Thursday, January 31, 2013

Basic Fantasy Appreciation Day!

Today, January 31st, a number of bloggers, myself included, have decided to follow  the suggestion from Tenkar's Tavern to spend at least one post showing some love for one of the neglected children of the "OSR" gaming scene, Basic Fantasy Role-Playing (BFRPG). Follow the link for an obscene amount of free gaming goodness.

I'll start by noting that had I managed to find Basic Fantasy before I purchased LL + LL AEC, I'd probably be playing my current crawl in The Ever Expanding Dungeon with BFRPG. The game is a beautiful labor of open source love - the font and layout choices strike me as very b/x, while much of the art makes me think of AD&D, especially that cover.

And that, it seems to me, is exactly what BFRPG does as a game.

I've put together a little comparison of b/x, Labyrinth Lord, Labyrinth Lord AEC, OSRIC 2.2 and BFRPG, which you can get from my Dropbox Account. Some of it has to do with pricing and page counts and such, but some of it looks at some system specifics.

What I think it shows fairly clearly, is that Basic Fantasy straddles a  line between b/x (and Labyrinth Lord) and 1e (represented here most closely by OSRIC 2.2. I gave my AD&D books away a few years ago so I don' t have them for reference) in a way that differs from the approach taken by the LL AEC, and at a fraction of the cost for the print edition.

It is an approach, which, personally, suits my tastes better as it favors the b/x side of the equation. In terms of classes in the core book, it's everything you're familiar with from b/x but with a separation of race and class and the elimination of arbitrary level limits.

Now, those who prefer 1e classes, please don't fret.

BFRPG has a strong community of developers and you can pretty much find any class you can think of, classic 1e and classes frankly I'd never heard of, represented in the many free downloads on the BFRPG site. So, if paladin or heaven forbid, bard, are more your cup of tea, you're covered. I'm not aware of any similar magnitude of support, for free, for any other "clone."

What I think I like most about this system, besides the strong community support, is that it isn't slavish in its simulation of the past. Instead it accommodates more modern gaming concepts enshrined in the SRD from which it comes. Three areas that jump out at me are ascending AC,  ability rolls which take a "target number" approach that accounts for character level as well as ability bonuses, and its take on XP for gold.

The latter, to me, is astounding.

Basic Fantasy, in a clear break with tradition (at least for the world's most popular role-playing game), suggests that XP be tied to encounters, whether combat or not, with the latter in amounts at the GM's discretion. This is perhaps almost as monumental as the use of ascending AC (although some other clones also use ascending AC). Whether or not a given GM ran their game with XP for gold, it was the method documented in b/x and the 1e DM Guide. As someone who has been only relatively recently convinced that XP for gold is a bit superfluous, I like that BFRPG goes down the road less traveled for "retro-clones"

Enough fawning, you can make up your own mind.

If you don't want to take the plunge and grab the whole rulebook (it's free though and there's a lo-fi version that takes up about 1/4 of the disk space), at least check out the Beginner's Essentials. You'll get a decent sense of the game from that and it can probably serve as a player's handbook for new players.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wargaming or the Absence Thereof

Looking back over my posts for January, I notice a distinct absence of miniature gaming. 

Ditto for December. Not since November have I played a wargame!

I did do several "play tests" of Morschauser's modern rules (inspired by this post on Two Up, One Back, and Featherstone's simple WWII rules from  War Games: Battles and Manoeuvres with Model Soldiers using my TSSD  GIs and Germans, and Airfix Russians and Germans. But this was mostly of the set up a situation and see what the result would be variety, not a true game.

I have an idea for a Pulp-themed WWII mission for my attempt at my own Wampus Country Under the Tree Challenge I mentioned in my goals for the year, but I have yet to set it up an play. The TSSD figures and Featherstone's WWII rules will be the rules of choice in that game since they were, in fact, under said tree this year.

I will definitely put something on the table in February!

Finally, and not unrelated,  I picked up these: 

Actual Dead Tree Copies

Both issues are cited for their Marlburian rules by the Junior General site's scenarios for the Great Northern War. Hence my interest in them. 

Issue 92 contains Featherstone's Marlburian Wargame Rules, but they seem incomplete to me even when I reference his rules in his War Games.  

Still, I'm happy to have acquired a copy - I've been looking for these since early 2012.

Neither issue is available in PDF from Don Perrin over on and my guess is, they probably won't be, since issues before and after have been available for awhile.

This brings my collection of possible rules for GNW (and other Horse &Musket games I suppose) in dead-tree to:

Individually Based:
  • Featherstone's Marlburian Wargame Rules
  • Pat Condray's Wargaming the Age of Marlborough
  • Chalres S. Grant's The War Game Rules (will need modification for early 17th century)
  • G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. (I'll wait for the purists to stop choking. Yes, I do think it's possible to modify G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. to handle this era. Possible. Is it likely I'll do it? 50/50 and roll on the Mythic Fate chart)
Multi-figure Basing:
  • Warfare in the Age of Reason
  • Volley & Bayonet (with modifications for GNW from MWAN 81 and a website I found on the subject)
  • Corporal John - Rules for Large Marlburian Battles
I also have a handful I found on PDF, but I have to sort through them yet. I have plenty of time for that; the Russian infantry including officers and grenadiers should be finished in February.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 9

As Feldspar led the group into the next room, an invisible force suddenly ripped his sword upward and out of his hand. With a clank, it slammed flat against the smoothly cut ceiling tile.

After some stunned silence and then a brief discussion, B prepared to climb onto Feldspar's shoulders to grab the sword. 

[roll vs. B's Dex, fail. For someone with a 14 Dex, she sure does fail a lot of checks]

In the event, she slipped  
[Mythic do they suffer any damage? 50/50,exceptional no] and knocked Feldspar to the ground. She, on the other hand, landed squarely on her feet.

