Wednesday, March 28, 2012

RPG Thoughts: Lost and the Damned

So I've been thinking about getting my old stuff together for a new campaign. Like I said earlier, I remember all the rules, but the world is nothing more the ephemeral wisps in my memory.

The stuff I remember is the fun stuff, things that PCs did, and neat world building locations. I can't remember the names of countries or cities. I can barely remember NPCs, and those I do remember are either dead or retired.

This isn't the first time this type of thing has happened to me. I lost the campaign bible for a Vampire campaign, in the middle of the campaign. So I had to rebuild stuff. I don't know how we continued at that point. We lost sires and locations and all sorts of things that were mentioned at some point and we never got back to. It must not have been that important since we didn't bother with it again.

Then there was a time when the guy running a game kept all the character record sheets and left the notebook on the bus. Gone forever. We were able to rebuild the characters, but we lost quite a bit of really cool character treasure.

Of course, who could forget the time in High School when I joined a Traveller game at the FLGS, and the dude had all the rules and characters on his laptop-which then catastrophically crashed in the middle of a session. We gave up and went for wings instead.

Then there's the couple people who left 40K models in my basement. It's been a decade, I declare them mine now. Lost to them, free models to me. If it were a big deal, they would have picked up those 2nd ed metal 'nids a long time ago. On a related note, Jason, if you happen across this, can I have all those Fantasy Orcs in your gameroom that what's-his-name left there years ago?

Then the best was when we decided to play on the porch, since it was boiling in the attic, and my buddy dropped a set of brand new dice into the bushes. Eight years later, there's still a hole in my bushes where he jumped after them, but he never found the d10. Almost as funny as when my wife decided to use his hand as an ashtray.

Another buddy chronically forgot his character sheet to every session in every game that I ran for 7 years. I eventually started keeping them myself, rather then risk loosing them.

Of course, the worst thing is the FLGS that are gone. The Hobby Horse (where I bought my first minis and D&D adventure, not to mention my first X-Men comics- lost due to the rent at the mall going up), The Comics and Gaming Dungeon (where I learned of GW, and played Traveller- lost due to early embezzlement and never recovering), and Helm's Deep Games (where I played more games then I care to remember- lost in part to the owner losing interest and part to theft).

Those are my stories of things that I've lost, what are some of yours?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim: Scouting Around

Middle Child readying the Orcs for a game at Boy Scouts.

Hello, and welcome back to another exciting installment of Monday Night Mordheim. As I mentioned last week, I was going to take some Mordheim to the Boy Scouts.

Now, to facilitate this plan, I packed up my terrain and the six warbands that I was taking and put them into my car. Went to work, and then on the way home from work before Scouts, I got into an accident. I'm fine, the other driver is fine. My car is still drivable, but the frame is bent, so its totaled. However, it delayed me from doing what I needed to do.

A ridiculously quick stop home to grab some stuff I had printed out for the kids, and I was back at Scouts. Now, to help each kid, I had printed up the turn reference sheet and a warband roster for each of them.

I had hoped that I had gotten a few more people then I did. My kids took their favorite warbands, and two guys joined us. Both of them are Eldest Child's best buds, so it really wasn't a surprise that they joined us. We had quite a few people stop and look at the tables and question us. I'm hoping that next time, I'll get some more people to join in, or have the kids able to stand on their own enough that I can answer more questions then just quick ones. The most common question asked was 'Are you playing Dungeons & Dragons', and for once I was able to honestly answer in the negative.

What I had not counted on was the fact that I have one table's worth of terrain, not two. Due to the shortened time constraints and lack of terrain, I set the kids up closer then normal. Instead of rolling for a scenario, I created one. It was a variation of the 'grab the treasure' type of scenario. I put an extra model on the top of a tower to act as the 'treasure chest'. Game would end when someone got the treasure chest off their board edge, or the someone routed.

It ended well. Someone got the treasure chest and the other guy got the rout in both games. Here's the breakdown:

Undead (Eldest Child) vs. Dwarves (Buddy #1)- Dwarves got the rout, and the undead (unsuprisingly) walked away with the treasure.

Orcs and Goblins (Middle Child) vs. Possessed (Buddy #2)- O&G got the rout and the Possessed walked away with the treasure.

