Sunday, September 30, 2012

Home Again and the Rest of My Haul

Drove home today from Hurricon 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

I'll post more thoughts on the convention and such, but first, more stuff I bought that I probably shouldn't have:

Miniatures include: 15mm Rat Personalities, 18mm Kobold army, 18mm Goblin archers and horde, 18/20mm Badger Warband, 18/20mm Rat warband.
All of the above (and below) were purchased from Splintered Light. I had to forcibly remove myself from his stand. So many great 15-20mm miniatures!

Easily VG+ condition old Dragons. $3 each. I should have bough more!
To my surprise, in issue 28 of The Dragon, was an uncut pristine copy of The Awful Green Things from Outer Space!

There are some great articles in these issues which I'll be talking about in future posts as well.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Live from Hurricon 2012

Spent the bulk of the day driving down to Orlando, FL to attend Hurricon 2012, put on by HMGS South.

It doesn't seem terribly busy yet, but I imagine that will change tomorrow.

The flea market was tonight and here is my obligatory "scores" pic:

The tanks were $5 for the two (they go for around $12 each normally). I didn't need more dice, but I was playing in a game and needed mine, but they were back in my room - ran to the flea market and for $5 got two complete sets and a handful of wacky dice (a d30, a d30 numbered -10 to -1, 1 to 10, and +1 to +10, a d16, and a blank over sized d10). The Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Player's Handbook cost me a whopping TWO DOLLARS. I figured I've read tons of criticism of the game, might as well take a look myself.

After the flea market, and along the same line of thought, I played in my first Pathfinder game.

I've only read a bit of the SRD - shelling out the money for the book  without having played it, when for a similar price I can get Dungeon Crawl Classics, which I have played and enjoyed,  wasn't appealing to me. I played the "First Steps: In Service to Lore" using the pre-gen cleric, Kyra. It was fun, although I was a little delirious towards the end - the lack of sleep and all day driving catching up to me in spite of the diet Mt. Dew.

I'm not sure what I thought about it - we seemed pretty powerful for first level characters. I also don't feel great about the whole "roll your diplomacy" (or whatever). I get it - sometimes, the player lacks skill that his or her character would have. I would have preferred to have us role play the situation more than we did before we got to the roll. 

To be fair,  I think in part it had to do with nearly all of us learning the system. There was one experienced player with our group and they seemed to be the type that played in character, voice and all, so that tells me my experience is not an example of Pathfinder play universal to all GMs (and probably not even this GM) and scenarios.

I've signed up for part 2 for Sunday morning. It's a dungeon crawl - something I know quite well - and I think I'll be able to get a better feel for comparing it to my beloved bx/Labyrinth Lord.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Small-space Sci-Fi Game

I was sitting in a meeting this morning, bored out of mind, so I pulled up Word and made a gridded battle area for a small sci-fi skirmish.

I used a 1" grid, colored in spaces for buildings, indicated doors and windows and threw on some wooded cover("explosions2" in Word). 

The final result was printed on a sheet of sand colored cardstock:

The scenario: Rescue the hostage from the enemy's clutches.

 The rules were made up quickly. Starting positions were determined by die roll:

Roll 1d6 for initiative, high score moves first

Figures can move and fire each turn, with some exceptions(see further down)

Base rate of 4 squares, fast = 1d3 + base rate


A close up of the good guys from the enemy's perspective
pistols = 4 squares
smg = 6 squares
rifle = 10 squares. 

Short range = 1/2 of range or less.

To hit: 
short range/no cover = 4,5,6
short range/cover = 5,6
long range/no cover = 5/6
long range/cover = 6

smg's roll 2 dice to hit

Regulars save on a 6 on a 1d6

Characters roll 1d6 and consult the following table:
6 = Carry on
4,5 = Knocked down
2,3 = Unconscious
1 = Killed

On next activation: Unconscious becomes Knocked down, Knocked down becomes Carry on.

Unconscious and Knocked down can be auto-killed if enemy in adjacent square.

