Monday, June 30, 2014

Warriors of the Red Planet Beta

Thomas Denmark's Warriors of the Red Planet is now available as a Beta version from Lulu for a measly $4. I follow the man's Original Edition Fantasy blog solely for the beautiful artwork, and WotRP looks like a fantastic piece of work...especially exciting, if you're interested in a Sword & Planet type game based on Burrough's Barsoom (who isn't?) using an OD&D style ruleset (ditto).

Unfortunately, being in Paraguay means I can't get this myself. Dammit.

I had some all-too-brief rules in Book 3 of Five Ancient Kingdoms for converting 5AK to this kind of setting, but Thomas has chosen to go "whole hog" and I salute him for it. Hopefully, some version of Warriors of the Red Planet will be available when I get back to the States.

You can purchase it here. The forum for discussion on gameplay is here.

Sword & Gun fantasy on the Red Frontier!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Revisiting Character Death

This will be a short post, as it's after 3am my time (sick children issues, though no worries at the moment).

Remember that scale I was talking about earlier that ranged from "wargame" to "RPG" (with "hybrid" in between)? Well, in thinking about player character death...what I suppose might be called character attrition...I find myself feeling that letting the players' avatars die in droves is only cool when you move closer to that "wargame" portion of the spectrum.

Why? Well, for a few reasons (in no particular order):

  • the farther you move towards the RPG side, the more detailed individual characters tend to be; thus the longer chargen takes (i.e. time needed to get a player "back in the game").
  • wargames are more likely to have rules regarding reinforcements, hirelings/followers, and "seconds"; thus allowing the death to be "spread around" and taking the sting out of mortality
  • the time and place for "resupplying" (i.e. bringing in replacement characters for the dead) can be much more haphazard or limited, the closer you get to the RPG side (especially when relationships with the setting and other PCs has to be set up at the beginning of the game).
  • the more personal the character (i.e. the closer to the RPG side), the more you want your character's death to be impactful and/or "have meaning" rather than just being a poor shlub who fell on his own iron spike

Anyway, since all the games in this spectrum fall into the "fantasy adventure game" category, I'm just thinking that knowing how and what type of chardeath (is that already a portmanteau?) you want, can tell you where on the scale your design is falling...and vice versa I suppose (though that's less important than gameplay considerations, in my opinion).

Okay, the sick children have become a bit more worrisome. Later.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Musings on 5AK

For those who are curious, the electricians finally showed up (9:20am)...only a little more than two days late. Fast Paraguayan fun fact: the average annual rainfall in Asuncion is more than that of Seattle, WA...however, it rains a lot fewer days during the year and, what with the crappy roads and crappier drainage, the streets run like rivers on rainy days. It's as dangerous as flash floods...usually you can count on one or two fatalities every time it rains.

[no, I'm not joking]

It's been raining for a couple days now, which means my boy has been home in the mornings and I've been unable to do much writing. I did write a few hundred words on revamping ability scores, but I've since lost my train of thought on the subject, and to be honest it was kind of a meandering waste of space. Yesterday, I did get an interesting idea about the undead, causing me to go back and review my PDF files of Five Ancient Kingdoms (Book 2), but that completely derailed me, as I spent all my spare time last night rereading my own book. It's really one helluva' good read. And it makes me wonder:

Why has there been so little said about it, dammit?

People continue to buy it, after least the PDF copies are still selling over at DriveThruRPG. The print copies (including dice!) sell less than print copies of The Complete B/X Adventurer (which I plan on uploading as a cheap, B&W PDF one of these days). But it IS selling...and thank you so much to those who've purchased it. I just find it...well, a little weird that I've received so little feedback. Not even negative feedback.

I guess apathy is a form of feedback. But at least I'd hope someone would say, "F you, dude, for taking my money! What a waste!"

