Saturday, October 31, 2020

What's It Look Like?

Let's talk about running a campaign.

[this post, by the way, is probably going to be a messy one. Right now, my thoughts on the subject are only half-formed, and writing them out like this is one way for me to organize and codify my ideas. Just want to make sure I'm setting the expectations bar "low" here]

A couple days back, I wrote about my realization (finally! it was a long time coming) about how darn rusty I've gotten with regard to the skills needed to run a campaign...and that is to say, any type of campaign, using the term as it is commonly understood in the genre of role-playing games.

But maybe I need to start a bit basic the term "commonly understood?" Just what exactly is a "campaign?" What do I mean when I talk about running one (and my neglected, rusty skills)? Let's go ahead and see how Ye Old Rule Books define the word:

From Moldvay (B/X glossary, page B63):

campaign -- A series of adventures taking place on the same fantasy world.

From Gygax (AD&D DMG glossary, page 227)

Campaign -- General term referring to one DM's adventures as a whole rather than individually. An ongoing series of games based upon a created milieu.

[And just so that we're all crystal clear, I'll go ahead and offer the DMG definition of "milieu," found on page 229:

Milieu -- An unique game setting embodying numerous possible variables in its creation, i.e. the "world" in which adventures take place.

So just go ahead and shoehorn the additional explanation into the definition of "campaign"]

While the definition of the term here is taken specifically from the Dungeons & Dragons game, I should point out that it it is certainly broad enough that it can be used to refer other genres of RPGs. D&D was simply the first such RPG (so far as I'm aware) to coin the term for the RPG genre (and later RPGs would sometimes use other terms..."saga," for define the same general concept).

Note the concept of a campaign: it is referring to a series of adventures set in a fantasy world, not the fantasy world itself. Neither is it some sort of general story arc or overall plot (though my understanding is that the most recent editions of D&D treats the word in, more or less, those terms...i.e. a series of adventures connected by a particular plot thread designed to tell some grand story). 

This is important to understand! "Managing a campaign" does not mean managing a world nor does it mean managing a story. And it's certainly not about managing players (in the sense of controlling, influencing, or regulating their actions)...though it involves interacting with the players to a large degree. Let me come back to that in a moment.

[by the way, when I make declaratives like "this is important!" the reader should probably mentally insert the phrase "to me! (JB!)" after the sentence. Again, I'm writing this as a means of organizing my thoughts...i.e. talking to myself...hopefully with the aim that it will be of help to ME and of interest to YOU. But I am not telling you what you should think is important, okay? Just in case anyone was wondering]

Unfortunately, my habit of the last couple decades has been to fail exactly in this regard, more often than not. I'm not writing that to beat myself up, just trying to look at it critically. We'll set aside one-off adventures (even ones that take place over multiple sessions) because, by default a single adventure is NOT a "campaign"...and yes, I realize that I am ignoring the Moldvay definition of the term "adventure" which simply means any single session of play. Moldvay's use of the term "campaign" includes both a series of scenarios AND the oldest (original) form of play where one is simply delving a singular "tent-pole" or "mega-" dungeon. I'm talking about the (Advanced) Gygaxian model of campaign running.

*ahem* ANYway...what I have been doing instead (when I've been doing anything that looks like "management" of the game) is simply managing the world, that is the milieu or (as I prefer to call it) the campaign setting. What's up with the world, with its history, geography, politics, cosmology? Why are certain places (dungeons, etc.) here or there? Why are these particular opportunities for adventure available? Are the elements of setting consistent and coherent?

None of that really matters. Or rather, it is of secondary importance (at best) to running the campaign. It's fun and challenging to do this kind of world building, it can help provide the DM with ideas for situations and scenarios, and players of a particular persuasion might find it interesting or worthy of appreciation...but for most players I've encountered (your table might differ) experiencing a well-crafted world isn't the point of sitting down to the table. The play is the thing...the play of the game, I mean. 

