Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Finalized List of 2014 Hobby Objectives

Once again, I realize that having objectives or goals for a hobby might strike some as being directly at odds with the fact that it is a hobby we're talking about. However, I have a tendency, like many, to have gamer ADD and thus, I find this a useful exercise. 

My list posted previously was quite enormous. It was too much, despite the fact that many of them were rather easy to knock out. More importantly, looking at the list didn't excite me.

So, after much contemplation and effort to suss out from my giant list what's important to me, what I would find satisfying, and what I might not do without the added kick in the butt publicly declaring a goal gives,  I've settled on the following for 2014:

Great Northern War Project

  • Play The Advance Guard Action Teaser by June 30, 2014.
  • Play a historical scenario by 12/31/14 - Roos attack on the 3rd redoubt at Poltava seems a good candidate.

Details for how I'll get my forces to this point are here.

Fantasy Gaming 

  • Run a monthly Labyrinth Lord episodic campaign at an FLGS for the Atlanta Gamer's Guild meetup.
  • Run 2-4 sessions of Labyrinth Lord at DragonCon (I'm waffling on running 4 sessions now, worrying I won't have any energy left to play in other games or go to any panels). 
  • Run "Japantasy" game for home group


  • Rising Sun: Operation Watchtower (Britton Publishers)- Play the following Guadalcanal scenarios: The Goettge Patrol , The Brush Patrol, The First Battle of Matanikau, The Battle of the Tenaru, Battle of Bloody Ridge, September Matanikau, Paige's Platoon, Koli Point
  • Red Guards at Kursk (Skirmish Campaigns) - Play"The Red Surge" 4 scenario campaign, which covers July 11 and 12, 1943. 

  • Play 6 campaign encounters.

Much of what I have mulled over previously is included there, but it's a layer or two down;  I decided to keep the end in mind, rather than the means. 

It's purely psychological.

I most enjoy playing wargames, not the preparation to play them. Whereas, for RPGs, I love the planning. This way, my goals focus on the parts that I most enjoy and find most satisfying.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

From all of us (me) at Tabletop Diversions to all of you, Merry Christmas (if you celebrate) or happy Wednesday if you don't!

photo by me, elf-ification by Ariale M.

Among the loot I received:
  • an awesome custom made dice bag
  • 1/32 Italeri Russian ZIS 3 anti-tank gun with crew
  • 1/32 Italeri German PAK 40 anti-tank gun with crew
  • Ancient Odysseys : Treasure Awaits RPG
  • Fabled Lands : Lords of the Rising Sun (game book)
  • Hell is for Heroes (DVD)
  • The Desert Rats (DVD)
  • Guillotine (game)
  • Army Painter Brushes
  • Brush Cleaner
  • Adventure Time: Jake Bi-Fold

Friday, December 20, 2013

Character as Party

I was talking Ovy Ortega, an avid solo dungeon delver, today on gchat and he asked if I use Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying (USR) or Microlite. 

He noted that he was looking to do a dungeon crawl, where the party was a character. (emphasis mine)

This sent my brain in a spin: USR seems perfect for this, although I have yet to try these ideas out.

Option 1: Standard USR Character

Your Action die represents your fighter, your Wits die represents your magic-user and your Ego die represents your Cleric.

Give each stat a specialism. Probably something like Melee (A+2), Arcane spells (W+2), Divine Spells (Ego + 2).

Calculate HP for the party as if it were a single character (Action + Wits, so yes, your M-U will bring down the party average, as they should) and assume that damage is equally distributed. 

Combat would be handled as normal but would be very abstract. It also means no one character will die, and you'll end in a TPK when reduced to 0.

Option 2: Standard USR Character version 2

As above, but roll HP for each stat (member of the party). All participate in combat individually. Damage goes to the individuals. At 0, that member of the party is dead.

This could require fiddling with how you handle NPCs and monsters to make combat fair for both sides.

Option 3: Replace the Standard Stats with Classes

If you stick with the standard character creation, you're stuck with a max of 3 members of the party. Now, even if you're not fond of the thief, it still leaves out illusionists, bards, monks, etc.

Rename the stats, Fighter, Magic User, Cleric, or what have you, and add as many more as you'd like. 

Assign a die to each. You probably don't want to go much above d12 for a single stat (and I would limit that to just 1 of the members), unless you want a truly superhero group or below a d6 for the party's classed members. Obviously, do what you want. d30 for your fighter? Sure, maybe he's Conan, or He-Man or something.

Give each a specialism, something class appropriate. 
In this case, for HP, I would go with a lump - roll all the dice and add together. This really allows the party to be played as a single character. It also gives them staying power - maybe too much if you like life/death of your characters to hang in balance - you might drop the highest and lowest or something, to make a weaker or stronger party as desired.

As my notes in Option 2 imply, I'm not fond of the idea of tweaking the rules for individual HP per stat. The abstract combat really appeals to me.

As Ovy noted in our discussion, you could assign A: d20 to a group of orcs. That "group" is just 1 combat die roll, as is the party's combat roll. Just like standard USR.

I love the simplicity in that; let your narrative describe the details of who does what, not the mechanics.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2014 Goals: Great Northern War Project Planning

The other day, in a fit of "productivity", I spent some time going through the Tabletop Teasers by Charles Grant, presented over at Steve the Wargamer's Tabletop Teasers page.

Although I intend to play historically-based scenarios with respect to the Russian-Swedish portion of the conflict, I know full well, I'll play fictional encounters more often. I have Programmed Wargames Scenarios and Scenarios for Wargames, but both suggest a rather large number of units for any given scenario. Eventually I may complete that many, but in the meantime, I want to play. 

