Sunday, October 30, 2011

15 Games

During the last couple days I've been cleaning off my desk and trying to impose some order on my personal chaos. Part of that has involved making sense of random notes and scraps of posts that I've jotted onto slips of paper or in notebooks meaning to get back to them and do some posting. I've long maintained "idea books" in which I keep notes about things to read, write about, research, or otherwise deal with. One of the tasks I took on was getting the scraps and random notes into one book that I can use as a go-to resource for a post topic.

The majority of these ideas are based on things I have read on other blogs, movies I've seen, or books I've read. I keep holding onto the idea that I'll make enough time and find enough energy to catch up and develop all of these ideas. Then again, that's probably one of those goals that, once achieved, heralds your immenent demise, sort of like finishing painting all of your miniatures.

One of the things I apparently missed was the "15 games in 15 minutes" meme - in fifteen minutes or less naming the fifteen games that have meant the most to you. I've seen this variously limited to video games, tabletop role-playing games, or boardgames. Thinking about it myself, I decided to limit myself to "hobby" games, basically board, miniatures, or tabletop rpgs, but no video games. I am excluding card games and video games because, although I have spent plenty of time playing quite a few card games, they haven't meant nearly the same to me that the games on my list have. I'm leaving off video games because I just haven't played enough of them for them to have a significant impact on my gaming life.

So here's my list with a few notes on why I picked each game:

1. Dungeons & Dragons

D&D was my introduction to the world of hobby games, the first rpg I played, and the one I've played the most and the longest. I've played every edition I've seen except 4E, and it's still my go-to game. Whether you call it D&D, Pathfinder, Labyrinth Lord, or whatever, I still think it's the greatest game ever invented and the one that I'll play until they pry my dice from my cold, dead hand.

2. Gamma World/Metamorphosis Alpha

Gamma World was the second rpg I played. It was similar enough to D&D to be easy to get started, but had enough difference to be its own game. In time, my friends and I would incorporate elements from GW into D&D and vice versa, and this was one of the first experiments we tried with mixing game systems.

3. Boot Hill

I was a big fan of the Lone Ranger television show and the old spaghetti western movies when I was a kid. Boot Hill was a natural fit for me. Unfortunately, the original rules were mostly miniatures rules with an equipment list. There was little guidance on how to develop a story or run a game included with the rules. Playing this back in the day, we used the 1/72 scale plastic cowboys and had lots of shootouts and bank robberies, but nothing like a campaign or continuous story game. Looking back at the rules, I love that they are so sparse and would still love to actually play a longer, story-based game. This is a great example of how keeping a game simple could encourage experienced players, but that new players still need some help on exactly what to do with a game system.

4. Top Secret

My friends and I played every TSR game we could get our hands on up to a point. Top Secret was a particular favorite, though, since most of us were fascinated with James Bond films and spies in general. Shooting was particularly deadly in this game, which encouraged us to actually develop some other gaming skills besides combat. Also, the modern setting let us draw on what was actually happening in the real world for inspiration for games.

5. Dawn Patrol

This was one of my first experiences with historical wargames. It was an immediate fit, since two of my great grandfathers fought in World War I and one was a pilot. It also helps that this game does a decent job of capturing a lot of the spirit of early aerial combat with some fairly simple mechanics.

6. Middle Earth Roleplaying (MERP)/Rolemaster

My grandmother got me the first edition MERP boxed set one year for Christmas because I loved The Hobbit. At the time, D&D was my fantasy game, so this was something completely different. Reading the game challenged a lot of my assumptions about fantasy roleplaying games and made me look at how different mechanics made for a much different game experience. It also taught me that I prefer a rules-light system. The comparison between MERP and D&D I got from reading and playing this game really gave me some good insight in comparing later editions of D&D to earlier ones.

7. Car Wars

I had the original version of this game that came in the pocket case. It was a great game in its own right, but was especially handy for entertaining a few people while someone was rolling up a character or doing something solo with a DM. This was another one of the games that highlighted simple mechanics, expandability with the various supplements, and portability. Thinking about it now, it also sticks in my mind because of the hard plastic case. If more games had come with a similar hard case, they would have fared much better among my gaming group.

