Friday, April 18, 2014

Another measuring stick comparison

I will be gauging Mord Mar's experience compared to Raging Swan's post here:

I don't know his real name, but he's another pretty prolific blogger in the RPGasphere.

Anyway, just like last time, I will quote his advice, then gauge where Mord Mar is in comparison. This time, I will be giving myself a letter grade too. Ready? (Raging Swan's words will be BOLDED, and follow the link above for the full blog.)

Raging Swan's Layout and Design Criteria:

Name: The megadungeon should have a cool, flavoursome name.
I think Mord Mar accomplishes this fairly well. Nobody has complained, and several people really like it. 
(Grade: B+) With more feedback, I think it could be higher.

Multiple Entrances
Currently there is one entrance. However, that one entrance makes an easy way into any level of the mountain. Its not very far from The Hellevator, The Zombie Carriage, and the Transitionary. One way in, but it branches almost immediately to any destination wanted. The teleporters in the main entry just multiply the possibilities. 
(Grade: B) Its not traditional, but I think I cover the multiple entrances in a non-conventional way.

The deeper you go, the more dangerous it is and the greater the rewards. This is a tradition of dungeon design. It holds true for megadungeon design as well. However, it is better restated as the further from the main entrance you go, the greater the danger and greater the rewards.
I have Mord Mar splitting up and down both. And the closer to the entrance, the easier it is. Well, the challenges are suited better for low level characters anyway. 
(Grade: A) I think the design will make for an interesting delve. Important, and interesting choices will be easy to facilitate.

Each level (or sub-level) should have its own distinctive flavour.
I have made sure that flavor changes level by level. Even the city's different districts have their own feel. The creepy feeling of walking through an 'abandoned' city is far different than the overrun mushroom farms. The jail doesn't have the same flavor as Devil's Decision. 
(Grade: D) I have the cool flavors in my head, but until they are transferred to the digital page, they are just wisps.

This is one area where I think Mord Mar has a leg up. First, the flowchart design of the Old City allows many sub-levels inside the 1st level. I consider the Citadel a sub-level, with an expanded "home version." Second, the Geotic Bubbles allow for both premade and home brewed 'official' sub-levels. And these levels are compact enough to be completed in one session, then pretty much tossed aside. And there are even true sub-levels like Ludos' Lair.
(Grade: A+) The moving design really makes this the shining star at this point in the design process.

There should be multiple connections between levels and sub-levels.

I'm working on it. Really, I am. Without completed maps yet, its hard to judge exactly what the inter-connectivity will look like throughout the dungeon. However, the Hellevator, and the Zombie Carriage plus the Transitionary will give relative ease to transitioning levels. And let's not forget the teleporters in the main artery into the mountain.
(Grade: C) I think this will be a higher mark, once the maps are done. I have made moving through the mountain easily a high priority and I think it will show eventually.

Secret & Remarkable Connections:

I think I've covered the bases pretty well on this. And that's before secret doors, dried up wells, anti-gravity shoots, and non-conventional passages.
(Grade: B) Again, this suffers from not having the completed maps yet. I swear, once I get done with the convention modules, that is my next priority.

Players should have meaningful choices:
The first playtest allowed for a plethora of meaningful choices. As I am writing a convention module right now, that is not an expectation. But, the rumors continue to grow, and the re-working of the levels should allow for even more meaningful choices.
(Grade: F/B) The F is because I am in ConMod mode right now. The B is because of the reworkings, and the increased capability of PCs to have freedom of movement.

Links to the deepest dungeon of all.
Although these will probably exist, they aren't a priority and will never be used in play by a group.
(Grade: F) Mord Mar is big enough without the links. The only reason to have them is for 'plausibility.' But I have teleport and gate and plane shift for that.

It should all make sense (to a certain extent).
I have taken a long time making sure Mord Mar 'all make sense.' I think I have accomplished this well enough to continue on without worrying to much about it.
(Grade: C) Its an afterthought. But I have thought about it just enough.

Minor Elevation Shifts:
The city has not had any notable elevation shifts. Nothing else has been re-mapped.
(Grade: Incomplete) When I start getting to the other level maps, this is something that will need to be kept in mind.

Extra-Dimensional Spaces

Let's just say there are enough of these. I don't want to give too much away to the players yet.
(Grade: A) For now, my observed score will only be "Geotic Bubbles." Stay tuned.

Level Size:
A staple that any good GM is conscious of and tries to make sure is done correctly. 
(Grade: Incomplete) When the maps get done, we'll see how this turns out.

Raging Swan's History and Minutia Criteria:

Details, details, details. But not too many details.
I think with the ConMods I have hit the sweet spot with this. 'Empty' rooms tell the story of Mord Mar. This makes them interesting, without being obtrusive. I think it is a formula that I will use a lot going forward. The count is still low against John Arendt's (Dreams in the Lich House) ratio though.
(Grade: A) Telling the back story of Mord Mar through empty rooms still allows for discovery without over-saturation.

The megadungeon needs a decent reason for existing.
I think an overrun dwarven city, with a god machine somewhere underneath it is a compelling enough reason to make it an adventurer's paradise. The questions will be answered.
(Grade: B-) I need to flesh out the overrunning army a bit more, and why the dwarves cannot retake the city.

There should be secrets to uncover.

Relevant and discoverable back story:
I've lumped these together, because in a lot of ways they are the same. Secret doors are fun, but not really a secret worth uncovering. 
Who led the army?
Why attack Mord Mar?
What is the God Machine?
What drove the wizard Egg mad?
The list of questions can go on forever. Mord Mar is big enough to sate any knowledge seeker's appetite.
(Grade: A) I have a lot of the secrets down somewhere. There is room for any GM to expand his own story inside Mord Mar.

Raging Swan's Denizens and Challenge Criteria:

Wheels within wheels:
I disagree with Raging Swan's assertion that there needs to be a head honcho. There will be one or two ultra-powerful figures inside Mord Mar, but they will generally be dealing with their own agendas.
(Grade: D) I may make a head honcho someday, but right now, factions are enough.

Away with the 15-minute adventuring day.
I completely agree with Raging Swan's analysis here. I am not sure that Pathfinder facilitates it, but the second playtest suggested I am on the right track.
(Grade: C) I may have chosen a bad system for this, but overall I hate the 15 minute paradigm, and push the players away from it as much as possible.

Wandering Monsters:
Again, because I'm in ConMod mode right now, this has taken a back seat. However, there are WM tables fleshed out for 3 of the levels.
(Grade: A) I am very happy with the WM tables I have done. They make sense, don't drain creatures from specific places and are interesting in their own rights. And the Geotic Bubbles are 'wandering monsters.'

Raging Swan's Nearby Criteria:

Var Nae is inside the mountain. It has everything an adventurer would want. It was the first part of Mord Mar that was designed.
(Grade: A) NPCs are fleshed out. 70% + of the map is complete. Rumors abound. There's even a random name generating table for dwarf names. 


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