Best laid out non-dungeon module?

Beoric

8, 8, I forget what is for
Solved by only locking myself away for 6.5 hrs!

I'm going to take a crack at this Big Night Out thing myself and report back. I'm going to split it into a Point Crawl for people who want to play it out and a table for people who just want to take a roll at the wheel of fortune. I get it, the point of the the thing is to rationalize the old-school expenditure of GP for XP between adventures, but there need to be more substantial results for the activity.
How much detail are you planning on putting into the not-yet-in-trouble phase? I think by analogy the "choosing a bar/drinking partners/gambling partners/other partners and early drinking/gambling/othering phase of the evening is begging to be summarized in some fashion. Things don't really get interesting until you get to an "encounter" (broadly speaking, using the Scott Rehm definition) and you start encountering social or violent resistance.
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
My first crack at it turned into the kind of Skill Challenge porn PF is (possibly justifiably?) reviled for. Trying to map out the essentially fluid nature of a wild night out is rapidly getting out of hand.
I took what I had though and started mapping a point crawl with defined decision points like; you've all drunk past the point of a regular night out, you're feeling good and the place is filling up. You can: 1) Attempt to win friends and influence people (with whatever means at your disposal); 2) Drink More; 3) Gather Information regarding where to find activities that interest drunk-you (Entertainment/Gambling/Drugs/Sex etc.); 4) Move on to the next place. Each of these leads to a variety of Events, Activities and NPC's each with its own rewards and risks. As the PC's drink more, more things randomly happen to them (they get to roll) as their decision tree starts to narrow down to pugnacious/hungry/horny/hallucinating. As long as none of the hooks, rumours, alliances/enmities that result are essential it's fine. It has to be kept pretty loose.
 

squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
I think it might be better (but less generic) if the comings-and-goings of the city are just well laid out---then the DM can just roll on a simple and vague inspirational table (a la Tome of Adventure Design or the Nocturnal Table) and decide with pieces of the city-mosaic best align with the random result/player's actions. Anything else might feel a bit forced or mechanical.
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
I think it might be better (but less generic) if the comings-and-goings of the city are just well laid out---then the DM can just roll on a simple and vague inspirational table (a la Tome of Adventure Design or the Nocturnal Table) and decide with pieces of the city-mosaic best align with the random result/player's actions. Anything else might feel a bit forced or mechanical.
I may be misinterpreting, but what I'm hearing is you're suggesting a sort of hand-wave to the actual background activity and play-on like the usual city crawl with maybe some minor stat alterations for drunkenness? Like; 'you go out drinking here are some things you encounter over the course of the evening.'
If that is the case, that is definitely an easier way to do things and cleaner if I want to insert a specific plot-hook or NPC.
I guess what I'm aiming for though, is a semi-mapped decision tree where the PC's initial choices shape the night and inform the activities, events and NPC's that become available to them so that their choices/luck shapes the world they wake up to the next day. I'm thinking of it in terms of a dungeon rather than an overland adventure.

The Nocturnal Table is pretty badass though. Liked it so much, I ordered a hardcopy. The Mother of All Encounter Tables is no slouch either.
 

squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
That's it to my thinking---not that I ever feel like I'm ever getting the full "bang" out of my captial city. A night out just gets you tangled up with the city denizens in a slightly amplified way because the rats come out of their holes at night.

The real trick is getting the city activities (subplots) clearly laid out so the DM can access them for adventure/carousing fodder. Then, if you need a random element, you roll on a customized table as to who/what they bump into.

Seriously, I'd love to see how Gygax ran Greyhawk City (or Melan does his City of Vultures). My original group generally hand-waived city activities (unless it was an in-dungeon city---which were special). That means I've been "winging it" without a blueprint for my home campaign.

Forgive me if I am speaking past the topic (I am honestly not sure if I understand what y'all are looking for/doing).

What I have done (labor intensive) is:
a) reduced the size of the Capital City by a factor of 10 (i.e. 2000-3000 inhabitants)
b) mapped all the building exteriors
c) mini-keyed a large number of the major shops trying to add an NPC name and some flavor (a la CSIO)
d) interior mapped & keyed some of the major locals/action-points, e.g. church, palace, main inns, jailhouse, witch's cottage, wizard's guild, military academy, gate houses, etc. (...and yes Byrce, parts of the darn sewers!)
e) written a few historical notes and city/campaign-wide plots, and listed who's in which faction/sub-group by mapping out a chain-of-command (whom reports to whom)

In the process of doing all that, the NPC's and their various motives started to emerge. That way, I at least have a cast of "extras" I can throw that the party when I think it fits the situation.

(...of course, all this is "half baked" and needs more time and work than I generally have available.)

In truth, where I fall down, is that I DON'T generally throw much at the party because when they get into the city they literally "go to town" --- visiting all sort of people/places they already know and making little plans. Sometimes they (and I honestly just don't get this---Generation Gap?) GO SOMEPLACE JUST TO TELL AN NPC WHAT THEY'VE BEEN UP TO SEE HOW THEY REACT TO THE NEWS?!?!

