Friday, May 31, 2013

Great Northern War Russian Infantry Complete! (sort of)

Last night, I finished the Semenovski unit and that completes the infantry - sans basing, officers and the 6 grenadiers that I have. Here are some mediocre pictures of them (I really ought to work on my photography a bit):

 This represents two boxes of Zvezda's Infantry of Peter the Great. You'll no doubt notice a paltry number of pikes for an army that continued to use them longer than their European counterparts. By the way, the Swedish box has the same issue.

So, for now my units will be very unhistorical without any pikes at all - save one unit that will be made of 50% pikes, also unhistorical.

I'm torn on picking up some Irregular Miniatures 25mm pikes (the Irregular Minis seem to play nice with Zvezda), the Strelets box with tons of pikes (although the figures look chunky compared to Zvezda), or buy more Zvezda boxes.

 For now, I'm not worrying about it - I'll wait (so I tell myself) until I figure out whether or not it bothers me in an actual game. Which, given that I have the same number of Swedes to paint, plus horse and gun for both sides, won't be for some time yet.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 19

Since feedback has shown me that people seem to find it helpful when I describe how I get to where I do, I thought I'd post a session "in the raw."

These are my notes, unaltered from my game today at lunch. I'll probably also post a write up in the more usual format, but, as you'll see, I already keep my notes in a way that anticipates the narrative. It's how I immerse myself in the game as a PC, and sometimes the Labyrinth Lord when I make judgement calls, rather than solely an arbiter  of dice rolls.

Without further ado:


After resting, the party re-hired Waldu and decided to trek back into the dungeon.

This time, they would attempt to explore an area West of the Kobold’s territory.

MYTHIC: Does anything happen on the way to the Dungeon? 50/50. NO.

MYTHIC: Anything in Room 1? 50/50 25. Yes, 1-6 Skeletons

As the party descended into the original entrance way, they were greeted by 4 skeletons armed with swords, standing in 2 groups of 2. One group to the east and one to the west. As happens in these situations, they animated to attack.

Skeletons (1 HD, AC 7)

Check for surprise for the party? 3, at least that goes in my favor.

Dleggit and Perceval will move out of the way to attack one on each side Waldu and Manchiever will shield the mule. 

Sister Linkat will attempt to turn them all

Initiative: Party: 3, Skeletons 5
The only targets at this point are Dleggit and Perceval.

The first attacks Dleggit - 17, miss!
The second attacks Perceval - 9 miss
The third attacks Dleggit - 3 miss
The fourth attacks Perceval - 2 miss

Can Dleggit and Perceval move as planned? Unlikely. The skeletons are probably in the way.40. No.

They’ll just attack then
Dleggit - 5+2=7, miss
Perceval - 3+2 = 5 = miss

Sister Linkat moves up past Waldu and Manchiver -

MYTHIC can she get past? 50/50 No. The steps are too crowded.

Round 2
Initiative: Party 3, Skeletons 5

The first attacks Dleggit -3, missThe second attacks Perceval - 9, miss
The third attacks Dleggit - 5, miss
The fourth attacks Perceval - 17, hits! 1d6 damage for 1 HP of damage

MYTHIC Is sister linkat able to make it to the 2nd rank? 50/50 39. yes.

Dleggit - 18+2, 20, hit.4 + 2 = 6, roll 1d8 for 1HD, 1, He shatters the first skeleton to dust

Perceval - 7 + 2 =9, nope.

Sister Linkat calls upon the Hedonistic Lumberjack
she is successful and turns 9 HD worth, the remaining skeletons flee out the door in the north wall.

The party gathers themselves up - it’s rather curious that the skeletons were here. Who placed them? Sister Linkat is concerned - ghouls and now skeletons.

Check for wandering monsters drawn to the commotion? 6, none

MYTHIC Anything in room 3? 50/50 34, yes. I decide i want to check the story cubes - i roll 3 from the original set and get a fountain, a snoring person and something i can not possibly identify. I decide that the door has been trapped (and it springs) a cloud of gas onto the party - save vs. poison or sleep for 1d6 turns.

Roll for everyone:
Perceval - 3 drops into a heap
Dleggit - 12 saves - a hearty dwarf is he
Sister L.- 20, saves by the blessings of the Hedonistic Lumberjack
Manchiver - 12 drops in a heap
Waldu - 12 drops in a heap
The mule -19 is unphased

MYTHIC Is the mule startled by its handler dropping to the floor? Somewhat likely (i figure he’s seen a lot already, and not cared) 91, no

Sister Linkat quickly notes that this isn’t a good place to be waiting for them to wake up - they can try, but if not successful, they will need to load the bodies on the mule, carry who can’t fit, and either exit or retreat to the secret room off of the main room.

The each try to wake up the others - 1 saving throw each
Perceval - 10, still out cold
Manchiver - 15, he wakes up, groggy but OK
waldu - 10, still asleep 

They load Perceval and Waldu onto the mule and return to room 1

they opt to go outside in hopes the fresh air helps.

Wandering monster check : 1. Crap.

As they make their way up the steps, there’s is a snarl from (1-3 in front, 4-6 behind, 3), a ghoul, waiting in the shadowy stairwell lunges at them. They are not surprised at least.

