Monday, June 27, 2016

Tactics that worked in Doug's playtest

More thoughts on Doug's playtest and the tactics that paid off.

Staying Together - We didn't use a formation, not by a long shot. But only one of us was away from a one-turn rush and attack from most of the others. And that guy had a long-ranged attack and was effectively screened by the rest of us.

There was at least one chance to run over and dog-pile the bandit chief for Sunshine, but it would have meant leaving a cleric and a fighter in an even-up fight with some potential to be flanks. Instead, by staying more or less in a rough line we made sure none of us could be dogpiled or flanked. Although the line was really more like a V, with Sunshine on the left, the cleric in the point, our fighter on the right, it was sufficient to keep anyone from rushing the gaps.

Staying Mobile - while the fight was still wide open, it helped that we could move. Sunshine had a chance to grapple, and didn't, because that would mean occupying him with one foe instead of threatening one, ensuring a number of them couldn't move freely to pass him. Once the fight turned enough that we had local superiority, someone did grapple, and it was decisive. But until then it denied a lot of good territory to stay mobile.

Ranged and Melee - Combined arms, basically. The ranged attack guys threw spells and the archers shot, mostly at the shieldless guys. The melee-centric guys moved up and engaged and let the ranged folks get off some extra shots. This paid off because the missile guys didn't get overrun and the melee guys weren't helpless if things went badly with melee.


We also got ridiculously lucky on the enemy attacks - they couldn't hit for anything until they dinged some weak attacks off of our armored fighter and then a critical took out one of us. Still, even statistically average hits could have made for a bloody, even fight. We failed to sneak, and they failed to detect us early enough, and we could have had a vicious meeting engagement instead of "adventurers beat up clearly drunken bandits."

But tactically, those are what turned out to be good decisions.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Observed Facts about my DF Felltower World

One central element of my DF Felltower game is that the world is defined as we go.

Players say things off the cuff and they become facts of the world.

Chance elements that come up in play are placed into the world permanently.

Observed facts become parts of a larger tapestry of the world.

In short: I don't write the world then put that into action, we put the action into writing out the game world.

Here are some things that have emerged.

Color Coding - color seems to matter.

Red - the local militia and freelance mercenary forces wear red. Specifically, red shirts. Naturally this is a Star Trek joke at heart. It started because I deployed a few hireling minis I'd painted with burgundy or dark red shirts, and then I started painting new ones to match them. Not all hirelings who come with the party are red-shirted ones, but many are, and it denotes their day job (private guard, guild guard, city guard) or professional background (would-be mercenary.)

Dark Blue - blue is the color of the city of Arras to west, and the mercenary companies that come from that area. specifically, a mix of navy blue and military blue-gray and dutch blue, thanks to my Apple Barrel Colors collections. Why these colors?

Because the mini I painted that was selected as Vryce has blue under his mail, and Vryce's player stated he was a former soldier (specifically, a bidenhander master swordsman, but one who can't handle a shield and thus didn't rate much as a formation fighter). I ended up painting a few more "personality" type minis and some generic soldiery types with the same combo of blue. It stands to reason those guys are probably current or former soldiers, either in the service of a kingdom or Free Company or out on their own.

Garish Mixes - denote the Southern Pirates (on nautical types) or Cashamashians. Because I have some oddly mixed types, mostly pirates. I also have some nightmare mixes of colors on some minis to make them look like they threw together looted gear, but I ended up using them as hirelings from "far Cashamash."

Orcs dress like this too, because they have no taste but they do like bright colors.

Not all people in those colors or mixes fit the description, but many do. Like if I say, "black clad" you think "Ninja" or "Johnny Cash," but it doesn't mean every man in black is Johnny Ninja. But it's a good place to start.

Goblins and Elves Might Be Linked - it's not clear how, but they are. They weren't at first, but then rumors came around saying they were . . . right after one player showed up with a goblin who believed elves and goblins were related. The timing was perfect. So either he's delusional (unlikely), delusional but happens to be right (very likely), or knows something about the origins of goblins (it's possible), but in some way there is a link.

It wasn't planned from the beginning, but it makes sense based on observed facts. I laid all of the groundwork for that to be true, but also enough to make an alternate explanation fit the facts.

And yes, hobgoblins are related to goblins. But they're also very different, in ways that aren't really well explained as of yet.

Lots of Lizardmen - So I basically use the same minis for lizard men no matter one - a mix of Grenadier and old GW plastics. (And their newtman friends are a mix of GW Skinks and RAFM Gilla Worms.) I use these guys for troglodyte-types (lizard men with stinky gas glands), lizard men (nothing special, just tough), swamp lizard men (some minor ability differences to the others), dinomen (not encountered yet), and a few others. So obviously they are all of the same base stock. Why do some have stinky glands, others venomous bites, some just brute strength, etc.? That's a mystery. But clearly they are related, because their minis all look the same.

