Saturday, December 31, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Maths Vs. Rule of Cool

Apparently someone has noticed that I've been placing random labels in my blog posts. Excellent. My plan to conquer the internet is working. Slowly but surely. Muahahaha!

Anyway, I have a topic, Maths vs. The Rule of Cool. For me, this is something that I take very seriously. I love tinkering with systems and rules to get the most bang for my buck. I spent all of last week looking over spell dimensions for Wall of Stone, Stone Shape, and Animate Object to figure out something. I use the Math inherent in the system to do something cool. One of these days, I'm going to post up my plans for those spells. That's me.

My kids on the other hand, are totally different ball of wax. They don't care so much for the math. They want to do cool things, and they want to have cool things happen in their games. That's the great thing about new gamers, they just want to do the awesome thing, not necessarily the right thing in the situation.

So a bit of a campaign update. I had locked them up in a dungeon that they managed to escape from. Now, since the Spelljammer campaign has landed in Forgotten Realms, there were certain things that I wanted to include to make a signature FR adventure.

1. An extraordinarily high level NPC.
2. Drow and the underdark.
3. Zhents.

Now, I had already decided that the people who had captured them were Drow, and one of their fellow prisoners was Drizzt Do'urden. Haven't worked in the Zhents yet. Now, the kids were totally unimpressed with the name drop. Which took me by surprise, but totally shouldn't have, since they haven't read the hundreds of novels that have him as a main character.

So, I missed out on the Rule of Cool for them. My normal group would have been overjoyed. I had an ace up my sleeve though. Looking through the D20srd, I found something neat, an Ettin Skeleton. A two headed skeleton was cool, but not cool enough. Here's where I went against my natural inclination to make a more memorable session.

To make the two-headed skeleton cooler, I decided to extend the rib cage down to the hip bones, with a cage door. Inside the 'rib cage', I put a bunch of dwarves. So the Ettin skelly would open the door, and then throw on of it's captives at the kids. Literal dwarf tossing. It was funny in a horrible un-politically correct way.

Technically, an Ettin Skeleton is a Large creature, and a dwarf is a Medium creature. At best a Large creature could fit ONE dwarf in its rib cage. However, Rule of Cool trumped rules in this one case. It was fun, the kids enjoyed killing it slowly while the NPC Drizzt killed off the other one that was there just for him.

The whole time they kept doing cool stuff. The halfling tried to use a grappling hook to scale the thing, and the elf got grabbed and tossed at his friend. Would this have happened with strict rules intrpretation? Probably not. Would the kids have had as many laughs with it? No, most likely not.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Philosophy and Games: Math Makes Worlds

Ok, so I missed another Monday Night Mordheim, again... Blame it on Christmas burn out. I should be back on target for next week. Back to what I was thinking about though.

Math Makes Worlds.

Every game, RPG, CCG, and wargames is built on a math base. The amount of math and how it is applied. Never has this

simple fact been more apparent to me then last Friday.

See, last Friday, I got to do something that I haven't been able to do in a long ass time. I got to re-unite with my old

High School D&D group. This was interesting, and I'll get to the maths in a moment, but I have to explain myself a bit first.

This was a very cross edition game. With my wargaming background and love of OSR blogs, I have a very first edition mindset. The game started and was primarily played in 2nd edition. The game rules we were using was 3.5 since that was the last time we all were together enough to play. And the DM and about half the other players have been playing mainly 4th ed since it came out.

This is the part that I get to about maths. The thing is that all of these editions of D&D are D&D (except 4th, but that's neither here nor there, and possibly a blog post in and of itself). The game world we were playing and sharing in was shaped through its various incarnations by not just the cool fluff that the DM was reading, but the hard crunch.

Every game's hard crunch, the maths that build the system influence how the game is played. Call it the degree of abstraction. It's a bit of an inverse rule though, with a bit of re-curve backwards. For my love of maths, my lack of a grasp of the simpler stuff precluded me from taking more advanced mathematics, so I am probably using the words wrong. Regardless of my mangling of the words, the point is there.

The degree of abstraction is how much rule detail is in a game. The less rules details, the larger picture a game has and also how less realistic that the game is. Then it re-curves backwards if you have too much detail in the rules, it bogs down and becomes usable only as a small scale combat simulator.

That's interesting. So let's see if I can talk this out in a way that makes since. Many wargames are considered rule heavy, but in all honesty, they aren't. Seriously, especially when compared to the average RPG.

Let me do a compare and contrast. WH40K, is a 250 page rule book, and we'll say a dozen books that when you take out the fluff and pretty pics you get maybe 25 pages of rules. That's a grand total of 550 pages of rules. Conversely, the basic rules for D&D are ALL crunch and there are three necessary books that are all around 250-300 pages, so about 750-1200 pages of rules, easily twice that with 40K, especially since no one needs all the rules for 40K for any given game.

That's a bit much, and not a little bit misleading. It's quite a bit misleading. The thing is that fluff aside, its the mechanics that build the game. There are some people that would argue that some RPGs lack a deeper feel because of a single mechanic, like Star Wars D6 or World of Darkness. However, the lack of differing systems doesn't make it less of a indepth system. It goes back to the reflex curve again. The reflex works both ways.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: The Big Guys

Ah, the big base dudes. The monsters. Show Piece Models. And totally not worth it in 90% of circumstances.

There are some people out there that would disagree with me. However, at the end of the day, they are over costed and do not do what people think that they do.

Trolls, Ogre Bodyguards, Rat Ogres, and Possessed. Many people would not include the Possessed in this list, because they are heroes, not henchmen or hired swords. I tend to lump them in with the rest for the same reasons.

The thing with the big guys is that people think that they are killers, but they are not! What the big guys are there for is to hold the line. Their stats are not so incredibly better then the standard warrior. Yes, they are SLIGHTLY stronger, but most of them are not faster, or even have more attacks then a well rounded henchman with a couple upgrades and the right equipment. The main point of the big guys is to sit there and tie up other units, so that some other killer can come in and finish them off.

Let me examine them a bit in depth.

The Ogre Bodyguard is probably the most common, but it has a few huge advantages. While it doesn't have stats that are amazingly better then a henchmen or a hero, it does gain experience, it isn't stupid, and you can equip it with either two hand weapons or a two handed weapon. That gives it a leg up on taking what you need. If you need a high strength guy to cut through armor or high toughness, he can do it. If you need to get more attacks in to cause more wounds, then he can. The main benefit of the Ogre Bodyguard is that he's realitively cheap at roughly x3 the cost of a warrior.

The Rat Ogre is both better and worse then the Ogre Bodyguard. It is much stronger then the average henchman and hero, which makes up for it in the early stages of the game. There are a lot of HUGE detriments to the Rat Ogre though, first and foremost is the extreme cost, almost half of a starting warbands cost. Then it also does not gain experience, which is fine since it is better then most things. The main downfall though is that if it drops out of action, and then dies, you are out a HUGE amount of crowns. Many people advise you to wait until later in the game for a big guns, but with the Rat Ogre, its only really a good investment in the opening stages.

The Troll is probably the best of all worlds. Its big, its tough, it regenerates. While it is ridiculously expensive, you never have to buy another. Even if it goes out of action, it never requires a serious injury roll. While it is stupid, it is the probably the most like what people think of as a true monster. It has enough power to take out almost anything in the game, and it gets a regeneration roll after every wound taken. While it is hands down the most expensive, and still requires upkeep, it is the all around best.

The Possessed is not a true monster, its a hero. What I've found to be very effective with them is to take them vanilla with no upgrades in the opening stages, and then save as much money as possible for when (not if, when) they finally die, so that they can be replaced with Possessed with Mutations. At first glance the unupgraded Possessed seems like a bad deal, but it is the equal of an Ogre Bodyguard only with one less wound and one more in weapon skill and initiative. That's why I include them on the list.

The reason I wanted to talk about these guys is because of last week's column where I talked about the different types of units that people often overlook. The mud unit. The big guys are all about tying things up. Often they are not the most killy guys around, but there is nothing to bog down the opponent like a big guy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Rule of Cool II

Hello again! I just read over the whole last post, and I realized that I really didn't get into the Rule of Cool thing. I titled it that, but I kinda missed the point.

The Rule of Cool is exactly that. According to The Rule of Cool is; "The limit of the willing suspension of disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to the element's awesomeness."