So basically, they are so active in-city, I become very re-active as a DM. My dissatisfaction with my DM skills in that case---similar to my issues when they were in the Palace---is that I don't feel that they get a sense of the hustle-and-bustle of a populated area.

Also, the organization of all the city-mess is flat, i.e. there's a lot of info there but it's not indexed really, except in my head (since I created it). The map provide structure...but after that...ugh!

Again: Anyone who feels like they've "nailed" running city adventures, I'd love to hear their methods---just so long as it's not "improv heavy" as to me that's really a non-system and not much help.

Am I even on topic?

EDIT: Maybe the tables looks like this:
TABLE 1 - What are you doing? ---> roll on appropriate subtable(s), maybe even combine two random results
SUBTABLES - Who/what you might bump into and the page # of where to find more info.

Sort of a situationally appropriate set of Wandering Monster (sub)tables.
 
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DangerousPuhson

So ... slow work day? Every day?
just so long as it's not "improv heavy" as to me that's really a non-system and not much help
Maybe if you'd bother to actually learn the techniques.

But then that would be a "change", and we all know how squeen feels about change...
 

Malrex

So ... slow work day? Every day?
In truth, where I fall down, is that I DON'T generally throw much at the party because when they get into the city they literally "go to town" --- visiting all sort of people/places they already know and making little plans. Sometimes they (and I honestly just don't get this---Generation Gap?) GO SOMEPLACE JUST TO TELL AN NPC WHAT THEY'VE BEEN UP TO SEE HOW THEY REACT TO THE NEWS?!?!

So basically, they are so active in-city, I become very re-active as a DM. My dissatisfaction with my DM skills in that case---similar to my issues when they were in the Palace---is that I don't feel that they get a sense of the hustle-and-bustle of a populated area.
Bolded for emphasis--I do the opposite.
Having the party run around wild in the city always terrified me...they all split up, go in separate directions, etc.
So I throw as much at them as I possibly can, because then they create their own 'walls'. Walking down the street, suddenly they overhear 5 rumors--3 of those are adventure hooks, see a beggar encouraging a young boy into an alley, guards arresting someone, and a street merchant who just won't leave them alone as he tries to sell his oranges.

This may cause the players to become like a deer in headlights (at least mine did). Unsure of what to do. GOOD! Cause now they will latch onto something--a rumor or a adventure hook and try to focus on that. But then I keep badgering them with new rumors or new adventure hooks. They might be interested, but they wave it away as they focus on the hook they chose because they don't like the feeling of being overwhelmed (and I would rather the players feel overwhelmed, then me)...hence they form their 'dungeon walls' in the city and things become much easier for me. Like walls in a dungeon, a city adventure's walls is information in my opinion.

Hard part is having all the stuff you throw at them prepped and organized. Cities can quickly feel like mega-dungeons.
 

squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
@Malrex: I actually wrote that with you in mind. Glad you jumped in. You've said as much before and I think about it often. I'm going to try leaning harder in that direction.
 

Beoric

8, 8, I forget what is for
My first crack at it turned into the kind of Skill Challenge porn PF is (possibly justifiably?) reviled for.
Hmm, any way you can post a summary of this mechanic on the Mechanics Cross-Pollination Thread? I'm curious show the PF mechanic compares to the (abysmal) 4e skill challenge mechanic.

I may be misinterpreting, but what I'm hearing is you're suggesting a sort of hand-wave to the actual background activity and play-on like the usual city crawl with maybe some minor stat alterations for drunkenness? Like; 'you go out drinking here are some things you encounter over the course of the evening.'
That is close to what I was thinking, although I am shifting my thinking a bit. I am now wondering if it might not be better to create a few establishments with a couple of things to do/people to meet in each, maybe in different neighbourhoods. Give each a little flavour so you have enough on an idea in your head to improvise.

So they pick the evening they want, go where they want, summarize what they are doing when they get there (no playing out gambling or small talk, just get them to state their actions) and based on where they are and what they do or who they talk to they (a) trigger a meaningful social or combat encounter, which cam be improvised based on what they do and what's going on in the bar, (b) trigger some sort of skill or event check, like for success in gambling or possible encounters for walking home though the bad part of town, which can be improvised using existing skill or random encounter mechanics, or (c) trigger no significant event unless they change the plan for the evening.

The more I see people talking about their ideas for random event tables, the less it seems to me like they would function well in play. Which is why I'm leaning towards The Alexandrian style prepping of situations.
 

