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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

AetherCon: Post-con Thoughts

I'll start off by saying the idea of a virtual role-playing conference is a cool idea. Executing it effectively may be a lot more difficult than it sounds.

In case you've forgotten, AetherCon was this past weekend. What follows is merely my opinion based on my experience.

On Friday, the convention kicked off - but as I was working, I wasn't able to join any of the games scheduled. I did stop by the Fest Hall, thinking that I'd listen in on the presentations. What I found was that the links to The Philosopher's Conundrum and The Wandering Toad took to me to IRC-type chat rooms which were most definitely not the presentations listed - just other confused attendees.

Finally, someone popped into one room to note that the presentation was over on Google+ hangouts. But by that time, they were full (hangouts are limited to 9 people I believe). I was irked. Why did the link take us to an IRC chat room? Why didn't the web master update the site to point us to the AetherCon Google+ page for updates on presentations? 

I also tried to check out some of the vendor booths ,but I couldn't bring myself to "join the game." This is no fault of the vendors, but a problem with using a virtual gaming table as the vendor hall I think. 

See, when I walk into a store that has a greeter or a salesperson comes up to me right away to say hello, I go on the defensive. What do they want from me? Can't I just browse in peace? Look, if I need help I'll ask for it. I know they're doing their job and following company protocol,  but I'm kind of shy and an introvert: Stay out of my space. I don't mind a simple greeting or "how are you enjoying the con?" but using a virtual gaming table as a vendor booth took away the option to browse anonymously. 

At AetherCon, signing into the game (to view the vendor's booth) would have put me in a chat room with the vendor, who, given the low traffic of the day, was probably bored to tears. It's probably just me, but being in a chat room with probably one other person and then not talking is the height of virtual awkwardness.

Knowing little about most of the vendors meant I'd have little to talk about (a shy person's worst nightmare) other than pleasantries and undoubtedly, how poorly the con seemed to be going.

That would have been fine, but then there would be that unavoidable silence - which, at an in-person show, is mitigated more often than not by other attendees at the table. A virtual option to let attendees browse first would have worked better for me, but again, that may just be me. In fact, that option exists already: the company websites and drivethrurpg pages. If the con's vendor hall isn't providing something beyond that, then it's not worth it either from an attendee perspective or I imagine, the vendor's perspective.

Friday, I received a generic email reminding me about the gaming at AetherCon from, I think, someone affiliated with the con. Nothing in it told me what I had signed up for.. Up to that point, I was tempted to call the whole thing a wash, but than an email from Eric from Wampus Country, who was GMing the Saturday game, along with the attendant documents for the game background and pre-gens, got me really excited to play. 

As it turned out, we didn't have enough players - something I suspected would happen, given the low numbers of pre-registered players for most games. This wasn't a big deal though, and in fact, we talked about him running this some other time via Hangouts. This was the highlight of the convention for me: it reminded me once again how cool gamers can be, plus I dipped my toe into the virtual table waters even if I didn't actually play.

I tried, again, to attend some of the presentations in the Fest Hall with the same experiences as Friday. This time I even went to the Google+ page. The last update had been posted on Friday. That was it. I was done. AetherCon was built on good intentions, but so is the road to Hell after all.

I have  apologized to the GM who ran the Sunday game I was to attend - I checked my email but had not received a link to the game, and so I took a nap while the Young Lord Shadowmoss took his morning nap. When I woke up, I had received an email from the GM (the original, with a link to the game had gone to the spam folder), but by then, it was too late: the game had been cancelled due to lack of players. 

While I can't defend missing the game, I can say that if a link to the games I had signed up for had been included in the one email I received from AetherCon to remind me about gaming, there would have been a greater chance that I would have known where to go for the game when I sat down at my computer.

The GMs had been provided with player information, so, it strikes me that the con organizers had the info necessary to do this as a service to both players and the GMs who had taken time out of their lives to prepare for this.

I still think this idea has potential, but I think it needs to be rethought. Something better for vendors, GMs and players alike needs to be created. I know of at least one professional group that does virtual conventions - I'd like to think that the combined nerd-power of the gaming world could make one work too.

The Demon is Slain!: NaGa DeMon Day 19

Last night, I played through a complete game of my Tenaru project - which I'm calling "Hold 'em, Marine!" for lack of a better title. So, is it done? In the sense of NaGa DeMon, yes. I've met all of the "requirements" laid out on the NaGa DeMon site:

  • Create
  • Play
  • Talk
  • Win

In the more realistic sense of "is it ready for public consumption?", well, no.