But sustained play requires management of the campaign. I went from one extreme to another: serial adventures, not much more than episodic one-offs, to detailed world building without regard for the players. In fact, one of the draft posts I've got up on the board that hasn't yet been posted is entitled something like "I Don't Care [About You]," describing my conclusion that the only way I can run a satisfying fictional world is to ignore external intrusions into my creation (including the wants and needs of the players)...even though doing such a thing is (I now realize) NOT an effective way of running/managing a campaign.

In The Past (i.e. in the days of my youth) I did run campaigns...campaigns that would last for months or, in some cases, years. What did this look like? And how was my approach to running games different from the poor attempts of my (late) adulthood? Welll...

  • For one thing, the setting (the "world" of the campaign) only existed as a vessel in which to place adventures. Its importance as "place" was of very little importance. Time, distance, and logistics were of lesser importance...if possessing any importance at all. 
  • For another, adventures were what I guess I'd call "player facing" or, at least, player motivated. Dungeons existed, not because the world had them, but because players needed them. Players created their own adventures based on the wants and needs of their characters. 
  • At the same time, needs existed for the players' characters. Especially in non-D&D games, there were foils or rivals or straight up antagonists that compelled player action. My best and longest running Vampire campaign ("saga") was based around a group of newly embraced neonates whose sires simply did not care about them, forcing the players to band together for mutual survival as they explored and adapted to their un-lives in the strange and hostile World of Darkness. 
  • This didn't mean there was any kind of "storyline" the players were required to Big Bad Villains that required defeating, no Evil Empires that needed toppling. My Marvel Superheroes campaign was far less about "heroes versus villains," and far more about the lives and dramas of powered individuals. Rivalries and romances and super teams that were more like high school cliques and most definitely NOT government sponsored anti-terrorist units ('course this was run back in a pre-9/11 world).
  • In all cases (D&D or other games), the campaigns being run elicited excitement and engagement from ALL the players at the table, such that discussions and plans and schemes carried beyond the confines of the game room. The various group members chatted about or wrote about (as in actual letters to each other) or discussed what was happening in the game, the direction the campaign was going, reactions and reflections and ideas. And I, as the DM, was in charge of managing the campaign, taking into account the feedback of the players, keeping track of the various plot-lines and dramatis personae inhabiting the world, and shaping the scope and direction of "the series of adventures taking place" to fit the needs of the campaign.
And generally speaking, reflecting on these past campaigns, I think there was a general lack of ownership to the campaigns being run. If JB was running the campaign, it was "JB's Campaign," but I wasn't the sole owner and master of the campaign. The campaign belonged to everyone at the table: it was OURS, a collective of sorts, and we all had buy-in and investment in the thing because of it.

THAT may be the main piece missing from my games these days: when I've run games in recent years...whether one-offs or my rather poor attempts at starting campaigns...I have set myself up as the exclusive owner of the game. I don't share. I'm running the game, and my attitude is one of absolute despotism. That's not to say I'm a tyrant at the gaming table or that I don't solicit feedback from my players and attempt to incorporate their wants and certainly doesn't mean I'm inclined to say "No" to the players! But my disposition, the thought that remains at the back of my thoughts, is that this campaign is "mine," not "ours," and certainly not "theirs." If and when I end the game, it's over.

That's certainly different from campaigns of my youth (and when I say youth, I'm talking about up to my early 20s). And I'm not sure where exactly this attitude started. Somewhere along the line, certainly towards the end of college, people were asking me to run games for them without having any inkling of the rules...that was a problem. Being a sole arbiter of all things mechanical and thematic does not make for a great "shared experience." People were also asking me to run games that I didn't particularly like, or run games in ways that I didn't particularly like. And, of course, just graduating and growing up put any thoughts or time for gaming (let alone running campaigns) on hiatus...much easier to do when you're not enthused about the games (and gamers) that were available. Certainly didn't help that all my romantic relationships (up till and including my wife) have been with non-gamers. 

