Building A Better World – A Location Crafter Review

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Location Crafter

For when you got places to go…

Picture the scenario: one evening, you decide you need some good old-fashioned D&D action before you hit the sack.

With everyone else doing overtime at work or fulfilling other obligations at home, you dig out the mighty Mythic Game Master Emulator and you begin a night of drama, investigation, roleplaying and political intrigue all rolled into one.

After sniffing out and foiling the plot by an organised criminal network, it’s time for some action at last!

Your goal is clear: invade their hideout – you know where it is because you’ve done your homework – and clean the place out.

Time to dig out your random dungeon generator, then, and build a place that you can explore.

Problem.

Your character does not know what their hideout looks like and most generators show you the whole map the moment you click ‘generate’.

Come on – your research is good, but not that good.

You were so busy foiling the nefarious plot of the guild, so it’s not like you had time to do even a little reconnaissanc.

So… what can you do?

One answer is: you could use The Location Crafter.

See The World

Unlike most random dungeon generators, The Location Crafter is more of a general world building tool that you can use to build all manner of locations for your games.

If you have used the Mythic Game Master Emulator, the mechanics of The Location Crafter ought to be somewhat familiar to you: roll 1d100, consult a table, interpret your results and play out the scene.

Not surprising, since the product was released by Word Mill Games, the same company who brought us the Mythic Game Master Emulator.

However, unlike Mythic where you can simply begin with a vague idea for your adventure and go from there, you will need to spend a little time preparing tables that represent the area you want to explore.

Basically, the process can be summed up as follows:

  1. Create a Region.
  2. Divide your region into three separate Categories: Locations, Encounters and Objects.
  3. Create three separate lists, one for each category and fill each list with Elements that you feel should exist within each category.
  4. Start exploring the Region by randomly determine which elements you encounter from each list.
  5. Repeat step 4.

Okay, I’ll go into this a little more in depth in a moment.

First a little explanation of the terms described above is in order.

Region

Fotolia_95199513_S

See? we do get out… in our minds anyway.

This is simply nothing more than the place you intend to explore or visit.

It can be anything from a natural cavern to a humble inn, a small town to an entire continent. It is therefore possible to have a region within a region.

For example, a town could be composed of many smaller regions such as town halls, manors and so on.

Yet the town itself is a region – one of many other towns or cities – that exists within a much larger region, namely a nation.

But even a nation forms part of another much larger region alongside other nations: continents.

And continents themselves are merely part of a greater whole: the world.

Want to take it further still? A world is only one of many in probably the biggest region of them all: the multiverse.

Categories

There are three category lists you need to keep for each separate region:

  • Location – A smaller area within a region, such as a room in a house.
  • Encounter – NPCs, monsters and traps – basically the denizens that live or frequent a particular region.
  • Object – An item of interest that should have some importance in the adventure – or at least be items that the PCs find valuable or useful.

Elements

Elements are individual items that compose a region and typically falls into one of the three categories described above.

There are several types of elements that make up each category.

Some of them are specific items such as a bedroom, orc, a sword and whatever else you feel appropriate to the region.

Other types of elements are entirely random or are typical of the area you are visiting (e.g. trees in a forest, tables in a tavern, fish in a river, etc.).

Occasionally, you might get a Special element that helps to mix things up a bit. This result might produce an element greater or smaller than usual, remove randomly determined elements from the region or generate elements that help or hinder.

Some special elements are only applicable to select categories, such as the special element, Exit, being only applicable to the locations category.

Some elements are unique and these can include things like a specific artifact you are trying to find, a major villain that you have to bring to justice, or a chamber where a summoning ritual that you need to foil will take place.

And finally, you may get no elements at all – not every room in a dungeon has to have an orc guarding the room at every waking moment, after all.

Ticking Off The Bucket List

So now that you have compiled three separate lists, it’s time to get exploring.

You do this by rolling a 1d6 three times, once for each category list and take the nth result from each list (where n is the number you rolled on your 1d6).

Since most lists will be more than 6 items long, you add a Progress Point each time you roll a new scene and all Progress Points are cumulative. This allows you to explore beyond the first six elements of each category.

When you put the results together, you should get a good idea of what your current surroundings will look like and whether there are any interesting creatures or items in the vicinity.

Generally, you’ll know what you’ve walked into unless you get a Random result.

You can get a random result for any of the three categories and in order to determine what form this result takes, you need to ask a Complex Question that yields a two word phrase describing the appearance of the random element.

If needed, you can also ask another question, asking what the element was designed to do.

Incidentally, the latter question references a table that is identical to the Event Meaning table in Mythic, therefore if you have already used Mythic, you’ll know that there is only one thing that will make this work…

The Art of Interpretation

Yup, that can totally happen.

Like Mythic before it, success in using The Location Crafter is dependent on your ability to piece together the answers you get from the Complex Questions and turn them all into a coherent scene that makes logical sense within the context of your current surroundings.