Sister LInkat will attempt to turn
Dleggit whill try to smash it
Manchiver will hurl a dart at it over Dleggit’s head
Party 1, ghoul 3

the ghoul attacks (1-3 Dleggit, 4-6 Sister Linkat) Dleggit
5 17 16 - hits 2x for 3 points of damage
Save vs paralysis 9,fails

Dleggit drops to the ground - his eyes frozen in a steely stare and his jaw an angry grimace

Manchiver throws his dart19, hits: 1 pt
Sister Linkat calls down the powers of the Hedonistic Lumberjack again
9 success! she turns 7 HD

The ghoul is forced to retreat up the steps into the light of day. It’s growls and snarls fade as it melts into the forest outside.
Waldu stirs and is awakened

He helps drag Dleggit out.

The party finds a rocky out crop that offers a good bit of security and sets up a temporary station there as they wait for Dleggit and Perceval to wake up.


The session lasted about 45 minutes. I'm not going to dole out XP for this session since they haven't returned to town.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Dungeon Map!

Almost a month ago, on Gothridge Manor, in my comment on a post of a hand drawn map for the One-Page Dungeon contest, I noted that I was inspired to scan my own map, which I had worked on for the contest but never bothered to finish.

Well, better late than never right? (The original is black ultra-fine Sharpie, but it turned to grey-ish when I scanned it. I tried to re-color it, and this is the result. Also not visible, my pencil hatching - oh well.)

It's pretty much linear as dungeons go. In cavern 14, I think I should have put a secret tunnel connecting it to cavern 4.

While it may not be art, I think it could be usable at a table.

Creative Commons License

Feel free to use it, if you want. If you stat it out or anything, I'd love to see it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Long Weekend

While I was out and about Saturday picking up some maintenance items for my car, I swung by the library for their Memorial Day weekend book sale and to drop off some books. I had only intended to buy books for Young Lord Shadowmoss, but as these things invariably go, I purchased yet another 4 items for my own reading pile:

  • Split Infinity by Piers Anthony
  • Prostho Plus by Piers Anthony (best setup ever: "Will a mild-mannered dentist from Earth be able to make it in the high-powered politics of galactic dentistry?")
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson 
  • No Bended Knee: The Battle for Guadalcanal: The memoir of Gen. Merrill B. Twining, USMC (Ret.)

As recompense for this tomfoolery, the universe deemed it necessary for me to slice my knee open on my way inside after mowing the lawn that afternoon. To explain exactly how this happened would be too complicated, but it involves a two car garage, a ladder, the garage door track, and thinking about what I was going to do, not what I was doing. The end result was 3 hours sitting around at urgent care in order to get 6 stitches.

In other, not unrelated news, in addition to watching war movies galore, I got a lot of painting done this weekend - my Soviet rifle squad is done, I'm nearly finished with the Semonovsky unit (a 12-figure battalion) for the Great Northern War and I started work on 4 more Soviets and 3 more Germans.

I also managed to squeeze in learning games of Iron Ivan's Disposable Heroes/Coffin for Seven Brothers, using my newly painted Soviets and Germans, and David Newport's "Tactical Combat" (available for free on the Lone Warrior site. Scroll down and look for 'Tactical Combat' WWII Rules), with my PTO collection.

Here's a blurry cell phone pic from the latter(turn 1 i think):

The stands represent sections, the individual figures are platoon HQ, and the individual in the center bottom is the company HQ. Ratio of figures to men is 1:3 in this case, but the figure count is irrelevant. You could got 1:1 or 1:5 (which i probably what I'll do in 1/32) or 1:10 (for battalion level games where each stand is a company).

I sent 1 company of USMC against 2 HMG teams and 2 rifle sections of Japanese in dug in positions guarding a cleared trail/road. The optional HMG rules - ignore long range penalty and roll 2 dice/choose the best result -make them pretty powerful. Although my marines won the day, we took around 30% casualties to clear those two positions.

As Lady and Younglord Shadowmoss are visiting her mother, tonight I will have ample time to paint and game, and plan to do just that, including working on the Semonvsky unit, and getting back into the Ever Expanding Dungeon (I haven't gone in there all month!).

Friday, May 24, 2013

Now With 50% More Navel Gazing

As I mentioned previously, I was going to put some time examining the unpainted pile of miniatures.  I've been pondering whether or not having a backlog of material - specifically miniatures - makes sense.

Lately, I have noticed that with a backlog comes pressure and not the fun kind.

There's a demand, self-inflicted mind you, to paint figures I'm not interested in painting, rather than working on my zine, world building/game prep, painting something I want to paint, or  playing a game I want to play (and for which those figures aren't necessary). What was supposed to be fun, now includes some measure of stress and guilt.

I know I am not alone in this - a quick web search for the terms "wargaming lead pile" returns ample evidence. The affliction is ubiquitous in the wargaming world. 

Everyone approaches it differently - some people, seeing how others have, in fact, lead mountains, not piles, feel better and stop being concerned, others make pie-in-the-sky promises to not buy another mini until the pile is painted (this is like going on a strict diet on January 1. By January 3rd you're probably cheating), still others thin the herd.

The last option is difficult; it means admitting you will never get around to painting them and that the purchase was probably a mistake. 

The problem is, simply unloading some or all of the pile probably isn't going to cut it in the long run. I need some kind of guideline for future purchases, and let's face it, I have Gamer ADD. 

As i mulled this over, I recalled advice my father gave me when I was a kid and collected coins, comic books, and baseball cards: specialize. 

I'm not sure if he had put a lot of thought into it. I'm not sure why he would have done so, since he didn't collect anything, or if he was just trying to keep his kid from blowing allowance money on passing interests, but when I finally took his advice, it changed everything.

Instead of buying every comic book that looked interesting, I bought only those that had the Silver Surfer in it. Instead of collecting random coins, I focused on Buffalo Nickles. Instead of buying grab bags and unopened packs of baseball cards, I collected Bobby Mercer cards.  It gave me focus that made visits to conventions and shops more interesting as I sought out particular items. With the money I wasn't spending on everything that caught my eye, I  could afford better examples of whatever it was I was in search of. And, of course, my collections were the better for it in that they had a sense of cohesion.

