Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Campaign Conversations Part 2- Getting to the Root of It.

So a bit went on and I got a few emails, and this is where things really picked up. This is the first real start of the conversation, but it took a bit to get to with it. Bare with me as I give you everything.

Daniel's Question

Email 1
Cool, and its fine it took you a bit, until now I was away from a computer since dnd Friday.

Email 2
Also thanks for the help.

My Response

Always glad to help. I'm particularly good at world building...

Daniel's REAL Question

If that's an offer to help...

Although I'm not too worried about any of that yet, I haven't heard back from 3 of them. I also told them we wouldn't start until September to give me time to get my own computer and set something up.

How do you normally go about planning a campaign, I've generally just started with a planned adventure and improvise from there. Do you start out more concrete?

My REAL Response

Email 1
Well, it depends on what I'm running. TBH, I've been running Ronlin for so long that it is second nature to me, but that being said I love world building. I find that having a definitive idea of what the overall uberplot is can help. Dinner time. More later.
Email 2
Prepare yourself, this is a master course. So I'll be expounding at length.

When creating a campaign, there's a few key things to keep in mind. The Theme, The Underplot, and The Uber-plot. I'll address these in turn.

Theme of a campaign is the flavouring. It's the guns of Ronlin, the Katana of the Orient, or the Sacrificial Blade of the Aztecs. The theme of the campaign helps determine the other stuff. If I don't know the theme of the campaign, I'm wary. A solid theme on the campaign influences how it will go, a bad theme or one that is not strongly enacted can actually detract from a game. A theme doesn't have to be deep, it just has to be solid. For instance, if I were to run a GIJOE game, I would leave out cameos by the Autobots (even though they are a well established part of the Joe Cannon- haha pun), because it would dilute the theme of a realistic special forces game. However, a theme of Joes vs Transformers would be a very thin theme, but an awesome one.

The Under Plot is the stuff that is going on in the world that is not directly attributed to the PCs or their actions. A good underplot gives a campaign world a certain verisimilitude. If the players decide to get mixed up in it, fine, if not, then things still happen. A good example from Ronlin is the growing tension between the two kings. If you guys didn't get involved in it, it was still happening. The thing with a good underplot is that it gives NPCs something to talk about besides plot hooks or dreer lives. Under Plot is best described as 'what's happening where we aren't'. It is something that is heavily influenced by the theme. Talk about warring shoguns, the construction of a new temple complex, or the potential marriage of previous rivals. All good stuff, and it works best as things that aren't potential adventure hooks. Seriously, you throw a war or a uprising and the PCS are going to be all over that.

The Uber Plot is the least important one in world building, but the most important one in campaign building. It is the over all story arc of the campaign. This is the one that is best left until the PCs have made it clear what they do and do not want to do. There's no point in creating a grandiose campaign involving the destinies of dynastic rulers when all the PCs want to do is hunt dragons. The best example of Uber Plot to ever exist is the TV series X-Files. Most of the episodes are stand alone (as should most adventures), but every once in awhile one of the episodes had to do with the Uber Plot of the Aliens and Mulder's sister. The uberplot is basically the planned end of the campaign. I've had the end of the Ronlin campaign in mind since before you joined. We're about half to three quarters there. If you ever wondered why a campaign fizzles out, its down to uber plot. If the uberplot is not engaging enough, a campaign fizzles. The Ronlin campaign is engaging, because the uberplot (that you asshats decided on) of rebuilding a city is engaging. It is slowly undergoing a change, which you might have realized recently, but it is still the same uberplot. Previous uberplots I've had were Dragons controlling Thieve's Guilds, Deamons controlling the clergy of a city (which ended in a time tripping, planar thing).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Campaign Conversations Part 1- The Beginning

So a few weeks ago, a buddy of mine dropped me an email asked me a simple question ;

Daniel's Question;
"Hey this is unrelated to our groups stuff but I'm thinking of starting a game of dnd ( to be played on days that arent our game days) with the group I played with in college.

Do you have any advice for this, anything you would do differently or is it pretty much like playing around a table?"

This question began a series of emails. Some of which some of you might find interesting. Many of you won't. I'm mainly putting this up so that I can have a good record of it.

My Response;
"Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I went to bed and then we went to the races today.

As for running a skype game. My suggestions;

1. DM needs headphones and microphone. I really really suggest it.
2. There's significantly less prep involved. Due to the nature of having the srd and other materials easily accessible, there is a lot less copy/paste you need to do.
3. The main thing I do differently (and the group picks up on it), is no talking over people. In a live game, three or four people can all talk or even hold side conversations and it won't effect anything, in skype if more then one talks at once, everything is garbled. Like I said, they pick up on that.
4. This is something that I don't do too often, but if you wanted, and it can be effective. Look up pics to send before the game. I'm ususally busy so I don't bother, but it can add a delightful dimension to a game.

