Monday, July 28, 2014

Impressions of Chocolate & Cigarettes : RPG-Lite / Small Scale Skirmish

Chocolate & Cigarettes is a system included with Nuts! Final Edition from THW. This is something new for this edition. It also happens to tap what I think is the sweet spot for THW systems: very small scale skirmish with 3-5 figures making up the entirety of the player's force.

Three skills are used to differentiate your characters beyond REP: Fitness, People and Savvy. There are two additional attribute tables to be used in addition to the attributes normally used during the generation of the player's force. Finally, characters have the possibility of carrying special items that may or may not be useful on the mission (chocolate and cigarettes among them).

Although the regular mechanisms are still used, there is a system for Opposed and Unopposed Challenges - something common to any number of RPGs, lite or otherwise. I like this as it shows that actions more typical of role-playing are expected in these missions.

For my first mission, I brought out my Conte British Paratroopers, hereafter referred to as Corporal Lionel Hardcastle, Lance Corporal Alistair Deacon and Pvt. Stephen Peacock aka Team BBC.

Intel had located a high ranking German officer enjoying a holiday on a remote farm in rural France. Hardcastle and his team were called on to parachute into the area under cover of dark, make their way to the farm and capture the officer. They would rendezvous with the transport team in a village some 3 miles away.

[Night scenarios limit visibility to 12"]

The drop went swimmingly and the team descended on the farm, approaching through a small patch of woods to the south.

Utilizing the hills to their right for additional cover, the team swept right over the crest of the hills, and moved unseen towards the buildings.

[The PEF on my right advanced towards us but was found to be nothing]

On Hardcastle's signal, Peacock and Deacon stormed towards the back of the yellow building, while Hardcastle himself covered the front. 

[The building PEF resolved as nothing, meaning I'd roll 3d6 when entering the building.

The leftmost PEF advanced into range of Hardcastle. It revealed a lone guard on duty]

A lone guard tromped through the darkness, whistling a folk tune. He caught a glimpse of Hardcastle and brought his gun up to his shoulder, but he was too slow.

[Hardcastle won the In Sight and gunned the man down. ]

[Although it's not written anywhere, I really should have tested to see if anyone in the buildings reacted to this but I didn't. To my knowledge, as written, building PEFs don't leave the building (unless they're revealed to be troops]

Peacock and Deacon cleared out the building while Hardcastle kept watch for enemy reinforcements. The building was empty. With no welcoming party other than the lone guard, the team stormed the second building.

[Building PEF was nothing, so 3d6 when door opened. Rather than use the Ready the Grenade test, I used a Savvy challenge, and then did the same with kicking down the door, and putting the pin back IN the grenade after the first floor PEF turned out to be nothing. The upstairs PEF had to be the objective.]

With nowhere left to hide, the team rightly believed the officer must be on the upper floor and Hardcastle joined his men racing up the back stairs.

[I tested In Sight and the German Officer won. I decided to forgo the way the rules usually work and had him dash down the front stairs - that I didn't know existed until I rolled some dice: Does he engage them in a fire fight? 1- Yes and he's turned over a table so he has cover, 2-3 - yes but only until he can fight his way to the front stairs, 4-5 No, but he takes off running down the stairs, 6 No and he surrenders. I rolled a 4. ]

[He won the initiative for the next turn and took off running for the woods and out of sight.]

Team BBC raced down the steps behind the officer. 

[Thankfully the Officer then rolled a 6 for initiative, which meant no action for him. This allowed the team to get within range.]

Unable to catch him, they opened fire and dropped him in his tracks.

Mission : Failed!

This is more like it. 

A handful of figures makes it easy to keep track of everything, not too much dice rolling and a loose RPG-Lite feel. In fact, I imagine I could run a solo RPG using this system, and only break out the miniatures when combat necessitated it.

Skalafell : The Sorcerer's Apprentice

When we last left our "hero", Fjörgyn had followed the map, given to her by the evil wizard possessing Sister Rebecca, to a secret cave where she retrieved his spell book, a leather bound tome, firmly sealed by a clasp (thankfully, since she knocked it off the pedestal and it could have become quite damaged). After escaping the skeleton guardians and making her way across a deep chasm, and finally slaying one goblin and charming several others, she exited the cave complex, spell book in hand

She returned to the village to find a line of villagers outside the shrine of the Forgetful Bear. As she approached to try and hear what, if anything, the people were talking about, she was recognized by someone in the line. Someone in line called out "Ghoulslayer!" and the rest of the crowd broke into applause.

[Here, I will use a direct transcript of what transpired, since I think it reveals one of the difficulties of chat-based gaming: a pause to type can be interpreted as a full stop, allowing interjection.]

Ariale: I ask "what is going on here?"

Me:  A heavily built man with narrow features and a flaming red beard informs you that their grand-father, a man of some years, has passed and they have come to see the good sister about arranging the funeral rites.

Another, a solid woman with golden braids and a barrel chest, tells you that she's here for a blessing for her family's sheep flock.

Ariale: I inform them that I heard sister Rebecca had an emergency of her own and will be away for some time. 