So, I sat down and did some thinking and identified the periods and scales, that I will focus on:

The TL; DR summary:
After much thought, I'm limiting myself to the Great Northern War in 1/72, WWII Europe and Eastern Front in 1/32 and  Pacific Theater in 1/72, leaving open the option for North Africa in 1/72 or 6mm.

Despite the beautiful 15mm figures available today, if I add a new period (other than North Africa), it will probably be 1/72 (25mm) or 1/32 (54mm).

I will keep, but make no further purchases for my 15mm VSF/Lost Worlds/ Colonial/19th C. Imaginations collection. Ditto for the 15mm Near future/Sci-Fi and 28mm Fantasy (which consists entirely of Reaper Bones Kickstarter minis).

I admit that 15mm Fantasy and 6mm Kursk are not going to happen and away they will go. I intend to sell or give away a fairly significant number of the Reaper Bones Minis 

Finally, on a tangential note, I don't need anymore rule books for any of the mentioned periods/genres.

For those of you with more time, and mostly for my future self:

1. The Great Northern War - As I get further into The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough, I realize more and more how much I like this period. This is the largest amount of unpainted anything in my pile as I am well set for my initial foray into the period. All of it is 1/72 Zvezda. 

Once I have gotten to the point where I can play some small games, I may expand both the Russian and Swedish forces with more plastic and some lead (Irregular Miniatures 25mm seem to mix in nicely), after I identify what I need more of (cavalry, I'm looking at you) as well as add other participants.

2. WWII Land - There is a great deal of nostalgia here, and primarily it pertains to 1/32 figures and green plastic "army men". Despite not having nearly the wide selection of other scales, especially in vehicles, I have decided that the figures are too much fun not to use for my gaming. I use 20mm-28mm ranges for movement and weaponry and have a blast. So, for Eastern Front and Europe, it's 1/32. Not coincidentally, it's the 2nd largest unpainted collection, coming in somewhere around 120-150 or so figures + 4 tanks.

For the Pacific, I have a nice 1/72 force for both the USMC and Japan, painted at that, and plan to expand both sides with armor eventually (I've already started with the Marines), possibly at some point adventuring to naval and air combat (in smaller scales). I did pick up another box of plastic Marines, solely for the MG teams, as they worked out cheaper than metal minis. Picking up another box of Japanese is only fair.

North Africa is always a possibility - possibly in 6mm - but at the present, I have no plans for it.

Closed Until Further Notice

1. VSF / Lost Worlds / 19th C. Imaginations / Colonial - This is the first period I really got into, primarily owing to the French Foreign Legion and the fact that I could legitimately put them against Lizard Folk. I consider this collection in 15mm closed at present, I really don't need anything (some Lizard Folk cavalry would be nice, and maybe more Brits, but I have played many games without them just fine) and don't feel the need to expand.

I have 8 Chasseurs d'Afrique,  10 or so FPW Zouaves, and 2 Western Gentlemen unpainted. If you count the distinctly medieval Dark Elves and Amazons, then there's slightly more (15 more to be precise).

The only expansion might be into 2mm with knitting canvas, which I already own. I believe I can make up some fairly nice sized forces for my 19th C. Imaginations of Sauvignon-Blanc and Reisling , as well as some other nations, rather quickly. 

2.  Sci-fi / Near future. I have enough painted minis to play small skirmishes with systems like CR3: FV and Gunstorm! to make further purchases unnecessary. As it stands, very little remains unpainted in this group - just a pack of Khrussan Vespulids.

3.  Fantasy 28mm Skirmish- This collection really doesn't exist yet*, but with 200 Reaper Bones minis, that will change, with no further purchases.  I have no intention of fielding any big battles, but instead will use systems like Songs of Blades and Heroes or even combat rules from RPGs like USR, to fight small skirmishes. Mostly though, i'll probably just paint the minis for the fun of it. Even so, I won't be keeping all of the minis I get - some have no appeal to me and frankly, I don't see ever getting around to painting them all. I fully expect to get sell or give away 50% of them.

Abandoned Before They Started
1. I have a small pile of 15mm fantasy of some 70 or so minis, but mostly they will be unloaded in the not too distant future. The remainder will find their way into Lost Worlds/VSF games. The Splintered Light Rat Warband and the Badger Warband will probably be the only figures I keep from this group, along with 4 adventurers and a mule from The mule can work with any group of adventurers in a Lost World.

2. 6mm Kursk project. The idea was to use the scenario presented on the Junior General site which requires a very small number of vehicles. I have abandoned this idea. I love the tanks, but I don't see this as being something I"m really into making happen anymore.

The biggest take away, besides feeling some sense of relief, is that despite the proliferation of amazing 15mm sculpts, I'm done purchasing them for the time being. They don't take up any less space on my table - my WWII Pacific and my 15mm collections are all mounted on pennies - and they take as long or longer for me to paint usually.

Oh and relatedly, I do not need any more rule books for either of  my two periods.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Organizing and a Slightly Disturbing (to me) Realization

Yesterday, for no real reason, I decided to make some checklists of what needed to be done on various projects (including some 2013 goals), as a way to help guide me when I have a free moment. I dislike turning on the TV or web surfing simply because I couldn't recall the things that might fit into the same time frame.

Doing that, I noticed that May is nearly over. I know, I was shocked too. 

