Chasing the Sunset & Edna

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

GM note:The “story” won’t start for a while. We talked as players (not as characters) about the game and made some changes to the structure.

Year in review

It’s the beginning of the year, so I checked in with my players about how the game was going, what they liked, what they disliked, what they wanted more of.

Lucia’s player started playing TTRPGs with Fairmeadow Fair in 2018 and said that this past year was the most fun they’ve had. At the start, they didn’t really know how to pretend to be an imaginary person based on some rules, so engaging with the fiction was a challenge, but a good challenge. It’s like driving a car. Once they have the experience to reach for the proper controls by habit, they can easily make the car do what they want. Similarly, this past year has been the most fun because they can concentrate on what Lucia wants to do, instead of on how to make Lucia do things.

The players really enjoyed “dungeons” — complicated self-contained areas that the characters can’t easily escape, like the science labs back in Fairmeadow Fair, or the Robotics Facility under Thaumatown.

Challenge is not a strong motivator. The players don’t need to feel like efficient tactics and good rolls are required to avoid total defeat. The fight against Doctor MacLeod at the Anti-Moon Weapon was the perfect level of challenge.

The players don’t draw strong borders between negotiations, fights, and investigations. Their preferred style of interaction is scrambling, or shenanigans.

All players, not just the GM, are authorized to add to the world.  Dryden’s player obviously loves that, and has a story for every gadget. Lucia’s player doesn’t do it much, but doesn’t feel excluded. Averiela’s player worries about being quick enough to think of things to add when the situation arises.

Averiela’s player loves mysteries, but Lucia’s player prefers a small, self-contained puzzle, like the elevator in Thaumatown’s Robotics Facility.

The party is satisfied with the companions they have accumulated. Meeting new people is nice, but adopting new friends and pets is not a priority.

Everyone, but especially Dryden’s player, like surprises: going new places and seeing new sights.

I said that I like Chasing the Sunset so much that I wish I could play a character myself. In fact I already knew which playbook I’d use, and what the character’s personality and style would be. I’d need another person to help referee if I joined as a player. Dryden’s player, who did a great job running Lasers & Feelings a while back, offered to step up to co-GM. I’m so happy! I worried that changing the structure of the party like that would be too much of a disruption, but my players — my fellow players — were supportive. I printed out a character sheet and created:

Edna Crusher-Harcourt, the Ogre

Meme references for Edna: Lady Dimitrescu, Dolly Parton, “How to Talk to Short People”, “Samurai Jack’s “Jump good!”

Edna, like all Ogres, is much taller than any human. I think somewhere between 15 (3x a 5′ woman) and 19 feet (2x Lady D’s height of 9’6″) tall, but I haven’t nailed it down. If she’s too big, she won’t even be able to crawl through Halfling, Dwarf, Goblin, or Platyperson buildings. She’s entering middle age and has lines on her face, especially laugh lines, because she laughs and smiles a lot. She wears an expensive but practical dress and fancy jewelry. She has broad shoulders and a powerful build, but is soft, not ‘cut’ like a bodybuilder.

She wanders where she likes because she’s so strong she does not think that she could be in danger. Enemies do not deserve her full strength, and she prefers to bully them into retreating. If they earn her respect or hurt her loved ones, she’ll draw a weapon and fight to kill! She can lift almost anything, throw anyone, jump anywhere, normal weapons only inconvenience her, and she’ll break things if she doesn’t move carefully.

She is a “mom friend”: affectionate and loyal to the “little ones” that she takes in. Receiving a gift is always very special to her, even though she’s rich, and she can heal a loved one that she holds in her arms. She travels with Ol’ Jardiner, a weird little Halfling man who was always puttering around her family estate on some vague duty. Turns out he’s a wizard!

Let’s begin

The fellowship: Dryden of Conwall the Collector/Hunter, Averiela the Elf/Elven Elite, Lucia the Brave the Heir/Halfling Sheriff, Edna Crusher-Harcourt the Ogre

Last time, the Fellowship said farewell to a companion and found the aftermath of an important battle.

Averiela has camouflaged the whole party, so they will not be harrassed by evil Fairies as they investigating the smoking cave. Averiela wants to retrieve the book visible withing the wreckage, since it’s probably involved in the Vampire’s plot to destroy the Moon as part oftheir ancient war with the Dragons. Lucia wonders if there ever really was a dragon. Averiela recalls the Swallet Fight Club, but Lucia says that “dragon” was really a giant Alligator. Dryden says the Alligator was a fake, pretending to be the real dragon that used to run the Fight Club.  Dryden reminds them that he just called to a herd of Wild Unicorns, and the ground will shake to signal their arrival.

GM note: Thanks, buddy, that’s a great segue to introducing my character!

The ground does shake, and into the clearing bursts not a herd of Wild Unicorns, but an extremely large woman! It’s Edna Crusher-Harcourt, the Ogre.

GM note: We started our introductions, then remembered that everyone except Edna was invisible! Oh no! As players, we know that these characters will meet and be friends, but the fiction is set up to prevent that! Lucia’s player thinks quickly.

Lucia is allergic to the tree that grows over the entrance to the tree and sneezes, breaking her camouflage. Edna stops short before stepping on her.

Edna: Hello, I didn’t see you there. Wait, you’re Lucian!  No, Lucky!

Lucia; I am Lucia, Heir of the Forgotten Lands.

Edna: Yes, Lucia!  Helen mentioned meeting you a while back.

Dryden appears and offers make make tea for Edna. She’s delighted.

Edna Loves Friendship: forge three Bonds when someone gives you a gift

Dryden uses the flask of scalding hot water that he took from Helen’s geothermal pit to prepare the tea. Edna travels with teacups, so she gets out her cup, made of fine china and the size of a serving bowl. Dryden sees the huge cup and uses more water.  Edna also pulls back her travelling cloak and puts down a small Halfling man that she was carrying. This strange man, wearing grubby clothes and beat-up pointed hat with a wide brim, is Ol’ Jardiner. He has his own plain ceramic mug. Dryden introduces the Fellowship over tea. Averiela stays camouflaged, since she’s not sure about Edna. Roddy isn’t using Averiela’s magical camouflage, but his ghillie suit still makes him hard to pick out from the other bushes around.

Lucia wants to retrieve the book form inside the smoky cave, but the rough terrain and thick smoke make that dangerous. She uses her cloak to fan the smoke out of the cavern. Edna assists with a hand fan that’s not much smaller than Lucia’s cloak.

Lucia Overcome (+hope, Enda’s assistance) 6-

They fan the smouldering embers back to life and flame rushes out of the cave’s mouth!

Edna Protect The Little Ones: take harm for allies within arm’s reach

Edna quckly pushes Lucia behind her and takes the brunt of the flames

Edna damages special Armor

GM note: Actually, two characters work together with Hope only if they have Bonds with each other. Since Edna and Lucia just met, they should get in each other’s way and roll with Despair.

The evil Fairies notice the commotion and move in to menace the Fellowship. Lucia dashes into the cave to retrieve the mysterious book.

Lucia Overcome 10+

She grabs it and gets back out safely.  The Fairies and taunt her and throw leaves and twigs.

Fairies: If you like dead trees so much, here’s some more wood!

Lucia Symbol of Royalty: grant an audience with whomever you show it to

Lucia displays her symbol of royalty and the Fairies are very impressed! Edna is also impressed. The Fairies emerge from hiding in the branches and crowd in to meet Lucia. It seems like half the leaves in the forest were actually Fairies. More sunlight reaches the clearing now. The Fairies assemble themselves into a group in the shape of Lucia.

Lucia Speak Softly 6- Ask three questions, one answer is false, another is unhelpful

  • Tell me about the book.
    • It’s an outdated volume. A failed wizard tried to use it and blew up the cave
  • What are the Fairies doing? What will they do next?
    • The Fairies came to see who made all the noise. Soon they will enjoy some entertainment
  • What would you have us do? How can we help?
    • You will be the entertainment!

Finally, the Wild Unicorns arrive! White Sands (Averiela’s tame Unicorn) is suspicious and stands aloof. The Wild Unicorns are terrifying and beautiful. They have twigs caught in their flowing manes, but each twig is perfectly placed. They are hesitant to trust outsiders, so they eye the strange collection of people in the clearing with suspicion. The evil Fairies don’t hesitate. They hate the Wild Unicorns and swarm to attack them. Edna whips her travelling cloak off her shoulders and interposes, waving the cloak around to block the group of Fairies.

GM note: Actually, two people are required to deal with a Group. If Edna used equipment with the Giant tag, she could keep a Group busy, but she herself does not have the Giant tag.

Edna Keep Them Busy: 10+ their attention is all on you

The Fairies see Enda approaching and reform into a rude word just before getting tangled in the cape.

White Sands recognizes the grand-mare of the Wild Unicorns, an ancient creature whose name in Elvish is “Her Majesty”. Long ago Averiela traveld with Her Majesty for a time, even saving her from a swamp. Averiela took a foal from Her Majesty (with permission, of course) and founded the herd of Unicorns of which White Sands is a member. White Sands rushes to meet her ancestor and they touch horns in the traditional Unicorn greeting. Her Majesty bestows a blessing on White Sands so her horn can shine with light.

Edna: I’m a little busy here!

Lucia draws her sword and shouts to the fairies, telling them that they are fools to fight these wonderful. pure creatures.

Lucia Finish Them +Wisdom 7-9

Group of Fairies damages Trickster

The Fairies are convinced that the Wild Unicorns are magnificent creatures, but not that they should join the forces of Good. They retreat to find reinforcements.