Me: A willowy man, with a hook nose, and wearing farmer attire stands at the closed door to the shrine, his hat in his hand, turns to you and says "Odd. because she's in with my cousin right now"

Ariale:  "Oh, good to hear! I'm glad that all is back to normal!" [this is a pretty good save on her part]

Me:  "Normal?" asks someone in the line

Ariale: How long may I ask has your cousin been in there?
( I ignore that person )

Me:  "Not long. He went in after Orlygrson's wife came out." 

[I opted not to follow up with the questioning since it was clear to me that had I indicated that Sister Rebecca was seeing her flock, then Fjörgyn wouldn't have made that statement. And, if we had been face to face, i would have stopped her interjection before I finished the description of what was going on with the line ]

As Fjörgyn went to take her place in line, the door opened,  and a villager came out, behind him, Fjörgyn could see Sister Rebecca beckoning her to come in. Sister Rebecca addressed the petitioners, "I'm sorry all, I must speak with ghoulslayer for a moment." 

She paused, then added "Important church business."

Inside, the cleric's demeanor and face transformed from the one Fjörgyn recognized as Sister Rebecca to the one she recognize as the wizard. 

"UGH. these people are driving me mad! Did you get the book?"

"I sure did. Not without some trouble of course, " said Fjörgyn.

"Excellent...oh yes, the security system. I had forgotten about that. It's been...a very long time. May i have my book please?"

Fjörgyn handed over the spell book.

"Excellent," said the evil wizard as he caressed the aged tome.

Having completed her mission, when the wizard suggested yet another to prove her merit for the spot as his apprentice, she reminded him that the deal was that getting the spell book was supposed to guarantee her position. [i.e. I forgot and she reminded me, in character]

Thus corrected, the evil wizard ordered her to go to the site of his long abandoned tower to see what of it remains and to clear out any who may have taken up residence during his extended absence. Without solitude, he informed her, he could not study his magic, nor silence the constant yammering of Sister Rebecca, who still occupied some part of the otherwise possessed body.

Since the last errand was somewhat dangerous, F. inquired after the possibility of some kind protective magic, but,  until he could study his spell book in peace, he could provide no such thing. He did note that she could loot the shrine as she saw fit.

Which she did.

Taking leave of the Forgetful Bear and noting the sun was drooping in the sky, Fjörgyn set out to sell some of her acquired loot from previous outings. 

After successfully unloading some items at the general store, she went to Zelligant's shop to sell him the remainder of some black fabric she had found. Business was obviously booming and he offered her top dollar for the yard and a half.

When she returned to her room for the evening, she found a folded piece of parchment had been slipped under the door:
"You have been invited to attend a late night gathering of like minded patrons of Dark and Ancient Forces in the clearing by the old shrine in three nights. Please tell no one of this invite. We will know if you do and we cannot have that."

[this is where we ended the session.]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some Thoughts on the Ten Games, Ten Times Challenge

I'm 22% into the 10 games, 10 times, challenge and I thought I should post an update, because I think the experience has already been worthwhile.

What I am finding, and it confirms what I think most of us already know, that multiple plays of a game help reinforce knowledge of the rules, help us learn and improve strategy and tactics, and help us decide how we really feel about a game beyond the first impressions.

By way of example:

One of the games on my list, Urbion, is a solitaire card game that offers both a basic game, and several advanced options, all within one box. 

I had thought when I started that I would focus on getting into those advanced options, since I had already played the basic game a number of times. 

However, I found on the first game  after I officially declared the challenge for myself (and game here means gaming session. I can play multiple games of Urbion in an hour, but I only count that as 1 for the sake of the challenge) that I not only needed a complete rules refresher, but that I had been doing a few things incorrectly the first 5 games which I had credited myself.

It wasn't until the 7th game that I finally won playing the basic rules. 

The game was harder to win than I thought it might be, but, with repeated play, I had developed some strategies that seemed to work, and i was seeing things I could do each game turn that I couldn't see in those earlier games.

About 2 weeks passed between the 8th and 9th session, and so I decided to stick with the basic game. Lo and behold, I remembered the rules! I didn't win mind you, but I played well enough to feel like it was time to try the first of the advanced options.

In the 10th game, I tried the first of the advanced options. 

They add a fair degree of difficulty and the first option alone includes many possible choices. I greatly underestimated the depth of this game in the sense that I thought I'd explore the all of the advanced rules, or at least many, in 10 games.

This was a pleasant surprise and I see that I will get many more hours of enjoyment from this game. So, despite having completed the challenge for Urbion, I will continue playing it.

Awesome, right?

Well, all is not rainbows and unicorns in the realm of Ol' Tabletop:

I have played 7 games now of Nuts! Final Version, and all of these games have been infantry only. I have yet to touch the vehicle rules, nor have I tried the Chocolate & Cigarettes rules. 

Whenever I played Nuts! 2.0, I was always looking up something or other, and that was the case when I started playing Final Version. However, by game 5, except for the non-player "ai" and the reinforcements table, I needed to only refer to a chart once in awhile; repeated play has its merits. 

By the time I finished the 6th game (which was the first mission I completed successfully), I was feeling dissatisfied and started to consider whether or not I should cut my losses and pick a different game to play ten times. 

Another benefit of repeated play: This is a game that at first i was quite happy with but something about the game, after several plays had soured that - having the experience of playing multiple games of Nuts! meant I had data to mine to find the source of my dissatisfaction.

What I found was, it's not the rules generally, but that I don't really like the "ai" for the non-player side. 