That's Spelljammer in a nutshell. Hell, even in the main book it calls out to the Rule of Cool; "How does it all work? Well, the easy answer is 'It's magic.' The more involved answer is 'It's magic and it knows it's magic.' The rules are still there and must be obeyed, but it is a different set of rules from what we are used to in our world. As anyone here will tell you, a fire-breathing, 50-foot-long, flying reptile is impossible, but it can live in our imaginations. The same argument applies to spelljamming ships." -Forward by Jeff Grubb, Spelljammer AD&D Adventures in Space, p3.

If that isn't a cognizant argument for the Rule of Cool, I don't know what is. Also its a pretty good definition of the Rule of Cool as well. With this campaign, I not only wanted to give my kids a grand tour of the old TSR stuff and play some 3rd Ed, I also wanted to do the most off the wall wild stuff that I can think of. I'm tired of naturalism in RPGs, and politics of game worlds. Fuck it. I want neat things to happen, because NEAT THINGS ARE HAPPENING!

Dungeons and Dragons is built on the Rule of Cool. Each different campaign setting does it, and I think that it is funny that the two biggest (in scope) run on this Rule Cool exclusively. Planescape is Rule of Cool in philosophy and strangeness of characters. Spelljammer on the other hand, is running of pure Rule of Cool in the setting itself. Flying boats that go to other planets? Hell yes! Squid head people who eat brains? Yes, please! Floating xenophobic magic eyeball maniacs? Of course! Hippo men with flintlock pistols that dress and act like the height of the British Empire? FUCK YEAH!

Now, here's the thing. Spelljammer is pure Rule of Cool. That's great in and of itself, but it doesn't help make things happen. What makes a great game is the stuff that is around. Did up the NPCs, and I gotta say, they are real Rule of Cool type guys. Granted, I already elaborated on the captain, but I got some others. I have a real thing for those quirky shows about small towns. Right now, I am almost finished watching Northern Exposure, which is about the a small town in Alaska. Quirkiness abounds. I find nothing more Rule of Cool then quirkiness.

Sir Captain Reginald Dawntree: 6th level Half Elf paladin, going to the stars in a quixotic quest to win the approval of his potential father-in-law.
First Mate Juan Obi: 7th level Elven Monk, best friend of the captain. He's rather exasperated and the most level headed of crew.
Navigator First Leftnenant Monticello: Giff navigator, prone to fights and takes things rather literal. As in when asked to go to the 'coolest' planet in the system, he plotted a course to an ice planet.
Ship's Cleric Helmsman Father Ishmael O'Flanigan: A 5th level human cleric of a sea god who looks like the Gorton's fisherman. He's at home on a ship even in the roughest weather, but gets spacesick.
Man-at-Arms and Ship's Butler Bigglesworth Mount Veracci Gucci Jimmy Chu: The gnome butler who works for Sir Dawntree. He's the stereotypical butler with a bowler hat, cane, and monocle. The thing is that he has a nasty temper. What the PCs don't know is that he's a 12th level barbarian. The bowler hat is a Keen Vorpal Throwing Bowler Hat +2 (1d2 damage, critical range of 14-20). He's there to be the 'dues ex machina' in case the kids get over their heads, BOOM Bigglesworth to the rescue! He is the epitome of Rule of Cool.
Ship's Wizard 'The Boy': a first level human wizard. The Boy is the former apprentice of the previous ship's wizard (who blew himself up by casting a maximized fireball in the phologiston). So The Boy has all the magic items of his former master and very little idea of what to do with them. The other main thing is that the Boy isn't actually a boy, but a girl who was posing as a boy so that she could get onto the ship (since women at sea are bad luck).
Siege Engineer Ironfist: 3rd level Dwarf rogue. He keeps going on about how he's too old for this shit. Even though he's only 45, barely out of his teens, and his beard is only 7 inches long.
Quartermaster Whose Name I already Forgot: 12th level dwarf aristocrat. He's there to make sure that the 'quest' of Sir Dawntree goes according to Hoyle. The fun thing about him is that he's slightly corrupt and slightly incompetent. So when told to get food for the journey, he'll buy a ton of escargot instead of hardtack or something.

A big group of quirky people. They are not in and of themselves an adventure, they are there to add some background and flavor. With the NPCs in place I can start working on the really cool stuff. I'm thinking of some Gith pirates riding pterodactyls. That's cool. Minotaur vikings in a spelljamming longboats (horned helmet on top of horns!)? A magic item powered version of the Justice League (Capes of Flying anyone!)? Rock'em Sock'em Golems? Getting caught in the cross fire of a beholder and Illithid battle? An Immoth Bard Rock Band playing heavy metal via auditory illusions? Wolfmen on the moon? Ninjas? Any other suggestions for Rule of Cool encounters?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Rule of Cool

Well, hello, again wide world of blogging! I realize that sometimes I'm just talking to an empty theater, and my hits go up with the vitriol. I don't like being that guy. Seriously, I don't. It comes too easy for me, I am by nature an angry person, and dear god does GW bring it out in me sometimes. This is why I love to write about the type of stuff that I am about to write about.

I like to play RPGS, (dur), and my kids are starting to get into them as well. Eldest child has a fairly regular D&D 4th ed game that he's involved in (gah!), which has nothing to do with me. Which is both a blessing and a curse. The kids started the group and I was contented to stand aside. Eldest child and his friends needed to get their games in without a meddling old dude. My dad was never a gamer (even though he did introduce me to all the stuff that lead to gaming), and it is a tad creepy with an old dude playing with a bunch of middle schoolers. That's my thoughts on it. However, Eldest Child's best friend had an uncle who disagreed. So he's running their group, which is why they play 4th ed. That's fine. I really have no problem with that, especially since he brought in some more kids around the same age to play. So bigger group is a good thing.

So here I am trying to not to be the only adult in a room full of kids, and boom! They go get an adult to run the game anyway! Now, here's the thing. I can deal with the not being the adult, I can deal with the not being the DM, I can even deal with them playing with 4th ed. So, what's my problem with it? I'm not too sure. See? Like I said, anger comes easy. Regardless, I wanted to play a game with my kids, and just my kids.

So I've been looking over stuff to play. I finally decided on the one thing that could really keep a campaign going for a long haul and not get too caught up in the long term adventure.


They both rolled up rogues. Halfling and Elf respectively. One focused on talking, one on actual stealing stuff. Dropped an anchor on them from the sky, they climbed it and now they are on the Rock of Bral. Which is an excellent starting place.

Where I plan on taking it, though is the best part. I'm going to do the Grand Tour of the old TSR stuff. Hit all the major campaign worlds, giving them a 'signature' adventure in each place. I'm not sure where they'll go, or in what order, but I'm going to make up some good stuff. The point is to capture the feel of each game world.

So right now, I'm just spit balling ideas before I send them anywhere. Listing things that make each world special. Here's the list so far;

DragonLance: Krynn. Kender, draconians, dragon riders. That scenario practically writes itself, doesn't it?
Forgotten Realms: Toril. Drow, Zhentarim, and ridiculously high level NPCs. Might take a bit more thinking.
Dark Sun: Athas. Technically not accessable by Spelljamming, but fuck it. Psionics, Thri-Kreen, Gladiators, and life destroying magic. What's not to love?
Greyhawk: Oerth. Old School. I'm thinking a dungeon with lots of death traps.
Birthright: Aebrynis. Yes, I had to look it up. I owned this game, and I couldn't remember it. Though a bit of intrigue, politics, blood lines stuff, and those weird halflings and elves they got.
Mystara: Mystara. Well, that's a good question. Mystara was a big melting pot of everything. I could literally shove anything in here, and it would fit. Going to think a bit to get something signature.
Ebberron: Ebberron. Damn, I know nothing about this game except for warforged. That should be easy to work in, though.

That's a good start. I might expand it a bit. I mean Kara-Tur, Maztica, and Al-Quadim are now technically part of Forgotten Realms, but I think that with a bit of spin, they would be fine to use as a base for a different planet and do something.

Now, the really fun part, I've created the crew of the ship they will be traveling on. The Lady Danielle Ashley II. The Captain is a half-elf paladin who went to the stars because of the following conversation;

Paladin; Milord! I wish for your daughter Lady Danielle Ashley's hand in holy matrimony!
Lord: Go to hell!
Paladin: Verily! I shall go to the place that evil dwells to smite it!
1st Mate: He's being a dick, that's not a real quest!
Paladin: Is this true, milord?
Lord: Fine. Go to the stars and bring me some stardust!
Paladin: Verily! I shall go to the stars themselves and bring back the glittering majesty that is the firmament of the universe!

