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The Overworld phase

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The Overworld phase

Unread postby icycalm » 23 Sep 2020 20:24

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As we get closer and closer to starting, my plans become more and more concrete. Here's some detail on how the overworld will function.

Right now, all teams have their maps with some adventures on them. Once they have finished one, the adventure won't disappear. It will stay there forever with a note at the bottom that says "Completed by D&DX". If it's failed, it will say "Failed by D&DX", and all other groups will be able to see this if they are in the vicinity, or if they end up travelling there.

Now when you finish an adventure (or fail it, and if you survive), you return to the overworld, and if another group is currently playing an adventure, you will see the note "D&DX active" on it. Below that, it will say VERSUS ADVENTURE QUEST. This means that you should pick this adventure with the understanding that you're invading the other group, and won't be 100% involved in the story. The other group will still be, by and large, the heroes of the story. So, depending on the story, you might interact with some NPCs—e.g. if the original group has an antagonist, the antagonist might hire the new group to wipe them out. If there's no such hook built-in, dan and I will make one. But generally speaking the invading party's involvement with the story will be minor, and the whole point is to wipe out the other team, for various rewards: obviously their items and treasure, the XP they are worth—which is significant—but above all because that is the only way to unlock adventures marked "Epic" on the map. And of course, once you've wiped them out, it might be possible to continue their adventure from where they left it, depending on the story. For some stories this won't be possible, in which case the adventure will be marked as failed from the first group, but the second group will get a VERSUS SUCCESS or something note added at the bottom, for all to see and learn to fear them.

In rare cases, a failed adventure will be available for other groups to try. In even rarer cases, the original group can try again. It all depends on the plot and how far you've gone and to what degree you've ruined it. If the whole thing revolves around saving someone's life, and they die, then no one can try the adventure again, but if it's about clearing some ruin, then another group should be able to give it a go, or perhaps even the same group, depending on what kind of NPC interactions were involved, and failed (e.g. you might have disappointed the lord in whose domain the ruin is located, etc.)

In this way, the maps will be getting richer as we populate them with more adventures, and these changes will be reflected in the maps on the frontpage of the site, which will be available for all groups to see, so they can plan their planet-hopping once they get access to transitional settings, or perhaps even dimensional travel spells and items. This will also give non-players a "Game of Thrones"-style mega map to keep an eye on, as spectators of a live show, or as potential players if they are thinking of joining a group or making their own group and jumping into this vast and continually expanding interactive universe.
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icycalm
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Unread postby icycalm » 11 Dec 2020 08:45

I have lots of news about the overworld.

First up, if you go to the frontpage of the site now, you'll see the overworld embedded right under the group rosters (which by the way are out of date; I plan to update them soon): http://dndbattlegrounds.net/

Above the overworld I've posted the following text:

I wrote:The overworld shows only what the groups have explored and know, and is updated in real-time during play by the Dungeon Masters. The groups select their next adventures from the respective campaign settings featured below (with many more unlockable during play).


So we'll have TWO world "screens": the overworld, powered by World Anvil; and the adventure selection maps, powered by the interactive image maker that Hanged Man found back in the spring. The latter just makes the adventures look cooler when they pop up because it has a slicker formatting, so we'll keep it. And anyway I figured it's better to keep the selectable adventures separate from the overworld (though I might decide to include in the overworld the current adventure, and the ones you've finished, either successfully or failed; we'll see about that).

The overworld though will not only be useful outside the play sessions, but it will be crucial even during them. The players will have to have both Fantasy Grounds Unity and World Anvil running at the same time, and alt-tabbing between them. Let me explain why that is, and how it will work.

What other DMs do is they have for themselves the full map of the area, with all the numbers on the buildings or rooms that correspond to numbered entries in the adventures and sourcebooks, like so:

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The players, meanwhile, have a blank version of the same image, with no numbers at first. As they discover things, they jot down in some notebook what each building or area contains, along with any notes they want to make. This is traditional tabletop D&D (and even more traditional is not having even a blank image, and just sketching everything from scratch). In the modern age, however, some DMs who are nifty with image editing make life easier for the players by layering their images with numbers, and revealing the numbers through a program, which can even be Fantasy Grounds, as they go along. So at any given moment the players have an incomplete image that looks like this:

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So the players still have to make their notes, but at least they don't have to draw the picture from scratch, or even scrawl any numbers. They are slowly building up the same exact neat picture the DM has. That's a huge advance over traditional D&D, but note that many DMs can't handle it, because they either use inferior software, or they haven't figured out how to use the advanced functions of the software, or they simply still play in person on a tabletop (without using a computer on the table, like some DMs do).