Not Reptile Men, though. Not that I've allowed one yet, but if they come up, they use RAFM Reptiliad minis. Those I've painted in metallic greens and purples with glittering eyes, much like the snakemen. They may be related, or about as related as green snakes and green lizards are - distantly. But the minis are very different (narrow shouldered, long necks) so they aren't the same as the other grouping.

Crazy Wizards are from Cashamash - Not all of them, since some of the PCs are demonstrably wizards and arguably crazy. But the NPC ones? I keep having them come from, or live in, or have some connection to, the city of Cashamash. There is a real feuding wizard culture there of men, women, and things (although some of the things are also people, and vice-versa) down there. Not the "blow each other up with attack spells" kind. It's the "one up each other" kind. It makes for a place to sell powerful magic items, explains why there are so many cursed items (originally meant as a trap for a rival or a rival's minions), and explains why powerful magical items get bought and then disappear from the campaign.

They are ruled by a Prince, though, who may or may not be a wizard. It doesn't seem like it, though. But Prince Valashkalabash IV does have some money to throw around, and he wants Gram aka Balmung aka The Lost Sword of Vryce Dragonslayer. Ruling over a city full of wizards without being a wizard? Clearly, wizards have a healthy respect for some kind of social order and law. Or he's a figurehead. The first of those is much more interesting, though.


Just some things that have emerged from play.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Random Things for Saturday

Just a few random bits:

- Doug would like Darklands. It tracks penetration separately from damage, so you can get high-damage low-penetration weapons, high-penetration high-damage weapons, high-penetration low-damage weapons, etc. And you've got STR (your strength) and VIT (your endurance), and STR drops from pentrating hits and VIT from non-penetrating ones. Not kidding.

- Speaking of Darklands, I re-started with a new group. Chargen is annoying - it took hours to stack up the professions the right way on the right people with the right choices to get where I wanted. And then, oddly, only one of my characters started with armor and only three with weapons (and one of them was a bow, and didn't come with arrows.) Sigh. I should have cheaped the game and stolen the Pre-gen's gear. I'm having fun, though, but some of the 90s interface is tiresome.

- We've got a new player coming for a tryout for our next Felltower game. I hear he's going to run a thief, so just for refreshers, here is the DF Felltower Thief Mod. Sadly they stayed in the dungeon so he can't bring in his PC. Well, I could stick in as a prisoner of the crazies or something, but it would basically retcon a lot and retro-justify the PCs attacking their former allies ("to rescue that poor guy!") And I'd have to do too much explaining. I have two others avenues that reinforce, not undermine, the pattern of my game, though.

- We had a fun but short playtest session last night in Doug's game. He has a writeup here. I enjoyed it, but like I said - too much chitchat. I like to bs to start a session, get rolling and stay on target, and then wrap it all up later to deal with issues. But you know that, right?

- I'm really actually planning on selling my old Ogre Miniatures. But I have so many it's difficult - just organizing them was hard, now I need to decide on lots, take clear pictures, write descriptions, etc. I suppose I can do "giant lot!" but we're talking a four-figure collection, here, not "a hundred fifty or best offer!" That wouldn't even get half of the actual ogres. Yes, I overbought.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Casting Room Historical Miniatures Sale

So, the UK voted to exit the EU, and the GBP has tumbled with respect to the dollar. Might be a good time to get any historical minis from Casting Room, which is also having a 20% off sale on those lines.



"CASTING ROOM MINIATURES SALE
Until midnight Sunday 3rd July we're having a 20% sale on the historical ranges listed on our Casting Room Miniatures site (www.CastingRoomMiniatures.com)

Enter the code "CRM20%" in the Discount code box when you check out!

This 20% discount applies to all these ranges:
Hittites
Nubians
Trojan Wars/Mycenaeans
Ancient Spanish & Carthaginians
Persians
Dark Age Warriors
Gauls
Chinese
Normans
Saxons
Medievals
Renaissance
Elizabethans
English Civil War
Marlburians
Seven Years War French
Black Powder Civilians/Rebels & Rioters
Zulu Wars British
Zulus
Victorians/Edwardians
Street Fighters
Napoleonics: Austrians, British, French, Portuguese, Prussians, Russians and Saxons.

FREE SAMPLES: If you would like to see a (random) sample from any range of your choice just let us know and we will stick one in your next order for you. Or alternatively you are welcome to send us a self addressed and stamped envelope."