What can I say? Patience is not my strong suit.

The Teasers from Battle and Military Modeling on the other hand are a good bit more manageable - several could be played with 4 units or less of cavalry and infantry, and 1 unit of artillery. So that's my starting point.

My original plans included 12-figure units, but that's still a lot of painting before the Swedes can take the table (the painted Russian infantry is 72 figures strong).

But, reduce the size of the units and voila! On the table sooner.

Really small units (like 4-figures per) can look odd though - unless they're on a grid. And there is the first goal - enough figures to play a grid based game where 1 unit = 4 infantry, 2 cavalry or 1 gun and crew. 

For an example of what such a thing might look like, see Fitz-Badger's Sowitzer League posts here, here, and here.

The next goal is to expand either into larger grid games (larger units or larger grid spaces for more figures) and grid-less games. For this, 8 figures per infantry unit and 4 cavalry figures per unit, in my mind, works quite well for this.

 If you question the aesthetics of an 8-figure unit, again, Sowitzer League provides: here and here.

Finally the large table (for me) game, using 12 figure units of infantry and 6 figure units of cavalry. Each unit would also have an ensign + NCO per All the King's Men's rules.

Based on what I've completed already, here is a painting schedule for 2014 to get me to the 4 infantry units-2 cavalry units -1 artillery unit + 1 officer (with extras sprinkled in):

  • Jan - 6 infantry (Swedes), 1 gun + 4 crew (Russian), 4 cavalry (Russian), 1 officer (Russian)
  • Feb- 6 infantry (Swedes), 1 gun + crew (Swedes), 4 cavalry (Swedes), 1 Officer (Swedes)

By the end of February I should be able to play grid-based games.

  • March - 6 infantry (Swedes), 4 cavalry (2 Russian, 2 Swedes), 1 gun + crew (Russian)
  • April- 6 infantry (Swedes) , 4 cavalry  (2 Russian, 2 Swedes) , 1 gun + crew (Swedes)
  • June - 6 infantry (Swedes), 2 officers/ensigns (1 Russian, 1 Swede)
By the end of June, I'll be able to field 2+x as many 4-figure units or four 8-figure infantry units, two 4-figure cavalry units and two guns each.

  • July -6 infantry (Swedes), 4 cavalry (2 Russian, 2 Swedes)
  • August - 6 infantry (Swedes), 4 cavalry (2 Russian, 2 Swedes)

By end of August, if I stick to this schedule, I can field four 12-figure infantry units, two 6-figure cavalry and 2 guns each.

  • Sept - 6 infantry (Swedes), 4 cavalry (2 Russian, 2 Swedes)
  • Oct -  6 infantry (Swedes), 4 cavalry (2 Russian, 2 Swedes), 2 officers (1 Russian, 1 Swede)
  • Nov  - 6 infantry (Swedes), 4 cavalry (2 Russian, 2 Swedes)
  • Dec - 6 infantry (Swedes), 4 cavalry (2 Russian, 2 Swedes)

By 2015, theoretically, I will be able to field: 

Six 12-figure infantry units, three 6 figure cavalry units (I'm not even sure I have enough boxes to do this!) + two guns each


Nine 8-figure infantry units, five 4-figure cavalry + two guns each

Eighteen 4-figure units, ten 2-figure cavalry units + two guns each. Might need some more guns!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Ever Expanding Dungeon : Session 25b

The other day I had a chance to run the actual 25th session of The Ever Expanding Dungeon. Unfortunately, most of the time I had allotted was spent looking for my campaign notes - which is the raw data from which I do these write-ups.

Unfortunately, after a lot of searching, I realized that, while a few scattered sessions were stored in Google Docs, the vast majority of its 100+ pages was stored primarily on the netbook that the burglars took.

On the bright side, since the party had been away from the dungeon for so long in game time, it was quite likely that, although in broad strokes the dungeon's factions remained the same, at the level of room stocking, things would have changed.

What time I had left was quite short, but as it turned out, that didn't matter anyway.

Mythic GME:
Has the dungeon reset? Very likely. 67 Yes
Have all doors been replaced? Somewhat likely. 02, Exceptional yes, all replaced and all locked.
Also, to account for the fact that the denizens suffered a bit at the hands of the invaders (the party), I decided that wandering monsters would appear on a 1 or 2.

At sistr Linkat’s urging, and after a review of the map, the party decides to head towards room 31 and the two unexplored doors there.

Following the lead of several adventures I've read through recently, I rolled to see if anything was encountered on the way to the dungeon with a standard wandering monster check - 5, no encounter
The party made their way to, what on my map, is room 31. 

This is why I wanted my note file - I couldn't recall what was here before, but thankfully was able to piece it together. It was a room that had at one point contained the makeshift gnoll shrine.

Sister Linkast and Sylana each pressed an ear to the door, but neither heard anything within. Sylana gave the door a try but failed to make it budge, but Sister Linkat had no better luck. It fell to Sylana to try again [I ruled that, since they were under no pressure to get the door open, they would succeed eventually. As it turned out, Sylana rolled a 2 and succeeded]

Having made quite a racket opening the door, it seemed almost impossible that the party would be surprised to find the room's sole inhabitant, a bugbear on guard duty, ready for them, and yet it happened.

[ I have a new dungeon generator (go figure) that will be in issue 2 of the zine - at the moment it uses a d10 for room contents. 9 = Monster.

