Friday, October 13, 2017

(Not) Dice of Rolling

One of the problems when playing a game that requires polyhedral dice (i.e. most RPGs) with newbies is that they often have difficulty telling the dice apart - the d8 and d10 especially.

This isn't helped by the fact that almost all polyhedral dice are sold in sets of identical colour, so you can't just say: roll the green die or whatever.

Also, these sets are usually sold in sets of one die of each type, which can be a bother if you need more of one type but not the others.

The solution to this is obvious in retrospect, but as with most great inventions someone had to be the first to do it. That someone is Dice of Rolling.

The original Dice of Rolling set comes with 29 dice in a custom dice bag. I had considered getting a set but unfortunately they do not ship outside the US.

Well, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... I decided to make my own set with The Dice Shop Online's range of polyhedrals. My configuration is different from the original (which is designed for D&D 5E), and is tailored with the game systems that I run in mind.

I designed the set to be split into two equal sets (minus the d00, which is usually only used by the GM or on special occasions like rolling on tables), which when shared one set per two players be sufficient for a group of four.

Each set will have at least one of each type of die. The extra d6 are for Savage Worlds, where all player characters roll a d6 "Wild Die" with their trait tests and attack rolls, and also for Dragon Age, where rolls are made with 3d6, one of which (the Dragon Die) has to be a different colour from the other two, hence the orange and red dice.

The extra d10s are for Dragon Warriors, where magical attacks and evasion are rolled with 2d10 instead of d20; they are green because in the Lone Wolf Adventure Game only d10s are used, and green is the colour of the Kai!

The d12 is of course the step-child of the polyhedrals, and as I do not GM D&D 5E, I have no need for two d20 per set.

Now granted these are not Gamescience dice - doing the above in Gamescience will cost at least double of what I have spent here - but I am planning to use them for convention games, where precision isn't as important. My mistake here is that I should have made another set of dice for my own use, so I could have a set just for conventions and not have to pack my dice each time I want to run a game. Well, maybe as GM I should have the ethical duty of using Gamescience dice all the time...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cardboard medieval town

A few weeks ago I was looking to buy something for my RPG use and I found it on the eBay store of a Russian seller. He also carried an extensive range of cardboard buildings; I have previously bought a few of the Eastern European buildings from the 1/87 range for my WW2 project and was quite impressed by the design and look of the buildings, so I decided to buy a pack of their 1/72 medieval walls in case I ever needed some for a siege scenario for my RPG or wargaming.

After I assembled the wall pack, I was blown away. The sections are designed to articulate with each other like plate armour to allow the user to form curved wall sections. I wanted more. I bought nine more packs, all of which I assembled over the weekend. The result is the scene above.

The buildings have a generic Western European look, and are closer to 25mm than 28mm. This means that if you plan to use them for wargaming, they will look good and serve well as markers for built-up areas, but their interiors are too small to fight in. I think they will be useful in a skirmish game, where the distinct character of each building can be used as part of the victory conditions - for example, one player may be required to steal a horse from the stables, while another has to take the relic kept in the chapel.

The card is thick, fully coloured on both sides, and in some cases also embossed to give texture. Windows and archways punch out, and doors are hinged. Some additional bits like carts are also provided, as are 2D cardboard figures.

Stables shown with HO scale horses.

The smithy comes with a cardboard anvil and bucket of water!

Some of the buildings feature walls or roofs that can be opened to display the interior - as you can see, the details on the inside can be quite stunning.

Here are a couple of shots of the inside of the walls. As you can see, there is a parapet when you can place figurines.

I also would like to draw attention to the Deep Cut Studio mat which I bought through Big Red Bat. This is the Plans design with 20cm grid, which I bought to use with the To the Last Gaiter Button FPW rules. The grids are inconspicuous enough for the mat to be used for other games, and I think this will become my default gaming mat over the flocked grass mat I have been using for years.

The only down side to all this is that once assembled they take up a lot of storage space. I may have to seriously consider taking them down and packing them flat if I don't plan to use them for a while...

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Recreating the Dragon Warriors cover in miniatures

Dragon Warriors was the first full-fledged RPG I GM'd, and when it was re-released in a hardcover in 2009, I bought a copy and started GMing more or less regularly for a while.

The cover art was by Jon Hodgson, and featured four adventurers from the four original character classes in the game: Knight, Barbarian, Mystic, and Sorcerer.

Art by Jon Hodgson
The cover is also an Easter egg/tribute to the cover of the original paperback version of the book - as you can see the knight from the original book didn't get further into the dungeon...

The new cover art is a better fit for the mood of the game.