The best of all possible worlds. Everyone got something out of this. The kids got to show off that they knew something, and the new guys got to learn in a way that was not discouraging. Great times.

Here's some pics of the event. Not much to show, since I wasn't too sure how people were about their kids and the internet. Some people are real stuck up about it, others are more cool. However, this isn't facebook or whatnot, its a blog. So I decided to err on the side of caution.

Friday, March 23, 2012

RPG Thoughts: Coming Home

In RPGs all things are cyclic. I find myself going back to the same themes over and over again. The stuff I like doesn't fit everywhere. What I like is weird. There are few games that work, so I keep going over it. There seems to be no way around it.

I think I have to go home.

Way back in 1992-1993 somewhere along there, I created my own gameworld for D&D. Something designed specifically to hold the weird stuff that I like. There's guns, and psychics, and a vaguely steampunk feel . It works, because it was designed from the ground up with all of that in mind. When you just toss that stuff in, it feels wrong and out of place. That's why psionics and Forgotten Realms doesn't really work, it comes off as alien.

Since I created the world, I've used it to run more successful campaigns then any other game world. Three massively successful ones, two that phased out due to real world concerns. The thing is that I keep advancing the timeline, and things change. The actions that PCs take change the world. I love that about it. PCs become important NPCs in future campaigns. It's the best of all worlds.

My main problem is how much actual background info is missing. My mind ain't as sharp as it used to be. I remember characters, and a vague map. City names, and politics are all gone. It's sad. I remember the rules clear as day. That's the easy part. I had to spend so much time on the rules, getting the balance right that I'll probably never forget them. Besides the capital city (Crynin), the rest of it is gone. I'll probably search through all my old papers for any scrap of info, and try to dreg my friends minds, see what they remember.

What I am thinking of though, is finally going ahead and making a PDF of the game. I am tempted to actually go ahead and do up a full game guide and maybe get it professionally printed or self published so that I have a nice hardback of it. Something to remember from. I did a quick logo. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Philosophy and Games: The Ten Commandments of New Players

So a short update before next Monday. I'll start with a bit of recap of the results, and then get into the Philosophy.

Well, Tuesday's Mordheim session almost didn't happen. I was in a car accident. No one was hurt (thank god) but my car is going to that great junkyard in the sky (Tube City Scrap, next to the Target on the top of the mountain near my work).

So we had to play a vastly reduced session, however much fun was had by all. Not only the two guys who played, but also quite a few lookie-lous who stopped by to take a peak.

So here's the Philosophy part of it to me;

The best part of it is that everyone won. I had designed a 'capture the flag' type scenario (which I will post later). It worked out really well. In each game, one person walked away with the flag, and the other walked away with a real win (a failed rout check for the opponent). That was the best of all situations for me, because no one got horribly trounced and discouraged. If someone had walked away with both the flag and the rout win, that would have been bad. Well, kinda bad. Just very discouraging for the other guy.

That's my game philosophy, I want new guys to have a tough but fair battle. There are philosophies that say to trounce the new guy. I remember when I heard about the 'beginner's battles' that GW put on for 40K, back in 3rd Ed. From what I understood it was five tactical marines vs. 5 genestealers. Started at 24 inches. A couple rounds of shooting, and then the genestealers would kill the hell out of the marines. It wasn't a fair scenario. The new player with the marines would ALWAYS lose. From what I understood that was policy. It was supposed to make the new guy want to go out and get his own models and try to get back at the employee.

Er. How is that supposed to work? I don't know about you, but when I get my ass kicked at something, I don't want to do it anymore. Which is why football never really appealed to me (to play that is), I got my ass kicked HARD in football (literally, I got knocked down and the rest of the kids in the neighborhood ran over my prone body).

Winning is good, and loosing is bad. Winning is awesome, however people aren't stupid. They realize when you are GIVING them a win (like when my wife tries to get me to play Monopoly). People don't like that. It makes them feel like you are treating them like a child. Not even children like that. Children ESPECIALLY don't like that. Pulling punches does not work. After your new player goes home, and they think about it, they'll wonder why you didn't use that tank the whole fight.

