Sunday, April 29, 2012

Random Thoughts - or, I'm too lazy to think up a more clever title.

I see I had a number of new readers over the past few days. I just want to say welcome, to you and to everyone else who has stopped in here whether it was the past few days or months ago. I've been remiss in my duties as a host!

And thanks to Scott over at Trollish Delver for sending a number of you over my way. USR is a great system and if you haven't tried it out yet, I hope my write-ups encourage you to do it! It's free, so you have nothing to lose. If you're a wargamer, don't overlook it because it's an RPG - it gave me a really fun miniatures skirmish.

Speaking of hosting duties, we hosted Lady Shadowmoss's LARP friends last evening for their regular re-cap party. They are all in-game connected and the party is at least partly in-game (although, thankfully, no one shows up in costume or talks in the way I imagine they talk at the actual game) as they share what their experiences were at the last event. I sit there and listen while I man the baby-monitor. I find their stories amusing, but more importantly, they get me totally fired up to play my own games on the tabletop.

So, tonight, I'll be seeing if I can use the old Six Gun Sound rules from THW for a sci-fi skirmish. I liked these rules years ago when I first started gaming (the only THW set that I've found really fun and immersive at that), we'll see how they do with only a very loose adaptation to a different setting.

Tomorrow's lunch break should see a return to USR and Blarg's return to the village. I've got nothing in mind, so I'll be curious to see what happens.

I'll also finish up priming the Revell WWII USMC so that in May, I can start painting them.

And, for those who remember it, my Helvetica campaign is not forgotten - I think I finally have the next (and potentially last) encounter figured out. I'm hopeful that will get on the table sometime soon.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Another Solo Unbelievably Simple Role-playing Dungeon Crawl

A few posts back I mentioned I started another dungeon crawl with some characters generated using Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying. I've been playing here and there in odd moments during lunch and even waiting in my car to meet Lady Shadowmoss at the gym. Today, I exited the dungeon with nearly a TPK (the characters are detailed below the image as well as showing how I handled the Cleric's spells).

Only the fighter, Blarg, and the torch bearer made it out alive and even then, Blarg was down to 1 HP. His armor kept him from biting it in the dungeon and only a Cure Light Wounds (from the cleric before he was taken down) prevented the torch bearer from becoming a casualty. The worst part? Not a single coin was found, gold or otherwise. They did find a finely woven tunic of a kind not worn in this region worth something perhaps, but it raised some questions as to what it was doing there.

They also discovered what appeared to be a map of the area indicating a village and various trade routes. But they couldn't discern what it might be for.

Whether or not I'll send Blarg back in, I haven't decided. I sent the party in to search for a creature that's been killing livestock and had killed at least one of the local villagers but now there's possibly two more threads to follow.

Here's the map, generated on the fly using my No-Budget No-Frills Pencil and Paper d12 Dungeon Generator:

Behold the Power of the No-frills No-budget Pencil and Paper d12 Dungeon Generator!

Room 5 was a real bugger.

First the party encountered some kobolds there, and they surrendered after the first one was killed. The party opted to leave them and continue searching, on the way back to the room, the kobolds were all dead and there were some battle-crazed gnomes standing over them! A fight broke out and only ended when the last gnome standing surrendered. The party let HIM go too, and watched him run out the door in the north wall, presumably towards the steps down. 

While they were searching the bodies for loot, skeleton warriors attacked them, entering through the door to the west.

Finally, on his way out of the dungeon, Blarg and Reginald the Frail, Jr. were set upon by three more skeletons in the same room! The pile of bodies in that room is ridiculous!

***** the cast *****

The characters (3 standard fantasy RPG archetypes):

Blarg, Fighter
Action d10, Wits d8, Ego d6 HP 14
Swordsmanship (action +2), Smashing doors (action + 2), lifting heavy things (action + 2)
Armor: plate (-3), shield (-1) (that means he can ignore the first 4 points of damage each time he's hit)

Nimbles, Thief
Action d10, Wits d8, Ego d6, HP 9
Detect traps (Wits +2), Disarm Traps (Wits+2) : both are rolled against trap's difficulty, Pick locks (Action +2) (doors typically are hard difficulty)
Armor: leather (-1)

Father O'Maley, Cleric
Action d8, Wits d6, Ego d10 HP 13
Cure Light Wounds (Ego + 2) - roll against recipient's ego. If higher than recipient, recipient receives 1d6 HP, if lower, no effect. Can use once per recipient per game day.
Turn Undead (Ego+2). - roll against each target undead's Ego in LOS. If target loses, is turned otherwise no effect.
Protection (Ego +2) - roll against target Ego (including self), if success, target gains an armor bonus of -1 per level of spell (i.e. Ego+2 = -1, Ego+3 = -2, etc).


For the hirelings, as they are just normal humans and not adventurers, I opted to use dice with less sides for their attributes. I found this was also effective for kobolds, who in D&D b/x are 1/2 HD each.

Reginald the Frail, Jr., torch bearer
Action d6, Wits d3, Ego d4 HP 6
farmhand (action +2)

Moose Smythe, Porter
Action d6, Wits d4, Ego d3 HP 8
bar room brawler (Action +2)

I had back stories for everyone, generated from various random lists. Unfortunately, I can't read my own handwriting!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thoughts on USE ME 001: 15mm Sci Fi Rules

As noted previously, I ran through a couple of games (4 or 5) of USE ME 001 Sci-Fi rules with the same scenario I've been using to test other rules(see USR and FUBAR  thoughts).

I admit, when I first purchased USE ME, I was somewhat disappointed by the writing and was reluctant to even finish reading it let alone try the rules. Still, it has gotten some love over on Drop Ship Horizon and I trust that they know sci-fi better than i do, so I gave it a go.