8. Traveller

Traveller was my introduction to hard science fiction and skill-based games. We never played any of the published adventures that I recall, but we had a couple of great games that lasted quite a while. One included elements of Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune, Starship Troopers, and Buck Rogers, all mashed together. Even though all of these properties eventually had licensed systems, I still prefer Traveller to any of them. I haven't played any iteration of the system other than the three LBBs and some supplements, but I'm not surprised that it has followed a similar path to D&D and survived for nearly forty years.

9. Call of Cthulhu

Aside from introducing me to horror games, Call of Cthulhu introduced me to the idea of a game where you played a character that was almost certainly doomed. The fun came not from "winning" and advancing but more from surviving without going too insane. It was a definite departure from most of my game playing experiences and forced me to think about gaming differently. It made me think about developing a character with an eye to playability and personality rather than necessarily focusing on combat effectiveness.

10. Star Wars (West End Games/d6)

Star Wars changed my life when I was a kid. From seeing that first scene in the original movie, nothing was the same. This game did a fair job of capturing the feel of the original Star Wars universe. More than that, though, it was a great example of how to take something that was a completely unique property and expand it. Using this system it was equally possible to play a movie-based campaign or one that was closer to the Marvel comic series. You could also spin off into a completely different direction. It respected the property but allowedyou more freedom than any other licensed game property I remember.

11. Champions

I had the first edition boxed set of Champions, and I played quite a bit of the game with a couple friends one summer. I got the game at the perfect time, about the same time that I started seriously collecting comics. This was one of the most difficult games to play because of the math involved in creating characters. I also remember how difficult it was to keep track of actions and movement in combat. The slowness of the game was in exact opposition to the subject, so this one had a short life in my group.

12. Risk

My friends and I played Risk constantly. It seems like we had a game at least once a week, even though I know it wasn't nearly that frequent. Still, this was a perennial favorite. It was also one of the first games we house ruled. We had so many variant rules for playing that we had to sit down and list which ones we were going to use every time we played. Sometimes variants were so hotly contested, we actually wrote our rules changes down and stuck the paper on the table under the edge of the board.

13. Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader

40K was the first miniatures game that I played to any extent. I had painted plenty of miniatures before, but Rogue Trader was the first game that I played that involved collecting and painting an army. At the time I had looked at several other miniatures games, but this was the first one I could convince any of my other friends to play. I ended up playing for almost two decades before I finally got fed up with the way that Games Workshop constantly changed the game to make more sales. More than anything, that convinced me that I like games that I can play with the original rules and tweak or house rule as I need.

14. Rise and Decline of the Third Reich

I have a long love affair with Avalon Hill's hex-and-counter wargames. It all started with Third Reich. I've seen lots of reports about this game as overly complex, unmanageable, or even unplayable. When I was in junior high, I didn't know anything about that. In fact, a couple of friends and I spent weeks poring over the rules and playing the game, working our way through every scenario we could find or create. We loved it! This got us into other games - King Maker, Gettysburg, and tons of others. Over time, we drifted away from these games, mostly because we didn't want to take the time to study the rules for so long to play a game that lasted an afternoon or a weekend. Better we figured to spend that time playing or reading about D&D. In the intervening years I've drifted back to these games because they don't take as many people or as much time to play as most rpgs.

15. Fantasy Wargaming

I got this game originally in the large format that was about the same size as the AD&D hardbacks. Then I got a copy when I joined the Science Fiction Book Club back in the early 80s. I still have a couple of the book club versions of the book on my gaming bookshelf. Despite owning so many different copies of it, I've never actually played a game of it. I created characters for it. I played some mock combats. I've pilfered ideas from it. But I've never played it as written. It is a great example, though, of how pervasive hobby gaming was in particular segments of society at the time. It's also a great example of how different people in different areas approached gaming. The book has a very British feel to it, and that made it stand out against all of the other games I was familiar with at the time.