That's why I think the best thing you can do is give them a fair fight. Something where they have a decent chance to win, but might not. If you win, that's to be expected, you are a veteran player. If they win, all the better. The best thing that can be done is a fight that can end very closely. A close game is always exciting, and it keeps people on the edge of their seat. An unbalanced game does not provide that to people. Especially when one side trounces the other throughly. That's great when you've spent months planning and modelling your army, not so great when you have no personal investment to the army, which is exactly the place that the new player is coming into. They have no emotional connection to what they are playing. The point of a new player game is to CREATE that connection.

Here are my Ten Commandments for introducing new players, some of these are obvious, but I like to beat people over the head with the known.
1. Play fair.
2. Allow the new player to pick which side they want. This proves to them that neither side is superior or inferior, just different.
3. Keep it simple. You might want to leave the odd units and models out of it for now. Introduce things over time. Maybe start with just infantry, then add seige weapons, and then whatever.
4. If you nerf a rule for a new player, nerf it for yourself. An example of this is to not play 'touch' rules in chess.
5. Walk the new player through every step, every turn! If they start leading it, so much the better. They are NEW, so they don't know the rules- don't expect them to. It is hard to keep going over the same thing over and over, but it is so helpful to a new player.
6. Unlike a regular game, you need to point out stupid things they might be doing. 'Hey, you don't want to move that guy, if he moves, he can't shoot!'.
7. Explain what you are doing as you do it. This gives them insight into things they can do during their turn as well. 'This guy is hiding behind the wall so you can't shoot him.'
8. Bring the pretty pieces, and some not so pretty ones. Showing very different levels of prettiness is important. A just assembled model, a primed one, a color base one, and a completed one. That why the new person can see the process up close and personal. The color base is really important. It is the simplest paint, but it still looks not bad. It gives a new person a glimmer of what they should be able to do straight out of the gate.
9. Post game review. I love to throw this one out there. After the game talk to the new people about what went right and what went wrong. Don't shy away from pointing at your own shortcomings.
10. Never blame the dice. It might be tempting, and you might do it on a normal basis, but resist the urge! If the new player realizes that you never got the dice rolls you needed, so much the better. Do not say it yourself. If you played fair and played right, they should by now realize what hurt you (or them) and what helped!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim: Taking It to The Masses

At long last, I'm going to talk about the project that I've been working on since last Tuesday. I have gotten a wonderful opportunity, one that I've missed in the past, but now I am going to take advantage of.

For those of you who are unaware, my sons and I are very active with the local Boy Scout troop. Now, every few months, the troop has a 'free night' where everyone kinda hangs out and plays games and stuff. It's a good way for some of the guys who need rank conferences and such to do so without interrupting the regular meetings. Generally, I'll sit there and play some game that I have on hand, chess or yahtzee generally since I always have dice and a board.

This time though, when the 'free meeting' was announced, something clicked in my head. It was actually a piece that was written over on Frontline Gamer. Now, granted his post was more about introducing people who were already playing wargames to non-GW games. What I took away from it was to introduce people to table top wargaming in general. Get them started, and introduce them to Maulifaux and FoW later.

Why am I doing this? Well, to be honest, I like wargames. My kids enjoy wargames, and there are a number of other kids there that will probably enjoy wargames as well. I also feel that many wargames don't have a great introduction for people. They suffer a bit from the same problems that the Boy Scouts suffer from. There's a stigma against it, and we have to work uphill against it to get more people involved in something that they would actually enjoy and benefit from greatly. Unlike most things (Scouts included), I can't go set up a table in a local school inviting people come play. Well, I COULD but I would get some looks. So I have to pick and choose how and who I introduce wargames and RPGs to. I know a couple of the kids at Scouts have played Munchkin, Heroscape, and Lego Heroica (all gateways if you ask me). So I figure that Mordheim is right up thier alley, which is beneficial to getting their attention.

Refering back to the Frontline Gamer article, there were some great points that I took away from it for bringing Mordheim to the Scouts.