Then he went to the stars and found out that they are made of dirt, or portals to the elemental plane of fire. Neither of which is actually a great thing to take home to try to impress your future inlaws. So he's still out looking for something that is suitably impressive. I'll have more on the rest of the crew later, after I introduce the kids to them. They are all created and stated out, just waiting to be introduced.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: Warband Construction

Well, it seems I'm on a roll here. Two weeks. Its good to be back at work. Or rather having work back to the way it was. Now, I wanted to take a moment to talk about warband construction. There are something things that are big 'duh' like taking the maximum amount of Heroes.

I want to talk a bit more about the more ephemeral things that go into warband construction. Some of these are best used as heroes with some skills, and others are better as henchmen.

Throw Away: Normally, you don't want to Rout. However, there is a bit of wiggle room in that. That's what the throw away member is. Something that can act as a meat shield for retreating people. These are best to use with cheap henchmen and animals.

Monster Slayer: You want to get at least one person who takes a high strength weapon to deal with things like Ogres or Trolls. These guys often fall into the same category as the throw away, because they often get taken out of action after one or two big hits.

The Quick: This is one of the guys you want to build up from skills for one of your heroes. If one of them gets an initiative boost, take skills (if you are able to) to increase that model's speed and climbing abilities. Many of the scenarios require collecting wyrdstone, so having a quick guy is a must. Someone who can get to the places others can't, or quicker then the others.

The Mud: Personally, I love the mud. Or maybe its tar. Whatever, according to your region and/or personal preference. The mud is a warband member who may not necessarily deal the most damage, but can TAKE the most. Ogres, Trolls, Possessed, and things like that generally lean toward the mud, but often a well equipped henchmen with a sword and buckler for parrying can do it. The mud is excellent for getting your opponent's models stuck in combat before your own killer units come in.

Hunh. I just realized something, these types aren't just for Mordheim warbands, they apply across the whole spectrum of wargaming. Perhaps there's a lesson in that. I think that I might need to elaborate on that on some later point.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Plot Help

I recently got a message from a friend of mine, and he gave me the OK to share it with you guys:

From Consadine:
I found the Steal This Hook! section on the WotC website, not too shabby. I've given the players the Etched With Mystery one; already dealt with the druid, now on their way to the one that tends a glassware shop. Problem is I'm not too sure how to make it exciting. The others are easy. Organized crime, hermit = dungeon crawl, missing body can be tied into the organized crime. But a glassware shop?

My Reply:
Glassware shop is EASY! Just think about the type of people who need glass...

1. The obvious is to include a Minotaur, the proverbial bull in a china shop. A little obvious, but think about it. Etchings while mainly done by glassblowers, are also used in Scrimshaw. The minotaur came across one of his buddies' horns with an intricate design, and wanting to find who killed his buddy is seeking out places where the work is done. The guy who commissioned the scrimshaw will have more information.

2. Glasswork is also used extensively by mages. Cool idea for a rod of lightning. Perhaps the PCs run into a mage who needs just one more thing for his wand...and if they bring him enough, he can make two of them- one as payment for services rendered. Into adventure!

3. The holy water maker needs more flasks, but the glassblower is stacked with other orders, perhaps something the PCs can do can either make the work go quicker, or find another way to get the holy water where it needs to go. Now, WHY does this cleric NEED all that holy water?

4. The Noble's Kid: THe PCs enter the glassware shop as the keep and a young nobleman are agruing. The kid apparently broke one of his parents glass sculptures. He needs to replace it before they come home next week. The keep can do the work, but wants payment, but the noblekid can't afford it. However, he knows where he can get some treasure, if there just happened to be someone around who could help him.

5. Golem Bits: The stained glass golem is almost finished, but the glass keep needs more red sand from a certain beach in order to finish it for the church. Go forth for sand in a very dangerous area!

6. Tied together: Have the thieve's guild there shaking down the keep for a protection payment. This imbroils the PCs in thieve's guild politics, which will lead to the other warforged.

7. Impish Nature: There's a radient mephit in the shop breaking stuff, because it makes such pretty prisms. Or a bunch of them. Whatever suits needs.

Personally, I love unique locations like that. I never would have thought of a glassware shop as a place to begin an adventure, but as the saying goes, the more unique the start, the more memorable the adventure. Just as an FYI; he decided to go with #6.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: A Thought On Returning

So...I'm back, well and truly back. I'm going to leave the last thoughts alone. Man, I got some wicked invective there, didn't I? Some would say it shows great passion for the game, or rather games I was talking about. That is a point, but I find it to be something else. Sometimes I get very angry. I don't like being angry. That's something I like about Mordheim, its a rare jewel in the wargame market. It doesn't piss me off every time I play it. There's a number of different reasons for that, and I'll probably get into them all eventually, but first off I want to talk about one in particular.

The Uniqueness Factor

The thing is that in a good wargame, every distinct group of warriors plays sightly differently. At first glance this does not seem to be the case in Mordheim, almost all of the human warbands are remarkably similar. That is true for a bit. What makes Mordheim different, though is not what you do like the others, but what you do that's different. HA! Bit of faux-zen there for you.

At the end of the day, everything in Mordheim should balance out. That's the thing, every game has a base line, a standard so to speak. Everything should be built up or deconstructed from that base line. In Mordheim that base line is the Human Mercenary. So it stands to reason that the majority of things in Mordheim are remarkably similar.

However, its the deviations from that baseline that make the differences in the warbands. It's the models and rules that are unique to a warband that makes it fight so differently. There are similarities, but that is as far as it goes, similarities.

Warbands are each unique, not just from each other warband, but after the first game, each warband is unique from others of its same type. I love that uniqueness. I know that if I play Jim with his undead, it would be a completly different game then if I were to play someone else with the undead. That is what makes the game one of my favorites.

On the other hand most other games don't have that. While I love me some 40K, most lists are fairly similar, and they play in an almost identical way. WHFB is worse, 'Line up and march Forward!', at least with 40K there's something more tactical then just putting down a list. I've played Maulifaux, and I've enjoyed it, but the list is pretty much dictated to you, and you can't really even customize a particular model. Don't get me started on other games. Mainly cause I don't have enough information or play time under my belt to really make comments (I could if I wanted to though).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

RPG Thoughts; What's Your Number?

I've played a lot of RPGs over the years. And I do mean a lot. So I was thinking of doing a list. Since I have trouble remembering the names of everything I've played I enlisted the help of the Wikipedia List of RPGs. This list I wrote is a bit like a little black book for me. There's the one night stands and brief dalliances, and then there's the loves of my life. It's very interesting to reflect back on these games. Maybe someday I'll do a little piece on each one of these, but not today.

How I qualify if I've played a game;
1. Time Played as a Player. I have had to play either multiple sessions or at least one 6-8 hour marathon session.
2. Ran the game. If I DM'd/GM'd/ST'd a game, regardless of how long that game lasted, it counts.
3. Owned the game. This one is iffy. However, I think it counts if I owed at least 3 supplements for a game, regardless of how much I actually played it. I can reasonably account this, at least in my mind, because owning that much means that I MEANT to play it at some point but never got around to it.

The List in Alphabetical Order;
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st and 2nd)
Big Eyes, Small Mouth
Call of Cthulthu (5th)
Changeling; The Dreaming
Dungeons & Dragons (Basic and 3rd Ed)
Heroes Unlimited
Hunter: The Reckoning
Kindred of the East
Mage: The Ascension
Marvel Super Heroes (Saga System)
Mech Warrior
Middle Earth Role Play
Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Star Wars RPG (2nd Ed d6 and d20)
Tales from the Floating Vagabond
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness
Traveler (or is it Megatraveler? I have no idea, it was 15 years ago)
Twilight 2000
Vampire: The Masquerade
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Werewolf: The Apocalypse
Wraith: The Oblivion

So, that's 32 games. All of them fit into those three broad categories as I've mentioned above. I didn't count the different editions, that would be cheating, and it would fluff my numbers. Not that it needs any padding. Looking at it though, there are several games that are really all the same system, notably all the Palladium stuff and all the White Wolf stuff. I guess you could say if you played one, you've played them all. There are significant system and game differences that I feel that they are worth placing in separately.

To be more honest with you though, I think it would be beneficial to list my top games in sheer amount of play time. These are the ones that I keep coming back to over and over again. This is in order from most played to least, a top five so to speak.

