Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Goals: The Officially Sanctioned Version

As I try to learn from what worked for me and what didn't this last year, I've settled on the following four goals for 2013, three I've mentioned before, but the first is new:

Save a Dead Tree Project - This is actually one of two challenges posed over on the Wampus Country blog (follow the link). Essentially, you pledge to try and make use of those rule books, modules, source books, etc. that line the shelves but have never been properly used. In the words of Erik from Wampus Country himself, "This is a throughout-the-year challenge, to utilize and repurpose the stuff I already have. "  I think it's a fantastic idea - this year alone I acquired a number of sets of rules, history books, zines, modules  and rpgs that I've made no use of yet, not to mention items from previous years, Space: 1889 and The Soldier's Companion, I'm looking at you.

New wargaming setup - I plan to use 2' x 4' MDF painted in some inexpensive shade of green paint that screams toy soldiers and game playing at the expense of realism. Home Depot sells the MDF pre-cut in a pack of four, so I will paint three and grid one side on three of them with a 6" grid, and a dot in the center of each space so I can also use it as a 3" grid. The fourth may serve as a makeshift desk with some saw-horses. For gaming, they will be placed on the kitchen table or my desk/table and stored in the closet when not in use. Other items include hills, felt for forests and fields, and some balsa strips for roads.

Paint 2x per month, at least 60 minutes a session - I don't want to set a figure goal, but I do want to make the time to paint. Figure goals, I have learned, end up overshadowing game playing even when I'm really inspired to play. The result is either a game session sullied by some guilt about not painting or a painting session that I am not wholly interested in, and the painting suffers for it.

Run an old-school dungeon crawl for my local RPG meetup group - I've had the pleasure of playing three different systems with this group this year and I would like to return the favor. I will probably run this with Labyrinth Lord and using a published module.

In addition to goals, I have some projects I'm working on that I'd like to make some progress on. What that means exactly, is open to interpretation.

The Wampus Country Under the Tree Challenge - Simply put, take everything you got under the tree for Christmas and try to mash something from all of it into one game/set of rules/scenario/module/etc.

A WWII PTO campaign - I'm leaning towards using the campaign system included in Nuts! War Against Japan.

A three battle mini campaign for the GNW Russians and Swedes using Scenarios for Wargamers or Programmed Wargame Scenarios.

A VSF campaign that returns us to the island of Helvetica. I am thinking that it will start with the two sample scenarios presented Soldier's Companion, and utilize those rules to fight the battles, but feature Riesling and lizard-folk, not British and Martians.

Finally, I will do something to celebrate the centenary of H.G. Wells's Little Wars. A chance read through this on Project Guttenberg is largely responsible for why I wargame, if not how. I may try to tie this in to the 70th anniversary of Kursk and fight a 1/32 battle in the backyard. To .that end, I've located and ordered a used copy of SkirmishCampaigns Red Guards at Kursk.

I will continue my delves into the Ever Expanding Dungeon, of course, but that is already running and in place and will serve as a regular outlet for my dungeon crawl needs and experiments.

And speaking of, I'll probably have one more post for this year to follow - a write up of the most recent sessions.

In the meantime, in case that falls through, Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Review and One of Those "Best" Lists

The year is almost over and now is as good a time as any to look back and see how I did on my goals for the year that is ending.

My goals were:
  • Weekly painting/terrain making/scenery construction/etc.
  • Monthly solo gaming
  • 100 posts to this blog
I'm happy to say I was able to complete all of these - and I present this blog as a documentation of the effort. If anything, I may have been a little excessive in my documentation: this is the 190th post for 2012!

As for the projects I hoped to make progress on:

1/72 WWII Pacific Island Assault - Completed.
54mm Morschauser Horse and Musket - Switched to 1/72 and the painting has begun.
2mm Napoleonic - This was placed on hold indefinitely.

And where would we be without a year end "Best" list. Since I covered posts on the blog's anniversary, I'll look at the crass consumerism I displayed this year:

Best Set of Rules Acquired (and Played): This is a tie. Unbelievably Simple Role-Playing, Chain Reaction 3: Final Version, and Bob Cordery's Memoir of  Battle. All have provided a ton of fun for only an investment of the time required to read the rules and play the game. If more free rules were this good, publishers would lose a lot of business.

Best Previously Acquired Rules that Got Use in 2012: Moldvay D&D Basic book. Honorable mention: G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.

Best Rule Purchase with an Eye Toward the Future: Nuts! 2.0 - I'm reviewing these at the moment and I can't wait to use them in 2013. Honorable mention: Tunnels & Trolls is a top contender for this spot - had I read it sooner, I'd have used it as the basis for my aborted group Labyrinth Lord game (no slight to LL, which I love, but rather, the magic rules would have suited my players better).

Best Miniature(s) Purchased: Khurasan 15mm Ursids. Four bears in sunglasses, chomping cigars and carrying big-ass guns. What's not to love?

Best Non-Rulebook Book Purchase:
For wargaming, Featherstone's Solo Wargaming - I was late for the party on this one, but I finally got it. To be honest, I haven't used anything from it directly, but I find it inspiring and revisit it often.

For RPGs, I'm going to say the small stack of old Dragon magazines that I acquired for a song. Even though I haven't read them yet, in the condition they are in, I can get about 20x what I paid for them.

Item I Most Wish I Purchased: The rest of the stack of those aforementioned Dragon magazines. The rest of those 1/32 Panzer IVs and T-34s at 1/3 their retail price.

Favorite Gaming Accessory Purchase: My purple and gold d30. I cherish it like the heirloom it could never be.

Purchase That I'm No Longer 100% Sure I Should Have Made: 1/300 Panzers, Tigers. and T-34s. As much as I love how they look and how many you can fit on a small table, I have to ask myself, do I really need to do WWII in yet another scale? You'd think I'd ask this about 1/32, but that would be logical and let's face it, scale preferences are anything but.

Next up, 2013 goals.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Santa's Generosity

I have been enjoying the "Santa" posts from around the blog scene and so I'm posting mine as well, only slightly delayed by seasonal travel.

Santa was rather generous this year:

The figures are by Toy Soldiers of San Diego and are 1/32 scale. Although I'll need to straighten the weapons, and they are a bit chunkier than my Airfix and Matchbox soldiers,  they are fantastic sculpts. I can't wait to paint them.

The Vader mask has nothing to do with gaming per se. Except that wearing it makes everything that much better. Thus, I will wear it while playing sci-fi games.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Travel and Gaming

With holiday travel in full effect, I've snuck a few items into my bag for the hoped for moments of quiet that sometimes manage to happen late at night, in spite of a house full of people.