*I have six warbands. They are from various different types and styles, so there's a bit of something for everyone there. Horde warbands, shooty warbands, melee specialists, there's something there for everyone.
*I know the rules backwards, forwards, and inside out. My kids have a pretty firm grasp of the rules themselves, so if they each get a new opponent, that's a net gain of two new people. I'm really hoping for 4 new people, and I would walk around as referee teaching the game, rather then just playing. Whereas Maulifaux, while neat, I don't know anywhere near as well.
*Mordheim can be a short game that can be done in the hour and a half that we have during the Scout meeting. Even a small game of 40K or WHFB will take twice as long as that.
*Terrain, while I don't have the hugest or best looking terrain collection, I do have enough to put some boards down without looking too sparse.
*The Models, I have models at all stages. Some just glued together plastic/metal, some primed, some color blocked, some converted, and some painted to the best of my ability. Which is great to show the various steps of the hobby aspect of it.

Needless to say, I've been chugging along getting this all ready. I haven't been this excited about a single game in awhile. Which I guess is part of the point, enthusiasm is awesome. I can't imagine being one of the red shirts in a GW and trying to get excited about the same game every day. Now, in a FLGS there's a bunch of different games to get your motor running. Enthusiasm is infectious.

Scout Meetings are on Tuesday, so next week, I'll have some results or some humorous stories, or both. I doubt I'll have pics, since some people get kinda uptight about post pics of thier kids to random places (not that I can blame them). I might get some of the set ups and such, but probably not of the kids.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hobby Works: Why So Quiet?

After last week of talking my ass off, this week I've been relatively quite. There's a reason for it. Been doing much prep work for Monday's post. Which will be a two-parter. Part one on Monday, and then the second part officially the next Monday. However, I might be inclined to put up something on Wednesday, if all goes well.

However, I will give you a bit of a heads up. I'm working on a project very near and dear to my heart. So it will be interesting. This is what I've been doing all week.

1. Writing out 6 starting warband rosters.
2. Gluing together a Reiklander warband. Paint will hopefully follow.
3. Improving the basic terrain that I have. As a side note, Texture spray paint is so not worth it. Too much money for so little use. I heard it before, but I didn't want to believe it. Live and learn.
4. General model repair.
5. Sending an email to ask permission to link to another person's blog post. Just a courtesy, really in this day and age, but I think a bit of politeness is helpful.

Is that a big enough hint? I'm pretty sure people will make a good guess, but I'm pretty sure that they will not be correct. Those of you who know me personally who I've already been gushing about this secret project don't give it away! That means YOU, Megan.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim: Grocery Store Terrain- Recipe and Example

Time to put away the things of somewhat controversy. A good thought provoking blog post is always great to see what else people have to say on a matter. Perhaps I'll return to it some day, but not today. Today is about food and terrain. There is nothing I like more then good terrain, except for food. I mean, the way I talk about food so much on this blog that it is practically a fan of Food Network. A good game, good eats, and pleasant people to have both with. Now, I admit that food and gaming don't necessarily go together at the same time. However, a bit of forward thinking and some materials, they merge into each other.Now, one of my favorite things to do is have a good dinner before a night of gaming. It makes me happy, and some of my opponent's sleepy (that's the metagame there, sleepy opponents make easier opponents). One thing that I really didn't mention before is that one of the easiest things in the world to make is Meatloaf. And almost everything that was on the previous shopping trip goes into meatloaf, and it makes for some quick terrain.

The Meatloaf Recipe of Doom

Ths recipe has been handed down bloody hand to bloody hand (literally- you'll see). It is easy, tasty, and even gives you some time to whip up some mashed potatoes if you are the type that likes homemade mashed potatoes (of which I am!). Now all my measurements are US standards, those of you in the rest of the forward thinking metric world, do some conversion. First off the ingredients:

2 Pounds of Ground Meat. Now, if you notice, I didn't have this in the previous grocery shopping trip. That's because I wanted to get one of these cool meat containers. The local place doesn't use them, but the big national chains do (Aldi's and Wal-Mart notably). This is a key piece for the terrain.

Two Eggs. If your dumb ass uses a whole dozen, well, I hope you enjoy your omelet.

One Cup of Bread Crumbs. I like Italian style, that's me being fancy. Your mileage may differ.

1/2 Half Cup of ketchup. Using only Heinz 57 is a must. All other ketchup is not ketchup, it is tomato paste.

One Box of Onion Soup Mix. Yes, the whole box. Or two cheap packets, whatever.


Step 1-

Throw all the stuff in a bowl.

Step 2-
Hand Mix it. I really mean HAND mix it. Get your hands in there. Get your hands bloody with the meat juice (there's the bloody hand reference!). Mix it until it is of an even constancy. I do not have a picture of this, because, frankly this is a messy step and I did not want to touch my camera.