All of which (coupled with a lack on introspection on the subject) may have been what's led me to the place I am at the moment: deeply crusted in rust when it comes to running real (i.e. "satisfying") campaigns. Hell, "rust" doesn't cover it...I'm petrified wood. 

I have more to say on the subject, but it will have to wait till later; I've been writing this post for the last couple days and it's getting a little long (I warned you things would be messy!), and I've still got a couple more pumpkins in need of carving (we've got three done already). Happy Halloween to everyone! 

This one turned out pretty good.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Meaningful Minutia

In yesterday's whiny "return-to-blogging" post, I happened to mention I've been spending a lot of time on world building theory. Just in case anyone wonders what exactly that looks like, it means I've been spending a ton of my (limited) free time, reading and researching stuff to use in building one's fantasy campaign world...and most of that time has been spent reading one particular blog.

Bret Devereaux describes himself as a "professional military historian," whose interests "focus on many of the practical concerns of life and battle in the ancient world." Despite specializing in the Roman army of the middle and late republic, Devereaux draws on a broad base of knowledge to explore the intersection of life, economy, and warfare in premodern times.

It's fascinating stuff. His blog, A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, spills a ton of virtual ink dissecting and analyzing fictional "ancient world settings" (things like Tolkien's Middle Earth or George Martin's Game of Thrones) on the basis of how they stack up with regard to historic accuracy, as academics understand history (and with annotated references!). As a reference for individuals wishing to create fantasy settings that are somewhat grounded in reality, it's a fantastic and deep source of information. As a nerd interested in history and pop (nerd) culture, it's a pretty tremendous piece of blogging. 

And "tremendous" isn't a bad word just to describe the sheer quantity of information in Devereaux's blog (though I meant it in terms of quality). When I say I've been spending weeks reading through his archives...he only started blogging in's because there's so much there to read and digest, even without going back and looking for his sources. My lack of employment gives me a skosh more free time than some people (because of swaths of time when I can do nothing but read...sitting in cars during soccer practice or waiting around for kids' classes to dismiss or what have you), but there are hours worth of reading to peruse. I only wish I could podcast his essays while driving.

Since I can hardly offer more than meaningless minutia myself, I would direct anyone interested in fantasy world-building (especially of the typical D&D "vanilla fantasy" variety) to Mr. Devereaux's excellent blog; the best place to start is his aptly named collection of Resources for World-Builders. I've read most of these posts, though I do sometimes get side-tracked by things like war elephants. Me being me, I don't give a damn about how well video games model the ancient or medieval world (or their warfare), but the discussion of logistics and how they shape both battle and civic development is just tasty, tasty stuff. Most of MY readers will probably want to start with his posts about the Siege of Gondor or differences between Got and the real "middle ages." However, tasty as these subjects are, I think you'll find a bit more world building "meat" in the Lonely Cities posts. And regardless of your feelings on Frank Herbert's Dune (and its screen adaptations), you really shouldn't miss Devereaux's essays on The Fremen Mirage.  

Pictured: Highgarden.
Not Pictured: gardens, towns, villages,
fields, or the normal scenes of medieval life.

All right, I wish I had something more cool to give folks then a bunch of links, but right now A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry is just about the coolest thing I have to offer. Enjoy!
: )

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


It is a sad and unfortunate trend that failing to practice some aspects of life leads to less practicing of the thing...especially if said practice fails to deliver immediate feedback and/or gratification. "Working out" (i.e. exercise), for example. You get out of the habit of exercising and you just have a harder and harder time coming back to it, regardless of its benefit you your health and how much you know about the "proper" way to do it. 

Blogging, for me, is likewise one of those things. The longer I step away from the keyboard, the more reluctant I am to actually sit down and write something (and, yes, the more pressure I feel to "write something good" that makes up for my absence). This is why it behooves folks (me) to get something, anything up once in a while, just to keep from letting it fade completely from the mind. 