I've packed:

It sounds like a lot, but it all fits in the netbook's sleeve.

As it has turned out, I haven't had a chance to do any solo gaming, but a friend did run a d20 on-the-fly game wherein we, the PCs (a goblin "speller", "a pixie fighter, a goblin fighter and an imp "speller"), had to save the dragon from the princess.

I'll spare you the details - it was fun, and funny, but probably one of those "you had to be there" type games.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 4

After burying their comrades (not before Perceval took Br. McCleary's armor. Hey, he doesn't need it anymore) and returning to town, Perceval and Malazar informed Feldspar of the situation and then went for a drink at the tavern. There, by chance of course, they met Sister Clarice, Acolyte of the Monkey King and Fayona the Hungry (names generated with the help of the awesome name generator from Erik at Wampus Country.)

They were unable to find any fool willing to be their torch bearer or porter (Perceval asked to join the party as a full member, if Feldspar would teach him the fighting arts when his recovery was complete. Rather than having to pay him each time and increasing shares of treasure, Malazar and Feldspar agreed to let him join them).

The PCs planned to go and explore the area with the goblins and bugbear, feeling there is more than likely treasure to be had there. Immediately they were taken aback by the fact that the first door they came to in the dungeon had been repaired.

After an uneventful encounter with a large pack of giant rats which were dispersed by burning oil to dissuade them from bothering the party (sadly, they did not leave 2000 copper pieces when they left), the party made their way to the room of the goblin guards.

There were no new guards this time around, just an opportunistic giant crab spider that dropped onto Perceval. Fortunately it failed to bite him and he was able to throw it off of himself. Fayona and Sister Clarice charged the spider and managed to kill it, but Fayona was bitten. Predictably, she failed her save vs. poison.

Knowing her end was near, she requested to die in the light of the sun, rather than in this godforsaken hole. The party obliged, and she expired just as they got her outside. They buried her and then there was some debate about going back in, but in they went.

A newly set pit trap replete with spikes did in Sister Clarice. Malazar and Perceval decided discretion was indeed the better part of valor and abandoned the expedition to return to town.

body count: Fayona the Hungry (F:1), Sister Clarice, Acolyte of the Monkey King (C:1)
kills: 1 giant crab spider
rooms explored: none. I didn't even turn over a single card to generate more dungeon!
treasure: none

Despite the high body count, I'm enjoying this, and I've grown fond of both Malazar and Perceval. Which, I suspect, seals their doom.

If they had any sense, they'd abandon this whole dungeon delving idea, but the threat of returning to boring jobs toiling in obscurity, near penniless, is a strong motivator.

To have a slightly longer session next time, instead of relying on the dice to tell me how many new PCs join the party, I'm just going to decide myself. I foresee 2 more fighters, a cleric and possibly a thief.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More T-34 progress

This is just to document my progress on the T-34. Feel free to move along if you're not interested. No hard feelings.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm on a Sharpie kick - evidence is amply supplied below.

Don't worry - I intend to build some of the detail I've drawn, and for that which I do decide to draw, I'll use stencils. My freehand is scary.

With the side of the hull cut-away, you can see the box sub-structure.

Note the flex in the card stock - one more reason to build the final product w/ cereal boxes.
I caution that this is just a mock-up at this point and a rather hasty one at that - I'm just using scissors rather than digging out the hobby knife, self-healing cutting mat and steel ruler. And my folds are anything but clean. Still, although there are gaps and unevenness  I think you can see that the target isn't entirely out of reach.

Assuming I can figure out the dimensions, angles and construction techniques to make the model, I'll build a proper one out of much stronger cereal box cardboard. Ideally, the process, once discovered would be easily repeatable - perhaps building a template with some simple drawing tools, as found in Word.

How much fun would it be to build a pile of cardboard T-34s, T-70s and Panzer IVs (perhaps backed up with some Marders or Stugs) for a Little Wars type game to celebrate the 100th anniversary of those rules and to honor the 70th anniversary of the battle of Kursk?

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself there. I ought to really finish one of these before I think about making them in the 10s, let alone making models for which I have no physical item on hand.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sharpie Addiction + 15mm Sci-Fi Interior

I've been on a Sharpie kick the last month or so - the Ultra Fine Point to be exact. I purchased it to do black lining, but I love it for writing. I look for excuses to write things on paper, just to use one. 

It just feels fun when I use it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I found a use for the card stock scraps I'm producing modeling the T-34 (my mock-up is being done with 65 lb stock) :  making a sci-fi interior. 

Combine the two (you were wondering where I was going with this Sharpie thing weren't you?) and you get something like:

"Hey, Lou, what's with that weird tree-like thing?"
"Beats me, Joe Probably some joker trying to give the joint atmosphere."

"Spacious unfurnished studio located in the heart of a Control base. 1st, last, security. Pets OK. This one will go fast!"
It won't win any awards, but it's functional and puts some of the otherwise wasted card stock to use.

Not to mention it's an excuse to use the Sharpie.

The corridor wall started out as a rectangle 90mm wide, as long as the scrap piece (in this case, 135mm). I folded it in half and then folded out the bottom 15mm on each side (the cross section is an inverted 'T')  to make feet so the wall section stand on its own. I then glued the wall together so it stays closed. 

The result is a 30mm x 135mm corridor section.

The corridor floor, another scrap, rests on the feet.

The room is just a 75mm x 75mm x 30mm box, folded from another piece of scrap. This is probably a good deal larger than I'd like to go for a room in the base. I'm thinking 50mm for the longest edge - and if I'm going to doodle on the interior, I need to do it before I fold it. 

Wherein I Find Justification, No Matter How Flimsy, for Multiple Simultaneous Projects

Oh what help a little Ora-Gel can be to a teething toddler. Young Lord Shadowmoss actually slept last night, so I was able to spend some time on hobby-related activities.

Unfortunately, I had nothing planned - I figured the night would go much as the previous one had, and he wouldn't sleep and would require attention frequently and at irregular intervals.

Suddenly the value of having several projects on the fire seemed a good thing!

It is not atypical to hear a gamer lament that they've gotten involved in yet another project, while one or more other projects have yet to be finished. I, too, do this. But this is a hobby after all, and supposed to be fun, so what difference is it? (short of spending your bank account on things you will never use and thereby preventing your retirement, of course)

Indeed, because I have multiple projects, I was able to take advantage of the time (after I finished house-related chores - Lady Shadowmoss is out of town for work, but, still, I don't want her coming home to a pile of dishes and baby toys everywhere), without resorting to plopping in front of the television mindlessly watching whatever I happened to land on or clicking around the Internet without purpose.