1. Dungeons and Dragons; With the sole exception of 4th Ed, I've logged more time playing variations of D&D then any other game. Multiple campaigns lasting multiple years, both as DM and as a player.
2. Star Wars; Yet another edition spanner. I've had more characters in d6 then I've GM'd, and this is the game that we all really cut our teeth on in High School. We made so many mistakes and learned how to actually PLAY an RPG on this game.
3. World of Darkness: I'm just going to lump these all together, because the big three (Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage) would crowd out the rest of the list. Besides we did a lot of crossover campaigns with this.
4. Alternity; Regardless of my love of Star Wars, this is the TRUE everything Sci-Fi game. We've run Star Wars, Star Trek, Space Marines, Ringworld, Lost in Space, Transformers, and other things that were vaguely Sci-Fi with it and didn't have a game of its own.
5. Marvel Super Heroes (Saga): I love this game. It didn't do well at all in sales, but it had the single best supplement ever- 'The Reed Richards Guide to Absolutly Everything'. I find myself always going back to that game anytime I want to do any type of super hero game. Stating out Green Lantern and Superman is fun...

So, what's your number? And more importantly, what's your REAL number?

Friday, December 2, 2011

RPG Thoughts; The Skinner

I've been thinking about the World of Darkness. Again, its because of the gamer ADD. The thing I keep coming back to is how wonderfully integrated the Classic version is. That integration is never better exemplified then with The Skinner- Samuel Haight.

Haight was unique, he was a Garou with an Awakened Soul, and was a Ghoul with Disciplines. Eek. That's a lot of capital letters, which means that they are specific game terms. To boil it down, he was a Werewolf Mage with Vampire powers! He was the cross over baddies to end all cross over baddies. He represented what each one of the groups absolutely hated. The Skinner appeared as a villain in an adventure for each of the big three games, culminating in the mega-adventure 'Chaos Factor', which was technically a Mage game, but usable by any of the three games. Background wise, he was the big bad of the first editions of the games, and 'Chaos Factor' was (I believe) the last thing released for the first edition.

Samuel Haight, The Skinner, had a wonderful character arc, to be honest. He started out as a normal human who had Werewolf relatives (a Kinfolk). Envious of his Garou cousins, he became a big game hunter, until he got bored with it. Then he moved on to hunting Vampires. Managed to kill one, drink its blood and get some Vampire powers, and learn some Vampire magic (Thaumaturgy). He managed to then learn a bunch of magic rites, one of which would allow him to kill Garou sew their pelts together and become a werewolf himself. Which is what he did in his first appearance in 'The Valkenberg Project'. So a Garou with Thaumaturgy, already pretty dangerous, he then was out and about and managed to kill a Dreamspeaker (Mage shaman) and steal his magic powers. So then he was a Garou with Thaumaturgy and an Arete rating (Mage magic). He then decided to try and become a god and drink the blood of an ancient vampire, which is where his story ended in 'Chaos Factor'.

However, while The Skinner was the in-game big bad, he was also something of an allegory for the players. I think that he was something the designers put in as a teaching tool. There were multiple references in game about hating people telling the designers about their character ('Subsidiaries- A Guide to Pentex' had the most obvious references). The thing is that I think he was created in the very earliest Werewolf supplements when the idea of the crossover game was starting as an allegory of why things work the way they do, and why one groups powers do not cross over to another games' inhabitants. He was designed to be the ultimate piece of cheese, twink, power gamer, meta-thought. He is everything that the designers hated, over the top, power heavy, and had a unique place. Hell, even his name is Haight, which if you say it quickly is a homophone of hate! He was a cautionary tale, if you want to do this stuff, this is where everything ends up.

'Chaos Factor' involved probably the most stated-out character in WoD history, Shaitan, a 4th gen Baali vampire. This thing was basically the Tarrasque of WoD. That was really the only thing that could stop him. No PC had the power to stop something of that magnitude, and the end was a dues ex machina. He blew up and took the ancient Vampire with him. Even when White Wolf published their Armageddon books, the ones that ended the lines of the Classic World of Darkness, they didn't give the stats of anything so powerful. The Skinner, Samuel Haight, was in and of himself a power spiral. Clearly with The Skinner, the fine people over at White Wolf were painting a broad story in strokes of the epic over what NOT to do as a character in the World of Darkness. Which was wonderful, and I wish more games would include this type of in-game lesson. The problem was once the 2nd editions and the revised editions came out, he was regulated to the back story (being dead and all). A piece of game history that should have been remembered and painted across all the games to serve as a warning. He was a sign post saying 'This way lies Madness'.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Off the Beaten Cobblestones; Still Alive

Well, it's been awhile, hasn't it? I've been off in work land. Huzzah. Well, been working, been thinking, been philosophizing.

I've been running this blog, and others like it. All of them have been rather bland. The problem is that I have massive gamer ADD. There are the seminal favorites, Mordheim, 40K, D&D, Alternity, and the WoD.

The problem is that everything I've done is exclusive. All D&D, all Mordheim, whatever. This has been my most successful blog ever. Which is saying something. I'm not sure if its a good thing or a bad thing, maybe just a thing.

However, I've been thinking about it. Cobblestone Chaos. I tried to go with a very Mordheim feel, since I've been trying to do Mordheim stuff. However, the name itself is actually widely branching. Liberating actually. Within the confines of what I like, it covers everything. If it ain't cobblestones, its chaos.

I want to spout off all the amazing things that I think about. Things are going rough, and will probably continue to be rough until February. So while this will be chaotic. I want to expand and think more about what actually moves me in the gaming realm. I'm not going to be bound by one game, but let my whims hit the streets.

I'm off in realms of dreams of darkness and light. Clattering dice, fanciful worlds, and vast horizons. I've spent time in the depths of my mind and cracking the those of masters of the craft. Where does my mind wander? Here and there, back and forth, to and fro.

What are my latest ramblings, allow me to demonstrate with my favorite things, a numbered list.
1. I think that we might finish up the Mordheim Terrain at work. All during the week during working hours. I think it would be rather appropo that we make it into a ice setting. That way I can get some practice with some snow effects, and its all chalked up to seasonal enthusiasm.
2. I really want to play some Mage. Actually, I really want to play TWO games of mage at the same time. One group Traditions, and the other a Technocracy group hunting them. I think that would be a ton of fun, until one group got smarter then the other, then it would be a shit ton of fun. Cross-overs and double-crosses. The problem is that Mage is not a good starter for WoD, nor is it a good game for most people. I would need some highly dedicated players, and good ones that have a great grasp of the games central conceit.
3. Eldest Child is playing in a 4th ed campaign with his buddy and his buddy's family. Half of me wants to break them of the habit, the other wants to encourage it by showing him other games. Ah, such is life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Off the Beaten Cobblestones; Chained to the Desk, but My Mind is Free

Huhn. Its odd. I missed a week. I don't normally do that without some sort of pre-warning. Which means I'll probably be missing next week as well. So hopefully I'll have an epically long post next time.

I missed because of work. Lousy excuse I know. Busy, busy, busy. Been skipping out on my forum trawling as well. Well, while my hands, mouth, and ears have been chained to the desk my mind has been free.

So been thinking more about the more meta-textual/meta-physical things rather then crunchy fun rules, or fluffy bits of background. Much of this meta-textual stuff is about RPG stuff.

Every year around October, I get this itch. A big bad itch that is hard to scratch. I want some Undead. I'm not talking about Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings, or even heaven forbid Necrons. Ravenloft goes far to fix that itch.

There's a couple of reasons for that, mainly Halloween. The thing with Halloween is that it calls out to Gamers. There's the dressing up and pretending to be something that you are not, but there is more to it then that. There's the whole monsters thing. The real monsters are around for Halloween, all the classic ones. With the exception of the Dragon, but hell, Dragons aren't really that Halloweeny. I wrote weeny.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because of those. There's more to it then that though. The main reason is that every October, a friend of mine runs a LARP D&D game based around classic horror tropes with some interesting quirks. We've been doing this since highschool. There have been years where I haven't made it, or it didn't happen, but for the most part, its been there. People come back into town for these games. Almost no rules, and mainly talking, and then spending half the night bullshitting and getting caught up. There's an whiff of nostalgia in the crisp fall air, for one glorious night, we are all sixteen again.

I guess between the LARP and the Halloween, its what causes this itch. I want some Ravenloft. I know that I've been building up for a bit here, but there is some more to it, and I'm getting around to it in a round about way. Part of that is tired, and part of it is shear diarrhea of the keyboard.

