Everything needs somewhere to happen, and in terms of gaming, that’s what the September 2013 blog carnival was all about. When I launched the Carnival, I outlined several types of suggested articles. In logical sequence, and synopsized, they were:
- Choosing/Designing a location;
- Improvising a location;
- Describing a location;
- Representing a Location with battlemaps;
- Modifying locations to achieve plot needs;
- Specific Location descriptions;
- Other – in case there was something I hadn’t thought of.
All told, there were a massive 27 entries for this Carnival, a wonderful response rate, and it was particularly pleasing to see a couple of people joining in for the first time.
The rest of this article is going to summarize and categorize those 27 entries (plus a ringer or two) under the seven headings I outlined above.
But if that’s not enough to float your boat on the subject, the October Blog Carnival is already underway over at of Dice and Dragons on the Halloween-inspired subject of Spooky Spots (and yes, I do have something planned for that)!
So, without further ado:
Choosing/Designing a location
Ten Entries focused on choosing or designing a location, unsurprisingly. And I’ve added an eleventh.
- Location, Location, Location – How Do You Choose A Location? – Campaign Mastery – Kicking things off, I examine the roles of logic, personality, genre, style, meaning, iconicism, and mundane considerations like illustration, representation, inspiration, and artistry on choosing a location. There’s also some useful advice on the subject in Parts 2 And 5 of the Breaking Through Writer’s Block series that I posted before the carnival began – look for the sections on “Setting”. This was to be the lead-off article in the Carnival and I wanted to make it a strong one.
- The Gassy Gnoll: Where are we again? – Game Knight Reviews – Fitz writes, “Story relies on the trifecta of character, plot, and setting” and then goes on to offer advice on how to design a location – and wraps things up with a collection of links offering advice on how to improve your chosen location on the fly.
- Can, Can’t, and Shouldn’t: Three Ways Location Shapes Behavior – Exchange of Realities – Ravyn’s third submission to the carnival considers how locations interact with characters to alter their actions and plans. There are some profound thoughts in this one.
- Blog Carnival – September 2013 – Location! Location! Location! – The Warehouse Of Trinkets – The Storeman, a.k.a. Martin Lima, offers a great tip on not making locations into puzzles that several module writers in the 80s could have learned from. This article could have gone in several categories – ‘choice’, ‘description’, even ‘other’. But because it’s the most fundamental of the options, I chose the first.
- Locations, Fate Core Style: Part I – Aggregate Cognizance – Wil offers the first part of a two-part article. This one focuses on choosing a location based on purpose and adventure potential.
- Puzzling Locations – ROFL Initiative – How to make location-based puzzle encounters, with three great examples. And some links on where to get puzzle ideas. Does this contradict the advice offered by Martin at The Warehouse Of Trinkets? Not really, because of one critical factor: Geoff makes sure that the puzzles have a plot significance and aren’t simply there for their own sake.
- Purpose-Based Location Design – Exchange of Realities – Ravyn adds a fifth to his contributions with this great article on drawing inspiration for your locations from the purpose you intend them to serve.
- Big Is Not Enough: Monuments and Places Of Wonder – Campaign Mastery – For my sixth post in the Blog Carnival, I raise the question of Wonders Of The Known World and what they need in concept and description to allow them to live up to the label; the four reasons they are hard to do well, 10 reasons why they are worth doing, and 12 sources of wonders to help overcome those difficulties.
- Placing Settlements in your Game – ROFL Initiative – Not officially offered as part of the blog carnival, but I think Geoff’s article is relevant to the subject at hand, so I’m including it anyway. In this post, he considers some of the possible reasons that could lead to the formation of a city.
- Layers of Places Past: Creating Ruins with Purpose – ROFL Initiative – Geoff’s third official offering asks why ruined locations show up where they do, how their past might inform their present desolation (I’m quoting it directly) – and how to create ruins with a purpose. This post was actually inspired by a comment on the previous article by Geoff.
- Much Ado About Location – Shades Of The Game – Christopher Nelson’s first foray into the Blog Carnival discusses how he chooses a location to suit his needs. Make him feel welcome, and check out his advice – written from a different genre perspective to most, and so offering an invaluable alternative slant on the subject.
Improvising a location
Only one entry in this category. Which is just as unsurprising as the article count in the first category – improv ain’t easy and teaching others how to do it well is even harder.
- The Gassy Gnoll: Where are we again? – Game Knight Reviews – Yes, I know this one’s already appeared in the list – but not many people dealt with this subject (including me) so Fitz gets a gold star and a second entry for the same blog post.
Describing a location
This sub-topic fared a little better, with three submissions which fall directly into this category and being touched on within a number of the other articles contributed to the Blog Carnival.
- It’s All About Location…. – of Dice and Dragons – Scot discusses location descriptions and the benefits to leaving details out of them – and what should be left in.
- Wednesday Night Writing Exercise: Snowfall – Exchange of Realities – Ravyn focuses his regular column on writing onto locations and their description – at least that was the plan; in the end, he focused on the mood and weather impact on location descriptions. Not much in the way of how-to in this submission, but as an example, it hits all the right marks.
- Adjectivizing Descriptions: Hitting the target – Campaign Mastery – I offer a seventh entry into the Blog Carnival with practical advice on How to describe locations, especially Wonders.
Representing a Location with battlemaps
Only two entries focused on battlemaps, which was slightly surprising.
- Battlemap? What Battlemap? – Exchange of Realities – Ravyn’s second offering to the Blog Carnival discussed how to make sure you have a battlemap to suit the location at hand – or can do without. The discussion spilled over into Describing locations.