Instead I:

  • Planned the next phases of the T-34 project
  • Test built "the box" that the hull and tracks will attach too (a hidden substructure to make the model possible, and hopefully add some strength to it)
  • Rolled up a handful of Labyrinth Lord characters to join my greatly diminished party of dungeon delving PCs.
  • Figured out a way to make use of the larger scraps of cardstock I'm producing making the tank, by turning them into a simple interior for a sci-fi scenario: Rescue Mission: A Goldielocks Jailbreak!
  • I generated a set of possible events for said game using my method for randomized themed encounters for solo gaming.
  • Sketched some spheres and cylinders (I'm learning how to draw - something I've always wanted to do, and something that is as inexpensive a hobby as you can find with the potential for lifelong pursuit. It is not directly relevant to gaming at this point, but I have no doubt it will be later)
  • Read an article in Lone Warrior #181

Not bad for two hours and no advanced planning.

Monday, December 17, 2012

T-34 Breakthrough!

As I mentioned the other day, I've been trying to model a Russian T-34 in paper.

Actually, that sounds a little to generous. I've been trying to model the hull of a Russian T-34 in paper.

I have a pile of failed attempts (although some may be useful as scout ships in 15mm, and of course, each one leads me closer to the goal, so lemons and lemonade and all that), not to mention that it looks like a snow storm happened around me with all the paper cuttings.

Still, this afternoon I have gotten the closest yet - I rushed the completion of it as I had only a few minutes to do it, and rather than measure it all out, I used the previous version as a template and adjusted it on the fly.

paper model hull in "winter camo" with plastic source looking on mockingly

Now I realize it's not terribly exciting to look at yet,  and I really don't need another T-34 (I have two already, but I wanted to start with something I had on hand) and you'd think given the hours I've spent getting to this point there would be more to show, but I'm still pretty excited. 

I have learned 3 things so far:

  • My geometry, what miniscule amount I remember, is rusty at best
  • I am not an engineer
  • It's fun to assemble paper models, it's a whole different world of fun to design your own!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Third Time Proves Itself Not to Be the Charm

Last night I took a break from my fun-but-failed attempts at modeling a T-34 hull and made a third delve into my ever expanding randomly generated dungeon.

Unfortunately, Feldspar, the strongest fighter and the highest hit points, had to stay at the inn to recuperate from his run-in with the nasty end of a giant centipede (hmm. i'm going to guess both ends are pretty nasty). He's got 9 more days of recovery in front of him.

Brother McCleary, Malazar and Inga went to the tavern to see if they could scrounge up another fighter or anyone for that matter - but the well was dry. Word had gotten out that the last two torch bearers didn't make it back, and they could find no one who would fill that position either. Perceval agreed to go in once again, for an equal share of any treasure. With no other options, the party agreed and went to the dungeon the next morning notably under strength.

Thoughts and memories of the delve:
  • Retracing steps is slow and why did that bugbear nod at us like he knew us? 
  • Some armed and unfriendly dwarves pass peacefully followed only a little later by a single elf trailing them. The latter tries to enlist the party in capturing the dwarves with a tale of woe and the promise that it would prevent bloodshed. The party decides not to get involved and moves on.
  • A mad warrior "king" seated atop a ramshackle throne offered a reward if the party can get the wizard on the 3rd level to dis-spell the glowing orbs of light. He hasn't slept well in ages and it's making him crazy.He also warned that if they bash down his door again, he won't be so understanding.
  • Brother McCleary tried to make a sign of peace to 6 goblins seated around a table drinking and playing cards. He accidentally signed the goblin equivalent of "My nose hair is longer than your man-hood." Not surprisingly  a fight ensued. The party gave a fine account of themselves.
  • A bugbear guard struck down Brother McCleary and Inga. Malazar's sleep spell saved what was left of the party. Erring on the side of safety, Perceval delivered a killing blow. It's easy when they are unconscious. The net result? 6 gp.
  • Remember kids, you don't get rich fighting monsters!
Epilogue : Perceval and Malazar carried their fallen comrades out of the dungeon through an exit discovered early into this 3rd trek. To their surprise it was sealed by a large door of amber.  Although it was tempting to chip some away to try and sell back in town, they decided it best not to linger in case anyone was following them.

Looking forward to rolling up some new PCs to conveniently arrive in town and join the party. There's no way I'm sending Malazar (1st level M-U) and Perceval (0-level human) back in by themselves!


Body count: Brother McCleary (C:1), Inga Fireforge (F:1)
Kills: 6 goblins, 1 bugbear
Rooms explored: 4 new rooms (not going to account passing through previously explored rooms)
Treasure: 67 sp, 6 gp
Turns: 38

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Minimizing the Cost of Armor

This is not about the cost of plate mail in D&D (in b/x it was only 60 gp!), but of tanks and such for WWII, particularly as it relates to 1/32 scale vehicles.

While infantry at this scale are affordable, not that'd I'd want to assemble a 1:1 company, armor is quite a bit different - the cheapest plastic kit I can find is around $10, with some pre-assembled items going for $60 or so. 1/35 vehicles are, to my eye, satisfactory and there are a good many kits available, but these too are pricey.

For gaming at this scale, generally, only a handful of vehicles are required, so that helps some.

Still, it does not alter the fact that my entire gaming budget for the year might only field vehicles for a single scenario from a Skirmish Campaigns book if I'm lucky!

And so, I turned to looking for printable card model PDFs. While searching (and finding a lot, although many looked complicated), I remembered an article in Lone Warrior #168, by Marvin Scott, that described scratchbuilding your own vehicles (among other frugal tips). 

Then, as fate would have it, I stumbled onto some paper modeling sites which led me to some very inspirational card stock vehicles.

Here are 1/35 vehicles made from cereal boxes:

Now, that example is a good deal beyond my ability, but his first examples seem achievable and I happen to like the way they look, especially the King Tiger, which has a toy-like appearance to it:

I'm anxious to give it a try - to make matters simple, I think I'd start with something I already have in 1/32, a T-34, just to get the measurements and angles right.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sizing Up 2013

I've been spending a good deal of time thinking about how I want to spend my hobby time (and dollars for that matter) in the upcoming year, and I think I've got some idea of my plans.

Until I read this post at The Grand Duchy of Stollen, I had a number of figure painting numbers among my goals. For those of you for whom his post is tl;dr, the gist of the figure painting portion is best summed up for me by this: "A hobby should, after all, be a way of slowing down and escaping the pressures of modern life for a few hours a week...Slow down and enjoy the painting and anticipation of completing that current batch of figures, regardless of your preferred medium." 