As they recommend with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I'm going to put the game down for a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes for editing. My plan is to wrap it up in an article about the history behind the project, my experience in creating it and the actual game itself for submission to Lone Warrior for publication there. If it's accepted,  I'll make it available here for the curious among you after publication. If not, then I'll put it up once I hear back.

Would I do this again? I don't see why I wouldn't. At the end of the day, I learned about my subject, I learned a little about game design properly speaking (some reading I did), and I enjoyed the sense of support and camaraderie that exists among the participants.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Weekend: Gaming and Game Related Goodness

For those who don't know, Aethercon is this weekend (today through Sunday). Aethercon is an RPG virtual conference ,with vendors, industry insiders and plenty of gaming tables. Looks like there's still openings at plenty of said tables as well.

I'm signed up to play in two games.

Although I've considered it, I've yet to try any gaming on Google+ Hangouts, so this will be my first online tabletop RPG experience. If I enjoy it, I may have a whole new route to pursue for gaming regularly. For the most part, the group I game with hosts their games at a store about an hour from my house. It's quite a trek and the traffic can be brutal when crossing from one side of the Atlanta metro area to the other. Sure the face to face experience is nice, but I can only afford (and stand) to make that trip once a month at most.

Saturday night is Lady Shadowmoss's regular post-LARP party where the players get together and tell their war stories from the last event. This one has special significance as the whole thing ended after the last weekend they spent running around the woods, so there will be lots of reminiscing and also the sharing of stories about the various plot threads everyone was involved in - including, I believe, from behind the GM screen (well, the figurative screen).

I have absolutely no interest in dressing up in armor and running around beating up people with foam weapons (well, maybe the latter could be fun), but I do enjoy the stories they tell, so I look forward to these parties as much as anyone. Lady Shadowmoss doesn't understand this - she can't stand hearing other peoples' RPG stories, but, for the same reason I read wargame AARs and RPG session summaries, I think there's very often something to take away: either the enjoyment of hearing a well told story, ideas for my own games, or just an understanding of how different games work.

Plus there's always fun snacks. Never underestimate the power of a good cupcake. They're like "Charm Person" in chocolate form.

Lastly, whatever spare time I do have will go towards my NaGa DeMon project. I tested it today and want to tweak the rules further before I have my Dad test it when we're up visiting my parents for Thanksgiving next week. I am close to being finished with it in the sense of NaGa DeMon's goals but, even when I am, I will continue to edit it though until I feel it's worthy of being shared with a wider audience.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Tenaru Project Continues: NaGa DeMon Day 15

Over the past weekend, I again became  frustrated with the game I was creating for National Game Design Month (NaGa DeMon). It wasn't anywhere near to playing like I wanted it. The mechanics were alright, but something was missing. So, I threw out everything yet again and started over, yet again. 

This time, rather than starting with a test setup and rolling dice and adjusting ideas, I set to put down my thoughts about the game's rules. I wanted everything I had thought so far to be written there so I could get a better picture of the whole. The real value of this is that it got the ideas out of my head and I could stop wasting energy trying not to forget them. That, in turn, allowed my brain to push into new territory instead of rehashing the same bits over and over.

Key to finding something I could get behind, I had to think first about what I like to do when I play wargames. One mechanism I have a soft spot for is the use of cards. Ordinary playing cards. Just mulling over using cards gave me an "aha!" moment. I found a way for the game to do much of what I wanted it to do, without being as clumsy about it as my original ideas had been. The theme now feels much more integrated into the game too.

The other inspiration came while looking at back issues of Lone Warrior - the use of a player's aid. In this case, I'm using one to track the status of the gun and which crew member is where.

I am very happy with how this is coming together now. Finally back on track at the half-way point!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Looking Ahead to 2013

There is still quite a bit of time to think on goals for 2013, but I think i have decided that in 2013, in addition to finishing painting my Great Northern War armies, I will focus on the renovation of my scenery and terrain.

It's no secret I don't put much stock in the whole "beautiful table" school of thought - I regularly game on gridded construction paper, cork tiles with sheets of felt glued on (and the seams rather visible) or even on just a printed sheet of paper. I sometimes put out my decent trees, but mostly I just throw down some old felt that I cut up long before I had any inkling about what I wanted from the hobby.

Now, I have played on beautiful "model railroad" type tables, so please spare me whatever songs you might sing in their defense.  I appreciate their appearance and the effort to make them so, but they didn't increase my fun in any appreciable degree over my usual gaming. I  am inspired, however, by simpler setups that are, none the less quite elegant to my eyes. So, while I don't aspire to model railroad scenes, I do want something different than I've got now. After all, my terrain bits are looking somewhat ragged, and cat hairs, after less than diligent maintenance, have woven themselves into my terrain cloth (such as it is), as well as just about every felt piece I use to indicate woods, rough terrain and water.