I rolled in the d30 companion = 1 bugbear

I rolled again on my generator and found he was "guarding"

Roll for surprise: party 6, not surprised. The bugbear didn't roll since the party had made a poor showing opening the door. But, I also ruled that the bugbear was automatically hostile since he’s a guard.

Round 1 Initiative. Party 1, Bugbear 6.

I decided that if he's a guard he should have a way of sounding an alarm.

Mythic GME: Does he have a way to sound an alarm? Very likely.57. yes]

Raising a twisted grey horn to his lips, he blew a call to arms and then, tightening his grip on his battle axe, he charged!

Fortunately, his rage got the better of him as his attack was futile in the worst way [i.e. Rolled a 1 to hit. I decided not to do Critical Hits/Misses this session, as a test.] Sister Linkat and Sylana were equally ineffective, and Manchiever, no fool, brought his sleep spell online, just in case.

[Round 2]

The bugbear lifted the huge double-bitted blade again and sent it crashing towards the pair, but his blows were easily dodged. he pair of clerics continued their attempts to smite their foe, and Sister Linkat managed to land a blow [just 3 HP of damage].

[Round 3 was uneventful. In round 4, Sylana and Linkat planned to fall back and Manchiever would cast sleep. Unfortunately, I remembered the alarm the bugbear had sounded.

Mythic GME: does reenforcement arrive? likely. 54.
who? probably either another bugbear or goblins. is it another bugbear 02. Exceptional yes.
I decided that meant it was 2 more bug bears (at 3HD apiece, I wasn't going to inflict more than that on the party).

Two more bugbears similarly armed, crashed into the room and into the fray. One of them managed to connect and did a good bit of damage to Sylana [8 HP of damage] before the clerics could fall back behind Manchiever.

His spell unleashed and dropped the two reinforcements [he rolled to put 6HD to bed]

[Round 5]

Linkat and Sylana prepared to step up and finish the remaining bugbear, but the bugbear was faster and swung and hit the magic-user. 

[Here's where I figured Manchiever was a goner. He has 4 HP after all.

I rolled the damage die and got a 2! Even with the +1 bonus bugbears get, he still survived!]

In the end though, the servants of the Hedonistic Lumberjack won the day. For his part, and caught up in the rage induced by his wound, Manchiever went around and slit the throat of the two sleeping bugbears while looting their coin purse for a less than princely sum of 26 gp.

Sister Linkat, scratched with chalk onto each wall, the Hedonistic Lumberjack’s symbol to serve as a warning to whomever employed the bugbear guards.

After healing spells were cast, the party checked the doors and Sylana heard something through the door the bugbears had entered from.

[Here I decided to use a new decision making mechanism - basically the same one I've been using, but streamlined. Details of this will follow once I write them up.

Sylana wants to go through south door, very likely
Manchiever would rather go back to town and see if they can hire anyone again, near surre thing
Sister Linkat thinks they should bar the south door, and check the north first, given they've already blown the sleep spell. Somewhat likely

Sylana = +2
Manchiever = +3
Sister Linkat = +/- 0

Manchiever rolled an 18 and won

Manchiever, although he understood the zeal that drove both the priestesses, was able to show the two the good sense his idea made, and the party returned to town.

[Rolled for additional encounters, but there were none]

Back in town, Manchiever prepared and hung up signs announcing the job opening, but only 1 replied and he, as it turned out, wasn't interested in the deal. In fact, he was so offended by the offer, he started a negative viral marketing campaign, which more or less rules out the possibility of hiring anyone within the village.
With their prospects of finding another hireling anytime soon slim, the party opted to return to the dungeon before too much more time had passed. There was still much to explore, they would just have to be smarter about it.


  • Sylana started at level 2. I used the party average (4+1)/2, rounded down. She had zero XP to start, however. So by the time she reaches level 3, Manchiever, if he survives, should be ready to level up as well.
  • I will now only keep track of my campaign notes in cloud based resources, with periodic local backups.
  • I was hoping for something grander for the 25th and 1 year anniversary session of the Ever Expanding Dungeon, but, it was a fun session none-the-less.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Purple Worm Graveyard : Another Social Game for Strangers

Saturday, at Giga-Bites Cafe in Roswell, I ran my second old school one-shot featuring B/X. 

Like last time, I decided to run a published adventure, rather than one of my own. This time, the players would venture into The Purple Worm Graveyard, a short module for low level PCs (1st - 4th) from Planet Thirteen. At just $6.00 for the print and PDF, you can't go wrong and the cover is too cool to not buy the print copy! 

photo from Planet Thirteen site:
I had four players, three of which played in my last game (making the word "strangers" somewhat questionable) and one new, who had only played 4th ed. You can imagine his shock when he rolled up a character in under 30 minutes.

The party consisted of 1 elf, 1 cleric and 2 thieves. Not exactly the makeup of a party with "long term survival" oozing from them. In the first encounter, I almost had a TPK on my hands.

On their initial foray, they made their way down a hall to a chamber without a door. The elf moved to the front to use his infravision to check things out.

Despite hearing something singing Barry White, interspersed with gnawing and chewing (yes, i sang some of Barry White's  I Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe and made flesh munching sounds), they decided to go SWAT team on the room's inhabitants. First a torch was thrown into the room for light, which by luck (i.e. the dice) didn't go out, and in their favor, they achieved surprise. This was followed by a hail of missiles after which melee was joined and rather vicious, as much for the PCs as the monsters.