When I bought a fighter figure for my Lone Wolf game, I noticed that he bore a resemblance to the knight on the cover art. This gave me an idea and after some googling I decided I would try to recreate the party on the cover in miniatures.

This was what I started with.

The knight figure is less heavily-armoured than the cover version, but the flipped-up visor and his face were a good match and I wasn't prepared to do any heavy conversion like a body-swap. I had to replace his round shield with a plastic heater shield.

The barbarian figure is from Northstar's Frostgrave range and came in a pack with a thief figure (not-Fafhrd and not-Gray Mouser). The dress isn't a 100% match, but at least he wears a top - most 28mm barbarian figures are topless and wield a two-handed axe. I had to give his some facial hair with putty - it's amazing how much manlier it made him. I also had to give him bigger shoes - the original figure had tiny feet. The arm band matches that of the art and is a bonus.

The mystic figure is also from Reaper - I had to restyle his hair to a more bowl-cut look of the original guy. The sorcerer is also from Reaper, and did not require any conversion.

This was what I ended up with.

I think they will make a nice pregenerated party for a convention game.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Running a Con Game

Photo of another table in action - mine wasn't set up yet.
Well, not exactly a convention, but yesterday I ran my first public game at the special RPG Edition of a boardgames meetup.

I've been GMing for over 30 years, and have recruited complete strangers as players on Meetup, but this would be my first time gaming for strangers in a public location (well, as public as the function room of a community centre is).

I was well-prepared for the session - I had in fact planned to run this game back in July at another convention, but that was cancelled due to a lack of players.

I had gone on an RPG forum and asked for advice on running a convention game, and was pointed to a number of articles with good advice, many which I adopted.

I planned to run the same scenario that I used for our Space Opera campaign, I created pre-generated characters (choice of six for a group of four players), each with non-gender-specific names. Each character sheet contained just the essential information needed for play, and had a short background of the character, with a "choose this character if you..." advice at the end. I also picked a male and female version of prepainted miniatures for each the characters, except for the droid and the wookiee.

Despite all that I was still nervous.

With my "private" campaigns I was upfront about my view on compatibility: if you didn't like my GMing style or me as a person, or if I didn't think you are a fit for my group, neither one of us needed to continue playing together. With a "public" game one was in some ways the face of the hobby, and no GM wanted to be one who turned people off the hobby. With campaigns it was also possible to learn the likes and dislikes of the players and adjust the direction and tone of the game - with a one-shot I had one chance to make sure everyone enjoyed himself or herself.

As it turned out I needn't have worried. Despite the fact that three of the four players were complete newbies to RPGs, they got into their roles soon and were engaged with the storyline and encouraging to each other. Things went smoothly and they actually completed their mission with 30 minutes to spare (after a bar brawl, a shoot-out, and a car chase), so I used the scheduled mid-game break to come up with extra complications for the party. As it turned out that was a good thing, as the game ended on a high note with a daring escape instead of simply a delivery made as it would have.

I enjoyed the experience enough to want to do it again. In fact, I had just ordered some 19 dice, colour-coded by the dice type (as inspired by Dice of Rolling - too bad they didn't ship outside the US) to make things easier for newbies in the future. I hope to run the same set-up again at least a couple more times to get mileage on my prep so far - plus the space opera genre seems to encourage creativity, team-work, and role-playing even for newbies.

Well, that's enough about RPGs for now. In my next post I hope to report on a wargaming project I am revisiting. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

D&D Epic Adventure

Picture from organisers' FB page
[Spoilers Alert for The Mystery of Kryptgarden]

That's a picture of my table at the D&D Epic Adventure I attended yesterday. The premise of the event is that five different factions have decided to launch a multi-pronged attack on the stronghold of an evil cult. Members of the various factions gather at the great hall, are organised into teams, and then sent out on their separate missions - how each team fared would have an impact on the other teams in the final battle of the game.

After some initial awkwardness (to be expected when playing with total strangers - although three of the other players actually game together regularly), our team found its footing: the fighter and my paladin tanked, the rogue sneaked and stabbed, and the druid and warlock provided the firepower.

With each successful encounter our confidence and teamwork improved, so much so that we finished our first two acts early and had time for an extended lunch break while the other tables tried to complete theirs.

Over lunch (and bonding over 80s cartoons and RPGs) I found that that the three players actually game with Dave from my regular Monday group, and that one of them was the brother of a friend from my secondary school!

After lunch we played the second two acts of the game. The final battle was suitably epic: while our group set off to take out a ballista situated on a tower connected to other towers by rope bridges, a battle raged in the courtyard of the castle - the ballista rained projectiles onto the good guys: every round matters! When our initial plan of utilising stealth failed, we winged it and attacked both along the rope bridges and on the ground, the fighter and my paladin drawing missile fire while the other dashed from cover to cover to close within spell range to destroy the ballista.