Never mind that  my cloth photographs blue in all light ,but somehow looks more "forest green" in person or that I have never had hills that I have been remotely happy with.

So there  you have it, one goal already pretty much set for 2013: Renovate my wargaming terrain and scenery.

Monday, November 12, 2012

USE ME WWII: Pacific Theater BatRep

Our Saturday night plans to see Lincoln were cancelled due to my prelude-to-bronchitis, so Lady Shadowmoss went to visit some friends and I stayed in, drank hot chocolate and played a wargame while wearing my pj's. Saturday nights are definitely not like they used to be!

Scenario: The Japanese are holding a ridge and the USMC want them off. There is a 10 turn limit.


  • Japanese - 1 infantry section (10 figures) dug in, 1 MG crew (2 figs)  in pill box, 1 MG crew (2 figs) in bunker
  • USMC - 3 infantry sections (8 figures, 24 figs total, 2 of which had flame throwers, each section leader carried an SMG), 1 MG crew (2 figs)

Rules: USE ME WWII, all ranges modified x1.5 for 1/72 figures. Green markers mean "winged", any other color means "struck".

I placed the Japanese in defensive positions and randomly determined the entry points for the marines.

That big blue strip is actually a creek not a river!
The Japanese wait for their prey.

The Marines prepare for their advance.

The left advances safely in cover to engage the MG in the pillbox.

The right comes under fire from the HMG and the infantry squad on the hill.
With the pillbox MG crew eliminated, the Japanese right moves to get shot at the advancing Marines.

Marines storm the entrenched Japanese infantry under fire from the bunker MG.

The Marines' rifles make fast work of the Japanese squad.
They overrun the Japanese left with an eye towards silencing the MG in the bunker.
Meanwhile, on the Japanese right, Japanese charge to intercept and fire on the advancing USMC.
A gratuitous close-up.
After fierce hand to hand fighting on the USMC left and inside the bunker, the hill is cleared!

Total turns played: 9
Total playing time (including picture taking and re-learning the rules): 1.5 hours
Results: Japanese - 14 KIA, USMC - 6 KIA, 7 wounded (5 winged, 2 stunned)

Editor's note: I really need to do two things: 1) get a new piece of fabric for the table that photographs as green and not blue and 2)do something about all of those cat hairs stuck on the fabric and felt!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Welcome to Visby: Labyrinth Lord Session 5

Ten days after the party had left the bandit cave, they arrived mid-morning at village of Visby, renowned for the quality of its wool in the lands south and west of the Duchy.

The party secured food and lodging and the players role played their way to an audience with the town's Sage.

To make a long story short, Wissen the Sage hired the party to capture, not kill/destroy, a ghoul which had recently begun attacking shepherds and their flocks in the northwest pastures and return the ghoul to him. The town's cleric has decreed that in five days it will be a favorable time for her to destroy the creature. The party needs to act before then.

The remainder of the session was spent with the players perusing the LL AEC for spells that could be helpful and asking questions about what they would know about ghouls. I should add here that I use a variation of the gonzo rules for magic users found at Digital Orc so they have the entirety of the spell lists available to them (save for Wish, which we all agreed is kind of a game breaker), if they're willing to wager their Intelligence (this is where I deviate from the suggestions from the Digital Orc site). By the end, they had come up with a Plan A, as well as B  and C, just in case things go horribly wrong with Plan A.

As it turned out, one of the spells requires a rather expensive gem, which they don't have. So they've made their way to Everly Moss's house based on a tip from his cousin, Molly, the bartender at The Belching Troll (Everly is taken from an issue of Loviator with a few embellishments: i made him more of a halfling pimp, and I gave him Molly as his cousin).

At that point, young Lord Shadowmoss woke up crying and needed our attention. The next session will probably be  in December.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Looking Ahead to the Weekend

Tonight promises Session 4 of the Labyrinth Lord game.

The players will be arriving at the village of Visby, a short distance from a mountain pass up into a lawless land that is truly the edge of the civilized world. I've arranged it so that every NPC will feed them something useful, if not entirely truthful, piece of information.

Top of the agenda, there's a ghoul currently making hors d'oeuvres of the village shepherds, and while the PCs are not heroic, the local sage is researching the bio-magical fauna of the duchy and would like the ghoul captured alive before the local cleric and townsfolk rally to destroy it or reseal it in its tomb. He has quite a reward for them should they succeed - one relevant to their main plot line. 

For the actual adventure, I have taken my original idea and restructured it using my recently acquired (it arrived yesterday) Dungeon Master's Design Kit.
This is the pic up on Amazon. Mine is in nearly identical condition, but from eBay.