Dark Ages types, Medievals, Renaissance, Gauls, Saxons, etc. all make pretty good fantasy fighter types. So, a low pound and 20% off might be enough to justify some extra minis. I have to pass (I've got plenty of the ones I need) but I wanted to make sure any pewter fans had the heads-up.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thrown Weapons, All-Out Attack, and Throwing Harder

Thrown weapons in GURPS are in a bit of an odd spot. They get all of the disadvantages of melee (short range, relatively easy to defend against, weight of the weapons) and ranged (range penalties, reloading/getting a new weapon, and weaker All-Out Attack options).

One change you can make to GURPS that wouldn't disrupt it too much would be a special combat option. If you elect to make it a Technique, it would be Hard and max out at Prereq-2 (it should always be harder to throw at maximum power at the expense of accuracy, otherwise it's just an always-on damage bonus.)

Harder Throwing - A muscle-powered thrown weapon can be hurled with maximal force, trading off accuracy for damage. This gives a -4 to hit, +2 damage or +1 per die. In addition, add +2 to ST to determine half-damage and maximum range. The thrower must make a DX roll after releasing the weapon; failure means you are off-balance and cannot do anything until your next turn; critical failure means you fall down! Can be used with All-Out Attack, Attack, Committed Attack, and Move and Attack.

Can you stack this with Telegraphic Attack? Not normally, because it's a thrown weapon. But if you allow it (an obvious windup and throw), it would net to +0 to hit, +2 or +1 per die to damage, +2 to defenses, DX roll not to fall down. Stacked with AOA, it would be +1 to hit and the effects I just listed (or -3 and the damage, etc. effects without Telegraphic.

Great for that all-out chuck of an axe or hammer or rock to break something.

Another way to do it is to essentially allow it to straddle melee and ranged for All-Out Attack and Committed Attack.

All-Out Attack - Muscle-powered thrown weapons can use the following options for All-Out Attack:

Determined - Make a single attack at +1 to hit.
Strong: - Make a single attack at +2 or +1 per die to damage, whichever is greater. Also adds +2 to ST to determine range.
Double - Throw two weapons, one from each hand, or Fast-Draw a replacement in between. If the Fast-Draw fails, your turn ends immediately, and you must take a Ready action next turn.
Feint - If using Ranged Feints (see Tricky Shooting, GURPS Martial Arts, p. 121), you may use this option normally.

No other AOA options are available.

Committed Attack - Muscle-powered thrown weapons can use the following option:

Strong - Make a single attack at +1 to damage (or +1 per two full dice of basic damage, before other modifiers. Add +1 to ST for purposes of determining range.

Like a melee attack, the character may make a second step at -2 to hit. Active defense penalties are normal for Committed Attack (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 100).

Defensive Attack - Muscle-powered thrown weapons can use Defensive Attack as written. In addition, the attack has -2 ST for purposes of determining range.


Overall, I think that's an fine way to split it. You aren't able to access the full AOA benefits to hit, because you can't have them now. But you can throw harder, throw as hard as possible, or throw quickly and without sufficient force to stay more defensive. And we cover how to use Ranged Feints with hurled weapons. I threw in the ST benefit because it seems like range should be affected, and it's in line with the ST benefit based on Swing.

The combat option is just a way to do this as a special choice without changing any of the attack maneuvers. I probably wouldn't do both of them, or you can get some silliness (-3 to hit, +4 or +2 per die to damage, etc. without any real ability to get there with melee weapons.) But I thought it up and I figured I'd share.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

GM Mistakes Negotiating as Monsters

Courtney over at Hack & Slash linked to my post about player mistakes negotiating with monsters. That reminded me, I never did get around to GM Mistakes Negotiating as Monsters. So here is that post.

Negotiating as a player can be tricky, and it's not hard to take the wrong tack and end up failing.

As a GM, though, it can also be tough, especially if you aren't used to negotiating on behalf of NPCs. Here are some errors I've seen, and I've committed, over the years.

Taking it Personally.

In a word, don't. It's not a negotiation between you and the players. It's between your NPCs and the player's PCs. There isn't a win or lose, it's just you determining the results of their actions.

That's pretty basic GMing stuff - GMing 101, day one, right after, "You run the game, the rule book doesn't run the game." But sometimes you have to remind yourself. Unlike a combat, where dice are determining so much of success or failure between NPCs and PCs, negotiations involves roleplaying between the GM and the players. Especially when you're first starting out, it can feel competitive since it's being resolved with a strong element of out-talking each other.