The thing with Ravenloft is that it isn't your typical fantasy game. There are no Elministers, Rarys, or Rastlins around. All the neat powers of the stuff that makes D&D magic powerful and overwhelming isn't there. Ravenloft is an oddity of old school. Magic stuff is rare, and even if on paper the villians are puny, they are terrors.

Old School D&D was much less powerful. There's been a constant powercreep in the editions. Does anyone really remember when a first level wizard had maybe six hit points and one spell a day? Even in 3.0, a decent wizard has at least two spells of first level and at least four hit points. Ravenloft is the big equalizer. There's no high level helping hands. There is no raise dead, no resurrection. No mystical shops of magic items. There is a feeling of helplessness, even when everything is safe.

I think that is why I like Ravenloft so much, there is a definite horror movie aspect to it. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. The bad guys are going to win, eventually, all you can do is hold off the night temporarily.

In the darkness that is October that is what I feel. The warmth of the summer is falling away, and the drear winter is looming. There is foreboding in the air. Skeletons and demonic entities are everywhere, the plants are dying, and darkness is coming. There is still the hope for a slight return to warmth, but it is a temporary reprieve is all. The cold is coming, there is nothing you can do to stop it. Maybe its maudlin, but I miss that feeling during the true winter months when there are feasts and presents and celebrations. The cold is colder when it hasn't arrived yet.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: The Dungeon and The Archetype

Hello fellow Mordheimers, and gamers of all stripes! I've spent the last few weeks in a pretty foul mood, haven't I? I tend to get all worked up about stuff, and then I burst like one of Papa Nurgle's zits.

That doesn't change the fact that I've gotten a good subject here. Almost as interesting the whole map campaign thing, which I really need to get worked together and thrown into a PDF one of these days. Art first, then revision, then er. I'm getting a tad off topic.

Ah, going back to the Dungeon. There is one big thing that really ties the Dungeon Delver to my personal favorite hobbies of Wargames and RPGs. That's the Archetype. Let me get a tad Jungian on you. Carl Jung was a psychoanylast that worked a lot with cultural histories and mythology. Very interesting stuff. Worth investigating if you are interested in the psychological basis of our hobbies (and stories).

Archetype is a very powerful force in our collective stories. People use different words for the different nuances of Archetypes; Cliche, trope, and stereotypes. To boil it down to oversimplification, Archetypes are the really recognizable thing. Dungeon Delvers cut out all the insidious grey areas of RPGs and leave the vagaries of rank of wargames behind. Dungeon Delvers are about Heroes. Big Simple Heroes.

Dungeon Delvers boil down the heroes to their core. The villains for that matter, as well. When you start a Dungeon Delver, there are typically four guys. Sometimes there are more. Typically four is what it is. There is something mythical about four. It's the number of good buddies that you typically have. It's considered the minimum number for a 'good' D&D party. Four is the best number for a ski trip. Four is two teams of a basketball pick up game. I'm getting a bit caught up in the numerology here, aren't I? Four really isn't the point. It's about the Archetype of the Hero.

Heroes come in many flavors. I'm going to start broad and then get a tad more specific.
*The Hard Hitter: Close combat, deals damage.
*The Magic User: Uses spells, to harm or to heal.
*The Ranged Fighter: Bows, crossbows, and arrows!
*The Skilled Person: Lock Picking, finding traps, and cool stuff.

So those are the broad categories. So that's the basics. That's what you NEED. However, the flavor of those broad categories are pretty weak, and not very evocative. I mean no one sits down at the table and says 'I want to play the skilled dood!'. If you look at that a bit further, those particular four types make up EVERY conceivable type of Hero. We could play the game of name a Hero, match the type. That's a tad boring, and a tad unfair, since this is the internet and we can all use our google-fu.

Now, what makes Archetypes, well, Archetypes is the further refinement. They are the little bit of seasoning that takes a plain piece meat and turns it into a Filet Mignon. That's the key, though, is not too much seasoning. Too much seasoning makes it too complex, and a character not an Archetype. Let's break it down;
*Heavy Hitter; The Knight, The Dwarf, The Shaolin Monk, The Rambo Guy, and The Barbarian.
*The Magic User: The Wizard, The Shaman, The Witch, The Young Priest, The Old Priest, and the Druid.
*The Ranged Fighter: The Ranger, The Elf, The Sniper, The Heavy Weapons Guy, and scared running away guy.
*The Skilled Person: The Thief, The Acrobat, The Ninja, The Assassin, The Sage, and The Guru.

Wow. That's quite a list. It covers a bunch of stuff. Some of it is great, some of it is not very applicable, and almost all of it is perfect fit for Mordheim. So to take those ideas, and change them into a Dungeon Delver. I'll even do a Sci-Fi version, as well.

Mordheim: Almost this whole list is from the Hired Swords enteries, or some of the expanded stuff. However, it makes things really interesting. You could almost do it with any warband.
Heavy Hitter: Dwarf Trollslayer
Magic User: Warrior Priest
Ranged Fighter: Elf Ranger
Skilled Person: Imperial Assassin.

Sci-Fi: Alright! Let's go back some old school and do up a bit of Space Hulk.
Heavy Hitter: Power fist blood angel.
Magic User: Librarian.
Ranged Fighter: Assault Cannon guy.
Skilled Person: Just as a change up, a SCOUT!

I've talked about the overall Archetypes that are really needed, so next week, I'll talk a bit about how all of those guys are used in a Dungeon Delver, and get a bit more Mordheim intensive, since that's what we're all here for anyway (right?).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: History, Nostalgia, Venom, and Mordheim

Hello fellow Mordheim enthusiasts! Last week I spoke a bit about using Mordheim to play other games. So I want to delve a bit deeper into my favorite of the beer and pretzels genre of Dungeon Delvers (see what I did there?). A bit of history, a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of venom.

I feel that dungeon delvers exist in a unique position in our hobby, and many related hobbies. In that way I find that Dungeon Delvers are more important then my beloved starter sets. Seriously. Dungeon Delvers are a gateway. To put it another way, Dungeon Delvers are the the building blocks of three very disparate types of games; Advanced Board Games, RPGs, and War Games.

A Dungeon Delver is typically something that is given as a gift to a person of the ages 12-14 who is either very interested in it, or by someone who doesn't know that kid very well. Also typically it falls into the gift category of 'Kid already has Monopoly, Risk, and Operation, oh, wait this one comes with cute little knights!' by matron aunts everywhere. So the Dungeon Delver becomes the first of a step towards other games. Allow me to elaborate.

So let me talk about those three different things and how Dungeon Delvers work as a bridge.

Advanced Board Games: Dungeon Delvers are typically the first advanced board game that someone receives. Much like regular board games, it has dice and a board and playing pieces. That's about where the similarity ends. Then you look at Advanced Board Games, as I like to call them. Axis and Allies, Settlers of Catan, Formula De, are some of the 'advanced' board games that are more alike the Dungeon Delver then their more direct cousins like Monopoly or Risk. First off, the amount of rules and second is cost. The thing is that the Dungeon Delver typically straddles the line between regular board games and advanced board games. Sometimes the cost is more, but typically the rules are less. The Dungeon Delver gives the neophyte a taste for a more in depth board game, where strategy is more important then mere luck (although luck plays a part). Then they can more easily make the jump into the advanced board game where there is so much more thinking then just smacking the ass of the Hungry, Hungry Hippos!

RPGs: Ah, here the similarities are so much easier to draw the comparison. Most Dungeon Delvers are in a Sword and Sorcery Genre (with the exception of Space Hulk and Space Crusade), as are most RPGs. Then a great deal of the game revolves around going around in a dungeon and collecting treasure...which can be used in later dungeons. Then of course, if you use up all the premade Dungeons in the rules, often it leads to creating more dungeons. Those things are key to most RPGS, like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. All it takes is for someone to say 'What do we do between dungeons', and you are off like hotcakes. A few rulebooks later, and you've got someone rolling up their first Mary Sue Elf Ranger.

Wargames: Oh, right. That's what you guys are really here for isn't it? The granddaddy of everything. Without wargames, there would be no RPGs (TSR stood for Tacitical Simulation Rules, you know), there would be no advanced board games (Advanced Squad Leader anyone?), and well, no Dungeon Delvers. At one time the Dungeon Delvers were the most reliable source of new wargamers, especially to GW. Space Hulk, Space Crusade, Battle Master, and Hero Quest were what a whole generation of gamers thrived on. With those games, we got bunches of cheap minis that we could easily sublimate into another game like War Hammer or 40K. I can't count the amount of guys who were still using the Chaos Sorcerer from Hero Quest as their WHFB heroes, even ten years after the game ceased production.