There's really nothing I've never heard before there, except reading it jolted me into awareness. Yes, I want to get my Russians and Swedes on the table, but do I want to do it in haste or do I want to enjoy as much of it as I can? It's a project that should relax me, not stress me.

That said, I do like the motivation of some deadline and what more natural one than 12/31/2013? There will be no monthly figure count goals - only a goal to make time to paint at least 2x per month (if I don't make the time, it will not magically appear). 

Thus far, my hobby goals for 2013 look like this:
  • Build a new wargame setup including updated terrain and replacing cat hair-impaired felt.
  • Paint at least 2x per month (30 min or longer counts).
  • Design and play one historical wargame scenario (most likely WWII and Edson's Ridge)
  • Run one OSR-type game (Labyrinth Lord in all likelihood) for the local RPG group I belong to.
Possible or very likely projects:
  • 1943 Khursk - need to paint my T-34's plus purchase and paint several more.
  •  A Little Wars centenary game - featuring WWII 1/32 figures and played in the yard. If I use any kind of shooting device, it will probably be a Nerf gun. Just for the excuse of buying a Nerf gun.
    • I would want very much to do this with painted figures, which means making sure my 1/32 figures make it to the painting table.
  • More than likely, I will do NaGa DeMon again
All of the above is subject to change as I continue to think on it, but I think in some form or another, this is pretty much the list for next year.

Dungeon Generator Updated: Now with More Reasonable Room Sizes!

Late last week, after becoming dissatisfied with the sprawling nature of the hallways and the rather over-sized rooms (an experience Jeff from Saxe-Bearstein also had), I revised the most recent version of my dungeon generator. I did some testing last night and it definitely appears to work better. I'll continue to test it tonight, but thought I'd release it into the wild as well.

Please give it a try and let me know if you find any weirdness!

No Budget No Frills Pencil and Paper Dungeon Generator 

ver 4.1

Tools needed:

  • an ordinary deck of playing cards, jokers removed
  • d4, d6, d8, d10
  • graph paper and pencil/pen or electronic equivalents

  • Shuffle your deck of cards
  • Place your starting room with more than one exit on your graph paper
  • Draw a card
    • Ace = Stairs up or Exit in X squares (player's choice or roll 1d6. 1-3 Stairs, 4-6 Exit)
    • 2 = Stairs down or Exit in X squares (player's choice or roll 1d6. 1-3 Stairs, 4-6 Exit)
    • 3 = Straight Hallway for X squares w/ Trap (Roll 1d6. 1-3= pit trap, 4-6 other trap)
    • 4 = Straight Hallway for X squares
    • 5 = 4-way Intersection in X squares
    • 6 = Turn Right in X squares
    • 7 = Turn Left in X squares
    • 8 = T-intersection in X squares
    • 9 = Room(draw a door and then proceed to room generator)
    • 10 = Room (draw a door and then proceed to room generator)
    • Jack = Room (draw a door and then proceed to room generator)
    • Queen = Dead end in X squares or Draw Again(player's choice)
    • King = Reshuffle deck and draw again
I've had equally good results ignoring the King, waiting until all 4 Kings are drawn to reshuffle, and with using every King as a reshuffle trigger. 

  • Add the indicated item to your map (for rooms see the Room Generator).
    • Where it says "X squares", roll the appropriate die:
      • Hearts = d10
      • Diamonds = d8
      • Spades = d6
      • Clubs = d4
    •  Keep in mind that you may need to be creative or fudge it a bit if there isn't room or you run into the edge of the paper.
  • If playing solo, resolve any encounters.
  • Repeat
Room Generator
  • Roll the die specified, and then modify according to the Room Dimensions Modifier below:
    • If room card is Hearts then d10 x d10 squares
    • If room card is Diamonds then d8 x d8 squares
    • If room card is Spades then d6 x d6 squares
    • If room card is Clubs then d4 x d4 squares
Room Dimension Modifier
  • If the values of both room dice are equal, do nothing.
  • If one value is odd and one is even, divide the larger value in half and round it up. 
  • If both values are even or both values are odd, divide both in half and round up.
Additional Room Exits: 
  • Roll 1d4. Subtract 1 from the result. This is how many additional exits are in the room. Place randomly or wherever makes sense given the dungeon's layout.
Room Content
(or use the room content generator included with the rules you are using)

  • Roll 1d6:1-2 Monster
    • 3 Trap
    • 4 Weird/Unusual Stuff (talking statues, magic fountains,etc.)
    • 5-6 Empty 
Secret Doors
When rooms and/or corridors abut without a means of passing between them, you may check for a secret door.
  • Roll 1d6. On a 1 there is a secret door.
  • Roll 1d6 again:
    • 1 - One-way, in the direction you're going
    • 2 - 5 Both directions
    • 6 - One-way, opposite the direction you're going.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Newest GNW Russian Unit

Last night, I finished the first unit of Russian infantry suitable for use as Byelgorodski or Astrakhanski regiments:

The usual blurry photo apologies apply!

I'm not totally happy with my painting of the facing on the coats, but at a wargaming distance, they look fine.

The figures are 1/72 Zvezda.

As a side note, this puts me 2/3s of the way to completing my December goals. Next up is to update the card-based dungeon generator with some changes for room dimensions, and then make it into a PDF. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Postal Service Brings Tidings of Great Joy!

A package full of awesome arrived yesterday from the UK: Scenarios for Wargames and the solo wargaming classic, Programmed Wargames Scenarios, both by Charles S. Grant.


I ordered these from The Keep on 11/28 and they arrived on 12/5. There are US game stores that don't deliver that fast!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Follow Up on This Current Dungeon Crawl

In response to my recent Labyrinth Lord dungeon crawl posts, both Fitz-Badger (of Soweiter League) and Erik (of Wampus Country) asked if I was having fun.

Indeed, I am having an absolute blast!

While writing my reply to Erik, I realized the "why" behind my answer:
I really need to do a better job conveying my emotions because I'm having a blast! I love dungeon crawls generally, but this is the first I've run in awhile where the only intent is to explore. There's no prince/ss to rescue, no object to find, no raid to thwart. It feels a lot like the D&D games I played as a kid.
While I have enjoyed each of the many solo dungeon crawls I've run in the last year or so, this one is perhaps the most fun I've had.

It's hard to precisely recollect feelings from 25-30 years ago, but it feels to me that this is the same excitement and fun I had playing when I was 10 or so, and had just discovered D&D b/x. Except for pre-published modules, we went into dungeons because it was the unknown, there were purported riches to be found there, and it begged for exploration. 

