Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cool is what you do, not what you are

Just a quick philosophical note, while thinking about my games and my gaming.

You character is cool because of what you do in play, not because of what your character is.

Some people try to craft a character that's special, and expect special in play to follow. Some people design characters who, perversely, are special in the way that they don't do things - loner types, the guy who holds back information, the guy with the special gear he won't deploy, etc.

My philosophy is that your character is special because of actions, not design and description.

Your character can be unique, special, and interesting. But what makes that unique, special, interesting character cool, memorable, and enjoyable to everyone at the table is what you do.

That's the philosophy I keep in mind and generally try to encourage in my games. Don't tell me about your character, tell me what you're going to attempt, we resolve it, and that is where cool will emerge from.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Chessex Battlemats & Megamats

I try to post reviews of gaming materials I like and use. Here is another one, prompted by a question on an post earlier this year.

For more reviews, see my consolidated reviews page.

Battlemats & Megamats
Price varies
Manufactured by Chessex

Over fifteen years back, I got tired of using printed out white mat sheets for our hex-based GURPS tactical combat resolution. So I purchased a number of Chessex Battlemats and a Megamat. If I recall correctly, I got them as factory seconds, not spiffy new ones. We've used these mats ever since.

The mats feature either 1" hexes or squares, or, for the reversible ones, 1" hexes backed by 1" squares. They're markable with water-soluble pens. They are very durable - they'll stand up to a lot of wear, and as long as you roll them properly, they unroll and flatten out easily.

The maps also have a clear edge - you can't easily lay two end to end to make a larger map. However, if you play most dungeon-distance battles out with miniatures the maps will have you covered.

One downside to the mats is that the water-soluble ink doesn't come off too easily. Once it's been on for a while (a few hours, certainly), it can be difficult to get off completely. You'll end up needing to swipe the map with a rag and cleaning liquid a few times to get it really ink-free. Generally I've abandoned marking them and go with placing terrain and markers on them.

You can see these in action in most of my game session pictures.

Overall: These are amongs the best gaming purchases I ever made. We use out mats so routinely that we keep one on the table at all times. We use the big one for big battles. My only complaint is the difficulty of really getting all of the wet-erase marker off. Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

DF Session Summary 79: Addendum

Our last DF game session ended after a terrific battle - both in the "great" and "causes terror" senses of the word. It was also a long battle, and we glossed over a lot so we could end the session.

There were three items I glossed over in my haste to get things done and get home. So I emailed them to my players.

"#1: The room was a No Sanctity zone. Which didn't matter tonight, because Brother Ike never got off any spells. But it matters for healing - presumably you moved out into the hallway to do healing. Had he not been blasted by lightning, this would have been an issue.

#2: Behind one of the doors were two broken-up skeletons in tattered and broken scale armor, with shattered weapons (axes, probably over a hundred years old now, and no Repair wouldn't make them salvageable), and little bits of personal effects. No money, and importantly, no skulls. They would have been found while you searched the room. Their gear seemed to indicate northerners, probably like those who followed Baron Sterick the Red.

#3: Behind the sarcophagus, there was a small black six-fingered hand symbol on the wall, roughly 8-9" tall. The sarcophagus was also decorated with carved figured that resembled the cone-hatted cultists' uniforms and their symbols, as well.

I gave the players free rein to retroactively declare anything they'd like to do about these things. After all, it wasn't their fault I forgot in my haste to get home. And none of them were things I wanted to have to remove from the game world.

Basically no one had any comment except to ask about Brother Ike's Staff of Healing - no, it wouldn't have worked either, it's Holy.

But when I double-checked a few days ago to see if that was that - as I ready the megadungeon for the next game session, someone did ask to have done something.

Mo touched the hand.

Right or left or something else?

He said, whichever would fit - but it's not clear with the six-fingered hands which is left or right (at least, not always). He went lefty, after we discussed it and it was clear he'd touch it with his morningstar ready in his right hand to smash stuff.

"You took 1 HP of damage and lost 4 FP and felt a deep chill you couldn't shake for a few hours, and the HP wouldn't and didn't heal until you'd rested in town and recovered it naturally.

That's it. Anyone else?

No one else went for it.

Mo was disappointed he didn't get a cool zombie hand or anything.

Is this significant beyond being trap-like? We'll see.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GURPS Purchases on W23 and the DF Kickstarter

Steve Jackson Games is running an interesting cross-promotion between their Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Kickstarter and Warehouse23.

Any GURPS purchases on W23 count for stretch goals on the Kickstarter.

Update #23: Thank You! Now, Tackle Stretch Goals! Warehouse 23 GURPS Sales Count Toward Stretch Goals

I suspect that's why the funding dropped a little bit - why pay $8 in the future for a PDF when you can pay $7.99 right now and get it now, with the same effect on the Kickstarter campaign?