What this means is that I'm way behind on where I wanted to be on my zine's first issue. Fortunately the checklist helped me sort out some quick items I could get done and now I'm ready to do some layout today.

While reviewing the projects, a stray thought popped into my head, "How much print material do I have that is waiting to be read?"

So, I picked   pencil and pad and went through my bookcase to identify all of the gaming related items that either had never been read, had only been skimmed, or read so long ago and sat unused as to effectively be unread.

Warning: Do Not Attempt This at Home. 

Trust me, you will regret it.

My list, to my surprise, is some 71 items long and includes things such as old Dragon Magazines, 4 fiction titles, Osprey titles, other history books, D & D modules and rules for wargames and RPGs. This does not even include the books that don't in any way relate to this hobby of ours, items like The Basic Bakunin and a compilation of Wittgenstein's writings entitled Major Works.

Here I had been thinking I might buy an e-reader so I could make better use of all of those game related pdfs I have and move away from print for everything. I don't need an e-reader; I need a machine that stops time so I can read my way out of this pile.

To put this in perspective, when I first got back into the hobby after a 2 year hiatus, my gaming related books took up some 9" of shelf space, nearly all of it read, if not used. Today, they take up 45". That's a 500% increase - most of which occurred in 2012, either as gifts or as purchases (and sometimes, gifts with purchases as the case may be). Most of which is unread, never mind unused.

I had planned to sell some of these items (6 or so) and now, I think, I may increase that number a bit.

Now to go and have a look at that lead and plastic pile.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Defending Mother Russia from the Advancing Fascist Machine! Urrah!

Another week starting out with more of the same.

I did manage to get some "proof of concept" Soviet troops painted up over the weekend:

For the curious, that's a copy of Ga Pa just behind them.

Painting is easy - they're basically one color: Vallejo Khaki Grey - and they look pretty much like I hoped. My plan is to paint up a Soviet rifle section for the first batch, which is, in fact, not a trivial task with Airfix figures.

Why? Because Airfix is in love with the SMG. I have3 boxes of  Russians and only enough rifle-armed troops to make one section and a few extras. I may have to look into some Marx Russians or some 1/35 scale models to pad the numbers or accept that most of the figures I field will be SMG-armed.

I'm not a huge fan of the Marx poses, but I do like their Officer/Kommissar figure and the rifle figures look useful enough. There's also the TSSD figures, which are beautiful,  but in winter gear and rather pricey, and the Italeri figures which suffer the same problems. There's a knock off of the Italeri poses available from BMC but the price is more palatable and I think i'd be ok with mixing them in.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coming Up for Air

I've worked late (very late even) the past week and so I have had little time to do much of anything, let alone hobby related activities - we did get out for a bike ride Wednesday evening, the Young Lord Shadowmoss's first time in his bike-seat, which more than made up for the end of fiscal year insanity of work.

Last night, I managed a bit of time to finish up my write up on Faces Without Screams.

What spare moments I have been able to grab, have been spent:

1) Reading The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough. I am enjoying this book immensely - I only wish I had much longer stretches of uninterrupted time to read it. I'm learning quite a bit and the author's style is very readable for what could have been a very dry subject.

2) Rethinking mechanisms for The Ever Expanding Dungeon (you didn't think I forgot about this did you?).

Fitz-Badger's post about his approach got the wheels spinning - I have been a fan of card based encounter mechanisms ever since I first encountered them in Adventures with Jimland. One benefit of the cards is the ability to create a themed adventure but with a good bit of surprise. You can do something similar with dice, but it's not as slick (although I do like it and find it fun to use). More importantly, and a good bit more subjectively, is the "feel" of the cards and the act of shuffling. Something I find I like far more than rolling dice.

I already use cards for the dungeon layout, so first it's a matter of how I want to account for encounters - whether as a function of the dungeon layout card or a separate deck. I'm still undecided but I'm itching for another delve, so that may have to remain in limbo while I use the existing systems.

3) Finished proofreading and editing 6 Iron Spikes & A Small Hammer. I'm dragging my feet on layout, but it will be done before June 1 and absolutely ready to go for the Atlanta Zine Fest.

4) Also, in small bits of time here and there, I managed to finish up my first unit of 1/32 WWII Germans:

I love the flock. It's mint tea and to my eye, looks a thousand times better than any of my previous attempts with other products - including black tea.

5)Last Friday night, before the craziness really began, I did sneak in a wargame too (almost forgot) - which perhaps I'll write up tonight:

A platoon of USMC was assigned to take out a Japanese bunker:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Playing a Module Solo : Faces Without Screams Session Summary

Since this is a module that's freely available, I'm going to do my best to withhold spoilers and refer to rooms/encounters by their number in the module. You can download it and follow along if you like.

That said, if you think your GM is going to run this for you, close your eyes!

[Lacking a suitably leveled character, I rolled on up. I decided the PC's level would be determined by the roll of 1d6: 1 = 5th lvl, 2-3 = 6th lvl, 4-5 = 7th lvl and on a 6, I'd roll another d6, if that one was 1-3 then 7th lvl, otherwise 8th lvl.

I rolled a 4, so I would be 7th level.

For stats, I rolled them in order with 4d6 and dropped the lowest. I figured since the PC had made it to 7th lvl, he was probably somewhat exceptional. Once again, I'm using Labyrinth Lord:

STR: 16, INT: 11, WIS: 10, DEX: 11, CON: 16, CHR: 14

HP: 46, AC 9. Coin, weapons, armor, etc. are irrelevant for this adventure. I rolled his name on a random table: Mirthby.

According to the intro, the PC starts with half HP. Already this isn't looking good!