The game was great fun, but what also made the day rewarding was chatting with gamers both close to my age, and also younger.

The older gamers marveled at how mainstream the hobby had become: back in the 80s when we started playing such a big public event was unimaginable. They told horror stories of having to play with GMs who enjoyed tormenting players at the few gaming stores there were back then, because that was the only way they could find a GM.

The youngest player at the table was a new GM, and is running a homebrewed campaign instead of one of the many adventure paths he could easily buy off the shelf; we old grognards were suitable impressed.

I enjoyed the experience enough to want to attend the next time something like this is organised. Of course, it will also give me a chance to try out the new powers my paladin gained from leveling up after the game...

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Blood Bowl Games 5 and 6

After a planned game of Federation Commander fail to materialise on Sunday, fg and I had to think of a game to play in the afternoon. We were both too lazy to set up a full miniatures game, and too lazy to learn a new boardgame, so we defaulted to Blood Bowl.

We managed to find our team rosters from some 20 months ago, and continued the series where we left off. The great thing about Blood Bowl is that the game can picked up at any point if the records are kept; this applies to both a campaign, as well as each individual game. It's a like a chess game, in a way.

It took us only a couple of turns to remember how the game goes, and we managed to play two games (well, sort of...) in one afternoon.

The first half of Game 5 was a scoreless one as my Chaos Dwarves failed to reach the end zone in time. In the second half fg's Orcs managed an easy touchdown in six turns, but a long pass followed by a Sure-footed, Sprinty bull centaur allowed me to draw the game.

Game 6 went really bad for me. A series of casualties left my team unable to put up a reasonable defence, or defend themselves for that matter. At the end of the first half I was down by two points (one score after an interception!) and had only seven players standing. I decided to concede the game.

The Orcs win the series.

With this series concluded, we are thinking of our next teams. Fg is thinking of a Skaven team, while I am looking for something better at passing... like a Wood Elf team, but less... elfy. I will probably end up using the Wood Elf stats, but again I will proxy with some other figures.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Trio of Heroes for a Lone Wolf Campaign

Despite a lack of posting this month, I have in fact been doing a quite a bit of gaming. We concluded our Space Opera campaign (I plan to write a series of articles on the lessons I learned from GMing the campaign, when I can find the time), and I have been reading, making purchases, and painting in preparation for our next RPG campaign.

The setting of the next campaign will be Magnamund, the Lone Wolf world, using Cubicle 7's Lone Wolf Adventure Game rules. The combat rules in this system are a little different from other fantasy RPG rules, as the authors wanted to stick to system in the original gamebooks. This meant that only the players roll during combat, and damage to combatants are decided by referring to a combat result table. As the original gamebooks were solo adventures, this meant some tweaking was required in a multi-player RPG. I think the solution they came up with is reasonable, and I plan to run a combat during our Session 0 to try it out. There are also combat options players can take, which spices things up a little.

I bought several figures especially for the campaign, three of which are seen in the first photo. They represent three of the player characters: a dwarven gunner of Bor, a Brotherhood of the Crystal Star mage, and a Sommlending Knight.

The knight is a Reaper mercenary warrior figure. I had a rather clear idea of what kind of armour I wanted the figure for the knight to be wearing, but as it turned out finding the exact figure to match is not an easy task. This figure was the closest I could find, but I would have preferred a heater shield to the round shield. I used a decal from a Bretonnian set.

The figure has an "adventurer" look, with a backpack, various bags, and even a scroll/map case. I imagine this is a how an adventuring knight looks like.

The figure can be rather plain besides the shield, but fortunately he wears an amulet, which serves as a way to introduce a highlight to the figure.

The second figure is a Red Box Games figure, which I am using as the mage. Again, he has the "adventurer" look. I painted him in the traditional blue of the Brotherhood, but decided not to paint all the stars that are supposed to be decorating the robe. I guess I am trying to go for a more realistic look here.

The figure carries a bedroll, which again highlight the "on the road" look.

The third figure is a Citadel dwarf thunderer figure. There are many different poses and looks in the range, but this one comes closest to what I imagined the gunners of Bor to look like. The details on the gun mechanism are amazing considering the age of these figures.

There is even a powder horn on the figure's hip, which is a nice touch.

There are two more figures to be painted before we have the whole party" a Kai Lord, and a Border Ranger of the North. These are also Red Box figures, and FG has agreed to paint them for me. They will be clothed in green - a break from the monotony of blue on these first three figures.

I have also painted a couple of NPCs, but I won't post them here yet so as not to spoil the surprise for my players.