All RPGs and Storygames by Tod Foley are now available at DrivethruRPG and RPGnow. Bring these games to your table!
Now that we have automated our deployment, it wouldn't be too hard to wire it with our code management setup. In this post, we will hook the Ansible scripts with our Git hosting setup so that a deployment gets triggered when you do a "git push". The idea is, deployment shouldn't be a chore, so that developers don't even think of it and only focus on the business logic of their application.
This is a public update on the work of the Governance Task Force.
The Governance Task Force has been working hard to prepare the proposal. We currently have a completed draft that we are actively refining for editorial improvement. As part of the review, we believe it is important to get initial feedback from some key stakeholders to ensure there are no major issues identified. We'll consider making changes to the proposal at our discretion. The proposal will then be delivered to the community and we’re very excited to soon share this. While things may change, we believe we are on time to deliver the proposal before the end of October.
Our team is actively discussing the handoff and next steps that follow from our work. We recognize that there may be ongoing support needed and want to do what we can to help follow-up efforts. It is imperative that momentum is maintained after our proposal is delivered.
We will be recommending a public commentary period before any recommendations move forward for the community to share their thoughts. This commentary period will likely outlast the task force. The task force will officially disband at the end of October, as we have stated in our charter. This does not mean that the work is complete, as there may be discussion and, most importantly, approved recommendations will need support to move forward. The task force wants to do what we can to enable the next steps and we are actively discussing how this might happen, even if we, as individuals, participate without an official charter.
We continue to be committed to serving the community and operating in a transparent way. If you wish to reach us, please fill out this Google form and we will respond as soon as we’re able.
As you may know, Drupal 6 has reached End-of-Life (EOL) which means the Drupal Security Team is no longer doing Security Advisories or working on security patches for Drupal 6 core or contrib modules - but the Drupal 6 LTS vendors are and we're one of them!
Today, there is a Critical security release for the Print module to fix a Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerability.
The Print module provides printer-friendly versions of content, including send by e-mail and PDF versions.
The module doesn't sufficiently sanitize the arguments passed to the wkhtmltopdf executable, or HTML passed to dompdf or other PDF generation tools.
See the security advisory for Drupal 7 for more information.
NOTE: This vulnerability has a lower risk in Drupal 6 than in Drupal 7 (where it's Highly Critical). This is because you can't pass shell commands to execute using the HTTP basic auth user/pass, like you can in Drupal 7.
Here you can download the Drupal 6 patch.
If you have a Drupal 6 site using the Print module, we recommend you update immediately! We have already deployed the patch for all of our Drupal 6 Long-Term Support clients. :-)
If you'd like all your Drupal 6 modules to receive security updates and have the fixes deployed the same day they're released, please check out our D6LTS plans.
Note: if you use the myDropWizard module (totally free!), you'll be alerted to these and any future security updates, and will be able to use drush to install them (even though they won't necessarily have a release on Drupal.org).
Although it can sometimes be easy to forget about that little URL bar at the top of your browser, what it contains for each page can be surprisingly important. Creating good paths (the part of the URL after the domain name) for your site content can have numerous benefits, especially for SEO, but doing so can be a bit frustrating. Usually, you end up needing to re-type most of the page title into Drupal's URL alias field, which isn't necessarily too bad on its own, but it's still an extra step whenever you create content. And what about when you update the page and change the title? This is where it gets very easy to forget to change the path, which can lead not only to worse SEO but also to your site's visitors not ending up on a page with the content they expected it to have.
Policy-based Entity Expiration allows you to create a set of data retention/purging policies that will allow you to automatically manage large amounts of input data that must be trimmed periodically. The policies are executed on a cron basis, and may be limited to a maximum number of items per run in order to improve performance during busy periods.
This is a guest blog by Marina Paych (paych) with tips for coordinating Drupal training events.
Organizing a Drupal Global Training Days event is a great way to spread the word about Drupal, engage more novice developers, and increase adoption. If you haven’t heard about Drupal GTD, typically, these events are a one- or two-day training where experienced developers deliver sessions about Drupal and teach attendees how to create their first Drupal website or module.