This isn't to say the tables controlling the non-player side aren't well done (I lost to it 5 times in a row after all), but that the dice rolling each turn for tactics doesn't suit me - even though it provides a result, it still requires interpretation and I have to wonder then, why roll each turn at all?

What's more, with Nuts!, and the THW reaction system in general, I don't think a non-player decision table is necessary.

All you need is to know the enemy's mission and maybe their general posture (aggressive, cautious, or somewhere in the middle). That should be enough - because the rest of the rules will take control away from you, making sure that, even if you try to make the enemy do something stupid, you'll probably fail because they'll duck back to cover. 

Finally, the provided NP rules and the reaction tables themselves, don't provide an easy way to determine when or if the NP enemy will surrender or fall back. 

Rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, I dropped the built-in NP tactics rules (although i kept the rules for moving PEFs as I like those) and used a much simpler system of my own for game 7.

The result was a more enjoyable game (I'll post a write-up tomorrow).

Regardless, after 7 games I don't know if Nuts! is going to be the go-to game for me at this scale of battle - which, even when it starts with a single squad, ends up being around a platoon on at least one side, if not both. It's too many individual reactions and resulting statuses that have to be indicated (even if you roll once for the group, it applies to each individual - your rep 3 Private is going to react differently than your rep 5 Corporal).

Iron Ivan's Disposable Heroes/Coffin For Seven Brothers or my own Featherstone's Nuts! (which I continue to tweak) are probably more likely to scratch the squad to platoon game for me, although they should each be subjected to a similar 10 game experience, to be sure.

I have 3 games left in the challenge for Nuts! and I have decided these will all explore the Chocolate & Cigarettes rules. 

This is something new between 2.0 and 3.0. At 3-5 figures, this is the scale of game at which I think THW rules shine - CR3:FV is always a blast to play with just a handful of figures, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the additional role-playing elements add to the game.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DragonCon 2014 : Here's What I'm Running (So Far)

This is probably the first of several posts I will make prior the event itself because I'm really looking forward to DragonCon this year and find myself daily checking for updates.

Gaming event submission has been open for a few weeks, and registration to play is going live very soon live as of Monday 7/21. I decided yesterday to apply to run 3 sessions and all 3 were approved.

The Purple Worm Graveyard (Planet Thirteen)

I had a lot of fun with this when I ran it in December 2013. My concern, then as now, is that it could all end early depending on what choices they make. I may fiddle with the module a bit to prevent at least one of the possibilities. But I will have a second adventure on hand, just in case.

I chose to run this at 9AM, the Friday of the con. 

I don't know if I'll get a full table or not, but last year the b/x game at 9AM Friday had 18 players (way too many) because people kept showing up with nowhere to put them, so I have hopes that I'll get my 6. I have been running as many as 8 with my open table campaign, and I find that is really the top end of what's fun. Four to six is the sweet spot; everyone has a better chance to get involved or perhaps, I just do a better job of involving everyone.

The Dungeon of Akban (S&W Quickstart)

I ran this in November 2013 and really enjoyed it. There's no way the players will complete the dungeon in 4 hours, but there are multiple paths they can take that will allow them to satisfy at least one of several possible victory conditions. 

I know, I know, you can't win at role-playing, but for a one-shot, I think it's nice for there to be a sense of achievement, even if it's, "well we didn't find X, but we found Y and Y was pretty cool!"

When i ran it in November, I converted it for use with Labyrinth Lord (that took about 3 minutes). For DragonCon, i'm going to run Swords & Wizardry : Whitebox. That's how much I like Whitebox.

I might sign up to run one more slot (probably a 2nd Purple Worm Graveyard), but that depends both on what I sign up to play, and what else looks interesting on the schedule, and how much time I want to leave for the pop-up zine library. At this point, I'm only signed up to play D.B.A. (I've heard many times that the best way to understand these rules is to have someone show you, so that's my plan!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ariale (of Fjörgyn infamy) Has a Blog!

The subject line pretty much says it all.

Ariale has started posting some of her Tunnels & Trolls solo exploits, as well as her side of the screen for our ongoing B/X campaign, where she plays the chaotic, arguably evil, unarguably impulsive, Fjörgyn the Elf.

You can check her blog out here: Ghoul Slayer.

Her side of the screen. Photo by Ariale M.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Skalafell : Into the Evil Wizard's Safe

This session of Fjörgyn's adventure was held outdoors at Griffis Sculpture Park in Western New York. It was also the first time I have ever played D&D outdoors.

photo by Ariale M.

Fjörgyn followed the map Sister Rebecca / Evil Wizard gave her to the mouth of a cave in the hills south and west of Skalafell.  The tunnel within forked, and she chose to pursue the one to the north.

[I gave her some info to help her decision making, but I'll be damned if i can remember what it was.]

As she approached a cavern, her torched flickered [which ultimately was a terrible clue that something was amiss]. Remembering her infravision, she opted to extinguish the torch and peer into the cavern in hopes of not drawing attention to herself. 

Before her stood a large cold glob in the center of the room. Lighting her torch she saw a grotesque tentacled monstrosity of a statue. Expecting the worst, she tried to sneak past, but it was not to be - the living crystal statue animated and smashed at her with its massive tentacles.

