Friday, August 31, 2012

Holiday Weekend Plans

With a long weekend fast approaching, I've been thinking about the gaming I want to squeeze in.

I will most definitely play another round of "Pacific Assault" and possibly another adventure in Wellslandia, and I hope, my first go-round with Nuts!2.0 vehicle rules. 

That will likely be the extent of the solo gaming (well, maybe another dungeon crawl. of course.).

Next weekend is tentatively the 2nd session for our b/x - LL game and most of my free time will be spent prepping for that. 

I'm also playing in a Call of Cthulhu game next Saturday. In spite of having the rules for a few years, this will be the first time I get to experience the game. I already know I like the GM's style (he ran the Unknown Armies one-shot I participated in back in June) and he's really good at explaining what needs to roll and when, but I'd still like to have some grasp of the system. So, CoC will be in rotation in my reading pile.

And unrelated to any of that, after reading Bob Cordery's post on using plastic storage boxes for his figures, I dug out a box I've been using for some art supplies, emptied it out, put in more dividers and voila: a battle in a box!

The paper flat tanks and artillery are stored in the lower right.
Close up. A bit cramped but this isn't the Ritz!
I went and ordered 2 similar boxes immediately (there's a Labor Day sale going on at - I got mine at 50% off!).  That should contain all of my 15s and my 1/72 (not counting the unpainted GNW minis).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pacific Island Assault!

This was top of my list for projects I wanted to do this year and it finally came to fruition the other night.

The rules are Mike Crane's "Pacific Island Assault" from Lone Warrior #172.

Of course, I got impatient making palm trees and so fielded fewer than I planned, and artillery and tanks are provided by paper flats - I couldn't justify the expense of models, given all of the zines, rules and 15mm sci-fi minis I've acquired this year - but those are just incidentals in my opinion.

The heart of the thing is that I played the game and it was AWESOME fun.

The Japanese await:

A tour of the Japanese defenses (the figure types don't matter):

Two companies of Marines landed (turn 1):

The combat photographer in the thick of things.
Two companies of Marines decimated:

Again the Marines landed (turn 3):

With similar results. And then the tanks and artillery arrived (turn 5):

Tide had begun to turn. Still more arrived to the dismay of the Japanese commanders (Turn 7):

In a hard fought battle the Marines broke through the Japanese defensive lines, both an infantry unit and a tank sighted the Japanese bunker  (the victory objective, Turn 9):

They called in the naval salvo and destroyed it (turn 10), barely before the allotted 12 turns were up.

I breathed a sigh of relief. The victory felt well earned.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Adventure in Wellslandia

Harry Dunwich, renowned explorer, by request of the British consulate in Wellslandia, has been tasked with escorting Father Alexander "Alexi" Pytersvanski, to the village of Slurmby on the Yada-yada river. A citizen of the Empire has taken a Russian for his bride and they wish to be wed in the Russian Orthodox tradition. For the British this is a diplomatic mission - an attempt to establish better relations with Russia.

In addition to Mr. Dunwich, Fr. Alexi has been provided with an escort of two of Her Majesty's finest British Regulars and three British-trained askari. Mr. Dunwich has hired on four native porters to carry supplies.

What follows is Mr Dunwich's account of the trip:

Day 1- A giant carnivorous plant of unknown species attempted to devour one of the porters. His flavor was apparently disagreeable to the thing and it spat him out. We had a good laugh at his expense.

Day 2 - Uneventful. A rare thing indeed. Fr .Alexi, in his heavily accented English, made the travel more enjoyable as he elaborated on the differences of Orthodoxy and other variations of faith. He is quite an interesting fellow.

Day 3 - Ambushed! The lizard tribes of Wellslandia wage a continuing war against humans, native and otherwise. A party of five spear attacked us and killed one porter (and destroyed the provisions he carried) and one Askari. It is tragic, but not unexpected. Fr. Alexi performed a simple ceremony for the fallen.

The lizard folk are anxious to rid their lands of humans.
They fall to our superior fighting ability.
The loss of life reminds the party of the dangers they may face. But, they must continue!

Day 4 - Confound it! They must be trailing us. Another small party of lizard harassed us. The askari could not hit a dead fish in a barrel. Trained? My foot! Fr. Alexi was struck during a vicious melee but the villain was dispatched. One of the devil-spawn retreated into the jungle. I fear he's gone for reinforcement.

Father "Alexi" stares death in the eye and laughs.
Day 5 - Uneventful. Perhaps not as rare an occurrence as I thought. Fr.Alexi, it seems, is an avid fan of the pugilistic science. We trade stories about the great fighters of our respective countries.

Day 6 - Mired in a swamp, our party became separated. One askari and a porter fell off the pace. Either they have been eaten by a crocodile or we shall see them again when we set up camp.