On their second try, B succeeded in reaching the sword but she was unable to break the bond which held it to the ceiling [failed a roll vs her Str of 8]. Feldspar grasped B’s legs tightly and then pulled while dropping his full weight to the ground - [passed his roll vs his STR of 18] bringing B and the sword hurtling to the ground

[Mythic, do they fall and hurt themselves this time - Likely, no]

Pressing onward, the most fortuitous of events - a four way intersection one arm of which lead to a dead end. A dead end abutting a room near the original entrance the party took those many days ago.

A frantic search for a secret door began .

[My dungeon crawl rules note that on a roll of 1 there is a secret door and then I roll to see in which direction it goes. ]

Cries of joy erupt from the party - a secret door has been found and it appears to allow passage in both directions.

[It seemed to me that, as much as I wanted them out of the dungeon and safe at the inn, the characters might have other ideas. 

Mythic, be the PCs, do the players follow the secret door?  Very Likely, No]

Against all odds and common sense, Feldspar managed to convince the party to explore a little further, "After all, we know where to go to get out now."

In the next room, they encounter some giant rats snuffling about who have no interest in the party. 
[Mythic, does the party go back? I decide since they've already avoided the easy way out, it's Unlikely, no. ] As the feeling was mutual the PCs slipped quietly past and then forced open one of the two other doors in the room.

Although the party was diligent in trying to listen through the next door, they were surprised to when they forced open a door into a room with two adepts wearing symbols of evil deities discussing the finer points of ritual virgin sacrifice.

[I use LL rules to check the adepts' reaction - hostile, immediate attack. Awesome.]

The adepts charged the party and both chose Trulhammar as the target of their violence. Battered (4 HP of damage), he managed to stay on his feet.

[Here I rolled initiative, party 6, adepts 4 Phew!]

Perceval forced  his way up front, as Feldspar and Trulhammar side stepped the adepts to make room for him, thus allowing all three an attack. Sister Linkat and B turned to face the hallway to prevent any ambush.

The adepts had bitten off more than they could chew and both were killed as Trulhammar and Perceval struck home with their blades. 

Although a search of the room and their bodies revealed no treasure, a secret door was found on the wall abutting the first room they ever entered.

[Mythic, Do they go through?With Trulhammar badly injured now as well, I reset the odds back to 50/50. Exceptional yes, they will go through and head straight for the steps out

Mythic, do they encounter anything in room 1? 50/50, exceptional yes. Roll Rory's Story Cubes, get lightning bolt and magic wand, probably two magic users. Reaction is friendly.

Mythic, are they the friends of Chrontiphar, whose body the party has been dragging around?Unlikely. 33, yes and, random event, pc positive, "recruit magic". ]

Disappointed to see their dead friend, they noted, as they assisted the pcs with the body, that they now had an opening in their merry little band of mages and if she is interested, B would be most welcome, and they would teach her the art of wizardry.

Ever wary of the unwanted attention of old men, she replied that she'd think on it.

The party, weary and thankful for the help with the body, made their way outside where a a pyre was built for

As the flames lapped skyward and the sun began to dip below the horizon, the party and the mages hustled back to town.


  • My heart was in my throat when the party opted to continue exploring even though I really wanted them out of there. All thanks to Feldspar's thrill-seeking ways (see below). I've never been so happy for a party to survive!
  • Combat this time was handled with the same manner i used last time. It is most definitely my preferred method.
  • Before the session started, I went back and decided to generate some motivations and a single personality trait for each member of the party so that I can begin to better differentiate the characters:
    • Feldspar - A thrill-seeker, motivated by a general thirst for knowledge of the strange and fantastic. In his former life, he was a lorimer.
    • Perceval - Prior to offering his services to the original party as a porter, he was a huntsman in the woods around the village. Known among the villagers as an honorable man, he seeks to earn a reputation that extends beyond the village tavern.
    • Sister Linkat - A wanderer since childhood, she ran away from her small fishing village to head inland where she found religion. Now she wanders to spread her gospel. She is a bit naive although her experience in the dungeon is opening her eyes.
    • Bomgoster Boof - Born to a struggling blacksmith widowed not long after her birth, B and her 11 siblings made a game of who could steal the most for the family. As adults, they are all thieves of one kind or another. She is driven into the dungeons by sibling rivalry, hoping to score a big haul.
    • The Mysterious Trulhammar Gax - He's an NPC but I thought he deserved some fleshing out. The dice must have known it was he I was rolling a motivation for: he's seeking knowledge of something, something he doesn't talk about.

(combined session 8 and 9 totals)
Body count: Fargle Blim (H:0), Chrontiphar(M:1)
Killed: 1 bugbear, 2 evil adepts

Loot: 600 sp
Rooms explored: 9

Friday, January 25, 2013

Five for Friday: Week of 1/18/2013 - 1/24/2013

bonus link: In Search of the Unknown 

Instant Adventures, Artifacts and NPCs with Rory's Story Cubes on The Savage Afterworld

The Need to Achieve on B/X Blackrazor

I thought it might make more sense to put the links at the top, for those who want to get to the meat of the post. My thoughts about each link appear below.

You couldn't click anywhere this week without stepping on a blog post about the One Book Shelf (,, etc.) partnering with Wizards of the Coast to offer classic D&D books and modules in PDF format again (years ago they were available and then one day they suddenly weren't).

The pricing for many of the options falls short of the point where I would definitely choose the PDF over a print copy on eBay. But for some rare / hard to find titles, I can see this being a nice stop-gap solution.

Which brings us to our second link:

 In Search of the Unknown on
This classic basic D&D module, B1, is available for free download at the time this was written.

I grabbed a copy before the servers crashed under the volume that One Book Shelf experienced (they're now working just fine) and checked the print vs. the quality of the scan.

For those who remember, or who have, the old scans, they were unappealing to say the least. I'm happy to report the new scan was quite legible and crisp.

Mixing Scales on the Tabletop: Heresy or Not on Wargaming Miscellany
This one was rather timely as I contemplate adding more 1/35 scale figures and vehicles to my Eastern Front WWII  collection. I was even thinking 1/43 or 1/48 might not be too small for a "toy soldier" look next to 1/32-1/35 figures, but I don't have any easy way to test that.

