Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The lands of my Ultima

I'm finally writing content for the first setting book for my Ultima RPG. My Ultima game focuses on the Age of Darkness, but there's a problem with that - in all 3 games, the land that the player is at changes! Here's an overview of Sosaria as seen in the Age of Darkness games.

In my game, I decided to account for this as follows:

  1. There is one known land mass – Sosaria. I compressed the 4 continents of Ultima 1 into one (mainly to make the merging of elements between Ultima 1 and Ultima 3 consistent). I assigned the ruler of Castle Rondorin in the Lands of Feudal Lords to the city of Montor. I assigned Shamino over the lands surrounding Fawn. I moved the White King (from the White Castle in the Lands of Darkness and Despair/Serpent Isle) to become the ruler over the NE area which contains Grey. There are other lands to be discovered! I just haven’t created them yet.
  2. There are some changes from the Ultima 1 Lands of Lord British - I left the original Mt. Drash in place between Britannia and Grey. I exchanged positions of “Death’s Awakening” and “Dungeon of Montor”. I also renamed the “Mines of Mt. Drash II” to “Mines of Montor”.
  3. The world exists in the situation as presented at the beginning of Ultima 1. Mondain threatens Sosaria with war as he seeks immortality. Lord British and the other four Lords are the most powerful forces against Mondain. Minax is currently his student and lover and together, they are already working on Exodus.

When I first created the books, I created a map of Sosaria matching the computer "grid" from Ultima 1 with hexes:

From this...

... to this!
It worked out fairly well! The problem was determining if these were 5 mile hexes or 25 mile hexes. After some noodling around with distances and my own feelings about exploring Sosaria, I decided that the hexes would be of the 25 mile variety. This means that Sosaria is roughly 1300 miles wide by 1100 miles tall - 1,462,500 (miles squared) = 3,787,857.61 kilometers squared. That equates to roughly the size of India, so I am satisfied that this is a fairly large enough land mass to play on.

The Lands of Sosaria are divided in 5 regions, each roughly equal in size. Each region has a main city and castle and many other locations within it. North is to the top of the map. Clockwise from the NW corner:

  • The Peninsula of Perinia 
  • Dragonsreach and the mountains of the Serpent’s Spine 
  • The Lands of Montor 
  • The Dark Forests 
  • Britannia (center)

With that all decided, I could now start focusing on the regional areas - first we would look at the Peninsula of Perinia. That is what I'm working on presently and will post musings about here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Initial Chargen

This is how initial chargen just started off:
... to start the game, you do not need to chargen, just yet. If you have an idea of what kind of character you want to play, that's OK, but for now, all I need is a description of what your character would look like in the "real" world, not a fantasy world. I know you are giving me the "WTH" look, but I am asking for your indulgence. Imagine what an alter ego of yours might look like that you wish to take to Sosaria... but you are not there yet. Rather, you are in a world much like our own, much in the same year. And please do give him/her a "real world" name. :)
There's a reason behind this start and that reason can be found in the dusty tomes of the Ultima 1, 2 and 3 Players Manuals. From the cryptic line in the Ultima 1 manual:

Thou art seen here standing upon a grassy meadow with a castle and towne to the west and a marauding Hood coming toward thee from the east.
 ... to the mysterious note in the Ultima 2 manual:
Were it not for the time doors, you would likely not be here now. Only the ability to move in time enabled any living thing to survive the holocaust, so far as is known.
... to the flat-out "We're transporting you to our world" text of the Ultima 3 manual:
Now that everything has been studied, and whomever of the People thou couldst muster has been assembled, it is time to begin the ritual. First insert the disk marked Program Side into thy machine, and, with all gathered around the machine, activate the power. Shortly, a viewport is opened through the gateway. Kinsman engaged in moral combat with a dark creature can be seen. Suddenly the battle ends. You are too late to help, but never too late to avenge. Follow closely the instructions shown on thy living machine. All adventurers must now gather around the machine. Total concentration among the party is necessary for the gateway of the Siege Perilous to open. A moment of transition is experienced, then...
Although this game does not use elements of Ultima IV and beyond, the intro to Ultima IV made it clear that the player existed in the "real world" before being transported to the lands of Ultima through a gate.

So you might understand now why I haven't started chargen as the initial kickoff to this campaign...

One final note - one of my favorite fantasy series is Guardian of the Flames. And that series started out in a very specific way...

Campaign opening

Enter into Darkness - Game Information

"Enter into Darkness" is a roleplaying game set in the Ultima CRPG universe, approximately at the same time Ultima 1 takes place. The game is based on a campaign I designed back in 2008 when I first rekindled an interest in D&D. It does not follow the canon of Ultima as established by the CRPG/MMORPG, but has a rough approximation to events that occur in the Age of Darkness. (Ultima I, II, and III)

The game utilizes a heavily modified version of Swords & Wizardry White Box (1st printing).

Pretty much all you need to know is in this book. While I won't stop you from reading the Game Master's Guide, like anything else in a GRG or DMG, I reserve the right to change it wholecloth. :)

This game is going to feel a lot different than my previous AD&D campaign (which is still just on pause, not dead yet!) "The Dark Ages." My Ultima, my Sosaria, has a much more pronounced "good" and "evil" ("Law" and "Chaos") feel to it than the other game. It is a simpler game in some respects, with the OD&D flat power curve (1d6 damage, 1d6 HD). I don't see it as a game where the focus is on loot, xp and avarice. There's a definite "high fantasy" feel to Ultima and I support that in my approach to how I present the NPCs and situations.

Having said that, just like in "The Dark Ages" campaign, this is a sandbox. I've set up the pieces, what you do is up to you. If you wish to become heroes and Avatars, go for it! If you want to set up a mercenary shop, you're more than welcome. Just because I have a "high fantasy" feel to this doesn't mean that if you want to be capitalistic adventurers, you can't. The world will react as the world will react. People expect the Strangers will either be heroes of villains. 

I'm also of the opinion that this will serve as a playtest. The players who are about to start the game are the first ones to put pencil and dice to tabletop with these rules. We might find we all hate something and just like with the AD&D game, I'm open to suggestions, alternatives or even the "this really sucks!!!!" exclamation.

I also can tell you that I've tweaked Kellri's weather charts for Sosaria. :D  Everyone started hating the constant rainy weather. 

As of now, there are 4 players:

I'm open to more, probably a limit of 6.

I have a feeling that this game will be a bit less "smooth" than the previous online one I ran on Google Wave. Wave In A Box is still experimental/developer grade material, which is partially why I have this blog - so I can record things that are significant. I don't quite know yet how I'll backup/export the waves as they go, we'll see how it works out.