When I do my thinking for this project, it’s mostly away from my reference materials. I mean, I carry around most of my reference materials in my head, but I can’t begin to explain how valuable it is to stare at The Settlers of Catan board and count the hexagons for wood, clay, sheep, and whatever. Mind you, I’m not complaining, it’s just that a lot of thought happens “away” — for good or for ill.

So, I’m thinking about the Exploration/Investigation Challenge, and Diablo 2 comes to mind. Suddenly, I have this terrible (or wonderful) headache (not an actual headache), which slaps me upside the head (not literally) and tells me that I’ve created zones. I’m shaking my head now (literally) and trying to explain to myself that I already knew this.

Ah yes, I say to myself, but how did you know it? And what are you going to do with that knowledge? I guess I started putting together the ideas of Diablo 2’s Rogue’s Camp and Guild Wars’s outposts, and fitting the Blood Moor and Cold Plains in between Ashford Abbey and Fort Ranik. Where does The Den of Evil fit in there?

Based on the Challenges I’ve presented thus far, I have a framework for adventuring that works in a roughly circular (more triangular, … maybe oblong) manner.

A. Expedition Challenges (town, road, or wild)
> Travel Encounters (move + encounter, or encounter + move)

1. Exploration Challenges (wild only)
> Nested Challenges (combat, mystery, et cetera)

2. Investigation Challenges (town only)
> Nested Challenges (see previous)

3. Negotiation Challenges (mostly in-town)
> Nested Challenges (as before)

4. Creation Challenges (mostly in-town)
> Nested Challenges (yet again)

B. Divination Challenges (any old place)
> Nested Challenges (just guess)

I’ve set the complexity of most of these Challenges at two (six successes), because that’s the minimum really needed to create an “arc.” Make a couple checks during the opening, a couple in the mid-game, and a couple in the endgame. That’s a nice curvy arc. Give it a little stylistic skew by having more in the beginning, middle, or end.

So, that means a solo character can reasonably expect to hit the road once, maybe twice (for 20-40% of their first level), then go on one, let’s say two, explorations in the wild (another 20-40% of their first level), and then they go for their Divination, which will net them the experience they need to cap off first level. 30-40 dice rolls.

That’s huge, actually. I’ve come up with a basic pattern to advance a single character from one level to the next. It takes a minimum of about thirty dice rolls, unless you’re really lucky, and probably doesn’t take more than about forty, unless you’re really unlucky. Now, it might not be a very interesting adventuring career, but still…

The thing is, that’s the repetition of the game at its core. You make about a dozen Survival checks, then about a dozen Perception checks, and then half a dozen Intuition checks. If you’re a woodsy type, or a mystic, you’ll be pretty awesome at this, but also probably very alone. Also, I haven’t worked out factions yet.

None of these figures take re-rolls or partial successes into account, nor the deterioration represented by the many conditions you’re going to be fighting against. Eventually, you’ll have to head back to town, and eventually, the Invasion will come. I just need to play with the math and figure out when, and how to make it sooner.