But what we will do in our groups will be next-level compared to all the above. What we will do is that PRIOR to the session, the DM will have added ALL the locations to the OVERWORLD on World Anvil, but set them to "Private", so no one can see them. These locations won't be marked out with numbers either, they'll be marked by interactive pins with houses, taverns, stables, castles, ruins and dungeons on them, and so on. There won't be any numbers anywhere for either the DM or the player to refer to in some book or notebook: you click on the location, and you get both its brief description, and a longer one if necessary, plus you zoom into the location as if you're playing a videogame. And all this happens in real-time as you play, with the changes reflected immediately on the Battlegrounds frontpage. Even if two groups are playing at the same time, tons of locations will be popping up on the frontpage simultaneously in different areas of the world. It'll be like magic.

However, once you enter a combat area, whether a building, ruin or whatever, you will play out the exploration and battles on Fantasy Grounds Unity, at which point the players will be responsible for scribbling their notes on the floorplan, as the DM reveals it to them through their exploration. This can't be done on World Anvil, because World Anvil has no means of resolving combat. In short,

  • In the role-playing part of the game, the DM reveals pins with info on World Anvil
  • In the dungeon etc. part, the players scribble notes on Fantasy Grounds Unity

This is why you need both programs running on your computer to play Battlegrounds. As a sidenote, I am exploring the feasibility of taking the players' dungeon etc. maps and integrating them into World Anvil after the session is over. This would be incredible and would make the overworld even richer, but I am not sure if the admins allow me enough space on their servers to fit every last map of every adventure. EVENTUALLY though, I WILL do it, if not on World Anvil then on some other such service, so I want the players to take a pic of all the maps they make BEFORE they disconnect from their DM's FGU campaign (because once you disconnect you no longer have access to your maps). Keep this in mind when you play: screenshot all your maps right before you leave the area they depict (and your DM will tell you exactly when you're leaving the area and give you time to take the pic). And the more players take these pics, the safer we'll be in that respect, so please remember this, and remind others until it's a hardwired habit for us. Hopefully we'll figure some way to automate it at some point down the line.

So everyone needs to get a (free) account on World Anvil, with the username CULTxusername, then follow the Battlegrounds world and my and dan's accounts, and we'll follow you back:

https://www.worldanvil.com/w/dndbattlegrounds
https://www.worldanvil.com/author/CULTxicycalm
https://www.worldanvil.com/author/CULTxdanjiro

You should probably follow each other too. Here is where you'll be able to find all our accounts in one place:

https://www.worldanvil.com/w/dndbattlegrounds/followers

Viewers who're interested in following the universe are also welcome to follow any of the above accounts.

Don't get an avatar for your account yet. Once we have the OFFICIAL portraits for your characters up on the site, with the official cropping, you should use those avatars on World Anvil. I'll let you know when they are up.

But there's more to consider. World Anvil is a very powerful tool that allows for some really cool features we could incorporate in our world. We could, for example, divide the players on World Anvil in the exact same groups they are divided into in the game: D&D1, D&D2, D&D3, etc. Then I can make any map and area in the overworld viewable only by the group that discovered it... This will obviously be super-realistic and super-immersive, and then a whole new dimension of the game opens up where groups can trade maps between themselves... After all, rarely will you fully explore a dungeon or any dangerous area; it's just too risky in real D&D. So many of your maps will be half-finished, with plenty of undiscovered treasure around. Such maps are valuable, and we could even make it so you can trade them for gold with NPCs, at which point I hide the map even from the group that discovered it (unless, I guess, they make copies).

So we'll see about this last idea, it depends on whether we decide to keep the group activities secretive or open. I will write another post where I'll explain the pros and cons of these approaches; I am not decided yet on which is best. But at least you can see the power of the tools we're using. I've never heard of stuff like that being done by other DMs, or to this extent.

Finally, if you click around the overworld you'll see that it works a bit differently from how it worked the last couple of days, when I first revealed it on Discord. Some of the pins now have different icons (city icons for Sandpoint and Korvosa, and capitol icon for Oppara). There are also brief descriptions attached to the regional pins: Varisia and Taldor, along with their symbols/emblems. And to pass from one map to the other you now need to make an extra click on the "Open map" button at the top-left, which appears once you click on a location. Many more features will be added, such as panoramic images of all the locations, complete wiki articles lifted from sourcebooks, etc. etc. After even a SINGLE session, the overworld will come alive with tons of pins and images and texts, until it's the absolute largest and richest fictional world ever, making the biggest videogame world feel like a cellphone game. Stay tuned.
Last edited by icycalm on 11 Jan 2021 20:17, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby icycalm » 20 Dec 2020 18:01

I made a massive update to the Overworld phase, both in content and rules. If you didn't already think I am a genius, I suspect you will after this update.

First off, remember that the Rise of the Runelords campaign featured these notes in its description?