The party survived due to a failed morale roll for the monsters, but then, as they searched the room and then discussed going to town to hire some retainers, i rolled the d6 for wandering monsters and up came a '1'. Fortunately, it was just a lone grub and bug infested zombie and the party made short work of it - a magic missile finally blowing it to pieces, scattering bone, dust and bug bits everywhere.

The added "muscle" (a gardener and a poet) wasn't much help, but, by a wonderfully creative solution, the party survived an encounter with a 15HD, 72 HP, purple worm with only 1 PC death (Sadly, the guy who has only played 4th ed. Well, we warned him that the game is deadly) and managed to make out with as much loot as they could carry.

I'm not going to tell you HOW the party did it, but it was pretty rad, required rolling the dice, and didn't succeed on the first attempt.

On the whole, I felt more relaxed this time, but I was lacking some energy - between having a cold that I'm just recovering from and not getting much sleep thanks to my 2 year old, I was worried i couldn't bring my A game. A Monster Energy Drink helped a bit with that.

I remembered to buy 2 waters right up front and I did better keeping track of initiative, although that's probably due to the general lack of combat (3 total, I think).

For the PC that died, the player rolled the damage die for the purple worm, so at least it put the chance of survival on his luck with the dice and not mine. That got a positive reaction and I think I'll try to work that in more often.

Everything was rolled in the open - if it wasn't, it was accidental on my part. I don't think this detracted from the suspense or the excitement. Instead, everyone watched the die roll and felt relief, or groaned, at the result.

My new GM screen worked well, but I still have trouble reading the To Hit table for monsters. When I start my campaign in 2014, I'll be sure have an easily readable copy on an index card with the values i'll need to look at most often on it - i.e. if i know the monsters don't have more than 3 HD, then i only need those lines of the table on the card.

Although I originally was thinking about some kind of actual sandbox world, or a mega-dungeon campaign, I'm now thinking an episodic campaign, in which I can work in various modules each session, might be fun. 

As for the module itself, it's short (13 rooms and change). It could all end rather early depending on which way the party chooses to go at any given intersection. However, my only real issue was the lack of dimensions for the rooms and halls, but that was solved by tracing the map onto graph paper.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thinking Outloud: Another Mulling Over of 2014 Goals

As the title says, I've been doing a little more thinking about what I want to do, goal-wise, in the upcoming year. Honestly, when I think about it, perhaps what I really mean is, as of today, here's what I want to do by this time next  year. "2014" may, in fact, be a red herring.

I decided to break down my gaming into three periods/genres that I want to actively pursue in the next year: WWII, Great Northern War, and Fantasy (which I've stretched to include VSF/Imaginations). None of this requires additional purchases, save starting the FoW Polish Late War Tank Division.

Great Northern War: 

  • Finish 20 - 36 more Swedish infantry
  • Finish 12 - -18 cavalry each
  • Finish 2 -4 guns  + crew each, 
  • Finish 1-4 officers each
  • Play

These numbers will allow me to play, in a much stylized and small fashion (the lower numbers represent the bare minimum I think I would be OK with), Table Top Teasers/Scenarios for Wargames, etc. instead of being in a holding pattern. Then as I finish more figures the nature of the games can change accordingly.

Fantasy: This is all over the place as it covers solo and social gaming, RPGs and miniature wargames.

  • Ever Expanding Dungeon, at least 12x
  • Ruins of the Under City - at least try it out 1x.
  • How to Host a Dungeon - try it out at least 1x.
  • Paint up remaining figures of goblins and kobolds, 9 more each, to try Song of Blades and Heroes
  • Run a Sisters of the Sword - Japantasy for home group with Yamato M20
  • Run 4 sessions of Labyrinth Lord at DragonCon 
  • Run an open table campaign with LL 1x per month at FLGS for meetup group
  • Release issues 2 and 3 of zine
  • Reread and run a TMNT game - solo or social - by 12.31.13
  • Paint Malifaux factions
  • Helvetica campaign - finish setup (the thieves took my laptop and much of my background info is now lost) and play a game turn at least once per month

Now that I see it all bullet-ed out, I'm disturbed by the length of that list! Some editing may be necessary.


  • Pacific 1/72
    • Assemble and paint USMC tanks
    • Paint USMC infantry to fill out specialist troops (M1917A, mortar, grenade launcher, BAR, etc). 
    • Play through some Britton Publishers scenarios for the PTO.
    • Finish remaining palm trees, make craters, hills, etc.
  • European Theater 1/32
    • Trees, hills, buildings, etc. 
    • Play.
  • Eastern Front 1/32 
    • Finish painting Airfix Soviets and Germans, including tanks. 
    • Play Skirmish Campaigns, Red Guards at Kursk modified for my collection and table. 
      • Build Eastern front farm houses (3-5) for villages. Trees as above.
  • European Theater 15mm 
    • Finish US Airborne, 
    • Assemble/paint tanks. 
    • Learn FoW rules. 
    • Paint Germans.
The yellow highlights above represent items that are questionable and are dependent on other factors.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Construction

Although I should be working on getting The Purple Worm Graveyard notes together for Saturday, instead I've been working on this project that began on a whim two weeks ago or so:

Here it is with the roof, primed with gesso:

Not quite done yet - here's s a far as I got today - the building is ready to be painted, but the roof needs the tiles drawn in yet. I really do need to get my stuff together for Saturday's D&D session, so it will stay in this state awhile longer.