First I should correct my earlier assertion that it's similar to FUBAR in scope. According to the authors, USE ME functions both at the individual character scale but can also handle activation by squads- the latter being recommended for larger games. This is exactly what I'm looking for (if you consider 10 figures a larger game), so, so far so good. However, I thought the same for FUBAR and it took a bit of work to make it fit the 3-a-side game I'm using for my first test. Whereas FUBAR works with modification and then not entirely satisfactory, I'm happy to note that USE ME does indeed handle individual characters without any rules massaging required.

No set of rules is perfect, and there were two issues I encountered while playing that I noted:

First, the initiative system in USE ME works well when each side has mixed Elans and can provide some tension, which as a solo gamer I find necessary to have a satisfactory gaming experience. If, as I did in some of my tests, you have one side that has one Elan for all characters (let's say 4) and the other, a higher Elan (let's say 5), for all characters, well, you can skip the initiative roll entirely as it has no effect on the game and it breaks down into a very predictable IGO-UGO situation.

Second, with respect to armor, it is handled in a  rather unexpectedly broad manner. Whereas in role-playing lite systems like Risus or Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying, I can easily create gradations of armor, and everybody's favorite 1-page freebie, FUBAR, includes armor grades both in the standard and generic Sci-Fi rules, all infantry-worn armor in USE ME gives the same +1 to the defense roll. Even Chain Reaction 1 allows for armor differences!

Perhaps the game is geared towards low tech near-future combat where at most a flak jacket/SWAT armor is worn? It's easy enough to modify this part of the game, but allowing for any kind of granularity here means you should probably take a look at the other offensive and defensive bonuses and make sure you don't suddenly throw combat out of whack. In play, I found the generic +1 works well enough for me, at least for now, but it does seem like something that would be found in a set of sci-fi rules.

One thing others have pointed out in reviews, there is no attempt to detail close combat weapons or attacks. You could of course add this in yourself if it matters to you, but in my test games, melee had a nice back and forth feel, often neither side gaining the upper hand and then all of the sudden, a kill result. So, I see no reason to modify them myself. Indeed, melee seemed particularly deadly in my test games - something to remember if you're using USE ME for a campaign.

As I intend to play games with just 3-5 figures aside, and possibly using the same characters in linked scenarios, the key to making these games interesting from my point of view, is that characters can't be easily killed by one shot. After all , if one side is eliminated, the possibility of linking to a follow up game is eliminated. If rules allow one-shot kills, it should take some doing and a confluence of luck for the shooter and bad decisions on my part for the target.

Hit Points or a similar mechanism are the most obvious ways to extend the staying power of troops on the table but there comes a point where managing Hit Points bogs down the game (around 10 figures is my personal max). USE ME instead focuses on degrees of damage -  figures that are hit can suffer no effect, or be winged,  struck or killed. This gives a hit point-like feel as successive hits move a figure to the next worse status, while allowing a greater possibility of one hit taking down a figure as the range closes.  This status also allowed me to think about whether or not I wanted to commit a figure to combat, to have them hunker down, etc. Any time a game mechanism forces me to consider the implications of a tactical decision for a legitimate reason (i.e. it's not a rules flaw), I consider it a good thing.

Overall, my USE ME games played a little faster than I am looking for but not enough that I would rule them out of contention for these very small skirmishes. That said, for a campaign or series of linked scenarios with just a few figures on one or both sides, I would use the autofix, the hero and maybe even create a medic unique action to help extend the lives of characters and the length of a given game.

Needless to say I see myself turning to USE ME regularly. I think the PDF was something like $5 which is a steal for what you get: complete fun, fast rules for 1:1 skirmish from a few figures to several squads per side with vehicles and you get solo and campaign rules included. The rules are simple and fun and they don't get in the way of enjoying the game. I like the system so much, I'm considering buying the WWII variant to see what it has to offer! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Download Available and Some Recent Acquisitions

I've put up a download link at the top of the page. There you'll find a link to view the latest version of the Official Tabletop Diversions No-Budget No-Frills Pencil and Paper d12 Dungeon Generator. It's a pdf on GoogleDocs DropBox **edited 8/22/12 If you're using Chrome, you may need to right-click the link and save the file. It seems to work fine in IE**

This way, I don't have to keep editing the original post and it's easier to print out too.

and, since the last couple of posts have been devoid of eye-candy, this arrived in my mailbox today:

Old School
I stumbled on this on ebay one day where it was going for around $1.50. I decided to bid on a whim and won it for around $2.00. With shipping from England, it came to about $8 and still a good deal.

And a couple of weeks ago I got a really good deal on these two:

What would we do without Osprey?

Peter the Great's Army 1: Infantry has been fairly hard to find at a price I consider reasonable so I was pretty excited about this. I picked up the Tarawa book to go with my Guadalcanal book in helping me come up with scenarios for the Pacific Theater island fighting I have planned.

Bits and Bobs

This is just a general post about some of what I've gotten into in the last few days/this past weekend:

  • Played through test games with USE ME Sci-Fi and several with CR1 with some of the reactions taken from MG-42. The former was surprisingly fun and the latter an epic fail. More on both later this week.
  • Started a dungeon crawl -3 main characters and 2 hirelings - using Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying and D&D B/X, supplemented with Mythic, Rory's Story Cubes and my own d12 dungeon generator.
  • Lady Shadowmoss and I hosted our monthly game night on Friday evening. As with the last session, this one was socializing punctuated by a few turns of Exalted. Just as we were about to go after the big bad guy, half of our group went off on conversational tangents never to return to gaming, not realizing that we hadn't actually resolved the whole point of why we had set out on this quest. And this, my friends, is why I game solo 98% of the time.
  • Finally finished cleaning the mold lines off of my 1:72 USMC and got them washed. Now going back and taking off anything I missed and then priming. Looks like at best, I'll get maybe four or eight painted this month.
  • Made a couple of foam figure storage trays with some open cell foam backed by craft foam. The lesson learned is that I'm a danger to myself when wielding a hobby knife. 
  • Booked our vacation for later in the summer. We'll be going to the beach again this year. Last year, Lady Shadowmoss handled the gaming portion of our evenings and we played several hands of Magic. We were supposed to play some Warhammer Fantasy but that never materialized and as she was pregnant, I wasn't going to lodge any kind of complaint. This year, I have taken it upon myself to host the RPG portion of our evenings and I'm already working on ideas.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Thoughts on FUBAR

Last night, using the same setup and scenario found in my post for USR, I played a proper game of FUBAR with 3 single figure units per side. The rebels were ranked as Green, while the Riflethings were rated as Seasoned. Unfortunately, my camera batteries are dead and I didn't think to grab my cell phone, so not even poor quality pics.