DangerousPuhson

So ... slow work day? Every day?
Flowchart, folks. Sounds like you guys need flowcharts... where the starting points cover all the major downtime activities a party would do in a city, and the outcome "gates" are roll guided, pre-set outcomes listed in a brief evocative index. Filter the party through and spit them out on the other end - easy process, and swift to boot (minus the initial seeding prep).
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
@The1True : With regards to what I posted above---is that how you run cities too?
When I run Sigil, I take copious notes like I'm studying for a Geography exam, so I have as much memorized as possible, which sounds pretty similar to what you're saying about having everything onboarded in memory (because in your case, you created it).
Then, like Malrex, I present a limited smorgasbord of activities which, like he says, serves to keep the PC's boxed in, but also saves them from decision paralysis. I usually have a basic tree plotted out for key activities and timelines for key events set in motion. The timelines help to remind me to remind the players of ongoing events if they get off track or distracted.
While they're traveling through the city, I have encounter tables which like DP, I drop in where appropriate and improvise results which often circle back nicely to the ongoing central plot or feed neatly into future events.
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
So they pick the evening they want, go where they want, summarize what they are doing when they get there (no playing out gambling or small talk, just get them to state their actions) and based on where they are and what they do or who they talk to they (a) trigger a meaningful social or combat encounter, which cam be improvised based on what they do and what's going on in the bar, (b) trigger some sort of skill or event check, like for success in gambling or possible encounters for walking home though the bad part of town, which can be improvised using existing skill or random encounter mechanics, or (c) trigger no significant event unless they change the plan for the evening.
This this this!
I'll spare you the rough draft. There was a lot of multiple Fort Saves to see when you hit Stage 1/2/3 of Inebriation etc. I was patching together rules and it was clunky. I started doing what you're talking about above, but left it loose so I don't fall in love with anything and try to railroad the PC's into it. I'll probably improvise Saves/Skill/Ability checks once activity/event/interaction to save myself the agony of finding written rules for every possible eventuality. My buddies and I used to wear old t-shirts on our annual Himmelfaehrt bar crawl and keep a running tally of drinks on the shirt with marker - I'll probably keep track of that on the characters' icons in Roll20 and let that number affect their dice rolls.
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Flowchart, folks. Sounds like you guys need flowcharts... where the starting points cover all the major downtime activities a party would do in a city, and the outcome "gates" are roll guided, pre-set outcomes listed in a brief evocative index. Filter the party through and spit them out on the other end - easy process, and swift to boot (minus the initial seeding prep).
I would be very interested to see an example!
 

squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
That is close to what I was thinking, although I am shifting my thinking a bit. I am now wondering if it might not be better to create a few establishments with a couple of things to do/people to meet in each, maybe in different neighbourhoods. Give each a little flavour so you have enough on an idea in your head to improvise.
I have 3 tavern/inns in my city redux. The largest and best known, the Mountain Bear, is where the military heroes and city guard hang out. Upscale, safe, big, expensive. Another smaller "rival" bar (still uptown) where the ones who are pissed about something that happened in the Mountain Bear go (and also where the serious drinkers hide out to over-indulge after hitting the MB). Finally there's a fisherman's tavern, Cap'n Mooneye's, near the wharves---that's more low-class, but also where the main secret society that are working against the doppleganger King have their headquarters.

I have a list of NPCs from the other parts of the city that visits each. The players go in the first time and not much happens, they get the lay of the land---and I think they aren't paying attention. Maybe they just get a room. Then, at some later time, perhaps after leaving and returning to the city, they suddenly have a reason to talk to one of the NPCs they know hang out in the locale---then they return with purpose and I try my best to make it a bit non-linear...and wish I did more, i.e. has prep'd more twists/turns/non-sequiturs. It's for the later, the non-sequiturs, that I want some better tables.

So they pick the evening they want, go where they want, summarize what they are doing when they get there (no playing out gambling or small talk, just get them to state their actions) and based on where they are and what they do or who they talk to they (a) trigger a meaningful social or combat encounter, which cam be improvised based on what they do and what's going on in the bar, (b) trigger some sort of skill or event check, like for success in gambling or possible encounters for walking home though the bad part of town, which can be improvised using existing skill or random encounter mechanics, or (c) trigger no significant event unless they change the plan for the evening.

The more I see people talking about their ideas for random event tables, the less it seems to me like they would function well in play. Which is why I'm leaning towards The Alexandrian style prepping of situations.
This this this!
I keep feeling like I am missing something. This is what I'm doing and it works alright, but also it sounds like you both were struggling with something that I can't put my finger on. Is there something about the modern game that makes this difficult? I remember that happening in another thread---me thinking "what are we talking about" and it ended being something that had come and gone during my D&D cold-sleep. I think it was one of the Alexanderian posts on railroad plots that Beoric or TS said had "changed they way they played" but felt like Mom and Apple Pie talk. This feels like that. I am just not understanding something here, so there are these odd interjections (like the two I just quoted from you both) that give the impression that something was revealed/resolved, but instead I feel like the conversation just spiraled back on itself and we've been all saying exactly the same thing since the very beginning.

Honestly, it sounds like you are all doing this, and then each randomly says "Eureka! I should start doing this!".

I am terrible confused. Where's TS to grogsplain it all to me?
 
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