That lower window looks a little more Mondrian than I'd like.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Inspiration at the Museum

On our Thanksgiving holiday trip, we took Young Lord , Shadowmoss to see the Duke Energy Holiday Trains display at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, OH.

Union Terminal is a beautiful art deco building which still functions as a train station but also houses several museums.

I found quite a bit of interest inside, but two displays gave me some ideas for wargaming:

The above are trees and hills. I have no doubt that they appeal to almost no one as much as they appeal to me. The step hill is no different than millions of other step hills, but those trees!

How can I resist lumpy blobs of carved wood more toy-like, and durable, than my own craft foam trees?  Not being much of a wood worker doesn't look like a barrier to creating them either.

What follows are two buildings that I really liked - they are basically the same, Power Station's #436 and #435.

Again, I love the toy look. These buildings, or something like them since these models go for $250-$300 on ebay, would work great on my table with 1/32 figures. 

After doing some research, I found they are O scale, which, thanks to this scale and gauge page, I learned corresponds to 1/48 scale. Which got me thinking about commercially available O scale or 1/48 buildings. However, the difference in size for figures is 2.25 vs 1.5 inches. So, the doors and windows might be more under-scale than I'd like. 

Unfortunately, I can't find any pics showing 1/32 figures with 1/48 or O-scale buildings!

Scratch building from foam core is probably far cheaper and a good bit more fun, and I can make the doors and windows to taste. Still, if anyone could point me to such a picture, it'd be appreciated.

The research I did, combined with the train displays also reaffirmed that the toy look is really what I'm after on my table in the larger scale for WWII.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Recent Deals Scored

It feels a little strange to follow a post of things lost with a post of things acquired, but such is life.

One of the things the burglars got their hands on was my grab-bag box from Goodman Games.

As it turned out, I was rather lucky on two counts: first, they had no interest in the contents and just left them on the ground on the side of our house, second, it did not rain at all between the incident and the time we found them.

In addition to what's pictured below, I got one of the t-shirts and I've already worn it (hence, no picture. It's in the hamper.)

Items on the left I'm definitely keeping. Items on the right, i may or may not sell/trade.
The Manor #5 arrived while we were gone, but the thieves didn't touch the mailbox at least!

I also took advantage of a couple of Black Friday sales and ordered the following for well less than retail value (although none of it has shipped yet to my knowledge, pictures to follow):

  • Duel of the Giants: Eastern Front  $8.50 [the game itself doesn't sound all that great, it's the pieces that i want]
  • Malifaux - Arcanists: Arsenal Box $4.00
  • Malifaux - Neverborn: Arsenal Box $4.00
  • Marvel HeroClix Iron Man 3 Marquee Figure $1.00
  • Bundle of Trouble vol 02 $6.00 (print)
  • Tales from the Vault 1  $4.50 (print)
  • KoDT 150 $4.50 (print)
  • Bundle of Trouble vol 01 $6.00 (print)

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 25A - "78 Days Later"

As we approach the one year anniversary of my solo Labyrinth Lord campaign, I wanted to set up the next delve. Here is what happened to our party, after their most recent adventure:

With Dleggit’s and Waldu’s death, Sister Linkat suffered a crisis of confidence, not for fear of dying, but for fear that perhaps she was chasing the wrong goal. During the days, she tended to her flock’s needs, and spent nights in near constant meditation and prayer to the Hedonistic Lumberjack inquiring for some kind of sign. 

Her dedication to her deity was not unnoticed and the HL sent her two messages - one was simply the appearance of the phrase “Exposing of the Dead” in her mind’s eye, the other came via the Bishop of the Temple of the Hedonistic Lumberjack in the City of Leafcutter,  in the form of one stubborn, short, big-boned acolyte named Sylana.

Sylana arrived with a note from the Bishop explaining her transfer to assist Sister Linkat in her mission. When asked what mission that was exactly, Sylana repliled “I don’t know about you, but I want to crush the abominable undead that are an affront to our god!”

It was settled, then.

Sister Linkat would journey into the Ever Expanding Dungeon until every last bit of unholy evil was cleansed from it. She would fight for the village’s safety and tend to their spiritual needs, but she would from this day forward, become a rabid hunter and destroyer of all those creatures that stole back life in a form twisted by evil by means of a dark and sinister source.

She would, she pledged, find and destroy that very source itself or die trying.

Manchiver, who had set himself up in competition with the local scribe to earn some money, poured over his magical texts much of the time, while he waited word of Linkat’s decision. He had also taken, at her insistence, a position at the shrine, writing prayer sheets for the villagers to hang in their homes. 

The sheets were not magical, although Sister Linkat did bless the paper and ink with holy water; they were simply reminders to the villagers of the glory of the Hedonistic Lumberjack. In exchange, she was able to provide him a small stipend from the offerings made by the faithful.

As her final act before turning her attention to her quest, Sister Linkat cast Speak with Animals, and offered their loyal mule a lifetime free of labor, free of dangerous entities in dark dungeons, and instead, days spent above ground in good care. The mule, saddened by the loss of Waldu, of Perceval and Dleggit, not to mention so many others, accepted the offer, with the note that if his assistance were ever needed, that she could call upon him for aid.

With that bit of business resolved, she rounded up Manchiver and Sylana to put the word out that they were in need of companions on a grand adventure back into the mouth of the dungeon. Unfortunately, the Hedonistic Lumberjack appeared to be busy with other things, and no one heeded their call.

Indeed, although the legend of the party’s exploits against the wizard, White Eyes,had made it as far south as Leafcutter, to the Duke’s own council, no reward was forthcoming, either in gold or soldiers.