[for instance, I could have posted something about Lovecraft Country two weeks ago. Unfortunately, it's "climactic" tenth episode was so stupendously poor and anticlimactic...especially when regarded next to the absolutely fantastic episodes six through nine...that I just couldn't bring myself to write anything. Broke my heart to see how they messed the bed...and really, the episode even started with a bang before puking all over itself. Just sad. Really]

But I've bitched and moaned about this particular subject (with regard to blogging) in the past. Today, I was reminded of how much it applies to Dungeon Mastering, and the result was me becoming...mmm...not upset or distressed, so much as wistful. Wistfully sad, I suppose. 

I'm rusty. I've been spending a lot of time...I mean, a LOT of time...on world building theory the last few weeks. Months, maybe. And absolutely ZERO time actually playing. And while the latter isn't terribly unusual given the state of my life over the last seven-eight years, it was driven home to me this morning (in a moment of clarity) just how useless and ridiculous it is to spend time researching and worrying about an imaginary game world when there's no game being run. 

And while many, many folks (including myself) would give that statement a big "duh," I also realized just how rusty I am when it comes to actually doing the "Dungeon Master" thing. Even when I've had the chance/opportunity to run games the last couple years...or the last couple decades, now that I think about it...I've had an incredibly difficult time getting into the mindset of a campaign-running DM

Running adventures I can do with relative mastery of the rules is such that I slide into the captain's seat quite readily. But running adventures is only half...maybe only a third...of the work of being a Dungeon Master. The other half (or two-thirds) is running a campaign (or running a campaign PLUS building a world, in a three-part model). And it's been just So Damn Long since I've run a campaign. And I mean ANY TYPE of campaign for any role-playing game. 

In the past, I ran campaigns for Ars Magica and Vampire the Masquerade and Marvel Superheroes and Stormbringer and Star Frontiers and wasn't only Dungeons & Dragons. I've run campaigns for many systems in the past...starting players off with beginning characters, providing them a world to explore, seeing their characters develop over months of game play, interacting with the imaginary environment, transforming the imaginary environment with their actions.

But I haven't done that kind of thing in years. Decades.

The rust is thick when it comes to this skill set, and as I attempt to (critically) analyze my feelings on the matter, I see me beating myself up: I am older, smarter, wiser, more knowledgeable than I was in my youth. Surely I should be able to set up and RUN a campaign? Surely, right?!

I'll repeat: the rust is thick. And running a campaign isn't (necessarily) least not a "good" campaign. And there, I think, I see the crux of the problem...or at least a major stumbling block: with age I've become far too judgmental, even of myself. Too critical of even my own failings. Holding onto attachments of wanting perfection...this is a common refrain in my life these days, a constant source of irritation and sadness, a constant burden on my own sense of self-worth. Why aren't I better?

Or even: why aren't I the best? As if any person can be "the best" at anything. As If. short time for writing has come to an end for the day (kid's out of class and it's time for me to put on my "entertainer" hat. More on this later, perhaps with a little more upbeat conclusion.

I feel upbeat, though, just having written this down. It is helpful to identify problems...after all, the first step to getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging, yeah? 

Later, gators.  : )

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Blank Show

I am sorry...deeply, deeply sorry...that I have been unable to offer anything interesting, intelligent, or entertaining to read this week. I have two cars and both were in the shop this week (different days) while I waited. One child has been working on the "getting-back-to-school" procedure. The other child had soccer practices (with social distancing). It's been a long week and I just...haven'

Plus, the Blood Bowl stuff got put away. I was going to post some pix, use them to illustrate the updated rules, etc. But I wanted my dining room back. And so did the wife. And I just haven't had the time to do any "staging" for blog posts. Not with cooking duties, too (tonight it's baby back ribs...$3 a pound means I can do a feast for the family for under $20, including sides).

So, I'm sorry. I can't offer my own distraction from the s*** show that is the current state of our "election season." The current state of our world. It's f***ing depressing is what it is. I'M depressed. And life is pretty good (pork ribs! de-lish!).