Of course, later (not that much later at that), influenced by commercial adventures, I would use the traditional objectives for a dungeon crawl for my own creations: rescues, item retrievals, thwarting plans, etc.  Still later, I realized that the rules can support a different kind of game entirely - crawls, hex or dungeon, are just one facet of what they can do.

But, as much as I enjoy stretching the rules beyond crawls to investigation type games, for instance, there is something liberating about going into a dungeon solely to explore, and to find fortune, adventure and fame.

It's as if the game was designed for just such a thing! (said while smacking forehead)

A dungeon crawl is not as complex as an investigation game, at least on the surface (no pun intended), but there's a many-layered story to be told here too. Who lives in this dungeon? Who built it? Why did they build it? Are they still here? Will they return? What are the relationships between the creatures in here now?  What about between the levels? Do they have contact with the surface world? To what extent and to what ends? Who are these characters stomping about to find loot? What acts of greatness or cowardice will they commit?* 

All of this begs to be discovered or, dare I say, investigated. Every new square of the map revealed, every encounter survived, is a thrill. And, survive or not, it's all fun.

*This, by the way, is why I'm flabbergasted when someone says they don't like dungeon crawls.

The Second Incursion: Labyrinth Lord Dungeon Crawl

Last night, the boy slept unexpectedly well - so I got to do some unexpected gaming.  Here follows the account of the 2nd attempt at the dungeon which I have yet to name:

The party returned to town where they paid for another night of lodging at The Zealous Dagger, divided the loot among the survivors, paid the porter and then went shopping at the provisioners and the weapon shop. After stocking up on things like holy water, oil (for lighting things on fire) and some additional weapons, it was off to the tavern for dinner and to find another torch bearer and some others to join the party.

A few rolls of the dice and they were able to hire Tobor, a 0-level torch bearer, for a 10% cut. They also found a new PC to join the party, Inga Fireforge, F:1, HP 9. I had hoped to find two PCs to replace Theodotus and Irongrim but the dice were against it.

At this point, I noticed I had documented Feldspar's HP as 8, when it should have been 10 with his CON bonus. In any case, he needed healing still, so one Cure Light Wounds from Brother McCleary and he was patched up to his full amount.

Feldspar's high charisma (actually all of my PCs have above average CHR, which is a rarity when I'm rolling the dice) was instrumental in convincing Perceval to rejoin the party. That and we sweetened the deal - we offered 25% of the loot and a sword so he could protect himself if the need arose. He agreed.

The next morning, the party set off for the dungeon again. With map in hand, they quickly headed for the unexplored hallways. As they had been gone less then 24 hours, they only found that one door had been repaired - the one to the hallway with the mural-painting dwarves.

The mural appeared to be of a mountain top observatory either sending or receiving a message from the stars. This lead to some head scratching, but not much as time dawdling is time for monsters to find you.
 [One plausible theory is that the dungeon goes up to the top of this mountain, and there is an observatory up there]

In the first "special" room encountered thus far, the PCs found a lone chest in the middle of the room. Brother McCleary (whose motivation is "glory") volunteered to examine it. When he got within a few feet, it opened, burped out a meal of roasted potatoes, sausage and a pint of what appeared to be stout. Like all my clerics, he isn't one to turn down alcohol, and he took a swig which was quickly spat out; it was in fact, a pale ale disguised as porter. He swore to the gods and left the meal untouched.

Further on, a chance encounter with four giant centipedes turned south when Feldspar was hit and failed to make his save, making him extremely sick and unable to do anything but walk at 50% his movement rate. As I had just started, I decided the party would press on, albeit at an extremely slow pace.

The first role playing encounter of the night was with three warrior-types (berserkers) who rounded the corner ahead of us. I was fearful of a combat, especially with Feldspar being useless, but they were more interested in asking us for food than combat. In exchange, they informed us that the left leg of the intersection we approached would take us to an exit to the surface, while to the right we could go further into the dungeon. We thanked them and parted ways.

I suppose I could have exited then, but again, it was still early.

In a fairly large room, we ran into an evil adept patrolling his territory (what I had thought, and still think, might be dwarven-held as well. In any case, I think the adept may be somehow connected to the zombies and skeletons from the first delve), in light of our numbers, opted to demand an explanation for our intrusion. We explained we were just looking around and asked to pass, but he was strangely silent on the matter. Perhaps the fact that we had just smashed down his door wasn't very helpful to our cause. Still, we outnumbered him, so, we did it anyway, and though he didn't try to stop us, he warned menacingly that we were to leave the crystal torches where they rest, or there would be no escape.

I have no idea what that means but I'm sure they'll turn up further into the dungeon.

As the party went to explore an adjacent room, a lone robber attacked and, though he did some damage to Inga and Feldspar ,was easily overcome. Tobor took the thief's sword and the party pocketed the 6 gold they found on his body.

I was getting ready to wrap up, but opted to press on just a bit longer, and of course, Tobor fell in a pit and was killed from the fall.

It's going to be really hard to find torch bearers if we loose one every time we go into the dungeon!

Some giant rats in a fairly large pack (there were 9 of them) convinced me to get the party out of harms way. As the PCs retreated down an unexplored hallway, they found another exit to the surface and this time took full advantage of it.

Session Summary

Time spent in the dungeon: 58 turns (at 6 turns an hour, that's nearly 10 hours)

On turn 27, I drew the fourth king and reshuffled the dungeon generator deck. I drew 17 cards for the remaining 31 turns, mostly due to the extremely slow movement rate. A 30' hallway was 1 turn!

Body count: Tobor the torchbearer

Kills: 4 giant centipedes, 1 robber (2nd level thief)

Rooms explored: 15

Resources used in addition to Labyrinth Lord rulebook: D30 DM Companion, Labyrinth Lord AEC (for special room generation), Risus Monkey's Dungeon Words

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Into the Dungeon Again! Part 2

The Results of the Initial Foray

The initial exploration (which I began last night and continued at lunch today) lasted 49 game turns, 27 cards from the dungeon generator deck, and included three PC deaths: 

Throm (NM:0), Theodotus (T:1) and Irongrim (F:1). 

The first two died in a room of poison gas, while the latter was cut down in a scrap with a party of thieves.

Both Perceval (NM:0) and Feldspar (F:1) are injured so healing is a necessity. Thankfully, in LL, 1st level clerics do get one spell a day.

The first level of the dungeon thus far appears to be more of a connecting level, as the party has discovered four separate stairwells so far, two of which lead up into the mountainside, and two which descend. It's also lit by magic orbs of light which is a little bit unusual, but the meaning of which is unclear.