"Empire notes: The players are given a patch of land and a keep to manage in the battles against the Runelords."

dan was given this information in some Pathfinder forum, I think it was the official Paizo forum, but it's wrong. It probably applies to RETURN of the Runelords, which is one of the sequels. So I removed this note.

More importantly, I scrubbed the Runelords entry of all spoilers from the adventure selection map of the Inner Sea Region, to bring it in line with the overworld description. But even MOAR importantly, I listed four campaigns at the bottom that are unlocked by beating Runelords: Second Darkness, Jade Regent, Shattered Star, and Return of the Runelords. All these take place, along with Curse of the Crimson Throne that's also currently in progress, in the Varisia region. It features six campaigns in total, plus who knows how many standalone adventures. It is the first region of Golarion to be introduced, and thus the most detailed.

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Now all these unlockable campaigns will appear in the adventure selection map if the D&D2 group beats the original Runelords. Note that some of these might have previous ones as prerequisites, and I won't know this until I've looked into them, but either way none of them can be played unless the original Runelords is successfully completed. So the map is currently correct, though if you do beat Runelords you may find that not all of its unlockables appear immediately, in the case that some of them have others as prerequisites. The overworld will always be a work in progress in this manner, subject to countless minor and major revisions, simply because it's humanly impossible to go through the tens of thousands of Pathfinder pages and map out all the connections beforehand.

But now we get to the real juicy part. If the original Runelords campaign is failed, the Varisia region becomes a hellhole. The campaign includes detailed consequences and now I've read them. Thus all the sequel campaigns become unplayable and will never appear on the map. Depending on how quickly this failure occurs, and how far along in Curse of the Crimson Throne group D&D1 is at that point, it's quite possible that the consequences of D&D2's failure will come crashing down on D&D1's heads, ruining their campaign along with the entire region. I am not sure if this holds vice versa, i.e. if the Crimson Throne group can destroy the region too by its failure, but I should know next week.

So if the region becomes a hellhole, anywhere from four to five campaigns are ruined, not counting the original Runelords which will be ruined too. That's why I am introducing dan's character, the ranger Kelos, as literary device. He will have connections with both Varisia groups, and can be used to bring them together, if the need arises. That said, let's say that the Runelords group wants to ask for help. They can't just ask it at any random point in the campaign, just because they got scared of a monster or an upcoming battle. Why should the other group abandon its campaign to help them out, if the danger is only to a single group of adventurers, who are moreover strangers? Their own campaign has consequences too! So the Runelords group will have to first discover the gravity of the threat to the region, before they can convince the Crimson Throne group that it's worth jeopardizing their own campaign, or even abandoning and failing it, in order to help them out. And dan's character will remain around to connect them if it gets to that. Having said that, dan's character could well die from the very first session of the Runelords campaign, at which point we'll have to look for another solution in the future to make the connection, if it proves needed.

The beautiful part about all this—if all these interconnected groups and campaigns were not already beautiful enough—is that, if the region indeed becomes a hellhole, our world will not skip a beat. You'll just have to raise an army in the City-building phase and then enter the 4X phase to clear out Varisia, at which point all the locked campaigns will be unlocked. It will take years, but it can happen. You just roll new characters, and you go be pirates in The Shackles, or tomb raiders in Osirion, or lost adventurers in icy Irrisen, or holy crusaders in The Worldwound, and you come back with an army when you have one, and we play the whole Varisia invasion like a Warhammer miniature campaign in TaleSpire. It's such a steep challenge that all groups could join forces for it; you just need ONE group to raise the army, and the others join as officers.

So you see, a typical DM running the Runelords campaign with normal Pathfinder rules would be loathe to allow Varisia to be overrun, because he'd lose all those campaigns and would have no means of handling the situation based on rules. He'd have to make shit up one way or another: either by unreasonably helping his group to beat the campaign, or after failure by manifesting some force to avert the consequences, both of which are inferior, anti-immersive options. But due to our super-rich overworld, that doesn't care if ONE region of ONE planet gets overrun, and our super-deep Empire phase that can handle anything, and even loves wrenches thrown in the works because it thrives on them, we can handle absolutely anything that can happen, and it'll be tremendously interesting to us—to ALL of us, both players and DMs—to see what WILL happen.

Game of Thrones is weaksauce compared to what I am describing. No region of Game of Thrones was overrun or destroyed, and the whole thing was resolved by plot-armor and a little girl thrusting a knife.

Welcome to Alex Kierkegaard's D&D Battlegrounds.


P.S. Btw, you might say that the above gives out spoilers, and you'd be right. But I had two choices here. Either I keep you in the dark about how the Overworld and Empire phases work, and about all the possibilities for them and group interaction; OR I spoil some stuff in order to demonstrate to you the full range of possibilities of the game and world you signed up for. I won't be spoiling things FOREVER, but I do need to do some spoiling at the start to explain to you how things will work.
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