Fjörgyn blocked and parried blow after blow before finally shattering the statue into hundreds of shards (some of which were stashed in her pack for later use). She had taken some damage, but not much [we're using Solo Heroes, so damage at most is 2 points per hit, and quite often just 1 pt]. 

She decided to return to the other fork and explore that direction, but found her path mysteriously blocked by a wall. A search for secret doors revealed nothing, despite her elven prowess in such matters, so onward she went.

After trying to climb her way around the walls of a room and falling onto a great glowing sigil painted on its floor (which cost her a point of INT), she made her way into a chamber wherein a large leather bound book, sealed with a clasp,  rested on a small plain stone dais. 

Taking no chances with her safety, but risking the book, she knocked it from its resting place. As the book skidded into the rough ground, this transgression triggered the rapid appearance of 3 skeleton warriors bent on making her life pretty miserable in a battle that did not go her way (she came close enough to death that Ariale was getting worried).

Finally, in an act of desperation, bloodied and bruised, Fjörgyn grabbed the spellbook and, like a young Walter Payton, blasted through their line and out the door into the hall opposite the way she came in. Fortune was on  Fjörgyn's side and the skeletons did not pursue - although fortune has a sick sense of humor and put her at the precipice of a great chasm some 20' wide. 

Despair may have settled in for a moment before the light bulb went off and Fjörgyn noticed hand holds and a small ledge allowing her to cross the chasm ever so carefully. 

Ahead, she heard the distinct sound of loud voices and with torch extinguished she spied several humanoid shapes sitting about another cavern. 

With surprise on her side, she prepared her Charm Person spell. It was not until she uttered the necessary phrases that the goblins became aware of her presence and by then it was too late - all but one of them failed their save. The sole exception charged into melee (Fjörgyn won the initiative) but was cut down quickly and easily. As for the others, they could not understand why their brutish companion would attack their dear friend, the elf.

So happy were they to see their long lost bestie, they readily gave up information about the tunnel system. Realizing her health had been seriously compromised by the statue and the skeletons, Fjörgyn asked for directions to the entrance. As it turned out, the goblins had their own secret way in and out of the cave and happily showed Fjörgyn the way to the surface. 

Sadly, obligations to their Boss prevented them from going with her back to town to continue their joyous gathering.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Ever Expanding Dungeon : Session 30

For this session, I decided to use the 5 Room Dungeon model as the frame for whatever I rolled up on the content generator/wandering monster table

For the thief skills, I'm using Whitebox Heroes.

After moving into the hallway, the party made their way across the hall to a door that ultimately led them to the Eastern door to a large, narrow room that already had been mapped [Room 43]. Listening at the door revealed nothing, and a brief examination showed the door to be locked.

[Room 1: Guardian I decided it would be a lock. Simple.]

Leegand set about trying to pick the lock but was unsuccessful and the party was forced to backtrack and approach the room via another [Room 42].

[Room 2 in the 5-Room Dungeon is Role-Play / Puzzle, I rolled Monster with Treasure]

As the party entered, 3 skeleton guardians attacked, ganging up on Runolf and Eomond, as they led the party into the chamber. Ygg called upon the Hedonistic Lumberjack but the mighty god must have been sleeping off a hangover and failed to assist in any way. "Ratsplitter" proved its worth against the undead, destroying the first skeleton outright. Runolf had a bit tougher time of it, taking a substantial wound [3 HP damage], before dropping the remaining skeletons single-handed .

[For the puzzle/rp, I felt like i needed more to go on and consulted Mythic GME's Subject Action tables: release danger.]

In the center of the room, a smallish metal box marked with evil looking symbols that any idiot could see was a warning sat surrounded by the scattered bones of the destroyed skeleton warriors. Lykidas noted that he could cast a spell to allow him to decipher the sigils and symbols, but he would have to do so a different day, as it was not a spell he had prepared for this delve. Ygg suggested carrying the box out with them and then Lykidas could cast his spell in the comfort of their room at the inn.

Amazingly, no one could see any flaws with this plan.

[Room 3 in the 5-Room Dungeon is a red herring / resource drain ]

Weird box in hands, the party made their way into the room to the south [Room 43. For contents, I rolled Trap. I used my own trap table from 6 Iron Spikes #2, and got "Piercing"]. 

Perhaps as reward for their success, javelins sprayed from the ceiling, floor and walls [I decided each member of the party would have to make a Saving Throw or take damage]. 

Fortunately, the trap wasn't lethal, although nearly everyone suffered some degree of injury. Despite efforts to bind wounds, the effect of the trap was enough for the party to decide to retrace their steps and get back to town.

[Room 4 in the 5-Room Dungeon is the Big Bad / Combat encounter ]

Unfortunately, their exit was not to be without incident. 

Unbeknownst to the party, the ghoul, whom Ygg had turned earlier, waited in ambush and sprung upon the party, catching them completely off-guard [the party rolled a 1 for their Surprise check].
Eomond bore the weight of the ghoul's fury and was dropped, paralyzed, to the ground - fortunately, for what it was worth, he was still alive. Ygg and Leegand tried to engage the creature from a distance, but Leegand's dagger sailed wide of the mark, and again the Hedonistic Lumberjack was unavailable for direct calls. Finally, Zilliniy charged the beast and cleaved it head to groin in one gruesome swing of her blade. 