Lucia What Here Is Evil: the Fairies are evil

GM note: I thought it would be funny if Ol’ Jardiner was evil, but a player pointed out that one of his stats is “No Sense of Right and Wrong” so he must be amoral, not evil.

Edna: Do we have any further business here? Let’s adjourn before those Fairies return.

Lucia recognizes her Majesty as royalty and wants to cement friendship between their peoples.  She offers Her Majesty a lock of her hair. Her Majesty (translated by White Sands and Dryden) suggests they rendezvous in a secret place ofthe Wild Unicorns, where the Fairies cannot bother them. Her Majesty leaves directions, and the herd of Wild Unicorns gallops away. The Fellowship follows along. The path reaches a river, and they walk along the bank. They see a horrid trophy suspended above the river: a Dragon’s Skull with a sign reading “So much for the power of dragons”

The Unicorn’s special place is hidden behind a waterfall. The small Fairies can’t fly through the waterfall without being knocked down by the force of the water. Looking through the waterfall, the Fellowship sees not a cave, but tall grass in a sunny meadow. The Unicorns’ magic created a portal to another place. Dryden is not surprised. He adapted his transporter cape from unicorn magic. Dryden doesn’t actually hold all his gadgets under his cloak. The underside of the cloak is a portal to his workshop back in the Forgotten Lands. That’s how he can carry so many things and alway pull the right item quickly from under his cloak.

As the Fellowship walks through the waterfall, Infinite Windows reacts to the portal! Dryden must keep Infinite Windows in his backpack because it can’t travel through his transporter cape. The Unicorn’s portal dissapates and the Fellowship is in a small dark cave behind the waterfall. Most of them anyways. Edna was walking just ahead of Dryden and she’s gone!

NO END OF SESSION MOVE

GM note: Nobody knew that about the Unicorns’ portal until we got there, but it and the established interaction with Infinite Windows provided a great diagetic reason for Edna to show up somewhere else, so I can play with another group and co-GM. I’m so happy that my fellow players are taking more responsibility so that I have space to play this character, who I really enjoy. I’m reather embarrassed that I rolled twice in this session and broke the rules both times. I’m supposed to be the expert!

Chasing the Sunset & Lucy

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The fellowship: Vestri the Dwarf, Yuri the Outlander

Last time, the Fellowship dealt with a lycanthropy outbreak in the Platyperson town of Bogden. They destroyed a horrible weapon and intend to throw its ashes into the ocean.

Vestri wonders how fellow adventurers came into possession of a sword made from the horn of a peaceful Unicorn. Truly an evil weapon. Now the Fellowship must travel to the sea. A river flows out of Bogden and joins the Mighty River which enters the sea at Port Fennrick. Another option is the ancient Dwarven tunnels that the Fellowship used to reach Bogden. Yuri does not trust those tunnels, since they all nearly drowned down there. Hundrin specifically does not want to go down there. He’s mostly recovered from being swept away, but he’s a little bit mad.

GM note: I was really hoping that Vestri the Dwarf would go down the Dwarven tunnels and find some important Dwarven things, but the players chose something else! I’ll respect their decision, and not move the interesting thing into their path. I’ll make exceptions for tone and player comfort, but mostly I want to let consequences play out believably. Not realistically, because this is a fantasy world, but I want it to feel believable.

Vestri suggests walking along the river until they find a town, then buying a boat. Yuri wonders how much money Vestri has. Maybe renting a ferry or working for passage is more practical. They walk to the Mighty River and see a town upstream, to the west, and a port downstream, to the east. A cargo ship approaces, heading downriver. Vestri figures they won’t be able to get Gurtin (the Dwarven Drill Tank) onto a ship if they aren’t at a port, so they let the ship past and hike upriver to Thaumatown.

Map of Thaumatown. Wizard's Tower in southwest corner. Water treatment plant in northwest corner. Mighty River flows west to east o nthe north edge of town. Civic Center in the center of town.
Map of Thaumatown

Thaumatown is a creepy, crowded, and ramshackle city with narrow streets and tall buildings looming over them. There’s a port here. The cranes for loading cargo are sleek, metal structures, but they are surroundede by wooden scaffolding and ropes connected to teams of oxen and donkeys. The cranes have recently been converted to animal power.

Yuri: This reminds me of Moscow. I like it.

Vestri checks the Adventurers’ Message Board immediately.

THAUMATOWN MESSAGE BOARD

  • Lucia: There may be complications if Brianiac or Redstone return.
  • Dryden: FYI there is a maze below with recycling bugs
  • Averiela: Allan a Zham is dead. Walter is a friendly fool. Let the people believe.

Both Yuri and Vestri want to see the maze. Gurtin and Hundrin really want to see the maze as well.

Yuri: We should requisition a boat first, before we go spelunking.

Vestri: We don’t know how long we’ll be down there, so we should do that first, then get a boat.

Yuri: I would like to get rid of this *looks around* Unicorn Sword.

Vestri reassures him that it’s a bundle of ashes, so people won’t immediately recognize it. He also plans to leave the bundle at the mouth of the maze, so it won’t get lost in the maze. But where is the maze? It’s not an obvious tourist attraction. Yuri goes to the docks to ask for directions.

Vestri: Just be sure to secure everything before you go to the docks. What if it breaks under you and you fall into the water?

Yuri: What if the ground fell out from under our feet and fell into, um, space?

Vestri: Stop! You know these humans. Sometimes they build right over the water and then you just fall.

Yuri: You know these dwarves. Sometimes they build right under the ground and you could just fall.

Vestri: Yes, but I hate water!

Yuri: I hate falling deep into the earth.

Vestri: Well I can’t breathe underwater and I can’t swim. I’m quite massive.

Yuri:Then you should stay on hard ground.

Thaumatown is crowded. The docks are full of people and cargo and the cranes with teams of animals. No one has fallen through into the water. Foremen shout and teams of workers get in each others way. Vestri can’t see over the crowd. Yuri considers putting Vestri on his shoulders, but Vestri weighs 350 pounds, so that won’t work!

Vestri: I’m depending on you to do the navigation!

Yuri looks for someone with nice clothing who is not bustling around. He spots a fancy-looking blonde human woman named Lucy. She wears a suit, not a dress. She’s waiting for her luggage to be unloaded. Yuri walks up to intoduce himself, followed by Vestri, then the Drill Tank, then Hundrin in a little line so they don’t get separated in the crowd.

Yuri: Hello, my name is Yuri. It is wonderful to meet you. What is your name? We we wondering if — two things. If you knew a way of travel that might be work for, some kind of work that we could do on the ship, and also if you knew about mazes somewhere in this place. But with the luggage I am seeing I realize you might not be from this place.

Lucy: Oh, I travel a lot. I’m been a lot of places. I can tell you about this town. There’s quite a complex under the Civic Center. Look at the clock tower. It’s under there.

Two towers dwarf the other buildings in Thaumatown. A hexagonal clock tower in the center of town, and another tower in the southwest corner of town, far from the docks.

Yuri: Are you in need of employees? You seem very important with your suit and all.

Lucy: I am very important. Are you going very far? I’m always ready to make a deal.

Yuri: It’s very opportune meeting you. How far are we going?

Vestri: We are planning on going all the way to the eastern sea.

GM note: I realize that I never named the sea on the eastern edge of this continent. The players and I brainstorm names.

Lucy: The Joterkuvain Ocean? That’s just straight down the river. You can just get on any of these boats.

Yuri: Is it that simple? Can I work for those boats? Do you own those boats?

Lucy: No, I don’t want to get tied down to that. That would be boring.

Lucy was expecting a cooler and more difficult request, and now she’s disappointed by these boring people with their common problem.

Vestri:  If you’ve traveled a lot. Perhaps. You know a story. About a dagger. That looks like this.

Vestri opens his coat a little to reveal the Redrock Dagger, whose twin he is questing to recover. He doesn’t pull the dagger out, because he doesn’t trust the crowds of humans with this artifact. Lucy is intrigued!

Lucy: Oh, a rare and valuable item! This is very important to you? You seek to gain this item?

Yes! Obviously. It has its twin, therefore they belong together. It has my family crest on it.

Lucy: Yes. Yes! This is very important. I can help you with that. We should talk in a more private place. These goons are delivering my stuff to the best hotel in town. Come with me.

Vestri: I just had a thought. You are very interesting and you clearly like strange places, from observing you in these last moments.  We wish to visit the labyrinth. Perhaps we could speak in the labyrinth. Would you join us in this maze?

Lucy gets really excited when Vestri says “wish”. She agrees, yells at the dock workers to take her bags directly to the hotel, and gives them a few extra coins for the trouble.

Lucy leads the Fellowship to the Civic Center. It’s a hexagonal building with entrances on each side. The entrances have metal roller doors propped up by wooden frames. The interior is being remodeled. Signs boast about “democracy’ and “the council” There’s an informational poster: “What do you do when the all-powerful wizard who solves all of your problems decides to leave? We’re going to step up and do it ourselves!” Lucy scoffs at the poster, leads the Fellowship through a service entrance, down some tunnels, and into a wedge-shaped room.

Lucy: OK, let’s make a deal! Let’s talk business.

Lucy drops her human disguise. Her skin turns reddish and she runs her hand through her hair, revealing small horns on her forehead that curve back along her skull.

  • Lucy: Business Devil
    • Strictly business. Only forges Bonds that are promises. Will never break a deal first.
    • Sell your Soul. Will take a Move or Stat in exchange for your heart’s desire.