Putting this list together made me think about the kinds of things I like in games, and there is one common thread that keeps coming up. I like games that have a fair amount of replayability, but I love games that have adaptability. If I can house rule it and really make a game mine, I will like it better than one that can't be modified without breaking. I started gaming when it was expected that you would house rule or create variants in games. That is one of the things that keeps me coming back. Absolute rigidity about rules and systems is the one guaranteed way to get me not to play a game.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vote Imperial in 2012

I'm giving up on the Democrats and, especially, the Republicans. I'm voting Imperial. Everyone else eventually acts like Republicans anyway.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Iron Chef Adventure Challenge, part 2

This is the second post describing my process for the Iron Chef Adventure Challenge. The first part is here.

Looking through all of the hooks for the characters, I've managed to put together a situation that incorporates all of them and allows the players to have plenty of choices along the way to accomplishing the goal. I won't go into the situation until I get to putting together the full adventure. Before I put the adventure into its final form, though, I have to deal with a couple of difficulties that I encountered in the process.

First, some of the characters have classes or items that don't work for me. I'm going to use Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion to put the adventure together. That means I need to get rid of the psionics for the Dark Sun characters, and I need to change some of the equipment. Not really a big deal, but it does make for some work fiddling with the details.

Second, is the level range of the characters on the cards. Outside of Layla, none of the characters is what I would call low level. Most of them have double-digit levels, which makes them fairly noteworthy in my view. And having this many high-level characters concentrated and involved in a particular situation makes it pretty world-shaking. To get around this, I'm putting together a few different options for the adventure so that it will be playable with any level characters and the NPCs will scale to match the party. Basically, each NPC will have a low-level, mid-level, and high-level version and details of the adventure will change based on the scale you choose for the NPCs.

Third, I need to change the names of the characters. A lot of the names on the cards need to be changed because they don't make sense, seem too cliche, or are just distracting. These are some of my continuous complaints about names in a lot of fantasy products, especially from this era of D&D, so I wasn't surprised to see it show up in these cards. That's what I am going to deal with right now.

A lot of fantasy writers and game designers seem to default to the same phonetic constructions, regardless of the way they sound (if they are easy to pronounce) or how they feel. Most of them attempt to induce a fantasy feel by introducing names that have so much difference from real-world naming conventions that they break the spell for me. They immediately kill the fantasy by being so fantastic that I can't take them at all seriously.

In this case, the opposite is also true. They use names or nicknames that are so real-world that there is nothing fantastic about them at all or they invoke something that is completely modern.

Aside from these concerns, though, I'm going to change all of the names to remove as much of the copyrighted material as I can. So the first order of business is to change the names to protect my sanity and strip off the serial numbers from the characters.

I'll say up front that I suck at making up names for characters in fantasy games. Most of my characters back in the 70s and 80s tended to be named after characters from fiction or comics, the majority coming from the index of characters in The Silmarillion. Since then I've come to rely more on either historical lists of names or online resources for naming. The resource I use most frequently is the reprinted version of the Treasury of Archaic Names from Judges Guild.

The ToAN has tables for male and female first names, surnames, and titles. It also has tables and systems for creating random "fantastic" names, which tend to be the jumbles of letters that drive me a little crazy, a tavern name generator, and systems for place and geographic names. Most of the names are drawn from medieval European sources, especially old Celtic and Norse. I like it because it forces some consistency on the naming I do and the names sound better to my ear than most of the names produced at random by fantasists. I don't think it's still in production, but you could get a copy from the normal used game sources.

The male name table in ToAN is a d1000 table, so I'm going to roll three d10s and look up all of the possible combinations those three dice could produce on the table. For example, if I rolled a 1, 5, and 8, I would look up the results for 158, 185, 518, 581, 815, and 851 and choose the one that works best. Female names are a d500 table, so I'll  roll the same three d10s but divide one in half for the hundreds to produce the same options for each roll. If it seems appropriate to the character, I'll tack on a title or nickname as well.