I've got a few things planned...mostly stuff about demons and necromancers (I'm in that kind of a mood). But the kids have tomorrow off school so it might take me a while to get it written up and posted. 

What I can do is offer my personal martini recipe. Drinking it myself tonight, and it goes like this:

  • 5 parts Bombay Saphire gin
  • 1 part Martini&Rossi extra dry vermouth
  • 3 "Spanish Queen" martini olives 
  • Skewer olives and place in martini glass. Pour gin and vermouth into a shaker of ice (half full). Shake vigorously. Pour through strainer into glass (no ice!). 

I have large martini glasses (they were a Christmas gift from my mom last year), so I double up on the booze. The extra olive is for my wife. Anyway, it works...especially if the object is to deal with the blankshow. Best to get blankfaced.

To be perfectly blunt, at this point I don't think we need any more "debates" or "town hall meetings." If you haven't made up your mind about who to vote for, you haven't been paying attention the last four years. You either like what's going on or you're beyond tired of it. Can we just vote before Halloween? Jeez. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find something for my children to watch on TV. They were hoping the new season of The Mandalorian was dropping, but that's not till the 30th. 

Cheers, people.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Friday Snark

High Elves: More than any other kind of Elf, the High Elves allow little to interfere with their lives of pleasure. They are the core of their race, living in the cities of the Elven Kingdoms and scorning travel. To these people, working for a living is regarded as a sign of personal failure. Few High Elves ever leave the Elven Kingdoms, though a few younger, more adventurous individuals might do so as a form of vacation, or for the 'experience.' These travelers cannot help but irritate the other races they encounter by their patronizing and overbearing attitude. Lynchings of such individuals are not uncommon.

One might think I'm quoting a passage from Blood Bowl, a game that both satirizes and parodies American football (and fantasy game species) with a snarky...if good spirited...attitude. But I'm not. Instead I'm quoting the "grimdark" RPG known as Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, specifically the section of the game's bestiary dealing with elves. 

What I find especially amusing about this passage is setting it down next to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons PHB which states in no uncertain terms that

Elven player characters are always considered to be high elves, the most common sort of elf.

[emphasis added by yours truly]


WFRP is a good game, and one that I never got to play enough of "back in the day." But that's (mainly) because I had D&D, as well as DragonQuest and Stormbringer (both of which filled particular needs not met by D&D). And for all its neat ideas, it's not much different from D&D in terms of system. But it's a great read and full of punchy attitude.

ANYway...just a little break from the Blood Bowl talk. Started a post about penalties, but I'll save that for tomorrow or something.

Happy Friday.

: )

Thursday, October 8, 2020

League Updates (BB)

We're a quarter done with the NFL season and despite the Tennessee Titans fiasco and the general state of our post-Covid world, things are progressing more-or-less "business as normal." Yeah, both scoring and injuries have proliferated throughout the League, but the usual suspects are still the usual suspects (as relates to Blood Bowl), and if reality starts to emulate fantasy more than ever...well, that's just par for the course in a surreal 2020.

In our own League (previously called the Beagles & Beers BB League), we have likewise adopted some "Covid protocols." Rather than reworking/rewriting the fan/gate/stadium rules, we've punted the issue: no fans allowed (this ain't no Florida). Likewise, our season has been shortened (8-10 games) and the lack of a "preseason" has resulted in an absence of team re-rolls (again punting on a sticky issue in the 2E rules). Will we have extra teams in the playoffs as the NFL has chosen to do? Maybe...but right now we're limiting inter-conference play to NIL, meaning we may not even worry about anything beyond the conference championship.

The kid set up this display the other day for
"show and share;" at least half
a dozen teams are still in their boxes. At least.