Day 7 - The porter and askari made their way to camp but they may have suffered the same fate either way. The lizard folk are tenacious. The battle was terrific and another porter is killed. With the loss of the provisions he carried, we are dangerously close to failure.
Here they come again!
The aftermath.
Day 8 - Pray your path never crosses a stampeding herd of triceratops. Another askari killed - impaled and trampled by the frightened creatures. Pray again that you not cross the path of what frightens these beasts.

Day 9 - So close to the village, it is with heavy heart that I note the deaths of Pvt. Smith and Pvt. Miller at the hands of the pestering lizard tribes. We buried the men in simple graves and covered them with stones to keep predators at bey. Fr. Alexi inscribed a prayer in Cyrillic on a piece of slate he placed at the head of the mound.
And again!
This time would be different.
The body count rises
An unlikely hero, Ngenzokwami kills a lizard and protects the remaining provisions.
Father "Alexi" surveys the damage and orders the porters to follow him, while Mr. Dunwich finishes off the lizards.
He isn't a renowned explorer for nothing.

Day 10 - Our party, so very small now, and on the brink, arrived at the village to great fanfare. There appears to be an abundance of women here. I shall rest awhile and enjoy it, before we prepare for the return trip.

The welcome party!
"A drink sir? Chilled vodka perhaps??"
The aforementioned women and the science type old guy.
Rules were a home-brew, inspired by this post by Chris at Just Another Wargames Blog and this one (which I've referenced before) from Fitz-Badger at Soweiter League.

Provisions (inspired by "Adventures in Jimland") - each porter carries 5 provisions. 1 provision is used per day under normal circumstances. 

If a porter is lost or killed, subtract 5 provisions from the total. If there are less than 5, reduce to 0

If the party is reduced to 0 provisions, all rolls suffer a -1 penalty and starvation (1 on a 1d6, save as normal) is possible. Test for all members of party each turn.

Movement -
6" (seems out of scale but it keeps things moving)
run/charge = 6" +1d6"
rough terrain, woods, etc. = 1/2 movement


Main characters have 3 hit points before killed

Troop ratings -
Poor  = -1 to hit
Regular = +/- 0
Veteran = +1 to hit

Weapon ranges
Pistol = 6"
Rifle= 12

Shooting -
Roll 1d6, hit on a 4,5,6

Shooting Modifiers -
short range = 1/2 weapon range,  +1
long range = range to 2x range, -1
target in cover -1
can not shoot if running

Melee -
1d6 each participant, higher score wins
more than one attacker, defender fights each individually

loser rolls saving throw on 1d6, on 6 ignores hit and continues fighting
main characters get +2 bonus on saving throw

Lizard folk - roll 1d6, if greater than number remaining, they retreat. Those that retreat are added to the next lizard folk encounter.

Porters - if attacked (and survive) roll 1d6, on a 1-2 they run until rallied by another figure (figure must get within 2" of porter). If makes it off table, porter is lost and presumed dead.

T. Rex (if it appears) has 5-10 hit points depending on size.
claw/claw/bite attack (roll 3x to attack) and can use tail for targets to rear (roll 1x)
Saving throw on every hit.

There are 10 possible encounters. Using a deck of cards, assign one card to each encounter and then 5 additional cards that are unassigned, i.e. blank (if creating more than 10 encounters, the rule of thumb is half as many "blanks" as encounter cards).

Shuffle. Draw a card. Play out encounter. Repeat until you've drawn 10 cards. You reach the destination after the 10th card is played.

The table I used (all are Clubs):
Ace - 5 lizard spear
2 - 5 Lizard sword
3 - 10 lizard sword - poor
4 - 5 lizard spear
5 - 4 lizard sword - veteran
6 - giant carnivorous plant - roll 1d6 on a 1 a giant carnivorous plant attacks 1 party member randomly determined. Save as normal.
7 - Swamp - Roll 1d6, on a 1, figure is delayed in swamp. If next encounter is combat ,arrives on 2nd turn.
8 - T. Rex (see above)
9 - Swamp, same as 7
10 - Herbivore stampede - roll 1d6 for each figure, on a 1, figure is caught in stampede. Save as normal.

This encounter idea (and the morale for lizard folk) is not my own.  In "Aztec Gold", by Will McNally, which appeared in Lone Warrior #166, a system is presented that essentially replicates an ambush for the solo player. Each successive native attack is reinforced by the survivors of the previous one. 

That same issue, by the way, includes the most requested article from Lone Warrior: "Enemy Behavior in Action: Renaissance Swiss". I highly recommend getting a copy -pdf or print - for both of these gems!

While I fared well this time, heavy losses are typical (the combat rules you use will influence this, of course) and I often do not reach the destination.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Plan Survives Contact with the Players

Saturday night, we officially kicked off the b/x / LL game I'm running, as both players were present.