Game play was quick. All of the points I made about FUBAR before apply - although I ran up against some of the limitations imposed by the 1 page medium that had not occurred in my original tests.

For one, I couldn't find anything in the rules about two figures attacking one in close combat.

I decided to allow the defender to defend against both - but they could only attack one of them. So if I rolled and the defender won both, only one attacker would be removed.

The rules also indicate that Suppressed figures can fight in hand to hand after the results of non-Suppressed combatants have been resolved. I found this puzzling in play, but now that I think it over, I take that to mean that if figure A attacks Figure B and Figure B is suppressed, Figure A gets an unopposed attack. If A hits and B's armor does not absorb the hit, that's that. If A does not score any damage and B still stands, B will get to attack A only after all other melee combats are finished (say between C & D and E & F, all of whom are not suppressed).

Finally, no or lightly armored Green characters will very rarely survive a hit (after any armor saves) when using my save vs. Suppress value option discussed in my previous FUBAR post.

That was fine during my test situations and would be fine in a one-off game, but for a go-to set of rules for some kind of linked-scenario campaign, this wouldn't work for me. So, using the Save to Suppress option works, but it depends on the kind of game you want.

An alternative is to allow a character to take the suppress result automatically for a single unabsorbed hit, but if there are multiple fire dice that result in unabsorbed hits in a single round of combat- say from an SMG - then it's a casualty. For Green characters, they'll almost never activate again anyway with the -1 penalty (they'll have to roll a 6 to activate) , thus they are effectively eliminated from the game by one hit, but at least there is a small chance they might rejoin the fight or be available for the next scenario.

I played a second game with 2 squads of 3 per side, set in WWII. This squad based game played very differently - FUBAR is definitely more of a multiple squads per side game. But, I found the rules to be a touch unclear in other ways when played like this: Do all figures in unit fire or only those with LOS? Can figures do different things (1/2 charges to Melee, 1/2 fires at enemy in cover nearby - still maintaining proper distance for squad cohesion)?

For the latter, I'm inclined to allow it. I'm thinking the answer to first question is only those with LOS and only those in LOS can be hit suppressed or killed. But it could be more abstract and as long as 1/2 have LOS they all have it, otherwise none do and hits could be distributed across the unit regardless of position on the table.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Recently painted 15mm Sci Fi Goodness and the Joy of Dullcote

Easily among my top 3 favorite Khurasan figure packs, the Ursid Warriors:

Heading out for a walk while their porridge cools.

The four bear species represented are: Asiatic Black Bear, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear and Polar Bear. The polar bear looks much better in person and at gaming distance. Up close he's kind of scary.

"This way!" "No! This way!"

Goldie Locks and the four bears.
I also completed 3 Irregular Miniatures porters. The painting was the easy part - they were quite flash heavy. I have 3 more to clean up and paint:

American author and inventor, Mark Twain, fights off a Tyranosaurus with the help of the noted explorer, Mrs. Jane Newburry. Meanwhile, Lady Penelope Worthington guides the porters to safety.

Finally, a repaint of the Khurasan Galactic Dictator. 

I had originally painted her in a white uniform, but she just ended up looking like she worked on a cruise ship - hardly something to inspire fear across the galaxy. 

So, I opted for all black a la Vader, since the Riflethings are painted like AT-AT drivers:

Striking a pose in front of my only piece of sci-fi scenery

These figures were also the first to be hit with Dullcoate. 

Until today, I had never used it - although I had read its virtues extolled on many a message board. 

I can't believe I waited so  long to try it! So much better than the shiny bits they were before! I grabbed a pile of 15mm figs and gave them all a few coats - all of the miniatures in this post have been sprayed. I could have done a better job and there are still some shiny areas. 

Ironically, I was just too excited to get a picture of the nice, flat paint jobs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A No-Budget No-frills Pencil and Paper d12 Dungeon Generator

Some Introductory Thoughts
*** check out the newest version - 8/24***

This is a very simple generator for use in solo dungeon crawls (with or without miniatures) when you don't know or don't want to know what the dungeon looks like ahead of time.

I suppose you could even use it to create dungeons for gaming groups if you’re lucky enough to have players willing to enter dungeons (Lady Shadowmoss despises dungeons crawls that are set in actual dungeons) but it might be a little lite for that. I have found several generators online but either they were quite robust (read tedious to use) for an on the fly generator - like the generator from the old AD&D DM Guide, or they were missing things I thought key. And frankly, it was just fun to do this.

I started out with a variety of dice, but inspired by The Dungeon Dozen, I settled on the d12 since it really never gets used for anything else in any game I play.

The tables below have been developed after extensive testing. Ok, extensive may be overstating it a bit. But I created a few maps this way and they worked well enough. There were some fairly long corridors with a lot of twists and turns which is unusual when I create dungeons free-hand. I’m OK with this for now - it allows wandering monsters some space to play and they keep me moving as I search for that ever elusive room with treasure in it. There's also more stairs than I might be inclined to put in but this gives the possibility of multiple areas of the dungeon that are not connected to each other directly except via an intervening level - which makes it possible to have a wider variety of creatures inhabiting a given level in a way that doesn't seem more impossible than the game might already seem.

If you desire more rooms and less corridors or vice versa, tweak Table C.