Anxious to fulfill the role she had been chosen for, Sister Linkat rallied her team early one morning, and set out for the Ever Expanding Dungeon.

All of the above was generated using Mythic, as suggested in Mythic Variations for 'tween stories.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

And the Holiday Takes a Downturn

In the car, on our way home from Northern Kentucky, while I was running The Purple Worm Graveyard, the phone rang. Our roommate had arrived home before us and was calling to tell us that our house had been burglarized.

The thieves got quite a bit of stuff, although I was fortunate that not much of it was mine.

As you can probably imagine, unless the thieves happen to collect RPGs, that boxed Tunnels & Trolls 5.5, Holmes box, or the Harn box weren't going to attract their attention. Never mind a pile of unpainted miniatures.

Still, they got my Linux netbook, an external HD and my acoustic guitar - a guitar that was built in the 70s for my dad by a luthier at the Martin Guitar Company. It was the first guitar I ever played and set me on the path to being a musician, to playing in bands and meeting people who would become lifelong friends.

I'm angry most of all that they left the case behind. If you're going to steal my guitar, at least have the decency to treat it right and not wreck it by leaving it exposed to the elements.

Still, these are all just things - although there is definitely a pervasive feeling of being violated, and only the Young Lord Shadowmoss, who has no idea what happened (and was lucky in that thieves touched none of his stuff) will sleep easy tonight, no one was hurt (and that includes the Princess Pumpkin who I found hiding in a closet).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sisters of the Sword: Game Potential

Recently, I read the YA novel Sisters of the Sword by Maya Snow, as part of my ever continuing research on feudal Japan, Japanese folklore, and feudal Japanese themed stories.

The plot, to my mind, has excellent potential for an RPG campaign starter:

Two sisters, daughters of nobility, secretly witness the murder of their father and brothers and the slaughter of the servants. Vengeance is sworn but the sisters know they are not able to extract it because they do not yet have the training or discipline. When they run to find their mother and infant brother, they are nowhere to be found, but a message found later gives them hope.

That's all you need to know to get started I think.

  • As in many good samurai stories, vengeance is prime motivator for the overall story.
  • From a game point of view, their lack of ability as low level characters combined with this motivation, provides an in-game purpose to gain levels/ability/skills.
  • The PCs have learned a variety of combat skills outside what might be usual for their age, from their brothers and father (in-game justification of starting skills)
  • The characters can choose how they want to approach their revenge: whether to expose the murderer by gathering evidence or to strike them down in combat (or whatever other way they can imagine)
  • Finding their mother and infant brother (rightful heir to their murdered father's position), if they choose to do so, becomes a sub or parallel plot. 
  • Finding their mother and infant brother provides an easy way to motivate characters to travel or to take up side-quests  ("A mysterious letter arrives, you recognize the handwriting as your mother's own") 
  • The villain knows the daughters, mother and infant son are not dead and has sent his samurai to find them - life on the run becomes a major catalyst for in-game events.
  • There are four ready-made encounter-areas, that the PCs know of, to take from the book:
    1. the family home
    2. the family shrine hidden deep in the forest
    3. the nearby village
    4. a dojo of a great master who trained their father, the villain, their brothers and the villain's son (in the book, they stumble on this, but it's certainly possible they know of its location. Also since the characters are girls, they have to disguise themselves as boys to get into the school. If the PCs are girls, then protecting their secret and life at the dojo can become adventures in themselves)
  • The master (if they meet him) is a potentially useful NPC, well fleshed out in the book, as are several other students (one of which the author seems to hint is of a ninja clan by birth).
As for the book, to my dismay, this is the first book in a series, which I am now going to have to finish reading because I really want to know how it all turns out!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Recent Arrivals

A few weeks ago, Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo posted on the T & T Kickstarter mailing list that he had found some shrink wrapped boxed T & T 5.5 and a copy of 7.5.

I have T & T 5 and really wanted 5.5, which includes some setting bits, so it was a no brainer (besides, it comes with Buffalo Castle):

When I finally open it, some collector somewhere will let out a sad cry, I'm sure.

On Saturday, I took a drive out to Titan Comics in Smyrna, to check out the table space available for playing RPGs, and while I was there I picked up a couple of comics:

 These are from the Lulu 40% off sale:

I haven't started Whitehack, but I have broken into Non-Player Characters. So far, I'm loving the approach to handling social encounters.

Finally, after using a Kroger Raisin Bran box to make my screen for the Dungeon of Akban session, I decided I needed something a little more robust for my GM screen. Plus, I wanted one that could be used for multiple systems - changing out whatever was needed.

I found a video online that shows how to make a GM screen from 3-ring binders clipped together. And it looked to me like it would fitthe bill perfectly.

A box of four white 3-ring binders is available for $5.99 with free delivery w/Amazon Prime. A few days later and voila! (and I still have 2 binders to use for whatever)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2014 Musings and Thoughts on the End of 2013

Still riding the high from Saturday's game, I'm throwing myself into the process of finding the next one shot to run for the session I'm hosting in December

And as I'm doing it, my thoughts are turning to hobby goals for 2014.

My goals have traditionally been solo oriented, since that's my preferred mode of play, although I did include one social game goal this year, to run an RPG session for the local meetup group (done and done!).