Two hallways were abandoned before they were fully explored - one due to a giant gecko feasting on a corpse and the other due to some dwarves painting a mural who had blocked the hall. 

The party also encountered two wandering clerics who were neutral to the party's presence and when asked if they had any info about the complex, refused to answer. Four more thieves were found in another room ,but they were busy arguing about something and paid the party no mind. Ditto for some dwarves they encountered on the way out who were busy discussing lunch (well, the party didn't know that, as none speak dwarf).

In addition to the thieves, the party killed a carrion crawler, two gnolls and destroyed 2 zombies and 7 skeletons.

Their treasure haul so far amounts to 1100 sp and 18 gp. They'll re-group in town, try to find or hire another fighter perhaps, or some 0-levels to fill out the ranks and maybe pick up some holy water and oil for lighting everything on fire. 

Given the presence of dwarves painting a mural and other dwarves going about day to day life, it does give the impression that perhaps there's a dwarven city or mine or something, which connects to this level. I'm not sure how I'll work that in, or if I'll continue to just rely on random rolls for encounters.

Into the Dungeon, Again! Part 1

With the baby sleeping so erratically, I decided to forgo painting last night, as the interruptions would be too frequent. Instead, I rolled up a dungeoneering party and set the off in search of adventure and loot. 

I'm using Labyrinth Lord,  my dungeon generator, and the D30 DM Companion. This is the first time I've really gotten to use the latter - since my players are so anti-dungeon crawl. 

 The D30 DM Companion is handling general info about the dungeon, room details, doors and traps, treasure generation, encounters with monsters (wandering and otherwise) and supplying the stats as well.

If you haven't already picked this up, do it! It's a steal at $3.00 at DriveThruRPG and only $8.95 in print from (the preview there is of the entire book. You'll know exactly what you're getting before you buy, so I don't feel compelled to write a proper review, although I may do just that anyway, just not at the moment).  

The setup:

Some loggers recently discovered the entrance to a here-to-for undocumented underground complex. The race is on to explore it and retrieve the riches which, as rumor has it, are entombed inside (of course, since no one has ever been in it that anyone knows of, these rumors have no foundation in reality). The small logging town is bracing for a boom as adventurers and salvage companies flock to the area.

The PCs (all run by me) had, by good fortune, arrived shortly after these stories began to circulate, before others had yet made their way here. After hiring some locals to handle torch and treasure bearing duties (after all, the thing must be loaded with gold right?), the party set off into the dungeon.

At the start of the adventure, the party consisted of:
Irongrim - F:1, HP 7
Brother McCleary - C:1, HP 7
Malazar - M:1, HP 6
Theodotus - T:1 HP 5
Feldspar Greytooth - F:1, HP 8
Throm (torchbearer): NM:0, HP 2
Perceval (porter): NM:0, HP 3

Monday, December 3, 2012

November Review and December Goals

Friday night, I had hoped to complete my painting goal for November, but, alas, young Lord Shadowmoss had other plans for me. Still I managed to sneak in some time Saturday and Sunday, and I have nearly completed the next unit of Russians for the Great Northern War project.

My big November goal, to create a game for NaGa DeMon was a success, as I noted previously. The files have been backed up and it's resting quietly so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes in early 2013.

I finished reading A Wizard of Earthsea, and though I plan to do a post about that, it keeps slipping my mind. In addition to my USE ME WWII game, I also played a solitaire Tunnels & Trolls adventure with my character, "Crazy" Joe as planned, using the Sideshow module from Tavernmaster Games (which he survived thank-you-very-much).

December's goals are minimal as there are family and social obligations and celebrations to be enjoyed:

  • Finish up the unit of Russians I started in November.
  • Play at least one solo game, both for my sanity and for meeting my goals for 2012.
  • Create the PDF version of the new dungeon generator I posted Friday.
Finally, I will be working on my 2013 goals and hope to have them sorted out by the time the 31st rolls around.

Friday, November 30, 2012

More Random Dungeon Generator Goodness

For those of you new to this blog, or maybe you're not new but you've forgotten, I am obsessed with dungeon crawls. 30 years after I experienced my first such game, I still find them fun to play and create.

Today's idea is primarily a re-working of my most recent d12 dungeon generator using a deck of playing cards. Why?

Last night I was generating a dungeon for fun while watching TV with Lady Shadowmoss and I was using a d12 I hadn't used for the task before. The dungeon itself came out fine, but because of the flaws in manufacturing dice with rounded edges, certain numbers came up noticeably frequently and that bothered me, at least conceptually. I've experienced this before, but last night was the tipping point.

I also realized that, when playing solo, knowing the contents of a room (empty, monster, trap) prior to entering takes away some of the anticipation/fun, and so I wanted to change that too. I decided to modify the generator that way as well.

Finally, after some further testing, I realized I have the same problem with room size as I do with which dungeon-morphs come up frequently based on the d12 used - my rooms were consistently gigantic thanks to the d10 I had chosen - not a bad thing but again, conceptually it bothered me. After all, they had to carve this space out underground and it seems to me that extremely large spaces would be rare.

Here then is the rough draft of the new version of my random generator:

No Budget No Frills Pencil and Paper Dungeon Generator 
ver 4.0

Tools needed: 
  • an ordinary deck of playing cards, jokers removed
  • d4, d6, d8, d10
  • graph paper and pencil/pen or electronic equivalents
  • Shuffle your deck of cards
  • Place your starting room with more than one exit on your graph paper
  • Draw a card
Ace = Stairs up or Exit (player's choice or roll 1d6. 1-3 Stairs, 4-6 Exit)
2 = Stairs down or Exit (player's choice or roll 1d6. 1-3 Stairs, 4-6 Exit)
3 = Straight Hallway for d10 squares w/ Trap (Roll 1d6. 1-3= pit trap, 4-6 other trap)
4 = Straight Hallway for d10 squares
5 = 4-way Intersection in d10 squares
6 = Turn Right in d10 squares
7 = Turn Left in d10 squares
8 = T-intersection in d10 squares
9 = Room (draw a door and then proceed to room generator)
10 = Room (draw a door and then proceed to room generator)
Jack  = Room (draw a door and then proceed to room generator)
Queen = Dead end or Draw Again(player's choice)
King = Reshuffle deck and draw again
I've had equally good results ignoring the King and with using it as a reshuffle trigger. 
  • Add the indicated item to your map. 
  • If playing solo, resolve any encounters.
  • Repeat 
Room Generator
  • If room card is Hearts then d10 x d10 squares
  • If room card is Diamonds then d8 x d8 squares
  • If room card is Spades then d6 x d6 squares
  • If room card is Clubs then d4 x d4 squares
If playing a solo dungeon crawl, you can listen at the door. If you are successful, add +1 to your roll when you check for surprise, if you fail, add -1. Once you open the door, roll for room content.