Step 3-

Place into a shallow pan. Now, if you notice, I didn't make it into the traditional 'loaf' shape. That's because I like to cut the left overs into sandwich slices. This way gives me the exact right depth.

Step 4-
Cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes to an hour. This can vary depending on your stove. It will pull away from the sides of the pan a bit. Which makes it easier to cut. This is important, if you are unsure of how done your meatloaf is, cut it in half. If its pink in the middle, it needs about another ten minutes or so.

Step 5-
Allow to cool for a few minutes and then cut and eat. For a great treat for gaming, you can let it cool over night in the fridge, then cut into sandwich size slices and throw it on some good buns with some provolone.

Ok, recipe over. Here's the AWESOME part. This stuff that you are getting with your dinner is also great for terrain.

Gather this stuff:

First, put the extra bread crumbs into a sealing bag to save for later.

Then you cut the raised lip off of the cool meat container. This is a bit of a pain in the ass. But it is necessary.

Then cut a wedge out of the breadcrumb container. This will often allow you to take the wrapper off easier as well.

Check your fit. Now, since I am just doing this on the fly, I'm just doing it quick and dirty. If you actually take time and measure, undoubtedly you can make this look MUCH better.

Then cut up your onion soup box into strips. This way you can use it for accents.

Now glue everything together. Again, cause I was going quick and dirty, I used hot glue, which is awesome for quickness and sturdiness. Not so much for neatness.

Spray paint and you are done. Grand total time I spent doing this quick and dirty was about 45 minutes (the time the meatloaf was cooking). Spraying took enough time for the meatloaf to cool down and get served. I used textured paint, cause it was new and I wanted to try it. Now, I don't think I'll use it again without pre-priming it with a good grey basecoat first again.

Now, you probably don't want to do it that way. Take your time. Do it right and it's a terrain piece that will last for awhile. Now if you notice, everything was shot on one towel, which made it very easy to clear off the dining room table for dinner. My wife was not enthused over the new centerpiece, which still reaked of spray paint. The kids on the other hand thought it was one of the coolest things I've done. It does everything it needs to do. It blocks line of sight, it gives a vantage point, and it looks vaguely gothic. Do it in gunmetal and it would fit in for 40K.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Philosophy and Games: SVC II

As per always, I do not always put what I am trying to say in the clearest of terms. Occasionally anger does that to me. Thanks to the responses, I've had some more stuff to chew on. I'll try to work it out a bit better this time. First acknowledgements-

@Matt: Excellent points, enjoyed the blog, thought I'd stick around. Your bit about the beddernaut is the exact type of thing that I love. That's what I want to see in every campaign, if not every session.

@Mark: The thing is the swimming example is both excellent and terrible. I might know how to swim (freestyle, backstroke, doggystyle, missionary...wait a second...), and my character does not. The point is that my character should at least be able to TRY to swim. There may be a massive penalty, but the character should be able to try it.

The point I was trying to make, and I did so rather poorly is that there is a difference between the rules and the background. Hell with it, I'm just going full out wargamer here, Crunch and Fluff.

Crunch is hard rules. I love me some hard rules. The thing is though, hard rules are not the be-all end-all in a RPG. The thing is that you cannot be married to the rules in a RPG.

Fluff is background, and story, and character stuff. This is far more important then hard rules in an RPG. In a wargame, the only reason you need to kill something is that it belongs to the other guy. Fluff is extra, its superfluous. An RPG without fluff is nothing more then a small scale combat system that doesn't really work out.

The problem is where do you divide the two? That's where I have the problem most of the time. In a wargame, I want rules that are hard and fast with no wiggle room. In a RPG, I want lots of wiggle room. The thing is that I put the emphasis in both as GAME. They are both doing the same thing (beat the bad guys!) but in very different ways.

A wargame is a tactical experience, with very broad strokes that are (supposed to be) very clear cut.

An RPG is a romantic experience, painted in loving detail with rules that are designed to allow the most freedom.

They are different, but I have a massive background in both. Love me the RPG, love me the wargame. There's a bleed over from one to another, though. That's where I draw the line. I play RPGs like wargames, and wargames like RPGs.

