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Glittering Marches - Devlog 1

20 April 2021

Glittering Marches - Devlog 1

Today, I’m announcing my newest project, the Glittering Marches. It’s a multimedia project, the first piece is a video game, that centers around a new world build.

WAGER

Back in 2011, my good friend, Ben, launched a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I’ll be forever grateful to Marc for letting me know that there was a campaign starting and Ben for letting me in as a late addition to a large table.1 Partially because it restarted my languished D&D hobby2, but mostly because it is that shared love of RPGs that has given me another lifelong friend in Ben.

As tales of our weekly adventures leaked out into our larger friend circle, it became apparent that there was more than enough interest for another campaign to start. I grabbed my D&D 3.5 books, scoured the internet, and opened my doors to a West Marches style game titled WAGER (Western Aetheria Guilde of Exploration and Recovery). Memorial Day weekend saw the arrival of over a dozen players join for some adventuring. While it was fun and I have some great memories from the sessions, it ended up being too much. Too many players, too much prep, and also working a full-time job. So, I set WAGER aside and replaced it with Awakening, but the allure of a West Marches game would always remain.

Campaign Idea

After wrapping up my Department of Collections campaign, I was sure that I wouldn’t running a D&D game immediately, but I expected that when it was time to revisit a D&D, I’d want a setting of my own creation again. ] A few posts from r/DnDBehindTheScreen had inspired me. First was a post on humanoid evolution. My wife is a biologist and building a world around evolution felt like an interesting pitch to separate it from most high fantasy worlds. Second was a post on dragon territory. I love dragons. Treskri, WAGER, and Awakening are built around this love. So, I started gathering ideas and themes for my new world.

  • Evolution instead of Creation.
  • Gods are powered by belief.
  • Prevalent low level magic.
  • Technological advances because of magic.
  • Cultural consistency.
  • Dragons.

Ask my friends and players, they would probably agree that this sounds like a world I would build. Department of Collection ended a few months before my wedding and someone else was going to take over DMing the group for a bit. I did end up playing in the follow-up campaign and a bit of the one after that, but I didn’t ever get back to this campaign idea. Instead I ran Tomb of Annihilation, Lost Mine of Phandelver, Dragon Heist (twice), and Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

Oak

As my college friends and I left Gainesville for other opportunities, we transitioned to an online tabletop Roll20. For the most part, Roll20 has been good to us. And we’ve been good to them. I’ve paid for a subscription since we started using it, and I’ve bought the official D&D adventures for any that I’ve run on the platform. But my constant struggle has been performance. Being a javascript webapp it feels slow and bloated and part of that is the framework (or lack of) that it’s built upon. Other parts of it are the high resolution images.

Now, I’m a software developer and like any sufficiently competent individual, I knew I could do better. Ben3 agreed. And so, in September 2019, we began our attempt at building a new native virtual tabletop application. It was ambitious to say the least. We had grand designs on an improved player and game master experience. Stuff like scripted traps, stairs, and teleport squares. Call-for-save (and auto-rolls), token freeze (for when characters hit a trigger), and, of course, multi-platform, native support for high performance. I also thought about single player mode where the adventure could be scripted to run completely GM-less.

We spent a few months iterating on it, we had a grid, maps, tokens, handouts, game saves, and more. It was a good prototype. We were building out the UI library after struggling with DearImgui. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Since then we’ve made a few more changes, but it was no longer a sustained effort by both of us. However, some of the grand ideas inspired me to create Glittering Marches.

Golden Marches

Last year, at the beginning of the pandemic4, I was feeling like a fresh D&D game would help us get through an unknown number of months of isolation. I have a lot of friends and family that I want to play D&D with, so this precluded picking up another official adventure unless I was willing to run multiple groups at the same time. Instead, I decided to revisit the open table West Marches concept in Treskri. I did another time jump and figured I’d have the players explore the world of Treskri after several centuries and the fall of the nations of Awakening. I (prematurely) announced that I’d be starting a new open table campaign and even pulled off an initial information session with some character creation. I created a few dungeons with my wife, laid out a world map, but in the end the pandemic sapped most of my creative energies and it ended up shelved indefinitely.

Saint’s Tomb

A few weeks after I announced the Golden Marches campaign, a post on r/dndnext caught my eye. An enterprising individual had created a solo html D&D game called The Saint’s Tomb. I never got around to playing it, but it definitely resonated with some of my ideas around Oak. The author was kind enough to also share how he put it together.

Glittering Marches

Fast-forward a year of pandemic, I’ve started reading again and watching movies. I’m feeling better and thinking I want to make something new. I’ve always wanted to make video games. I’ve even made a few in teams5 for the Ludum Dare compo, Intire, Renfield Hearts, Meownster, and Shemeowbi. While stressful, they were great learning experiences and generally good times. So, I decide to get back into the game. Oak is written in C# and .NET Core, my most proficient language and platform. Typescript and React being a close second. Despite the ubiquitousness of the web, I’m still not comfortable writing a game in Javascript. I also want to branch out and try something outside my comfort zone and learn a new language. For the past few years, I’ve heard great things about Rust and it seems to have everything a game developer would want from a language. The biggest concern is a lack of a mature game engine. But there are a few engines growing. Bevy caught my eye and is what I’ve decided to use.

Glittering Marches is going to be a synthesis of all these various inspirations. And it is going to be a video game first, but I’ll likely continue building the lore of the world out for future campaigns and fiction. Stay tuned for the next post which will lay out my goals for the Glittering Marches prototype.


  1. It’s funny, on the one hand, I don’t think I’d take 7 players again. And yet, my normal group is around 6 players.
  2. I had tried to run a game when I arrived in Gainesville, but it lasted only a couple sessions before everyone got too busy.
  3. Really our entire gaming group.
  4. 18 March 2020
  5. AFlatMiner Studios and Quadnozzle


James Abels


    

Father & Husband. Developer. Millennial. Creative. Game Master. Movie Lover. Adoptee. Baltimore Orioles.

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