For example, you enter a room and the first thing you are greeted with is an encounter that is “Powerfully Rotten”. That might mean you come face to face with an ogre zombie which you have to defeat before you can explore the room.

After you’ve chopped it up into pieces, you see that the room is “Violently Historical” and there are some “Carelessly Damaged” objects lying around.

The first thing you might come up with is that the area is some abandoned arena where gladiators once fought and the debris lying around the scene are remains of objects that are in less than pristine condition.

You may also want to find out what the “Carelessly Damaged” objects are. In this case, you can ask another Complex Question to find out what the objects are created to do and you get something like “Create Suffering”.

Well, based on the context of the scene – we are in an arena – the most logical interpretation could be a rack of weapons that are rendered unusable by wear, tear and years of neglect.

This is a manufactured example and you may get results that are far less obvious, but hopefully this will give you an idea of how this works.

Once you roll the ‘Complete’ element, which exists within the Locations category, it means you have finished exploring the region.

Exploring the Good and Bad

Okay, one more important thing before we wrap up:

The Good

  1. Good quality art.
  2. Well written examples.
  3. Can be used as an extension of Mythic to yield more detailed answers beyond yes and no.
  4. Locations are as rich or as bland as you make them.

As something of an artist myself, I want to talk about the art because it really is a huge improvement over the Mythic Game Master Emulator’s blue cover and interior artwork.

As good as the Mythic Game Master Emulator is, I felt the art was one of the let-downs.

The Location Crafter has much better quality art all round which fits the theme of what the book is about.

The Location Crafter can also be viewed as something of an add-on to Mythic Game Master Emulator.

Rather than asking multiple yes and no answers to work out the appearance of someone or something you’ve encountered, you could ask a complex question instead and potentially save yourself some time.

For example, if Mythic generates a new NPC, you will want to be able to picture what he or she looks like.

Instead of asking questions like: “Is he male or female with blonde hair?”, you could ask The Location Crafter a complex question, and potentially get a more interesting or unusual result.

And lastly, what you can build using The Location Crafter is only limited by your imagination, so go wild with it.

The Not So Good

  1. Do you really need this?
  2. Not the quickest way to build a dungeon or world.
  3. Locations are as rich or as bland as you make it.

The Mythic Game Master Emulator is perhaps one of the most versatile tools out there when it comes to playing D&D.

As well as being able to generate an improv adventure from the ground up, it can be used to give yourself a rough idea of what your current surroundings look like. In most cases, that is all the information you need.

In that sense, The Location Crafter can be seen as something of a luxury item.

However, what The Location Crafter does, is it gives you a more structured way to build an area that you can explore and helps you to clearly define when an area is fully explored and it is time to move on, avoiding the temptation to spend ‘forever’ exploring a particular region.

Finally, as with Mythic, the success of this system is really dependent on how well you can interpret the results based on the context and nothing else but a short phrase to create a world inside your imagination that is engaging and immersive.

More importantly, you may need to possess a certain degree of ‘location savvy’.

What I mean is that pretty much everyone will know what a house will consist of – a main living area plus some rooms, such as kitchen, basement, bedrooms and so forth.

A castle, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish if you’re not familiar with it.

That said, we live in an age where all sorts of information is at our fingertips, courtesy of Google and the internet, so it’s not a problem to simply go online and understand what a certain structure looks like.

Fantastic structures, such as a mind flayer’s lair, are a little trickier, but being too caught up in the details was never the idea.

My Verdict

4

So, is there a place for Location Crafter in your solo campaign (see what I did there)?

It depends.

The Location Crafter can be regarded as something of an add-on for Mythic: not essential, just another tool that you can add to your toolbox to help you bring your campaign world to life a little more.

If you don’t care about the small details, then using Mythic on it’s own is probably enough.

What is clear, though, is that Word Mill have released another great product.

There’s something here for everyone when it comes to building worlds, whether you’re a dungeon master, a group of players whose DM has gone AWOL, or a solo player.

I’ll simply leave it here by saying: the value is certainly there for what little you will spend, which is only $3.00 (at the time of writing).

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Your Turn

If you already own a copy of this product, what do you think of my assessment?

Do you agree? If not, what don’t you agree with?

Did I leave anything out?

Have your say down below.

 

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2 comments

  • mark heybourne

    I cannot find anywhere what to do if the die roll on ‘location’ exceeds the number of locations. Would you treat that as ‘complete’ expected or reroll. For example I rolled a 5 and added 4 point progression to make 9 but only had 7 locations.

    Thoughts please.

    • Ken Wai Lau

      On page 7, under the heading “Delving Deeper”, it says:-

      “If your roll takes you beyond the current list of Elements in the Category (for instance, you have 8 elements in your list, but your roll plus Progress Points is 10), then the result is considered Expected. Also, reduce that Category Lists’ Progress Points by 5 points.

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