Why is this event called global? It’s because it is held globally on or around a certain date every quarter. Organizers in the North and South Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia come together to create the GTD movement and show the power of community-organized events worldwide.
Introducing Drupal 8 in Riyadh. Photo by @EssamAlQaie.
However, Drupal event organizers face challenges while running trainings and conferences. The Drupal Global Training Days Working Group conducted a survey to find out common difficulties for organizers and how the working group can offer support. We came up with an online questionnaire first, and then held several in-depth interviews with organizers to validate gathered quantitative data.
In this article, I've collected the most widespread challenges of Drupal Global Training Days organizers and brainstormed possible ways to overcome them based on my personal event organizing experience and good practices of other organizers. Let's dive in.
Issue 1: a lack of speaker resources (documentation/PPTs of other organizers)
Group photo at GTD in Omsk. Photo by @ADCISolutions.
What do we teach? A lack of ready-made resources is the most common concern of organizers worldwide. And I admit that it is an issue. There is no special folder with all the up-to-date and ready to deliver presentations for everyone to use.
There are two main reasons for this:
Most organizers hold GTD events on their local language: Spanish, Russian, etc., and that makes such PPTs hardly usable for other countries.
All the organizers have different event programs due to different profiles of attendees: in some countries, the attendees are mostly beginners, in other countries - experts.
These barriers make it harder (if not impossible) to have PPTs for all types of sessions and all types of audiences.
However, there’s a way that you can overcome this problem: ask other organizers for help! Join the group at Drupal.org. There, you can create a new discussion and ask people to share their documents or at least their events programs, so you will be able to adapt the materials to your audience and goals. Also, there is a Slack channel, where you can do the same thing; ask other organizers for help.
I did this when we decided to add a workshop to our GTD. Previously, we only had theoretical sessions, but then we wanted to deliver a practical workshop. Since we had never run a workshop before, I asked other organizers if anyone already delivered workshops. And Mauricio replied to me and shared lots of materials they've used in Nicaragua.
We discussed his materials together with our team of speakers and we adapted some related to our agenda and goals. What was also very useful:a technology stack Mauricio uses on his events. We didn’t know what to choose to use in our workshop, so we also used tools that were suggested by Mauricio, which were helpful.
Incorporating the experience of Nicaraguan GTD events allowed us to avoid starting from scratch, and we delivered a quality event.
Also, there is a global initiative aimed to translate the Drupal 8 User Guide to different languages. If your local language is one of the following: Català, Magyar, Español, Українська, 简体中文, Français, Deutsch, فارسی, Bahasa Indonesia, 日本語 — you can use these materials for your training. If your language is not on the list yet, you can help translate it.Issue 2: a lack of unified promotional materials
The second widespread problem is the lack of promotional materials. The situation is similar to the first issue. Different languages and different profiles of attendees make it difficult to have a single set of materials to promote all GTD events. We have discussed what we can do during some of our GTD Working Group calls, and we realized that it is best for each organizer to create local promotional materials because they know their audience better and can transmit the GTD main goal -- Drupal Adoption -- in plain comprehensive language.
But again, feel free to ask for help or advice in the group or Slack channel from organizers who have had success in promoting their events.Issue 3: a lack of speakers
Some organizers mentioned that they often don’t have people to deliver sessions due to different reasons: developers are busy with work, or are too shy to speak, or there is no one at all to deliver sessions.
If your potential speakers agree to prepare and deliver sessions but are too busy to really engage, then schedule an event in advance and help them plan the timeline of preparation in a way that does not take many hours per week. Show them that if they start preparing in advance and they take it slow, they will be able to do everything simultaneously. But, of course, it will require your time to remind and check in for good results.
If your potential speakers are too shy to speak, try to involve them gradually. Ask them to prepare a short internal report on something simple for the session topic. Then provide them with quality feedback and highlight the strong sides of their presentation. And then, when they are ready, invite them to a bigger event. It will take some time, but your efforts will pay off when your event achieves your goals.