Now, the history and the nostalgia is over, and here comes the venom. GW has let us down, hell, the entire war-game industry has let us down. Back in the day GW/Citadel made a couple games with Milton Bradley, and they SOLD! Everyone I knew that played games had one or more of those games. Almost everyone I talk to nowadays in their late twenties to mid-thirties who are playing games now cut their teeth on those games. They were easy, fun, and accessible. You could get them at any toystore in town. There was no special trip to a FLGS, no online order, just a quick trip to Toys R Us. The last great game that worked as an intro game was Heroscape, which was by Hasbro. Side note of history, it uses the game mechanics of Hero Quest because MB is owned by Hasbro now. This is a huge shame. First off, it used the GW rules watered down, and secondly it didn't lead anywhere. After awhile they did have a Dungeons & Dragons expansion, which was a bit too little too late. Right now, the closest we have to a Dungeon Delver is that Kings of War game with the undead. The problem with that is it isn't in main line stores. I can buy freaking Settlers of Catan at WalMart, but not a wargame thing!

Right now, you know what I'm stuck with? FUCKING STARTER BOXES THAT DON'T TEACH THE GAME! Come on GW! You re-released Space Hulk, and the followed it up with Dreadfleet! What the hell? You had a slam dunk, something that could have been put into stores and BROUGHT PEOPLE INTO THE GAME! Then you go and release a game that is getting scathing reviews and isn't going to be supported. At least with Space Hulk I could use the models in my 40K game. Bring me a Dungeon Delver, something mass produced, something in a Toy Store, something that makes sense and has a bit of balance to it. I'm out of luck here.

Where does that leave me? Why, with Mordheim. Mordheim is a classic Dungeon Delver. It could be twitched and changed to be the game that leads people to the FLGS to get more stuff. Lets do a comparison (Oh boy! A numbered list!);

Dungeon Delvers Have:
1. A board- granted Mordheim doesn't typically have a board, but if you make it 'The Sewers of Mordheim' you instantly do.
2. Dice- dur.
3. Getting Treasure- A resounding yes! Get some treasure, and add in the experience tables to encourage even more!
4. Monsters- Heck, if Skaven weren't enough, you add in zombies, and orcs, and elves (elves are monsters aren't they?).

So there's four reasons right there. The thing is that if you include a few of each as a base, there's a core there that you can use to build another army. A friend of mine started his Skaven army with the Gutter Runners that came with my Mordheim. It isn't a hard jump, and I have my reasons for doing such a long post with barely mentioning Mordheim at all. Mainly, because I will be working on a Dungeon Delving version of Mordheim soon. Which hopefully, I'll get started on next week. Why? Because I can. And I figured out that Open Office has a drawing program, and that should work out nicely.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: Mordheim Quest, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dungeon

Hello, fellow Mordheimers out there. While I like to talk quite a bit about the main game of Mordheim and campaigns (I like to talk a lot about those things). I want to talk about something that many people over look when considering Mordheim. Mordheim is perfect for playing other games.

I see that you are intrigued. There are two particular types of games that Mordheim is infinitely suited for. RPGs and Dungeon Crawlers. Now, I have a great deal of love for those types of games, and it would seem that bits of both were chucked into the pot when Mordheim was created. Not all the best bits were included, nor were all the worst bits. Yes, there are parts missing from Mordheim that are in those other games (like a intelligence ability score). However, do not dismay! These are small trifling matters. Allow me to elaborate on the nature of those games, before I delve into using Mordheim for them.

RPGs, or Role Playing Games, are wonderful. I wouldn't hesitate to say that I play a lot more RPGs then wargames. Hey, that's me and my game group for you. The point of an RPG is to tell a collaborative story, where one player creates the story arch (the Game Master) and the others are all the main characters in a story. Simple. RPGs are not like World of Warcraft, or Final Fantasy, those are video games, knucklehead. While there are similarities, there as many differences between a table top (or pen and paper) RPG and a video game RPG as there are between Madden 2012 and playing backyard flag football (Football- with the egg shaped ball. Soccer is the other one.). I could spend days and days and weeks into months into years explaining the difference and why one is one, and the other is the other. That's not really why I am here today. The main point and thrust of an RPG (which the videogames do tend to hold onto) is that it is about the characters and how they evolve over time to deal with bigger and greater threats and stories. Some great RPGs that you may want to check out are; Warhammer Quest, Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire; The Requiem, and of course Dark Heresy.

Dungeon Crawlers are quite the opposite end of the Spectrum. A dungeon crawler is a bit more then a glorified board game. Compared to Mordheim or any other Wargame, they are quick and simple. Dungeon Crawlers typically include things like random movement, a board that can be set up in multiple ways, and a more static version of bad guys. These are the ultimate 'beer and pizza' games. There's not much tactically to them, but they are fun as all get out. The inherent problems of Dungeon Crawlers is that they tend not to last long in the market, as a matter of fact, most of the truly great ones are long gone and are horribly expensive to get through e-bay. Though, if you happen to have more money then sense, here's a list of the great Dungeon Crawlers; Hero Quest, Space Hulk, Dungeon!, and right now Ravenloft.

So that leads us back to the main point. Using Mordheim in regards to those other games. It actually isn't that difficult. Most of it has to do with adding, subtracting, or modifying rules.

RPGs in particular are easy to do with Mordheim. With the experience system for campaigns and the various types of characters available, it is just a matter of a few changes.
*Instead of each player getting their own warband, each person plays one particular model, while the GM plays the opponents.
*Add some sort of non-combat type of skills and some sort of intelligence ability score.
*Use Mordheim for combat, not for the actual role-playing. If you are rolling to hit with your verbal barbs, you are doing it wrong.
*Instead of having a full recovery/movement/shooting/melee phases for each person, the players all go, and then the GM does all of their stuff.
*Allow any model that starts without experience (but can gain experience) to be played by the characters. Will this mean that the person playing the Warlock is significantly more powerful then the one playing the verminkin? Yes, however in an RPG that doesn't matter as much.
*All characters use the Hero experience levels and charts instead of the henchmen one.
*The exploration phase is ditched in favor of actually providing PCs with treasure.

Dungeon Crawlers are actually even easier to do then RPGs. Most of using Mordheim for Dungeon Crawlers involves removing stuff from what is already there.
*Instead of a table, you play on a board. 1x1 squares seems to be about what you need. Walls block sight.
*Remove movement rate, running, charging. All depends on the roll of a d6.
*You can move OR shoot OR Close combat.
*Remove the to hit WS vs WS table, and just use the BS table for everything.
*No special effects for weapons.
*Only the 'heroes' get knocked down/stunned/out of action. Everything else just dies after losing its final wound.
*Pieces of wyrdstone are scattered around as treasure, most wyrdstone wins game!

Well, that's the basics. There's so much more you can do with this, and I can't wait to see what you guys think about things as well. I mean that Cockatrice from Storm of Magic is a beaut, and I can't wait to see someone design a Dungeon Crawl around that...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Off the Beaten Cobblestones; Rumors, More Nerdrage and Starter Boxes

Well, this is a bit of a turn up for the books. A post which has absolutely nothing to do with Mordheim, but everything to do with my love (addiction) to starter boxes. There's a rumor going round that 40K is about to release 6th Edition, which means a new starter box. That's good for me. The rumor is that there will actually be two different starters, regular Space Marines and Traitor Marines (not Chaos marines, but Traitor marines). Interesting.

The thing is that I think that GW has been doing starter boxes all wrong. Really wrong. Completely missed the boat or whatnot. So I would like to share my thoughts on the matter, in as orderly fashion as I can. So don't be surprised if this reads like an english paper, cause here comes the thesis. The problem with the GW starters is numerous, first being that the models included and the business decision thereof, the next problem is that the starter box is not really a starter box, and the third being a lack of support. There are several solutions to these problems that I will address afterward (or at a later time).