Hell, someone (not me!) even bothered to add the 5AK books over at RPGGeek, but they didn't bother to actually review them. Oh, wait...they added a different "comment" on each separate entry; here's what Martin Ralya wrote:
This is a tight, clear OD&D retroclone with an Arabian fantasy spin, and it's a great little booklet. It's full of clever touches, notably using only d6s, those d6s having ZERO in place of one (and the accompanying rules for zeroing out), and being able to "push" rolls for extra dice with the tradeoff being that if you fail, you fail hard.
As a boxed set with all three booklets needed for the game, I'd rate the whole shebang an 8 as well.
[that's 8 out of 10, by the way]

Thanks, Martin!

But I do wish people would discuss more of those "little touches." Tenkar's Tavern started an in depth review, but never even made it through Book 1. Necropraxis gave probably the most complete summary I've seen (at least, in English). I haven't heard of anyone actually playing the game or stealing/hacking its contents.

The reason I was referencing it at all was to see how I approached the undead for possible inclusion in a new, project (I like to look back at my earlier work for ideas, because that way I don't have to reinvent the ol' wheel, you know?). What I found was a great, great monster section, and really one that I don't think I could really improve upon. Really! The work I put into those 27 pages...making them concise yet consistent with the cosmology of the setting, balancing them against the system, the streamlined stat table, the assignation of treasure hoard types (which, by the way, is handled quite a bit different from what you find in B/X and its ilk)...makes it one of the sections in which I take the most pride. But I suppose people probably skim over this section, seeing it as the "same old same old." Well, I suppose I did use the same "hit dice" for many monsters that are found in early D&D...but HD in my game operate a bit differently than in early D&D!

Oh, well...cry me a river, right? Plenty of people are publishing things and NOT making a buck on 'em. Five Ancient Kingdoms was written and laid out by Yours Truly, using only (beautiful) public domain art and with only a couple-three proof readers for help...and people are still buying it. I'm sure it doesn't help that the web site is still not up-and-running (maybe that will be my project for the week the wife is in Montevideo...she's taking the baby with her)...there aren't any forums to discuss or talk about the game or ask questions or provide feedback. Gosh, my original idea was to shoot it off into space as a "fire-and-forget" game, so why do I care anyway? It's a damn fantasy heartbreaker after all, what was I expecting?!

Actually, maybe the real reason I was thinking about it was due to a post by ChicagoWiz back in the day titled "Where's Our EPT and Blackmoor?" lamenting (in part) that the OSR wasn't doing enough to push the envelope. Granted, he was writing this in 2011 and plenty of weird and exciting product has hit the market since then, but maybe I was feeling that my little contribution to the collective "stuff" floating around the internet was kind of...uh..."pushy" and I was hoping it could be a spark for something.

But you know what? 5AK ain't a perfect game anyway. Even now, loving it as I do, there are things I'd like to have done differently and ways I coulda'-woulda'-shoulda' tightened it up. I feel like it needs a simpler, more accessible, less far-reaching version. Something a little more objective-specific. Something a bit to say...basic?


More later. Once again, I'm out of time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Love Affair Ain't Over

Another quick Paraguayan fun fact: people have no idea what time it is (except when it's closing time...they'll kick you out of the shop ten minutes before the doors lock). Yesterday the electricians were supposed to show up at the 10:30am to check out our wiring, as we keep having power surges that, you know, burst light bulbs, burn out power strips, electrocute you for touching the coffee maker (me only), and shoot flame from the outlets. As I told my mother-in-law, that could mean they'll be here anytime between 11am and Thursday.

Well, they did show up yesterday, but not till 4 or so (right before "closing time!"), and made a determination that they would need to return today with some extra gear. They asked if it was okay to show up at 8:30am, even though they knew that would be "really early" for us. I called their bluff and said, yes, 8:30 will be perfect and I will be here. Welp, it's 9:20 so far, and I haven't seen 'em yet. I'm guessing they'll get here sometime between 11am and Friday.

In the meantime, I can blog a bit (I've got a full pot of coffee along with an insulated glove).

When we first decided to move the family down to South America, I knew I wasn't going to take my whole library of game books and references with me...we were already going to be packing super-heavy just with the essentials (and no, I'm not talking furniture). At the same time, I fully planned on doing at least some writing down here, and so wanted to bring a few books for reading and riffing. However, one of the many games that stayed home was every single edition of D&D that I own (the actual list of books I brought are listed here, for those interested). I was feeling kind of "done" with D& least at the moment I was packing.