You are a solo organizer or there is no one available to speak in your company. There are two possible ways to overcome this problem:
Find speakers from other Drupal companies in your region. They will get their company's promotional support and you will get speakers with experience. The other option can be applied if you have a strong community in your city or region. Then you can invite people from the community to speak at the event.
If the first way can’t be implemented, find remote speakers and make video calls or even make an online event. The Global Drupal Community is HUGE. I’m sure you will find amazing and motivated speakers for your event within the community.
If this is a one-time thing, it might be just random low attendance. For example, the weather suddenly became terrible and people didn’t want to go outside at all. That is not specific to your event.
But if this constantly happens, you need to carefully assess your promotional efforts. Possible reasons:
Promotional materials are misleading: the expectations attendees had were not justified. Check that you deliver what you promise and improve your promotional materials and texts according to it. To identify the gap between the expectations and reality, organize a couple of in-depth interviews with the representatives of your target audience or add a question about expectations to the application form.
Attendees servicing issues: usually, it is a couple of weeks between the date when a person sends an event application form and an actual event date. A person can forget about the event, can lose interest, or even change their plans. In order to avoid that, plan some touch points with people who have already registered. Shoot emails, tell about the sessions and programs, send reminders.
Not exactly your target audience: if your promotional materials are distributed to channels that are popular among a wider audience (not only tech students but all students, for instance), you might receive many sign-ups but only tech people will attend. Be mindful when choosing channels for promotion; make sure your target audience is there.
There may be other reasons why you have a low conversion rate: it's difficult to get to your venue, the price (if an event is paid) is too high, the agenda is not that interesting, etc. But you need to find the reasons for your particular case. Talk to attendees, ask them what would improve their experience, and your conversion rate will increase when you implement their feedback. Just don't forget to mention your improvements in your promotional materials so people know that you really listened to them.Issue 5: a lack of money for a venue, coffee breaks
How great is it when you come to an event and there is free coffee there? To ensure your attendees will come to a comfortable venue and enjoy sessions after a welcome coffee break, you can take simple steps:
Organize the event in the office of an IT company: it is great if your office is good for events, but if it isn’t, you can approach bigger companies and offer a collaboration: you will organize the event and they provide a venue. Perhaps they can distribute their promotional materials during the event. Of course, it doesn't necessarily need to be an IT company office; you can find any comfortable and beautiful venue, but IT offices are often cool and prepared for IT events.
Organize the event in the University: you can try to negotiate with Universities to let you organize your event there without a fee. The Universities have two main advantages: they usually have all the necessary equipment for events and they also have tech students who can possibly attend your event.
Find in-kind partners for your event: Drupal GTD is a globally supported event that attracts many people. You can use this to your benefit and find partners for your event who will provide you with goods or services in exchange for promotion. You can put their banner in the event venue. It won’t hurt your event to have a few banners, and you will be able to offer your attendees a more pleasant experience without any monetary investment.
Usually, most of the event's needs can be covered with the help of in-kind partners. It is much easier to find in-kind partners than sponsors. So, I would recommend you start with in-kind partners, especially if you have never sold event sponsorships before.
If, however, you need sponsorship:
Create a pool of companies who might be interested in your event.
Find contacts for decision-makers from these companies.
Come up with a list of benefits you can offer to them (promotion, employer branding, speaking at the event, etc.) and set a price.
Create a customized proposal for each company.
It’s best to set up a meeting with a company because it will allow you to talk with a person and see which of your benefits are more relevant for them, and provide more information.
If some companies support your local Drupal or IT community, it is likely that they could support your event.
Issue #7: a lack of awareness
The GTD events are not well-known in some regions, which creates additional challenges for organizers. It becomes harder to find sponsors, speakers, and attract attendees. If this is your case, the action that can help is for you to inform Drupal companies in your region about the benefits of participating in the GTD movement. Benefits like promotion of a company within the Drupal Community, with a possibility to be featured in blog posts and tweets, spotting on a Drupal events map, and even credits on Drupal.org!