So the first issue is that the models that are in the starter boxes. These cause a problem. From a consumer standpoint, its a great a way. We old vets look at a starter box and say 'Awesome, some reinforcements for cheap! And I can sell off the other side to someone else, and recoup some money!'. This is NOT how GW looks at the starter boxes. GW has to look at a starter box as a 'loss leader', but putting in a great value for the price, you get people to come in. The phrase 'loss leader' is borrowed from big box retailers, like Wal-Mart and Target. They get you to come in the store because you are buying one particular item for much cheaper then the compitition, but you then end up buying other things while you are there that make up the difference in price. This is how GW looks at a starter box. You are getting a bunch of stuff for MUCH cheaper then buying the indivual models, you are more likely to expand your army. That being said let me break it down for you. I will use the current 40K starter box Assault on Black Reach and the indivual price for each in USD, cause I'm lazy and you can look up your own countries prices.

Item in Box Cost
SM Captain 15 for metal armed in the same manner (SM Master of the Recruits)
Tactical Squad 37.25
Terminators 50
Dreadnought 44.50
Total $147

Item in Box Cost
Ork Warboss 20 (no equivilant model)
Ork Boys (20) 29 x2 = 58
Ork Nobs (5) 25
3 Deffkoptas 33 x 3 = 99
Total $202

Grand total of all the models in the Assault on Black Reach, when purchased seperatly is...$349! Wow. Just wow. So basically from GW's perspective, with each Black Reach they are GIVING AWAY $250 dollars worth of models for the low, low, price of $99! Now I hear people in the back saying that you aren't getting options with the models. However from GW's perspective, the options for different weapons and poses is an extra benefit of the kit, NOT something mandatory. A nob is a nob, and Bob's your uncle. So the way that GW looks at it is for every Black Reach they sell, that's a lot of OTHER models that they aren't selling. So getting back to the original point, they believe that by giving away that much it will be more incentive for people to get more items. However, we all know that isn't how they work. The overall cost of 40K to get a reasonably sized army is MUCH more then what is in Black Reach. For someone just getting into the hobby, its often not a great investment.

Which brings us to the second problem, the starter box is not a real starter box. You don't get everything you need. Technically, you ALMOST do. From the SM side, you only have 1 troop choice. However, that isn't the main problem. The main problem is that you don't get the right rules. The full rule book in a smaller format is nice, but it doesn't help. The quick start guide isn't good enough. Then the main problem is that you NEED TO BUY A CODEX. That doesn't help anyone. They should include better intro rules and a mini-codex that is one half SM and one half orcs. Go ahead and ignore the fluff pages, just include the rules for what's in the box. Those types of things should have been ironed out well before release. It shouldn't be an ordeal to put out simple codex and a simplified version of all the rules normally used in play. The work is already done, its all just editing.

Now the final problem is an odd one. They don't really support the starter box, and it mainly just refers back to the GW main website. That is not good enough. Not only that, but the paint guides in the Black Reach section are NOT for beginners. They are basically the 'easy 'eavy metal way'. Not something for beginners, and most of the other articles are about how to expand your collection. These things are not beginner friendly, heck, they aren't even veteran friendly. Its just stuff. Kinda like the commentary track on a DVD with the Folly Guy, the Sound Designer, and the Costume Designer. Nice if you like that type of thing, and its something to put on the back of the cover, but 99% of us ain't going to listen to it.

How can this be fixed? Actually very easily, but it involves a very different methodology. Allow me to explain more in depth, and this is going to take a while. Time for another thesis. The problems with the starter box can be fixed with different levels of starter boxes, a different tactic for the rules, and better web support.

Now, the best way to change the system is to change what a starter box is and how it works. A bit of history, almost everyone around my age (early 30's) who is playing 40K now started because of one of two games. Either Hero Quest or Space Hulk. For me it was Hero Quest. Now, both of those games were a collaborative between GW/Citadel with Milton Bradley. You could get them at any store that sold games. They were a tad expensive, but they were awesome. They weren't 40K or WHFB, but they had enough similarties that you could not only transfer the models from the games but you picked up the rules faster. That is what the true starter box should be. It should be a limited number of models in a stand alone board game that introduces some of the GW game concepts. Then there would be a second level more like the starter boxes we have now, but instead of a great value it should contain most of the common unit types, and be a LEGAL ARMY. You bridge from starter to basic set.

Now with the rules, in the starter it should be only vaguely 40K-ish. Use the same shooting rules, and the same close combat rules. Other then that, it should be more board game like. Roll to see how far you move, a couple of boards that can be arranged in different ways, and the like. Then the basic set should include almost everything. Still include the full rule mini rule book, but also do a quick start guide that is actually worth it, and a mini-dex. While I'm on it, the painting guide should come with a couple of different paint schemes that are easy to pull off should be included.

Then there's support. Nothing should refer immediatly to the GW website. The starters should have thier own websites. Each website should have more indepth articles and easy paint guides, and other things like that. However, each website should then work on a tier system. First the starter would refer to the basic set which would then in turn refer to the main site. Right now, the site is a huge mess to navigate if you aren't used to it.

So to put those together, I have a plan. First would be a new starter game. we'll call it Ultra Marine; Space Hulk. Now, first off the cost should only be about $50. How do we get that cheap? First off, use the old Battle for Maccragge' molds. GW is always bragging about how much plastic molds cost, so lets reuse them. Now, going back to the original point of GW giving away models, there's much less there. Especially if you leave out the silly crashed thunderhawk. Throw in some boards that can be arranged in multiple ways, a pair of dice, and some simple rules. Include a one or two page painting guide, but make it seem more like an after thought then an integral part of the game. The website would have more missions, a bit more painting guide, and a link that says 'For more about the Space Marines Check out'. Then the basic set should be SM vs. Nids. They should come with legal armies for both, and some of the most common unit types. One very important thing to include would be a vehicle of some type. Some people would scoff, but it could be done simply, for instance do you remember the old army guy tanks? Basically a two part shell with no bottom, you could do that for a rhino easy. Yes it would stand out against the regular rhinos, but it is good enough and probably use less plastic then the dread. Then my big suggestion would be to include two of the same unit, but with different upgrades. So no matter how you added up everything the points would be the same, but the minidexs would include the different options so that you could include choosing different options from a codex. Then its website would include different set point builds, and more detailed paint techniques, and eventually a link to the regular GW website.

THAT is how you make a something that will actually spark interest in your game. Not something that is inherently frustrating.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Campaign Update; R3S4

Wow. Holy shit. Goddamn. Today was one of those days that makes me glad to be a gamer! I think that if every game was like this, everyone would play games. Hot damn. After weeks and weeks of waiting, we were finally able to get in that final battle before kicking over to D&D.

It was exactly the type of game that you would want for a final battle. Massive melees, alliances, a stubborn opponent who refused to quit, a seemingly clear cut victory that was hard won, and most importantly Peking Duck.

We actually started planning this battle almost a month ago. That's where the Peking Duck comes in. We planned to have a massive Chaos on the Streets match between all of us and see who came in where. I'll post that stuff later, once I've sorted it out myself. This week the planning kicked into high gear. The IT department had taken two adjacent computer towers out of our area to eventually be replaced. So on Tuesday I spent half the day cleaning up the area of dust and stray wires. All that was left were the phones and the monitors. Three minutes to move the monitors and the phones, and we had a giant gaming area. It was approximately 2.5x8 foot. Almost enough for a game of 40K.

When we placed all of the terrain, it was still kinda bare. Necessity being the mother of invention, we grabbed some other stuff from around the office to work as terrain. Small beach balls, an empty can of cashews, and even a Richard Alpert from LOST bobblehead all pulled some double duty.

In the end we had something that looked like this;


A huge area for us to game with. This spread us out nicely and created such a great game that we spent the entire day playing a single game, and finished the actual game with ten minutes to spare. We even took a nice break in the middle to order some Peking Duck and Pork Dumplings. Dear god, it was heavenly. I've never had a nicer day at work, and I'm hard pressed to think of a better day of gaming I've ever had. Peking Duck, by the way is mana from heaven. Ok, mana from Pan-Asia, but after I finished eating, it was joked that I had to go have a post-coital cigarette. Man, I must have been some sort of horrible person in a previous life to have this delicious meal denied to me up until now. The day passed wonderfully, and if you have never had Peking Duck while gaming, you really need to. We even lost track of how many rounds we had played by the end of the day.

Now, onto the game. We were playing Chaos on the Streets, and we happened to roll the scenario, Lost Prince. Since Richard Alpert was a tad huge and already pulling terrain duties, we went into my collection of random models, and with a bit of joking I found a perfect model. A dancing girl from the Reaper line that I bought years ago. So we decided to re-name the scenario in her honor....The Wayward Whore.