To shoot into a building through a window, if target figure is not in a square with a window, can only attack on (4-6 on a 1d6) and in LOS.
Doors can be kicked open on a 4-6 on a 1d6

If empty building (no figures on table) are there enemies in building?:

1 Yes (1d4 figures) and you can fire at them
2,3 Yes (1d4 figures) but they you can't fire this turn
4,5 No but that doesn't mean it's an empty building 
6 No and the building is actually empty

A close up of the other 2 good guys from my position.
They have bear butts. Get it? Bear butts?
 I think this joke says more about me than I'd like.
If a figure looks through a window into an empty building(no figures on table) do they see an enemy?
1 Yes (1d4 figures) and you can fire at them
2,3 Yes (1d4 figures) but you can't fire this turn
4,5 No but that doesn't mean it's an empty building 
6 No and the building is actually empty

Special rule for this scenario:
Characters can spend 1 turn searching a building - no other action may be taken

In the first building, a 6 means the hostage is there
In the 2nd building searched, hostage found on 5 or 6
In 3rd building searched, hostage found on 4-6
In 4th building searched, hostage found on 3-6.

With only four buildings, it does means it is possible hostage may not be in any building. Perhaps the intel was wrong or the hostage has been recently transferred to another location.

Added on the fly during my game:
Each turn, roll to see if a patrol enters the board 1-3 yes, 4-6 no. I used 1d4 figures for the patrol size. And rolled for which open edge square the patrol would enter from. Finally, I rolled to see which group of my players they would advance towards and at what rate (fast or regular).

I also used the Yes/YesAnd/NoBut/NoAnd method for questions about enemy tactics if I had any doubt.

The result: A fun game that ended in a TPK as wave after wave of enemy patrols finally took their course.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Catan Dice for a Wargame Campaign?

Tonight's Labyrinth Lord session was cancelled at the last minute. Not a big deal as I'm already prepped out the whazoo for at least the next two to four sessions. The only time I "lost" was the 20 minutes I spent reviewing my notes.

Instead, I tackled removing the tiny bit of plastic left over from where the sprue connected to the tricrones on the GNW Russians. I got about half-way through before my eyes started to blur.

So, I pulled out the Catan Dice Game, since it's too late to start any kind of battle. I was reminded of a thought that occurred to me when I first got the game: it seems to me that the dice could have a place in a wargaming campaign.

Here's a photo of the dice (I pulled this off the web):

In addition to the five sides shown, each die has a gold nugget on it.

I don't think it takes much of a stretch to see potential for a wargame campaign supply system mini-game.

For ancients and medieval games (fantasy too) you could probably use the included rules as a starting point. Mileage may vary for other periods.

While I haven't worked out my own  system yet,  I have played several video games where the player has to mine/farm/harvest resources to build new towns and to handle supply, upkeep and recruitment for their forces that might serve as good models to emulate.

My hope is to design something workable, but also quick to use and fun, for my next wargaming campaign.

A Plan! (for the Russian regiments)

Last night, I pried the little buggers off their sprues and spent the next two hours playing with different arrangements of the figures until I came up with something that will work for now (please pardon the picture quality, my camera batteries are dead):

The sprue in the background is a closer depiction of the actual figure color!
In order to allow some flexibility in choice of rules, my ultimate goal will be 12 figure battalions (regiments of 24-36 figures). However, in the short term (until the 8 boxes of stuff is painted), I will go with 6 figure battalions (regiments of 12 to 18 figures).

This works out rather well, save for that fact that I have a regiment remaining without officers and a battalion of grenadiers also sans officers. For the regiment without officers (and standard bearers for that matter), I am trying to find metal figures that fit the scale or if I can acquire some loose Zvezda figures.

The other option is to use them to bring one regiment up to two 12 figure battalion strength: probably Byelgorodski / Astrakhanski since, depending on the rules, officer figures don't always matter and then I could field each regiment in the short term.

With two more boxes, the grenadiers can become a regiment unto themselves, and I would reach the 24-36 number for the other regiments - plus have the necessary officer figures (I'd still be short some standards though).