Blah, blah, blah. Who really ever gets "done with D&D?"

This time around, I changed my gaming inventory a bit, and two of the things I packed were copies of D&D...specifically Holmes Basic and Moldvay's Basic (the "B" in "B/X"). True, I didn't really need them, especially Holmes (I've got PDFs of both the Blueholme Prentice Rules and Mazes & Perils firmly ensconced on my hard drive)...and yet, I've already read Holmes once through since getting here and am working on a second read. Likewise, Moldvay is an invaluable reference.

These "basic" games are so chockfull of promise, I can understand why people continue to create adventures and supplements and clones and blogs for them. There's just so much potential in them...reading through Tenkar's Tavern's last dozen or so blog posts, especially with regard to to his "free RPG day offerings" just got me positively inspired! Gosh, it makes me want to create another semi-clone game myself...maybe even a free one, God forbid!

*ahem* ANYway, I don't have time to do that NOW mind you (I need to feed the boy some oatmeal and get him off to school, and I'm sure the baby will be waking up the moment she's rocking in an auto-swing next to me while I type). But someday, perhaps, and perhaps someday soon. The point is, my love affair with these games hasn't ended, and more than reworking I think they simply need refining.

Or maybe not even that. Maybe they just need some loving.

Sorry, I'm feeling a little whimsical today. Ugh, and right now I really have to go...I'll try to get back to this subject in a bit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wargames, RPGs, and Hybrids

I have very little time at the moment, and I may be nursing a bit of a hangover (it's hard to may just be too little sleep added to stress and subpar nutrition), so this is going to be a shorty of a post.

Ever since dipping my brain back into wargaming (thanks to watching Chirine's videos...see this prior post), I've been in a weird mental space when it comes to the games I'm designing/working on/brainstorming.

You see there's this assumption that I've been living under for awhile that is (I'm starting to think) is not just fallacious, but A Pretty Bad Idea. Namely that these things we call RPGs (like D&D and its different genre'd ilk), while descended from wargaming roots, have evolved beyond those roots into Role-Playing Games which (by my definition) are games that allow one to role-play, that is:

The act of matching the player's objectives to the objectives of the player's character.

Now, some folks may not remember that a few months back I wrote an eleven (or twelve) post essay called On Role-Playing, that wasn't really "on role-playing" so much as a discussion of the particular instructions for role-playing that are found (or rather, NOT found) in various editions of Dungeons & Dragons. The startling thing I discovered was that there was so little instruction to be had on a topic that is so immensely important to the game itself...the thing that makes an RPG so markedly different from other forms of entertainment. At the time, my knee-jerk reaction to this was "bad on you, D&D" as in, it's a bad game that doesn't offer proper instruction for play.

However, I was operating under that aforementioned assumption that D&D had crossed a bridge and was no longer a "war-game," but this new, Promised Land Thing of a role-playing game...just a poor one when considering the objectives of role-playing. And like I said, I'm now starting to think that whole assumption is fraudulent. D&D never "crossed the bridge." D&D IS "the bridge."

In other words the game (and many self-identified RPGs like it) are HYBRIDS. They are not true role-playing games, they are not war-games, they are something in between.

[okay, so just looks like I have some more time to devote to this post after all...yay!]

The "action" of the game isn't solely confined to an imaginary space, despite the implicit language of the rules. The concrete, numerical ranges of the game require real measurements, even in virtual space. These ranges include movement, they include distance for combats (both melee and missile), they include the effective range and area of spells and special monster attacks (like dragon breath); they include the measurements of dungeon maps. The inclusion of these ranges prevents the game from being a product solely of the imagination, because they have to be taken into consideration, rather than used only in the abstract.

What would it mean to be "in the abstract?" Well (for example) why not simply say, "the opponent is in missile range" or not? Why not simply say, "I cast charm person at the ogre," as opposed to checking range. Why is granularity important to speed, when you could simply say "you're walking or running" and roll dice (with or without adjustment) to see if you can evade pursuers?