With regard to the NFL, I don't see many updates needed from my previous analysis. Adding dark elf Tom Brady to the Buccaneers doesn't make Tampa Bay any less of a chaos dwarf team. Yes, the Eagles have been breaking like skaven, but I'll not going back on my prior update: humans break, too. As do dwarves (sorry San Fran)...I found that out to my chagrin, as a string of bad rolls (well, good for my opponent) saw the wood elves put a third of my dwarf team in the casualty box. Here are the modifications to my team picks that I might consider:

Buffalo is FINALLY looking "human" again. They broke me down over 20+ years to make me change to hobbit...could a human team really be that bad for that long? No...but they could be exceptionally mediocre which, in the NFL, amounts to about the same thing. Took my son a while to learn how to win with a human team, but he's gotten much more competitive...I can see how a team with 10 coaches over 20 years might have similar "growing pains."

Jaguars as Amazons: not a modification, but rather a confirmation. Ever since (former WSU QB) Gardner Minshew was given the reins of the offense, I've been following the Jags and pulling for them in the AFC South. Unfortunately, they are suffering from the same frustratingly slow development one sees in the Amazons. Such great potential...but so slow and easily broken before they can get "geared up." Still, I have great hopes for Minshew down the line.

Hairy (and quick) feet.

they're halflings dammit, they just are. Larry Fitzgerald isn't a ghoul...he's a long-lived high elf that the hobbits somehow lucked into. The Cards are, in fact, a version of the traditional 2E "mixed teams:" an amalgamation of several disparate player types all looking for a land of eternal sunshine. Halfling is their "base" type...I don't know why I allow flash in the pan seasons to sway my long-held opinions developed over years of evidence. Yes, Kyler Murray is awesome. He is also smaller than Russell Wilson. That makes him a hobbit. Hobbit, hobbit, hobbit.

An immortal...with
great hair.

The Tennessee Titans
are still more than ever. They're  just goblins with the 'Rona. In the fantasy world we'd probably substitute an outbreak of Nurgle's Rot due to a particularly nasty match with a Plague team. However, the Saints don't even play in the same conference...heck, the Titans aren't even playing the NFC South this year. Tennessee bumbled into its own pestilence here.  Bunch of diseased goblins.

Panthers: still at a loss for how to typecast this team. Still. Cam Newton's gone (as is Riverboat Ron) but they still have Bridgewater doing designed run plays? What is THAT all about? Strong running game, I guess...DeShaun Foster, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Steward, Christian McCaffrey. But Steve Smith? Maybe he's the odd duck of the team. Dwarves? No, too big. Cam is too big. Orcs? Maybe. Yeah, maybe. Smith as a goblin. Newton as a blitzer with a great arm. Yeah, I'm strongly thinking orc at the moment, especially considering some of their past defenses. Greg Olsen (now a Seahawk) as a really fast lineorc; sure, it fits. All right...orc it is.

Everything else stays the same. 

; )

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


First things first: congrats to the Seattle Storm winning their fourth championship, and in truly dominating fashion (they could have been named the Seattle Brooms for the number of series sweeps they've had in the playoffs over the years). By the 3rd period of yesterday's final, it was clear that Vegas had all but tapped out, and the Storm just dropped the hammer, nearly doubling up the Aces 92-59. It's not really fair for one team to have as much talent as Seattle does: even with (finals MVP) Breanna Stewart on the bench for a good chunk with foul trouble, Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada were absolute beasts, and the ageless Sue Bird kept her team rolling like a steamroller, despite Las Vegas possessing the league MVP A'ja Wilson. Very cool to bring another trophy home to Sea-town.

[and props to Megan Rapinoe for rocking a Def Lepard t-shirt as she cheered on girlfriend Bird]

Okay. Onto Blood Bowl. One of the many (small) annoyances with the Blood Bowl game is its appropriation of (American) football terms for unrelated game concepts. For the most part, it's not too bad (see? I wrote "small" annoyances), but one of the really egregious misuses is with the term "blitz" epitomized in the player position called the "blitzer."