There are Dwarf fairy tales about contract demons. You could do it, but it’s not a good idea. It’ll go badly. It doesn’t stop most people, but the stories are there. In Vestri’s family, there’s a story about a great-uncle that was entombed alive because he made a deal with a demon. Yuri figures this is just a weird thing that happens in this weird new world. Vestri conceals his discomfort, but Hundrin is shaken and turns around to pretned to fix something.

Vestri: Hold on one second!

Vestri brings Yuri into a huddle. Yuri crouches very low.

Vestri: Come here. Ok. Come talk. This young lady belongs to a species of Demon-kind.

Yuri: Da, Is this bad here, or?

Vestri: They like to make deals with you. They will cost a lot more than you think and will probably end badly for you. But they can do some really cool stuff, I hear.

Yuri: So we want to be friends with them, but not make deals with them.

Vestri: I’m not sure you can be friends with them.

Yuri: Let’s find out.  So why are we making deal with you again?

Lucy: Vestri here seeks the other dagger, and I can get it for him.

GM notes: I omit a tangent about Dwarf gender, reproduction, and poop.

Lucy: I can get this for you. I can take it from the person who stole it from its hiding place.

Vestri: No, no! It’s fine! It have time to find it. I want it to be an epic journey I can tell my great-grandchildren.

Yuri: How do you have all these powers? I am — curiousity mostly.  How would you grab dagger? How do you know where it is?

Lucy: I have friends everywhere and I can call in favors. It gets complicated sometimes, but that’s my specialty.

Yuri: I’m incredibly impressed.

Lucy: You should be.

Yuri: It’s not just the suit. You’ve got something there. Luci Fur. I like it.

GM note: The players guessed where the name came from! Quick, pivot!

Lucy: Actually, my last name is Van Pelt.

GM note: The players thought that a pelt was made of fur. I guess newspaper comics from the 1950s aren’t as popular as they used to be.

Yuri: I have no real use for — well actually, could you take me back home?

Lucy: Yeah, yeah, let’s see where you’re from.

Lucy puts a hand on Yuri’s shoulder and stares at him. Yuri is fine with this.

GM note: Does Yuri have a crush on Lucy? I only notice this now, when I’m typing up my notes. Also, it is within this character’s power to remove Yuri from the campaign, which Yuri would like, but none of the players want.

Lucy: Oh. OH. You do need my help to get home.

Yuri: Da, da, da! OK, Luci. There is some things that I am in desparate need of doing on this plane. But I would really like to keep your contact information. I think that we really have something here and I would definitely like to make a deal with you at a later date.

Luci’s always ready to make a deal. The payment for travel home woudl be a part of Yuri, as normal, but she’d also really like Yuri’s sword. It’s very interesting to her.

Yuri: When finished with my quest, I will bring the sword and I can almost guarantee that I have no idea what will happen, but I maybe will have the sword, so I will give it to you if I have it.

Vestri: What’s your quest again?

Yuri: To save the world? I saw so much pain when I touched the sword. Lots of pain.

Lucy: Oh, don’t worry about visions. You can’t trust these items.

Yuri: I feel it in my bones that I need to do this. I will definitely get back to you. This is a hard yes, but we need to put it on hold for a few months until I have righted this place. Then you know, whatever you want, we can do it.

Lucy: Is that a promise?

She offers a handshake to confirm the deal.

Yuri: I think we can just have a gentlemen’s agreement. A lady’s agreement? Being a medical professional I’m very into clenliness. Also I’m from a different plane. I don’t want to give you smallpox.

Lucy: Ugh. if you’re in a big city, look for the best hotel and I’ll probably be there. Come find me when you’re ready to deal.

Lucy walks off, annoyed that Vestri and Yuri both obviously need her services, but refuse to actually employ her.

Yuri: I am sorry, Lucy! Thank you for bringing us down here though.

Vestri is glad to be rid of her, worried that she would steal his dagger. Yuri makes the important distinction that she’s a swindler, not a thief. This is the entrance to the maze they read about on the message board, so Vestri looks for a place to stash the ashes of the Unicorn Sword. He can’t speak to the earth to make a hidey-hole because this facilty has metal walls. There are some chairs along the wall, so Vestri puts the bundle under a chair.

Vestri: I was hoping for something more earthy, but are you ready?

Yuri: Would you like to make a deal on it? Ha, ha, ha, I hope she’s not behind us.

A map of Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1. Four rooms around a central elevator. North: repair bay. West: entrance hall. South: control center. East slick chute going down.
Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1.

Gurtin the Drill Tank is too big to fit through the doors in this room, so Vestri leaves it in the lobby and puts the ashes inside the Drill Tank cabin. Yuri is worried about Gurtin being stolen, but Vestri isn’t concerned. An adult human could not fit in the cabin, which barely fits a Dwarf.

They open the double doors at the point of the wedge-shaped room and find a curved metal wall right behind them. No way through. Yuri bangs on the wall. It sounds hollow, but sturdy enough to that going through the wall would be a pain.  Gurtin could go through this wall, but Vestri considers that cheating at the maze.

Yuri tries the door to the right. There’s a room with chairs and metal desks. Cut wires and wear marks indicate that these desks used to hold equipment, but that equipment has been removed.  This room is also pie-shaped, with a door at the point. They open that door and find a small round room with another set of doors opposite the doors they just opened. There’s a control panel on the wall of the round room. There’s a card in the slot under the red button.

Cryptic controls. Red button (with slot beneath), green button, and blue button.
Cryptic controls.

Yuri wonders which button to press. Vestri presses the blue button. The control panel makes a sad beep. Yuri looks through the open doors and sees the room with desks is still there. The elevator hasn’t moved. Yuri presses the green button. Sad beep. Vestri removes the card and presses the green button. Angry beep. Yuri inserts the card and presses the red button. Sad beep. Vestri presses all three buttons at the same time.  Angry beep. Yuri presses green, blue, red sequentially. Three sequential sad beeps.  Yuri wonders if taking the stairs would be easier. Vestri removes the card, then inserts the card and presses the red button at the same time. Sad beep.

Yuri Look Closely 10+ ask 3 questions

  • Tell me about this elevator? How could it hurt or help me?
    • An elevator gives access to other levels of the facility. It would be quite dangerous for the elevator to move with the door open.

GM note: The players only needed one question to realize why the elevator didn’t work.

Yuri, Vestri, and Hundrin enter the elevator, close the door, insert the card, and press the green button. The room shakes! The elevator did something. No stomach-dropping feeling like moving up and down. They open a door and see the entrance hall and Gurtin the drill. The elevator has rotated 90 degrees. Yuri wants to rotate as much as possible before trying the other buttons. They close the door, press the green button to rotate again, and open the doors again. The elevator has doors on opposite sides, so the Fellowship can check two rooms per rotation.

The room to the north has stalls along all the walls and rails on the ceiling where machinery used to go. Like the room with desks, this room has been stripped. There’s a square opening on the east wall that’s covered in caution tape. That’s a trash chute that leads to the eastern room, a slick funnel leading down.

The Fellowship returns to the elevator, closes the doors, and presses the blue button. Sad beep. Red button. The elevator moves. Yuri opens the north door.

A map of Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1. North room, shielded robots. East room: swarms of recycling bug robots. South room: factory. West room: robot assembly room.
Thaumatown robotics facility, level 2.

In this room are a stack of robots that have fallen on each other. They are refrigerator sized with armro plates and weapon arms bolted on, like they’ve been retrofitted.

Vestri: Well, I’m glad we didn’t have to fight those!

Yuri wants to examine one, but Vestri wants to close the door. A compromise: Yuri will drag one robot into the elevator, then they will close the door. The robot weighs several hundred pounds, so Yuri can’t move it. Yuri looks for access panels, hard drives, something that he can take and research later.

Yuri: Earth is not this advanced to make robots that move like humans. I think this would be a boon for Terrans.

Vestri: For Mother Russia?

Yuri: Mostly for Mother Russia. Yeah, thank you! You are learning!

GM note: After we finish Chasing The Sunset, we could play a D20 Modern game where Russia rolls out with fantasy tech and the players are Western Europeans who have to survive. It’s all Yuri’s fault!

Yuri Look Closely 6-

Yuri Fool Me Once reroll one die 7-9

GM note: We weren’t sure what roll was appropriate here. Yuri only had one question he wanted answered. I fell back on basic Powered by the Apocalyspe design: a 7-9 means a success with complications. So we didn’t really play the Fellowship move “Look Closely” but the fudging was done in the open with agreement form the players. Consequences were also tricky. The elevator can’t be called away, because the door is open. The robots can’t re-activate, because the power source is gone.

Yuri pulls open access panels and finds something useful, but something bangs on the roof of the elevator! There’s someone up there! The Fellowship’s first instinct is to take the evelator to the top floor, but they don’t wnat ot harm the person on top of the car.

Yuri: Get out of — we need to be succinct. Move! Please.

Vestri: Move. Or. Get. Squished.

Voice: Don’t tell me about safety regs. You’re the ones violating them. Bring the car up.

Vestri: I’ve never ridden a car. Usually I use a lift.

Yuri: What is car? We will talk when — move or we will squish you. We will be right up.

Yuri conceals the hard drive he took from the robot in his Medkit. They close the elevator door and press the blue button, which does move the elevator up. There’s a team of six Humans with backpacks and heavy tools.

Shift Leader: Who are you?

Yuri: We are looking for Labyrinth. This is what we were told.

Shift Leader: This isn’t a tourist destination. I thought we, didn’t we lock the service doors? You’re supposed to be upstairs in the Civic Center.

Yuri: We saw no signs. Wonderful woman led us down here. Thank you for the rescue? I’m confused as you are.