The player characters:
Euphrates - elf - race-as-class - 2nd level
Lenny the Elf - uh, elf- race-as-class - 1st level

For Lenny's player this was the first time he had played a tabletop rpg in about 20 or so years. I decided to give them something that would be challenging, offer opportunites for roleplaying and combat, gold, and fame depending on what motivated them.

I spend a lot of time reading blogs about being a good GM. Definitions vary of course, but I am a big fan of the concept of player agency. I want my players to have meaningful choices to make and these should impact the game at some level (i.e. consequences) - and that means that scenarios don't have pre-ordained conclusions, that players can miss/skip whole piles of stuff I prepare (and I don't force them to end up there, or suddenly change the location of a particular encounter so that players have to go through it), etc.

Of course, this means things will happen that you aren't prepared for; you'll have to wing it. That seemed a little intimidating at first, but, I do the same thing all the time in my solo games, so it's really not that bad. 

Part of me, the part that doesn't want to be put on the spot during a game, still couldn't help but think "But surely  you can anticipate what the players will do!" Sure. To a degree. But how many possible responses are there to a given situation?

The correct answer is: Always one more than you thought of!

And the first session reinforced that idea in spades:

  • PCs hired to escort a holy relic from city temple to remote monastery.
  • Caravan ambushed by bandits (of course).
  • Temple cleric on journey is in fact a priest serving Chaos. He hired the bandits. 
  • Said cleric intended to deliver relic to his master who will use it as a way to gain favor with their god and entice it to this world. 
  • The cleric was to race off with the wagon bearing the relic during the ambush. But Lenny had already jumped on the wagon to get a better line of sight on the onslaught of bandits. (I had not counted on that)
  • Euprhates jumped on the wagon too and she tried to race of with it (ostensibly to protect the relic, but later on I wasn't so sure. Definitely didn't see that coming.)
  • When the bandit leader dropped down from a tree limb (expecting to only have to deal with the merchant per my original time line), Lenny cleaved him in half.
  • PCs defeated the cleric and learned his plan thanks to a charm spell by Euphrates
  • The players decided they like the idea of unleashing the "God of Chaos" on the world and wanted in. (Say what now? You want to open a portal for this entity you know nothing of, but that is promised to bring down the world as you know it? Now, you know that this, this and this can happen right? You do? Ok then.)
Maybe you would have anticipated the final bullet point. I did not and I'm even more excited to see where the story goes now.

Unfortunately, this weekend is Dragon*Con and so we're not playing. But we're planning on the weekend after. Which gives me a little less than two weeks to come up with the next scene/situation.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Random Dungeon Generator PocketMod

Maybe it's the wargamer in me, but I'm rarely content to let any system I've constructed go untouched. While it is the most visited post on this blog, and has served me well, I decided A No-Budget No-frills Pencil and Paper d12 Dungeon Generator needed some tweaking.

I present to you the love-child of A No-Budget No-frills Pencil and Paper d12 Dungeon Generator and my homemade mini-dungeon tiles:

**** If you are using Google Chrome, you may need to right click the link to save the file using Save Link As. It seems to work fine in IE and FireFox ****

I've had good success with this version generating interesting dungeons - I  hope you find that to be true as well.

So, why a PocketMod? It is my belief that anything in PocketMod format has a leg up on anything that is not.

I realize I am  probably in a minority on this, so a full-sized version will follow soon enough.

For those who don't know or need a refresher, here's a video on how to fold a PocketMod,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Great Northern War Project: Some Ideas

Over the last few days, the humidity appears to have dropped a bit. There's still plenty of summer left, so I'm sure it will return. Never the less, low humidity = good weather for spray painting. That, in turn, has me thinking about my Great Northern War project (I have 200 or so figures to prep and prime).

This project got its inspiration from Joseph Morschauser's How to Play Wargames in Miniature. I had started out thinking I'd base and organize these per Morschasuer's suggested methods, but the more I think about it, the more I realize my preference is for individually based figures.

To my mind, that gives the greatest flexibility. I can use sabots/movement trays (in my case, a fancy name for some craft foam with a card backing) for element based rules and large games, or I can use individual for, well, individual figure rules and smaller 1 to 1 skirmishes.

Speaking of rules, I think I have come to the conclusion that Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle (with possibly some period specific modifications), G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. (again with modifications), and this very simple, but very fun sounding "fast and loose" idea from Soweiter League will be my rules of choice.

Simple rules tend to be easily modified without breaking, so I can add what I glean from the history of the GNW, if I feel they require it. The Soweiter League rules have the advantage, too, that Fitz-Badger has already demonstrated how effective they are with fewer figures per unit than many other rules use. Take a look at this example for inspiration! (as a matter of fact, he's also demonstrated that with G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. more recently).