The tables undeniably reflect my personal biases - I don’t like drawing round rooms on graph paper, I use a 10’ per square scale so dimensions ending in 5,e.g. 45’, are unwelcome, aesthetically, I prefer rooms around 30’ to 40’ at least in one dimension, I think really large rooms should be minimal because I don’t have many tiles that are over 50’ per side, I think 5 or more exits on a 4 sided room is awkward, etc.

If you like odd shaped rooms, or favor different dimensions, etc. feel free to modify away. You might prefer to use d20, or d100 or what have you. I encourage you to do so, but try to keep it simple. Making many die rolls just to generate a 60 foot corridor will likely impede the game - after all, the point is to dungeon craw and win fame and fortune, not to fiddle with minutiae.

One obvious missing feature is room contents and encounters - I use the tables in my rule books, stuff I find online, Rory’s Story Cubes, Mythic, my imagination, as well as tables I make up on the fly to fit the dungeon theme or plot (if I have one in mind). Traps in corridors are also missing but you could just as easily add a table for this as anything else or just throw one in whenever you feel like it.

Something I tested that didn’t make the cut was including the angle of a turn in Table D. 90, 45 and 135 are obvious choices. This would have required more slots than a d12 provides however, for me to be happy with the results on my maps. I also felt that ultimately it over complicates things. I leave it to the user to decide the angle based on the dungeon and available space. However, if you want to roll on a table, try Optional Table E whenever a turn is indicated. It has not been play tested as I don’t consider this table strictly necessary.

Finally, remember, if the roll of the die results in something that either seems difficult or impossible to implement e.g. 4 exits on a 10’ wall, or would cause a room to overlap another feature or a hallway to pass through one, you might:

  • Re-roll
  • Treat it a Dead End*
  • Think outside the box and make it work - e.g. 2 of the exits are doors but there are two openings near the ceiling, the room/corridor is above or goes under the existing feature or perhaps it is passes through the feature by means of secret doors*
  • Make a seat-of-your pants decision

In short, do whatever makes it easier to get on with the game.

and now I present:

The Official Tabletop Diversions No-Budget No-frills Pencil and Paper d12 Dungeon Generator Version 1.0

****EDIT 4/20/12****Further play with this generator has shown that Table C and Table D as originally written give too many stairs and dead ends. See the changes indicated below.

Materials needed:
You will need 1 d12
Paper (graph paper has a special place in my heart but you can use blank paper or notebook paper even) and/or dungeon tiles
Pencil (if drawing this on paper)

A suggestion for getting started:
There’s no hard and fast rules to this. I prefer to place the stairs to the surface world in the middle of the paper(or game table if using tiles).

Roll 2x on Table A for the room dimensions, and then 1x on Table B adding 1 to the result (to avoid a dead end right away) and place this room so that it connects to the stairs.

Proceed from there.

Table A: Dimensions
For a room roll 2x, 1x for Length, 1x for Width
For a corridor roll 1x (this assumes all corridors are same width)

1 10’
2-3 20’
4-6 30’
7-9 40’
10-11 50’
12 60’

Table B: Additional Exits in Room
1 None - Dead end
2-4 1, roll 1x on table B.1
5-7 2, roll 2x on table B.1
8-10 3, roll 3x on table B.1
11-12 4, roll 4x on table B.1

Table B.1.: Exit Location
Use either the compass directions or the relative directions as you prefer
1-3 North/Ahead
4-6 South/ Same wall you came in on
7-9 East / Right
10-12 West / Left

Table C: What’s on the Other Side of the Door When

You’re in a Room
1-7 Corridor, Roll 1x on Table A, then 1x on Table D
8-10 8-11 Room, Roll 2x on Table A and 1x on Table B
11 Dead End*
12 Stairs (1-6 up, 7-12 down)

12 Dead End (1-4)/Stairs (5-8)/Roll again on this table -1 (9-12)

You’re in a Corridor
1-3 Corridor, Roll 1x on Table A, then 1x on Table D
4-10 4- 11
Room, Roll 2x on Table A and 1x on Table B
11 Dead End*
12 Stairs (1-6 up, 7-12 down)
12 Dead End (1-4)/Stairs (5-8)/Roll again on this table -1 (9-12)

Table D: Corridor Continuation
1-3 Continues Straight, Roll 1x on Table A, and then again on Table D
4 Turns Left, Extend 10’, then roll again on Table D
5 Turns Right, Extend 10’, then roll again on Table D
6 T-intersection, Extend 10’ in each direction Left/Right, Roll again on Table D for each direction you check
7 + - Four way intersection, Extend 10’ ahead, left and right, roll again on Table D for each direction you check
8 Dead End
9 Stairs (1-6 up, 7-12 down)
10-12 Door, if you open Door roll 1x on Table C

8 Stairs (1-6) / Dead End (7-12)
9-12 Door, if you open door, roll 1x on Table C

Optional Table E: Turn Angle
Use whenever a turn is indicated, prior to the 10’ extension in that direction.
1-7 90 degrees
8-10 45 degrees
11-12 135 degrees

*I handle Dead Ends and Secret Doors by testing to see if I succeed in finding a secret door per the RPG rules I’m using and only THEN determining the likelihood of there being one, i.e. I pick an number based on how much space I have on my map,whether there’s a feature on the other side of the dead end, etc. and then roll against that. This way, if I don’t succeed, I still don’t know if there’s a secret door there or not, but if I do succeed, I find it if it exists.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thoughts on FUBAR and Characters as Units

For those unfamiliar with it, FUBAR "are a set of one page, fast play rules for small unit actions in a modern or SciFi setting" that lot's of people want to like. Of the reports that I've read, several seem to find fault with the activation system because they don't get to move their toys. I happen to think that possibility is a huge plus in a set of wargame rules, and so I decided to include it among the contenders for my go to sci fi set.