Here's what the game says about blitzers (from 2nd edition Blood Bowl):

These highly-skilled players are usually the stars of the game, combining strength and skill with great speed flexibility. All the most glamorous Blood Bowl players are blitzers, since they are at the heart of the action and doing very impressive things! Their usual job is to burst a hole through the opponent's lines, and then run with the ball to score. Team captains are usually blitzers, and all of them without exception are bossy, big-headed show-offs.

"Blitz" is a mascot, not a blitzer.

Originally, most teams were limited to a maximum of two blitzers (dwarf teams were the exception with four), and many teams (undead, goblins, halflings, elves) had no blitzers at all! 

[ugh...that reminds me I still haven't published my post on team positions and rosters]

Despite the inclusion of "blitz" in the name of the star position, there was no actual "blitzing" in 2E (unless one played with the official NAF rules...more on that in a moment).  This changed in 3E with the addition of the "blitz action:" once per turn, a single player was allowed to both block (i.e. hit an opponent) AND move. When executing a blitz action, the player may make their block at any point during their normal can represent bursting through the defensive line, or stiff-arming a defensive back, or chasing down an opposing ball carrier to deliver a big hit. This blitz action (and its limitation of "one time per turn") has been a part of the game ever since.

Problem is, in terms of American football, this still isn't a blitz.

A "blitz" (from the German word for lightning) is the term used for the defensive tactic of bringing extra pressure again an opponent, hoping to make a big play (a sack or tackle for loss) the minimum...disrupt the timing and psychology of a passing quarterback. 

What is meant by "extra pressure?" Well, in an 11 on 11 game, the offense (generally) has five eligible receivers (yes, the QB is eligible, too, but only if someone else is handling the ball). Even if you get a hat on a hat with regard to the down linemen, that still gives the defense SIX players to defend those eligible receivers...which is often necessary because of the speed and talent of receivers and the inability of the defense to know what the offense's specific plan of attack is. Sending that extra player to try tackling the ball carrier in the backfield can be effective, but it leaves fewer players in coverage...and a QB that can make a quick decision and who anticipates the blitz can feast on blitzing defenses. 

On the other hand, if your offensive line is already overmatched, a blitzing defense can lead to a long, painful day for a team's quarterback.

All of which is to say: the blitz action in modern (3+ edition) Blood Bowl is completely unrelated to the defensive tactic called blitzing in American football. 

Now in modern Blood Bowl, there is one other application of the term: on the kick-off table (rolled randomly at the start of every drive) there exists the possibility of rolling a "Blitz!" in which case the defense (i.e. the team not starting with the ball) gets a bonus turn before the offense makes their first move. This is a callback to the "official NAF rules" found in the 2E Blood Bowl Companion, which offered the following, more-like-real-football rule:

THE BLITZ: Once per drive, the defence [sic] may declare a blitz which allows them to move first, before the offence [sic]. The blitz must be declared as soon as the defence sets up.

Since the NAF rules only allows four downs to score (and, also, because 2E Blood Bowl allows multiple moving block actions) the impact of the blitz rule can be devastating, even without players auto-fumbling when tackled. That being said, it is definitely closer to the spirit of gridiron football, both in terms of function and effect and we have been using a modified version of the NAF blitz in our games. Specifically:

  • We allow four downs to cross midfield (i.e. the 50 yard line) and a second set of downs to score
  • We require an offense to punt on 4th down if they fail to cross midfield unless they trail the other team in points and it is already the second half.
  • We allow the defense a second opportunity to blitz once a team crosses midfield.

What this does in play is create an interesting "chess match" between the two coaches. While we have introduced some "star player" skills that allow an offense to offset the effectiveness of a defensive blitz, generally speaking a blitz will be able to down the ball carrier for a loss unless the coach has some really poor luck with dice rolling. The real question is determining the best time to bring the blitz, based on situation and team set-up. If the kick-off pins the offensive coach near the goal line, a blitz can result in a safety for the defense. On the other hand, saving your blitz till 4th down (assuming you can hold the offense down) gives the defense a good chance to block a punt or field goal attempt!