Other then that, its no different. Probably the closest thing to a normal game there is"

This is going to be a long series. I'll probably pop up a new one MWF, or at least that's the idea, until the conversation peters out...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hello, Friends

Well, I still have nothing to say about Mordheim, however, I realized that I still have lots to say about Gaming and Life in general. So Cobblestone Chaos is going to go into general 'game' blog. Or perhaps table top games, or something along those lines.

To be honest, Mordheim will always be an important game to me, but I have a ton of trouble with GW's business practices nowadays. Mordheim kept me going for a bit longer after I basically gave up on GW. So kudos to that.

However, I have been playing a decent amount of D&D, which you've been seeing rage comics and session updates for. I've been rather lackasdasical about those. I hope to improve that, going forward. Especially since I am turning this blog into a more general direction. If you drop me, I completely understand, after all it ain't what you signed up for in the first place. So no offense taken if you bail.

However, my D&D campaign is very different from most of the others that I've run. The campaign is actually the 6th I've run in the same homebrew setting, some of which failed, but I've gotten people from all across my experiences of RPGs.

Doug; Doug was my first PC, ever. And my first DM. We kinda learned a lot about role-playing together. About one quarter of the important stuff in my campaign setting is actually due to his direct influence.
Po: Holy fuck, Po. He's a beast. He tends to play Monks (which annoys the piss outta me, but whatcha going to do?). He's one of the biggest min/maxers I've ever met, and that's saying something. His participating in a campaign makes it deadilier. He tends to be more RP mechanical in nature rather then strict just fluff.
Consadine: As he's known in internet circles, is rather newish to me in the terms of role-playing. However, I've known him for a number of years from the astro GW forum we were both part of. He likes playing more interesting characters.
Daniel: Daniel (not Dan) is actually Consadine's main DM IRL, but he brought him along for poops and laughs. I'm still learning his play style, but he's often the first to come up with innovative solutions for problems that are presented to the group- which is something that I love.
Eldest Child: My oldest son (all of 13) is playing in this group. They say if you want to have a player who plays the way you like to DM, you have to teach them yourself. That is very true. Even better to breed 'em.

The group started off fairly standard, go to ruined city and plunder. However, they've gotten the bright idea to unite the disparate groups in the city, and rebuild. It is proving...difficult.

However, what they tend to forget is that I like plot armor. A lot. None of them have yet to give me a reason to give them plot armor, but I'm waiting for ideas from them. That's the way things go. I have wheels that could potentially go, if they survive long enough. As of right now, its a good thing they all have back up characters and we've even created a splinter group for them to play when we get tired of the main group. However, I think that the Splinter Group is about to get a TPK this week, so we'll see. Until next time!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim: Crap...

Hello, and welcome back to Monday Night Mordheim. This week, I'm going to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I think that after over a year of weekly (or nearly weekly) posts, I can't think of a thing that I have not previously talked about. I got half way through a post about how to build mercenary warbands, and I realized that everything that I wrote was already things that I had already documented in the past. So right now, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I really don't want to end this, as everything else Mordheim keeps ending, but with a game that is dead, you really can cover everything. So for right now, I'm going to take a bit of a break, recollect my thoughts and come back next week.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim; Numbers Games

Welcome back to Monday Night Mordheim, the one and only outlet for my Mordheim thoughts. The thing is that I really don't get to think about Mordheim as much as I would really like. I would love to be able to do nothing but talk about Mordheim because I've been playing it. However, in reality, I do more thinking about it then I do playing it or even doing anything with it.

Conversely, I play a lot more other games then I talk about here. These games effect my thinking about Mordheim. The things that those games force me to think about are strange. For instance, I've been playing around with the Dungeons & Dragons Next playtest. Which is fun, and great. However, it is limiting. There's quite a bit missing that I'm used to having. I've been trying to monkey around with it to try to make a workable game, since it is missing the things that I want to have (such as levels higher then 5). So I've been doing quite a bit of strange maths to try to do that. Now, unlike Mordheim, the maths are archaic and not easy to crack, and if I wasn't completely sure that there was some sort of plan behind it, I would swear that some of it had been made up on the spot. With these strange geometries I've been working with, my mind falls back to the good old standby of Mordheim.

In Mordheim, the maths are simple, and easy to pick apart. However, what makes them so dastardly is that you can throw some philosophy behind them. The best example of this that I can think of is the whole 'well-equipped warband' vs. 'poorly equipped  but lots of members' theories. To be honest, I think this comes down to the type of warband that you are playing. Those with a small maximum warband members, should equip to the max, every thing to provide the best chance of survival. Those with high maximum amounts should just go for the pure numbers game. Some people argue this with me, and insist that pure numbers of warbands are the important thing. That is vaguely true. In early games, the one with the numbers will probably win. However, equipping the crap out of everyone but one guy to die to give you the option to take a rout is horribly beneficial in early games. If your only concern is winning the game that you are playing, then yes, take numbers. If you are trying for better long term survival, loosing the first few matches can be beneficial.

