D&D 4E in Google Wave Setup – In-Character Waves
This post describes how we present and format in-character waves for our Dungeons and Dragons 4E world, Blackengorge, on Google Wave. Subsequent posts will contain more detail on some of the out-of-character waves.
The main in-character wave that we use is the scene wave. We have broken down the play and story into chapters and scenes for easier consumption.
Chapters and Scenes
Chapters are like chapters in a book, with a main theme and point to them. For instance, the current theme for the players in our Blackengorge world is to go and scout out (and perhaps even clear) a goblin lair.
This chapter can then be broken down into scenes – usually a scene to set the theme and elicit the point and then a number of scenes for encounters along the way. Once the end goal for the chapter is realised, there is usually a scene to bring the players back to town and to start building the threads for the next chapter.
We try to keep each of these scenes under the 100 post mark, as this is the magic number where we can sometimes see a performance impact on Google Wave. Keeping the posts low on a wave also helps with navigation around the wave itself.
At the moment we don’t use an index for the chapters and scenes – mainly because we’re only on Chapter 4 for our world, but I can see the appeal for this (particularly for people that would be coming into the world from scratch) and may include this in future.
Scenes usually fall into one of two types for us: an interlude or roleplaying scene where there isn’t any combat and the majority of the posts are descriptive and flavourful text from both PCs and NPCs and progress the story; or an encounter scene where some form of combat takes place.
All scenes start with a very similar layout for the first post as an introduction. This introduction contains the campaign name, the chapter name, the scene name and then the chapter and scene numbers. These allow a quick an easy view within the Google Wave inbox to allow ordering of chapters and scenes. The campaign name also contains a link to the Blackengorge blog.
Below this title is a quick link to the previous scene (and may even be the last scene in a previous chapter) so that rapid movement between the two can be done without having to resort to the inbox or a search.
A synopsis then follows (including the in-game date) to quickly describe where the characters have got up to within this chapter – a good refresher if required.
Character links are next, opening up the character wave for each of the characters if they are clicked on.
The final entry in the introduction is a quick scene length estimate, to give some indication of when the scene starts, how long it should last, and how often it would be ideal for players to post for this scene.
For encounter waves the initiative block is the first real post in the wave. The ‘initiative block’ text is bright and bold to catch the eye, and there is a line to indicate who’s turn it is.
All of the players are quite happy for me to roll initiative en-masse before the start of an encounter, doing both the PCs and creatures, and then ordering them appropriately in the post.
Characters and creatures are different colours to help them stand out and I include the characters’ hit point totals for easy reference.
The initiative block post is updated after every turn within the encounter, and is a good place to briefly scan to see who an encounter is progressing. After every turn the DM updates any character or creature status, including showing what damage totals have been done to creatures, applying damage to characters, adding status effects, and eventually (hopefully) drawing a line through creatures as they are killed. The block is always kept up to date with who’s turn it is next.
Usually for encounter waves there is the need for a battlemap, and sometimes even for interlude waves. We use the Fighty+ gadget which takes images uploaded to maplib.net and applies a Google Maps style interface along with custom tokens for players and creatures.
Fighty+ is quite simple to use and very effective if you manage to find the correct map. There appear to be some issues using it with Firefox at the moment, with the map not being editable, but both Safari and Chrome are fine. We’ve also had some instances when the main maplib.net website has been down which means that Fighty+ cannot render the content, but fortunately that has been fairly rare (about three times in six months, for about half a day each time).
In most encounter wave instances I set up the map and place all of the creatures and then add the players at a starting point (depending upon their actions from the previous scene). From the moment initiative starts players are able to edit the map and move their tokens as they require.
Features of the Area
One new post that I’ve just started adding to an encounter wave, just under the battlemap, is one describing the features of an area.
To allow players to make quick decisions on tactics I’ve added a description of the map, particularly around points such as difficult terrain, or deep water, or acid pits. This allows them to tactically move their character, looking for cover or concealment, or avoiding hazards (or even using hazards to their advantage) without having to come back with questions that may slow down their turn.
It’s not a replacement for answering questions, but will hopefully allow more tactical play.
Following the setup posts we then start with the posts from the players or DM in initiative order.
A turn post is usually made up of some flavour text that describes what the character/creature is doing, a bit of rules and dice rolling, a result, and then some flavour text describing the result.
Characters post in normal text and the DM adds a style (I use italic Georgia).
The idea of the turn posts is to make it very obvious to the player, the DM, and the other players exactly what has happened so that the next turn can be influenced if necessary.
We haven’t used different colours for different characters as we didn’t feel for our game (as we all know each other very well) it was necessary. However, I have seen it in use on other games, and can say it works very well.
A turn post can also be a simple flavour post, particularly if the scene you’re in is an interlude scene. These posts may contain dice rolls (for skill checks or the like) and are handled in the same way as the combat rules.
If the scene is a combat encounter, then a single post stating that the combat encounter is complete is used, and the initiative block is updated to reflect that fact, changing the statement about who’s turn it is into a ‘combat encounter complete’ statement.
There may be subsequent flavour posts before the next scene arrives, but the last post in the scene should be one that allows a quick link to the next scene.