Although an official AD&D game accessory, it's largely, if not entirely, system neutral and I feel it's already helped immensely in exposing me to a design process other than my own. Hopefully, I'll be able to improve my adventures to appeal to all of my players most of the time.

Because the players may have other ideas about their willingness to assist the sage,the village tavern/inn has some NPCs that will help advance the main plot - either for information or for additional adventures. Even the tavern itself has a task for the PCs, although it's one that will be of little interest to all but one player (it was designed for PCs with little money, and two of mine, while not wealthy, are more than comfortable). Still, the pay off is directly related to the main plot in an over-arching sort of way.

I'm pretty excited to see how it all plays out.

Saturday is supposed to be Call of Cthulhu, but as I mentioned in the previous post, I may be coming down with something and it's quite likely that I will forgo that, stay home, and work on my game for NaGa DeMon instead. In the event that I'm not sick, we're going to see Lincoln at night - a movie I'm sure to enjoy more than Lady Shadowmoss, but she graciously suggested we go

I also hope to get in a war game sometime this weekend - possibly Sunday night. It's been awhile and I'm thinking some WWII action in the Pacific would be fun. 

Boot and Rally: NaGa DeMon Day 9

I realized the other night that the game was not remotely developing in a way that I liked, and that I was ,as they say, "doing it wrong."

For one, testing mechanisms individually really doesn't work as it gives an unrealistic view of the situation. 

By way of example, testing the "to hit" mechanism devoid of any mechanism for chance events and enemy return fire had convinced me that the mechanism was flawed. However, when I started to add those in, I was seeing a very different picture.

Another problem is that I had made the creative process very mechanical. 

This works for some, I suppose, but I prefer a more organic, free-form approach to creative activities . And so last night, I threw out my work so far, broke out my WWII USMC (just 3 of them) and Japanese (quite a few more) and made it up as I went, as I would any other time I felt like having a game without spending part of that game looking up a forgotten rule. The result is that I feel like I'm closer to having a basic structure for the game that incorporates all of the elements I wanted (excluding the "advanced" or "optional" ideas).

I'll have no time to work on the game today and tomorrow is looking unlikely as well. But, as I'm feeling a bit of chest congestion coming on, and only 21 days left, I may opt to turn my day out playing Call of Cthulhu,drinking highly caffeinated beverages and eating Twizzlers,  into a day in working on my game, drinking tea and eating Twizzlers (you didn't think I'd give up my candy treat did you?).

Monday, November 5, 2012

NaGa DeMon Day 5: Mock Up and Test To Hit

Here's a picture of the game board and counters in their most abstract:
I know its's not pretty. In fact, it kind of looks like cherries.

As I read elsewhere, aesthetics can wait until you get the game working.

Well, it isn't. So the aesthetics are clearly going to wait.

After 20 turns, I had taken out 31 units of Japanese (which I'm equating to 5 infantry per unit) and only 4 had made it off the board. That has to change - I very rarely felt as threatened as I should have.  I also found my idea for shooting didn't work the way I wanted, so I've instead opted to allow the player to assign up to 5 dice in up to three adjacent columns.

You can see, too, notations like "S:6" or "S:5-6". I've decided that any unit in a space that is only partially within the zone of fire will get a save if they're hit. 

Next steps:
  • Work in the "what now?" table - Allow players to fire up to 5 dice, but any time two or more 1s are rolled, either roll on a "fumble"-type table or draw from a small deck. Ideas like "out of ammo", "jammed!", "gun has overheated!" etc. with varying effects/possible resolutions.
  • Develop Japanese attack mechanism
  • Test and see how these effect play. If necessary, shorten board width from eight spaces to six and adjust saves appropriately.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another Labyrinth Lord Session, finally!

Saturday night, we got in the third session of the Labyrinth Lord game and picked up a new player along the way. He also rolled up an elf - so that's a party of three of them.

What follows is a session report, so skip this if that's not your thing!

Euphrates and Lenny, clad in their newly acquired black armor and cloaks, and riding the draft horses they liberated from the wagon, set off towards Visby.

On the fourth day of the journey, a bright light burst forth from the backpack they had packed the gonfalon in. This was the second time it happened (the first was last session, when they pulled it from the reliquary). A short time later, they met Sephiriel, an explorer and adventuring sort who was also journeying northward and in the usual D&D fashion, it was decided he would join their little group.

A rain storm pelted the party as they came upon an abandoned manor house - ruined and overgrown.  Seeking shelter from the storm, they decided to venture in.

