Monday, April 28, 2014

To each their own

The things that get written in the OSR/RPG community never cease to amaze me.  I shouldn't be surprised at my age, having been around online communities and gaming for 15 years, but it still does.  It seems to me that most OSR bloggers are GMs, and experienced GMs at that.  In general they have a lot more experience at running a game than I do, so it's always worth my while to listen to what others have to say and learn from their experience.  That said, don't EVER tell me how to run my game.

If you don't like boxed text in your modules, fine, don't use it.  Don't buy the products. You want to point out that a product has boxed text, and lacks simple concise descriptions, fine.  But don't tell me that I shouldn't be using it.  You want to let publishers know that you won't buy a product that has boxed text, fine.  But don't pretend to speak for everyone.  It's some text.  In a box.  For a game.  That's supposed to be fun. Lighten up.

On the other hand, if you don't like minimally detailed, seemingly random hexcrawls, don't use 'em!  You may think it's a crappy idea, and you are entitled to your opinion.  But that same product may be exactly what someone else wants for their campaign.  And if they do, that doesn't make them a bad GM, it just means you have different tastes and different opinions.

The great thing about the OSR is that we as GMs and players have the power to run games how we want to run them, and play in the types of games we want to play in.  There is room for ever variety and permutation under the sun.  As writers, artists, and publishers we can make the games and supplements that we want to make.  What actually gets used is up to the consumer.  It's a beautiful thing and should be encouraged, not beaten like a dog through the streets of the OSR blogosphere because a product didn't conform to YOUR standards.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Return to the SKLD: Who needs classes?

Two years ago I whipped up a 'lite' version of D&D which I called SKLD! (or Skald) which stands for Search, Kill, Loot, Drink! I've play tested it couple of times but haven't had the opportunity to use it in a regular game. I've been thinking of trying to make some improvements on it it and revise it, so I've decided to write a few blog posts examining certain key features.If you'd like to download a copy you can get a copy from google docs or mediafire

One of my main inspirations for these rules was Searchers of the Unknown.  SotU uses classless system.  In the basic original game, everyone is a human adventurer.  All the differences between characters are determined by their equipment.  On the surface is seems overly simplistic, but the more I thought about it, I found that it had a certain charm.  To me, it's the perfect way to achieve the OSR Murderhobo vibe.  Everyone is just a dude, nothing special at all.  The characters develop based on their actions and the equipment they collect. Certainly there are limitations to this sort of system, namely in the magic department, but there are fairly simple ways to work around this.  

For SKLD, I decided that there should be different races available to the players, and that the characters should have have the 6 standard ability scores (SotU does not use any ability scores, everyone is assumed to be totally average). Ability scores seem too iconic to me, as do the the standard demi-human races, so I had to keep those in SKLD. The one mistake that I may have made is not making the demi-humans significantly different from the humans.  I have given them the standard racial special abilities, and some ability score modifiers, but I may need to do some more with them.  I used the standard B/X ability score modifiers, which range from a -3 to a +3, but I'm thinking of changing this to -2 to +2 system (thanks to Courtney from Hack & Slash). 

One of the important aspects of SotU is that the Armor Class is more important than ever.  AC directly affects movement rate and initiative. In SKLD, I've expanded this concept so that AC also affects a character's chances of pulling off special maneuvers, or using magic.  In this way I feel that AC really lives up to the term armor CLASS, and is not just a physical defense rating.  In effect, the Armor Classes are the character classes in SotU and SKLD. 

Next time, I'm going to talk about a magic system without magic-users.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Report from the Front: Cold Wars

I really had a blast at HMGS Cold Wars this past Saturday.  It's been either 15 or 20 years since I had been to one of these events.  A lot is the same, and a lot has changed.  While a lot of gaming conventions have really diversified and become more mainstream because of the rise of "geek culture", Cold Wars (and I am assuming all historical miniatures gaming conventions) remains firmly rooted in grognardville. It really looked like a gathering of Gary Gygax clones at times.  However, I saw a lot of younger faces a newer games too.  It was a great mix of old a new blood.

