Thursday, January 28, 2010

Town and Country

Back on my post “Romance, Sex, and D&D: the College Years,” Ben asks:

So how did you weave the plotlines between urban/social settings and the wilderness necessary for many dungeon encounters-- or did you keep your dungeon urban as well?

I’m very glad he asked that, because it’s a topic that never would have occurred to me. I really don’t see a strong separation between the urban/social settings and the wilderness. The two wove into each other naturally.

An early adventure in the college game involved foiling a plot by wererats to infect the town guard of a large city with their brand of lycanthropy through the brothels favored by the guardsmen. The adventure started in the city, then moved into the wilderness roughly a day’s march from the city, where the leadership of the wererats had their secret hideout, then back to the city to root out the wererat infestation. So this was an example of having dungeon-esque elements inside an urban environment which were tied to a traditional dungeon out in the wilderness.

In the Doom & Tea Parties game, the action has primarily focused on the ruin-infested island of Dreng Bdan. The only outpost of civilization on the island (that the players know about, anyway) is the city of Pitsh, founded by the priests of Uban for the purpose of exploring the ruins and cataloguing their history as well as securing anything of significant power that might be found there. The governance, economy, and focus of the city is so heavily tied to the activity of dungeon-delving that what happens out in the wilderness has a strong effect on the town. In the solo game, that meant working closely with the Ubanites. In the group game, the players have been trying to hide their activities from the Ubanites. In both cases, these choices have had a strong impact on what the PCs do when in town: how they fence their loot, where they stay, where they shop, and who they go to for information on the things they have found and the places they’ve explored.

In both the college game and the Doom & Tea Parties games, the separation between wilderness and civilization has been fluid at best. Sometimes, the monsters chase the PCs back into the city and cause them trouble there. Sometimes the town does something that has a strong effect on which dungeons the PCs investigate, or how they go about it. This sort of fluid web of interconnections is the core of my style. I basically let the players do and go where they wish. I create adventures for them primarily by asking how what they’ve done has affected those with the reach and power to affect whatever place they end up next.


Anonymous said...

I really like this aspect of both games. I don't know if it would work in all settings, and all situations, but I really enjoy the feel that it gives Pitsh -- this frontier, prospector town, defined by what's going on out there in the wilderness as much as its own internal politics. And, of course, this makes it really easy to go from dungeon to talking and back, so that's good. ;)

It's interesting to me that this seems to be something that DMs either do or don't by instinct. I think Rients once said that he didn't get why Ben Robbins was so worried about letting West Marches get taken over by town adventure, because his idea of "town adventure" was "blah blah blah, somebody gets in a bar fight, and then the town burns down."

Natalie said...

Um. I did not *mean* to check "Anonymous" just there.