L'amore tra i mostri: Session 1, Q1-3 on SoloNexus
also see Q4-6 and Q7-9

JF kicked off his new Italian Comic Opera D&D Next campaign this week. Not only a great illustration of the 9Qs in action w/Rory's Story Cubes (which have recently been featured in a number of RPG blogs), it's a great read.

In the comments on the first post, JF explains his use of the game mechanics and their place in the story.

Instant Adventures, Artifacts and NPCs with Rory's Story Cubes on The Savage Afterworld
Speaking of Rory's Story Cubes, Tim over at The Savage Afterworld demonstrates how he uses them for inspiration.

It's been awhile since I've used the Story Cubes for an adventure - I may have to rectify that with tonight's session of The Ever Expanding Dungeon.

The Need to Achieve on B/X Blackrazor
Although the impetus for this post was a discussion about character advancement in super hero RPGs, the discussion is broader than that and discusses achievement as a player goal in role playing games.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another Attempt at a Social RPG Game

I have been doing a lot of reading on how to run social games with less exploration-oriented adventures and more story/plot emphasis. I do this often enough in solo games, so theoretically, it should be possible for me to do so for others, right?

With that bit of questionable reasoning in mind, I've decided to give such a game a try as part of the whole "New Year, New Game" thing. 

Rules: USR

USR is extremely flexible and easy to teach and learn - a benefit when the player(s) don't own or want to read the rules.

I know from experience that it will easily handle the kinds of things Lady Shadowmoss likes to do in a game, without bogging me down with game mechanics I don't like, a pre-generated setting that I have to mentally delete, or handfuls of dice for skill checks - the latter, both Lady Shadowmoss and I dislike immensely.

We'll be using USR with many of my Moldvay-class ideas for USR, Labyrinth Lord for the spell lists and the optional USR Narrative Points system will be in play.

Setting: Post-apocalyptic science-fantasy (essentially Mutant Future + Labyrinth Lord or Gamma World + D & D, if you prefer). 

I have wanted to do this type of game for a very long time. 

The potential for gonzo/goofy is high, but since I tend to be farily light hearted in my treatment of RPG settings, I thought it would be nice change of pace to let a darker, bleaker world have its day in the sun (so to speak). 

In this case, we're looking at a desolate wasteland populated and fought over by nomadic tribes, warlords and slavers. Encounters with strange creatures are of course inevitable and will generally best be dealt with by running away.

As I know Lady Shadowmoss prefers playing casters, magic does exist - but it is a largely forgotten art among humans (only LL main rules spells available at start). 

Still there are libraries of ancient magic waiting to be discovered in the ruins of the ancient cultures. It is also rumored that in a handful of the few cities that exist, there meet societies of mages working to develop new spells and which they teach for a price. 

From a rules perspective, these "new" spells will come from the LL AEC's spell lists, which are a good deal longer than the basic rules.

In addition to magic, "ancient technology" will be found here and there - usually among ruins, although sometimes employed by NPCs; firearms, lasers, or simply old tires can all make appearances.


We haven't stat-ed her character yet but we have discussed the setting and brain-stormed some ideas. From that, she was able to come up with her basic concept.

She seems a great deal more enthused with the setting and direction than the LL fantasy campaign. If it goes well, we'll invite another player or two to join us.

I'm well under way with the first adventure's design and I'm hopeful that getting her involved early means less wasted effort on my part and a more satisfying game for everyone.

This post was written for the second annual New Year, New Game blog carnival hosted by Gnome Stew as part of the 2013 New Year, New Game challenge.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Osprey's Peter the Great's Army 1: Infantry

This weekend I had a chance to read through Peter the Great's Army 1:Infantry (Osprey Men-at-Arms Series) by Angus Konstam and David Rickman.

Some Osprey titles I've read have been the book equivalent of dry toast. Maybe it's my interest in the army in question, but I found this one an easy read to accompany my coffee and lazing about with my cat.

Like all Osprey titles, there are color plates to inspire the painter as well as black and white images of maps, battlefield depictions and equipment.

I found much inspiring and often stopped to pull out my laptop to look up smaller battles and skirmishes of the Great Northern War mentioned in the text (wargame scenario ideas, of course). It also got me thinking about picking up a box or two of Cossack cavalry.

The great difficulty with anything related to Russia tends to be the fact that the bulk of source materials are written, as would be expected, in Russian. Thus, I can't really speak to the accuracy of anything contained herein, but I trust that the work is at least factually correct with respect to the time of publication in 1993.

The only real downside to this title is that the bibliography is contained in the companion volume, Peter the Great's Army 2: Cavalry. If your interest is strictly infantry, or you're having a bit of difficulty locating the cavalry book for a reasonable price, you're out of luck if you hope to use this to identify primary sources.

With respect to uniforms, every source I check seems to differ (ditto for number of pikes per battalion.). It isn't helped by the fact that during the period of 1700-1720 uniforms changed multiple times, until standardization was enforced in 1720.

I made a judgement call  to utilize this book as the definitive source for the uniforms of my miniatures and barring something contained in one of the more expensive uniform books available, I have yet to find sufficient reason to conclude that was a bad decision.

One thing I am considering, however, as a result of this read through ,is sacrificing my plans to paint up the two remaining battalions as Narvski (green coat faced blue) or Kievski (red coat faced yellow) and instead, paint one that could function as 3rd battalion of Ingermanlandski/Astrakhanski/Byelgorodski, and one in the style of a battalion of guard infantry: Preobrazhenski (green coat faced red) or Semenovski (light blue faced red).

There's no rush to make the decision, although I intend to finish the 2nd battalion of Ingermanlandski/Astrakhanski/Byelgorodski tonight.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Five for Friday: Week of 1/11/2013 - 1/17/2013

The second edition of my Five for Friday (I'm on a roll!) It leans a little heavy on RPGs this week, but it starts off with an article written by a wargaming pioneer:

Chessboard War from Tabletop Talk
Bob Cordery got me hooked on the idea of grid-based games. Morschauser solidified that interest (yes, Morschauser had the idea before Mr. Cordery, but that's not how I encountered them). And now, as seen on Tabletop Talk (a blog connected with Historifigs, keepers of the Jack Scruby figure lines), it appears Tony Bath also had a set of gridded game rules.