Come to think of it, using real world scale for TIME (ten minute "turns," ten second/one minute "rounds") likewise adds real world considerations (and therefore restraints) on the virtual world. Why not simply have turns and/or rounds and not worry about the time consideration?

The reason, of course, is that the game still has one foot stuck in its wargaming roots.

Now please, this doesn't mean that role-playing can't happen in a game of D&D (even if instruction is a bit inadequate). As I said, these games are hybrids. But the only reason for keeping real time and real distance in the game (as opposed to letting them slide into the abstract) is to preserve the strategy and tactics associated with them. As Gygax says on the subject (paraphrasing the 1E DMG), some folks are going to waste their time, while the 'superior' player will make good use of it.

Players lacking in wargaming roots may simply choose to ignore things like weapon versus AC or length of weapon or speed factor (1st edition PHB), instead simply taking the weapon with the biggest damage die affordable and useable by their character. I can remember my early days of AD&D when the only melee weapons being selected were two-handed swords, long swords, and bastard swords...depending on whether or not you wanted to wear a shield. Later on, we started incorporating things like speed factor and weapon class versus AC to spice things up (especially as more and more of our opponents became high level NPCs, i.e. spell-casters and other weapon/armor users). But as an adult, returning to the D&D game for its role-playing aspects, I found the B/X lack of intricacy to be preferable...after all, if I wanted to play a war-game, I'd play something like Warhammer or Mordheim. Give me optional encumbrance, abstract weapon damage, and a wider latitude for my gaming pleasure.

[before I go any further with this thing, I should probably explain why "real" time and distance are kind of antithesis to "true role-playing." To be brief, having to account for these things mean a certain degree of metagaming, which can take one OUT of the mode of "playing in character," thus hindering the ability to role-play by definition. Except for those with real military (or perhaps architectural) training, we don't usually measure actual distances and times without tape measures and time pieces...things unavailable to your average fantasy adventurer]

SO....having said all that, I should say that I'm NOT faulting D&D (or its many imitators, shared genre or no) with being a "hybrid" game....I'm not disparaging hybrids for being hybrids, in other words. What I'm doing here is ACKNOWLEDGING that this third type of fantasy game exists in place where I used to think there existed only two. I'm adding a category (for my benefit if no one else's) to the general heading of games where people use their imagination and a set of rules for the creation of stories.

[yes, even war games create stories...the end result of a skirmish or battle can be described as "this is what happened" as if an actual event had taken place when, in reality, the only thing that happened is that a game was played. As I've written before, even the basest D&D game creates a story, just not necessarily one that is particularly good, dramatic, or emotionally impactful. Games focused on addressing premise and designed to facilitate story several indie "Story Now" games...can create fantasies of higher "quality," but the escapism and imagination present in these games (from war-game to RPG) is what links them. At least in my mind]

And so we come to this weird mental space I was talking about, waaaay back at the beginning of this post. As I sit down to write a couple-five, D&D-style games (i.e. "hybrids") I find myself wanting to include rules that push the game either one way or the other...i.e. more "wargamey" or less, rather than split the difference. I find that all the "little adjustments" and "tweaks" that I would give to the D&D system (in hopes of making a "better game") simply - instead - push it more deeply into this weird hybrid realm that I really don't want to spend time in. Because, of course, I like quick-paced games and detest bullet-counting and range-finding in general. Hell, wilderness travel in B/X is so terribly, terribly slow (to play out) that I've tried to find ways to circumvent it completely since...well, since I was ten years old or so. The version in Five Ancient Kingdoms was just one more stab at it, but most likely I'd still "hand wave" travel if I were running a 5AK game in the wilderness. Probably.

But let's not digress too's the thing: one thing people like in their games (including me) is more specificity. Just look at that giant chart of weapons in the 1st edition PHB (or even the 3rd edition PHB)! People love the customization that comes with feats and skills and minor adjustments to characters to get little in-game advantages....and I've tried (in my games) to give folks this, too, while still keeping games streamlined and simple-ish.

HOWEVER, this kind of thing is really only useful in a hybrid game!