So, running through each character and using the ToAN, here's what I've come up with:

451 Sagus: I'm reading this like magus with a leading s. It's not horrible, but it really doesn't seem to fit a druid that works as a mercenary. I would have changed this one anyway. The roll is 1, 2, and 6 so the names from the table are Asaf, Barstow, Bracken, Clipster, Irvin, or Jawaharial. I'm going with Bracken.

452 Benson: This one definitely needs to get changed, because I can't look at it without thinking of the sitcom from the early 80s. ToAN gave me Conor, Cylarus, Natty, Plummer, Tufnell, and Wightman. I like Conor for my former bear-wrestling druid. For the bear, I'm tempted to call him Ben since I have old TV shows in my head now. I'm going with Natty instead. It seems like a good name for an old bear that used to wrestle in a circus.

453 Aldo Gladhand: This is one of the names I probably would have kept. Aldo seems to fit a halfling, and Gladhand is a great surname or nickname for an outgoing, friendly nature priest. Rolling gets me Barret, Bjarni, Griggs, Hollister, Tilloch, or Vokos. Hollister is the diminutive nature priest.

454 Layla Necuurluf: I would probably keep her proper name, but drop the surname. There's no sense in a character that has no family or understanding of human language to have a surname. Rolling gives me Brita, Cora, Mignon, Renata, Silvia, Vicentia. I'm going with Renata as her given name, but taking a clue from the movie Nell, she calls herself Nana.

455 Martha Bigbones ("the Great"): Martha and her nicknames actually work or this character, but they're pretty bland. ToAN gives me Aina, Alfrida, Banba, Beara, Halina, or Helga. Helga is too typical for a large woman in a pseudo-medieval fantasy environment. I'm going with Beara. If anyone met someone that new here before she learned to cover her weight with illusion, they would hear her called Big Beara or Beara the Bear.

456 Bilkon: Meh. I could probably take or leave this one. Name choices from the table are Alcan, Allyn, Darrell, Eager, Hunter, and Kaspar. I'm calling him Alcan.

573 Manawabe: I like this character's name. It completely distinguishes the character from everyone else and gives the feel of a pulpy African jungle shaman. I'm going to change it to something more Meso-American. A quick search on Aztec names and a roll on this page gets me Nochehuatl as the name of our visiting shaman.

574 Logan: Every time I see this name I see Wolverine from the X-Men, not a reclusive female druid. Rolling got me Aithne, Bruna, and Maya, thanks to rolling double ones. I love the name Maya for the former Grand Druid.

575 Grindlethorpe: This works for a gnome for me, but somehow doesn't seem to fit Krynn in my mind. Moving it out of Krynn, though, it would be okay. ToAN gives me the choice of Findley, Forester, Halfdan, Hatcher, Kirk, and Kurd. Since gnomes seem to have surnames in a lot of the old TSR materials and Forester makes a great surname for a gnome, I'm taking the first two in order and calling the illusionist Findley Forester.

576 Burganet: This is another one of the names that doesn't sound horrible, but doesn't really seem to fit the character. Rolling got me Aldwin, Alvan, Endicott, Freeman, Marsden, and Norvin. None of those really screams to me either, so I'm going with Aldwin and giving him a title as well. Rolling on the title tables came up with Golemsmasher. So the formerly megalomaniacal abjurer is Aldwin Golemsmasher.

577 Usteria: This name makes me think of a houseplant. It definitely needs changing. Rolling on the female tables got Karine, Leila, Lucinda, Ludmila, Nita, and Novomira. I like Nita.

659 Herminard the Eloquent: I like this name, but it reminds me of the evil cleric from Dragonlance. The roll got me Amadis, Arder, Megan, Pinkstone, Thornwell, or Whitwell. I'm using Thornwell and changing up his nickname to get Thornwell the Glib.