Gridded games aren't everybody's cup of tea ,but I find gamers of note, like Featherstone, Grant or Bath, fun to read regardless of whether I would ever use their proposed idea in a game or not.

Dungeon Construction from Matakashi's Teahouse
Matakashi does amazing work with DIY terrain and scenery. Most of the time, I look at it and think, "I doubt I could ever do that." However, this project is one I think anyone can do - possibly even using generic Jenga blocks or children's wood blocks to save yourself the cutting. I suspect such a thing could be done for sci-fi interiors as well.

Fridge Logic & Dungeonsc from Tao of D&D
Love him or hate him, Alex of the Tao of D&D posts thoughtful, interesting articles and this one is no different. Alex discusses the peculiarity of monsters hoarding gold when, in their daily lives, they have no need of it.

As I don't strive for verisimilitude in my dungeons for the most part, these things don't terribly concern me, but for those who do, it poses something of a problem if thought about logically. As an aside, I think it's a strong argument in favor of why gold and experience should not be equated  (although I don't think that was his point).

Secret Party House of the Hill Giant Playboy from roll1d12
Download a free module from the mind behind a website dedicated to the neglected d12? Don't mind if I do.

I've had a read through it and it seems very solo-able with plenty of random tables, interesting NPCs and even a new monster. I would probably solo this using Mythic and Labyrinth Lord; it looks like it'd work equally well playing as the PC or the GM.

Random Tables - Inspiration or "As Rolled?" from Tenkar's Tavern
Tenkar's Tavern is one of my favorite RPG blogs out there, always insightful or thought provoking questions, without being unnecessarily serious. In this post, well, I think it's pretty self-explanatory.

I posted in the comments on this one, in favor of making an effort to use results from random tables "as rolled", before giving up and either choosing or rolling again. Perhaps it's because as a solo player, I'm usually designing encounters and such "on the fly" and typically I have no preconceived notion of what exactly I should encounter (unless I've set up a special encounter list, as I did for the goblin territory in The Ever Expanding Dungeon).

My job is to rationalize the random result given what I have already learned about the game setting.

This also touches back to the question of verisimilitude; it's not terribly important to me if the logic of the game world doesn't make sense compared to our world generally or in my mind specifically. But, then, I am happy to sometimes drift into surrealism if that's what occurs. Often it doesn't, because I impose the laws of this reality on the narrative or the very random tables I am using have pre-limited the possible results to things that make sense in the broad game world, and while they might not often appear in the same space there, they are not mind boggling in their weirdness individually.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 8 part ii

This is part 2 of Session 8 (see part 1 here)

For the last two nights, Roderick sang the story of how the brave adventurers fought the bugbear. The tale however had grown some in that short time: the enemy had become a demon straight from the maws of hell, and Roderick himself played no small part in its demise.

During their rest, Feldspar paid the hirelings and tried to hire them back.

Trulhammar would hire on again at 5% of treasure and 50gp, whereas Fargle agreed for 10gp and a suit of leather armor.

Sister Linkat suggested that a 10’ pole might be helpful, and "perhaps maybe we could find a wizard to join us?"

[Here I turn to Mythic. Are there any in town? This seems very unlikely. Yet, I roll "exceptional yes." In fact, there are several in town passing through on a tour of the more remote villages, studying the regional lore and more naturalistic magics, etc.

I then think, surely, none would have the inclination to journey into a dungeon. Do they? Very Unlikely, but indeed one does..

Will they join as a PC? 50/50. Yes. Ok then, roll up one Chrontiphar the Handsome Magician, M:1, 5 HP

I then "play the GM"

Has the dungeon reset since? Likely. Yes.
Are the goblins still there? Very likely, Yes
Have they increased security? Yes. I decide to increase random encounters to 1-2 in goblin territory.]

The party managed to make its way back to the legendary room 17 (now the site of 2 bugbear encounters, a giant spider encounter and one with some goblins).

Outside the door, Feldspar reminded everyone that things don’t seem to go well in there - he would kick open the door and B would be ready to fire an arrow at whatever is there should it prove threatening.

He kicked the door, and nearly broke his toe. Fortunately B held her arrow [saved vs her DEX] or it would have splintered as it collided with the door at such close range..

Perceval stepped up and succeeded in forcing the door open.

An unusual site awaited the party. An apparently bored bugbear had begun to absentmindedly scrawl crude pictures on the walls. Art is very popular in this dungeon.

[Mythic again. Is it the same one they gave gold to? no.
Turn to LL rules for reaction? He seems somewhat indifferent to the party
I have B save against her DEX to to hold her shot or did she fire - B let the arrow go, and missed.
Reaction? Not happy.]

The bugbear more annoyed than anything else by the arrow which struck the wall beside him, unsheathed his sword (Perceval thought it looked vaguely familiar - similar to the one which belonged to Fader) and roared a challenge.

[initiative: party 4, bugbear 3]

At that moment, Feldspar realized what the proper tactic was in this part of the dungeon, “Run for it!”

The party took off running and left the bugbear behind.

It wasn't heroic. But they aren't heroes yet either, and wouldn't be if they kept dying in that part of the dungeon.

Rather than try to penetrate the goblin territory any further, they would seek to finish mapping the rest of the 1st level. This proved to be more productive as several new rooms were discovered and even a cache of 600 sp.

In one, Feldspar bashed down the door to the surprise of 4 orcs. One appeared to have some kind of status, wearing a purple cloak and an ornate claw necklace. Two of the others carried large sacks while the fourth was armed heavily.

Unfortunately, again, in the heat of the moment, B let fly with an arrow. And she missed again. William Tell she is not.