A pic of the Wayward Whore from a bit later. (I just realized that I'm going to have to do some heavy editing before I can repost this before I put it on some of the more respectable forums that I'm a member of)

Here's the battle breakdown;

LAZ (Skaven 276) vs. Megan (O&G 219) vs. Jim (Undead 249) vs. Tom (Dwarf 200)

Chaos on the Streets: The Lost Prince (The Wayward Whore)

Skaven Rout!
Orcs Voluntarily Rout!
Dwarfs completely destroyed!
Undead Victorious!

1. Who Killed Who:

Thunderer OoA Mohawk
Engineer shooting OoA BS II
Eshin Sorceror shooting OoA clansman in heavy armor
Thunderer OoA verminkin
verminkin curbstomps beardling
engineer shooting OoA giant rat
Eshin Sorceror shooting OoA orange beard
Orange Hair CC OOA verminkin
Dire Wolves curbstomp Big Un 1 after Necromancer casts life drain on him.
Vampire OoA orc Boy
Ogre OoA goblin spearman
Ghoul OoA Big Un 2.
Verminkin OoA thunderer
Verminkin OoA white beard
Beardling OoA verminkin
thunderer OoA BS I
Goblin shooting OoA direwolf
Ghoul OoA Helmet
Verminkin OoA Orc Shaman
Troll OoA Ogre
Ghoul OoA goblin w/spear
Thunderer OoA verminkin
Verminkin curbstomps engineer
Orc Cheiftain curbstomps thunderer
Direwolf Curbstomps goblin
Superghoul curbstomps goblin
Painted Dreg curbstomps Troll after Vampire Stunned.
Ghoul OoA Orcboy
thunderer shooting OoA ghoul
Balled dreg OoA thunderer
Ghoul OoA thunderer after Dreg stunned.
Vampire curbstomp beardling
ghoul curbstomp thunderer
Vampire curbstomp final beardling

2. Injury Results

Mohawk: 14- dead. That will teach me to spend time converting and sculpting a model.
BS I- 33 (-1 ini)
BS II- 34 (-1 WS)
Verminkin Club: x1: FR
Verminkin Spear: x3: all FR
Verminkin Sword x1: FR

Orc Shaman: arm wound miss next game
Big Un 1: 54 FR
Big Un 2: 52 FR
Helmet: 22 (-1 Move)
orc Boy:FR
orc boy: dead
Goblin w/ Spear x2: dead, FR
Goblin w/ Bow x2: FR FR

Ogre: FR
Dire Wolf: Dead
Ghoul: Dead

Engineer: 24 (stupid- which all things considered isn't that big of a deal with Ld 9)
Orange Hair: 31 (-1 BS)
White Hair: 46 FR
Beardling A+S: FR
Thunderer x5: FR, FR, FR, FR, FR
Clansman: dead
clansman: FR
Beardling: FR

Let's break it down by pics. I believe that I got pics of most of the action.

My setup;

Tom's setup; A quick note, I thought his set up was rather stupid when I first saw it. Lazy or some such, but those dwarves proved to be the immovable object in this game. He outlasted alot of the higher level warbands. Granted, he decided to fight until the bitter end, but it goes a long way to show how when Tom is with it, he's really with it.

Megan's setup:

Jim's setup:

Orcs Advance!

The Undead walk toward the Wayward Whore, who obviously is a fan of Twilight, since she wandered real close to them.

On Tom's turn, she must have realized that the Vampire was a Blood Dragon, and not Robert Pattinson, since she wandered away from them.

Dwarfs do a slight amount of maneuvering.

Goddamn Whore wanders away from me again.

I drop out of hiding with my infiltrators and hit Tom's line. This was a major piece of bad luck for me, since in the first exchange my CC-kitted night runner did nothing but whiff and then Tom's only piece of major luck, a thunderer (without a hand weapon!) took him out of Action.

Here chicka-baby! We gots the stones. *Snicker*

The Orcs try to show off thier manliness and go after the Wayward Whore.

Apparently, the Wayward Whore is a furry. She walked right up to my front line. Not my turn though, so I couldn't nab her.

The Undead advance with some bad intentions.

Tried to get another shot from a different direction.

Finally, I grabbed her, but it was not to last. As was my plan.

And some more Skaven Advances. Needless to say, I did more moving then just about anyone this early in the game.

Orcs advance, while the Dwarfs try to deal with the Black Skaven in thier midst. He hit them on turn 2, and remained there the rest of the game. Didn't get taken out, but didn't really do anything else either.

Jim advances and charges my line to take the Wayward Whore from me!

Some MORE advancement by Megan. Her plan was to take out Tom and then deal with the rest of us. Just as planned.

Eschewing the Wayward Whore, I charged Tom. I was mistaken in thinking that I would be able to get her back later. After this point, she was no where near where I could get to her in a reasonable amount of time.

And that Wayward Whore walks back toward the Undead, and the Orcs walk forward.

Jim measures to see if he can walk up to the Wayward Whore.

The answer? Not quite.

Overhead shot of the grand melee that was developing.

Ok, I lied. She did come near me, but I was really FOCUSED on killing Tom, so that I could kill Megan. According to plan, so far. I really wanted Jim to walk away with the Win in this match.

See this pic? This is basically how my rats stayed for the rest of the game. Me and Tom couldn't hurt each other...after he managed to kill a bunch of them.

Another overhead shot. It was taken like an hour later, but not much had changed, but I hadn't realized that at the time.

Goddamn Wayward Whore! Pick someone already!

More of me and Tom trying and failing to kill each other.

Go to the ghouls, girl!

Now, Megan's other grand plan came to fruition. She caught me in an anvil between her and Tom.

And who said the ghoul wouldn't get the girl?

Overhead of the grand guignol. Lots of close combat happening.

Jim arranges the planned decimation of Megan. He set it up well. She didn't see it coming.

Anyone else getting sick of Rats vs. Dwarfs? It seemed so damn exciting during the game, but really in pics, you can kinda see how nothing kept changing.

Overhead of the all the plans falling into place.

Now, it is starting to get really interesting, but its pretty much the same pic as before.

This was the one that we were all waiting for. The heavy hitters get involved. The Troll vs. The Undead Ogre (Ushabti). Battle of the Beasts!

Megan brings more forces to bear against me and Tom, to no avail, I might add.

That's because Jim had a devastating magic phase, and took out a good chunk of her warband. I've never seen him get off the 'life stealer' spell so many times in one game. He got it off three different times, and most of the time, he's hard pressed to get it off once.

Some undead move in to secure positions.

While the ghouls wiped most of Megan's warband off the board, I think we were all waiting for the Vampire to get involved in the Troll vs. Undead Ogre battle. Also with a bit of added Dreg!

Attrition was starting to effect me and Megan. She used the Orc muscian as a warboss for some reason. I guess she just likes drummers. That musician was the only hero she had left at this point, and Tom and I couldn't kill him.

A nice close up of the fight.

Troll finally took out the Ogre. However, he still had to deal with the Dreg and the decidedly not Twilight Vampire.

The last orc boy moves in to support his boss.

Then the Ghouls moved in, having killed almost everything of Megan's that moved.

More dregs move in to reinforce the boss.

Vampire and Troll, both down to one wound after many rounds of fighting.

And I finally routed off the table. Leaving the dwarves and the orcs to thier own devices. Tom rolled so many ones during the game, that we stopped calling them ones, and called them Toms. He didn't appreciate this, and called us all 'tards'.

The troll finally taken care of (by a dreg no less), the ghouls and others move in to finish off Megan's Orcs.

Megan seeing the writing on the wall, decided that cowardice is the better form of valor, and voluntarily routed so that she would have at least one hero left.

The Undead hit the hard as nails dwarves that were filled with more whiff then a fish market. The dwarves couldn't hit us, and we utterly failed to wound them.

I wonder what these two guys have in mind for the Wayward Whore once they get off the table? Probably just a nice meal of girl, knowing ghouls.

And the be-all end all battle was joined with the most unlikely of opponents, Tom and Jim. I think that Jim used this battle to work out some of the frustrations that he's had with working with Tom for almost a decade.

One more turn, and the Wayward Whore was good as home.

However, that was not to be, since Jim tabled Tom in that last round.

So that's all I wrote. Possibly later this week, I'll edit this for sensitive eyes, and post it elsewhere. Then I'll probably have the rest of the Post-Battle Sequence done.

Or not, I mean, its not like you can spell lazy without LAZ.