The first sign something up was the strange tracks by the entrance, and signs of something having been pulled across the ground - and gouges in the door obviously made by claws. Cautiously they entered (Personally, I would have ridden on and camped in the woods),

The foyer showed signs of recent scuffles complete with dried pools of blood. Still they continued.

In the first room they entered, the party found a pile of rotting, dismembered corpses. As the new guy went to take a closer look (it was his choice, not a hazing ritual), an  arm-less corpse sat bolt upright, its eyes wide open with a penetrating gaze into the elf's eyes. Sephiriel's mind was overcome with a first-person vision that he was in a dark hall, where suddenly appeared  a twisted mouth of dagger-like teeth, followed by wrenching pain in his shoulder and neck, and the blinding sensation of his arms being torn from his body. When he flashed back to reality, the corpse fell over and the new guy was badly shaken.

Here there was talk about leaving, but still they explored (seriously, I'd have left at this point), more cautiously and more than a bit freaked out.

They encountered nothing further - until 100s, possibly 1000s of small spiders dropped from the ceiling of one room, almost landing on Lenny. That broke the camel's back. When they found a secret tunnel out, Euphrates went to camp in a tree. Sephiriel and Lenny made a camp in the tunnel, barring the door on both ends. 

The monster arrived in the middle of the night - tearing its way through the woods, bursting into the house, and, with the smell of intruders fresh in the air, it tracked them to the secret door, which it then tried to bash down. The two elves raced out the other end to meet up with Euphrates, retrieved their horses, and bound off into the woods as the creature let out a bone chilling roar, a challenge and war cry.

Two out of three players seemed to enjoy the session, the sense of exploration and possible impending doom, and the sense that each room in which they didn't find it, meant they were one room closer to walking in on something they probably didn't want to meet.

The other, not so much. You can't please everyone.

Next session, which I hope to fit in between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, will see the party arriving at Visby. I hope it will be interesting and fun for all involved.

Edited on 11/5 for some terrible typos.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NaGa DeMon Day 3: Progress!

Last night, I spent a few hours tinkering with the layout and "to hit" mechanics for my game, which I really ought to give a name to. I'll call it "the Tenaru project" for now. It sounds fancy and secretive that way.

Anyway, after trying various methods of resolving MG fire on the oncoming Japanese, I believe I have settled on a method for now: five dice, distributed high to low, front to back, left to right.

Sounds complicated doesn't it? It's not.

Imagine a grid. Got it? Great. Your MG can fire down any two adjacent columns simultaneously (to represent arc of fire). Now imagine there are little soldiers in the grid and they're intent on putting you six feet under.

Roll five dice. Order them high to low and then distribute them one die at time, from the first target in the left column, then to the first target in the right, the to the 2nd in the left, then 2nd in the right and so on until you run out of dice or you reach the last target in the rear of the right column.

You can't double up shots on a space unless there is more than one target in the space - if you don't have five targets, then the extra dice are just that.

I'll do a better job illustrating it in the documentation for the game. All that matters to me right now is that it seems to work pretty well with a greater likelihood of eliminating the more immediate dangers while those in the back tend to be safe.

Next up, I'm probably going to change this to a hex-based rather than square-based grid. I think it will for a better aesthetic experience.

I've already visited to find the top downs I'll use for a start - although I think I'm going to need to do some surgery on the MG team. I believe, from what I have seen, that the M1917 loads from the left, not the right. Better add confirming that to my list!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The NaGa DeMon is Loose! - Day 1

In addition to flipping between The Exorcist, The Wolfman and various sitcom Halloween episodes, I dutifully waited for the clock to click to 12:00:00 AM before I started work on my game.

Inspired by the movie Pride of the Marines (which I viewed several years ago, and have not seen since, but which has stuck with me) as well as the fun, simple-yet-addictive Sink the Bismark, I intend to mash the two together into a solitaire game where you take the role of an M1917 crew seeking to take out as many Japanese as you can before your position is over run.

Given the waves of Japanese attackers pressing forward, I think this translates well to a solitaire game. Like Sink the Bismark, little "AI" is required to control the enemy. It also will allow me, time willing or if I find this concept is not working, to re-write the whole thing as a zombie apocalypse type game!

At this point, I have some rough ideas to dress up the game a bit, including "chance" cards (for random occurrences such as "A runner arrives with two more boxes of ammo" or "the gun overheats - no firing this turn") as well as some gambling mechanics.

In my initial research, which I began when the clock struck midnight, I was stunned to find out that Al Schmid and Cpl. Dimond were not the only ones who performed such an act with their MG - Mitchell Paige and John Basilone did as well. 

This evening's plan is to spend some time with the game mechanics.