Hmm, it seems that I've talked about stuff I've talked about in the past, its funny how that happens some times. I'll really have to dig deeper for next week. Perhaps a warband work over...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim; Friends, Enemies, and Acquaintances

Well, here it is time for another Monday Night Mordheim, and I bet that you guys are wondering how I am going to do another post about this grand old dame of a game, since I've covered just about anything and everything that can be talked about. So for awhile I'm going to spend some time on some of my favorite subjects, those that have little to do with Mordheim, but everything to do with the hobby of wargaming in general (I seriously detest when it is refered to as just 'The Hobby', it doesn't deserve the caps.).

The heart of the matter is that wargaming is not a hobby you can do alone, at its very heart it is a social game. There are few games as intentionally social as wargames. You can make an argument for role-playing games, sports, and maybe even board games. However, only sports has the really unique factor in common with war games. In both sports and wargames it is not only the norm, but expected to play people you don't know. Most RPG groups are fairly insular (not forbidding, but it takes a while before a new person gets invited to a group), and board games are played almost exclusively by families or very close friends (even that guy who flips the board when loosing at Risk).

Wargames are social, you need an opponent, and it is expected for you to play someone that you are not familiar with. Playing with friends is great, and playing with a stranger is better. Now Mordheim is not the game that you would turn to for a one off battle. The rules support campaign play much more then single battles. However, starting a campaign is a good way to connect with people. There are lots of people who play Mordheim, and even quite a few who don't but could be easily swayed.

That's what I like. You take an Acquaintance, and you turn them into an Enemy, and then inexplicably they become a Friend.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim: Allies, Partnerships, Betrayal, and Tactics

Hello, and welcome back to Monday Night Mordheim, your semi-regular dosage of all things Mordheim. While I realize that I'm talking about Mordheim, there's quite a few things in 40K right now that apply as well. Which makes it difficult, since I've basically given up on GW's big box games as far too expensive to be worth the effort. So I'm probably getting some hits here from people clicking thinking I'm giving some nice crunchy advise for the 6th Edition 40K allies, but too bad. I haven't even read the rules yet. Maybe around January I'll have enough cash for it.

So in the meantime, you and I will just have to content ourselves with talking about allies as it applies to Mordheim, which is the real reason most of you are here anyway. That and the occasional rant about something I don't like in the game industry (which for right now is doing everything in a manner inconsistent to how I would do things, but that's neither here nor there). Last week I talked a bit about the Chaos on the Streets matches in Mordheim. I really love these matches, they're great for ending a round of a league, or even wrapping up a league. They bring a bunch of people together in a single game, and it plays out with allies and betrayals, and everything in between.

So I thought I'd take some time and do a bit of tactica on the different types of  Chaos on the Streets matchs. So here's a numbered list! (WOOT!)

1. Treasure Hunt, Street Brawl, The Pool, and Ambush!- these are the most basic of all the Chaos on the Streets scenarios. They are basically multiplayer versions of the standard scenarios. I really think that they were included in the list to work as training wheels to get everyone used to the rule changes before getting into the more involved scenarios.
2. The Lost Prince- This is one of my favorite scenarios, even though I've rarely ever had a chance to play it. The key to this scenario is speed and toughness. You need both. Speed to get to the Prince first, and toughness to hold him. The key to winning this scenario is to team up with someone who can give you what you lack, and then reinforce them. People who are good at ranged combat should pair up with someone fast, then defend the dude who gets to the Lost Prince first from your mutual opponents. Speed people should pair up with tough people to soak up damage. This is one of the scenarios where betrayal can lose everything.
3. The Wizard's Mansion- The obvious thing here is for everyone outside the mansion to gang up on the guy on the inside, but nothing could be further from the truth. Assuming you are one of the people on the outside, ally yourself with the person on the inside. The point is to agree for the wealth to be split, equally. You might get routed early, but those other people you take out increase the ability of the person on the inside to survive and thus grab the treasure. Now, if you just happen to be the last two standing, then you might want to consider stabbing the dude in the back, to try to take all the treasure for yourself. However, only do this if you are absolutely certain that you can win, because half the take is better then none of the take.
4. Monster Hunt- This is the only scenario where you practically never want to betray anyone. Being on the same side is very beneficial to everyone. Everyone sends in one bruiser, and nothing else. This is a calculated risk. By only sending one (or two depending) of your best fighters, you are putting the rest of your warband at less risk. This allows everyone to reap the benefits of defeating the monster, and everyone's leader gets the pip for winning the battle. Now since everyone is sending people against the monster, it decreases the chance that it will kill your character, and you still have a good chance of wounding it, and if you are lucky you might fell the killing blow.

Well, I've written for a bit, so I'm off for another fun filled week of technical support, scouts, and gaming. I'll see you next time.