Vestri realizes that Lucy leads them down here was quite suspicious. Several of the salavagers approach the Drill Tank.

Salvager: I haven’t seen this model of robot, but I guess we tear it down like the rest of them?

Yuri: No, no, no! Do not touch.

Vestri: That’s mine. That’s mine!

Yuri: It is a car. It has a name.

Vestri: It’s a drill. It’s Gurtin.

Shift Leader: Are you trying to take stuff out of here? We have an exclusive contract for salvaging this.

Vestri: We just wanted to explore the labyrinth. We heard there was a labryinth. We thought it would be fun to explore.

Yuri: Would you need extra hands, so we can explore the labyrinth and help you salvage things? Kinda of win-win? I am not taking day wage, I am just looking.

This salvage team is unionized, so they find people trying to work for free very suspicious. The Fellowship doesn’t want to meticulously strip a room of all resources. They want to explore. Maybe they can go ahead and find something valuable that the salvage team can have.

Yuri Talk Sense (+Sense, detail plan) 10+

Vestri gets to run the elevator and Yuri will carry loads with the rest of the salvage team. Yuri wants more opportunities to take robot parts so he can figure out how to build his own.

GM note: We’ll follow Vestri for a while, but he has a time limit to bring up the load of salvage. Then we’ll go back to Yuri and see how he’s able to work with the team and sneak some pieces for himself.

The salvage team is working on the room rull of deactivated robots. They show Yuri how to pull of the armor plates and put them in one bin, then mechanical parts go in another bin. The weapons are dangerous. The union has trained and certified two team members, and they’re the only ones allowed to touch the weapons. Yuri is happy to avoid the weapons.

Vestri takes the elevator and presses the red button until the elevator stops going down. It goes down one more time, to level 3.

A map of Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1. East of the elevator, a powerplant. Six fuel tanks, fed from above by pipes, feed into a ceramic pillar. A window in the ceramic pillar glows from the fire inside. North of the elevator, a control center with windows overlooking the powerplant.
Thaumatown robotics facility, level 3.

Vestri opens the north door and finds a control room. This room has not been salvaged. The tables have instruments with gauges, and all guages read zero. There’s a thick glass window looking to the east into a large circular chamber. There’s a ceramic pillar in the center of the chamber. Six metal tanks (for holding fluid) surround the pillar. pipes run from the ceiling into the tanks and from the tanks into the pillar. There’s a door into the ceramic pillar which is dark.

Vestri shuts the north door and opens the south door, revealing a wall. Vestri presses the green button and rotates the elevator. He saw what was in the east chamber already, so he opens the west door, also revealing a wall. He goes up one floor and opens the door to the west. This room has tracks in the ceiling that moves things from the south room into this room. Three robots lie one the floor. Two are all spikes and knives. The third has a tank on its back and nozzles under its arms.

Vestri rotates the elevator and looks in the south room.  Conveyor belts, not much of a floor. A dangerous assembly line with crushers and saws, but everything is turned off and nothing is moving. If this room were active, parts would come in from the east, get  assembled into components here, then be sent to the west room.

Vestri rotates the elevator and looks in the east room. The door opens and the room is full to hip-level (for Vestri) with thousands of tiny robots, no bigger than a fist. Like everything in this facility, they are deactivated.  They flow into the elevator like the side of a ball pit was split open. Vestri tries to close the door, but it’s partially blocked by a pile of little robots.

Vestri Overcome 6-

GM note: Wait, what is the threat Vestri is overcoming? The consequence of “the door doesn’t shut” does not chance the situation. The players admit that they are just messing around and poking things, and are lucky that all the robots and dangerous machines were turned off by another party. I brag a bit about how dangerous the facility used to be.

Vestri gets the door closed, but there’s a pile of little robots inside the elevator and the Shift Leader pounds on the door. It’s time to pick up a load of salvage. Vestri presses the green button to rotate the door to the north, opens it, and some littel robots fall out of the elevator in front of the whole Salvage Crew. Embarrassing!  There’s Vestri shin-deep in little robots. The Shift Leader is disgusted.

Salvager: See? This is why we need union workers with training. What a mess!

Yuri: In his defense, the elevator has three buttons. It is a little confusing. Especially when you are a colorblind Dwarf. Colorblind!

The Salvage Team isn’t going to accuse someone of faking a disability! That would be so rude!

While Vestri was exploring, Yuri tried to sneak out some more robot components.

Yuri Overcome 10+

Yuri knows he’s going to steal some parts. Not steal! OK, it’s stealing. He feels a little bad about stealing from union workers, but it’s not his world, so he gets over it. He puts his medical bag in the bin that he thinks will contain the important bits: not armor plates or servos, but computer bits. Each time he delivers a pile of parts, he dumps them into the bin, but half fall into his bag instead. At the end of the shift, he grabs his bag and just walks out. Smooth.

The union won’t stiff them on their wages and won’t force them to work overtime, but they’re upset at the Fellowship for making a mess. Vestri cleans up his mess by scooping up the little robots and throwing them down the trash chute, which actualyl leads to where they came from. As they all leave, the salvage team talks about increasing security on the Robotic Facility.

Vestri: It wasn’t that interesting actually. We could have done something cooler today.

Yuri: You were the one who wanted to come down here! We can buy ship fare now, because we have done an honest day’s work.

Vestri: I thought it would be more exciting.

Yuri: There was so much! There was a whole science laboratory down there where they manufactured robots. Is this not exciting to you?

Vestri: I mean it’s fine, but nothing beats a good old pickaxe against rock.

Yuri goes to the best hotel in town and asks for Lucy. Vestri follows Yuri, but waits at the end of the hall. He doens’t like Lucy and wants to make sure Yuri is OK. Lucy opens her door and Vestri thanks her and puts a silver coin in her hand. She puts it in her coin purse, making sure that Vestri can see she has a lot of more valuable coins inside so he knows that his gift is a pittance.

Yuri: You are very still impressive woman each time I meet you. All right, talk to you later.

GM note: Yuri’s player has decided what Yuri will do at the end of the campaign when he finally makes a deal with Lucy. Their excitement is contagious!

Yuri and Vestri buy passage on a ship and set off for Port Fennrick.

END OF SESSION MOVE

  • Did we thoroughly explore a new location?
    • Yes, the robotics facility
  • Did anyone find what they were seeking?
    • No, they both had the opportunity but declined.
  • Did we discover something new about the world and it’s people?
    • Yes, Yuri didn’t know about demons or advanced robots. Also unions.

Two boons: Level up. No gear or stats to heal because they recovered in Bogden recently.

  • Vestri gains All That Glitters
  • Yuri shares Fool Me Once with Vestri
  • new bond: Vestri feels protective of Yuri
  • new bond: Yuri feels he must parent Vestri
  • new bond: Yuri is weirded out by Hundrin

Chasing The Sunset & The Power of Friendship

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Buckle the Beast/Heart of Earth, Stella the Halfling/Hunter

Last time, the Fellowship uncovered a plot by Vampires to teleport to the Moon and wipe out the last remnants of the Dragons. Buckle destroyed the teleporter for the sake of his old friend Fafnir, causing wide-ranging side-effects.

The Fellowship returns to their boat, the Miranda. They’d like to bring Kitty (the T-Rex) along, but Stella’s Queen of the Wild power doesn’t allow her to bring animals outside of their territory. Buckle has a chat with Kitty

Buckle Speak Softly 7-9 ask three questions, one unwelcome answer

  • What does Kitty want?
    • Kitty longs to return to her home in the Cracktooth Wastes, far to the east.  She wandered west in search of food and found a place teeming with Brontosaurs to eat, but she was driven away by little folk and got lost.
  • Tell me about the Fairy vampires.
    • The Fairies found her and fed her, as long as she did what they asked of her.
  • What should I be wary of when dealing with Kitty?
    • Kitty needs to eat a lot. She doesn’t have much brain, and hunger fills it up and pushes out any other thoughts, like friendship and long-term goals. Failing to keep Kitty well-fed will be very dangerous.

Buckle wants to help the big dragon-thing, who reminds him of Fafnir. He has never been to the Cracktooth Wastes, but what he does know of the world suggests that they will have to travel over land. When Stella hears this, her eyes narrow and her pupils dilate.

Stella: And my boat?

Stella is only willing to travel over land if they find some place that will take care of Miranda while they are gone. Their understanding of this continent’s geography is limited. They could follow this river all the way to the sea and go east along the coast, but that would take them through Vieport, and they are not welcome there. They decide to go downriver at least as far as Sugar’s Crossing, then reconsider. Maybe they take the highway east from there.

Buckle Forges A Bond: “I promise to bring Kitty home”

  • New Companion: Kitty the T-Rex
    • Crushing Jaws
    • Gigantic

As they sail downriver through the Fairy Forest towards the former Anti-Moon Weapon, Buckle’s hears a low growling from Kitty. She’s not angry. it’s her stomach! She needs food.

Buckle: Do you like fish?

Kitty: Are they made of meat?

Buckle: Absolutely. It’s been a long time since I caught some, but they are all around the boat. To catch them, jump into the water and wiggle all around. they’ll swim all around you. Just take a bite of water, then squeeze the water out without letting the fish out of your mouth.

Buckle Talk Sense (+Sense, explain plan) 10+

Kitty leaps off the side of Miranda, causing the boat to rock violently. Stella is soaked by the huge splash Kitty makes entering the water.

Buckle: Fishing! Yay!

Buckle stands near Stella so his body heat dries her off. Kitty thrashes around in the water and comes up with a mouthful of fish. Buckle’s instructions were effective. Kitty can’t climb, so she walks onto the riverbank, and Miranda comes ashore so Kitty can walk aboard.