Tonight, I'm running another session of Labyrinth Lord, so I'll get back to cleaning up these figures on Wednesday or Thursday. There's not much to do except trim down some of the points where the sprues met the tricornes. Worst case, I'll bring them with me to Hurricon and spend some time in my hotel room prepping them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Weather Has Turned to the Great Northern War

It appears that the humidity has broken and it's fall, just as the calendar tells us. What this means is that now I can spray prime figures again. And that, in turn, means that work can begin in earnest on my Great Northern War project.

Research has begun, aided by the Osprey titles on Peter the Great's army and Poltava, as well as Uniforms of the Imperial Russian Army by Mollo.

I believe I have settled on the following Russian infantry regiments to start:

Narvski - dark green/faced blue/ red breeches
Kievski - red/faced yellow/red breeches
Byelgorodski (can double for Astrakhanski) - dark green/faced red/brown breeches.

I'm still debating the number of figures to paint per regiment. Russia at this time generally had two battalion regiments, except for a handful which had three. Of course, both Narvski and Kievski are three battalion regiments.

Most of my games will likely be unhistorical toy soldier type affairs, so I'm not terribly constrained by history but I do like to keep it in mind as long as I don't find it too limiting.

12 figure battalions sounds like a good idea, but if I paint them to full strength I'm looking at two regiments of 36 figures each. If I paint them to two battalion strength, then I can paint up all three.

Regardless, if I want to include two officer figures per unit (whether I unit means the battalion or the regiment), I'm limited to a max of 4 units as I only have eight officer figures. Although this is something to think further about, I plan to start prepping the figures tonight.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Two Elves and a Cleric Walk into a Cave

Ran the second group session of my Labyrinth Lord game, set in my home-brewed, Hertugdømme av Glitrende Merkelig (google translation of "Duchy of the Glittering Strange". The name is a nod to the absurdity that is the sparkling vampire).


Euprhates and Lenny, carrying the reliquary of the gonfalon of St Moschauser, followed Radgar (the secret agent for a chaos cult ) to the cave Radgar and the bandits (who had raided the caravan on the previous session) were using as a meeting place.

Inside, the party walked into an ambush. 

Unbeknownst to the party, the high priest of the chaos cult had sent four armored men (chaos knights) to dispatch Radgar and retrieve the reliquary. To the high priest, Radgar would be too identifiable, having spent considerable time earning the trust of the bishop of the Temple in order to become responsible for the gonfalon's safety. His ability to convey the reliquary to the temple without encountering problems with the law of the realm was too questionable. 

Radgar went down early in the fight(which was something I had not planned on). But, the players took no damage and handily defeated the attackers through a combination of a sleep spell and some big damage rolls with their swords. 

Radgar's death was the cause of some concern. Without him, the party felt they had no way to achieve their goal of going to the cult temple, and consequently, no way to unleash the "god of chaos."

Fortunately, I had the forethought to create a map of the region for the players that Radgar would have on his person (figuring he would show it to the players to plot their journey). So, when they searched his body and found it, they had the idea to visit the village of Visby and and either find someone who could do the the summoning or make the journey northward to the temple and present the gonfalon to the cult high priest.

After looting the bandit treasure and trading their own armor for the much cooler jet black armor and black cloaks of the chaos knights,  the party high-tailed it out of the caves to the clearing where they had left the stolen wagon. The two draft horses were unhitched and pressed into service as mounts and the party set off to find a campsite, as sunset was fast approaching.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Upcoming Gaming Plans

It's confirmed, next weekend this time,I'll be at Hurricon!

I've only ever been to one other gaming convention, and that was Historicon 2009. I expect this one to be smaller, but no matter. I didn't play in any games at Historicon (I went for the flea market and vendors), and this time I definitely will be.

I'm signed up for my first Pathfinder game (I've never played 3.5 so this will be a new experience), and 3 wargames including a game of Guts!, Rugged Adventures, and Woodland Wars (for a FIW game). Time permitting, I'll play a demo game of All the King's Men - I love their figures and while I've read the rules several times, I've never gotten to play them. I think they might be usable for the GNW.

In the meantime, I'm running Labyrinth Lord tonight or tomorrow, or maybe both.

