Thursday, March 31, 2011

DM Advice - Creating Ecologies Not Static Environments Pt II

Last week in Part I we discussed the physical environments and the basic forms of life that might make the physical environment home. We compared the sewer to the backyard to compare how the real world works and how we could put this to use in the fantasy environments we are trying to create. This week we continue the discussion and look at the uses that individuals might have for that type of environment including the types of individuals that would put such an environment to use.



The Uses for the Physical Environment

The Sewer
From the previous exercise we already know that our fantasy sewer has three entrances and is possibly home to an alligator, some rats and some bugs. We know that it is a limited space about five feet in height and about  six feet in width. The sewer runs underneath a large town and has come into disuse.

What then are the potential physical uses for such a location? Who would want to use such a place? We have to look at what the physical environment offers. At the very least there should be some form of sustenance and water for any long-term involvement. 

From the very nature of a sewer we can pretty much rule out any form of higher life that would require a sanitary environment. This automatically rules out most civilized folks. I say most because sometimes such an environment is the exact spot that someone could hide if they had something to hide or if they wanted or needed solitude.

But we're not yet ready to start thinking about WHO would use the environment. At this point we only need to get a handle on what uses the environment could have. What does the environment offer? What makes it not too attractive? At this point we need to list the pros and cons. This is largely subjective and any specific item could be placed in either category depending on your viewpoint. Here's mine.

Sewer Pros
  • Solitude
  • Water (Yeah I know)
  • Food Source (Plants and Animals)
  • Physical Safety (Only three entrances)
Sewer Cons:
  • Unsanitary
  • Dark
  • Underground
  • Confined
Using the list of pros and cons above we can generate some ideas for the physical uses of the sewer.  Obviously this is not an exhaustive list and I would expect you can come up with your own ideas as well!

Sewer Uses:

  • Secure dangerous animal
  • Temporary Hideout for a den of thieves. With some serious work it is possible to turn this into a permanent hideout.
  • Lair for larger aquatic animals like alligators or large fish or aquatic race such as a Bullywug.
  • Lair for small tribe of to medium sized humanoids like kobolds and goblins
  • Means of transportation of illicit goods into and out of the large town
  • Meeting place for group that needs secrecy

The Backyard
From the previous exercise we know that the backyard environment is surrounded by a fence, has a deck and has two main entrances. We know that there are small animals that use the back yard and that the back yard also contains a large open space. 

What then are the potential physical uses for such a location? Who would want to use such a place? We have to look at what the physical environment offers. At the very least there should be some form of sustenance and water for any long-term involvement. 

From the very nature of a back yard we can pretty much rule out any form of higher life that would require an underground or aquatic environment. The nature of the backyard gives some solitude but the open environment lends itself well to friendly business meetings and engagements.

What does the environment offer? What makes it not too attractive? At this point we need to list the pros and cons. This is largely subjective and any specific item could be placed in either category depending on your viewpoint. Here's mine.

Backyard Pros
  • Open Air Environment
  • Water from the house 
  • Food Source (Plants and Animals)
  • Physical Safety (Only two entrances)
Backyard Cons:
  • Open and not easily defended
  • Conversations can be overheard
Using the list of pros and cons above we can generate some ideas for the physical uses of the backyard.  Obviously this is not an exhaustive list and I would expect you can come up with your own ideas as well!

Backyard Uses:

  • Secure domestic animals
  • Open air market place or meeting place
  • Barbeque, Pool party or Shindig
  • Playground
  • Garden
  • Place to put a small lookout post or clubhouse
Next week we'll take a look at how we can combine the physical environment and the uses for the physical environment to discern what types of individuals could make use of such an environment. In the final week we'll discuss how the individuals interact in the environment and how to keep them moving as an ecology and not as a static environment.


Edit: C'nor brings up an excellent point. For this exercise we'll say that there is a pool on the deck. This will invalidate that creatures that need an aquatic environment will probably not use the backyard. I've marked it as such. Thanks for following this exercise C'nor!





4 comments:

  1. You listed "Pool Party" for the backyard. Assuming that they aren't great about chlorinating it, or chlorinating pools hasn't been though of yet, underwater creatures could live in it, and alligators and/or crocodiles, as well as some spiders* could even live in it if it's chlorinated**. Also, was it ever established that there isn't a fish-pond in this yard, or that things don't live under it***?

    *Search for "Australian Pool Spider".
    **Yes, those aren't higher life forms, but the same principle applies.
    ***Like, for example, a colony of Brain Moles.

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  2. @C'nor - you correct there could be aquatic creatures living in the backyard environment. I never specified a pond or pool but did list a pool party as a possible use.

    This is exactly what I am talking about. Things fall out or need to be added to the list as you go through the exercises.

    In this example I am taking the current modern backyard as it is today. There are no fantastic elements in it so if there's a pool it would be chlorinated. Gators are still found from time to time in chlorinated pools as are very large constrictor snakes - pets - down in Miami.

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  3. All of this is going to lead up to how we determine where an individual or group of individuals may be within the environment depending on the type of the environment, the time of the day and some other factors which we will go over soon!

    This makes the environment more than a static environment. Goblins do not sit behind a door all day and all night waiting for an adventure to break it down while they play dice. True there may be guards in the room but they would be rotated out. Maybe the really good goblin is in the potty or he's off taking a snooze while his clumsy cousin is either somewhere near the post or is off doing who knows what instead of his job. Some of that is environmental and some of that is working up some individuals for the environment but it is all related and we will explore all of it as we go through these exercises.

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  4. It'll be interesting to see where it goes. Cool stuff!

    Capcha: Expet. Well, that ties in nicely, doesn't it?

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