So, while I may give Age of Reason a try, because I have a copy, it seems orders of magnitude more complex than Fitz-Badger's rules and I'm not convinced they'd give a game any more enjoyable for the effort.

The next step is to actually read through everything I have acquired regarding history and the uniforms, decide on paint schemes, unit size (if I opt to paint historical units) and then, hopefully, by the time that's done, summer weather will be more less over and I can spray prime the figures. I'm also considering starting a blog specific to the project, but I'm not yet decided on that.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Saturday Night Spare Time Dungeon Crawling

Saturday night, I had some time to spend gaming and I set about testing an idea I had for a new random dungeon generator. You know, because there aren't enough of them already available on-line. 

This was my third test, and the first in which I tried to generate something larger than a handful of rooms. I was rather happy with the results - I generated two levels of a dungeon with multiple entrances/exits, and a variety of points up and down. In fact, of the two levels I generated, both have unconnected areas that can only be accessed by passing through the other level. 

I hope to finish the write-up and post it later this week.

I also managed to squeeze in a USR dungeon crawl to clarify for myself the pros and cons my approaches to magic with that system. Scott at The Trollish Devler, and author of USR, posted his thoughts on a magic system the other day - worth a look if you enjoy the game!

With regards to the dungeon crawl, I rolled up 3 characters (fighter, halfling and a magic user) and a hireling (using "shifted dice": a d6, d4, d3 rather than a d10, d8, d6) to enter the dungeon using USR and my b/x conversion

Rather than generating a map or using tiles or even using the method I posted last week, I closed my eyes and pulled a Rory's Story Cube from its bag, rolled it and then made up an encounter based on the image. Each encounter used a new cube. If I got through all nine, I'd have found the steps down.  

If I ran into any issues where I wasn't sure of something, I used the ever reliable 1d6 "yes and" method:

1 "Yes and" [fill in the blank]
2-3 "Yes, but" [fill in the blank]
4-5 "No, but" [fill in the blank]
6 - "No and" [fill in the blank]

I got through 6 encounters(to be fair, one of them was a totally peaceful encounter with some helpful treants) before I needed to pull the party out back to the base town. What loot they had gained was spent resurrecting the fighter (he was struck down by a stone golem) and healing. The party's halfling was the hero of the hour - deadly accurate with his bow -  while the magic-user was just about useless unless he was throwing his daggers (and he only had two of those!). 

The last point illustrated very clearly the potential problem with one of my approaches to magic!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dungeon Crawls: The Method to My Madness

I'm a dungeon crawl-addict. I like dungeons. I like fighting goblins and kobolds and skeletons. And I'm unapologetic about it.

This weekend, we've got family in town and they will be here for a week. I won't have much free time to game. When I do, I'll probably run myself through a dungeon.

Sometimes, I'll use the wandering monster tables for each encounter, but just as often, I want a more themed dungeon or dungeon area. As with solo gaming, I don't mind if I know what I'm facing ahead of time, but I want to make sure there's surprise and some control wrestled away from me.

This is just one of the ways I do it.

Warning: The feel is certainly not that of a GM'd game, but it is enjoyable, with lot's of opportunity to add a narrative if I desire to. The ideas here are culled from a variety of sources and I suspect most long time solo rpg players probably do something similar.

This is also a longer than usual post - my apologies. I hope you find it worthwhile.

Randomized Themed Encounters

Although I use this method with my d12 dungeon generator, you don't need a dungeon generator  - the highest number encounter can be the exit or steps down, etc. I also sometimes use minis for the combat and sometimes not - either way you like it, this method won't infringe on your choice.

Option 1: Decide on the number of encounters you want to have and write them up (detailed or sketches, your call) - The number should correspond to the highest value you can roll on any one of your available dice that you choose. That is, 6 on a 1d6, 12 on a 1d12, etc. Roll the dice, play out the appropriate encounter.

Option 2: The method I prefer is similar to that found in Chronicles of Arax and H.E.X.  If you have any experience with either, then you have an idea of what's coming.

Decide how many encounters you want to have maximum and write them up.

Pick a die - the die's maximum value must be at least half of the total number of encounters.

That is, if you want 8 encounters total, you need to roll at least a d4  and no more than a d8, if you want 5 encounters, you need at least a d3(well a d6 but 1-2= 1, 3-4=2, 5,6 = 3) and no more than a d5, and so on.

Each time you roll, you add your Success Total to the value shown on the die.  Your Success Total is the measure of encounters you make it through successfully. It starts at 0, naturally enough.

For each successful encounter, you'll add +1 to the Success Total . If it's unsuccessful, you don't get to add anything, but you don't lose anything.