It has been really hard to prepare for this; an email sent to both players requesting just three sentences about their characters yielded exactly zero replies. Ditto for the email where I offered 500xp for TWO sentences about the village/culture they come from. I have almost zero idea what is motivating the characters at this point, other than the desire to unleash a power they don't understand.

I've got hooks for them to get more involved with the Chaos cult if that's what they want, as well as possibilities for them to handle the process themselves, or abandon it all if that's their choosing. I just wonder how many of my hex encounters will yield enough interest for them to interact or if they'll just pursue their goal to the exclusion of everything else.

Either way, I can at least expect to have a better grasp on their direction after the next session. 

And finally, on Saturday, I'll be playing in a play-test of the Atomic Robo RPG which uses the FATE system. I have no experience with that, but Atomic Robo is a great comic strip and it features among other things, a dinosaur that uses automatic weapons.

You'd have to bar the door to keep me from playing a game like that!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Brainstorm on Bloody Ridge/Edson's Ridge

While taking out the garbage last night (when all great ideas strike), it occurred to me that I could also play a game representing the whole of the Battle of Edson's ridge (or at least the 2nd night as I'm inclined to do), rather than only small semi-historical actions loosely set on the ridge.

If, instead of 6 figures representing a section, I make 6 figures equal to a company, I can field Edson's force of 8 companies (5 Raider companies and 3 paratroop companies), and with the recycling of the Japanese casualties, the two battalions of IJA.

Of course, I'm playing a game, not crafting a simulation, so liberties would undoubtedly abound. Indeed, if I pursue this, I will most likely aim for a very abstract playing surface  - more board game than terrain-covered table (not that I go through any great lengths in that respect anyway).


Does this count as yet another project? I mean if all I have to do is some research and maybe cut up some foam core. That's not a project is it?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bloody Ridge on a Grid

As I haven't read all the way through the PTO supplement for Nuts! yet, last night, I again brought out the USMC and the IJA for a grid-based wargame.The scenario was "Hold the Ridge!" from Sands of Blood, Sweat and Tears from TFP Games, which takes the Battle of the Bloody Ridge(Edson's Ridge) as its inspiration.

I translated the scenario from a game intended for 1:1 with a platoon on each side, to Bob Cordery's Memoir of Modern Battle. Given the limited space on my grid at this point in time (it's an 8x9 grid of 3" squares), I treated each MoMB unit as a section. Rifle sections were represented by 6 figures (only 4 counted for strength points - the other 2 were for aesthetics).

The Marines had 1 Platoon + 3 MG sections (of 3 figures each, only 2 counted for the basic strength value), for 6 sections total I left the forward observers off as I couldn't decide how to represent them - unfortunately, that left my Marines without artillery support (and completely unhistorical).

The Japanese had 1 platoon (3 sections of 6 figures each) and 2 assault sections (3 figures each), which I treated as mortars for MoMB.


The OOB in Sands of Blood, Sweat and Tears includes the HQ section. I decided to treat the HQ section as the General in MoB - with mixed results. Specifically, I wrestled with how to treat the "1" when the officer was attached to a unit.I flip flopped on this far too much.

I gave the Japanese 1 extra die when at 1 grid space distance.

At the beginning of the game, I decided that the Japanese needed to receive two retreat results in order to force a retreat and then decided that, in accordance with most other rules I have, they would just ignore any 1s instead.

The scenario called for Japanese casualties to be replaced (up to 2d6 figures) each turn. Since I wasn't playing a 1:1 game, I opted to use the "hospital"  found in Kevin White's "In Good Company" (Lone Warrior #168), which he borrowed from Donald Bailey's Pith Helmet 2.All of that is to say a figure would return on a 1,2 on a 1d6 and be permanently removed on a 5 or 6.

Unfortunately, I kept confusing figures that were there for aesthetic purposes with figures legitimately in the "hospital."

The scenario takes place at night (the book didn't specify if this is 1st night or 2nd of the battle, but I'm guessing 2nd). To convert the rules for visibility to the grid, I set visibility to one grid space +1d3 additional grid spaces.