In a wargame...even a skirmish-scale one like Mordheim, you want to cut down on excessive characterization in order to keep the game moving. The original Warhammer 40K provided extreme detail and individual characterization, and you can see GW's move away from this with every successive edition (it's just too unwieldy otherwise to play out a battle).  And yet for a game of "pure" role-playing that forgoes actual measurements of time and distance...well, most of these little "extras" are designed to specifically address these measurements (or make an impact through these measurables)!

Okay, now my time really has run out; I've got a kid's birthday party that I've got to get ready for. I'll consider posting some specific examples later (like tomorrow) using an actual game or two I'm in the process of writing up.

Till then.
; )

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mordheim: City of the Damned

I've had an idea for a blog post that's been rolling around in my head for the last few hours, but after watching tonight's Portugal v. USA game, I'm really not up for it. It's funny...if your team ties the score in the last 30 seconds, you end up feeling elated that you didn't lose, but if the other team equalizes, you feel devastated that you didn't win.

Ah, it means that Game 3 (versus Germany) matters. Make 'em work for it. Personally, I'd like to dream that this is our "payback year;" after all, Brazil won the World Cup on U.S. soil in 1994 (back when I didn't know there was such a thing as a "world cup").

[ugh...just thinking about that last goal really, really irritates me. Five minutes of stoppage time? And the guy scores at 4:36? Just...aaaaaRRGHH!]

Um, so thing I keep coming across in this blog is the fact that I write less than I actually mean to write. Which has (believe or not) been an issue even since the early days (pre-children) when I was writing scores of posts every month. I think of things to post, fail to post them, and then reference the very things I failed to post, thinking that everyone knows what the hell I'm talking about. Call it a pitfall of the diarrhetic mind.

Case in point: I've written extensively about the Mordheim game before, right? No...wrong. Not here, anyway. I did write a review of the (now out-of-print) GW skirmish game on Board Game Geek back in June of 2006 (about three years before the advent of this blog). Because, I'm feeling a little lethargic (i.e. lazy) at the moment, and because I want to get up earlier tomorrow, I'm going to copy and paste the thing thoughts on it remain largely the same, strange enough. It also helps set up the aforementioned, soon-to-be-baked (I hope) topic on which I've been meditating.

*ahem* Here it is:

MORDHEIM: CITY OF THE DAMNED longer available for sale.
Real Fantasy Wargaming

Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax (creators of the Dungeons & Dragons game) came from a wargaming background. Their creation of the RPG was an attempt to recreate stories like The Lord of the Rings into a workable game (killing monsters gets you treasure, getting treasure gives you (experience) points, gaining points rewards you with more effectiveness, allowing you to kill bigger monsters, etc). Very simplistic and very open in scope.

Mordheim takes these concepts to the next level of game play. First off, it is focused setting-wise. All the action takes place in the ruined city of Mordheim, a surface level dungeon filled with both treasure (precious “wyrdstone”) and opponents (mutated denizens and competing treasure hunters). You play a “warband:” a group of like-minded fellows looking for brawls and booty. These are represented both abstractly (on a roster that keeps track of each band members abilities) and with customizable miniatures that represent your warband on the game board.

The “board” is a number of small 3-D structures representing ruined buildings that can be configured in whatever fashion the players choose…it changes with every game, giving you a constantly evolving game board. You can also create your own models for use in the game to update your play area.

Gameplay is streamlined and tactical. Players alternate turns during each battle and actions are resolved by rolling dice. Careful positioning, movement, and use of special abilities/equipment (different types of warband have different gear and bennies) is more important than random chance. Cautious use of terrain, cover, and ranged weapons can be effective, but fortune often favors the bold, and hand-to-hand combat is resolved both quickly and decisively.

Once a battle is concluded, players check to see what treasure their warband found, and update their warband roster with new abilities gained from the experience of the battle. They can also buy new and additional equipment or hire new members for their warband.

The game is quick enough that you can play 2 to 3 battles in an evening.