660 Quick Wenzer: Oh look, a fantasy name with a z in it. How unusual! Besides that, it reminds me of Kenzer & Co. As appropriate as a gladiator named after the makers of Hackmaster is, it needs changing. The tables give me Bede, Bjorn, Jahverbhai, Maddern, Todhunter, Walsham. Since every good former gladiator needs a nickname, I'm picking one of those as well. A roll on the title tables came up with Helmhewer. I'm changing that so we have Bjorn Helmsplitter.

661 Dlasva: This has a nice Slavic sound to it, but doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. Instead, our merchant gets to be either Baring, Barton, Greenleaf, Hartwig, Ivor, or Kroh. Ivor it is.

662 Captain Kazhal: I actually like this name for a caravan master, even with the zh in it. I'm keeping the title. The Treasury gave me Beck, Bidwell, Jagadis, Lovegood, Ranald, or Sibert. I'm combining a couple to get Captain Ranald Beck.

664 Barnabas: This is another one of the names that works for the character and doesn't sound too crazy or out of place. Rolling gets me Cadwallader, Carlyle, Dirk, Duer, Eudo, or Eyulf. None of those really fits as well as Barnabas, but I'm going with Carlyle.

So, the druidic faction is Bracken the mercenary, Conor and his bear Natty, Renata or Nana, Nochehuatl, and Maya.

The cabal of wizards has Alcan the invoker, Findley Forester and Big Beara the illusionists, Aldwin Golemsmasher the abjurer, and Nita the transmuter.

The caravan consists of Captain Ranald Beck the caravan master, Ivor the trader, Bjorn Helmsplitter and Carlyle the guards, and Thornwell the Glib, entertainer and orator extrordinaire.

Finally, there's the halfling nature priest, Hollister.

Now I have to write up the stat blocks, draw some maps, and write out the details of the adventure.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Iron Chef Adventure Challenge, Part 1

I decided to take Mike up on the Iron Chef Adventure Challenge. Yesterday I got my cards in the mail, so it's time to take a look at the secret ingredient. Today's secret ingredient is...

NPCs!

Yup, I got a pack full of NPCs. All sixteen cards. No monsters, no magic items, no checklists. NPCs.

Here's the roster:

451 Sagus - 11th level Neutral Human Druid - earned all his experience as a mercenary

452 Benson - 6th level Neutral Human Druid - former bear wrestler turned druid that is accompanied by Muscles the Bear
453 Aldo Gladhand - 5th level Neutral Good Halfling Priest - wants to meet a druid to learn how to chat with the local fauna and change his shape
454 Layla Necuurluf - 3rd level Neutral Half-elf Druid - raised in the woods, no parents, speaks with animals but doesn't speak common tongue

455 Martha Bigbones (the Great) - 7th level Neutral Human Illusionist - uses illusions to hide her weight problem

456 Bilkon - 18th level Chaotic Good Human Invoker - Ravenloft - powerful good-aligned mage in Ravenloft that doesn't like to get involved

573 Manawabe - 10th level Neutral Human Druid - Forgotten Realms - jungle druid from Chult

574 Logan - 18th level Neutral Human Druid - Greyhawk - abdicated her Grand Druid position and is visited quarterly to answer a single question for another druid

575 Grindlethorpe - 15th level Chaotic Good Gnome Illusionist - Dragonlance - supposed to be most respected gnome illusionist on Krynn, known for long, boring lectures on gnomish culture

576 Burganet - 11th level Lawful Good Human Abjurer - Ravenloft - used to be evil and was driven insane for five years by Strahd for trying to magically split off part of Strahd's realm, saved by a young woman

577 Usteria - 10th level Neutral Good Half-elf Transmuter - received a bracelet of free action that is actually a dragon-sized ring for freeing a gold dragon from an extra-planar prison

659 Herminard the Eloquent - 6th level Neutral Evil Human Bard - Dark Sun - became a slave when trying to find a patron in Tyr

660 Quick Wenzer - 7th level Chaotic Good Human Gladiator - Dark Sun - likes to use his psionics to gain an advantage over opponents

661 Dlasva - 7th level Neutral Good Half-elf Psionicist - Dark Sun - merchant that uses psionics to get customers to deal fairly

662 Captain Kazhal - 10th level Lawful Neutral Human Fighter - Dark Sun - wealthy head of a caravan that follows a strict code when trading

664 Barnabas - 10th level Neutral Good Human Warrior - Greyhawk - has a sabre +5 with a sheath and baldric that were presents from a noblewoman
According to the rules of the challenge, I need to use at least half of these characters to make an adventure, encounter, scenario, etc. Just to make things really interesting, I'm going to see if I can use them all.