Finally, I ran the Japanese using the tactics section of the Nuts! War with Japan supplement.

So, what about the game?

Starting positions

An MG section - a cold, steely, unblinking eye watches for movement in the jungle below.

The Japanese prepare their advance.

They get within range! If only we could see them!

Steady boys!

Mortars: heroes of the hour

A USMC section falls to the attackers!

The greatly reduced Marine force as they prepare to fall back.

The ranks of the marines were thinned at will by the Japanese mortars, while the Japanese suffered brutally at the hands of the Hospital system. I've never rolled so many 5s and 6s! 

I called the game here, as the Marines, rationally, would have fallen back. Not an unhistorical result if this takes place earlier during the night of September 13 - it wasn't quite the last stand yet. However, by the victory conditions presented in Sands of Blood, Sweat and Tears,  the Japanese suffered 80% losses and thus could not win. For the USMC, it seems a Pyrrhic victory at best.

I'm not sure the rules + mods worked as I hoped. I think I'll try this scenario again ,but using the Pacific Island Assault rules minus the Marines landing on the beach of course. Eventually I'd like to play it 1:1 with Nuts! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September Goals (belated)

Fourteen days into the month, it seems like cheating to post this so late!

My focus has been on getting the Labyrinth Lord campaign setup enough that I'll have little preparation to do for awhile. It is at least in part a hex-crawl and my players have full agency to go wherever they want and do what they want. Hence the heavy front end prep (most of which is the village they will, *I hope*, journey to next). 

There is no overarching story or conflict that they must be a part of and consequently nowhere they must go by way of a railroad. They just happen to have chosen to let some crazed demon back into the material plane. Presumably, they'll stick with that plan for awhile at least.

As an aside, I've also decided to drop the "b/x" when describing this game, since my players have access to the free LL downloads, not the b/x books (my precious-es, i do not loan them out). 

In any case, both of my players are away at a LARP event, so I have another week to work on it.

We also have another person interested in joining the game from time to time. My hope is to run another session this month for the original two players to get them to a point where I could introduce a new PC in a logical fashion.

Already this month, I've played some solo games - a replay of "Pacific Island Assault" and some quick small-scale skirmishes,- so that goal is well met. Still, I am itching for a solo game of something. I'm not sure what - maybe try out the Nuts! vehicle rules? a solo dungeon crawl? Play around with some Story Cubes? Pacific Theater by G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.? Regardless, this weekend looks like an opportunity for this.

Hurricon is in two weeks and I'm tempted to make the drive to Orlando (about 8 hours), but we'll see. The rooms are not totally unreasonable, but gas is a definite wallet killer. I'll have to think about this more.

I'm going to leave my goals for September at that. There are a lot of things I'd like to do, including:

  • Prep and prime the 1st box of infantry for GNW (this is dependent on the temp and humidity, which is really finally easing into reasonable levels)
  • Research uniforms for GNW
  • Prep and prime some 15mm figures
I suspect those will mostly have to wait until October.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Campaign Prep for bx/LL/AEC or How I Spent My Lunch Break Today

They aren't pretty but here are two pieces of the town my players might go to next:

Visby, located in the Duchy of the Glittering Strange
The foreground is obviously the map (on an index card - the scale as a far as I'm concerned is irrelevant) while the background is a web of relationships for notable NPCs in Visby. 

The eagle-eyed zine readers among you might recognize the name of one Everly Moss. Everly appears in Loviator #8. I transplanted him from the hamlet of Dorim, as presented in the zine, to my village of Visby. He's involved in the same line of business and still has some troubles with the law, but not quite as intense as Christian gave him! My players, I suspect, will see him as a business partner.

If they spend any time in the town beyond sleeping there - it really depends on how gung-ho they are to release Chaos upon the land.

In any case, the relationship web is very messy - I think it might be better to create a table in a spreadsheet program with the names as column and row headings, and describing the relationship in the cell at the intersection.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Small Space Gaming

This post over on SoloNexus got me thinking about gaming on a small space.