FUBAR, like most rule sets I am considering, is a free download. There are also a number of supplements (also free) for different genres/periods.

As a refresher, I'm looking for rules that can handle very small scale games of around 1-5 figures per side on up to 10 or so plus a vehicle. The FUBAR page mentions "small unit" but what does that mean? Well, the core rules (4th ed) note: "A player has one or more Units, as defined by the relevant Force Supplement." Unfortunately, the Generic Sci-Fi add-on contains no such information. Other supplements suggest anything from solo characters up to squads of around 10 figs. Ok, so it appears there's some flexibility here.

At the 1-5 figs per side, I think you'd be hard pressed to assemble units that work well with all of the rules. In particular, suppression values - which dictate how many members of a unit can be suppressed are based on their Level (green, elite, etc.) - are fixed numbers not a percentage. When you're unit is a solo character, or even just has less or the same as suppressed figures allowed, how does suppression work then?
Fortunately, the authors encourage users to modify the rules as needed and include this helpful reminder:
"The Cardinal Rule: where a rule does not make sense in a particular situation, ignore it or modify it. These are one page rules after all."

Of course, the simplest solution is to simply ignore suppression entirely and count all hits as casualties, but I think, at this small scale, results in too fast a game.

For my first tests of any rules, I like to just grab some figures and play it out on my desk - using office supplies in place of terrain and scenery. I'm sure this makes some people cringe, but I figure when all I care about is the mechanics, why should I bother setting up a nice little table. So, I grabbed three 1/32 Germans and three 1/32 Russians - two rifles and 1 SMG each. I ranked the Russians as Seasoned and the Germans as veterans.

Please excuse the poor quality cell phone pic, but you get the idea.

With 3 figs per side, I first tried to use the rules as written - they'd be one unit. This worked fine but felt like I was rolling initiative 2x - once to get initiative and the next to see if the lone squad activated. Turns passed very quickly this way.

However, treating each character(figure) as a unit worked quite well and it felt similar to Ganesha Games Song of ... activation, with the back and forth due to failed activation rolls, but without the gamble of rolling more than one die to test if a figure activates. 

Yes, it is true, some units don't move when you want, or at all even - particularly those of lower quality. As a solo wargamer, I find this highly desirable. It makes organizing action across units more difficult and can throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans - a plus, whether it's 3 solos, or 3 sections of a platoon, my side or my "opponent".

One of the downsides, from a solo point of view, is that the order in which you activate individuals or units isn't controlled by a game mechanism - which means, theoretically, that this is one of those places where bias can slip in. This is one of those things that solo gamers are used to and there are probably as many ways to handle it as there are players.

Combat is simple enough - but suppression just didn't make sense. With a solo character, you're either suppressing the entire Unit (since there's only 1 figure in it) or taking them out of the fight entirely. The Suppress value is of no use. None of the supplements I checked seemed to address this - even the Steampunk/VSF rules which explicitly encourage the use of characters in addition to units. I suspect there, as in the Star Wars supplement, the intent was that the characters would lead units, like in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. for example.

My solution for characters/single figure units in FUBAR:

If hit, roll a "save" against the suppress value - <= Suppress value and the figure is suppressed. Otherwise, figure is a casualty. Add penalties or subtract bonuses to the roll as required by armor, cover, special skills, etc.

To handle the unit penalty on activation, I suggest that t
he individual character has to roll for activation with the penalty in order to no longer be suppressed. Thus a Green character may never be able to rejoin the fight. Or, for a more extreme effect, any Unit (solo, squad or vehicle) within 3" of the figure takes the -1 activation roll penalty. 

Finally, if you're playing a campaign, I recommend that character casualties roll vs. their suppress value to see if they return for the next fight. In fact, maybe this could be extended to all casualties.

I expect to play a proper game with these rules in the near future (same scenario as I ran with the USR rules)

Friday, April 13, 2012

USR Skirmish Game

This is a playtest of the USR RPG as a miniatures wargame ruleset.

Scenario Background and Objectives:
 Dr. Ishnisanshi, a research scientist working on weather manipulation from her lab in the desert wasteland known as Sector 42 on planet XYZZY in a part of the galaxy under the rule of Galactic Dictator Zvezda, has recently made a break through, that if developed, further could give control of a planet's water cycle to a single individual or government.

Zvezda's commanders, always scanning the latest in scientific discoveries, got wind of her findings and have sent orders down for a patrol of Riflethings to quietly "retrieve" Ishnisanshi, so that she may be put into service of the Dictator and her enforcement agency lovingly known as, Control.

"Captain Smitty" (aka John Smith), captain by virtue of respect and not an actual rank as the revolutionaries eschew rank and formalized hierarchy, regular reader of the popular science dailies, and more importantly, privy to the information sent back by undercover operatives and deciphered communications, has learned of Control's plans and assembled a team to drop into Sector 42 and convince Ishnisanshi that she needs to get out of there, and further, if possible to get her off the planet and out of the galaxy. A Herculean task, if he had ever heard of Hercules, that is. 

His team includes the heavy weapon's specialist, Jimmy James, and the emergency medical technician, Sara X.

For both forces, the goal is to get Ishnisanshi off of their board edge and the key word is "alive". Dead and the doctor is of no good to anyone.

The Forces:

Control Battalion Riflethings

Thing 1 - Action: d10, Wits: d6, Ego: d8, HP: 9
Toughness (Action + 2), Leadership (Ego+2)

Thing 2 - Action: d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6 , HP: 12
Allegiance (Ego + 2)

Thing 3 - Action: d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6, HP: 6
Allegiance (Ego + 2)

All: Weapons: Assault rifles: +1, Armor: -2


Captain Smitty - Action:d10, Wits:d6, Ego:d8, HP: 14
Quick reflexes (Action+2), Leadership (Ego+2)
Assault rifle +1
Flak jacket -1

Sara X. - Action:d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6, HP: 14
Medic(Wits + 2)
SMG +1
Flak jacket -1
Jimmy James - Action:d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6, HP:17
Heavy weapons specialist(Action +2)
RPG +3
Sidearm +/- 0
Flak jacket -1

Dr. Ishnisanshi: Action:d6, Wits: d10, Ego: d8, HP: 12
particle physics (Wits+2), climatology(Wits+2), electrical engineering (Wits+2)

I kept specialisms to a minimum, mostly because I was excited about giving this a go and, it is an evaluation game to decide among rule sets for future sci-fi skirmishes - a proof of concept if you will.