The thing that will always be a problem is the metagame. The metagame in wargame is straight forward, know your rules, know your opponent, seek the loopholes, spam effective units, use the math to your advantage, and knowledge is power. In an RPG it is much more evasive, character knowledge vs. player knowledge, rules vs. story, player's play style vs. GM's play style.

That's where I get into trouble. I will always use the straight forward wargame metagame, every time. That's what gets me into trouble, and creates needlessly long responses that require much clarification. Allow me to elaborate for my RPG playing friends, then counter point with an explanation for my wargaming buddies (huzzah for synonyms).

The Wargamer's Metagame:
Know Your Rules- This is an absolute must. If you don't know the rules, you will not have a great play experience. Granted your friend teaching you the game will not take advantage of your lack of rules knowledge, but most people are not going to point out that you are not including your all your advantages. Its not in their best interest for them to do so. It's an oppositional system, they all are.
Know Your Opponent- If you know someone's playing style, then you are one step closer to winning. If you know they tend to press an advantage too far, you can trick them into making an error. This can win you games.
Seek the Loopholes: A loophole in the rules is an advantage. It might be something as simple as an equipment choice that no one else takes, to a specific odd build that normally isn't allowed, but is under certain conditions. Your opponent will not expect these, and that is an advantage to be pressed. Oddly enough, I learned this lesson in an RPG from another character's paladin (Jean-Luc Stormslayer, I'm looking squarely at you!).
Spam Effective Units- If one thing beats down your opponent, then two is better. Six is bestest. Why take something that dies easily? More killing for better points.
Use Math to your Advantage- This is key. Crunch the numbers before you sit down to play a game. Figure out what is cheapest and most effective for the game you are playing. It might be some simple mathhammering, or it might be as complex as figuring out the dollar cost to buy the unit compared to how many points you get for it to how many points it kills on average.
Knowledge is Power- Durrrr. Seriously, if I know everything about the rules for my army, the rules for your army, and I can figure out what units you always leave in reserve, then I can make better choices which means that I win more games.

The RPG Metagame:
Character Knowledge vs. Player Knowledge- To be honest, this one is one that I've always struggled with. Without sitting down and RPing out ever waking second of character's life there is no way to know what that character knows. I generally assume if its in a rulebook, your character knows it. Of course, that might be wrong. I've had numerous PCs try to work out the secret of gunpowder (or in one notable game where there was gunpowder-nitroglycerin.)
Rules vs. Story- How far do you let the rules go? Do you forbid actions due to the rules, or allow them due to the story? Personally, I like the Rule of Cool, if it is awesome, I'll allow it.
Player's Play Style vs. GM's Play Style- This is another loaded issue. In each game I play, I take my player's styles into account. If I am a player, I have to adjust my way of playing to the GM that I am playing with. Everyone is a bit different. My buddy Po is a take no prisoners type of DM with a nasty streak, whereas my friend Warlock is a story telling sandbox DM, my oldest friend Doug is a start where you will lets see where it ends up type of DM, my other buddy Zack is a very philospohical GM for story teller. Each type of game I play with them I play very differently. When I am being the DM/GM/ST what have you, I know that in my normal game groups that Tom will ineptly play a glass cannon who can barely remember the rules-but loves making things go boom, Megan will play an odd character with lots of personality, and Po will find every loop hole in the game to make a killing machine (if I let him). So I have to play a very different type of game that allows each one of them to enjoy the game.

Now, I probably muddied up the waters a bit with this explanation. Let me highlight some of the problems that result from my particular stances when it comes to RPGs.