  1. I decide on 10 encounters maximum and I'm rolling a d6.
  2. At the start, my Success Total = 0 (my d6 results in values 1-6)
  3. First roll = I roll a 2 and add my Success Total for a total of 2. I play and survive the encounter.
  4. Success Total = 1 (my d6 now yields values from 2-7)
  5. Second roll = I roll a 5 and add my Success Total for a total of 6. I play and survive encounter #6 and survive.
  6. Success Total = 2 (my d6 yields values from 3 to 8)
  7. Third roll = I roll a 2, add my Success Total for a total of 4. I play encounter #4 and fail.
  8. Success Total = 2 (my d6 again yields values from 3 to 8)
  9. etc.
And finally, one additional wrench in the works whether you're playing Option 1 or Option 2:
  • HEX option: If the total is an encounter you played already, play it again (when combined with the Variable Enemies below, the encounter may very well not be exactly the same).
  • Arax-like Option: If the total is an encounter you played already, play the next lowest numbered encounter that has not already been played. If everything lower has been played, play first available encounter higher than the your total.
Variable Enemies

I may know which enemies I'm going to encounter, but the above method means I won't know in what order exactly. To really keep me on my toes, I use an idea from wargaming: variable force strength (which appears in b/x as "Number Appearing", for a wargame example, see PEF resolution in CR3: FV from Two Hour Wargames).


Encounter 1 = A horde of unruly goblins.

Roll 1d6
1 = There are 1/2 the party size goblins
2-5 = There are the same number of goblins as there are party members
6 = There are 2x as many goblins as party members

Obviously you can take this as far as you want. How so?

Change option 6 to:
2x as many goblins as party members. Roll 1d6 = 1 = all have cross bows and melee weapons, 2-5 = all have melee weapons, 6 = 1/2 ranged weapons and half melee.

Or maybe: 2x as many goblins as party members. Roll 1d6. On a 1 or 2, there is 1d4 dire wolves present as well.

Throw in the reaction chart from b/x or Labyrinth Lord and not only do you not know how many will be there, you don't know if they'll attack immediately or if they'll give you a chance to bluff your way through.

Add Mythic or something similar and you can take this much further than the basic concept of a simple dungeon invasion.

Putting it all together

Here's a real life sample of a dungeon adventure I threw together one afternoon, minus stats so you can use whatever system you prefer. Use some kind of reaction mechanism - either system specific or Mythic or "Yes, but" - to allow for alternatives to hack-and-slash, and to possibly tie the adventure into something larger, unless of course, you don't want to:

A band of goblins has been harassing caravans in the area (don't they always?). The party, guards on a caravan that was attacked, tracked them to their cave and journeyed inward cautiously . . .

Encounters (Roll 1d4, use Arax-like option)

1 – Room Trap (roll on table below)
2 – Monster1
3 – Empty
4 – Monster2
5 – Monster3
6 - empty
7 – Room Trap with Treasure (roll on table below)
8 – Monster4

Room Traps
1  - Poison Cloud Save vs Poison or Die
2-3 - Bucket of Spiders, Save vs Paralysis or flee the dungeon
4-5  - Ye Olde Scythe Trap – Swings out of ceiling and attacks 1st character as 2HD monster, 1d6+2 points of damage
6 - Pit of Oil – trap door drops open, roll for random character to fall in. Climbing out is impossible. 10' pole to fish out character Succeeds on a 5 or 6. Human chain, succeeds 4-6, if fails, next character in chain falls in too. Rope, succeeds 3-6, if fails, roll on wandering monster table before next try.

Monster 1 – Unruly Goblins:
1 – ½ as many as party (min 1)
2 – 1 less than party (min 1)
3-4 Same as party
5 – 1 more than party
6 – 2x as many as party

Monster 2 – Elitist Wolf Riders
1-2 1 goblin and 1 dire wolf
3-4 2 goblins and 2 dire wolves
5-6 3 goblins and 3 dire wolves

Monster 3 – Bugbear Mercenaries
1-2 Party-2 (min 1)
3-4 Party -1/2 party (min 1)
5-6 Party -1 (min 1)

Monster 4 - The Big Boss
Maniacal Goblin Shaman(can cast Heal Light Wounds and Hold, HD:2, Save as C:2), Party +1 Fanatical Goblin Bodyguards + Treasure Horde

Good luck and happy dungeoneering!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Character Class Emulation: b/x / Labyrinth Lord to USR

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying (USR) from The Trollish Delver (it's free, download it if you haven't) and sometimes, I like to use it instead of D & D b/x for dungeon crawls. I rarely need to refer to the rules (although , I do sometimes as a refresher) and, more importantly, characters have a better chance of surviving! 

I've done it enough times now, that I've got a cheat sheet of specialisms I use to emulate the character classes from b/x and Labyrinth Lord (and, I imagine, other retro clones). Thought I'd share it in case any one is interested.