A Word About Miniatures

A lot of wargaming hobbies require the purchase of scores of miniatures to field a decent playable army, often at exorbitant (imported) prices. Mordheim can be played with pretty much any fantasy miniatures of the 20mm range and as each type of warband has a maximum number of pieces allowed (usually 12-15) your cost is very small, especially if you only play with one favorite warband. I decided I wanted to kit out a dwarven warband (modeled after the dwarves of The Hobbit) and simply bought a box of dwarf footmen from the Warhammer Fantasy Battle line…no blister packs, no ordering, and highly customizable. You can spend your extra money on the beer and pretzels you’ll be consuming on game night.

The original game (no longer sold) came with pieces for two warbands; one human, one skaven (rat humanoids). Sadly, the boxed set is no longer printed as the quality and number of minis alone was worth the price of the game.

Is It Fun?

Absolutely. There’s no angsty role-playing involved in this game. Just simply laying the smack-down on your opponent. Gains you what treasure should: the money to purchase better arms and armor. Becoming a veteran of many battles makes your warband member a hardened killing machine.

The game is easily played as a one-off single session, no attachments battle. Different missions provide different goals/scenarios for victory, and a changing variety of opponents and terrain means the re-play factor of the game is high.

Using the campaign rules lends continuity to the game and gives a player a sense of accomplishment outside of simply “Did I win or lose the battle?” Sure you may have lost one night, but your warband gained something from the experience (money, training), and the next game night it will be your turn for revenge.

There are even supplemental scenarios for multiple warbands and semi-cooperative play (there’s one in which part of the mission involves slaying a dragon).

Comparison With Other Games

Many have compared it to Necromunda (another game by the same company) and have complained that it is not as detailed, that it doesn’t allow “cover fire” for example. However, this game is set in an earlier renaissance period, and the weapons and tactics for using a bow and black powder musket are not the same as those by, say, the U.S. military in CQC or house-to-house battle.

The movement and combat is similar in many ways to other Games Workshop miniatures games (like Warhammer 40K), but each member of the warband is an individual, unencumbered by squad cohesion rules…basically allowed to roam throughout the battlefield on their own recognizance. Again the game emphasizes, tactics; playing a couple times with the same warband will give you an idea on when to huddle for protection, when to take cover, and when to charge. Also members of a warband are much more customizable ability-wise and equipment-wise than your average wargame platoon.

The learning curve on Mordheim is pretty slight for folks with previous Games Workshop wargame experience. For those that haven’t played GW games (or that only know Blood Bowl), the curve is moderate. You can learn the rules in an evening, but it takes a lot of time to master.

Should I Get This Game?

If you’ve read this far, I’d strongly suggest getting this game. If you like the fighting/challenge aspect of certain fantasy role-playing games without the “role-playing,” then this game is for you. If you like the gritty, dark ages setting of the Warhammer universe you’ll probably like this game. If anything about “fantasy skirmish action” rings your bell, you should get this game.

If you really enjoy painting and customizing individual miniatures (individual stars or heroes) to the point where you give certain pieces names, or personalities, or “talk” to them…in other words, if you are a freak like me, then this is definitely the game for you. Your minis in this game are not faceless, nameless troops…heck, they’re not even the linemen (and “lineorks”) of Blood Bowl. A warband has personality…much like a pirate crew. They can be themed creations, or simple reflections of their owner (you). However, you won’t need to purchase 50+ miniatures to get a “themed” army like some games.

Softcover; killer interior art.
Oh, and yes the game is out of print now, but it is available for free as a download (see the link below). You can’t beat that price for this type of entertainment. Download a copy, kit-bash some structures from cardboard and whatnot, and break out those old Ral Partha miniatures!

[***EDIT: as of 2014, Games Workshop's "Specialist Games" site is dead; however, you can still find PDFs of the Mordheim rulebook with a quick internet search. Note that not all of these are the original, official rules released with the game***]

Limited Setting (last note)

Of course, the one disadvantage of a focused game like Mordheim is the limited setting…it all takes place in one ruined city. However there is another excellent setting available for download on the internet: Lustria: Cities of Gold. Lustria (in the Warhammer universe) is the name of the South/Central American continent. Like pre-Hispanic America, it is filled with rain forests, ancient pyramids, and deadly creatures. Unlike the real world, the main inhabitants are savage lizard folk living in the jungle. If you want to explore the new world and bring back gold in a fantasy setting, check out the Lustria sites. And please-oh-please post some pictures of any step-pyramid set pieces you design!