I typically game on a 3' x 3' or 2'x2' space although I'm fortunate that I can expand to 3' x 5' if I really want to. Traditionally, in a hobby of 6' x 8' tables as the heralded standard, my playing area is already pretty small.

But what if I went smaller? What about a single sheet of paper small?

If this looks vaguely familiar,
 yes you've seen it before
It may seem absurd, if you're approaching it from a figure gaming paradigm, but many map-and-counter wargames are played on a single sheet of paper (as I did with my own diy "map" - a grid-ed surface more properly speaking - and counters in this post)  and I have owned at least one that was 8.5 x 5.5" for the map (on the downside, in this case, the counters were terribly tiny).

So, yes I can play a wargame on a single sheet of paper - combined with the magnetic dry erase board idea (see the SoloNexus post, although similar products are available in the back-to-school supplies) and making the counters magnetic-  I could easily play a game on the train in the morning, using the dice app in my phone for my rolls.

From a figure perspective, obviously bases of several small figures would work for larger battles - 2mm and 6mm come to mind

But what about very small scale skirmish gaming - almost rpg-like even? I know some people do 1:1 character based games in 6mm, I don't own any 6mm to do that with. I do own a decent amount of 15mm figures though.

So, I figured, what the heck? Let's give it a go.

Admittedly, it looks like the kind of thing a GM hastily scrawls on a dry erase mat during an RPG session, but ignore that for now: what matters is, was it fun and would I do it again? Yes and yes.

I played this scenario twice: a small band of rebels are raiding a Control facility. They have to search as many rooms as possible and then get out. I used THW's CR3:FV for the first go, and home-brew set for the second.

Firearms and long range weapons were easily handled by a reducing the length of possible fire lanes - in this case, the twists and turns of the corridor, but cover of any sort would do. Indeed, I should have done more -the hallway my squad entered from was too long and put us at the mercy of the overwhelming numbers of Control troopers. Another sharp turn would have been a good idea. Ditto for the other long corridor.

Next time, I'll keep that in mind.

Since the figures are 15mm, I treated the ranges in CR3 as if the unit was centimeters instead of inches. For my home brew rules, I set base movement to 6cm and used the ranges from Use Me SciFi, but treated as cm.

In this case, the accurate range of their rifles was 10cm - but depending on the game you want, weapons ranges can be much longer than the "table". In my opinion, shorter ranges feel a little more cinematic, while longer ranges feel more realistic but will require a lot more cover to give a fun game in a small space like this.

Getting away from blasters and firearms, the dungeon makes a perfect environment in this situation. With most everything using melee weapons, the twists and turns of corridors aid escape and ambush, as much as they aid in reducing the power of those armed with range weapons.

3d objects and walls would take it to the next level - which would be great for playing at home, but not so much for the train (when I say train, I really mean subway. Hard plastic seats and a general odor of urine and sweat. Not cushy clean Amtrak cars with seats with tables and power outlets). Not as fancy, but a lot cheaper, is to spend a few minutes in a presentation app like PowerPoint or a drawing app like Google's to make a nicer looking surface to print out.

My plan is to visit this idea again for a Space Hulk / Aliens type game - rather than downloading, and being restricted by, somebody else's maps/tiles.

And in the meantime, I'll consider picking up an inexpensive magnetic dry erase board and some magnetic strips to make some counters. I look forward to the stares from the other passengers on the train.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming

Got a chance to play Call of Cthulhu (6th ed) for the first time on Saturday. We had what I consider a very large group - 9 or 10 people around the table - which meant that our PCs were splitting up and running all over New Orleans (the scenario's setting). I tip my hat to the GM for keeping track of everyone and not allowing any 1 group dominate play to the point others lost interest.

I love my character: an antiquarian, Dr. Reginald P. Gristle, phd. Although NJ born and raised, and a Princeton graduate, he puts his phd in religion to use identifying artifacts from little known ancient and tribal religions for the University of Pennsylvania Museum. He is a collector of such things himself and appreciates them both for their beauty and for the mysteries they can reveal. It is not surprising that with his background he would become a "friend" of The Project. A man of extreme curiosity, he often leaps before he looks when an old book or artifact of mysterious origin is within his grasp - as such he has "seen things" he does not discuss with anyone outside of the Project. Despite the effects on his sanity, he does not temper his behavior.(I rolled a 25 starting sanity).