Added bonus:  If I were to find someone else interested in playing a dungeon crawl, USR takes about 2 minutes to explain and maybe 5 minutes to create a character if they have an idea of what they want to play. If not, it can take quite a bit to nail down the three specialisms. This post should help with that a bit.

Below are what I'll call "the easy" classes - fighter, rogue (i.e. thief), dwarves and halflings (these are primarily based on b/x concepts for these classes, thus race-as-class.). 

My Recommendations for Attribute Dice:

Fighters: Action :d10,wits and ego as desired.

Rogues: Action or Wits should be d10 depending on focus.

Dwarves: Action d10, wits and ego as desired.

Halflings: Wits d10, action and ego as desired.

Obviously, you can use whatever assignment you want that supports the character you want to play. For example, maybe you want a bumbling fighter who survives more by luck than brawn - in that case, put the d8 or d6 in Action, depending on how bumbling you want him to be.

My Recommendations for Specialisms:

Fighter: Smashing things (doors, chests, etc.) (Action +2), melee weapons mastery (Action + 2) and one of the following: lifting things(action +2), dodge(action +2), intimidate(Ego +2),  tactics (Wits +2), open hand combat (Action +2), missile/range weapons mastery (Wits +2)

Rogue: any 3 of the following:Dodge(Action +2), stealth(i.e. hide in shadows, move silently, etc. action +2), pick pockets (action +2), pick locks(Wits +2), set traps(Wits+2), disarm traps(Wits +2 ), detect traps(Wits+2), climbing(Action +2), melee weapons mastery (Action +2) or missile/range weapons mastery (Wits +2)

Dwarves (race-as-class): Mining(Wits+2) and any 2 fighter specialisms.

Halflings (race-as-class): Dodge(Action +3 due to their small stature), missile/range weapons mastery (Wits +2) and any 1 from rogue abilities or may choose either Trash Talk(Wits +2) or Tippler
(Action +2).
The above have worked well enough for me.

But, maybe three specialisms isn't enough for you to feel like you've captured the class well enough. 

You can add more, indeed you can earn a new one if you level up, but let's be fair, if your dungeons are like mine, most characters won't last long enough to see the next level. 

If I was going to allow starting with more, I'd probably require a flaw be taken as well for each additional specialism. A reverse specialism if you will, something your character is terrible at.

Examples: Swimming(Action -2), climbing(Action -2), reading (Wits -2), running(Action -2), intimidation(Ego -2), etc.

What about magic-users, clerics and elves? 

A decent magic system is more complicated, at least from my perspective, and I've approached it in multiple ways, which I'll talk about in the next part of this, whenever that might be! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What is it boy? Is Timmy stuck in a well?: One Shot D&D b/x / LL game

On Saturday, I ran a short session of D&D b/x + Labyrinth Lord + LL Advanced Edition Companion. The idea was to try a different type of game than a hex crawl, to see if that, in part, was our difficulty the last time and to get Lady Shadowmoss's character, a race-as-class elf named, Euphrates some experience and back story prior to arrival at the town where the "real" game will begin.

This is a session summary, so as always, please skip if this sort of thing bores you.

The scenario idea - a boy in a well - came from the Secret Santicore 2011 PDF.

I didn't want to force her character onto any adventure, so I created multiple scenarios and she could ignore any or all of them ,but she would only get them one at a time, i.e. to get the second she had to either pass over or complete the first. Thus, the boy could have died in the well had she refused to take the bait (and of course the character would never know).

Which as it turned out, almost happened.

Approached by a yapping dog, Euphrates quickly climbed a tree (in fact, she said "I run into a tree" which stopped the game a good two minutes while we laughed and she clarified her meaning). 

Imagine if you will, this exchange of real-life play had been provided in the rules for your game of choice:

Lady Shadowmoss (playing Euphrates): Does the dog look magical?
DM: What? No. It looks like a dog.
LS: I don't know. I'm suspicious.

Were it not for a heroic effort of the dog - an unheralded master of pantomime - to persuade the elf to come down from the tree and follow him, little Timmy may have died in that well.

At the well, and still terrifically cautious, Euphrates lowered her rope to the trapped child and hoisted him out. 

Not exactly the gallant hero type, she was ready to send the lad off on his own in spite of his broken leg and the fact that someone or some thing had pushed him into the well. Only after the boy whined did she reconsider.

His claim that ghosts had done it was not too far off - crossing through woods towards the boy's home, 2 men, dressed in black from head to toe, attacked (ninjas!!! well, b/x thieves wearing black but still). Although she was surprised and then lost initiative on the first round, the thieves gained nothing.