I started with the same setup, no alteration.]

Mirthby carefully picked up the severed arm [Does the Face Cutter notice? Mythic. Unlikely - he's busy - 81. No] and slowly snuck up to attack the gruesome cutter. [Do I surprise him? Using Labyrinth Lord's / B/X's surprise resolution, I roll 1d6 and get a 4. No]

The body Mirthby was shackled to scraped across the floor, surprise was impossible. The cutter spun in his direction and snarled.

[Combat - handled by Labyrinth Lord. I always declare what I'm going to do by typing it out before i roll initiative each round. On the first round initiative, he won 6-5]

The cutter slashed with his blade and caught Mirthby on his forearm as he tried to block the incoming weapon. The battle ensued for several rounds and the maniac was bloodied badly. Mirthby shouted for him to surrender.

 [The Face Cutter was down to 6 HP, and I wanted to give him a chance to surrender and maybe shake him down for some info. I checked with Mythic GME, Does he surrender? Very Unlikely. I roll 37, No.] 

Defiantly, he spit the blood from his mouth and glared in Mirthby's direction.

[I won the initiative and knocked him down to 2 HP and offered him a chance to surrender, yet again. I decided at 2HP he might be more willing to consider the option and set it to 50/50. 67, No] 

Mirthby pounced on the villain, raining blows upon his skull until the hulking brute was a crumpled shell in a bloody pool on the floor. To add to the ignominy of his defeat, Mirthby claimed the creature's,(something so demented could not rightly be called "man" he thought), loin cloth, a chain from its waist, a key, his knife and a small rolled up tube of parchment, which as the Fates would have it, appeared to be a map of his prison.

[The map was not in the module for the PC to find. However, it is a device in order to facilitate solo play and, to my mind, it doesn't ruin the game any, as the map may not be accurate. ]

After freeing himself from the dead man shackled to him by hacking through the ankle of said dead man, Mirthby unlocked the cell door and ventured out into the dungeon beyond, grabbing the torch as he passed.

[At the first intersection, I asked Mythic, is the intersection as it appears on the map? I set the odds at 50/50. 30. Yes.

I had no intention of exploring, my goal was to find my way out - and one exit is indicated on the map, so I asked Mythic, does anything clue me into which direction to go? This seemed Unlikely, so the "No." result was not unexpected.


Mirthby passed by an intersection - it was just as the map described. He quickly moved to the next intersection, where again it matched the map. His heart began to race as he thought of his impending escape.

[At the next intersection, I again turned to Mythic GME - is the map correct?50/50.30. Yes

Any inkling that I should go one way or another?Unlikely. 70. No

The next intersection was not as indicated -50/50 and I rolled a 90, i.e. No.

I decided, for simplicity's sake, that meant it was just further ahead.]

At the first sign of a discrepancy between the map and the dungeon, Mirthby's heart stopped briefly. Thankfully, it seemed the  map was just slightly different. Perhaps it was based on someone's recollection and not one created by engineers.

As he turned to make his way to the exit, a foul creature covered in bones, like so many spines, roared out of the shadows.

[I ask Mythic if the encounter occurs as written - 50/50 seemed a little too indulgent, so I said the odds were Very Likely, and indeed it was.

Roll for surprise for #3 on the map - I roll a 2 and I’m surprised by Moultock

Moultock charges and attacks - 2, miss.

I decide to fall back and see if I have any luck at the other passages, but first I have to win the initiative.

Initiative: Me:4, Moultock:2. W00t! ]

Was that the tell-tall scrap of metal chain links on stone? A thought occurred to Mirthby, perhaps the creature probably, probably, could not give chase. A strong believer in the motto: "Those that run away live to fight another day" , Mirthbay took a tactical retreat until out of sight of the horrid thing.

[I backed to first intersection and headed north, on the map, to the area labeled 2.
I ask Mythic if it's the room as described and set the odds at 50/50, 57, No.

It seemed logical to me that whomever made the map, might have gotten the notes flipped around, and I asked, is it room 4 instead? I give this a 50/50 chance and got a Yes.

As I began to read the description, i thought "Screw that noise." I would never send a character into a room like that alone. ]

As he stepped into a large chamber, the flicker of the torch light caught the sickening visage of many bodies hanging from the ceiling. Nothing good comes from playing around corpses, and Mirthby opted to try the south passage.

[I ask Mythic if this room is in fact room 2 and set the oddds at Somwhat Likely  - because it might just be a flip flop. 62. Yes.]

As he approached a strange door, covered with eerie faces, they began to shriek and howl. "What IS this place, " thought Mirthby, as he backed carefully down the hall to try another passage, hoping nothing was coming after him now.

[ Uh, screw that room too! I did check to see if the Quasit would appear - I figured he'd cause me all sorts of trouble: 3. Nope.

Head back to what should be room 6 - is that as described? 82, no.

Is it room 5 instead? Somewhat likely, 34 Yes.

This room was a challenge - first I had to figure out what to do about the saving throw - apparently, S & W has one saving throw? 

I decided that a Save vs Spells would be appropriate, given the loss of Wisdom for failing.

I roll a 2. and lose 1 Wisdom. Not good.

I also decide to ask Mythic if the scene is set per the module : Is the paper and pen on the table?50/50, 27 yes ]

With little hope of getting out by way of the mapped exit, Mirthby decided he'd have to risk going into one of the other rooms. This one seemed as good as any - until it wasn't. With a sickening click, Mirthby knew all too well that he was locked in. He approached the small table and looked at the paper on the table - and then glanced around the room. With a shrug, he picked up the pen and wrote "Thank you?"