Either way, I decided to do my part. I'd been meaning to buy After the End 1 and 2.

I didn't own them, which might seem odd since I had a pair of articles in Pyramid magazine based on them.

I wrote those articles using a preview draft of the books. But I didn't actually get a copy. I like having an official, updated-when-they-update, backed-up PDF copy of things on W23. And even though those are post-apoc, they feed into the Kickstarter for DF.

So I picked them up. I may go back and add a Pyramid issue I'm missing, we'll see.

But if you're interested in any issues of Pyramid magazine or GURPS products, this month is a good time to pick them up. You'll get what you want, feed the Kickstarter for the backers, and - if you're a backer - potentially expand the GURPS line with stretch goal PDFs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Upcoming Auction Additions

I've added a few things to the "to auction" pile:

GURPS Castle Falkenstein

Champions III

and these guys will all be going up for sale:

Gaming Trade List

I added my other minis to that list. I'm still not sure about the Star Frontiers Robots or GDW Space 1889 minis, but the Chariot of Fear has to go . . . I just can't see ever assembling it and painting it and displaying it.

Some of the above are duplicates on that linked page.

eBay auction coming soon

I'm clearing out some gaming gear I don't need anymore.

Among the items I'll be auctioning off:

GURPS Compendium I (3e)
GURPS Undead (3e)
GURPS Fantasy (4e, hardback)
One sheet of Cardboard Heroes Dungeon Floors (the staircase page)
The Black Prince's Chariot of Fear (Ral Partha, lead, open but intact)
A lot of Ogre minis, initially as one big lot:

I'm still debating selling or keeping my unpainted Space: 1889 minis (Kraag warriors, Soldiers of the Queen, and Victorian Adventurers) and some Star Frontiers minis (robots, a few loose starships), maybe clear out the Minis Bones "to trade" pile as a lot. A couple of non-RPG items will go up, too - a Lionel train catalog, some paperbacks, maybe some other things. But I want to finally empty the "to be sold" pile and reclaim that space for things I use. I'll post here when it does go up, but consider this advanced notice. And I'll entertain offers for purchase or trade if you're interested in anything, because it'll spare me the headache of taking pictures and writing listings.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Defend the Village!

A few weeks back, some of my friends and I watched a favorite movie of mine - The 13th Warrior.

It's a classic version of the "defend the village" scenario - one used over and over again in films and as I recall correctly, every single episode of The A-Team. It's a formula that works.

I've used that scenario a number of times in games. The old "defend the village" game works really well in RPGs. Naturally it has shown up in games, too - the Dungeon magazine adventure Grakhirt's Lair let low-level PCs come in the aftermath of a "Defend the Village!" situation. There is a village to defend against bandits in The Book of Lairs. The Battlesystem module H1 Bloodstone Pass featured this on a battlefield scale.*

This is because there is so much to do:

- organize the fighters

- build some defenses

- deal with some internal strife (there is always some internal strife)

- consult an old person for advice

- rescue the people outside the walls

- and then do at least one of these: whittle down the bad guys until there are none left, kill the leader, destroy the source of the enemy, or just hold for time (either your reinforcements, or the enemy is on a time table)

It's also a scenario that is crystal-clear to the players. They've seen at least one of The 13th Warrior, the Seven Samurai, the Magnificent Seven, Zulu (the Rorke's Drift battle, not Isandlwana), or variations of them. Maybe they've played those Sunday Drivers scenarios with the cycle gang coming to town. Whatever. It's shared background.

On top of that, it works well with different approaches:

- The Cadre. The PCs provide stiffening for an existing force. They can't win it without the locals, but the locals can't win without them.

- The Shock Troops. The PCs add some expendable forces to the locals, and can engage in activities the locals can't scrape up the manpower or just power to do - such as scouting, acting as a reserve, or taking the offensive. This works if you want to have a larger conflict - army versus army - or offload leadership because it doesn't suit the PCs or players.

- The Late Arrivals. The battle is over, the village is safe - but you need to go exterminate the source of evil, and the locals are too battered to provide much help . . . and can't survive a renewed assault.

- The Only Hope. There really aren't a lot of locals to organize. Maybe it's a convent full of nuns, a hospital full of sick people, or a tiny farmstead or shrine that can't be moved.

The defeat parameters for the enemy can be as simple, visceral, and just plain enjoyable to the players as the tally list (kill them all, you win) or something more complex. If the enemies are werewolves a vampire and his vampire-spawn, maybe you have to hold overnight. If they're a military unit exceeding their orders, maybe you have to hold until someone else shows up to order them off. If they're hellspawn that spew from a gate, maybe you have to seal the gate once you've headed off a few raids and forced them back . . . revealing their origin.

This is a scenario I've had a lot of fun with. I expect I'll use it again sometime in the future.

*It also featured playable characters who broke AD&D's rules over and over again. Sigh.
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