For 2014, I already know I want to run something monthly for the meetup. Candidates include:
  • An "open table" fantasy RPG sandbox campaign  (maybe b/x, maybe LL + AEC, or maybe Basic Fantasy RPG).
  • A sandbox Japantasy campaign, or perhaps a multi-session mini-campaign centered around a single goal. This is basically what I'm working on for my home group, and this way I could get double duty out of the prep.
  • Running series of only loosely connected one shots with rules light systems like Searchers of the Unknown, one of the many M20 fantasy variants or one of the Dungeon Squad editions. Character generation takes a few minutes tops in these games.(an episodic campaign essentially)
Perhaps the biggest thing I am considering for 2014, is running up to 4 sessions at next year's DragonCon for Labyrinth Lord / AEC (I'm thinking LL rather than B/X, because I want to see if I can get some Goblinoid Games stuff to give away). Biggest in that I'd be exposed to potentially 30+ different players in a few days, running 16 hours of gaming.

Planning 2014 also has me considering the remainder of 2013.

Looking over my 2013 goals, of the actual goals portion (as opposed to projects which I only wanted to make some progress on), I have not done terribly but with 45ish days to go, I'm not likely to make any major in-roads either, not with NaNoWriMo and the holidays.

Although I'm nowhere near completing the Save a Dead Tree project, I have made my way through a good chunk of material. That said, I have also acquired more stuff so it's probably a wash in that respect. Still, I ought to be able to knock out a book or module or something before the year ends.

In fact, The Purple Worm Graveyard fits this description and will also work as a one-shot module for December. Problem solved!

Gridding the MDF and building some scenery and terrain should take precedence over painting minis, but we'll see. I'm 1/2 way through my US Airborne starter force for FoW Open Fire! and just picked up some Cygnar Blue basecoat for my GNW Swedes, so painting is calling me. 

Mostly, i really just want to get some minis on the table and play - since, you know, that's a big part of why I play tabletop wargames and not video games.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Social Game for Strangers

Saturday, I ran The Dungeon of Akban, from the Swords & Wizardry quickstart, for a group of players at the not-really-local-to-me game shop. For rules, I went with my favorite, Moldvay Basic D&D - converting the dungeon was straightforward.

I had a great time but I was surprised at how draining it was. By the end of our four-hour session, I was running on fumes. None of my home sessions have gone longer than 2 hours. This is something to keep in mind if I go through with my plan to run 4 games at DragonCon next year.

While it wasn't flawless, I got some positive feedback from a few players - and most everyone seemed to be having at least some level of fun taking a nostalgic trip with B/X. The players themselves were great and I think credit for the fun goes to them more than anything I did.

The intrepid adventurers at Giga-Bites Cafe, Saturday afternoon.
My confidence definitely improved as a result of the experience. I'm more certain I can run for groups of strangers at DragonCon and I know that the next public game I run will be that much better, as I apply the lessons learned this time to future games.

What lessons?

  • I lost track of initiative more than once - as in, whether or not the NPCs had acted. If anything, it was to the players advantage, still, it seemed unprofessional to me.
  • One trap that I really didn't like and had thought about removing, I didn't and in fact, I should have. I didn't have it pat, and frankly it was one of my weakest moments; I felt like things were getting away from me. Next time, I go with my gut.
  • They will explore a lot less than I think - this was a fairly small dungeon and in 3.5 hours of actual exploration (the first 30 was chargen) I think they explored about 25% of it. This doesn't mean I'll prepare less, it just means I can consider some one-page dungeons I wanted to run, but decided against due to their small size.
  • Drink water. Have at least 2 on hand, full, at the start.
  • Let the players roll all of their actions, even those that traditionally would be behind the DM screen - detect traps, pick locks, etc. Why? One player did it accidentally and i decided to go with it for them, and then when another did it, I thought, "You know, we're here for fun, What does it matter if they know if they were successful? If they fail, there will still be consequences." Plus, it's something else for the players to do. Any opportunity to roll dice is a chance for some tension.
  • Actually, the more I think about it, the more out in the open the dice are, the more the players can see that I'm not fudging anything. I'll probably do all of my die rolls out in the open as well from now on, including wandering monster checks.
  • Make the font bigger on the chart for Monsters to hit. Ditto for the PC chart on the DM screen. I could never quite see it - I was standing up a lot, and at the angle worked against me.

I'm running another one-shot dungeon crawl in early December, which I'm now even more excited about, and then I'm 90% positive I want to run a monthly open table dungeon crawl campaign for the meetup group in 2014 - perhaps something in a mega-dungeon or at least a mini-mega.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gavel Nazing

I had planned a post for last night, but then Real Life (tm) got in the way and I had all of an hour for NaNoWriMo, packing my lunch, showering, some personal correspondence, reading and some prep for the old school session I'm running Saturday. Needless to say, the post fell by the wayside.

And that's kind of the point of what I was going to write.

Behold, the Gazing Navel!

On the train ride home last night, I listed all of the tabletop gaming projects I have going on - including the zine and this blog. There are sixteen. Sixteen. 

I readily admit I have gamer ADD, but I didn't realize it was quite that bad. 

Now you may have more or you may have less, but it's not the number that matters - what matters is, are you giving all of them the time you want to? Any of them? What's that expression? Jack of all trades, master of none?

Not that you have to be a master of anything hobby related - if you have to do it, it probably isn't a hobby  -but wouldn't I make more progress if I focused on one project at time (or say, 4 or 6)? No wonder it takes forever to get an army on the table or another trip back into the dungeon!