The Anti-Moon Weapon slides by on the starboard side. The sun sets, and Miranda approaches Lady Evelynn’s estate. The Fellowship watches the Moon rise through the broken clouds. A beam of moonlight shines onto Lady Evelynn’s manor, high on the hill. Birdlike shapes fly away from a frightening silhouette on the roof. Stella shudders. One of the shadowy winged shapes is coming towards Miranda. It’s a Corrupted Phoenix, a smoky, skeletal bird that was unable to properly burn and complete its life-cycle. Normal fire can’t hurt it, so now it seeks fire powerful enough to ignite it.

Buckle: It’s coming straight for us!

Stella: Light up the sky!

Buckle Firestarter: always able to produce fire

Buckle launches flares, which light up the terrible bird of smoke and bones. The Corrupted Phoenix eats the flares and coughs up thick clouds of black smoke.

Stella: Buckle, this thing likes fire!

Buckle: Me too. Maybe we can be friends. I give people fire all the time.

The Phoenix is clearly targeting Buckle. Stella has a plan, but needs her scarier friends to execute it. She steers Miranda to the river bank.

Stella: Kitty, get off the boat! Buckle, light this tree on fire after Kitty rips the tree up.

Kitty uses Crushing Jaws

Buckle uses Firestarter

Kitty runs ashore and uproots a tree growing along the bank. Buckle lights the top of the tree on fire. Hopefully the Corrupted Phoenix will focus on this new fire and Kitty can smack it, using the tree as a club. Buckle scampers for safety behind the Kitty’s bulk.

Buckle Get Away 6-

The Corrupted Phoenix is as big as Kitty and just lands on both of them, talons first! A huge cloud of black smoke envelops the area.

Buckle damages Courage

Kitty damages Gigantic

Stella: Will Buckle be OK if the Phoenix eats him? Buckle! You’re going to let it eat you!

Buckle: Let it what?

Before Stella can clarify, the Corrupted Phoenix’s huge beak strikes down, enveloping Buckle.

Buckle Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Buckle misses the sharp edges of the beak and goes straight down its throat into the gizzard. Sure, he may soon be crushed by giant rocks, but for now, he’s unharmed. Stella sees some of the black, crispy feathers on the Corrupted Phoenix’s neck soften and turn reddish-orange. She gets Kitty back on the boat.

Buckle: I want to share the fire with this bird!

Buckle uses Dragonfire: vaporize anything except a Threat To The World

Buckle aims his Dragonfire where he thinks the creature’s heart is, and it burns as purely, cleanly, and lovingly as he can muster. The Phoenix bursts into huge, wing- and feather-shaped flames. The glow is visible all the way to Lady Evelynn’s estate. All the trees and vegetation on the riverbank also ignite from the intense heat. Stella steers the Miranda away. After about 30 seconds, the Phoenix burns out. The secondary fires keep burning, but the huge skeletal bird is reduced to ashes. In the middle of the ashes stands Buckle, filled with hope and holding a huge glowing Phoenix egg.

Buckle Heart Of Earth: immune to heat

Buckle Pyromania: when everything around is fire, you have Hope

Buckle is a new parent again! (This is the second time he’s incubated an egg that’s not his. The first was Fafnir the Dragon) Stella is concerned, but Buckle is happy, so she doesn’t say anything. Buckle comes aboard carrying the egg in both arms, and the Miranda sails away before Lady Evelynn’s forces can arrive.

They sail down to Sugar’s Crossing without further incident. Sugar’s Corssing is back to normal. The bridge over the river has re-opened. The garrison is back to normal after the fire.  This month, the garrison is staffed by Elves. Some Elvish guards stand out on the river directing boat traffic. The Miranda is guided into a berth.  The crew rests and shares a meal.

Fill Your Belly: When you share a meal with friends, heal one extra stat

Buckle heals Courage

Kitty heals Gigantic

A Customs agent comes over to check their cargo. Kasca is a tall, slim, Elven woman. She’s 6’2″ with straight blonde hair down to her hips. She sees Kitty on the deck and pulls out stacks of papers. She says the Miranda will have to stay in town for weeks to Kitty to be quarantined and to get all the proper licenses and approvals to transport such an animal.

Buckle: What if we leave the dinosaur with you and go on without her?

Kasca: The boarding fees are significant, and you’d be liable for the cost of the food your animal eats. It can add up quickly!

Stella: Kitty gets really hungry and will eat anything. Are you sure you want to deal with that?

Stella Talk Sense (+hope, Buckle’s aid. +Wisdom, appeal to desire for smooth operations) 10+

Kasca decides that Kitty and the Miranda are more trouble than they are worth. She lays a document on top of a blank piece of parchment and casts a minor spell to copy the document. She explains how Buckle and Stella can sign here, show this form to that official, and quickly be on their way.

The Fellowship still hasn’t decided which way to go from Sugar’s Crossing. Buckle shudders at the thought of facing the Sea Viper again, but it’s better than customs. They decide to continue downriver and get through Vieport somehow.

When the Miranda reaches the fork in the river that leads into the swamp, the crows that keep watch recognize Buckle.

Crows: Wait, come here! Samantha needs your help!

Buckle: What’s your game? I don’t believe you.

Crows: You better help. If Samantha’s not happy, no one’s happy!

Buckle and the crows bicker for a bit, then one rises into the air, surrounded by magical energy. Poof! The crow is replaced by a short Human woman with pale skin and chin-length black hair.

Samantha: These crows are so inefficient! Please come with me and I’ll epxlain everything.

Buckle wants to be teleported, but Samantha’s magic doesn’t work like that. She guides the Miranda through her swamp. The Fellowship eye the moss and gunk in the swamp suspiciously. Buckle wonders if this goop will climb onto the boat and attack, like that swamp in the north. Samantha hides a pained expression.

Samantha leads them to a ring of willow trees. They disembark and duck under the drooping branches. Inside is a shallow round pool, a secret space, Samantha’s home. There’s a big black bull lying on some cushions under on of the willow trees.

Samantha: Ferdinand is stuck as a bull.

Buckle: I don’t understand.

Samantha: There’s nothing to understnad. He can transform, but he won’t. Since you can talk to beasts, I need you to talk to him and find out what’s wrong.

Buckle: Oh, my friend can transform into an apple and a chair.

Buckle Speak Softly to Ferdinand 7-9 Ask 3 questions, one answer is unhelpful

  • What can you tell me about refusing to transform?
    • Being a bull is easier than being a person, so Ferdinand will stay a bull.
  • What do you want?
    • Ferdinand wants life to be simple
  • What should I be wary of?
    • Dealing iwth Fairmeadow is so complicated now. It used to be that the only people who came into our swamp were thieves and we just chased them out, but now  we’ve been into town and some people like us, but they don’t know us, so maybe we shouldn’t let them spring the traps, but the people who don’t like us don’t like us even more, and I don’t want to deal with any of it!

Buckle: Ferdinand needs a vacation. He’s overwhelmed and needs to get away for a bit.

Samantha: Yes, that wacky shapeshifter really stirred things up.

Buckle: A shapeshifter? From Templeton?

Samantha: I’m not sure. He and his friend the knight came into town for the fair and disappeared afterwards.

Buckle: Do you have a place Ferdinand can go to get away? A cottage in the woods?

Samantha: This is my isolated getaway. I’m connected to the land. I don’t travel. I don’t want to send Ferdinand off by himself. I just worry about him. People might take advantage of him, especially if he’s a bull.

Buckle: Perhaps we could add another to our rag-tag band.

Samantha: We can’t impose! Where are you going?

Buckle: The Crack-Tooth Wastes.

Samantha: Seems dangerous.

Buckle: Maybe there’s some way we could keep in contact, like that teleport tirck you did earlier.

Samantha: I can only teleport within this swamp.

Buckle: What about his folks?

Samantha makes an ugly face.

Buckle: I’ve been through that.

Buckle gets quiet and stares into the distance. Stella jumps in to lighten the mood.

Stella: We should play a game! Ask Ferdinand an Elven childhood game. Something simple and fun!

GM note: Do not add a traumatic childhood to your light-hearted adventure game. DO NOT add a traumatic childhood to your light-hearted adventure game.  Aha! Minoan Bull-Leaping!

Buckle asks Ferdinand what games he played as a child, and Ferdinand excitedly tell him how he’d run at his friends and they would leap away with specatular Elven grace. He gets so excited remembering this fun game that he demonstrates, charging at Buckle!

Buckle Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Buckle evades Ferdinand’s charge, but Ferdinand comes around for another pass.

Stella On a Mirror’s Edge: start free-running and gain 2 Speed points

Stella spends speed to leap over Ferdinand

Stella Keep Them Busy 7-9

Stella runs at Ferdinand and leaps over him, placing one hand on his head for a little boost. She’s good at this! Ferdinand is so happy and turns to follow Stella.

Buckle Finish Them (+Wisdom, show them the error of their ways) 7-9

Buckle: Ferdinand, stop!

Ferdinand damages Shapeshifter

Ferdinand is shocked back into his Elf form!

Buckle: You gotta face life. This is isn’t childhood anymore. Things are bad, and complicated. I understand. I just fought Vampires that were trying to teleport to the Moon, which is full of Dragons. The Viper King wants to kill me. As long as you have people who love you, you can face these things. But not if they can’t hear you. If you retreat into bull form, you can’t stand together.

Ferdinand: You’re right. Samantha is always there for me. It was selfish for me to withdraw.

Samantha: Ferdinand, I’ll always take care of you.