You can get this subtly, too, where you feel annoyed that the players tricked your clever NPC or thought they'd fall for some crazy proposal.

In really old-school games, there aren't any mechanics (or only reaction roll mechanics, like the one in OD&D) for determining how well the PCs negotiate. That makes sense given the sheer amount of games of Diplomacy the early players played (at least according to Jon Peterson) - negotiating by actually doing so fit their skillset and mode of play. In games with mechanics to resolve negotiations, like GURPS, it's a little easier to disassociated yourself from the sheer obnoxiousness of PC demands - if you stack up a -10 to their roll because they demand both of their partner's legs and then demand he dance and then roll a 3, well, that's a story to tell whenever the game comes up reminiscing. It's like when someone rolls a series of crits and takes out the big bad guy with a lucky shot - story time. Plus you all get to be surprised, which is always a bonus.

Like I said, GMing 101, but it's worth starting out with this one. It's not you and your friend, it's a monster and a PC negotiating. Use whatever mechanisms and distancing you need to just be able to sit back and let it happen.

Not knowing the NPC's interests.

Like I said in a post on the subject, factions have interests.

If you don't know, you can't really effectively negotiate.

Omniscient NPCs.

Basically, negotiating as if they know everything. Unless monsters really do have access to unlimited knowledge, it's bad form to negotiate as if they do. Some might actually have a lot of information - and either conceal this to their advantage or reveal it to their advantage. Or to their disadvantage, for either case.

But it's tempting (and probably was my standard when I started GMing as a kid) to have the monsters know everything and recognize everything. Don't. It discourages negotiating at all (the PCs are always at a knowledge disadvantage) and shows the PCs that even if they try they're playing on a slanted playing field.

Know-Nothing NPCs.

Basically, negotiating as if the NPCs know nothing. This may hold true for some, but not all of them. Just like playing them all too smart or too knowledgeable is bad, so is treating them all like they existed in a vacuum until the players showed up.

Omniscient/Know-Nothing Resolution - One way you can resolve this is with an IQ, INT, Wisdom, etc. check for the monsters. You can quickly determine if they understand what's being negotiated, recognize the long and short term consequences on decisions, know the party's reputation, etc. You can basically let the dice take the decision out of your hands and avoid needing to track who knows what about whom.

Also, you know the PCs because you're referring their actions. But how do they appear? Are they grubby and suspicious looking and drenched in blood? Do they wear the signs of their religious affiliations openly (great in some situations, bad in others)? Do they have a reputation, and does this NPC know of it? Use that to determine what NPCs know or don't know. Perception checks are a good way to see what they can see, and IQ and IQ-based skill rolls (or Int and Wis in D&D games) to see what they understand.

Not initiating.

Really simple - if you never have monsters initiate negotiations, the players learn that it's only their side that uses negotiations. They determine if it's in play or not. By using it as the GM, you tell them two things: negotiating is a valid tactic, and negotiating is an expected part of the game.

Over-using Pre-determined Results.

It's okay to have some negotiations doomed to failure. It's okay that sometimes monsters negotiate in bad faith, aiming just to buy some time. Especially moderately clever evil ones, who show just how evil they are by doing so. But don't over do it. Too much "fixed" results in negotiates tells the players they have to guess which monsters they can negotiate with, not assume that basically they can negotiate with most.

This probably rings hollow coming from a guy who has filled two monster books half-way up with monsters that say, "Will not negotiate," "Can't usefully negotiate," and/or "too stupid to negotiate." But those critters should be the labeled exceptions, not the norm. They should be flagged as, "Hey, special feature - these guys don't negotiate, unlike everything else without this label."


Disclaimer: I don't do all of those. I have done all of those in the past. I probably do some of them sometimes, even without knowing it. I should do more of them, and I've initiated some automatic reaction rolls to keep myself on track. You probably don't do all of these - but reading them can't hurt, and articulating them sure helped me clean up my thoughts on the subject. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Keymaster & Gatekeeper on the paint prep table

Here are the minis I'm working on while I do an online seminar for one of careers. Lots of listening, and I like to prep minis while I listen to work related stuff. Painting, too, but I often static stretch while I listen and I can't stretch and paint . . . but I can stretch and file quite well.

Here is what I'm working on:

 photo Keymaster 001s_zpsuelyv8yy.jpg

Left to right: Arnhand Guard (Reaper), the Gatekeeper, the Keymaster, and a Slime Ghost.

I think I need to drill out the Slime Ghost for a flying base, otherwise, it's just kind of a lump that's that usable for much.

Lots of flash to get off, lots of mold lines. But they should be fairly easy to paint. Then I can hand off the Gatekeeper to a friend.
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