[***EDIT: Lustria: Cities of Gold can also be found rather easily...there's even a quick link in yesterday's post***]

A Model Wargame

Recently I've had the chance to encounter Chirine's Workbench, a blog by a war gamer and modeling aficionado who happens to have discovered Empire of the Petal Throne and Professor Barker a couple-three decades ago, and has been gaming in Tekumel ever since. Chirine describes himself as a modeler first and foremost, and was first tasked with painting and creating miniatures for the Prof's EPT games "back in the day" before becoming enamored with the world setting; now he continues to play (and model) using the richly detailed setting along with a home-brew rule set that combines EPT with pieces of OD&D and Chainmail.

Watching videos of his recent mini-skirmish campaign (posted to YouTube here), a couple thoughts strike me, besides the obvious comparisons to Mordheim and its (online, unofficial) expansion, Lustria: Cities of Gold.

A) With regard to D&D (and all its variations, everything from EPT to my own Five Ancient Kingdoms), we just don't give enough consideration to the game's wargaming roots. So many things about the game...what might be called, I suppose, "D&Disms" are based in and on the needs and wants of the wargaming subculture. 3rd editions five foot squares are a poor substitution for the games originals inches and scales (from a war gamer's standpoint) yet is an attempt to make sense of the need for ranges and scales anyway. Personally, I have never worried all that much about whether or not a person was shooting their short bow at long range or short range...or the radius of light sources...or even (usually) the f'ing diameter of a fireball spell! Instead, I'm just "roll to hit with your bow" (assuming the character's not engaged in melee) or "you see the monsters" or "you're going to launch that thing underground into a tiny chamber? What exactly are you hoping to occur?"

[alternatively, I'll just say, "ok" and roll saving throws for the bad guys]

The micromanaging of ammo and light and rations and encumbrance and ranges, etc. is just so low down on my priority list, it just often slips through the cracks of my games (I'm writing this as a DM or "referee"). It's just not IMPORTANT...and yet we still pay dutiful attention to it when noting movement rates and tracking how many arrows are left in the quiver. This attention to detail during the game (to be clear, shopping for high, soft boots or short, hard boots during character creation can give you a distinct image of the PC you are playing), slows the pacing of the game...and when you are trying to keep a group of players engaged and enthralled in your imaginary world, it's important not to disrupt that pacing.

Having said that, I have played and enjoyed war-games in the past and my personal preference is to have those games move along at a good pace, too. An over-abundance of "realism" can make a long, slow game even longer and slower...which I detest (yes, I realize that this stance is anathema to many die-hard war-game fanatics). I don't know...maybe I just have a problem with opponents taking a shit-long time to maneuver and measuring every measly half and quarter inch when my assumptions of battle are that they tend to be kind of fast-paced and (at times) sloppy.

I will say this: Chirine's skirmish/battle was a lot quicker paced than some war-games I've seen, and faster than many (recent) edition D&D games, despite maneuvering several teams of miniatures for each player, and using two different playing surfaces.

B) Models are cool.

That's something I keep forgetting or letting slip from my mind, and not in the way I do with "D&D's wargaming roots" (the latter is something I always know "intellectually" but simply fail to process or consider or give weight to). I remember models from when I was a kid...and here I'm talking painted miniatures that represent characters/monsters...models that were owned by older players I knew but with whom I never gamed. They did not have the fantastic, realistic paint jobs you see in those Golden Demon award winners or anything, but they were still so cool...they inspired me, made me want to play a game that used them. I can see the same glow in my son's eyes when we see miniatures in a game shop...he wants to have them and hold them and play games with them. I saw it with the teenagers that I introduced to Warhammer back in the day, too.

I don't know what it is about gaming minis...they're not dolls (or "action figures") that have posable limbs for play. But their sheer static nature makes one want to fill the void...the lack of movement...with story and imagination. "This is my adventurer X; here's what he's going to do." Anyone ever see that old Henry Thomas movie, Cloak & Dagger? It's about a kid that talks to his imaginary friend, personified in an RPG miniature (from a secret agent game) that he carries around with him.