1. Character Knowledge vs. Player Knowledge- I fucking hate this one. Seriously, the most frustrated I ever was in an RPG was because of this. I was playing with a new DM in a pre-made dungeon. The way to open a door was to light some torches for the eight schools of magic in a certain order. Due to playing for years, I knew exactly what we had to do. I knew the schools of magic. I told the rest of the gang the key to it, and the DM told me that my character (a thief) would not have that information. Since I had said it, but no one could act on it, we got stuck. No further. Never went back to that game. I don't want to be stopped from sharing. If you want to give another character credit for it, fine, but I figured it out, even if my character didn't. That's one thing that Mark had mentioned. If I am playing a dumbass with a Int score of 3, it shouldn't effect our ability to work the game. I've had DM's that have wanted me to roll to see if my character could figure out what I did. That's a game breaker.
2.Rules vs Story- The last sentence leads to this one. Stats are only part of a character, part of the story. My character's lack of knowledge should not penalize me. Like I said, if you want to give credit to the wizard instead of the barbarian, fine. However, the rules are a framework to give an outline to the story. I never want to be told that I cannot do something unless it is physically impossible for my character to do it. I might not succeed, but I should be able to try.
3. Know Your Rules- Damn straight. I expect people to have a grasp of the rules. I expect them to have some basic working knowledge of what they can do. I give leeway to the neophytes, but vets I expect more. Use those rules to build the character you want to play. Even Bognar Bloodaxe, the most carefully constructed killing machine I ever had the pleasure of killing was built and crafted from rules to help create a character.
4. Knowledge is Power- At the end of the night, when I come home my wife says; 'Did you have a good timing playing your game tonight?'. She doesn't say; 'Did you have a rewarding collaborative storytelling experience?'. Roleplaying Games are games. There are no winners and losers. Bullshit. There is a loser, The DM. The DM should lose. That's the thing. The DM provides a framework and a reason to go out and do something, but it's a bit of a newspeak double-talk. This is the real power knowledge that some people forget. Do I like building out that story? Hells yes. The point is that it is a game. If someone leaves me a way to get more knowledge, I will use that. It might be as simple as reading the campaign guide, or reading the novels associated with the world. There are times though when shear buffonary leads me to more knowledge. You leave a map sitting IN PLAIN SIGHT. I'm going to use that knowledge. If you didn't want me to know that, then you wouldn't have left it out. I'm not going to go digging through your bag, but if you leave it out on the table, well, that's your problem.
5. Know Your Opponent- This is one that I take I abuse all the time. It's the whole Player Style vs. DM style thing, but worse. I can do it, I just can't do it on the fly. For instance, Warlock, my old HS DM ran something recently, and I updated a character and went to town. We ended up defeating something that we really weren't supposed to. Whoops. I wasn't thinking about his story telling sandbox and building an alliance or getting information, I was thinking about his tendency to make things up on the fly and short changing his villains. I knew that if we pressed on, we'd kill it, easily. We probably ended up loosing some valuable information from that encounter, but eh, we killed it dead.

The thing is that I like to do things that are fun, for me. I work that into every game I play. In a RPG the crunch is built to support the fluff, and in a wargame, the fluff is built to support the crunch. Its a dichotomy of games. The thing is in the RPG I want to do stuff that isn't explicitly covered in the crunch. That's why I'm playing an RPG rather then a wargame. Well, I think I've elaborated enough, and I got some new spray paint to check out. Terrain on Monday!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Philosophy and Games: Story vs. Game OR Crunch vs. Fluff.

I've been thinking a lot about games lately. Wow, big surprise there right? The thing is that I am fundamentally a different gamer now then I was when I was younger. The sacred cows I held when I was younger have been slaughtered and turned into steak and ribs.

There was a time I was a fluff bunny. Then for a bit I was a crunch addict. Now, I fall somewhere in between. For those of you who don't follow the wargames circuit, that's background and story compared to hard game rules and physics. Nowadays, I'm neatly in the middle.

There were times I wanted my Chaos Marines to act more chaotically. When I say chaotically, I really meant erratically. Just random stuff, I was not contemplating the mean of chaos being a goal instead of a description. Chaos in the 40K world does not mean true chaos, its more anarchy. Tear down the established order.

There was a time when I wanted to beat the ever living crap out of a dude who wanted to use a Tau/IG combined list with homebrew rules. Not thinking of the few Imperial worlds that were Gu'ala. NOT IN MY RULES BUDDY!

Those are just 40K examples. There's more and more out there. I've been thinking more and more about this in relation to D&D rather then wargames, but it still applies. My philosophy now is much more game-centric then story-centric. I went from the dude who never killed anyone unless it was story appropriate to a dude who gleefully enacts a TPK (Total Party Kill).

The thing is at the end of the day, I realize that D&D is a game. It is not a novel writing tool, regardless of what Weiss and Hickman say. For it to work as a game, there has to be risks, and there have to be consequences. It is supposed to be a challenge to be overcome.