The orcs began shouting angrily and to the amazement of all Fargle Blim shouted back in orcish apologizing for their egregious error! [Mythic, is orc the language that Fargle Blim knows?Unlikely, yes]

This changed the orcs demeanor temporarily and Fargle took the opportunity to suggest Feldspar and Trulhammar sheath their weapons and cough up some gold. For the sum of 10 gp, the incident was smoothed over. And a bit of conversation began. 

The party learned that the orcs were on a diplomatic mission but would not say to whom. They were also vague about where they hailed from other than to say "somewhere in the complex."

When the orcs questioned why the party was there, Feldspar had Fargle relay that they were mapping the place. To what purpose? "So we don't get lost"

The orc leader laughed, "You will need more than a map to not be lost here." And with that they continued on.

How right his words proved to be:

  • Fargle Blim met her untimely death in a pit trip - B, scouting ahead and tapping the floor with the 10' pole failed to trigger the trap. Fargle, close behind her, was not so lucky.
  • B tripped a trap on a protected chest and an arrow caught Feldspar(4 points of damage!)
  • Catastrophe nearly struck again, when Perceval fell into a pit filled with glass shards. Fate was on his side this day, and his armor shielded him, mostly (2 HP damage)
  • Shortly after, B was hit by a dart trap (2 points of damage)
  • A second dart caught Chrontiphar who was dropped where he stood.
Having passed, perhaps unwisely, through a one-way secret door, and with no known exit from the dungeon available, the party would have to journey further, now wounded, battered and reduced in strength.

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 8 part I

As the smoke from Nobbilo's funeral pyre crept skyward, the party gritted their teeth and headed back into The Ever Expanding Dungeon.

On their way in, they discovered a faulty snare-trap that must have been placed only after they exited - the hasty setup accounted for the trap's failure. In any case, something or someone had followed them.

Feldspar requested B scout ahead, with Fargle "The Hungry Clown" carrying the torch. The rest of the party would follow at the torch light's edge.

[As the party passed through rooms previously visited, I asked Mythic, "Is anyone here?" Just outside the room that has caused them more problems than not, goblins, a giant spider, and a bugbear, I got No, but rolled a random NPC event, bestow fame. I apologize to the reader for what follows.]

Perceval was the first to hear the approach - coming around the bend, he heard the sound of someone running and then a man cried out “wait wait! i have something for you!”

Even when Perceval could clearly see the thin older man with a  shaggy grey beard, dressed all in black and carrying a mandolin, he still kept out his sword. The rest of the party spread out.

“I have written you a song, to spread the tale of how you slayed those hellish creatures which plagued our town!” He began to tune the mandolin.

“Some other time please, Roderick. It's not safe in here.”

Perceval recognized the man as a musician who had come to town long ago and never left. He was renowned for his skill and played his mandolin at all of the town’s festivals. If anything negative might be said about him, it is that he is often described as "a bit touched." While Perceval would agree the man was quite talented, the truth of the latter became apparent - now was neither time nor place for a concert.

DH (6)
DH(6) by RayMorris1 on Flickr
Ok, it's not a mandolin,but he has the right look.

[roll initiative, Roderick 3, Party 1]
The man began to sing and Perceval rushed forward to quiet him, but Roderick proved deceptively nimble and dodged out of the way.

[Roll initiative, Roderick goes first]
He belted out the first verse of the tune and side stepped Perceval’s next rush.

Fargle Blim came forward and begged Roderick to stop. And again he side stepped Perceval’s attempt. By chance, he started to cough about 3/4s of the way through the verse.

That interruption came too late.

Distracted by the sheer chaos of a musician playing loudly in the dungeon, no one noticed the large hairy goblinoid moving stealthily to sidle up behind B and attack her. 

His club landed but she was protected in part by her armor (2 points of damage 1/3 of her HP!). When given the chance, B fell back to protect Fargle and the cowering mandolin-er, who had curled into a wailing bal when the fighting began.

In the ensuing melee with the bugbear, The Mysterious Trulhammar Gax and Feldspar suffered serious wounds (5 HP and 6 HP respectively) and Perceval was lightly wounded (2HP). Although the bugbear had begun a fighting withdrawal, the party was able to overcome him before he exited the room to summon any others.

Sister Linkat, who had accidentally flung her mace across the room during combat and had thus been spared engaging the bugbear, surveyed the battered party. Who to heal? Feldspar's wounds seemed most serious, but he declined healing and insisted Sister Linkat heal Trulhammar (for a whopping 2 points. Apparently the Hedonistic Lumberjack wasn't feeling too generous today).

Meanwhile, Perceval calmly informed Roderick that if he ever again acted so senseless, he would personally see to it that he would never play the mandolin, or any instrument, or even feed himself, again.

The party retreated from the dungeon in good order and without incident but hey all had the same thought: "This isn't working. We need a new tactic. But what?"

The answer would come soon enough.

Stay tuned for The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 8, Part II (posting later today)

This was the first fight I ran using the new method. Each time the bugbear was hit, I rolled 3d8 + 1 (Bugbears are 3HD +1 monsters) and compared the result to the total damage. If the result of the HD roll was greater than the total damage, he was still standing. I definitely prefer this method for NPCs and monsters - I have no idea how strong they might be and it's simple to implement.

I also used it for the characters - but only as a test in their case - comparing the results of the standard method vs. the new and found them to give very nearly the same results. 

I am torn here. 

There is a nice tension achieved in watching your hit points dwindle, on the other hand, not knowing how badly you are injured means that even with heavy damage, you might still manage to survive - against nearly all odds. The latter is a good bit more heroic.

I can't say the PCs might live longer or not if I go with the new method, as they die with such frequency as to make it difficult to measure with certainty.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gaming Surface Materials Acquired.

I picked up two sheets of 2' x 4' x .25" MDF and about 24 oz. of Behr "Rolling Hills" paint on Saturday.

The paint color seems suitably "old school" to me, but I may be quite wrong on that issue. Still, it evokes a "toy" feeling in me when I look at it and that's the effect I'm after. Of course, it may look rather different when there's 16 square feet of it staring me in the face.