If you've never been to a convention like this, there are generally 3 types of games going on: Scenarios, demonstrations and tournaments.  The scenario games are designed for people that are familiar with the game system being used to show up and play.  The game master usually provides the terrain and miniatures.  In general these games are large, multi-player events with elaborate terrain.  The demonstration games are very similar, except that they are designed for players that have not played the system before.  Very often they allow people to just walk up and play, and are generally shorter in duration.  The last type are the tournaments, where groups of player gather to compete against one another.  I think that most Warhammer and WarmaHordes players are familiar with this sort of game.  There's usually a good mix of all 3 types of games at these conventions.

The other main attraction is the dealer room and swap meet.  These are a great way to pick up some hard to find rules and miniatures, and to get an up close look at products before you buy them.  The swap meet also offers a chance to get some really good deals.

So whats the same?  15mm Ancients, American Civil War and Napoleonics are still very popular with the older crowd. I don't have much experience with  ACW and Napoleonics, so I'm not sure which rules were being used, but I saw DBA, DBM, Field of Glory, Warhammer, and Warrior being used for ancients and medievals. There were tons of amazing scenario games using less popular and rulesets, timeperiods and scales. I spent most of the day just wandering around and looking at what was going on.

What's new? Well new to me at least.  Lot's of WWII gaming.  Bolt Action and Flames of War were probably the 2 biggest games at the convention.  The 25' long table for the Pegasus Bridge Bolt Action scenario was the true definition of Epic.

The other big game this year was SAGA, the 28mm Dark Age skirmish game.  I haven't tried this one yet, but it really interests me.  Armies range in size of between 16 and 70 figures roughly, and there lots of high quality miniatures available, some in plastic making it a very affordable game, even though the books are a little pricey.

The other major new theme I  noticed was the broad acceptance of Sci-Fi and Fantasy games.  I saw Star Wars X-Wing miniatures and Battletech being played along with 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Fanticide, Malifaux and many others.

On a person note, I was able to pick up some bargains.  I got the tanks and artillery to complete my Bolt Action Desert Rats army. I swore I wasn't going to pick up any more fantasy, but I found a great deal on some orc boar riders and 2 shamen.  I resisted the $30 chimera for my Imperial Guard, but ended up taking home a box of Schaeffer's Last Chancers because I love the figures and they were a bargain.  I didn't get any of the DBA armies I was looking for, mostly because there were not any dealers there that had quality 15mm medievals.  It seems that in the internet age, many of the major European based companies are not coming to the US conventions.  On there other hand there were vast amounts of 28mm figs available for that same timeperiod, mostly because of the popularity of SAGA.

This convention has really fired my interest in the hobby again, so I'll be writing more about wargaming and miniatures in the future.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Miniatures and the Airbrush

More and more of my free time is being devoted to miniature wargaming.  I've had some great online D&D sessions in recent months, but I really miss running games and I have yet to find a game that really hits my sweet spot as a player.  So I've started working on miniatures again.  I've have several projects going on right now and I think it will take several months to complete them all.

The first major project is a "Desert Rats" army for Bolt Action.  I'm still int he process of assembling the 30 some infantry models, and I have yet to purchase any tanks or other vehicles.  I'm hoping to find some bargains at the Cold Wars convention next weekend.  While I'm there I'm thinking of picking up a few 15mm DBA armies to match up against my Vikings.  I'm thinking Anglo-Saxons or Normans, though Eastern Woodland Indians might be a neat opponent too.

For 40k I've still got some Space Wolves to work on.  I have 2 Rhinos that need to be finished, but since I can't see using them that often I'm not very motivated with those.  The next models I'll probably work on there are the 5 Thunderwolf Cavalry I have.  Then I'll start touching up and converting some of the older models I have.  The only other Space Wolf model I really need is a Njal Stormcaller.

All of my Imperial Guard is painted, but I do need to finish the bases on the infantry.  I've been thinking about adding some of the Wargames Factory Shock Troops for Elites and Heavy Weapons, but as my IG were originally planned as an Ally detachment, I'm not really pressed about building up that army.

I've got a large Orc army for Warhammer Fantasy that is now completely base coated, ie green. That's probably the largest project I have sitting around.  It's over 150 figures.  My other WFB army is still waiting for miniatures to arrive.  I got a small group of Chaos Warriors, but I've been waiting a years for a certain Kickstarter to deliver  with the bulk of the force.  Not that I'd have time to paint them anytime soon.