If you're generating a dungeon for a group, you can just roll for room content.

Additional Room Exits: Roll 1d4. Subtract 1 from the result. This is how many additional exits are in the room. Place randomly or wherever makes sense given the dungeon's layout.

Room Content
(or use the room content generator included with the rules you are using)
  • Roll 1d6:
1-2 Monster
3 Trap
4 Weird/Unusual Stuff (talking statues, magic fountains,etc.)
5-6 Empty 
Secret Doors
When rooms and/or corridors abut without a means of passing between them, you may check for a secret door.
  • Roll 1d6. On a 1 there is a secret door.
  • Roll 1d6 again:
1 - One-way, in the direction you're going
2 - 5 Both directions
6 - One-way, opposite the direction you're going.
I'll post a better formatted, more complete version after I have a chance to sit down and make one. Tonight, I have some hobby time and I'm going to use it to try and finish up my painting goal for November and get a jump on December.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Gaming Bookshelf (a meme) and Some New Arrivals

There's a meme, started over on Grognardia, for posting pictures of the shelf (or shelves) you turn to when writing / gaming. Here's mine:

From left to right: history books, John Curry History of Wargaming reprints, gaming notebooks, RPG zines,  Lone Warrior back-issues, Adventures in Jimland (white binder, the original freebie version), more gaming notes (blue binder), rules printed from pdfs and placed in report covers, wargaming rules, RPG rules and modules B1, B2 and X1.

The shelf above this one is where I store my miniatures, the shelf below is my fiction/world religions/philosophy shelf. I own very little fiction (I use the library for that primarily), but what I own typically informs and inspires my gaming.

Missing from the picture is Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, 4th ed. that I turn to often when writing. That is something that sits on my desk. Also missing are the hundreds of PDFs I have.

The astute viewers will notice right away that the cat pictured is not Pumpkin. This is Pumpkin's "brother" , Bean, who lives with his "mother" in Brooklyn.

And now for the recently arrived goodies that will be going on said shelf:

Not pictured, Military Modeling: Guide to Wargaming by Stuart Asquith. I had thought I was buying the solo wargaming title, but the seller had made an error and was actually selling this one. As I paid $1.99 for it (less than any of the pictured modules), I opted to keep it. It's not the best book ever written on the subject, but there are a number of bibliographies included that look to be useful.

I also recently scored two more titles for my gaming shelf but they're being shipped from the UK and I don't expect them for another week at least.

An Award and Link Love!

You've probably seen this going around, and now I have discovered I was nominated for a Liebster as well by Fitz-Badger on his Soweiter League blog. As an admirer of his approach to the hobby, I find it hard to believe that he has less than 100 followers. If you don't already, you should go and add him to your feed asap!

Now, according to the rules set forth, I'm to nominate five others. So, to avoid charges of laziness, I won't count Soweiter League among my five, even though it most certainly belongs there!

I follow a LOT of gaming blogs - between RPGs and wargaming, it numbers in the triple digits, so to help me narrow it down somewhat, I'm sticking with the wargaming blogs here. Besides, most of the RPG blogs have over 100 followers. So, in no particular order:

Just Another Wargames Blog - I enjoy Chris's entries about gaming with his daughter (I hope to one day game with my son, so I gobble this stuff up), DIY sci-fi scenery projects (I've got a standing order for Lady Shadowmoss's empty yogurt containers), and general musings (his post on computer aided gaming earlier this year is something I still contemplate). But even better, can you point me to another game blog that posts a recipe for pork fried rice to tie over readers until the pictures for an AAR are posted?

Saxe - Bearstein - I know Jeff has been nominated already but I would be remiss if I did not second it. I remember stumbling upon this blog early on in my wargaming life and being inspired by the pictures and campaign related advice. His Great Northern War game pictures were the first encounter I ever had with that conflict. When I decided to begin my first wargaming campaign earlier this year, I went straight to this site for his simple campaign idea. He's currently running an imagi-nations campaign over on The Alpian Wars.

Polemarch - The depth of thought that goes into these posts is staggering! If this was a college course, it'd be called The Philosophy of Wargaming. You won't find pretty pictures here, but you will find thoughtful posts on various aspects of the hobby. He posts on Saturday, but I save it to read on Sunday after young Lord Shadowmoss has gone down for his morning nap, so I can sip my coffee and give the post the attention it deserves.

Kelroy Was Here - I first found this blog when I was looking for information on Pith Helmet, but it was his Star Wars-ian Safari that totally sold me. Fun game reports, nicely painted figures, simple but effective scenery - he doesn't post often, but it's worth the wait.

Adventures in Portable Wargaming - This is a relatively new blog, dedicated to Bob Cordery's rules, The Portable Wargame. I am a huge fan of grid based wargames - especially for those with little space to game. I believe Morschauser noted that grid games are more likely to be perceived like board games and may help introduce reluctant adults to give wargames a try. I've downloaded their ECW variant for possible modification to the GNW and I'm looking forward to seeing photos of their ECW games.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thoughts About Scale and a Test

The recent holiday afforded me much time to think about gaming - especially the flight home yesterday as the Young Lord Shadowmoss slept soundly in my lap.

Particularly, I was contemplating the use of 1/32 for gaming. There is an allure to these larger sized figures that I find irresistible. 

At the beginning of the year I had planned to build the GNW project to Morschauser's Horse and Musket specifications using 1/32 figures, but the combined lack of suitable, and inexpensive, figures and the beauty of Zvezda's 1/72 offerings changed that. Still, the idea refused to die entirely.

Given limited gaming space I have,  it would seem that such an undertaking (using 1/32) would be doomed to failure for all but skirmish. Except that Bob Cordery's various gridded games demonstrate that this isn't necessarily so - the # of figures per space matter not, and the ranges are greatly compressed to make it possible in relatively little space. Memories of my own early gaming (low those 6 or 7 years ago) which utilized 25mm movement and firing ranges with 54mm figures (it was Old West skirmish) reminded me that compression of ranges can be done without a grid and the games were great fun to boot.

I have already played some 1/32 WWII Eastern front grid-based games, and save the size of space required for a tank, found it quite enjoyable. Grid-less has also proven enjoyable with 1/32 figures even on a 3x3 space - either 1:1 squad skirmish, or with 3-5 figures to represent a section or platoon. With my planned 4 x 4 table I suspect I can play 1:1 up to a platoon, and use 1:5 or 1:10 for larger scale games.