As projects go, this is relatively inexpensive:

  • MDF - $5.95 USD a sheet ( 2 total)
  • Paint - $2.94 USD per pot ( 3 pots total - quite more than necessary)

My total (tax excluded) - $20.72

We already have the paint rollers, although I will need to pick up a paint pan liner, unless a sheet of aluminum foil will do the job.

The plan is simply to rest these sheets on my desk (which is, by its design, a 3' x 5'  kitchen table),on our actual kitchen table (same dimensions) or even the floor. When not in use, the MDF will be stored underneath a sofa or the bed, conveniently out of sight. The latter part pleases the Lady Shadowmoss, which is never a bad thing.

Depending on my confidence in the stability of the MDF where it overhangs the table, I may pick up a third sheet to allow me to field as large as 4' x 6' playing area. 

Painting should commence sometime this week. I look forward to having a surface from which I can brush away the cat hair with ease.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Little Link Love

I think I'd like to have a regular "feature", if not weekly then perhaps more often than"whenever", where I highlight a few of the gaming-related items on the web that I encountered in the preceding week that I think merit attention.

The purpose is two-fold: in case you missed it in your own feed reader, this is a second chance, and, more selfishly, I'm hopeful that others might do something similar from time-to-time on their blogs.

There's so much good stuff out there, and we have so little time to read it all, I rely on other bloggers to steer me to items I may have missed and that might be of interest.

JF of SoloNexus has turned his 9Qs into a PocketMod!
I love PocketMods so, of course, that got my attention. I know not everyone is ga-ga for PocketMods like I am, but it's worth a look if you're short on table space or want to make an ultra-portable solo gaming kit. Combine with the Risus or USR rules pocket mods, wilderness or dungeon words mods, and some dice and you have everything you need for solo gaming in a tiny package.

Bob Cordery released the Ancients version of his Portable Wargame into the Wild
I don't play ancients, yet. I have contemplated doing a medieval army or two. Russia and Teutonic Knights or perhaps Mongols and Russians. What's with me and Russia? Anyway, I don't have any way to evaluate these rules except to say that I enjoy gaming on a gridded surface, so someone who plays ancients will have to give them a go and report on it.

The Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe Edition Kickstarter Exceeded Funding within 48 Hours of Launch
As I mentioned earlier this week, I went in on this. I had sworn off Kickstarter after seeing too many undelivered and long delayed projects (two of which I supported). But, this is something I want in on. It sounds like it will be 5th edition with plenty of bells and whistles if you want to use them and Flying Buffalo's involvement means that someone in the publishing business is right there at the start. It seems that's where a lot of the RPG Kickstarters falter.

Are children intuitive railroaders? on Daddy Grognard
As the father of a one year old, playing rpgs with my kid is a distant dream, but never-the-less, it's a subject I enjoy reading about. Daddy Grognard presents an interesting analysis of children and how their experience effects the way they might run a game in spite of having played in a sandbox campaign for some time.

Wargame Horizons on Polemarch
Not unrelated to the above, Polemarch examines the basis for our ethical decisions and the role our experience plays in the decisions we make. If the article is of any interest at all to you, make sure to check out the discussion that continues in the comments!

There were certainly many more posts and articles I read that were interesting and worthy of review, but there you are, five for Friday.

Which is what I'll call this from now on, thereby dooming me to never being able to come up with five again.

And way off topic, this arrived Thursday afternoon!
2nd Printing
(you'd be surprised how happy having an index inside the book and not as a print-out makes me)
I am slightly overwhelmed by the monstrous size of the thing. As someone who spends a great deal of time with Moldvay (at a whopping 64 pages, 128 if you include both Basic and Expert) and Labyrinth Lord (133 pages), the 460 pages of DCC is a touch intimidating. Fortunately, I'm slated to play in a game of DCC, not run one, thereby greatly reducing the burden of what I should try to remember.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 7

Had time last night for a short session:

After the ghoul smack-down, the party returned to town to enjoy a few days rest, and a little less resistance in their search for porters and the like.

Feldspar, he of the 18 charisma, did the hiring.

The offer he made was pretty meager - 10gp and a shield - but he found two takers:

  • Fargle Blim, The Hungry Clown, Female, NM:0, HP 2 She's not a terribly good clown, hence "the hungry." She signed on, mostly for the promise of a good meal.
  • Nobbilo Ur, former soldier, Male, NM:0, HP 1 Having fought for years for various noblemen, he was forced into retirement due to injuries and age. Now, a spry 70, low on money, he seeks the glory of his youth.
The Mysterious Trulhammar Gax, now F:1, agreed to come along on the next adventure, for 50gp and a 5% share of gold.

After a good night's sleep and fueled by hopes of treasure, the party was eager to return to what appeared to be a goblin stronghold in the dungeon. They chose the entrance that would get them there quickest. 

The first door they came to had been well repaired since they last passed this way- an ominous warning if ever there was one.

B (the thief) tried to pick the lock, but forgot to even look for a trap and was promptly stung by a poisoned needle. She passed her save, but she learned her lesson!

Fader kicked the door in and he and Feldspar led the group's rush into the room - there they found three young-ish bandit types, painting lewd "art" on the walls.

“whoa. you guys aren’t going to rat us out are you?”
“not if you don’t give us trouble”
“sure, whatever

(that's the exchange I imagined)

The party opted to leave them be and moved quickly onward.

At the door to the room that previously contained several goblins and then later, a giant spider, Feldspar and Fader had a listen and B checked for traps. [at this point I asked Mythic if the door was trapped and got doubles, a random event.]

B failed to spot the trap and as she yanked her hand from the lock everyone held their breath. Would she be alright?

A sudden loud voice broke the tense silence: “Hey, uh, so uh, any of you adventuring dudes interested in supporting some budding young artists? We’re going to paint the face of the Eerie Cliffs of Cutter with a crazy huge mural. We just need money for the pigments.”

Perceval shushed the entrepreneurial young man and ushered him away while B made her save vs Poison.

With B OK, and any chance of surprise quite likely spoiled, Feldspar kicked in the door and charged in with Fader, as the rest of the party forced their way in behind them and spread out. 
In their haste, they woke a bugbear from a peaceful nap, and who was now, understandably, kind of angry.