My Flying Monkey army for Fanticide is now based and primed.  The real pain in the neck starts this week as I have to attach all of the wings to the monkeys.  I have a feeling that these things are going to be falling off all of the time.

And if all of that wasn't enough, I still have ALL of the Reaper Miniatures KickStarter to paint up.  To get all of this painted, I decided it was time to invest in an airbrush.  I'm still getting the hang of it, but I'm really liking it.  Here's a pick of my first project with the new rig.

It's a little hard to see here, but I'm really excited about how easy it is to create shadows and highlights with the airbrush.  I'm not expecting this to be a masterpiece, but I want this to turn out well so I can feel proud about displaying it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bolt Action!

So while I've been playing some D&D over Google Hangouts over the last few months, I had pretty much packed in my miniatures.  I stopped by a local hobby shop hoping to track down some DBA gamers and instead ran smack dab into Bolt Action.

If you aren't familiar with it, Bolt Action is a Skirmish/platoon level wargame set in WWII, designed for 28mm figures.  The game was written by Alessio Cavatore and Rick Priestley, and published by Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing. As you might have guessed based on the authors and scale, this is 40k for WWII.  Thankfully there are some great rules innovations.  Instead of players taking turns moving and firing all of their units, players draw dice from a bag to see which player gets to activate a unit next.  There's a mechanic for suppressing fire.  Close combat is rare, but decisive.  It seems to be a great set of rules that makes for a tactically interesting game.

From a modelling standpoint, there are plenty of great miniatures out there.  While 28mm is the suggested scale, as that is what Warlord Games is selling, it would be very easy and economical to use 1/72 scale figures and tanks.  The armies aren't that large generally, so the cost should be prohibitive.  A typical army consists of 30-50 infantry plus leaders, an artillery piece, and armored car or recon vehicle, a tank, and possibly some transport vehicles. Standard 1000 point armies are available for $120. If you want to jump in feet first, they have a whole Pegasus Bridge set for $280.

For an old 40K fan that loves history, is working on a budget, and demands a solid ruleset, Bolt Action is not to be missed.  I'm hoping to get some games in at Cold Wars next month.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Ode to Orthodoxy

I've never met Frank Mentzer. I don't know anything about his reputation.  All I know is that he was responsible for BECMI and Temple of Elemental Evil. With that in mind, I find the statement below from 1982's RPGA module R-1 'To the Aid of Flax' to be ponderous.

Has anyone else ever gone 6 years in a single campaign and not created some sort of house rule, new spell, or new monster?  If Mentzer's statement is 100% factual, it has to hold the record for the most orthodox, by the book campaign in history.  Of course I'm sure he used the AD&D combat rules exactly as written.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Why I don't blog anymore

It's been a long time since I have put anything on this blog, though I had lots of ideas to write about. Every time I start writing something I decide not to post it.  I regret not posting, but there's always a reason not to.

It's been said before.  A lot of time things I want to express have been said before, and sometimes quite often. I feel there's no need to add my two cents. Here are some eloquent, thoughtful people that have stated positions and thoughts similar to my own, and I don't see much point in a 'me too' post.

It's stupid.  Little odd things interest me.  Talking about them publicly makes me feel like a very strange person. So I'm hesitant to put my weirdness on full display.

People are going to disagree with me.  I don't mind them doing so, but I feel the need to defend my position, and I dislike trying to do so in an Internet forum format.

I prefer to talk about these things in person.  I enjoy discussing the things I want to post about, and posting is not discussing.  I really enjoy talking face to face or via voice chat etc.  the change of ideas that goes on in that environment see much superior to anything I would get out of posting something on a blog and reading comments.

I don't have anything worth adding. It's just egotistical to think people are going to be interested in my random thoughts about gaming and what I've been up to recently. This is probably my biggest hurdle to blogging. I usually get half way through writing a post and ask "why am I doing is?"  I never have an answer.

So why am I blogging now?  After getting past the reasons I don't blog, I started thinking about why I should. And it turns out that there are some good reasons for me to start posting again.  I want to point out things that others are blogging about that I find interesting. I want to bring up some odd topics I've been reluctant to mention, but write about them from a neutral standpoint.  I'm more interested in seeing what other people think than expressing my opinion about most topics.  I'd also like to start reviewing some products, both RPGs and wargames, old and new.