In order to promote your event and attract more attendees, you can focus on the fact that the same events are being organized on the same day all over the world. It usually inspires people and makes them curious to attend. Feel free to use the videos from GTD organizers (video #1, video #2) during your promotion or on-site at your event.
Mr. Thomas speaks at GTD in Kerala. Photo by @zyxware.
Event management is a complex and sometimes complicated process. But it is interesting and allows a huge amount of opportunities for improvement and experimentation. I’ve been organizing events of different scale for years, and I still find something interesting in the work.
That is why I wish all the GTD organizers to be proactive, creative, and consistent. These qualities will help you make wonderful events and engage hundreds of people with Drupal!
Feel free to contact me with any questions about this article or event management in general.
Recently, The Guardian Insurance Company made the strategic business decision to start marketing and selling their products directly to consumers. While Guardian has been around for nearly 160 years (WOW!) most consumer experiences with their products stem from employer insurance coverage offerings. As the industry landscape evolves and the US workforce moves slowly towards distributed and independent employment Guardian endeavored to differentiate their offerings not only from industry stalwarts but also from up-and-coming, startup-like products catering to the same demographics. Mediacurrent was proud to be chosen by Guardian Insurance Company as their Design and Strategy partner during product development of their new direct-to-consumer website.
Now that the site has launched, we’re happy to share some behind-the-scenes details of how this fresh, new experience came together. While our Case Study gives a broader overview of the project, this blog post will provide additional insight into our data driven design process.
Part 1 of this 2-part series covers the early planning parts of our process including Strategic Design Discovery, Style Tiles, and Wireframing. Part 2 will cover Mockups & Visual Design, Custom Illustration, and Custom Iconography. Let’s dive in!Strategic Design Discovery
A Discovery phase begins many of our projects at Mediacurrent. This phase is led by a cross-functional group of our world-class team to help frame the challenges ahead. Throughout this phase, comprehensive knowledge of the Guardian brand, its customers, its competitors, and its business were gathered. These strategic design discovery insights allowed us to understand the types of consumers the new product is being geared towards (user personas), how success is being measured (Key Performance Indicators or KPIs), the ways in which a person becomes a customer (conversion paths) and a boatload of other data that served as our “guiding light” throughout the process.Style Tiles
Early on we began creating Style Tiles that took the brand’s existing visual guidelines, placed them in an interactive digital context, and expanded on them where we saw the need and/or opportunity. This process created a high level view of the visual tone of the new website. Adding a bit of complexity, Guardian was deep in the midst of a larger corporate rebrand when our project began. In this case, we had to consider the existing brand guidelines, be flexible enough to incorporate new brand elements as they were provided, and ensure that the digital experience was coherent, unique, and accessible to all users – a critical concern identified during Discovery.
Three concepts were presented initially:1. New Blue Suit
– This concept expresses subtle sophistication through the use of color, typography, and whitespace. It relies heavily on the brand’s primary blue hue as a color that reinforces trust, loyalty, and integrity. An overall contemporary, minimalist approach is suggested as a means of reducing cognitive load. The icon style followed these principles as well by choosing an outline style with subtle monotone accents. Typographically, we included the fonts defined in their brand guidelines in order to maintain consistency with existing materials.2. Happy Place
This concept is lively and pleasant using bright colors to create a friendly experience. We expanded the brand color palette to add cheerful, accessible hues able to be used in a variety of UI elements. Typographically we pushed the existing brand guidelines by incorporating a new font – Open Sans – as its wider variety of weights allows it to be used more expressively than the currently defined Arial family. Our type treatments utilized a lighter weight body font to balance the heavy use of color and maintain valuable whitespace. The icon style suggested takes a more fully-realized illustrative approach making use of the expanded color palette and adding dimension through highlights and shadows.3. Gilded Skies
This concept reduces the color palette and adds trendy accents. Broader than New Blue Suit, but more restrained than Happy Place, this example’s color palette features a rich gray, trusted blue, and adds shades of gold to suggest value, elegance, and quality. Here we’ve suggested a hand-drawn icon style that personalizes the experience with a more genuine feel. We also included photography style suggestions that feature color and light effects to extend the color palette and maintain a clean and crisp look.