Buckle senses that Samantha does not see Ferdinand as a peer. She thinks her cunning and her magic make her superior to him.

Buckle: You gotta let him show you the power he has inside. You cna always take care of him, but let him take care of you too.

Buckle Talk Sense (+Wisdom) 10+

Samantha: It’s not often that I learn from an outsider, especially about my own family. Thank you!

Fellowship of Samantha’s Swamp gained!

Samantha offers to share some of her magic with the Fellowship. Buckle and Stella learn the Wizardry move. “Touch, push, or grab as if you were somewhere else you can see.” Buckle can ignite flammable items with a touch, and now he doesn’t even need to get close to do that.

NO END OF SESSION MOVE

Stardew Valley does a lot with a little, and a lot with a lot

One of the reasons that Stardew Valley is so endlessly replayable is that each element has many different uses, so I don’t get bored using the same thing over and over. This multi-use philosophy applies to the maps, the tools, the villagers, and many other elements, but I want to focus on Forage.

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A woman finds a Wild Horseradish frowing in the wild.

Forage are plants that grow wild and can be found and collected just by walking around. Crops require costly seeds, and must be watered each day, expending the farmer’s limited energy. Forage requires neither money nor Energy.

But once I collect some forage, what do I do with it? Many things, and they are all important!

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A Leek can be sold for 60 gold.

Forage can be sold for Gold. Forage requires no upfront investment of Gold, unlike Crops, so this is basically free money! Early on the farmer has little money and needs many expensive upgrades, like more inventory space, or farm buildings like a barn or upgraded house with a kitchen.

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A Leek provides 40 Energy and 17 Health when eaten.

Most Forage can be eaten to restore Health and Energy. (Some forage is poisonous, so read the tooltip carefully before chowing down!) Forage requires no energy to collect, unlike Fish or Crops, so again, it’s basically free Energy! Before the Farmer gets rolling with upgrades, it’s easy to run out of energy and be unable to complete the day’s chores and errands. Eating is doubly beneficial in the Mines, because it restores Energy spent mining as well as Health lost fighting monsters.

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A woman offers Shane a Leek as a gift.

Forage, like almost every item, can be given to villagers as a gift. Gifts improve the ViIlager’s relationship with the farmer, which can have mechanical benefits as well as the intrinsic benefit of being kind and making friends. Different villagers have different opinions of different Forage, so I watch their reactions closely (or read the wiki) to match the villager with the ideal gift.

A screenshot of Stardew Valley. The recipe for Wild Seeds (Spring) requires one of each type of Spring forage.

Forage can be turned into more Forage! I can turn a set of four Forage into a packet of ten seeds. The seeds take a week to grow and require watering, but if I can spare the time and energy, I get 250% of what you put it! The resulting Forage can be turned into more seeds, so each week my garden can expand dramatically.

So even with this free resource that I collect just by walking around, there are many factors to consider. In-game days, daily energy limits, Villager preferences, cash flow, my short-term and long-terms goals all collide in the simple question of “What should I do with this thing I found on the ground?”

But Stardew Valley isn’t content to have a few densely-useful items. It has hundreds of densely-useful items! Similar decisions can be made about the 30+ villagers, dozens of fish, scores of crops, 90+ artifacts, ores, gems, recipes, the list seems endless. Combining such breadth and depth in the same game is truly impressive!

State of the Virtual World

2020 disrupted our lives and ruined everyone’s plans, some permanently. How did Chasing the Sunset fare in this terrible year?

January 2020

At the beginning of the year, Chasing The Sunset had 13 total players, but only 8 were playing regularly.  I always ran games in person, so the three players in another time zone had no opportunity to continue their adventures. Other had fallen away because of IRL concerns, like a long commute or a newborn baby, but the campaign accounted for that. No one player was necessary. People can leave if they like.

I was also running Fairmeadow Fair, a Dungeon World campaign, for another pair of players. I started that game back in February 2018, so it was pushing two years already! These players were geographically and socially distant from the Chasing The Sunset players.

Diagetically, what was happening? Most players were still near Port Fennrick, where they arrived from the old country to make a new start.  Players saw the consequences of actions taken by players in sessions they did not attend.  A group were attacked by mobsters in the night and planned to take revenge, but before they could, a different group stumbled on those same gangsters and sent them packing. Players could look backwards and see that they had effects on the world, but looking forward was more difficult. They were newcomers in this strange land and had little motivation beyond seeing what’s over the next hill. They didn’t understand the bigger picture of the new continent and didn’t have any long-term goals.

Calm before the storm

From January to March 2020, I ran 3 sessions of Chasing The Sunset and 3 sessions of Fairmeadow Fair. I introduced the first hint of world-spanning conspiracy, based on backstory hints from several players. Platypolooza was scheduled for a full moon, and that’s when the first werewolves appeared! I don’t think my players realized that werewolves were a problem they could track down and solve, instead of just one more fantastical element native to this new land. Not even the fate of the bitten victims was enough of an incentive to investigate the werewolf problem. The party just skipped town.  So as a long-term plot thread, it was ineffective.

I was having so much fun with Chasing The Sunset and the idea of multiple parties sharing the same world, that I asked the Fairmeadow Fair group to join Chasing The Sunset. They agreed, and at the end of February I brought over blank Fellowship character sheets for them to choose from. Lucia translated pretty easily from a Dungeon World Paladin to a Fellowship Heir. Both are noble knights.  There’s no Fellowship equivalent for the Dungeon World Druid’s shapeshifting powers, and Gleador’s player loved shapeshifting shenanigans, so I worried that they would be reluctant to leave Gleador behind. They jumped right into the Fellowship Collector, and we planned to send Gleador off and bring in Dryden the next time we met. That was the last time I saw them in person.

Lockdown

In March 2020, this coronavirus turned out to be a big deal, then turned into the biggest deal: the defining event of the year. I hoped for a while that things would go back to normal soon, but here we are in December and the pandemic is worse than it has ever been. Once I realized that I had to deal with it instead of waiting for it to go away, I made preparation to run Chasing The Sunset online.  I made a Discord server for voice-chat, and made a Roll20 account for dice-rolling and maps.

Worlds collide

Chasing The Sunset was on hold for almost three months. That’s not the first interruption my campaigns have endured.  I started Chasing The Sunset right before disappearing to work on Atlanta Fashion Police for several months.  Fairmeadow Fair has suffered that same interruption twice.  In addition to adapting to the new technology, I had to connect the world of Fairmeadow Fair to Chasing The Sunset.

Fairmeadow Fair is a vaguely Tolkien or D&D fantasy world with Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Humans.  The origin of a “living statue” (no one knows the word “robot”) is worthy of a long quest, and the existence of a single shape-shifter throws a large city into turmoil. The party looks for non-violent solutions and has never taken a life.

Chasing The Sunset contains only (mostly) the races claimed by players, so there are no Dwarves, Elves, or Humans! There is an entire race of gooey shapeshifters, a town full of clockwork robots, a ghost, and a member of an extinct race. Players in this campaign are willing to kill people who threaten or annoy them, and don’t mind skipping town to avoid cleaning up messes they make.

Connecting the worlds geographically was easy. Fairmeadow Fair was mostly a pointcrawl: roads or paths between towns or interesting sites. I converted those points into Fellowship’s Locations and connected that set of Locations to the southern edge of the Chasing The Sunset map.

So in the final session of Fairmeadow Fair, I had to transition from one ruleset to another, prepare my players for the more gonzo tone of the world they were joining, and also say farewell to a player character! As a GM, I’ve had players drop out and their characters just disappeared in between sessions. As a player, I’ve had a character leave the party for unresolvable philosophical differences, and it was a traumatic experience, inside and outside the game. A planned, amicable separation was a new experience, and my players did great! One player played both Dryden and Gleador, rolling dice for different rulesets in the same fictional scene. Lucia’s player just swapped Lucia’s Dungeon World playbook for Lucia’s Fellowship playbook.

Attrition

I lost most of my players in the transition to playing online. After struggling to get people to respond to scheduling requests on Discord, I contacted each player and asked if they wanted to continue playing. Playing remotely is new and weird, and the multiple concurrent disasters sweeping the nation in June were enough to consume anyone’s attention.  One person formally resigned from the campaign, citing a lack of long-term goals to hold their interest. We did a little free-form roleplay epilogue over Discord to turn their player character into the boss of the location it was in. Another said they valued the in-person social aspects of role-playing, and playing online was not for them.  Several players said they were still in, but after they didn’t respond to several attempts to schedule games, I stopped asking.

Long-term goals

Right after losing a player for lack of long-term goals, I really started putting in hooks for big, old, important plots.  A mad scientist wants to blow up the Moon. The Moon is only 100 years old.  A character teleported to the Moon! (I checked the exact wording of the skill, and it does say “regardless of how far away it is”) Turns out the Moon is artificial and staffed by Kobolds for an unknown purpose.  Also Vampires exist and hate dragons!  Dragons should be extinct, but one has taken over a city & is challenging all comers in single combat!  The Vampires probably have a complete manual for the operation of the Moon, which seems super-dangerous. Too bad the player responsible for that stopped showing up. No one else knows what that character saw on the Moon, but they have seen giant mirrors fall from the sky, and know those mirrors can be turned into weapons by reflecting sunlight. Earth-shaking implications, but no one has all the information.

Legends of the Past

Last year I ran three one-shots set in Chasing The Sunset’s past. People who couldn’t join the campaign proper could have a fun afternoon and contribute to the ongoing story.  Win, lose, die, or flee, their actions would have lasting consequences. I just have to show those consequences to the players.