We only live once and we can't do it all. How, then, to spend the time we reserve for hobbies in general and gaming in particular? Assuming that hobbies are somehow essential  (from my perspective they seem to be, but it really depends on your culture, socioeconomic status, etc.) Is this too introspective? It feels like I'm asking "How can we live a good life?" (we all know what is best in life*)

Here they are - this includes campaigns, playing, painting minis, reading, writing, researching etc. - in no particular order:

  1. Six Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer
  2. this blog
  3. Assembling solo rpg tips/systems into one document
  4. The Ever Expanding Dungeon
  5. Solo-RPG outside of TEED.
  6. Samurai social game
  7. Heroclix
  8. The Wastelands: USR social game
  9. Dungeon crawl social one-shots (b/x. one Saturday, one in December, hopefully to be replaced by a campaign in 2014)
  10. Great Northern War
  11. 28mm Fantasy
  12. WWII 1/32 (Europe, Eastern Front)
  13. WWII 1/72 (Pacific)
  14. Flames of War: Open Fire! (Europe)
  15. Helvetica Campagin (VSF/Imaginations)
  16. Save a Dead Tree
I wasn't sure about including some things, like my Sci Fi games. These are sporadic at best. But there are no minis to paint, no rules to study and no ongoing campaign; just set up and play. So I left it off the list.

Let's add NaNoWriMo which isn't necessarily related to gaming, but in my case it is, in  part. So that makes 17 things, but at least NaNoWriMo is over by the end of the month (at least officially).

*To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Monday, November 4, 2013

It Was a Good Run

I was notified last week that my job was changing and that I would be moving into a role that no only did IT like things, but actually worked in the IT department. It's a subtle but important change as it puts me around people doing IT daily, rather than people working with our members daily (I work for a non-profit).

Unfortunately, as with every omelet, you have to break a few eggs, and the egg in this case is my ability to work from home. I found out today that going forward, I need to be in the office.

For whatever reason, IT is expected to always be in the office - never mind that at least half of our staff works remotely or that my job has nothing to do with hardware maintenance which can only be done onsite. Frankly, I think it's political and a power issue - the last place I worked, where I did tech support, was like that too.

In any case, that means I now have a daily commute again, which is not entirely bad. I'll have ample time for reading on the train portion of the trip. But, I miss out on getting to see my son whenever I want to during the day. Plenty of people never get that experience, so I'm thankful for for having had it, and hope to find my way back to it sooner rather than later.

It also means I'll be going in much earlier, so that I can be home before the little man has to have his bath. Which, consequently, means going to bed earlier (currently I go to bed after midnight most nights). The unavoidable conclusion is that there will be less time for gaming activities on weeknights. So I'll be making sure I make good use of the time I do have but I may need to reevaluate the myriad of projects I've come up with.

I don't expect my blogging to change much -  I have to write or I'll explode - but with NaNoWriMo this month, I do expect playing games and painting to take a backseat.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First World Problems: Deciding Which One Shot to Run

In addition to this nanowrimo nonsense I'm doing,  I have my first session running a game for more or less strangers coming up on Saturday.

I'll be running B/X and plan to do a traditional dungeon crawl using one of the many available one page dungeons.

Of the ones I've tested, many have a significant number of empty rooms.

While I like empty rooms, my playtesters expressed that they  wanted more to do - at the same time, they aren't familiar with the old school paradigm. And, the reality is I have 4 hours to run the thing to conclusion. There's no going back next session (although i hope to find enough interest that people want to do a B/X campaign of some sort).

I could just throw in more encounters I suppose, if I find interest waning  or time is available - certainly adding wandering monsters to the playtest helped in that respect.

I'm not really worried about running the game itself, or improvising or anything like that, so much as having an adventure the players will enjoy.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Welcome, Holmes!

My first exposure to D&D was the Moldvay Basic & Expert books. But there was a mention in the Expert edition about "if your copy of the D&D Basic rules has a blue cover with a picture of a dragon on it, then this section is for you" (X4). I never had any idea what that meant.

Until recently.

And for some time now, I've wanted to get a copy of the Holmes book to see first hand what all the fuss is about. 

That day was today. For just $19.99 + shipping I got the boxed set. What is most incredible is the condition - the rule book and module look like they've never been touched. No creases, no pencil marks, nothing. It's like the owner never carried their rule book back and forth to school every day for a year.

I'm still not sure why I was the only bidder, but who cares?

The unboxing:
A little warping, corner damage and a few spots on the bottom box.
Unfortunately, this was the best picture I could get of the rule book glare-wise. I'm almost hesitant to break it in by reading it

The module is in amazing shape. Puts the copy i bought previously to shame.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Decision Finally Made: NaNoWriMo Rebel It is!

I know you were sitting on the edge of your seat to learn my final decision.

Sometime around 9:00 PM on October 31, 2013, I decided I'd go for NaNoWriMo as a NaNoRebel. A "rebel" is someone who doesn't follow the letter of the law regarding the contest rules - someone who, for example, writes short stories, poetry, non-fiction, edits an existing novel, etc.

My project? I'll let you know when it's done. 

At 12:01 AM November, 1, 2013 I started typing and did so for about 30 minutes. I've squeezed in some additional time already and I'm about half way to my personal 5000 word goal for today.

It is more than a bit of a hodgepodge at the moment and will probably remain so. The goal is to get the ideas down, not perfect any of them. As a nod to NaGaDeMon, I am going to try to work in a solitaire adventure for b/x compatible games.

I also did a bunch of writing for the zine yesterday, and I'm around 1/2 way in terms of written content. My plan is for 24 pages this issue, with artwork by friends who do art.