During our investigation, I managed to pilfer a copy of The King in Yellow (and lost 5 sanity as a result) as well as a carved Elder Sign. Neither of which proved useful when we encountered the thing we're tracking. Fortunately, my character is not a hero, and he dove for cover. With a pistol, borrowed from our group's priest, I joined in a brief fire fight where I nearly hit one of our team (oops!). The session ended with a young boy shot and bleeding, his mother delirious from torture and lack of food, half of our team jumping from a burning building, and some of us pushing some loose bricks in the back of the basement - possibly a hidden room or compartment.

*** Some thoughts ***
As I said, this was my first time playing CoC.  I have owned the rules for 2 years but just never got around to reading them all the way through. In preparation for this session, I downloaded and read the free demo PDF figuring it'd be enough to get by. Turns out I was right.

Generating a character took maybe 15 minutes and that was mostly trying to decide which of the skills would give me the character I wanted to play and benefit the group. The skills system was very easy to use in play, although our GM encourages role play, placing less emphasis on the result of the roll than on what you describe (which has a nice old school feel).

I'm looking forward to the next session - I believe we'll be wrapping this one up and I can't wait to see what the hell we're tracking!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Character Class Emulation Part 2: Magic from b/x / Labyrinth Lord to USR

I know it has been awhile since I mentioned it, but here is the first installment of my thoughts on magic systems for use with USR (Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying), with an eye towards emulating D&D b/x.

Specific Spells as a Specialism

This is actually fairly simple to explain. If you want to cast a spell, take that spell as a specialism.

Example: Magic Missile (Wits +2), Read Magic (Wits + 2),etc.

When I first read USR, this is the method that jumped out at me as a logical application of the system of specialisms. In the case of Magic Missile , it's a ranged weapon attack and treated as such, whereas Read Magic would be an uncontested challenge roll with a difficulty established by the GM.

And it plays well this way. I have had a lot of fun with this method. 

Unfortunately, this means a Magic Missile and a Fireball have the same possibility of hitting and cause the same amount of damage.

Rather than call this next section another method, I'll call it a slight improvement: 

Specific Spells as Specialisms: Specialism Independent Effects

Let's start with an easier example, Cure Light Wounds (Ego +2). 

In this case, the first few times I did this, I went a little farther and decided this should be an opposed roll - Ego of caster vs. Ego of recipient. If the recipient loses, they gain 1d6+1 hp, regardless of the difference between the two results.

So, back to Magic Missile. 

The attack is made against the target as (Wits+2). The target, incidentally, rolls defense as normal in my games, but I do know that in b/x at least, the hits are automatic (and ultimately, for a conversion, they would be. As these were for one off games, I wasn't yet considering correspondence to b/x). If the target loses, then damage of 1d6 per missile (1 missile per +2 of specialism), regardless of the difference in the two results.

Fireball could then do 1d6 points of damage for the first +2 and an additional 1d6 for each bonus thereafter. I.e. if the magic-user had Fireball(Wits+3), they'd roll 2d6 for damage. Now the fireball and the magic missile distinction isn't meaningless.

We're getting closer. But it still feels not quite right.

Why This is not a Good Approach for B/X Emulation

While the benefit here is that the caster's level doesn't in any way impact which spells they can choose as specialisms, it's not an emulation. For one, spells have levels in b/x and only one of those levels are accessible to a magic user just starting out.
And, in all cases, the approach I've presented here turns magic into a skill check, but a magic-user in b/x is always assumed to cast their spell successfully (unless interrupted). So, although this mechanism works fine generally, in an attempt to emulate b/x (warts and all), it's the wrong choice.

A Better Emulation:

Use the specialism Magic(Wits +2) for magic-users/elves and Magic(Ego +2) for Clerics. 