  • Two heroes fought an army attacking a library hidden inside a volcano, while magicians inside prepared a barrier spell. Almost everyone has searched for this library, but most people were distracted by the city hidden under the next volcano over. Lucia found it, and her people had a hidden library in their backstory, so of course this was that library! The ghostly librarian’s information was out of date because she’d been locked away from a long time, but that untimeliness was eye-opening by itself.
  • Platypeople were slowly abandoning a town threatened by a strange underwater building and its guardians. A couple of adventurers kicked those guardians out, and saved the town. That fight was supposed to be the first act of a mystery, but we ran out of time, and I have to respect the players’ victory, so the town is thriving now. Some players found a Platyperson from that town and almost escorted her home, but they were held up with other business and she was impatient, so they didn’t follow her to her unusual home.
  • A Vampire & a Dragon fought in an ancient forest, aided and confronted by various characters. Players later entered that forest and met the victor, but I missed my chance for them to see the grisly trophies taken from the loser.

Burnout

I like spending time with friends and I love playing TTRPGs. Normal social activities were destroyed by the pandemic, so I leaned into online TTRPGs for social time.  In August & September I scheduled games as often as I could, including playing in a D&D 5th Edition game, and running a couple of Blades In The Dark sessions. I discovered that playing online is not the same as playing in person. Even though I enjoy running games, it’s a lot of work. I am performing the whole time. As a player I can wait my turn and let other people take the spotlight, but when I run games i have to react to everything, move pieces that the players can’t even see, account for things that happened to other players they don’t know, and take notes at the same time. I discovered that in-person games had other activities that recharged me, making the overall experience less tiring.  People feed me supper, or at least we all bring and share snacks.  Before and after the game we have some unstructured social time to just be around each other, whereas online we disconnect when we aren’t playing. I only noticed these benefits by their absence, and by the end of September I was burned out! I intentionally cut back to monthly sessions with each party.

Conclusion

The summary page for Chasing The Sunset promises a large rotating cast and player-driven scheduling, but neither of those are true anymore. I have two parties, each a married couple IRL, and each meets once a month. Circumstances were very different when I wrote that page, and my players and I have adapted. Going forward, I think I have some more bandwidth for running games, so I’d like to add one or two more parties to Chasing The Sunset. I won’t push mixing parties, but I do want more information sharing, just so someone can eventually figure out the Moon’s deal. I have a mechanic for leaving notes in a location for other adventurers, but I don’t remind players about it, so they don’t leave notes. I love the shared world and the consequences of one party’s actions affecting another party. I want more of that.

Inspired to make something that makes inspiration

During Roguelike Celebration 2020, I heard a talk by Clarissa Littler about a generator they created to help them write poetry.

Skip to 45:16 to see Clarissa’s 10-minute talk.

I make generators that generate complete, ready-to-use artifacts, but Clarissa’s generator only creates rules and constraints for a poem that Clarissa has to write. A completely different paradigm!

The pandemic destroyed my normal artistic outlet of traveling the country and photographing people at large events. I’ve barely taken any photos in 2020. How can I continue this practice which I love so much with none of my usual events? Many photographers have a discipline of taking a photo every day on sites like Tookapic and 365 project.  But getting ideas for interesting photos every day without fail is a constant challenge.

Let’s bring it all together

  1. a generator of ideas, not artifacts
  2. a reason to take photos every day
  3. ideas for photos when I don’t have any

The solution is a system that tells me what sort of photograph to create each day!

I use Kate Compton‘s Tracery for lots of generators because it’s easy to write lists of options and let Tracery pick from them. So I can write down all possible subjects, all possible lighting conditions, all possible compositions, and be done. That generator would be completely generic, and I have a style developed over many years. I want photographs that I like, not all possible photographs.

a screenshot of a file manager, show 200GB of images in a folder named "Photos by others"

I’ve been downloading photos that fit my style for years! I looked through by photographer, and wrote down what I liked about each one. After I had a big list, I split it into categories: mood, people, light, composition, environment, and other. I love people and photographs of people, so I had a lot of “people” features that were unsafe to recreate during a pandemic, so I created a list of other subjects that I could more easily acquire. The Tracery grammar picks one to three lists, and picks one option from each. Sometimes an option is negated, just to mix things up.

CheapBotsDoneQuick is a service that hosts Twitter bots that generate their Tweets with Tracery grammars. This is a good fit for getting persistent daily suggestions. I could even reply to the bot with the photos I take based on its suggestion.  I had to create and verify a new Twitter account. Twitter’s account creation pipeline doesn’t let me pick my @. I have to edit my profile and change it from some auto-generated nonsense in a separate step. I don’t like that!

The final step was to go through each feature and assign an emoji! It’s so cute when bots use emoji, and I want using this bot to be a pleasant experience. These tweets aren’t assignments. They are opportunities for me to go out and create art! The emoji also function as bullets for a bulleted list of features.

The resulting inspiration generator, @photo_inspo, is online, tweeting a set of constraints every 6 hours.

Fairmeadow Fair, session 8

← Session 7 | Campaign Summary | Session 9 →

The Fairmeadow Fair ended last session, with Gleador the secret shapeshifter dodging all the consequences of his weekend of deception.  He and Lucia the Paladin had to decide where to go next.  There were several events that warranted further investigation.

  • A statue with Dwarven markings came to life and smashed up the fair.  Who built it? What is it for?
  • The statue was carrying strange gold coins, unlike the local currency.  Where do they come from?
  • A Dwarf named Opal and two accomplices attacked our heroes, were driven off, and fled town in an unusual self-propelled cart.

Gleador and Lucia had one of the strange coins, so Pepe, the town sheriff, tracked them down to get it back before they left town.  They convinced him that they would continue investigating the statue, so they should hold on to the coin.  Pepe revealed that the statue was brought to auction by Hama, a halfling woman who often acts as an agent for rich clients who want to auction items without personally making the trip.  Hama said that she was selling the statue on behalf of the Miller family, one of the great families in Sugar’s Crossing, a town a few days to the west.  She had no idea that the statue could move.

A regional map showing the towns of Fairmeadow, Sugar’s Crossing, and Templeton.

Our heroes decide to head for Templeton, a Dwarven city to the west with a famous college.  This means not going to Sugar’s Crossing to question the owner of the statue, and not pursuing Opal’s gang south towards the port.  Alas, those were the two towns contained the bulk of my preparation.  To re-assure Pepe that they were not just running off with his evidence, they told him where they were going.  Pepe knows a guy in Templeton. Flint is now a second year metallurgy student, but he took a gap year of sorts in Fairmeadow and volunteered as a deputy.  Law enforcement was too intense for him.  He’s happier in a classroom.  Gleador and Lucia promise to look him up, and leave word with Flint if their travels take them further from Templeton.

Gleador and Lucia set out on the three-day journey to Templeton.  There’s a lot of traffic leaving Fairmeadow today, but they got an early start, since they don’t have to pack up booths or wrangle families.  When they are out of sight of other travelers, Gleador shifts into a falcon and scouts ahead.  There’s not much to report.  Near evening, he sees a clearing on one side of the road.  There’s room for at least a dozen carts around a big stone fire pit. There’s a stack of charred logs in the pit, and a magical, ever-burning flame in off to the side.  An inscription in many languages reads, “As we all share the everlasting warmth of fellowship, so will this fire always keep travelers warm.”  It’s a lovely rest stop, with no traps or shady people around.

A rest stop on the road from Fairmeadow to Templeton, protected by a magical campfire.

Gleador reports this to Lucia, and they stop there for the night.  As evening falls, several parties on horse-drawn carts, or on foot with handcarts also arrive and set up camp.  One group produces logs from their cart, adds them to the pile of firewood, and makes a trail of kindling from the magical flame to the central firepit.  A jolly blaze lights and warms the whole campsite.  Some starts playing a pipe, and a few people clap and dance along.  Gleador looks for the most interesting person to talk to.  That’s Selene, a clean-shaven Dwarf woman.  She goes to shake her hand, and she extends a metal prosthesis.  With certain movements of her shoulder and upper arm, she adjusts counterweights and rods in the mechanical arm to open its fingers and shake Gleador’s hand.  Gleador is very impressed!  She’s a graduate student at the College of Mines in Templeton.  Gleador inquires about the moving statue.  She’s unaware of technology that advanced. The mechanical devices she knows are moved by counterweights (like her arm) or pressurized gas.  Gleador mentions the name “OOLITE” that was written on the statue, and she thinks the school library would have information about it.  She doesn’t know Flint, but it’s a big school, so that’s not strange.  Lucia doesn’t participate in the evening activities.  She’s communing with her god and gaining a level.

In the morning, Lucia tries to cast Detect Alignment, but instead of a shockwave of holy energy, she produces a physical shockwave, making a loud bang and flapping all the tents and shelters.  Lucia and Gleador hastily grab their packs and flee the rest stop in embarrassment.  The next two days are uneventful. The terrain becomes hillier and rockier, so the fields of grain and vegetables give way to land for livestock.  They find an old barn, abandoned when a newer one was built at the other end of a field, and stay there for the night.  Nothing comes ot disturb them but some rabbits and birds, also seeking shelter for the night.

A map of the city of Templeton, built into a cinder cone volcano.

On the evening of the third day they reach Templeton, the city built into a cinder cone volcano. It rises out of the plain alone, visible for miles!  Streets spiral up the cone in both directions, since radial streets would be too steep.  The side of town closest to the main road is trade and tourism.  The Fortinbras College of Mines has an entire sector of the volcano on the northwest.  The rim of the caldera is covered with high towers, and inside the caldera are museums and civic buildings surrounding city hall at the very center.  Most of the buildings are built for Dwarves, but there are some taller buildings, especially in the tourist section.