Cheers erupted from the party - except for Eomond who, of course, was still paralyzed.

[Room 5 in the 5-Room Dungeon model isn't necessarily another room but treasure or a twist. I don't know why, but this popped into my head]

Unable to move Eomond and the weird box, the party set up guard to wait for the paralysis to fade. Meanwhile, the old man (Lykidas) decided to examine the ghoul - intellectual curiosity, you see - and found something quite odd : a series of numbers tattooed on its wrist. A curiosity no doubt, he severed the hand above the wrist and tossed it in his bag, for further examination in a safer location.

With Eomond mobile again, the party made their way home, only to be ambushed outside of the dungeon's entrance by two men [Wandering Monster : Thieves, 2nd level ] who had misjudged the party's health (easy to do given the amount of bloody bandages in which they were wrapped). Ygg struck a blow which killed the first and as the second ran Leegand and Zilliniy combined to drop the coward with sling stone and arrow.

*** Epilogue ***
Early the following morning, Lykidas, Ygg, Zilliniy and Leegand retired to one of the party's two rooms, shuttered the windows and locked the door - both Eomond and Runolf had far more recovery to do and were allowed to sleep in. In the center of the room, they placed the strange box. 

Lykidas cast his spell and reported that the box promised great treasure at significant peril. 

[Mythic GME: Does it give any clue as to the peril? 87, No]

Zilliniy drew her sword, Ygg readied his mace, Lykidas readied another spell, and Leegand set about trying to pick the lock. Unsuccessful, he stepped out of the way as Ygg put his crowbar to the task.

 [I decided if he rolled under his STR it would open. I rolled a 2. 
I was torn on whether the peril was monster or trap, so I turned to Mythic GME: Is it trapped? 57, yes
I again turned to my trap table in 6 Iron Spikes #2 and rolled "Dumbing"]

As the lid of box flew open, a ghostly form rocketed out howling and screaming in tortured agony. 

[All rolled to Save or lose 1 INT permanently]

Although Leegand and Zilliniy were unaffected, both Lykidas and Ygg felt as if ice picks had been wedged into their brains.

A moment later the apparition had vanished and the party stared at a pile of coin [30 gp and 150 sp]. Eomond and Runolf were summoned from their slumber and the treasure was divided equally among them all. 

"I think a shopping spree is in order, " said Ygg.

[The party will need 6 days of rest for all members to be at their full HP]

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mail Call! And more!

I just got back from my trip to Western New York and a pile of envelopes awaited me when I got in the door:

While I was on my trip, I swung by a store called Two Kings Gaming. The reviews I read suggested that customer service was rather low on their priority list, but I figured I had nothing to lose.

The store mostly caters to Magic : The Gathering, and Warhammer 40K, but they do have a decent selection of out of print RPGs (primarily D&D, but some other systems). 2e is probably the one they have the most of, although 1e and 4e weren't too far behind. Oddly 3e seemed to have very little. As nothing beyond 1e really interests me (except 5e), and I have all of the 1e stuff I care to have, I wasn't holding out much hope of finding anything. 

To my surprise, I found a copy of Holmes D&D for sale, tucked into the rack with the White Dwarf back issues.

My copy of Holmes is rather pristine, so I have been considering buying a "reading copy." I couldn't find any price, so I took it up to the counter expecting to be ignored (based on the reviews I had read). Instead, I was waited on immediately, and even better, although the price was $24(way overpriced), they sold it to me for $10 (much more reasonable).

Next time I'm up in WNY and I've got some time, I'll head back to Two Kings Gaming to see what they might have gotten in.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Skalafell : The Devil Never Had an Easier Time

[We had a short gaming session the other day, mostly to resolve the cliffhanger]

Fjörgyn heard the clomping feet enter the hut and stayed out of sight a bit as the visitors trashed the outer room. Having had enough, she went to the doorway, sword drawn. A brief confrontation with the three men, dark robes over armor, their faces beat up and bruised, found her informing them that she had disposed of the old man herself. 

[Initial reaction was mixed, but the subsequent check to that bit of news came up 11 - in b/x that's pretty damn friendly!]

Impressed, they asked Fjörgyn about the girl and she happily informed them that she had no idea where or who the girl was but that she had chased her into the hut. The three men quickly found her and Fjörgyn was happy to let them leave with the girl, although not before arranging with the men for one of them to assist her in preparing the old man's body to be dragged back to town inconspicuously.

As with all small talk, conversation turned to his cult, and she made inquires as to membership.

That's right, Fjörgyn wanted in. 

He informed her that a representative would seek her out at the Queen's Cauldron and then the cultists and Fjörgyn parted ways.

The old man's body in tow, Fjörgyn sloughed back to Skalafell to the fully defiled shrine. There a dark cloud hung in an otherwise clear sky, the cries and moans within had silenced, but a torrent of blood poured down the steps into the ground in a seemingly infinite wave. 

Obviously, the thing to do would be to throw the corpse into the bloodfall. 

A wave of crimson rose up and engulfed the offering, dissolving it into its current.

A moment later, a twisted figure, once Sister Rebecca, but now scuttling along with a strange gait appeared in the doorway, its face no longer the plain cleric, but more man-like, pointed and, well, evil. The face, Fjörgyn recognized, was similar to that of the ghoul she had killed.