Turn 0
Both sides approach the lab

Turn 1

Rolling initiative using Wits+Action results in a nice unpredictable order which works well to upset the best laid plans

Sara runs for the objective, while Jimmy and Smitty fan out to provide cover:

Sara X. takes off sprinting towards the lab.

and the Riflethings make their advance:

End of Turn 1

Because as written this is an RPG and not a wargame, movement as the rules note, is abstract.  The author suggests 20' per action but I went with 4", as this is used in other games I play in 15mm. If my math is correct (and there's no reason to believe it is), 4" is closer to 40'. 

And, again, because it's an RPG and not a wargame, there are no rules for running. This, in my opinion is a strength - I make a ruling on the spot like I would do as a GM and I use unopposed Action rolls of varying difficulty based on terrain, receiving fire, firing, etc. to see if they can run the desired distances (ruling it must still take 2 moves to reach the objective).

Turn 2

Sara bursts into the lab and tries to convince the good Doctor to come with her.

"Dr. Ishnisanshi! I am Sara X. of the resistance, the Dictator's Riflethings are coming, we have to get you out of here!"

(rolling Ego vs Ego) 

But the Doctor is not persuaded - "You must be joking! There is research to be done!"

A moment later, as if to lend strength to Sara's argument, the leader of the Riflethings (Thing 1) bursts in and fires at Sara - lucky for her, in his haste he stumbles and the blast passes by harmlessly. Meanwhile, Smitty takes fire as well and is hit!

End of Turn 2

There's not a lot of room for a shoot out, yet it's happening!

Turn 3

Inside the lab, it's getting a little crowded as a second Riflething bursts in! Sara takes a hit and then a second and is unable to do any damage of her own. Meanwhile she continues to plead with the doctor, who amazingly is still refusing as she cowers in the corner!

Smitty, from his vantage point has a clear shot at the Riflething officer. He fires away and drops him in his spot.
"Thanks boss!" hollers Sara over her shoulder.
Smitty has a clear shot at the Riflething leader and makes good use of it.

A firefight ensues outside between Jimmy James and a Riflething

End of Turn 3

Turn 4

Finally the doctor gives in and agrees to go with Sara (FINALLY! a bad Ego roll for the doctor and a good Ego roll for Sara!) and both take off running as the final Riflething enters the lab.

They engage Smitty in a firefight.

Run for it!

Sara leading the reluctant and very tall Dr.Ishnisanshi to safety

Turn 5

Seeing Sara and the doctor making for cover he hollers to Jimmy, "Fall back!"

Jimmy hears him and he does (I rolled Ego vs Ego, and Smitty gets his +2 Leadership bonus), but not until he's tried to fire through the door of the lab!

End Turn 5 - The rebels fall back

Smitty falls back to the woods and fires at the Riflethings.

I realize the Riflethings are down to 9 HP between them. It's probably a good time to see if they stay or if they go. I roll against Ego adding in Allegiance and they pass. They return fire and wound Smitty.

A Smitty-eye view of the situation
Turn 6:

Sara and the Dr. reach safety and are out of LOS and Jimmy is right behind them.

Smitty fires and then makes a break for his team.

I test again for the Riflethings (they pass) and one of the Things swings out of the lab for a better shot and hits Smitty - dropping him like a sack of space potatoes.

End of Game

I call the game here as Sara and the Dr. are out of LOS for the Riflethings and close to the edge of the board - victory goes to the revolutionaries.

Post-game Thoughts:

In a future post, I'll explore why I'm pursuing RPGs for use as tactical miniatures rules for small scale skirmishes, but for now, I'll just note that

USR, at least, requires little modification to work on the tabletop and I can seamlessly move these characters back and forth from solo narrative games to table top miniatures games with the same rules!

Once again, USR makes it easy to stat out characters. Specialisms, weapons bonuses, and armor bonuses make differentiation easy. I think I spent all of 15 minutes getting this set up. I can't give an estimate of game time as the turns were interrupted by real-life frequently.

I think the only issues I had were with initiative - Leadership is an Ego-related specialism, but initiative is Wits+Action. So a leader figure's leadership skill has no impact tactically speaking. This feels wrong to me - but I should add that my knowledge of what it's like to be a leader in the military is somewhere between "zip" and "zero". I may either change Leadership to a Wits specialism or use Action and Ego instead of Wits - but that seems to go against the description of the attributes themselves.

The other modification I am considering is in games with more than 5 figures per side - rolling initiative by groups/squads/vehicles, rather than individuals (unless they're a hero or are a sniper or something). This is simply to speed the process up a bit. Another alternative,one that I'm not into, is rolling once for each figure and keeping the order for each round. This makes things too predictable in my opinion and I really enjoy the randomness of activation when everyone rolls.

I'll be doing more play tests - including one with USR with 10 figs on at least one side - I have more rulesets to examine, but I think USR is going to get a lot more use regardless.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lunch time with: Unbelievably Simple Role-playing (USR)

Well, I wasn't intending on making this a series or anything, but I squeezed in another solo RPG adventure yesterday on my lunch break. This time, I used Unbelievably Simple Role-playing (USR for short).

I had started the day planning to start my much anticipated (by me anyway) solo D&D game with characters I rolled up back in September or October. Alas, I could not find their character sheets when I was packing my bag for work. And, although I had my rulebooks with me, rolling up a character, properly at least, seemed daunting. With my time limited, I pulled out my copy of USR.