Obviously, each of these characters has a hook - something that distinguishes them and makes them unique and memorable. Since I don't have any items, monsters, or other equipment to use, I'm going to have to see what I can make of the hooks. Before I get into that, though, I can already see a few common threads I can use.

First, there are quite a few druids and magic-users in the pack. The rest of the characters (except Aldo Gladhand and Barnabas) are all Dark Sun characters. So here I've got three factions to work with - the druids, a cabal of magic-users, and a caravan. Aldo is a priest that wants to find a druid to study with, so he's going to be the connection between the druids and the wizards. Barnabas is a fairly generic fighter, so he goes with the caravan.

Since the characters are all based on 2E mechanics, all of the druids are true neutral. The wizards are all good except for Martha. She's true neutral. The rest are all good except for Herminard and Captain Kazhal, and only Herminard is evil. That means either I'm going to have to change some alignments or come up with some other reason for most of these characters to tangle with a group of PCs.

Time to dig into the hooks a bit and see what happens.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sorcerer's Apprentice

I finally got a chance to see Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice the other day. It was a cute coming of age story about a kid in modern New York that inherits the power of Merlin and must use it to defeat Morgan le Fey and her apprentices and magical descendents. As expected, it moved fairly quickly and relied on pretty standard tropes to tell the story. There were plenty of fancy special effects and lots of flash, and they were fairly well executed. Overall, the film was pretty much exactly what I expected. It was a fun movie to watch to eat up a couple hours.

That said, there were a few things that I didn't like at all. First, the movie tried to explain magic too much. In the movie, magic is tied in with physics and explained away as something anyone could do if they used the majority of their mind. Since most people only use ten percent or so of their brain power, they can't do magic. Because of this, in the end, Dave's knowledge of physics (and not his ability to use magic to manipulate the universal forces) is the pivotal ability that allows him to be successful. I personally would have preferred less explanation of the magical. Magic should be mysterious.

The film had two nods to the Sorcerer's Apprentice scene in Fantasia that I caught. Obviously, there was the mishap with animating the brooms, mops, and sponges to clean the magical lab. At the end of the credits, they show a conical hat with moons and stars like the one Mickey Mouse had as part of the sequel leader. Both of these were nice tips of the hat (pardon the pun) to the original inspiration, but nothing special. The product placement for Magic: The Gathering was well done and gave me a little chuckle.

What I loved, though, were a couple of the plot props. First up here is the use of the magical rings as boosters for magical power. Each ring was unique to a particular person in some way but could apparently also be used by someone else if the original owner was dead.

I also loved the use of the nesting dolls as a magical prison. The idea of an item that holds a series of big bads that get released in stages is pretty video-gamey, but it worked well in the movie. I'm not sure how much I liked the inclusion of the Chinese villain. It made for a decent fight scene with some good special effects, but he seemed out of place among the other Morganians.

Gaming Takeaways:

Ring of Wizardry

Each ring of wizardry is the personal ring of a sorcerer or wizard. The more powerful the wizard, the more powerful the ring. It is used to focus and partially power their spells.

Every sorcerer or wizard could be required to have their personal ring of power to fully access their magical abilities. I would probably say that as long as they have the ring they can cast one spell of each level they know per day without memorization or the use of spell books. This is part of the normal complement of spells allowed. Also, as long as they have their ring, they can cast an extra spell of the highest level they can possibly cast once per day. If they lose it, they lose the bonus and can cast one less spell of the highest level they could normally cast per day until they recover their ring.