"You! You did this!" 

Despite Sister Rebecca's face appearing briefly screaming for help, the visage returned to the grotesque caricature and one rather odd exchange later, Fjörgyn had arranged with the evil wizard now posessing Sister Rebecca, to retrieve his spell books, in exchange for his tutelage. 

He gave her a map, and she set out to prepare for her journey.

[Ariale claims she's not sure she's doing this role-playing thing right. Please. ]

Pop-Up Tabletop Gaming Zine Library : An Idea So Crazy, It Just Might Work

August 29, 2014, through September 1, 2014 is DragonCon - a huge convention that turns a handful of hotels in downtown Atlanta into a mini-city full of geeks and nerds of all kinds. 

This year marks the third time I will attend (I only moved here 4 or so years ago, so I don't feel too badly about that) and for the first time I will try to participate beyond being a consumer (literally buying crap or as a player in other peoples' games). As I've mentioned before, I am going to submit proposals to run a few sessions of b/x for the gaming track. 

But, the idea that came to me the other day, and one that means quite a bit more to me, is that I will setup and run a pop-up tabletop gaming zine library!

Not exactly!
 (image from:

What do I plan to do?

  • I will bring my tabletop gaming zine collection with me.
    • I may also bring a small pile of non-gaming zines with me, just for variety, as long as they are at least tangentially related to nerd-dom
    • It will be some kind of display - working out the details now.
  • I will setup here and there around DragonCon  (most likely I will be in the open gaming room, since there are oodles of open tables) between gaming events and panels that I am attending for people to browse, borrow, and read zines during their down time, with the request that they return zines before they walk off (or at least leave them on the table where I'm seated).
    • Anyone with a convention badge is free to use the pop-up zine library.
      • Borrowing is limited to 1 zine per person at a time.
      • Yes, there is a chance some of my zines will disappear. I'll take one for the team.
  • I will have basic materials for people to create their own 1-page, aka "pocket mod", print zines (paper, pencils, erasers, pens, Sharpies, scissors) and possibly offer brief lessons to anyone interested in simple binding for print zines or even making their own custom notebooks (3-hole and 5-hole stitched bindings).
    • These might be special "scheduled" time slots.
  • I will advertise the pop-up library, including my location and schedule with signage, as well as online via Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram
  • I will distribute bookmarks, flyers, samples, etc. for 6 Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer, and for anyone else who wants to provide me with material, via the pop-up library or by direct request at the con.
    • I will not leave promotional materials on tables around the con - it's against con rules.
  • Anyone local, or coming to town for the con, who might want to collaborate on this, let me know.

Hopefully, some people will at least stop by out of curiosity. If I manage to get one person interested in checking out zines generally, or tabletop gaming zines specifically, I'll consider it a success.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Appendix N Loot and More!

I'm up visiting my parents this week with my son, which translates into untold amounts of free child care for him and free time for me. 

On Sunday, Ariale and I paid a visit to a large indoor/outdoor flea market / antique market near my parents' house. 

Here are a few of the things I took home:

Although iconic, I've not read any of these before (and my local public library doesn't have them).

The dealer had an amazing selection of books, including a section I will include in an abandoned wizard's tower:

Photo by Ariale M.

One of the outdoor dealers was packing up and I spotted this before they got it packed away:

The box has seen better days, but I'm chucking it anyway. The figures are what I wanted. As soon as I saw them I thought "I could use these in a wargame!".  I'll probably use them with Gutshot! or something similar. I haven't measured the figures, but they don't look like they'd be out of place next to 1/35 sized figures (they're around 2" tall). 

More books!

Finally, I saw this comic book on e-bay a few months back and really wanted it. Maybe it's the idea of a flying, ghost inhabited tank, or that said tank is engaging a Japanese plane in the PTO, but whatever it is I just love the cover and wanted to see what was inside, but the price always seemed a little high to me.

As fate would have it, one of the indoor comic book vendors had "my" comic and Ariale decided I was going to own it (I win!):

You know I'm tempted to make this into a wargame scenario, too.

Monday, July 7, 2014

An Idea for Soloing DHC7B to Preserve Initiative

Playing Nuts! (Two Hour Wargames) lately, and my own Featherstone's Nuts, has got me thinking about solitaire Disposable Heroes: Coffin for Seven Brothers (Iron Ivan). Like most ideas, this one came to me in the shower.

Although I was thinking specifically about DHC7B, this method would work for any game where the sides roll for initiative and the winner can choose to go first or second.

In the past, I've tended to either change the rule such that the winner always goes first, or replace the initiative mechanism with a card based one, by unit. The problem with the former is that it doesn't give the winner the opportunity to take a reactive posture, whereas the latter is that it doesn't as easily account for relative leadership ratings (although it can).

Stealing from the Solo DBA rules, we can assign to the Non-Player Commander a rating of Cautious, Neutral, or Aggressive. It might seem easiest to say a Cautious commander always goes second, a Neutral commander 50/50 and an Aggressive commander always goes first.

Except, that doesn't quite feel right - surely there are circumstances when a Cautious leader still wants to move first, and situations where an Aggressive leader might prefer to react.