Use the spell lists available for b/x (Labyrinth Lord is free and has the same spells more or less). Yes, spell lists can be annoying in a rules-lite game - especially when you can't remember the effect and have to look it up mid-game. But, they are, I think, an expected feature of any game trying to be d&d-like (which is my goal here after all). The work is in converting the spells you want to use to USR (and it's not hard work at all).

Casting is automatic unless interrupted.

Given how advancement in USR is handled, I would lean towards something like one spell per Magic bonus (+2,+3, +4, etc.) of a level equal to or less than the caster's level. This doesn't exactly correspond to b/x but it's a decent enough compromise that doesn't make for overly powerful magic-users.

So, a 1st level magic-user with Magic(Wits+2) can cast 2 spells of first level. At 2nd level, assuming they bump Magic up 1 to Magic(Wits +3), they can cast 3 spells of first or second level. At 3rd level and Magic (Wits +4) they can cast four spells of third level or lower, etc.

Clerics have no spells until second level, per b/x and then they get 1 per point. So they go from none to 3. It's a big jump but prevents adding yet another system to the pile and preserves the idea that they are capable fighters and not armored nurses.

Spells that hit automatically, do so.

Spells where the victim gets a saving throw, the GM decides the difficulty involved (corresponding to the presumed resistance of the recipient to magic) and roll an uncontested check using the appropriate attribute (Wits for magic-user spells, Ego for cleric).

Utility spells, in my opinion, should have a chance of failure - but that's not a b/x feature. So I'll just leave you with that thought.

The above has not been play-tested as well as I would like(few of my magic-users ever live through their first outing to test the advancement rules) and I make no guarantee it will give the desired effect, but it's a start in any case.

You might suggest that the rogue has to choose which particular abilities they want but the magic-users / clerics are getting a boon by being able to choose a very general skill. I think this is true to a point, but I think in terms of capturing the feel of b/x, the rogue method I proposed in my last post on the subject works well for that class. 

The thief's (er uh rogue's) abilities improve with level in b/x (as they do in USR), but a spell caster ability to successfully cast a spell does not increase with level (with maybe a handful of exceptions), although the choice of spells does. Thus, while specific rogue skills map quite well to specialisms and how they function and how at least I think of them, specific spells do not.

*For Giggles, Here's a System Not to Try
Specialisms of Attack Spells(Wits+2), Defense Spells(Wits +2), Utility Spells(Wits +2). I only allowed my character to choose Utility and then either Defense or Attack. 

I chose Defense. Total Disaster. 

It's certainly not a good approach for an emulation but it can be fun when that's not your intent.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

Well, I should have guessed that I wouldn't get in any gaming this past weekend.

In this case, it wasn't for a complete lack of time - not entirely at least. Rather, I fell down a world building hole while preparing for the next b/x - Labyrinth Lord session. Amazing how much time playing with Hexographer can absorb!

Speaking of Hexographer, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to run the free version on my netbook seeing as how I'm running a distribution of Linux (SimplyMEPIS 8.0 for those curious). I am happy to report it runs just fine.

In addition, I spent hours reading various posts on populating hexes. My two go-to sites at the moment are The Welsh Piper and The Alexandrian, although I borrowed encounters liberally from Planet Algol.

Fun as all that was, I was jonesing for a wargame and I thought for sure I would get one on Monday - the Labor Day holiday. Our son's nanny wanted to work to make up some hours she had missed. When the nanny called out sick, that put a rather large crimp on those plans.

Finally, last night, after the baby went to bed, I did manage to sneak in another round of "Pacific Island Assault".

Below are some pictures from the end of the game showing different perspectives of the victory:

This time, I diced for whether or not a Japanese unit would move in cases where the unit was heavily damaged and falling back would give them an advantage, or when they were too far away to hit the Marines easily. I also diced to decide which target to attack if there were more than one equally close, giving preference to infantry and artillery over tanks, and damaged units over undamaged units.

These mechanisms worked well - they aren't terribly complicated so I would have been surprised if they didn't.

The game was a nail biter, with victory finally secured during the navy salvo on the last turn of the game.

It took a few days of waiting to get to the gaming table, but it was worth the wait.