Through this exercise, we were able to understand just how far Guardian was willing to push their existing brand and create a final document that was approved by all stakeholders as the visual voice we wanted to achieve with the final product. In the end, and with a few iterations in between, we landed on what was essentially a blend New Blue Suit and Gilded Skies as the path forward. This final Style Tile was chosen in order to maintain consistency with Guardian’s larger, existing brand guidelines while introducing elements that would help create a more casual tone appropriate for the demographic of their direct-to-consumer offerings.
A sample of the final approved Style Tile.Wireframes
Next, we moved on to really digging into the user personas and conversion paths generated in the Discovery phase by creating wireframes for the different sections of the site. One of the most exciting parts about this project was that we were not only designing the marketing section of the site but also the entire customer experience from the point where the visitor is attracted, becomes a lead, and eventually converts to a customer. This means that in addition to top-level marketing pages – like the home, about, and product pages – user journey designs were also needed for getting a quote and enrolling in one or multiple products.
Throughout the wireframing process, we broke down the different types of pages and sections of the site that users will encounter when visiting and organized the placement of content and calls-to-action (CTAs) by mapping the layout structure to the user journeys and KPIs identified in Discovery. Working from the Mobile First perspective, we made sure to consider this hierarchy not only on desktop machines but also tablets and mobile phones. In this case, we decided to take a medium fidelity approach – meaning that we avoided color or imagery in order to maintain focus on content organization and the user journey. We did include the typographic and iconography styles defined in our approved Style Tile, and we simulated actual copy since the process included quoting and checkout workflows which would not have made sense with greek copy.
In the end, these blueprints ensured that the user experience was providing the clearest path for a visitor to learn about the products, understand the cost and coverage offered, then ultimately enroll in a Guardian Insurance plan.
The goals mapped through the top-level marketing page wireframes were not only to educate the consumer about the company and the products offered but, more importantly, to serve as a hassle-free gateway to the actions the business measures – namely generating a quote and enrolling. On the homepage, Guardian wanted to make sure a newly developed brand message – Life is full of surprises. The cost of paying for them shouldn’t be. – was clearly communicated so we even started to play with some interaction suggestions.
Desktop, tablet, and mobile homepage wireframes.
The goals mapped through the quoting experience provided a simple way to understand the cost and coverage offered for a variety of different types of consumers – single person, couple, children, adult dependents, etc.
Tablet-width wireframes of the Find a Dental Plan (or quoting) process.
The goals mapped through the enrollment/checkout process were to
a) keep the experience as simple and logical as possible for all types of visitors;
b) allow them to enroll in one or multiple products at the same time;
c) gather all legally required information and consent – which varies between products.
Desktop-width wireframes of the Enrollment (or checkout) process.
Along with these broader page-level experiences, microinteractions – such as saving and retrieving quotes – were considered and wireframed to ensure that the experience was cohesive.Stay Tuned!
Our process does not end here but part 1 of this post does, unfortunately. :( Keep an eye out for part 2 where we’ll dig into the visual design details of the site! We’ll look at different visual concepts that were created, how the design was finalized with custom illustrations and iconography, and the component-driven approach we follow. For now, just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street!
Web Audit is an open source project maintained by the University of Nebraska Lincoln to help site owners maintain sites by running automatic audits that help find and fix problems that affect user experience.
UNL uses a custom plugin for Web Audit to determine if the site is running a known framework.
At Drupal Europe in September, the Association was thrilled to announce that DrupalCon Europe would be returning in 2019. During the gap year, we knew we wanted to transform the event to improve its fiscal sustainability, pilot a new more-scalable model that we may be able to bring to the rest of the world, and most of all ensure that the event still has the close care and attention of the local community. We believe our partnership with Kuoni Congress through the new licensing model we've established will accomplish each of those goals, and we're excited to see its first iteration in Amsterdam next year.The Community's Homecoming
DrupalCon has always represented a homecoming for the community—and preserving that sense of belonging is critical to the future of the event. That's why we're pleased to announce that a DrupalCon Community Advisory Board has been chosen, chaired by Baddy Breidert and Leon Tong.