[The next problem is how to tackle the puzzle, which I'll only vaguely give away hear I hope: it involves asking questions to find out where an item is hidden - without the item, you can't exit the room. 

I decided to write my questions out and roll up the responses, first using Dungeon Words.]

Beneath his line of text appeared two words: “Mouth Ectoplasm”

Perplexed, he wrote "Can you let me out of here?" and received a longer message, although no more helpful:  Howling Spores Menhir Toll

[This was going nowhere fast, and I only had a limited number of questions. Because the puzzle replies are supposed to be helpful, I switched to Rory's various Cubes because I could interpret them in a light that wasn't completely hindering.

My plan was to build a case for Mirthby solving the puzzle. On Question 5 I received the following reply: Darkness locked Silent ]

His" hand scrawled quickly, "Is the key hidden in here?"

[I rolled a one word reply. I decided to go with a simple yes or no reply, but first, I had to find out if the reply was truthful or not. I asked Mythic and set the odds to 50/50. I rolled a 50 Yes.]

It appeared to Mirthby that he might actually manage to make it out of here. 

[I proceeded to ask questions to find out where it was located, which would allow it to be something other than as written in the module.

On question 9, I got a reply that affirmed a direction to look, but to make things fair, I put it in Mythic's hands to decide if I had done enough to merit trying to find it. I set it to Likely, because it took 9 questions and I had a reasonable idea of the location and succeeded.

Figuring the exchange took a full turn, I had to make a save vs. Spells. And failed. Again!

I then  decided to roll a 1d4 to see how many turns it would take to find the item. I rolled a 4 which meant Save vs Spells 4x. And I failed all 4 times. Well at least he was getting out the room. Although with a WIS of 4. ]

Although Mirthby was sure he knew exactly where to look, it took the better part of an hour for him to find it. 

[As a result of finding the key, the PC is granted a boon. I decided to use it to try to force my way past that creepy Moultok, so I can make for the exit. 

Tim helpfully noted in the GM's intro that if the player wants to try something, have them roll a d6, and if they get a 4, it succeeds. I got a 3.]

For the second time, Mirthby tried to head north to the exit, the creature was still there, as he expected.  The plan Mirthby had formulated went south. The creature was not amused.

[Roll initiative: I get a 6 , he gets a 2 and i retreat and wait until the beast retreats and then run past to the door at the end (which will now be room 6)

I save vs poison / death for door, 11, save!

and find myself suddenly in Room 7]

Mirthby picks himself up from the floor. He hears her talking. He doesn't care what she is saying - he swings his chain menacingly.

[Initiative. i roll 1, she rolls 2.

Here is the exact transcript of the battle:

She casts hold person.

I roll save:12 i need a 12. WOOT!

Strike her with chain: she has an ac 4, i need: 10 and roll 2

Round 2 initiative: i get a 6, she gets a 1

i roll 12, hit. for 3, she’s down to 27

she can’t cast a spell this round now and instead moves back to gain some distance.

Round 3 Initiative: I get a 3, she gets 4

Magic missile: for 12 points

I attack and miss

Round 4 Initiative:  i get a 5, she gets 2

I hit with a 20, for 2+2, she’s down to 23

I roll on my critical hit chart and she can’t move or take an action and +2 to hit her next round

Round 5 Initiative: i get a 5, she gets a 6 and can‘t move or take an action

I roll a 6, that’s 8, + 2 to her defense and i hit. for 3, she’s down to 20

Round 6 Initiative : i get a 5, she gets a 4 ]

Battered and struggling to stand, Mirthby can see she is barely phased by his efforts. With every ounce of strength he can muster, he lashes at her with the chain, stolen from a dead man what seems to be ages ago.

[I miss]

The chain crashes into the floor - an earth shaking blow perhaps, but wasted. 

She is not phased. With a whisper and a raise of her hand she finishes the incantation she had begun. Bolts of harnessed Mana blast from her hands and unerringly find their mark.

It is the last thing Mirthby will ever see on this plane. 

[She casts magic missle 2nd time:for 11 points and I’m dead ]

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Mini Manor: Faces Without Screams : Review for Solo Gamers

Tim Shorts, of Gothridge Manor, very kindly sent me a printed copy of The Mini Manor, a mini-zine/adventure he created for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day. The module is entitled Faces Without Screams, which, as you might guess, is full of awesomely demented and disturbed encounters (i.e. not for the faint of heart).

The adventure runs for nine 1/4 size pages, plus you also get a new race, spell and five new magic items. The map is inside the cardstock cover.

Although it was written for Swords & Wizardry, I'm not terribly familiar with that system. I do, however, know Labyrinth Lord well, and so I opted to use those rules instead. Other than some questions about Saving Throws that occurred, the conversion took no effort other than saying "I'm using Labyrinth Lord." I suspect the same is true of other similar systems. Tim even includes both ascending and descending AC, which saves time during an encounter.

In his intro to the adventure, Tim notes that a character should be at least 5th level to have a chance of surviving. He's not kidding either - you start with half of your HP, no armor and no weapons. A low level PC will have the life span of a house-fly if you cut their HP in half! As I have no characters in my Ever Expanding Dungeon that are higher than 3rd level, I opted to just roll one up for the purpose of playing - no way was I going to wait!

Normally, the problem with playing modules is that depending on the layout, it can be difficult to avoid accidentally learning something as a player that, in a GM run game, I would not otherwise know. Although as a dedicated solo player, I'm used to finding ways around this, the less I have to do on this front, the faster I can get into the experience of playing.