- 52+ Miniature Miracles: Taking Battlemaps the extra mile – Campaign Mastery – My 3rd entry in this month’s blog carnival looked at ways of extending the functionality of battlemaps by adding Found and Made objects. The general response to this article has been “now why didn’t I think of that?” which was very gratifying.
Modifying locations to achieve plot needs
Difficult, esoteric, and narrow – I didn’t expect anyone except myself to have a submission to this category – right up until a week before the Carnival started, which is when Roleplaying Tips #586 landed in my in-box…
- People, Places, and Narratives: Matching Locations to plot needs – Campaign Mastery – My fifth item for the Blog Carnival. As Hungry at Ravenous Role Playing put it, Your cast of characters isn’t limited to PCs and NPCs. This article shows you how to access and use the current location as another member of that cast.
- Eight Tips For Using Real World Locations In Your Games – Roleplaying Tips – The feature article from issue 586 of Johnn Four’s long-running email magazine, a contribution by Jesse C. Cohoon, offers suggestions of how to balance the fantasy elements of a game with the influences that created the location in the real world that you are using as a model. Applicable to any genre of game.
Specific Location descriptions
Nine entries meet this description, which is not all that surprising – I always thought it would attract a lot of contributions. And I’m sure there’s a lot more where those came from.
- The Glade Of Lost Dreams – Save Versus – Roland offers a 13th Age “random encounter” for a future outdoor exploration session in his campaign. This would translate readily into any fantasy campaign. There’s also an insight into game prep in his comment advising of the article that’s worth noting: “I’m putting together a hex map where the PCs will have to explore and map a large region. Instead of randomizing, I’ve been creating encounters based on the locations they will visit.”
- Location, Location, Location: Nyngan – Campaign Mastery – I describe my home town (and get a number of people into a nostalgic frame of mind in the process) – then adapt it to a number of different genres (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Pulp, Horror, Westerns, Cyberpunk, and Superhero games).
- Locations, Fate Core Style: Part II – Aggregate Cognizance – In the second part of his two-part article, Wil uses an actual location from his Fate Of Vimary campaign, The Shrine Of C’nawa, to illustrate the actual process he employs to put the general principles described in Wednesday Night Writing Exercise: Iceberg – Exchange of Realities Says: – Ravyn offers a fourth post for the blog carnival, presenting another inspiring location for you to contemplate.
- Places to go and people to meet: The One Spot series from Moebius Adventures – Campaign Mastery – I review a series of new products from Moebius Adventures (one free, two low-price) that collectively offer a trio of ready-to-use locations to drop into your fantasy RPG: Hand’s Goods (the free one), The Painted Man, and Angar’s Magic Shoppe ($US 1 each). Check the article for descriptions and review and ideas for use. Fitz has been awesome about using my comments to improve his products, which is exactly the sort of behavior we all like to see in a publisher – so he deserves our support in his efforts!
- Make-it Monday: Map, Elven Museum – ROFL Initiative – Geoff offers a neat map of a ruined Elven Museum and set of room descriptions to go with it – plus how he used it and the backstory of the place. And don’t miss the additional insight within the comments!
- Six Wonders: A selected assortment of Wondrous Locations for a fantasy RPG – Campaign Mastery – When I sat down to list ideas for the Blog Carnival, I only intended to do one article on Wonders. But when you get inspired… The offerings in this post are: The Broken Man, The Pool Of Reflection, The Palace Of Winter, The Citadel Of Secrets, The Spire Of Contention, and the Library Of Shelves.
- Five More Wonders: Another assortment of Locations for a fantasy RPG – Campaign Mastery – My Ninth entry into the blog carnival continues where the last one left off, with five more Wonders Of The Known World (that I didn’t have time to complete for the previous article). This offers The Pyramid of Reason, The Caves Of Rockbeard, The Rainbow Of Eternity, The Desert Of Gold, and The Emerald Falls.
- Still More Wonders: Fifteen Amazing Locations for a Sci-Fi RPG – Campaign Mastery – I snuck this one in because September wasn’t quite long enough to fit everything in. Actually, it was delayed because I needed an extra half-week to deal with Fantasy Wonders and because I was having trouble gathering enough ideas. Thanks to the players in my superhero campaign, I got there in the end! This article offers The Orouberus Molecule, The Cascade Nebula, “Birth And Death” By Garl, The Dyson Superplant Of Epsilon Centauri, The Spiderweb Of Rukh-C, The Torus of Andraphones, The Confusion of Hydra, The Waltz Of Minos IV, The Diaphanous Assembly of Omicron Boötis, The Billboard Of Greeting, The Halo Rock, The Necrotis Plague ‘Planet’, The “Cosmic String” of 18 Delphini, The Arena Of Canopia, and The Fireworx Swarm. Hopefully there’s some inspiration for someone in there…
I thought I had covered every possibility, but right out of the box came this item… It might be the last listed, but it certainly isn’t the least!
- Manage your player’s home base in OneNote – ROFL Initiative – A video presentation (17 minutes 56 seconds) on how Geoff organizes and tracks information related to his player’s in-game base of operations, the Keep at Thunder Dale, without having the task get in the way of the game’s main purpose – adventure.
Missing In Action
Campaign Mastery unfortunately experienced almost a full day of downtime during the Carnival. At least one pingback/announcement was lost as a result (but luckily noticed and recaptured). So if you’re blog entry isn’t listed, drop me a line and I’ll update the article PDQ.
So that’s a wrap, and an official handover to Scot at of Dice and Dragons. We’ll have to do it all again sometime!