The community advisory committee consists of:
- Baddy Breidert
- Leon Tong
- Gábor Hojtsy
- Hussain Abbas
- Imre Gmelig Meijling
- Meike Jung
- Michael Schmid
- Stella Power
- Amanda Gonser
This membership represents a good cross-section of countries and roles within the community, with a focus on European representation to support the event. While Kuoni handles the operational and execution side of the event, this committee will help to inform the content and will bring more than a decade of historical knowledge about Drupal events. The charter of the committee is as follows:
- Advise on programming
- Create and oversee the content selection subcommittee
- Create and oversee the volunteer subcommittee (room monitors, etc.)
- Create any additional subcommittees as needed
In addition to this, members of the committee and the Drupal Association team will be traveling to Vienna in late November for a 2-day intensive kick-off with the Kuoni Congress team.
We want to thank all that showed interest in joining the committee and we will contact each and every one of you to offer the opportunity to take on some tasks for DrupalCon Amsterdam 2019.
We'll see you in Amsterdam!
About Kuoni Congress
Kuoni is a professional event services organization with offices around the globe, including more than 20 in Europe. The team building DrupalCon Amsterdam is located in Europe, and attended Drupal Europe in September 2018, where they were incredibly impressed by the community spirit and professionalism of the Drupal community. The Kuoni team is proud to partner with the Drupal Association and the Drupal community to bring DrupalCon back to Europe in 2019.
Sooperthemes Glazed Builder is a Drupal drag & drop page builder made to revolutionize the way professionals build websites with Drupal. Glazed Builder is fully integrated with both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 and gives the marketing staff, content teams and site builders the tools to do a faster, more efficient job! And guess what? You can build a fully functional website with Glazed Builder without ever having to touch a line of code!
The builder provides 36 fully customizable elements to help you make and share beautiful and appealing content on your website without breaking a sweat. In today's blog article we are going to cover five Glazed Builder Elements and show you how to use and personalize them:
This module allows the ability to restrict access to configured menus and route paths based
on specified roles.
Menu Custom Access provides additional restrictions to the Admin Toolbar menu.
Drupal 8's out of the box permissions for menus and menu items prevent the ability
to restrict menu operations to specific menus. Sometimes we do not want users to have
access to adding new menus or edit/update exisiting menus.
Provides basic functionality to allow other modules to connect and make calls to SoftLayer API services.
This module creating new entity with add/edit/delete functionality of student record contact.Admin adding fields and manage display from admin setting page also this entity available in views.
For years I’ve been kicking around a system in my head for simplifying hex crawls, point crawls, West Marches style games, megadungeons, etc… Something that keeps but abstracts the process of wandering, searching, and eventually discovering points of interest without requiring the potential for entire sessions to end up as fruitless wandering and random encounters and without demanding ridiculously detailed maps. It would probably revolve around skill checks of some sort with a chance to discover points of interest and add them to the map. I even hinted at it in a prior article, but I never really firmed it up or got it to a state that I thought it would work quite right. So of course in the process of looking up overland movement in the Pathfinder system, I discover that last November they beat me to it, publishing a “Discovery Point system” in their book: Ultimate Wilderness that not only hits all the high points I would want to and is elegantly simple but is largely system neutral. It DOES make use of Pathfinder-based skill checks and DCs but it would be simple to swap them out for skills and DCs or an analog from another system. What’s more, it’s scalable and nestable in a way that means with appropriate scaling and adjustment you can use it or a variant for pretty much any exploration mechanic that you need in your game.
- The system on the Pathfinder SRD with an example
- The book on Paizo’s site in case you want the full work it comes from
The basics of the system are simple:
- Discovery Points: The system introduces a new currency type called “Discovery Points” that are used to uncover points of interest on the map.
- Each day each character makes a survival check: More success=get more discovery points, More failure=LOSE more discovery points (because you just drew part of the map upside down or misidentified a landmark or something). This encourages characters who aren’t really cut out for exploration to use the aid another action or spend their time doing other things: fortifying camp, using a subsystem to make maps and gazetteers, hunting for food and water, translating an old book the party found, whatever.