She dropped the boy (after a five minute long debate about whether or not she could throw the boy in the air, cast Sleep and then catch the boy. I had visions of her throwing the child in the air and firing spells at it, like cowboys do in cartoons with tin cans and six-guns) and I ruled that dropping wasn't movement per se and she was able to cast. As it was, the boy's dog had latched itself on to the boot of one of the ninjas and was knocked out too.

This did not please the young lord, who thought his doggie was dead, and Euprhates had to explain quickly that it was just sleeping.

One assailant down, one sobbing child momentarily comforted, she won initiative and then Charmed the 2nd thief.

After questioning, she sent him on his way, but not after forcing me to improvise a whole big story about who they were. They were, as events had it, members of the the Guild of Shadow Warriors - identified by the cool tattoos on the backs of their hands - hired to kill the kids. Lady Shadowmoss pursued that idea with the tenacity of a baby going after the TV remote.

We may have a story line now of her character pursuing membership in the aforementioned Guild. Which could be kind of cool.

In any case, the boy was delivered safely, a reward given by the grateful father, including lodging for the night and a possible future ally/employer gained.

It was a great time and I'm more and more excited to try and run at least a mini-campaign of some kind.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Helvetica: Campaign Week 10

Colonel Duchamp, torn between what he knew to be a high risk attack and probable trap, and the fact that Heidegger would simply press his numerical advantage if he, Duchamp, waited too long, advanced his forces. 

In the tenth week of the conflict for Helvetica, the sides would once again meet at Fort Candide.

For this battle, as I mentioned in my previous post, I used a mashup of Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle and G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. In game terms, that means instead of the strength values in MoB, I used the remaining strength of the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. units, card activation, the start/sustain/save for vehicles, and, if it was necessary, saves for the unattached commanders.

Sauvignon-Blanc had to drive Riesling from the field or capture the two redoubts to win. Riesling either had to rout the enemy or hold out for 10 turns.

I ran neither side and left both to the whims of the Solo DBA rules for setup and tactical decisions. My involvement was to interpret the results of the tactical engine.

Both forces ended up grouped primarily in the center, with a unit on their left and one in reserve:

I decided reserves would arrive on a roll of 4-6 on a 1d6, after the first shots were fired. Which, as it turned out, meant the first turn as 2nd Battery opened up on Sauvignon-Blanc's 2e Compagnie. 

In spite of being on the defensive, Riesling was fairly aggressive, sending two units on its left early on, and Sauvignon-Blanc forces kept their distance.  

The walker returned to its temperamental self of the early weeks of the campaign and refused to start until turn 3. And stalled again on turn 4.

Duchamp managed to inspire his troops and 3e Goum did serious damage to 13th Kompanie (both are native lizard folk units). 1er Compagnie advanced to pepper the 13th as they fell back.

Although the walker finally managed to advance and get a shot off, it stalled again - this time within range of 1st Battery. Major Heidegger had attached himself to the battery and the bonus die came in handy as shell after shell pounded the walker. 13th K, nearly destroyed, fell back to the base line. In the center 1er C. and 7th K. exchange rifle fire :

By the end of turn 9, Duchamp had lost his walker and his unit of natives - a retreat was in order. Here's the table at the end of turn 10:

This turned out to be the last battle in the Battles for Helvetica - Duchamp used up all his reenforcements when Sauvignon-Blanc was forced back to Guillaume Le Roy. He's unable to replace the walker or replace 3e Goum which was reduced to 0 strength.

In a simple ceremony, Duchamp presented his sword to Heidegger and Helvetica now belongs to Riesling.

There are other islands in the Sans Serif chain, and war, which both sides had hoped to confine to the islands, seems likely to spread to the continent. And, of course, Riesling still has to handle the lizard folk who may decide to take advantage of a weakened imperial presence to rise up and revolt.

Exciting times!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rethinking the Plastic and Lead Pile

I've been thinking about how necessary the miniatures are to my wargaming enjoyment. I recognize the blasphemous nature of my questioning but bear with me, please. 

To be sure, I got into this hobby because of toy soldiers - plastic "army men" to be precise. I wanted to do something with them (they were just sitting on my desk at work). But back then (lo those 7 years ago) the game was just an excuse to use the toys, but since then, slowly, the game seems to be ascending to dominance for me. I study the history (whereas before I knew almost none of it), read fictional works, watch movies and documentaries, research uniforms, etc. I've changed how I think about wargaming in general, so why haven't I examined this particular aspect of the experience yet?

Certainly, I've played games with paper stand-up figures and had a great deal of fun, so metal or plastic soldiers aren't necessary. But what if there were no figures at all but top down counters? Blocks? Counters of the kind found in the more traditional hex-and-counter games? Isn't a toy soldier just a token of some real or imagined "thing in the world" just as these are?