Feldspar sheathed his sword - the bugbear wasn't overtly hostile yet and there was a good deal of distance between them -and held up a few gold coins for the bugbear to see. The bugbear stood up to his full height, picked up his spiked club and moved towards the party.

Feldspar threw the gold pieces towards the bugbear and B knocked an arrow. To their relief, the bugbear stopped and picked up the gp. What passes as a smile appeared on the bugbear's face and he held out his hand, making the universal sign for "gimme more."

It cost Feldspar nearly 15 gp, but the bugbear let the party pass, although he made a gesture that clearly indicated he wasn't going to guarantee them safe passage next time. He slipped out of the room while the party checked the opposite door.

Fader was impaled on spikes shortly after as the party tried to avoid a known pit trap - the one that claimed Sister Clarice, Acolyte of the Monkey King. Unable to retrieve their comrade, or more importantly, his gear, they continued on. 

The hallway they were sure would take them into some kind of goblin den, instead led to stairs up a level. Disappointment and discussion followed in close order.

Finally, it was decided and they lit a torch and up they went.

The architecture was noticeably different - a much higher quality of smooth, polished stone, with painted arabesque boarders and a patterned tile floor. No magical light orbs here, they would have to rely on the torch light.

Perhaps that's why they didn't see the dart trap that sprung and killed Nobbilo. With 1 HP it wasn't much of a surprise that he died, but still, decency dictated that they couldn't just leave his body. Carrying him would seriously slow them down (already moving pretty slowly thanks to being armored like tanks) and the party made their way back the way they came.

On their way out, they came upon a gruesome sight: the bodies of the three painting bandits, bludgeoned, bloody and broken. The bugbear probably made his way through here after he left the PCs.

In the light of the day and the fresh air of the outside world, Feldspar and Perceval built a funeral pyre for the old man and Sister Linkat performed her religion's version of last rites.  

As the smoke climbed into the sky, the party prepared for a return into the depths of the Ever Expanding Dungeon.

Body count: Fader (F:1), Nobbilo Ur (NM:0)
Killed: n/a
Rooms explored: 2
Treasure: n/a
Turns: 24

I had really hoped for some combat to try out the ideas generated in the comments on my post about uncertainty and hit points. Alas, this didn't happen. On the other hand, I enjoyed the encounters with the bandits and the bugbear because they weren't combat. Dungeon crawls sometimes have the reputation of only supporting one kind of play, hack-and-slash. It's nice that even solo, this is clearly not the case.

The bugbear encounter in particular was a fun mix of roleplaying as Feldspar, reliance on random generators for the bugbear, and some creative license. I didn't know until the final check whether or not the bugbear would accept the gold or charge the party.

Another observation: going back to a crawl after the fast paced 9Q experience was like getting off the highway and having to drive at half of your previous speed. It just feels so slow because you were going so fast. 

I'm interested to see if that continues or, if, as with driving, I'll adjust to the new speed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yesterday's Mail Brought the Red Guards at Kursk

I spent most of my lunch break getting my dungeon party ready to head back into the Ever Expanding Dungeon. But I also spent it rifling through this:

This isn't even close to the actual color.

It arrived late yesterday and I have, in the hours in between, decided to pursue the "The Red Surge" 4 scenario campaign, which covers July 11 and 12, 1943, in 1/32 and 1/35 scale.

Although I have almost everything on hand for these scenarios, there are a few items I don't.

Most notably for the first two scenarios: a flamethrower for the Soviets.

So, I ordered a box of 1/35 Russian assault troops.

I realize the scale may be different, but I'm OK with that as long as my squads aren't mixed too often. 

I also ordered 2 boxes of 1/32 Airfix Russian infantry to supplement what I have, as a full platoon is required for one of the scenarios.

And since the money was flying away anyway, while I was at it, I ordered The War Game Rules (a thank you to Jim Wright for pointing me in their direction) and Wargaming in the Age of Marlborough from On Military Matters.

That officially burns up the entirety of my Christmas cash - now just waiting on deliveries.

Over the next few months, I'll be saving for 1/35 model kits - a PAK 36, Kubelwagen Type 82, an Sdkfz 251, T-70M Soviet Light Tank. I also would like to acquire 1 1/32 short barrel T-34 model from CTS. The two I have are the long barrel (which, I have realized, makes them T-34/85). I'm not going to fret that much, but since I need 3 at least for these scenarios, might as well get the third with the right barrel.

Of course, none of this should be taken as pre-empting my conducting a Little Wars style tank game with paper models which I am still working on and still hope to pull off.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Some New Recruits

My last post generated a good amount of discussion, thought and inspiration - the results of which I hope to put into play this week sometime.

I still need to write up my thoughts about JF's 9Qs for solo rpgs as well, but in the meantime, I got in some painting last night. I moved the next unit of Great Northern War Russian infantry one step closer to completion and when they are complete, I'll be over half-way done with the infantry, not counting officers.

And more troops arrived today:

1/72 Plastic goodies!
The dragoons bring my me up to two boxes for the Russians (at one mounted and one dismounted unit per box, I'm not likely to build up a large number of them). The US Marines were purchased primarily for the MGs and the mortars to supplement my existing force and replace some of the paper flats (I love my paper flats, but the Marines have given a good account of themselves and I thought they could use a reward). The remainder will be painted, eventually.

This recent burst of crass consumerism is the result of my efforts to turn some of my Christmas gift money into gaming fun.

With a little effort, I was able to stretch those dollars pretty far - I've got two boxes of Swedish dragoons on the way, that I picked up for a great deal ($9.98 a box and free shipping!), as well as a copy of Dungeon Crawl Classics (eBay for just $30 delivered) and SkirmishCampaigns' Red Guards at Kursk (found used via AbeBooks, at 40% off of retail).

In addition, I put in some on the Tunnels & Trolls kickstarter. I swore off Kickstarter just a few weeks ago - two of the three projects I supported seem to have disappeared -  but it's hard not to believe that Flying Buffalo and Ken St. Andre and crew will deliver.