Character generation took but a few minutes - assign a d6, d8 and d10 each to one of 3 traits/stats, choose specialisms (up to 3) which are special skills/knowledge , roll hit points (Action die + Wits die), equip your character and go. I was feeling mage-y and so I created:

Faltroth Rizenbiter: Action d6, Wits d10, Ego d8. Specialisms: Magical Research( +2), Phantasms(+2), Magic Missile (+2) (because how can you be a magic-user and not have magic missile?). HP: Here I was hopeful. After all, d6+d10 beats the standard magic-user's d4 in D&D right? 

I rolled 6. Yep. a 6. Well, it's still better than a 4.

The plot: In the library of the ruins at Fenias Keep, it is rumoured that there is a copy of Ye Olde Tyme Booke ov Demonyk Summoning. Being one who covets books and likes spells and such, a trek up to the ruins is a no-brainer (probably should have taken some hirelings, in retrospect).

Sadly, I left my Story Cubes at home too, along with my dice. Remember kids, pack your stuff the night before! for the die rolls it would be. Mythic (hey I remembered it this time!) provided GM related functions, along with the Moldvay D&D basic rule book. Tables generated on the fly once again handled the creation of the dungeon (you'd think I'd just develop my own system for this and write it up).

My first encounter (generated with the room content table from the basic rule book) was with a talking statue. I was not prepared for this, so the exchange went exactly like this:

Statue: "Halt! Who goes there!"
Faltroth: "I do"
Statue: "And, who are you?"
Faltroth: "I am me!"

Hmm. This could go on for a long time and I only had 20 minutes to play.

I turned to Mythic to find out if this would satisfy the statue, I figured it was unlikely, and amazingly it did and it let me pass.

A brief stroll down the hallway into another chamber and there, gnawing on bones and sucking out the marrow, was a single ghoul, startled by my entrance - but not enough to merit full blown surprise in my favor.

Faltroth immediately sets to casting magic missile, while the ghoul attempts to close the gap between them.

I stat-ed out the ghoul as follows :Action d10, Wits d6 Ego d8. Specialisms? I suppose I could have given it some, but instead decided that being undead was like having magic armor and ruled that undead gets bonus against magic attacks of -1 damage. Ghouls in the Basic rules paralyze their opponents if they score a hit and Save vs Paralysis is failed. I translate as a roll of a non-contested Action die of very hard difficulty to avoid paralysis (2d8 turns). It ends up with HP 5 (at least I roll badly for both sides) - and then rolled initiative.

Initiative in USR is suggested in the rules as either clockwise around the table or Action die + Wits die, high score acting first. That's the method I went with since it feels comforting and familiar.

Zaltroth, thinking fast, or at least faster than the ghoul, blasted the ghoul with magic missile fire first, causing a whopping 2 points of damage, The ghouls rolls a 1 for its attack so Faltroth manages to evade the somewhat clumsy ghoul and

 (roll initiative)

He runs to the opposite side of the room and fires another magic missile, missing completely and blowing up the door from which he entered. Ignoring the splinters of wood showering down on it, the ghoul charges Faltroth again.

This time it lands a blow (The ghoul rolled a 2, I rolled a 1! 1 point of damage) and Faltroth (rolling his Action against "Very Hard", can't pass) is paralyzed!

The ghoul gets to make an uncontested attack I decide, and rolls his Action die vs Easy difficulty - had Faltroth had armor, it may have absorbed some of the impact of the ghoul's claws and bite, but, that was not the case, and he died mercifully quickly.
All told: 2 rooms and a short bit of hallway and a total play time of 20 minutes (single low level characters just don't last long in a dungeon crawl. At least not one I'm running!)

I definitely enjoyed playing USR - it was easy to create a low level magic-user type, and I could just as easily have created a fighter or a cleric or a space cowboy. Although there are a limited number of combinations the attribute dice can be ordered in, the specialisms, armor and weapons bonuses help to differentiate and define a character. The system was also flexible enough to handle the ghoul's bonuses just by thinking about the creature in USR terms.

And, as I've also discovered, it works pretty well for a miniatures game too. A report on that to follow soon.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

15mm Sci-Fi Minis are go!

I got in a little painting this weekend and I've now got enough (arguably) sci-fi minis (that aren't intended for VSF) painted up that I can start exploring rules.

First up, the forces:

Sepulvedan Resistance from Khurasan - please excuse the leaning wall in the background. I rushed that together for photos.

Khurasan Sepulvedan Control Forces
Now, you may have noticed I only have 3 figs for one side. Yes, that is a problem. It won't be until May that I order my next batch from Khurasan, most likely. So, in the meantime, I can try to find a satisying 3-5 aside skirmish system, that ideally can go up to 10 aside and a vehicle- perhaps some kind of RPG Lite. Risus, I'm looking in your direction.

The complete list of contenders:
  • Chain Reaction: Final Version
  • Chain Reaction (aka Girls & Guns, or is it Guns & Girls?)with the Received Fire rule from MG-42 (I know, I know. I keep trying to find a way to like this game) and the star rules from CRFV.
  • Six Gun Sound (1st ed.) - I read somewhere that a space opera is like a Western set in space. Well, these rules are set in the West - what if I mod them for space? 
  • USE ME - not really intended for such low figure counts, but I don't see why it couldn't do it. I was grossly mistaken on this. It handles low figure counts as a matter of course.
  • FUBAR - ditto.Not really intended for such low figure counts but I don't see why I couldn't do it.
  • Blaster (a more generic version of In the Emperor's Name)
  • Risus or some home-grown variation
  • Unbelievably Simple Role-playing System (similar to Risus in the mechanics)
  • IN-RADIC (the skirmish bits, not the decision engine) - I find this system as is works fine for up to about 5 per side, but breaks down after that. Modifying activation to a card draw, each card = 1 fig, works, although at that point it's not the same game is it?
  • Gut Check!
  • and the long shots: Mutant Futures and Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn, Digitally Remastered ed. (unless I buy a copy of Alpha Dawn on e-bay first)
All of these are free, save two and they were $5 pdfs.