Tim has not yet set out to present a module for solitaire play, however, his previous adventures in The Manor, particularly "The Salt Pit", in The Manor #1, have been unintentionally solitaire-friendly. In "The Salt Pit", the PCs had some in-game foreknowledge of the layout of the salt pit, thanks to the NPC, plus Tim highlighted the GM portion, so it was easy to avoid reading it until necessary. In "Faces Without Screams", he takes a different approach.

"Faces Without Screams" is written in the second person, thus giving it the feel of a paragraph solitaire, like those for Tunnels & Trolls. Even better, from a solo perspective, there is little GM information that would impact a player's choices in an encounter. 

The major exception to this is room 5,which is a role-play heavy room and a trick/trap that requires a player to figure out the solution. As written, it is difficult to work out a method of solo-play. I finally decided to use Rory's Story Cubes to supply the responses of 1d4 words. I built a case for my PC discovering the correct answer, but then, to make it official, I asked Mythic GME if I had done enough, and was fortunate with my dice roll. Although i still was reduced to a Wisdom of 4 before I made it out of the room - a Pyrrhic success if ever there was one.

Maps are always a problem with modules, and in this one, the PC has no foreknowledge of the layout. but the player has the map staring at them. What to do?

I turned to a suggestion I learned on SoloNexus and treated the map as an in-game object that my PC acquired in the first encounter, with the possibility it wasn't accurate. Adding it to the first encounter fits pretty well without any deus ex machina feel, and it really doesn't impact the set up in any way - you're still up a creek without a paddle.

At intersections and when I came upon a door/room, I asked Mythic GME whether or not it was as shown on the map. If not, I could switch in one of the other rooms (determined by a die roll), move a corridor a few squares further ahead, etc.

The result of Tim's twisted imaginings and the solitaire mechanisms was a tense and surprising game in which, beat up and with significantly less Wisdom,  I made it to the "big boss" encounter and . . .  I'll save that for a full session write-up next post! I'll also show in more detail how I handled room 5.

In the meantime, go and download Faces Without Screams for free from RPGNow, get your dice, roll up a character and play it! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

There's Foam in That Thar Hill!

Inspired by an article on the rarely-if-ever-updated TerraGenesis, I decided to make a hill out of a scrap of open-cell furniture foam left over from an aborted attempt at building my own figure carrying cases (I now use divided plastic boxes - once i accepted the reality that I don't travel with my figures it was a no-brainer to ditch the foam).

First I hacked the shape using a pair of scissors and then painted the whole thing with CeramCoat Dark Brown. I had gotten a bad bottle which I finally abandoned all attempts at using, but had yet to throw away, and figured this was as good a use as any. It pretty much kicked the bottle.

Painting foam < > Easy.

I used a large brush, itself made of foam, to "push" the paint into the furniture foam.

I then dry brushed with another unused color  in my pile, Americana Cocoa. I think i bought it as a potential color for my WWII Japanese, but ended up using Folk Art's Rusty Pipe instead. In any case, I found I couldn't actually dry brush the foam and instead painted it on where I wanted it.

Since the foam absorbs paint, there was no worry it'd go on too heavily.

What appears to be coarse texture, by the way, is the foam itself. Which you can see better here:

Of course, a brown step-hill looks kind of like a mesa of some sort. I couldn't decide how I wanted to handle the top - painting it the color of my game board seemed logical, except, the table is decidedly "old school" in color and the hill leans a bit more towards the "model train" approach ("leans", not "is").

I dug out some felt, traced the top of the hill, trimmed it up a bit and voila!

*EDIT: The felt is not permanently affixed.  Thus, I can use the hill in multiple environments.

Here's some troops up on the hill:

It's unlikely this hill would see use in GNW-era battles but you never know.
I am rather pleased with the result, although the hill cover, for when I want it to represent a grassy hill, might better work if I simply painted a piece of felt with the same paint as my tabletop.

My favorite part is that it can be squashed to no ill effect. 

I can fold, bend, twist and otherwise contort the hill without fear of damage, meaning that storage of several foam hills in a space smaller than required for the same number of rigid hills is a good possibility.

It's also available in 3" and 4" thicknesses, which would work quite well with my 1/32 WWII games.

That said, for my horse and musket games, I'd really like the hills to have a clean cut edge - the rocky look is fine for WWII / Sci-Fi / Colonial but not what I am aiming for with my GNW project. I intend to pick up some more foam to see if using a knife gives the desired look.

Monday, May 6, 2013

New Year, New (Social) Game: Wastelands Game Session 4

The session opened with Jade and Pa Ku having descended out of the mountains and gazing across the Waste, at the great walled city of Nekheb a short distance away.

The city is Surrounded by a 50' high circular wall made of smooth, polished stone with only one visible gate and the ruins of an ancient city shore up the base of the massive wall for the entirety of its circumference. As these things go, there were two guards blocking the way into the city.

Jade attempted to diplomatically negotiate their way in, but had the fact that she initially approached wearing a respirator mask working against her. Pa Ku, in yet another display of controlled power, forced the guard to back down [For those following along, he has Intimidation as a Specialism]. With that they passed into the gate where they were confronted with a large plaque decreeing that:
  • It is unlawful to sleep in public spaces.
  • Dueling is prohibited.
  • Any magic user seeking to reside in the Upper City must register with the Department of the White Banner.
[From a GM standpoint, the first is obviously to encourage players to seek out an inn or, if they chose to sleep in a public park, for example, to allow them to prepare for an inevitable encounter with the city watch. The 2nd and 3rd item have yet to come into play, if they ever will, and so I have to withhold discussion in the case that one of the players reads this.]