- Characters can accumulate bonus discovery points by “interpreting waypoints”: This terminology makes it sound like inspecting physical landmarks but it’s just shorthand for any way of figuring out the location of points of interest other than stomping through the wilderness. In the example territory given three methods are flying overhead, talking to locals, and decoding a journal.
- After some discovery points are accumulated, the party spends them to uncover known or unknown points of interest: Points they KNOW are there, they just don’t know WHERE, get paid for directly. If they’re looking to just uncover anything of interest they can blow a specified amount of points and hope there are unknown points of interest that cost half that or less.
The SRD explains the system as well as some subsystems and details target numbers and some other finer points. There is an example territory to illustrate, a small canyon with 3 points of interest and 4 defined waypoints, along with target numbers and a small random encounter table. For a free system on the internet that’s easily portable into any number of other systems it’s surprisingly useful. While the book has no new material (on this system anyway. It has 250 pages of additional material on other things) the PDF is also pretty cheap and it’s on sale at the time I type this. Here are some additional thoughts I have on the system so far:
- A day and four encounters per day isn’t quite right: The system assumes a certain size of territory. See the example territory given and the suggestion that a single 12 mile hex constitutes a territory. But consider that sometimes an area of a much different size warrants territory status and that while the system still works as described, it creates some interesting issues.
- For a larger territory: (let’s say a few dozen hexes across) you run into the issue that you can conceivably accumulate discovery points and “discover” a point of interest much further away than you could have traveled to in the time it took to discover it. You COULD figure out a bunch of sub-rules for where the party is in the territory and thus what they can and cannot discover, BUT it’s far easier to just change the length of time it takes to make a check and the number of potential encounters that could happen during that time. Using the initial hex and day, a good rule of thumb is that the time it takes to make an exploration check for a territory is about the same amount of time it takes to travel across that territory. That assumes the characters are traveling the length and breadth of the land beating bushes and peeking into corners and ensures that no matter where they discover a point of interest it makes sense. While that also means that you should check for 28 encounters for a discovery check that takes a week, that seems excessive. Instead assume that the party has many encounters over a time of that duration and avoids or overcomes most of them and instead make the regular four checks, assume the party is fully rested between each and populate your table with a selection of “notable” encounters. i.e.: with powerful individual creatures or with multiple encounters with weaker creatures. So you might say: “You explore the area for a few weeks. During that time you have to fend off many goblin hunting parties but several days into your exploration, through either accident or because of the creature’s determination you are attacked several times in succession.” Then run a single encounter with several “waves” of goblins that are separated by minutes to hours of “real time”.
- For a smaller territory: example: the PCs are searching the local rancher’s back 40 for clues to his disappearance, it makes more sense to make a check every few hours and roll for an encounter each check. That said, if they area gets too small it’s probably best to move to a traditional dungeon exploration system or series of checks.
- Where’s the rest of the party?: The base system allows each character to make a separate survival check to gather discovery points. While that makes sense, it also assumes that you’ve split the party and that each character (or group of characters if some are using aid another actions) is by themselves exploring or back at camp doing other stuff. This introduces the issue that any number of characters might end up meeting an encounter. In this case I think it’s safe to assume that characters are relatively close to one another and have some way of signalling one another (from magic items to bird calls to outright yelling) so in the case of combat, you can probably assume that missing characters show up in a few additional rounds. If you go this route, make sure that players understand it might happen so they have the option of not letting the mage wander off by themselves.