I love miniatures, love to paint them, sometimes even love to modify 'em. Here's the thing though: few of us (outside the truly dedicated) have the time and money to really go whole hog with the miniature thing. Certainly, I could never afford them as a kid...I shoplifted one once (as a pre-teen), but didn't have any paints or tools or knowledge and so did nothing with it. We never used minis in our games as kids anyway...using those stand-up cardboard cut-outs and "area maps" in Marvel Superheroes was a novelty for us (and one that we eventually dispensed with).

As an adult, I found myself (for a time) with an excess of both money and time, and became a collector and painter of minis. Since then, the money has receded somewhat (kids, dogs, mortgages, debts) and the time has dwindled to almost nothing (kids). I still have plenty of unpainted (or half-finished) minis, just no time to paint. As for modeling...wood-working and sculpting set-pieces...well, I'm fairly hopeless with anything requiring much "hands-on" creativity. Comes from being 1) a perfectionist (stopping before I start) and 2) never wanting to 'get messy.' Just beginning to paint minis in the first place (circa 1997) represented a bit of a breakthrough for me.

[and, yes, improvement does come with practice]

Killed some PCs with a very similar model.
However, using "found objects" for models (as Chirine does at times) or re-purposing other things for minis/models (like rubber frogs, plastic animals/monsters, those giant packs of generic zombies, etc.) IS something I can do...and something I experimented with good results, back when I was still running a B/X game down at the Baranof. It was a lot of fun to use minis in a game...but it sure was a pain in the ass hauling all the props and whatnot to the venue (something that really hit home when I was transporting my gear to last summer's Dragonflight convention). If you have the stereotypical basement or garage or unfinished concrete bunker in which to play with your buddies, that's certainly ideal...though I'd imagine enticing new players down to your "lair" might be tough (ugh!).

ANYway...those were my main thoughts when watching Chirine's videos. It's after 3am here, so I better hit the hay.

[oh, yeah...go USA!]

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Different Type of Paradise

For fans of World Cup soccer, there's very little better than being unemployed in Paraguay with a great television set during the (not scorching hot) winter months. Even with two small children, it's not too bad as the wife's still on maternity leave, and she's a huge soccer nut (fast fun fact: I'd never heard of this "World Cup" thang prior to meeting her in 1998...and I played soccer for 8 or 9 years myself).

Great, great action so far, and quite a bit more exciting than I remember in past years (excessive scoring, great goal-tending, come-from-behind victories, more hustle, less "flopping"). Maybe I'm just getting a better appreciation for the game...who knows? Anyway, that accounts for about half of my non-posting distraction

[fast fun fact: when your lightbulbs explode in Paraguay, sometimes it's the electrical cables that need fixing!]

...but what accounts for the rest of you bloggers? Presumably, most of you are Americans who ain't much into "futbol" and have to work during the day anyway. Is it just the summertime thing starting up?

Well, more from me later (really!). Gotta' go pick up the boy from daycare, then I've got some shopping to do (still setting up down here), then I can  relax with a little England v. Uruguay action.

8 )

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Last Day In Paradise

This time tomorrow I will be winging my way through the air, bound for Paraguay. Again. This time, I will be taking and additional child and seven or eight huge-ass suitcases, most of which will be filled with diapers (quick fun fact: diaper quality in Paraguay is pretty least by us highfalutin' Americans' standards).  The next time I'll see beautiful Seattle will be November...though not till after my 41st birthday.

I don't have time for melancholy at the moment, which is what I really want to indulge in right now. Suffice is to say, I have a full day today, and it is packed chock-full with all that "last minute stuff." Hopefully I'll have some time to write in a couple days-weeks, once we've gotten settled. I will say I've had some B/X notions on my mind I have time to write a couple down? Well...

[the wife is still upstairs with the baby...we'll see]

Actually, no...we need to be somewhere in ten minutes...what the heck are they doing?! Ugh...better get this show on the road. Sorry!

[yak at y'all later...PS it is a sunny, beautiful day]

: )