Better might be:

  • Cautious: First - 25%, Second - 75%
  • Neutral: 50/50
  • Aggressive: First - 75%, Second - 25%

Since DHC7B uses d10, I'll go with:

  • Cautious: First - 20%, Second - 80%
  • Neutral: 50/50
  • Aggressive: First - 80%, Second - 20%

The second issue is that activation in DHC7B alternates between sides until all units are activated. 

Previously, I replaced the initiative mechanism with an activation deck to determine which unit went next. Besides ignoring leadership factors, it meant that one side might have a run of several units in a row moving. There's nothing wrong with that from my perspective, but if I want to play closer to the designers' ideas, then that won't do. 

What I can do, whether utilizing the method above or not for initiative, is give each SIDE its own deck. Thus, the choice of which particular unit goes when is equally random for both sides (that is, it doesn't favor the solo player) and still allows me to use the intended initiative mechanism.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Half-Year Goal Review

It's that time of year when it makes sense to review the goals we set for ourselves for the year, to track our progress or to update them to reflect who we are now and not who we were when we came up with them in the first place.

I am relatively happy with my hobby accomplishments thus far this year although not all of them are in line with the post linked above (World War Risus and issue 2 of my zine are two obvious examples). The driving force for the 2nd half of the year will be the Ten Games, Ten Times challenge. However, I think a good bit of my original plan is still intact. 

My social game at the FLGS is well underway - although I switched from Labyrinth Lord to b/x since the PDFs are readily available over on DriveThru - and is moving to 2x a month starting, well, this month. I have what I would say are four core players, three semi-regulars, two who seemed to enjoy it but have missed the last two sessions, one new person who seems like he'll be back, and a handful that I never expect to see again (either due to distance or in two cases, because they just happened to be at the store that day and sat in). This goal is basically on autopilot at this point (not the actual gaming itself - I work hard to study all I can about being a better DM. Although I tend to laugh and joke a lot, people are looking to me to provide them with a rewarding experience, and I take that very seriously).

I have yet to sign up to run a game at DragonCon, although the event system just recently went on-line. One of my playes (and the GM for the GURPS campaign I'll be playing) is a volunteer with the gaming staff and he confirmed that I have pretty much up until the con to do this, but I want to do it sooner rather than later so the game is listed in the program. My problem is that other than the writing seminars, most of the panels aren't finalized yet, so I don't know what's going on when. I'm planning to run at least The Purple Worm Graveyard, but it has the possibility of ending quickly depending on the choices the players make, so I'll definitely need another short adventure to fill the time slot for those who want to keep gaming.

The Japantasy game, well, that is going to require some thought. There's practically no way I'll be able to run that for my home group since they are totally absorbed by M:TG and Guild Wars 2. I would like to run it at the FLGS, but see above re: running 2x a month already. This will probably be a mini-campaign run in 2015, possibly as a brief hiatus from Trelleborg.

For WWII gaming, I have played The Goettge Patrol, The Brush Patrol, and The First Battle of Matanikau (which I never wrote up). If I'm understanding the rules correctly, Blitzkrieg Commander will let me play the rest of the engagements (fielding a company per side with support, max, using 1 base = 1 squad) I planned to play. Coincidentally, that's about five of the ten games I plan to play using BKC in the next 6 months.

I have not yet gotten around to even thinking about The Red Surge campaign from The Red Guards at Kursk scenario book. If I recall, I'm short a few Soviet riflemen, and they aren't really near the top of my painting queue at the moment. They might work their way up, but I'm pretty enamored with the Western Front right now. I would say this is not likely in 2014. On the other hand, Nuts! would be a good ruleset for this.

Return to Helvetica - I want to do this, the question is, how much time do i have and am I motivated enough? I did manage to find a hand written copy of the organization table for the Riesling forces, so at least I know who my commanders are again. GASLIGHT is my choice here, but there are some other rules that could make an appearance. I have been jonesing to play GASLIGHT again, so perhaps at least one game in this campaign will happen.

As for the Great Northern War, I have accepted that this is a longer term project for me. 

Right now, I can field something like 70+ Russian infantry, and 24 or so Swedish. The odds of me getting Dragoons and artillery enough for both sides to do any combined arms scenario anytime soon is rather slim, let alone finishing all of the Swedish infantry. ON THE OTHER HAND, I can do some very very very small skirmishes using Songs of Drums and Shakos (modified for the early 18th C.) or the old THW rules Mayhem: Warring Nations (again, modified) or Mayhem: Muskets and Mohawks (arguably less modification required). And, in fact, that's my plan, just to get them on the table before the year is out.

And then there are the new periods that seem to have sprung up out of nowhere that weren't on the horizon at the end of 2013:

  • World War I (1/72, very early war BEF cavalry vs German cavalry, mid-late war Italians vs. Austrians)
  • Medieval (1/32 semi-flat Russians vs Teutonic Knights)
  • American War of Independence (1/32)
I don't expect any of these to do more than hit the painting table this year, but you never know.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Ever Expanding Dungeon : Session 29

Trying a New Setup - No Laptop In Sight!
Off to the left: Whitebox Heroes, Mythic GME and
folder containing my various home brewed systems.
The two warriors glared their challenge to the party. Ygg, figuring that the party's greater number should count for something, apologized for the transgression and the offered the guards some gold if they could forget the whole thing.

[I couldn't find reactions in S&W:WB, so I used the standard 2d6 in b/x / On the NPC etc. 