I still have a little  gift money left, and with my birthday not too far away, I'm contemplating what to put it towards. I'm considering one or more of the following:

  • Charles Grant's The War Game - in fair to good condition it turns up for around $40 pretty frequently
  • Two Hour Wargames Nuts!2.0 Supplements - Peiper at the Gate, The Big Hurt or Stalingrad: Heroes All
  • The Purple Worm Graveyard, possibly with the How to Host a Dungeon game as well
  • Pat Condray's Wargaming the Age of Marlborough.
  • GA PA:Age of Marlborough and Great Northern Wars
  • 1/32 heavy weapons infantry for Germany and either US or Russia
  • 1/32 WWII armor - CTS vehicles, though a limited range, are reasonably priced, or I could buy a 1/35 model kit, or perhaps 1 piece of 21st Century / FoV armor if I do some shopping around.
  • 1/285 GHQ WWII Germans and Russians infantry and support - I can't explain this, it's just one of those wild ideas that gripped my brain after I saw some painted German infantry in this scale.
  • 1/1200 ACW Ironclads (completely out of left field I know)

There's clearly no rush and I have ample projects to occupy my brain for some time, but I thought I'd throw the ideas up there in case anyone has strong recommendations or warnings about anything I'm considering.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Maintaining Uncertainty of Enemy Hit Points in Solo Gaming

One of the features of tabletop roleplaying games and some wargames, that I've played at least, is that, for those systems that have them, a player doesn't have foreknowledge of exactly how many hit points a given opponent has. 

They might know that a kobold gets1d4 or a stand of irregular infantry have 1-3 points, but that's the extent of it.

They don't know that this particular ogre has 20 HP while that one there has a full 33 HP.

In a fight with the two ogres I mentioned above, the GM might give clues that one is more capable of surviving than the other, but it isn't necessary. In the latter case, or the former for players not paying attention, which to attack is arbitrary, all other things being equal (distance to target, whether one is armored and one isn't, if one has a giant battle axe but the other has a club, etc.). 

The first question is, is this experience something worth replicating in a solo game? Obviously, I'm inclined to say yes or I've just wasted everyone's time.

This lack of omniscience helps generate tension and the right kind of tension can make a solo game more enjoyable (I say right kind, because there is the tension where one thinks, "This isn't fun and I'm wasting my time", which I am sure most people do not enjoy). 

Here is one way to reduce your omniscience in a solo game:

Instead of calculating hit points/strength points for your opponents before battle, check against the likelihood that they're still standing during the battle.

I am working with dungeon crawling type monsters where the hit points are multiples of the d8 (aka hit dice or HD) and so that's what I'll use for my examples but it works equally well in wargames where figures/units have strength points, such as in Bob Cordery's rules sets.

For 1 HD or less, it's just a straight percentage: divide the total damage dealt / max possible HP.

If you score the >= maximum HP in damage, you know you killed your opponent. If you score less though, you need to check to see if it's still standing.

So for example, in combat with a 1 HD monster, I roll a 1 for damage.
Total damage dealt: 1
Max: 8
Chance that monster is killed: 1/8 or 12.5%. I round down so it's harder to kill things, 12%.

I roll my d100 and try to roll 12% or less. If I fail, the fight continues, if I succeed, the monster is dead.

I rolled a 59%. Looks like the fight continues.

Next round  I hit and score 4 more points of damage
Total damage dealt: 4 this round + 1 last round = 5
Max: 8
Chance that monster is killed: 5/8 or 62.5%, rounded down to 62%.

I roll my d100 and get 21%. Down it goes!

For more than 1HD, it's a little trickier:

(total damage dealt - (max hp possible - number of possible hp values))/number of possible hp values

Eek! Math!

Don't fret.

In English:  subtract the difference between the max HP value and the total number of possible HP values from the total damage dealt and divide the result by the number of possible HP values

(hmm, I'm not sure that was any clearer)

Once you've got the gist, you can open up a spreadsheet application and pre-generate the percentages for the HD combinations you're likely to encounter. Then, you just refer to it during the game rather than calculating on the fly. If you do encounter something unexpected, it's a simple matter to copy and modify the formula without disrupting the game flow too much.

Let's go back to those ogres from above.

An ogre has 4HD +1 in Labyrinth Lord. That means roll a 4d8 and add 1 to the result to find an individual ogre's HP.

Thus, the lowest I can roll is 4 + 1, so 5. The highest I can roll is 32+1, so 33. The range of HP is 5-33. How many possible values is that?

Take the max - min and add 1 to the result. Adding the 1 back in has nothing at all to do with the +1 in our ogre's hit dice. We get 29 possible values.

Ok, so I attack the ogre:

My first hit does 2 points.

If the value is less than the min HP, I don't even check. It's just a scratch, make note of it, and the fight continues.

Next round, I hit for 6 more.

Total damage dealt: 8
Max HP Possible: 33
Number of possible HP values: 29

Once again, here's our formula: 
(total damage dealt - (max hp possible - number of possible hp values))/number of possible hp values

((8 - (33-29))/29
4/29 = 13%

I roll a 96% aka not bloody likely. The fight continues and hopefully goes in my favor.

By the way, for a 4+1 HD monster, I don't even have a 50% chance of killing it until I score 19 points of damage. For a low level or small party, a Sleep spell is really handy here.

Let's summarize:

  • If total damage dealt  >= maximum HP, you know you killed your opponent.
  • If total damage dealt  <= minimum HP, make a note of the total damage and the fight continues.
  • For 1 HD or less, divide the total damage dealt / max possible HP to get the % likelihood that your opponent has been killed.
  • For more than 1 HD, subtract the difference between the max HP value and the total number of possible HP values from the total damage dealt and divide the result by the number of possible HP values to get the % likelihood that your opponent has been killed
  • Roll a d100 against the % likelihood, if you roll equal or lower, it's dead. If you roll higher, continue the fight.
  • Set up a spreadsheet covering the common HD combinations you'll encounter to save you time during a battle