I intend to play a set of 3 simple scenarios with all the rule sets to see which works best for me, although I may whittle some away before I set a mini on the table. More details once play testing begins.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lunch with Risus: The Anything RPG

After reading Spacejacker's post entitled "Solo RPG?!" over on Tiny Solitary Soldiers, I realized it was time to stop saying "I want to give Risus a try" and just do it. So I did.

With about 15 minutes of prep time I was up and running on my lunch break Friday.

In Risus: The Anything RPG, you create your characters using cliches that you invent - the rules provide some examples in case you get stuck. Cliches function as sort of a mix of class/attributes/skills/professions (depending on what gaming system you're used to). Creating my characters consequently took the longest part of setup and that was primarily settling on my cliches.

Ultimately, I decided on 1 PC and 2 hireling NPCs. The PC would use the 10 dice build suggested in the rules, while the NPCs (in my mind, the equivalent of 0-level D&D b/x humans) would have 5 dice:

  • Blorg Runetreader: Barbarian(4), Thief(3), Con artist (2), Gambler (1)
  • Reginald the Sickly: Torch bearer (3), Farmer(2)
  • Otto Headinstein : Treasure bearer(3), bar room brawler(2)
Great,now what kind of adventure? 

Given my penchant for dungeon crawls, that part was obvious, but I always like to have some kind of plot, no matter how thin. Enter, The Big List of RPG Plots (from the Risus folks too!). Skimming the long list, an idea jumped out at me (not on the list but a variation on "Man hunt" i suppose):

A monster has been killing livestock and recently killed the son of one of the townsfolk. Some members of the town watch tracked it to it's lair, but only one returned and he died from terrible wounds before he could tell anyone what happened. Justifiably, no one is in too much a hurry to go up there, but the livestock continues to be slain and it's only a matter of time before another towns person. A reward has been posted for the head of the thing and that's good enough for you.
For the adventure itself, I used a combination of Rory's Story Cubes, RPG Labs Solo Story System (which yields "yes and", "yes but", "no but", "no and" results. I would have used Mythic but I didn't have it with me) and a set of "tables" I made up on the fly.

By way of example:

The party descends into the lair, it's cool, dark and smells of decay.

(Roll story cube: parachutist. I decide this means an attack from the ceiling)

Unbeknownst to the party, they are being watched by a 6 foot diameter arachnid who is feeling a little peckish. Without warning, the giant crab spider drops on the party (using the Solo Story System, I ask, "Does it land on anyone?" and I roll "no but" which i take to mean it gets a surprise attack. Rolling a d6 1-4 Blorg 5- Otto 6- Randal. I roll a 6 and it attacks Randal.

Here I need to stat out my giant crab spider. I go with Giant Spider(3), Biter(2), Grappler(3). Why? I figured Giant Spider covered things like traversing walls and ceilings, being poisonous, making scary clicky sounds but i wanted it to have two distinct kinds of attacks - grappler because of its gigantic spidery legs!

Combat in Risus requires both sides roll - loser takes a loss of die to the cliche. Ideally, your character has an appropriate cliche. If not, fret not, the rules account for that too.

The spider in this case rolls 3 dice for its Grappler cliche, but what cliche will Randal use? I figure Torch Bearer covers things like lighting fires, holding his arm up for a really long time, etc. But being a farmer, he'd surely have had to wrestle a steer to the ground right?(as you can see, I know nothing about farming), so he'll use Farmer.)

The spider attempts to grab Randal with it's long furry legs but Randal, having been chased by chickens, geese and an angry bull or two, dodges, and as he does so, wields the torch like a club and hits the spider.

(The spider's grappler cliche down to 2 dice. I decide to roll initiative like I would do in most RPGs I've played. Blorg et al will roll as a team - an optional rule in Risus - which means they use Blorg's appropriate cliche and then roll against theirs, but only submitting 6s. For Blorg it's his 4 dice Barbarian cliche The spider rolls 3 dice - giant spiders are quick and intimidating!

Initiative to Blorg and company.)

Blorg charges the hideous beast and swings his sword and strikes the spider, the blad crunching through the hard exoskeleton (spider down to 1 die for its grappler cliche). Otto tries to join the fray, whiffs, and is hit by the spider. Amazingly, Randal swings for the stars with his torch, and he kills the spider (at 0 dice in any cliche, the combatant is out of the fight - I rule in this case it means they killed it). 

Wiping the spider goop off of his hands and tunic, he mocks his party-mates,"Who's sickly now?" (W00t!)

(I ask the story system "Do we find any loot?" and get a "yes and it's gold!")

Rummaging through the debris in the room, on a decaying, bodiless hand, Blorg sees the unmistakable glint of gold in the torch light. Encrusted with sapphires and intricate engraving, Blorg, with the deserved confidence earned by years stealing and skulking around the seedier parts of the city of Sirus, assesses that this ring can fetch (roll 1d10) 80gps on the open market.

And so on.

All told, I explored two rooms, some length of hallway, rolled 4 story cubes, and then got beat down by some goblins. Blorg may be dead or he may be a prisoner - Risus, by not using any hit points, allows for this kind of cliff hanger without any special rules for it.
The game was surprisingly engrossing. While the system i came up with to generate the dungeon on the fly wasn't anything noteworthy, it worked and supported the game play. I had a blast sketching the dungeon, rolling the story dice and wondering just what I'd encounter next. Making up rules and tables as I went worked just fine. It was an opportunity to be creative on the spot and rely heavily on my imagination - it was play, pure and simple.

Risus will definitely get more play time. Coming up with cliches is a fun game in itself even. I also  look forward to trying this low prep method again - probably with the D&D B/X characters I rolled up back in September or so!