A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer



Design Considerations for Seyvoth Manor

So development continues on A Night in Seyvoth Manor... I'm not 100% sure if it'll be ready by Halloween but I'm doing my damnest to get it done in time. And the first release will probably be for 4E only; I can't imagine myself having the time to convert it to other game systems before Halloween, but I do intend to convert it to at least Pathfinder/DnD 3.5e.

From the beginning I intended this to be a moderately-sized campaign but still be playable in a single session, so I've been using some of the Fourthcore design philosophies made famous by Sersa at Save Versus Death. The module is not encounter heavy - to be honest, I can only think of three or four required encounters right now and they're not all that big - and focuses on exploration and Zork-like acquisition of certain items needed to advance. In and around that there are many ways to die, or at least suffer a great deal of pain.

My only hesitation in calling it a true "fourthcore" module is that one of the tenets in 4C is that it be "bleak". Allow me to quote from the "What is Fourthcore?" page on Save Versus Death:

The world in which fourthcore adventures take place is an unhappy one. Tyrants stoke the flames of civilization with the ashes of criminals, rebels, and the many who have succumbed to the ravages of plague and war. Priests offer the blood of heretics and infidels to violent, jealous gods. All that lurks in the darkness between empires loathes humanity, and the ‘heroes’ that venture out to face such threats are little more than murderers, zealots, and privateers. Alignment is a meaningless concept and thus is not used in fourthcore.

My design goals in this module is to emphasize some of the tropes in your typical Halloween: a haunted mansion with some very bad things in it (don't want to give too many spoilers!). It's not a pleasant place by far, but there are no demons, tormented souls writing in fire or priests bathed in the blood of infidels. And, in an indirect sort of way, I do use alignment to some degree.

Secondly, I don't know if I'm "over the top" enough. Again, quoting SVD:

Fourthcore adventures are brought to life with extravagant threats and adventure sites that are both evocative and gruesome. Realism and coherency are pushed aside in favor of the outrageous, entertaining, and chaotic.

"Entertaining"? Maybe. "Outrageous" and "chaotic"? I don't think I'm quite there.

Beyond those issues, I'm using the same design style. Things hit hard, and there is most definitely the possibility of death in the air (even though I don't think I've written a "save or die" situation yet). There will be treasure cards, but I'm questioning whether I'll make rumor cards or not. And there isn't a time limit, but bad things will happen if you take too long.

So what do I call this thing? It might be designed with some of the same guidelines, but in my opinion it's definitely not a fourthcore module. I do not want to weaken the brand name that is 4C by billing my product as a part of it.

The only thing I can think of is referring to it as a "challenge" adventure, along the same token as Revenge of the Kobolds. Of course I will give Sersa V. credit where credit is due, but as much as I'd love to be part of the 4C movement I don't think I'm at that level just yet, so I'll leave the "fourthcore" name to those that have earned its use and I'll continue to do my own thing.

"A Night in Seyvoth Manor is a Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition challenge adventure made for a party of 6th level characters"... Yeah, guess that'll do.

In the meantime, I've been dropping some teasers through Twitter (@BrainClouds)... I am having a lot of fun with it, so it's hard for me to keep quiet about it. In any event, stay tuned for more!