I have been inspired, for some time now, by the block armies of David Cook at A Wargaming Odyssey. Most recently, JF's solo Warring States Campaign played out on his refrigerator over on Solo Nexus fired up my imagination. Neither relies on proper miniatures to fight interesting and engaging battles. 

In fact, some of my most enjoyable games early on used homemade counters and torn construction paper for scenery to play Adventures in Jimland (I had no British, no Askari, no adventuring botanists, natives, porters, pygmies, etc. so I improvised) Somewhere along the way, I decided I couldn't play a game without having the miniatures on hand. That miniature wargaming was the only way I enjoyed wargaming. 

But what if that wasn't the case?

Last night, I decided to try it for myself.

Rather than waiting until next month to squeeze in my next Helvetica game - both to allow for the time to play a G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. game and to assemble the artillery crews for Riesling - I opted instead use a mashup of Memoir of Battle and G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. and to use some diy counters printed with the standard wargame symbols (which I believe are more properly NATO symbols) on a grid printed on an 8.5" x 11" piece of cardstock. 

Two armies lay opposite and ready.

The result was total immersion and fun - as much or more so than playing with figures. And for once, Major Heidegger didn't look suspiciously like Major Dietrich.

A close up later in the game. Colonel Duchamp, 2e Compagnie and 3e Goum.

The huge benefit I see is that I can quickly field any force of any size I want for a few minutes at the computer and then with a pair of scissors. For Riesling and Sauvignon-Blanc this means perhaps extending the campaign to the continent and maybe bringing in allies on both sides, native and imperial. With cavalry! (something I have not painted for any force in my possession.)

All of that on a very small playing surface might I add - making wargaming extremely portable.

Now, am I going to stop painting and appreciating miniatures? Hell no! 

But I have demonstrated to myself that they are not a key to my enjoyment of the game.

So, while I enjoy researching uniforms and painting, and I can not wait to view my gaming table when it's covered in 200 colorful Russians and Swedes or the marines landing on Tarrawa, it's a reminder that I don't need to acquire every mini I see that looks interesting, or build huge, expensive, armies, to have an enjoyable outing on the game table.

I know this is obvious, but sometimes it doesn't sink in until you prove it for yourself.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Angry Flowers RPG: Review

As the guard turned and opened the door, Seraph shot its creeping vines out of the darkness and coiled them tightly about the guard. He struggled for his gun, and, unable to reach it, grabbed his baton instead. He swung as best he could, but it was too late; his limp body dropped to the ground. The 6' tall purple lilac slipped quietly into the building.

This is how the first encounter went in the Angry Flowers game I ran Friday night, as part of our vacation gaming.

In Angry Flowers, players take the roles of, well, angry flowers that seek to extinguish humankind's presence on the planet. It's a fun theme that lends itself to dark and twisted humor. Or it did for us. And that might say more about us than the rules (My favorite scene: the evil snapdragon plucked the petals from the flower, i.e. the head, of the NPC the PC had been sent to find, while cackling "he loves me, he loves me not.")
The cover. How could you not want to buy this?

As the product page notes, "Angry Flowers is a rules lite rpg of furious foliage in the future. It's meant for a quick, easy evening of role playing for 2 or more players and a game master." Coming in at 7 pages, and if I'm not mistaken, that includes the cover, these are indeed lite. GMs may need to make a lot of rulings in-game to run this. 

I happen to like it because it means I don't have to look up specific rules for everything. I prefer a framework to work from, rather than an exhaustive list of what can and can't be done. Still, more explanation of the telepathic powers in terms of game mechanics would have been helpful. As it stands, for Angry Flowers, the only rules I need to know to GM are Saving Rolls  and how combat works. That pretty much covers everything.

The d4, that much maligned die utilized primarily to roll hit points for magic-users and thieves, has its day here. Nearly all but one roll (for number of foot-like roots and that might be a typo) use a d4 or multiple rolls of the d4, e.g. 2d4, 3d4, etc. Character attributes are all d4 generated as well.

And did I mention, characters are angry flowers?  (I can't help it, I think this is a great idea)

According to the official fluff, humans have been driven back to a primitive state. What primitive means is left to interpretation. For my purposes, I thought it would be fun if it was a post-apocalyptic type setting, where humans do have access to technology here and there.

At $0.99 it does seem a bit pricey for just 7 pages, but on the plus side, you get two pdfs - 1 full size and 1 pocket mod.  True, it's not anything you couldn't do yourself with any existing system (but you didn't, did you?), and it won't replace your regular RPG set, however, $0.99 for a playable, easy to run, fun game, for a break from "serious" sessions is a pretty good deal. I got mine for $.75 during the recent Christmas in July sale on the DriveThru sites, and it's definitely worth at least that. 

For less than a dollar and maybe 20 minutes spent creating a scenario, we got an hour or so of laughing, dice rolling and story telling. What more do you want?