Thursday 23 March 2017

The Weird That Befell Drigbolton: A Bit About the Layout

If you've not heard the word on the street about the impending fall of a star into Dolmenwood, check out this post first!

Now that we're on the same page, I wanted to share a few ideas on what went into the layout design for the adventure. I wanted to create something that's as usable at the table as possible. Of course, there are many different ways to approach this and I don't claim to have found the perfect solution or anything like that, but I did put quite a lot of thought into it. Here are the main concepts:

  1. No chunks of information split across spreads. In book form, it's possible to view two pages of information at once (the left page and the right page) -- one spread. Anything that splits across spreads requires page-flipping. In an adventure, where the DM needs a quick overview of information and the ability to quickly scan and absorb chunks of description, page-flipping is a real drag. (Aside: I'm actually continually surprised how few RPG layouts pay any attention to this. The D&D 5 books are, for example, terrible in this regard.) So, while some of the longer sections of content in TWTBD span multiple spreads, this is consciously kept to a minimum and no individual chunks of information (i.e. individual or connected paragraphs) do so.
  2. Boxed-text summaries. As is to be expected from an adventure, a large part of the book consists of wilderness or dungeon area descriptions. Some of these are very minimal, but some describe relatively complex scenes with a lot of "moving parts", so require more text to fully describe. All area descriptions begin with a short paragraph of boxed-text. This does not play the role of read-aloud text for the players; it provides the DM with a brief summary of the area. The intention is that, once the DM has fully read through the module, these boxed-text summaries will aid as a memory jog for what's in each area.
  3. Further details in headed paragraphs. Leading on from the boxed-text summaries of the adventure areas, further points of interest are elaborated in short sections, each preceded by a heading. This makes them very easy to quickly jump to when players say they want to investigate a certain feature of a location.
  4. Monster stats. A simple thing, but worth noting: monster stat blocks are standardised and all begin with the name of the monster highlighted in a character style which is only used for that purpose. Again, this makes them easy to visually pick out and jump to.
  5. Cheat sheets. Finally, I created three cheat sheets summarising all locales in the adventure, one for the titular hamlet of Drigbolton, one for the surrounding wilderness, and one for the main "dungeon" locale of the adventure. These are not included in the printed book -- instead they're a separate PDF designed for home printing. Each cheat sheet consists of a map marked with numbered locales and very brief summaries of each marked location, along with the page number (in the main book) of the full description. In this way, the cheat sheets form the "backbone" of running the adventure, with the book referred to for more detail when the PCs investigate different areas. This kind of high-level summarising is something that I often feel is lacking in published adventures and I hope these pre-made cheat sheets will be a useful addition to this adventure!
So, there you have it. I really hope that the thought that I put into the layout pays off and makes the adventure easy to run. The book is intended to look nice, too, of course (and Andrew's artwork certainly looks wonderful!), but the main intention is that it's usable as a gaming artefact that will provide quite a few sessions of fun exploration into the weird. I'm looking forward to hearing what people think of it, once it's out in the world...

Coming soon! (Still waiting for those print proof copies to arrive...)

Saturday 18 March 2017

The Weird That Befell Drigbolton: What's This All About Then?

As announced recently, the first module in the Dolmenwood Adventures line -- The Weird That Befell Drigbolton -- is primed for publication and should be unveiled some time in the next few weeks.

Thus far, little concrete information on the module has been revealed, merely that it is "An investigative, event-based module for characters of 3rd-5th level, set in and around the backwater hamlet of Drigbolton, on the northern verge of Dolmenwood."

So, to whet your appetites, here's a bit more info:
  • The adventure revolves around the fall of a star to earth in the Dolmenwood region. (Though the events and locations in the module are trivial to transplant into any campaign setting.)
  • The core of the star has crashed on the moor, close to the rustic hamlet of Drigbolton. The crater is surrounded by a phosphorescent, pinkish jelly to which the local wildlife has taken a liking.
  • The people of Drigbolton, investigating the site of the crash, have also discovered that the pink jelly is delicious and nourishing and have taken to mixing into their food and drink. They have interpreted the fall of the star as a gift from heaven and the jelly as "manna". The hamlet is now in a state of perpetual festival, as the need to farm, hunt, and forage no longer dominates the villagers' lives.
  • As the star fell, parts of it broke away and crashed in other locations in the Drigbolton area. The presence of these star-parts has begun to warp the nature of reality in the sites where they have fallen -- the stuff of stars is not meant to mix with the rude matter of the earthly plane.
  • The core of the star, while currently brooding in dormancy, is not, however, inert -- its bitter consciousness remains intact and is scheming to reassemble the missing parts, restoring itself to full potency.
  • Left unchecked, the presence of a fully conscious star on earth may have grave repercussions. Will a band of bold, wily, reckless, or simply unlucky adventurers stumble onto the scene and interfere with the star's plans? Only YOU can say.
The crater and the core of the star, by Andrew Walter

As the module is set up, the player characters come onto the scene a few days after the fall of the star, having heard rumour of odd astronomical phenomena. The referee may have players simply stumble onto the weird goings-on around Drigbolton, but several other hooks are detailed:
  • The adventurers may be hired by a wizard or alchemist to collect chunks of valuable star-metal which broke away during the star's descent.
  • They may be commissioned to investigate the cause of the star's fall, which is surely not by accident. The secret machinations of a wizard of great power are suspected to be behind this.
  • They may be sent on the trail of an occult tome of ill-repute -- the Black Book of Llareggub -- which is believed to be in the possession of someone in the Drigbolton region. (Could this book be in some way related to the falling star?)
So, there you have it. Keep your eyes peeled for further details and announcements!

Thursday 16 March 2017

The Weird That Befell Drigbolton: A Dolmenwood Adventure -- Coming Soon!

A Dolmenwood Adventure

Written by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk
Illustrated by Andrew Walter
Cartography by Kelvin Green

An investigative, event-based module for characters of 3rd-5th level, set in and around the backwater hamlet of Drigbolton, on the northern verge of Dolmenwood.

More info / tantalisation to follow!

Coming Soon! (Like, the next few weeks? The files have been submitted to the printer and are being analysed as we speak!)