Buildings at this scale prove difficult. And this was the idea that struck me on the flight home yesterday. 

Taking my cue from Morschauser, who noted that we reduce both the scale of the buildings and the number of buildings on our table top to represent a village, town, or city, as well as several web sites that suggest slimmer/shorter doors and windows, I bashed together the "buildings" below:

This picture is propaganda. The actual battle was of Russian assaulting the town from the woods in the foreground. The Germans occupied the buildings, including an HMG in the church tower.
Given the little time it took to create this village - perhaps 30 minutes start to finish, I hope you're inclined to forgive the flaws and instead see the potential. Sturdier pieces, particularly for the larger buildings, can be made of foam core, although card stock seems to work well for the ruined corner sections. 

The compressed size didn't effect my fun in the least and it was nice to have more than one building on the table and at the correct scale at that. It is decidedly more toy-like but when I am gaming with WWII figures in this scale, I'm typically invoking memories of my childhood and playing with green plastic army men.

I am heartened by the success of this experiment to pursue it further with better, longer lasting, materials.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Snow fall at my parents' house in Western New York (it's still snowing but you can't tell)
We're visiting my parents for the Thanksgiving Holiday - young lord Shadowmoss is having a blast. While he's running around the house with grandma and grandpa, I've been poking around some of my old stuff that's still in their basement.

Much of the best is long gone, but my comic books remain, including several issues of the original black & white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and several parody titles (Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters or Pre-Teen Dirty Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos in 3-d anyone?).  I'm debating on taking these back with me - I think they may be better served by being well packed and shipped home.

I don't know what else is down  there, but I am almost certain that there's some older Tudor football figures hiding in a box. 
This picture "borrowed" from eBay.
If I can find them, I forsee writing up some rules to use them on the tabletop.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reconciling Differences: The Perception Roll

One of my players insists that roleplaying searching for things is boring. The very idea of having to tell me that the character is searching for secret doors, for example, is unbearable. The assumption is that the character is looking for such things, it shouldn't be up to the player to remember to tell me or even have to tell me if they do remember. 

I'm not inclined to buy this on the grounds that searching takes time, time means wandering monsters, torches burning out, and worse. Since there are attempts to simulate the effect of time via in-game consequences for in-game actions, it seems to me that it's inherently part of the game. Indeed, it's part of the game I enjoy on both sides of the DM screen. It's the tight rope of risk vs. reward. You don't search every room but only the rooms where you feel there's some reason to do so.

(Maybe it's just me, but if there's a statue in the room, expect players to spend about half an hour of real time searching it, but if the room is simply a combat encounter with some orcs, in my experience, players tend to assume that, barring loot or a clue to something more, the room is "finished" at that point.)

You can argue, convincingly, that I don't do a good enough job of providing reasons for a search (the PCs in the current campaign aren't explorers, so mapping the unknown for its own sake is of no interest). But that's not the charge being leveled here - it's that roleplaying searching is boring anytime in any game. 

I'm not going to "win" the argument if my player begrudgingly goes along with me, nor will I "win" if they stop playing all together, so I have come up with a compromise that I'll use to satisfy my preferences while giving them a possibility of noticing things without explicitly looking for strangeness. I do not want to go the way of rolling dice for everything but I do accept that characters do things in-game without explicit description by the player. Breathing and relieving themselves come to mind.

First, I need some way of doing perception checks in Labyrinth Lord

I could just use the secret door roll as perception generally, without the players indicating they're searching. However, it seems to me that the secret door detection would be used when the characters are actually searching for something, not just looking around the room. Searching for a secret door is tactile as well as visual. Perception, as I am using it, is the ability to sense more than what's apparent at first blush.

Looking at the given stats, Intelligence and Wisdom, to me, seem to have a hand in perception. Wisdom  handles the "gut feeling" aspect of things, while Intelligence utilizes either inductive or deductive logic. 

Neither one of these accounts for any of the other senses- only the mental faculties used in processing the environmental information from those sense organs. Nor is either the whole of the story. Noticing a pattern in the floor tiles requires no gut feeling, but then, the feeling that something isn't quite right and merits caution, isn't the result of logic typically.

To compromise, I'm going to try the average of the two scores as the target number for perception checks - which I as the DM will make on the PCs behalf, in every room, whether it's needed or not. This is primarily to avoid the allure of metagaming that comes from being asked to roll only when something is there to notice, and also, to avoid having players roll for every room (as a way to undermine metagaming) which sounds horribly tedious. It's also because I still want them to roleplay their actions rather than walking into a tavern and yelling "I roll perception!" - the roll of dice should not interrupt the game if it isn't necessary. If I handle the roll, then the PC perceives or not less jarringly.

As I'm imagining it right now, there are, loosely speaking, up to five levels of description (ignoring magic and illusions) for any given room/area/scene:

  • Sensible to anyone entering area. Any PC ordinary working senses would notice this just surveying the area.
  • Sensible to the perceptive (success on perception roll, by DM behind screen). A highly perceptive PC will notice something such as, all but one of the books on the shelf are vertical or that the there is a small puddle of liquid that catches the torch light or that the seemingly random tiles actually form a pattern or that the rush of wind sounds more like a voice warning the PCs not to proceed. 
  • Sensible if engages environment (i.e. if they sift through the rubble, opens the chest, etc.) - this can be the same as being perceptive, or something else entirely. A PC that examines the floor for tracks or such will find that same puddle described above, for example, but it can also mean opening a chest to see the interior or determining whether the puddle is blood or water.
  • Sensible if engages environment and is perceptive (perception roll, by DM behind screen) - This sort of overlaps the next. If the PC is examining the walls for "anything unusual" without specifying a secret door, or if it's more of a cursory inspection than the 10 minutes of game time proposed by the secret door search, I'll roll and if they pass, tell them they notice some odd colored stones in the wall near the corner (in this case, if there is a secret door, they now know where to focus that effort. Of course, it could just be a red herring).
  • Sensible if engages environment and is focused on achieving a particular end(traps, secret doors ,false bottoms in a chest, etc) The PC is explicitly searching for a secret door or trap or listening through a door, and this utilizes the appropriate roll from the rules.
Areas inside other areas, such as the interior of a chest, are not visible until one opens the containing area (the chest), but once visible, are treated as areas unto themselves with up to five layers of visibility. 

I may well drop this after one session but I figure it's worth trying as a way to bridge the gap between player ability (or refusal to use that ability) and character ability, thereby making the game more enjoyable for the PCs and for myself.