- Other uses: While this system is presented as a system for handling overland exploration with minimal (or no) reskinning it can also be used for:
- dungeon exploration: think really big dungeons like megadungeons
- investigation: where waypoints might be clues that point to other evidence and points of interest are evidence, and the checks made are investigation instead of survival
- information gathering: where waypoints are hints as to who may know things and points of interest are pieces of information and checks are gather information or diplomacy etc
- social networking: waypoints are people who aren’t interesting or useful except they grant access to those who are (think a bouncer or David Spade’s secretary character), points of interest are contacts etc
- Nesting Nesting Nesting!: One of the coolest aspects of this system is that it can be nested. You can start with a large territory and one of your points of interest can then be another territory all it’s own, but on a smaller scale. Conceivably this could go through multiple layers. Imagine a reasonably sized territory the size of a hex or two and one of it’s points of interest is the ruins of a city which is much smaller than a hex (a few square miles) but which can be explored as it’s own territory with it’s points of interest being buildings of interest, treasure caches, five room dungeons and the like, one of which is the entrance to a large megadungeon, which is its OWN territory. Nesting would also work very well for sci-fi star exploration, first discovering systems, then planets, then points of interest on those planets.
- Save some for later: when placing points of interest, remember that not all of them have to necessarily be level appropriate challenges for their territory. While it’s not necessarily fair or fun to have characters stumble onto some alpha beastie’s lair and immediately get TPK’d, putting said beastie on the random encounter list (and letting players know that there will occasionally be out of level challenges they need to be careful of) and giving them bonuses to avoid it once they know the location of its lair gives them a reason to come back later and remove the menace or capture a trophy. Similarly, putting in treasures hidden in vaults with DCs too high to crack at the time they are likely to be found, and sealed doors in point of interest dungeons give the players a reason to return.
- Gazetteers are awesome: One of the fun parts of the system is the ability for characters with the right skills to make maps and gazetteers for territories. The rules in the system allow for creating these even when most of the points of interest in a territory are still undiscovered. More complete ones might be worth more, or less complete ones might be worth less (or worthless depending on how incomplete) BUT one of the really fun ways to expand this subsystem is the potential for different kinds of gazetteers. The base assumption is that a gazetteer is a written guidebook of the territory and they take the literacy skill to create. But there is lots of potential information that can go into a gazetteer and characters should be able to make more money, though not necessarily increase the bonus they get to survival checks by making a similar number of successes with secondary skill checks to add in additional useful information to their gazetteers. Two or more characters might even work on this simultaneously, one cataloging and recording additional information while the other makes the literacy checks to do the actual writing.
- Knowledge: Nature checks will create a guidebook with detailed information and sketches of the local flora and fauna and their uses and properties
- Profession: Miner will create a guidebook with information about local rock structures and composition
- Diplomacy will create a guidebook with information about the cultures and practices of the local inhabitants
- Craft: Painting creates a guidebook with multiple attractive pictures of local landmarks of interest
- etc… The limit is really the imagination of your players.
- West Marches: So if you have a massive crush on Ben Robbins’ West Marches campaign but don’t have the motivation to crank out insane vector maps like he did to prep for it, today is literally the day you get started. All of that gets wiped away and replaced with this simple system… except maybe not. Because there is one major difference between these rules as presented and the West Marches: Multiple groups. If you want to run a West Marches style for a single group, then go get started. I mean it. Go. But if you’re going the whole nine yards and running for multiple fluid groups with all the complexity, confusion and jealously guarded secrets that entails, you’re going to need a few more tweaks to the system. For this you will have to figure out how to handle points of interest that are only known about by some players, if a character who was in a group when a point of interest was discovered can get back without the rest of the group or a map, who “owns” and “carries” discovery points that a group gathers but has not yet spent and other concerns. My initial thoughts are:
- The local lord or some other NPC organization wants the land explored and is paying for all the info they can get. They are the primary market, aside from other PCs, for maps and gazetteers of unexplored territory.
- Existence and location of points of interest become common knowledge when a map that contains them is sold to an NPC (similar to the West Marches communal map). We can assume this represents the map eventually making its way to the aforementioned patron who then makes it readily available to aid exploration.
- That no one can find a point of interest they have discovered without a map or re-paying a fraction of it’s initial cost, but that once points are common knowledge, maps are cheaply available (cribbed from the communal map probably)
- Discovery points are held by those who created them with their survival check or by interpreting a waypoint. If large numbers of them are gathered in a single roll, some may be shared with a character who used the aid another action to help gather them.
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