Apr 21, 2015

Managing the Necrocarcerus Campaign

The current Necrocarcerus campaign is run online, which created some initial challenges for me. I needed a collaborative digital whiteboard, as well as a collaborative digital archive for the information the PCs collected. The archive was especially important because Necrocarcerus is a drop-in game - new people show up, familiar players sometimes skip or miss - and it would waste time having to constantly reintroduce leads, characters and locations for the players who weren't at the last session. It also helps having somewhere I can upload the Necrocarcerus rules document to minimise the number of links new players need to follow and the windows they have open. I played around with a few different options, and eventually settled on Realtimeboard (RTB) which I strongly recommend you check out. It has a free version available with about 100MB of storage, though I use the Premium version for the 3GB so I can use it as a dumping ground for pictures.
The Necrocarcerus Campaign
In the picture above, you can see almost the entire Necrocarcerus campaign. There are a few overland maps the PCs drew that haven't been uploaded, and the comment function doesn't show when you export images (each location on the hand-drawn map in the centre-right has comments detailing what the PCs did and when they did it), but this is the majority of it. Everything on this is player-facing (there's some information about the train journey that they're going to gather at the start of next session).

I maintain 6-8 handwritten pages of other notes, one deck of index cards detailing treasure items, and a folder of maps. The 6-8 pages are: 1) A list of adventure locations 2) A list of major NPCs and short descriptions of them 3) A timeline 4) A list of quest ideas and rewards 5) The relevant random encounter tables for the area they're in 6) A list of errata and possible rules updates for Necrocarcerus 7) A list of notes on whatever dungeon or area they're exploring 8) A relationship map of major NPCs.

Of these, the random encounter tables, the errata list, the list of notes and the timeline are updated most often. The timeline and errata list mainly undergo minor modifications - most of my work is creating & changing the random encounter tables and creating new dungeons / adventure locations. There is some overlap between the two, since I populate most of my dungeons outside of a few set-pieces using the random encounter tables. When I introduce a NPC or an adventure location or quest, I simply check it off on the list so I know the PCs have encountered it already and add information to the RTB about it. I numbered the entries so I could roll a d20 for each to see who / what comes up randomly when I didn't have a preference.

In hindsight, I think I could have been more aggressive with the commenting function to add and track treasure & XP from each session, or specifically, I should have requested the players do this on the RTB. I also should have added a calendar to it, especially since the passage of time is so important in Necrocarcerus (I interrupted writing this blog post to add the calendar). If I could find good pictures for some of the weirder monsters of Necrocarcerus, I think it might also be fun to maintain a living bestiary.

End-of-the-World and Surrounds

This map details the overland area around End-of-the-World, as well as the major NPCs, a treasure map (top) of the High Asmarch's palace, and the larger Necrocarcerus campaign map. Purple stickies detail NPCs, orange stickies are quests they have on offer, while pink stickies are leads for PCs to follow up on their own. Green stickies cover information or facts the PCs have discovered, some of which are relevant to quests. Yellow stickies are locations and pathways. Using the linking system RTB makes available, I can draw connections between the various stickies, points on the map, pictures, and any other information I upload to it, allowing the PCs to identify which quests come from which NPCs, where they go, and what they know about them. Once again, comments don't show in these pictures, but the map is speckled with little comment bubbles that are colour coded. Yellow means there might be a reason to go back to a place, green means it's all cleared out or the quest that took them there is completed. I haven't decided what to use the red comment bubbles for yet.

Dungeon Maps
These are dungeon maps. RTB has three levels of nested grid that are fully zoomable (the grid does not show up in the pictures when you image-cap them). The PCs preferred to upload PDFs of graph paper and draw on them. At the top are maps connected to the Half-Buried Megagolem and the Rocket Fields of the Transhegiromantics, while below on the graph paper is Taddlecreek Mine, where they encountered the Cult of the White Worm and recovered several thousand pounds of dragonbone. These maps can be edited by any of the PCs, as well as myself, in real-time, which allows me to leave them to map most of it, but sketch out sections that are difficult to describe clearly. I'm using Gridmapper to create most of my dungeon maps, screencapping them off of it, and then dumping them into a folder on my computer. The rest I get by downloading dungeon maps I find on G+. I tend to prefer gridded maps over ungridded ones because they're easier to translate onto the grid on RTB.

The statue in the bottom left is of a nude woman; beware before enlarging this picture
Here I'm using RTB to plan the PCs upcoming train journey. A map of the first section of the train (the part they've explored) is at the top, along with some NPCs and a seating plan. The colours of the stickies are a bit wonky (I've corrected them since taking this image) but this shows the pathway the PCs will take (since it's a regular route run by the train company). Along the way, there are numerous quests and locations to explore, and the pictures communicate rumours about each area that they can discover from their fellow passengers with minimal effort. This is the first major journey out of End-of-the-World the PCs are taking. This also helps me plan - I know I need Old Hua Danth, the Pinion of the Flame Tyrant, the Spider Tombs and the Autarchy of Mfele Outpost all written up.

My general experience so far has been that the more I dump on RTB, the easier the rest of my note-taking becomes. Like many referees, my experience of note-taking has been that it is both tedious and crucial, and I have struggled in the past to discover ways to simplify it (avoiding long-form writing is one critical discovery I made and have never gone back on).