I gave +1 thanks to the gold and got an 8]

The two figures looked at each other, whispered something and then one replied "Make it 10 and we never saw you."

Ygg, who was out of money now turned to the party, Lykidas had gold to spare and coughed up the other five coins. The guards walked out the door opposite the steps [The PCs are in room 1 for those following along on the map.] counting their gold. 

The party worked their way into the adjoining room to the East where large roots, presumably from a large tree, had begun to break through the ceiling. What they noticed to a one was a sense of permeating evil. Searching the room yielded nothing of note and the party readied themselves to go up the steps behind the North door.

[The party is in room #3. For the room contents I rolled Special with Treasure, using my own room stocking tables from 6 Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer #2, but decided that they only had a 20% chance of finding it even if they searched. I rolled 75% - oh well. 

The tree came courtesy of Rory's Story Cubes]

[The stair well had been trapped previously with a Magic Missile trap, I decided that necessitated rolling to re-stock. I used the traditional stocking table from b/x and rolled a trap. Using my own trap generator from 6 Iron Spikes, I generated a non-magical trap that had a nauseating effect.]

As the party moved up the steps, they failed to notice the recently installed and somewhat crude gas jets. A noxious cloud quickly engulfed them with all but Ygg vomiting and weakened by the foul stench. For once, his diminished  sense of smell, the result of a childhood incident, paid off.

[S&W: WB has a fantastic single saving throw mechanism to use in all situations. No categories of Death Ray, Dragon's Breath, Paralysis etc. 

Ygg was the only one to pass and I decided this merited some sort of narrative addition. Hence, the diminished sense of smell.]

As the party slowly reached the top of the steps, worse for wear, although perhaps a touch lighter due to the lost lunches, a snarling twisted figure, not quite human turned the corner in front of them and bared hideous yellow-grey fangs as saliva pooled then dripped from its once human mouth. 

Ever vigilant, the party was not surprised to see this frothing beast before them and Ygg raised the symbol of the Hedonistic Lumberjack (a double-bitted axe crossed with a beer stein) to try and turn the ghoul. He closed his eyes and murmured a quick prayer. To his, and frankly, everyone's surprise, the creature backed away and out of sight, refusing to approach the party.

[Turning is very different in S&W: WB. You roll 3d6 vs the target number, compared to 2 in b/x or LL, and then all undead of the targeted type flee for 3d6 rounds - in this case 13 rounds ]

No one felt much like chasing the creature down and instead they took a listen at the nearest door before knocking it open in the typical fashion.

[I figured the party would be on board with not going after it, but I checked with Mythic GME just to be sure, and set the chance at Likely that they would go into the room instead. ]

Rubble, rotting vegetable matter, rat carcasses, the chitenous remains of giant centipedes and more lay strewn about the room. A broken marble statue of a minotaur, missing his right arm, lay toppled in the corner. The graffiti in goblin on the opposite wall was translated quickly by Ygg, "Don't Cool Things Down Here, The Scrubber Will Eat You" (a slight mis-translation due to failing to understand goblin colloquialisms).

Using the map to locate the secret door, the party took a quick listen and heard the sounds of steel clanging on stone, of yelling and hissing on the other side.

[Once the listen check was successful, I decided to roll the contents of the room and got Monster. When I checked my "What is the Monster Doing?" table, I got "fighting", so I rolled up two monsters]

As the door slid open, the party saw three battered and bloodied armored men fighting a giant tiger beetle, which was most definitely getting the better of them. Noticing the party, the men called for help.

[First, I checked to see if they were the chaos warriors at 50/50 and got a 90, no. I decided the party would join in because, adventure!]

The melee was vicious and the beetle killed two of the warriors before the third fled to leave the party to finish the job. Unfortunately, they were of little help, no doubt due to the excitement of the situation. 

Of all the strikes made against the bug, only Runolf managed to do any damage. This he accomplished despite the searing pain radiating from the gash in his leg caused by the tiger beetle's mandibles [he took 6 points of damage]. In fact, he manged to kill it by himself, and then immediately set about binding his wounds.

The rest of the party busied themselves searching the room to avoid thinking about their embarrassing display of ineptitude.

Perhaps that is why they did not hear the party of six dwarves approaching.

[Reaction check: Hostile
Their arrival so quickly after the combat seemed to me to imply that they were looking for the warriors and that the beetle was part of their hunt.]

These were not happy dwarves, but dwarves of the very grumpy variety. The leader pointed his dirt covered index finger at the party and shouted something clearly disparaging despite the language barrier. 

Eomond, surprisingly a polyglot, translated for the group:

"He said 'We've caught you thieves! You have killed our hunting beetle but you won't defeat us! Give us back the ring!'"

Ygg, through Eomond, offered apologies and tried to explain that this was a case of mistaken identity, that the two dead men and their escaped fellow were the thieves.

[I rolled again for a reaction check and got hostile again, I figured this meant the fight was on ]

Unconvinced of the sincerity of the apology or of the party's innocence they dwarves drew their swords and spread out.

But the party was ready and Lykidas ordered everyone to fall back as he unleashed his Sleep spell on the dwarves; all six of them dropped into a deep slumber. After a brief debate, the party opted not to bind the dwarves, despite whatever threat they might pose in the future.  

Quickly, Ygg led the group out the South door towards the unexplored.