It's worked quite well in practice, but it's still not really football. In football you can blitz every down...and be carved up by most any QB worth his salt. Of course, in real football, you only need to move the ball ten yards to get a fresh set of's a trade-off for playability that I'm willing to live with.

But I really, really can't stand the term "blitzer." Sorry, Griff Oberwald...a blitzer is a player who rushes the passer instead of dropping back in coverage. Your skill set says running back (tailback, halfback, whatever)...but even being the top scorer doesn't equal "the most glamorous" players on the pitch. That's the quarterback, man.

More on this (including position updates) later.

You can't fight a Storm; you
just try to weather it. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Blue Friday

Welp, it's "Blue Friday" again...the Friday before a Seahawks weekend, a day when all fans of the team are supposed to show their support by wearing team merch around town. 'Course I've been wearing the gear all week anyway, since that's most of what my closet is stuffed with: comfortable t-shirts with logos.

*sigh*  This isn't what I want to talk about.

Last night I stayed up in hopes of watching another episode or two of Lovecraft Country, a new television show that I find delightful in every way (I'm about four shows into the series). Yes, I mean that sincerely...delightful. Everything about it. Even as it makes me squirm and shake watching it. And I'm not a horror aficionado by any means.

[though, yes, I've been a Lovecraft fan since age 14 or 15. Had to give my wife an extensive crash course on HPL...his life, writings, and pulp fiction in general...halfway through the first episode as she was completely lost. She is entirely ignorant of...and unconcerned with...the kind of historical geekery that JB enjoys swimming in...]

But, of course, this didn't get to happen as the news came out about Trump and the Covid.



I've spent a lot of this week NOT writing about politics, despite several fiery rants rolling around in my brain. I know...well, I strongly suspect...that my words will do little to change anyone's political leanings or decisions, just as they undoubtably fail to sway people away from 5th edition D&D. Mainly, I'd just be belittling and abusing people which, as I've written before, ain't all that constructive.

So let me just say this: it doesn't make me happy that Trump and his cronies are passing around the 'Rona to each other like [pick your derogatory analogy]. It's not surprising (and shouldn't be surprising, unless you're an idiot that disregards science and believes Trump's lies about "fake news") given his behavior. But it doesn't make me happy. I think it likely there'll be severe (i.e. "disastrous") consequences to this turn of events. Yet another storm to weather in 2020.

I will continue to pray to God for both justice and solace. I will try to be a kinder, better human being.

With regard to Blood Bowl...I'm again down at halftime 7-6, after missing both an extra point attempt and a field goal attempt in the closing minutes of the 2nd quarter. Despite feeling like there's a problem with the rules (I should be dominating!) the simple fact is I've had a run of bad luck. My chaos renegades team, the Monks of Doom, have yet to inflict a single casualty, despite fielding two trolls and an ogre...that's just improbable. Though it doesn't help that I've been trying to use the ogre as a ball carrier; in retrospect, that wasn't a great decision.

I am currently writing up the basic NAF rules, but it's slow going. I was hoping to do something small, but it was up to ten pages when I knocked off yesterday...basically, it appears I'm going to end up rewriting the damn game from scratch. Not "delightful," and definitely not what I intended. Despite that, the rules really seem to work well in practice. I'll have to post some photos one of these days.

Ah,'s a quick one:

Yeah, that's one dead mutant in the dugout.

The human Titan Eagles have 1st down at the 30, and have chosen to go with an empty backfield and a "spread" formation (you can't see him in the photo, but there's another catcher just off-camera to the left. Clearly the Monks are in trouble...especially as I now count they have an illegal formation with 12 men on the field (each of the large monsters count as two). That was my daughter's doing (she set-up the defense)...I'll have to correct that before the snap, so the ref doesn't blow his whistle!

Have a good weekend, people. Stay safe and healthy.

***EDIT: You know what? I am totally going to bum rush his center with my ogre nose tackle. Going to start this drive with a sack, baby!***

The QB is toast.