If the wizard dies, the ring could be used by another wizard to increase their power. In order to access this ability, the new user must know the true name of the wizard that originally used the ring. A wizard can only access the power from rings of their own school or tradition, if there are distinctive schools or traditions in the campaign.

Doll of Binding

The doll of binding looks like a normal wooden nesting doll, but the outer surface of the doll appears to be seamless. When the proper command word is spoken, the doll can capture a man-sized or smaller target, imprisoning them in the doll. The subject must make a successful save versus paralyzation or be trapped. The doll will show an image of the last person trapped on its surface. A person trapped within a doll will not age but will be aware of the passage of time and things that happen in their image's sight.

Each doll can capture between five and eight (1d4+4) different people. People captured by the doll can be released by use of another command word, but must be released in reverse order of the order they were trapped. Thus the first person trapped by a particular doll will be the last person released.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 10

The inlcusion of arquebusiers and cannon in Chainmail seems unusual coming to the rules from Dungeons & Dragons, especially given the long-time exclusion of gunpowder weapons from D&D. They are also striking in a historical sense, as the inclusion of gunpowder weapons on the battlefield in Europe generally heralded the change from older medieval tactics and organizations to pike-and-shot and other characteristically Renaissance-era formations and tactics. Their inclusion here allows for some play in the transition, especially the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses. They also allow experimentation with Chinese historical armies where guns were included earlier and wielded more frequently.

In game terms, arquebusiers are similar to heavy crossbowmen as far as movement, rate of fire, fire arc and the prohibition against indirect fire. So arquebusiers can move up to half their regular move and either fire or reload. If they make more than a half move, they must beat their opponent's die roll to fire and may not reload. They fire every other turn.

Where arquebusiers are completely different is in the way that their hits are resolved. Archers and crossbowmen are required to be grouped, and their effectiveness depends on the number of models in the group and their targets' armor. For arquebusiers, you roll a die for each gunner model. The range to the target determines how difficult it is to hit. All hits kill their target, regardless of armor!

Hard cover that conceals more than half the target imposes a -1 penalty on the roll to hit. If more than half the target is covered, the shooter has a -2 penalty. These penalties are partially offset if the shooter is using a rest or mount. If the shooter is using a support, they receive a +1 bonus.

Looking at these rules, arquebusiers suffer from a lack of mobility, but that is more than made up for with their effectiveness shooting. They have the potential to easily dominate the area of the battlefield within their range, especially if they are firing from a position where the guns have supports.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Camelot and mapping


Sir Timothy over at I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... made mention of a map of Camelot as envisioned in the TV show Merlin that is available in the kid's magazine for the show. Being a long-time Arthurian fan, I decided to track down the map and see what it looks like. I found a pic online, and I like it quite a bit.

I've never seen the show, but I imagine you could easily adapt the map for use in a Pendragon or D&D game. It's pretty simple compared to most of the gaming campaign maps I've seen, but there are enough unique places to spur some adventure here. And that's the thing I generally love about maps, especially for fantasy gaming.

A map doesn't have to present all of the details of a particular environment. It should only present what is significant symbolically. In most cases for gaming, that gets interpreted to mean the type of terrain present, any particular place names, and noteworthy geographical features. But there seems to be a tendency in most gaming maps I've seen (and created) to overburden the viewer with too much detail on the map. There's too much tendency to try to recreate an exact picture of the environment such that the true highpoints get lost among the minutiae.

This map takes the exact opposite tack. It presents the central features of the area with only enough concern for the details of the environment as are necessary to place those features. There seems to be little concern for scale or exactness, and a great concern for the story that the map tells. Good stuff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Zak the innovator or ConstantCon goes mainstream

I just saw this article about someone using Google+ to run D&D games. It mentions the dice rolling issue that Zak solved a few weeks ago and describes in the weekly ConstantCon post. Once again, the OSR is leading the way. I don't know whether I want to point that out to the mainstream D&D 4E community or continue to hang out on the fringes and enjoy things the way they are.