Inside, they could more clearly see the twisting corkscrew towers with balconies overlooking polished stone-walled courtyards,  multi-foil archways leading into dim interiors, and fountains splashing water at intersections in the distance. The latter being somewhat curious, given the lack of an obvious water source for miles around.

With no "coin of the realm" to their names, the party needed a way to make some money and night was coming fast, so a place to sleep wouldn't hurt either, if they wanted to avoid running afoul of the city's laws.

["To the inn!"]

At The Fat Archer, the , inn's owner, Mustafa  [a short, rotund bearded fellow with a booming voice and who resembled  Princess Jasmine's father in Disney's Aladdin, at least as we all pictured him ] hired the party to keep tabs on his bartender, Taimur, whom he believed was stealing from the till, but he had no evidence.

As they debated taking the job, a group of ruffians came in, muttering about outsiders and casting eyes in the party's direction. [I was tempted to have violence erupt - there is a strong anti-immigrant sentiment held by no small part of the population, but as the party wasn't actually moving in, at that point at least, it seemed unwarranted ]. Jade and Pa Ku basically took no heed of the glares of resentment.

After much deliberation, they took the job, which included free room and a small payment of 10 credits each, and set about spying on Taimur during the evening's rush.

Jade and Pa Ku approached the bar, intermingling and making chit chat with other tavern goers. With his extra sensory abilities, Pa Ku honed in on the bartender and received a strong impression that Taimur was under extreme emotional duress and money was the root of his problem. Meanwhile, Jade [using her Stealth specialism], kept a close eye on him without drawing any suspicion and sure enough, found he was skimming.

When the bartender took off "on his break", the party opted not to follow him and simply informed Mustafa of the situation. Thankful for their help, they were granted several days stay.

Jade made the most of this the next day, by finding the academy of magic and the world's most bored bureaucrat seated inside the entrance hall. Said bureaucrat informed her that the cost of admission was 100,000 credits, or she could go on a "small" quest to earn her way in. [At this point the players could only see one option: the quest. I tried to explain that they could pursue other options to earn the money, everything from getting a job to find a loan shark, but the quest won the day].

The session ended as the bureaucrat prepared to explain the task.

This session was played on May 1, but I felt pretty "meh" about it for awhile. Now with a few days since we played, and talking to the player of Pa Ku a bit, I feel a bit better about it. Clearly progress has been made on goals important to Jade (the magic academy), and Pa Ku although he hasn't had much, if any spotlight, has more than accomplished his primary objective, which is to keep Jade safe from harm.

What I think I felt the most unhappy with was the bartender's situation. Instead of having him "go on break", I should have had him duck out suspiciously - something a little more enticing. I'm not sure the party would have gone after him, however. The Journeyman of Shadow Moss explained that he thought about it, but it would have endangered Jade, and since his objective is quite the opposite, there was a strong disincentive.

Still, my small victory here is that I didn't force the players to have an encounter just because I conceived of it. They determined how to satisfy the mission they were given.

Oddly, I feel pretty good about the next session or two , even though they haven't happened yet - if they go on the quest, it's already set up, and other elements in the city can come into play, if Jade attends the school. At the same time, Pa Ku will have a chance for the spotlight a bit as he can't attend the school with Jade and will have to occupy himself, and find a means to earn some scratch, while she is studying. He also has some research he wants to do, related to the woman he was to deliver Jade to in the city of Hakami.

What I'm not sure of is how I'll handle is Jade's attendance at the academy. I think I'd like to role play some of it with challenges /quests / obligations and part of it would be hand waived - "After 18 months..." The players both seem on board with this approach but I want to mull it over a bit more before I come to a decision.

If they opt to skip the quest and go somewhere else, the hex map is already keyed and there are plenty of possible encounters.

Friday, May 3, 2013

WWII Germans and Rainbow-Brite?

Where I work, this time of year is chaos, and it lasts until mid-July. Consequently, I've had virtually no time to game this week. 

Neither The Ever Expanding Dungeon (Labyrinth Lord) or the Mission on Mithril (Classic Traveller) saw any progress. Even Zorkon had to stay out of Stone Hell (Labyrinth Lord) this week, although that was thanks to Young Lord Shadowmoss. The only time I had, I ran Session 4 of my USR Wastelands game, and frankly, I feel rather "meh" about the session.

But, don't cry for me, Argentina!

Normally, I ride my skateboard on my lunch break (I'm 41 going on 17), but the weather has been working against me on that front. Ordinarily, this would bum me out, but, on the positive, it has meant that lunch has become my hobby time.

In the past, I've run some *very quick* dungeon crawls on my lunch breaks (using USR and Risus, and they were quick because I TPK'd so quickly), as well as broken out some wargames. This week, it's been painting.

I'm not sure what possessed me to start painting my 1/32 WWII figures when there are piles of other figures in the queue ahead of them. But, what a pleasant change of pace it is to not need to wear my magnifying goggles to paint!

The Blue M&M says "Hey, how YOU doin'?"
They aren't quite finished but they do paint a good deal faster than the smaller figures, I find. It's far easier to avoid painting over previously painted areas than it is with the smaller scales, so touch-ups are minimized. I'm still only shooting for "wargame standard" and I have no intent on doing anything fancy here, in spite of the fact that the folds in the uniforms beg for some highlighting/shading.

The book they are standing on, The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough has me fired up to finish my guard unit for the GNW Russians, the Semenovski  Regiment aka The Rainbow-Brites of Imperial Russia:

Apparently the person in charge of their color scheme was a 4 year old. Despite, their ugliness, I'm inclined to finish the whole unit this way - solely because I love the light blue coat.