That's my game philosophy. The players drive the game, the DM provides the challenges. The players can only become legendary if they are provided the opportunity to do so. I don't sit down and come up with an outline (anymore at least), I plan things out very loosely, and let the PCs go where they will. Everything they do is because they are given the choice.

I suppose that's why I like published adventures, I can plop them down, and just get going. If the PCs opt out, well then, I'm only out a few bucks and I can use it later. They are great a outline.

The thing is that I want my PCs to do whatever they want. I want them to feel like my game is their game. I give them challenges, that I expect them to live up to. I give them choices, and I expect them to choose wisely. I give them background and fluff, and I expect them to enjoy the enhancements.

Due to my game philosophy there are a few things that really bother me. I mean they piss me the fuck off. Stuff that would cause me to stand up, flip a table and drive my pen into someone's face.
*Railroading- I want to go where I want to go. If you don't like it why the hell are you playing an RPG?
*You can't do X- Wait, last time I checked, I wasn't playing Stephen Hawking. If I want to jump off a ledge onto the back of a giant lizard, by gum I can do it! I might not SUCCEED, but I can do it!
*Nerf- Nerfing is the act of pulling the teeth out of something (like replacing bullets with foam). If you need to nerf a bad guy, then you do not have good enough players. I should have a damn good idea when I should run and when I should fight. If I don't then I deserve to die!
*Wait a minute, you weren't suppose to fight that!- Is it evil? Is it in front of me? Do I have a reason to believe I can kill it? Then YES I am going to try to kill it!
*Your character doesn't know that, its metagaming!-Bullshit. My character is far more into this world then I am. He obviously knows things that I don't. If your dumbass leaves the map with the treasure clearly marked, I'm going straight for that room. It's a game, and I will take advantage of any opportunity you give me. My character is a lucky guesser! Characters might not have any concept of levels, but they probably have a good idea of how the world works. They'll know if they have a chance at killing that beholder. It doesn't matter that I know that a beholder is CR 10 and we're a 12th level party. If I can figure it out, so can my character.

There's a reason that I'm writing all of this, and in my mind its a damn good reason. Others might disagree with it. As a matter of fact, the reason I'm writing this will disagree with it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Night Mordheim; Thoughts on Customization.

I decided to take a wee break for a week from terrain, since I didn't have time to make my meatloaf this weekend, so no recipe, and no extra stuff for terrain. Can't spray paint containers that still have food in them. At least not if you plan on eating the food later. I mean, it should still be good, right? However, my wife is diametrically opposed to the idea. Hunh, a bit of paint never did anyone any harm, its not like its got lead in it (anymore).

I wanted to take a minute to talk about on of my favorite aspects of Mordheim, one that doesn't get talked about a whole lot. Customization.

Yes, converting your warband is a joy. Making your own terrain is a masters thesis in economy and architecture. The real great thing is customization.

Mordheim is a very open game, not everything is locked into place. That's what makes it great. It is a bare bones system, and it does everything that it needs to do...on the surface. The game's real strength is in the ability to make things yourself.

Many games inactively discourage 'homebrew' stuff, and let's face it, most wargames fall into this category. Other games actively discourage it, such as 4th Edition D&D (a more closed RPG system I've never seen). That's fine, but Mordheim lends itself to making customizations.

Here's a quick guide to the different types of customizations that can be done;
1. Homebrew Warbands- There are so many WHFB armies out there that are not represented in Mordheim that have great models, its almost a crime that there are no good High Elf rules.
2. Homebrew Campaign Settings- Officially there's Mordheim, the Empire in Flames (the rest of the Empire), Khemri, and Lustria. Though there's still lots of places that could be done, like Sylvania, or Cathay, or the Chaos Wastes. All interesting campaign settings that could be done with just slight changes.
3. Homebrew Scenarios- possibly my favorite. There is nothing like more then seeing two warbands who have built up a bit of a rivalry in a special scenario that isn't from a book. Slight changes in a scenario can make it play out differently or more interestingly. Not to mention special terrain rules for those scenarios.

So three broad areas for customization that can make any campaign unique. Mordheim is a game designer wanna-be's wet dream. There's so much that can be done with it without breaking it. I've seen the things that can be done, and some of it is downright amazing.