, and can choose to rain on your parade at any moment.

2. There will often be no level requirements here. Most location sourcebooks are playable by all levels, and include easier and tougher areas and story hooks: as a group, it will be your responsibility to tread carefully so as not to get in over your head, and as DMs it will be dan's and my responsibility to make sure that, as long as you're not being foolish, you will meet opposition you can just about handle. This means that if you run out of Adventure Quests, and the only ones on the map are above your level, you can duck into a Location Quest and explore it for a while to gain a couple levels and some treasure, and then be on your way. Or perhaps there is an Adventure Quest in your level range you have your eye on, but a stronger group is heading towards it, so you want some alternative so as to stay out of their way. Location Quests will do that for you, on top of all their other advantages.

3. Because of their massive scalability and freeform nature, Location Quests can typically handle any type of party composition. Want to merge two groups and strike a temporary alliance to clear one out? Go right ahead, if you can arrange it with them. Have an army in your castle that's itching for a fight? You can't take it on Adventure Quests because they would unbalance the fuck out of them, but you can take them on any Location Quest and siege the fuck out of it, and carry out every last gold piece on carts carried by your slaves. So bring an army if you want, we'll play it all out. We have plenty of rulesets to use for massive battles.

If that Undermountain boxed set impressed you by the way, wait till you see the sequel, released three years later:

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That's why I am saying you can keep coming back to this stuff, and it's hardly possible to exhaust it. If you go in there with a few 5-level characters and keep pushing and pushing and pushing, you'll probably simply die. These places are usually more suited to brief or medium-term excursions, unless you are super-powerful or can bring an army with you.

And don't think that it's all about dungeons. Check perhaps the ultimate Dark Sun Location Quest:

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Wouldn't you love to see this popping up on the overworld?

And the crazy thing is... there are more Location Quests than Adventure Quests lol. The planets are littered with them. In my previous life as a DM, 25 years ago, I NEVER used them, because on their own they are inferior to the adventures, but now I realize that as a spice to a campaign they can have a tremendous positive contribution, and I am making plans for integrating them into the Battlegrounds asap to great effect. I hope y'all will be as excited to try them as dan and I will be to prepare them for you.

Some more examples so you can see it's not all about dungeons:

Deserts:

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Glaciers:

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And entire kingdoms:

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icycalm
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