Gleador and Lucia check into a tall youth hostel near the college.  Their room has five bunk beds and a washroom with a toilet and shower.  There’s running water in Templeton.  Lucia is obviously a Paladin, and the other youths in the room tease her for looking like a strict authority figure.  She heads to take a shower and surprises a Dwarf woman coming out of the washroom in a towel.

The next morning they wake up before the other 7 people in the room.  Not a hard task to wake up before college students.  There’s cheap but decent food served cafeteria style at the hostel.  They head to the campus to look for Flint and the library.  The library is not open to the public, only people associated with the school.  They ask around and learn that Flint is currently in a lab.  The college extends onto the flat ground surrounding the valcano and Flint’s lab is in a building on this flat ground.  The building rises only a couple feet, has skylights and vents for a roof, and storm doors for entrances.  As our heroes open one of the doors, they hear a voice assure another voice that the delivery of the alloy will be on schedule.  There’s a sudden pause, then the voices start talking about experimental procedures and titration.  Di that seem shady?  Did the people at the door notice?  Hopefully not. Gleador and Lucia act like they don’t notice and ask for Flint.  He’s the voice promising delivery on schedule.  They pass on Pepe’s greetings and ask to meet him after his lab.  He’s happy to hear from Pepe and agrees to meet them.  Lucia says a quick prayer for guidance and sees that the two dwarfs standing near Flint are evil, but Flint himself is not.

There’s a long, low arc of stone that acts as a sundial, receiving a beam of light from a tower at the rim of the volcano.  There are signs warning not to put any item, especially face or eyes, in the beam of light.  Near the sundial are some benches and tables with games.  The game is somewhat like Stratego, where two players try to defeat each other without knowing the strength of the other’s pieces.  The pieces are identical painted metal cubes, each of a different material and density.  Denser pieces beat lighter pieces.  Quickly judging the density of an item by holding it is a valuable skill for a miner or crafter.  At the appointed time (easily seen from the nearby sundial) the two evil dwarves sit a few benches away and start playing.  Flint arrives soon after.  Gleador plays to lose (easy when he’s never played and Flint is an expert) and engages in small talk, trying to sneakily get Flint to reveal information.  The evil dwarves keep playing games.  They’re sticking around to overhear.  Flint agrees to give our heroes a tour of the campus tomorrow.  Maybe he can sneak them into the library.  He leaves and the evil dwarves are still playing.  Lucia and Gleador leave and ponder their next move.

GM note: I had to scramble because I assumed that the party would go to a different town.  On the one hand, I really like the things I improvised: Selene’s mechanical arm,  the rest stop, the city built into a volcano, the sundial. On the other hand, when wrapping up one location and moving to another, I should make the party decide where to go at the end of a session, not the beginning, so I can focus my efforts entirely on what they will see. The drama between the three great mills in Sugar’s Crossing was wasted effort, and I kept describing the Dwarven college like a 20th century American university, because that’s what I could think of on the spot.

Also, this is the second time they haven’t gone in the direction of that one NPC  that I’m really proud of.

← Session 7 | Campaign Summary | Session 9 →

PROCJAM / 7DFPS 2018: Day 6

PROCJAM, 7DFPS

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5

I’m approaching the end, so I need to wrap things up.  Here are some relatively quick fixes.

Pressing Escape will exit the game, but there’s also a diagetic exit at the end of the 6:00 road.

Also visible in that image is the trash fence. Burning Man is surrrounded by a pentagonal fence meant to catch anything form the city that blows away in the desert wind.  I added a circular fence to keep players from wandering off the edge of the world. The real fence has a square lattice pattern, but I made the width of the fence segments adjustable and I didn’t want to deal with the texture stretching, so my fence has only horizontal bands.

One of the last things I added to my Burning Man simulation was the Man himself.  He’s another low-poly mesh built in Milkshape, although the base is generated with the same Lathe that creates the Temple.

Camp structures will now fill long blocks.  I just re-run the structure placement algorithm with several starting locations along the long axis of the camp.

There are some weird things visible in the above image that aren’t normal camp structures.  Those are landmarks! Yes, I’ve finally added some landmarks to a game ostensibly about photographing landmarks.  There’s a two level-generator that lays out several paths, then puts objects along those paths. It can create.

Balloons (1 thin, irregular path with a large sphere at the end)

Towers ( a line of vertical lines)

Abstract art (irregular paths of irregular shapes)

An unfortunate side effect of these wonderful new landmarks: the AI Photographer doesn’t know how to look at them.  The Burning Man sim has overtaken the photography sim so much that the original goal of the project no longer works.  Whoops!  There’s still a bit of time to re-write the photographer, though.

PROCJAM / 7DFPS 2018, Day 5

PROCJAM, 7DFPS

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

Unity uses two programming languages:  C# and JavaScript.  I use C# because I like strongly-typed languages.  I want to see as many mistakes at compile-time as possible. But Tracery (which I used to generate Burning Man Camp names) is written in JavaScript. Can I just copy the files in to my project’s directory structure? No! Unity finds several errors in files that work just fine in a web browser.  Searching online reveals two people that ported Tracery to C# specifically for use in Unity.  Both authors caution that these ports are completely unsupported, but that’s good enough for me.  I assign a name to each city block, but displaying that name to the user requires learning how to use Unity’s UI features.  I don’t want to deal with that hassle, so I switch tasks!

The Temple was a giant blank cylinder, and the Man was standing on a similarly boring box. I create a Lathe algorithm to replace both.  The Lathe draws some line segments from bottom to top, then rotates that outline around the Y-axis, kinda like a vase.  This is quite-low-level compared to most of what I’ve built.  I’m not using built-in primitives or importing meshes I built in a 3D editor.  I’m creating the object one piece at a time while the game is running. Not only do I have to write nested loops to place each vertex, I have to remember what order I created them, because the triangles are one giant list of references to the one giant list of vertices.  Speed is important at this level, so I don’t get the luxury of a big tree structure of objects. After writing some triangles backwards, and forgetting a few numbers, I get a shape!

What is this? The light acts like it’s completely flat!  I had missed two things.

  1. Unity stores only one normal per vertex, so if two triangles share a vertex, Unity will smooth the join between those triangles.  I want the angular, low-poly look, so I don’t want any triangles to share vertexes.  A quick sketch shows that each vertex borders six triangles, so I have to edit my vertex generation loop so it creates six times as many verticex!  Now the triangle creation loop needs to use each of those vertices exactly once.  Yikes!
  2. The second step is to call the RecalculateNormals() function.  Much easier!

So much better!  You’ll notice that this temple is spikier than a vase.  That’s “star mode.”  I bring a piece of code over from my bodypaint generator that reduces  the radius of every other vertical row of vertices.

After finishing this project, I am ready to tackle some UI work. People won’t enjoy even the coolest game if they don’t know how to play, so I need to explain myself.  I add a title screen with a list of controls and a bit of story.  This is a game about copying photo.s. The original code name was “Art Fraud” But now i’m having second thoughts.  Taking photos in a magical, beautiful place seems so joyful and positive. Do I really want to flavor it as theft and subterfuge? As a compromise, I let the user select Light or Dark stories. There’s no mechanical difference, but the little paragraph re-contextualizes why one has these photos, and why one wants to re-create them.

PROCJAM / 7DFPS 2018: Day 4

PROCJAM, 7DFPS

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Building Burning Man is really fun, so I neglected the photography part of the game to generate even more types of things.  I happen to have an extensive list of galleries of photos from Burning Man, so I perused a few of them to see what types of tents and vehicles people used in their camps.  It turns out that’s the least interesting part of Burning Man.  Most people photograph the huge installations, the mutant vehicles, or their friends, not the tent they sleep in 3 hours a day.

I made a few tents, a small cargo truck, a “fifth wheel” trailer, and a school bus to put in camps, as well as a street sign for intersections.  I had to look up dimensions, because I want these objects be the proper size in the world.  I still create 3D models in Milkshape, a program I got almost 20 years ago to do Half-Life 1 mods.  This encourages a low-poly, flat-shaded styles, since I don’t have the skills or the tools to make fancier objects.

Now that I have these objects, how do I place them into the city blocks I have defined?  I have an algorithm for packing rectangles into a 2D space from last year’s PROCJAM entry: Spaceship Wrecker!

The constraints are different.  Instead of packing a per-determined list of parts into an unbounded space, I want to fill a bounded space with whatever will fit. I also had to pad the dimensions of these vehicles and structures, since people need space to walk between them.  I pick an object at random, and if I have to push it out of bounds to avoid colliding with objects that have already been placed, I discard that object and count a failure.  After a certain number of failures, I figure the camp is full and move on.  Since the algorithm pushes objects in all directions equally, it works well for squarish camps, but not for the very long camps at the far rim of the city.

This algorithm still needs improvement.  I could try something more like Tetris, where I try to fill things up from one end to the other, or I could just use the current algorithm at multiple points along the long campsite.  With relatively cheap, simple algorithms, and especially with the time constraints of a game jam, finding the most efficient solution may not be worth the trouble.

To make camps look unified, structures in a camp will have similar colors.  How similar? That varies by camp. The camp in the foreground above has blue, green, cyan, even purple, but the ones behind it are all green or all magenta.

So I planned to generate photos, and what am I generating?

  • Width, number, & spacing of radial & concentric roads
  • location & size of landmarks
  • Structure type, structure position, structure color, and range of structure color.in camps
  • Also photos, I guess