Saturday, August 31, 2013

Large modular dungeon tiles

I made five 4" by 4" dungeon tiles, which is 80 square inches, almost twice my usual batch of tiles.  When added to what I've done already, this is how big a single room I can make:

14 by 14 squares, with four squares to spare.  That's a pretty big room (70 feet to a side).  If I wanted to mix it up, I could build something like this:

I'm probably going to take a little break from this project.  It has turned out well, but until I'm closer to doing a fantasy game I'm going to focus on the games I'm actually doing.

Speaking of which, it's game night tonight...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

But what about MY story?

I picked up 13th Age last week and have been perusing it since then.  I had played the game at KantCon and had been reading a bit about it on the internet.  When the game finally showed up at my FLGS, I picked up a copy and got a free pdf version for good measure.

For those who don't know, 13th Age is a pared-down version of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.  Fewer class-related powers, fewer feats, no grid-based tactical movement.  There's a few odd additions like a d6 die whose number goes up each turn of combat in an encounter, triggering various effects in the PC's and the monsters to accelerate the action.

I've mentioned this before, but there are two aspects of PC creation that bear a bit more detail.  The first is the pre-generated epic-level NPC's who make up the power factions of the world: some good, some bad, some neither.  They are deliberately vague (e.g. the high priestess of the temple of light, the ruler of all the orcs in the land, etc.) so you could easily port them into your own world without too much hassle.  But the PC's get to establish a relationship with up to three of them, and the rules are designed to engage those relationships on odd occasions within the story of the game.  I'm reminded, in a way, of the old "Hunted" disadvantage in Champions, where you, the GM, could suddenly find yourself having to work one or two villainous organizations into the night's plot despite your own plans if you followed the roll of the dice.  That the relationships might be contrary between one PC or another is part of the design, intended to build a little drama into the group dynamic.  In my own playtest of the game, one player found himself instructed to steal the object that the rest of us had been hired to guard.  I can't imagine that working in a campaign setting.

The second is the "One Unique Thing" rule for character creation.  Basically, you can make up one thing about your gnome fighter or half-elf ranger that sets him or her apart from another similar race/class combination.  The unique aspect can not have implications that give him or her a combat advantage, but they can have a dramatic impact on the campaign.  There's a little internal tension within the two game designers about how gonzo these one unique things can be, but notions like "I'm the reincarnation of a fourteenth Icon (the name of the thirteen NPC demi-gods)" or "with my death, the universe ends" all appear to be in-bounds, since they were mentioned as examples.

There's a gaming meme about "snowflakes" out there, mostly about how much leeway you can give to player's when it comes to them nudging into the campaign's story.  The way I see it, the two rules mentioned above do pose some serious challenges to one type of campaign: the sandbox.  When you know who all the major players are, there's less sense of mystery when it comes to exploring your world.  Moreover, players who are clever, greedy, or needing to be the center of attention could easily hijack a campaign with their "one unique thing."  For at least one of the designers, this is no problem.  It helps that he has a "play off the cuff" style with a strong storytelling emphasis.  But I could see this being one of those battlegrounds that exist between players and GM's from time to time.

What's funny is that I read somewhere that 13th Age was to 4th Edition what Castles & Crusades was to 3rd Edition.  Insofar as both are simpler than their comparable editions of D&D, I agree.  But where C&C represented an attempt to bring an edition backwards to an older style of play, 13th Age draws in from the newer aspects of the gaming hobby--call them "narrativist" or "storytelling" or what have you.  It's got more to do with Burning Wheel or Marvel Heroic Roleplaying than BECMI or the like.

What are you feelings about "snowflakes" or players having more control over the campaign's backstory?  Comments welcome.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Something better than Frugality

I'm cross-blog posting about this both here and over at my other blog, The Army Collector.

Right now, I'm reading the book The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time  It's about a travel writer who gets involved with the microfinancing organization Kiva (which also happened to win a Nobel Peace Prize) after seeing the gross disparity of wealth and poverty around the world.  With $25 loans to individuals who are seeking to improve their lives and build local industry, it got me thinking about the fact that I can drop $60 on a copy of the new Star Wars RPG without difficulty, and what that means.

So here's what I decided to do.  I took the remainder of my hobby budget for this month and gathered my two children around the computer.  They each got to pick a single $25 loan to make to an individual.  Kiva loans have a very high rate of repayment, so I will actually get the money back within the next year or so.  After talking a bit with them about this and letting them look around at various individuals who were looking for loans, they each picked their person.

Christopher is a farmer in Kenya who is looking to add a dairy cow to his farm to increase his revenue stream.  Ruth Mery is wanting to build pens for her pigs that she raises to support her family.  Between the two loans and processing fees, I'm out $57, which again I'll probably get back.

So no more games or miniatures for the month, but two people are a little closer to having their lives better, not through charity but locally-organized loans.

I don't get a lot of traffic on this site, but I thought it might be a neat idea to see if others who maintain a gaming budget might be interested in dedicating a portion to Christopher or someone else on the Kiva website.  Since making my loan, Ruth got all the funding she needed, which is pretty exciting.

If you do so, let me know.  And thanks in advance for considering this.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Third round of dungeon tiles

I continue to plug along on this project, in hopes of one day having a pretty flexible dungeon layout.  Here's the third round of tiles and what I can make with them.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Epilogue on Friday's Game

After the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying session, we had a little chat about where we wanted to go with the campaign, which rules we wanted to use, and the possibility of a second team.  As it turns out I have four players teed up for the second team: another couple, a fellow from my church, and my daughter, who is young but the same age my son was when he began.

Interestingly enough, despite several of the players being at least familiar, if not having played Mutants & Masterminds, the group was happier with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  I had thought, given how much they had played D&D 4E, they would want a "crunchier" game, but the group seemed to agree that the more fluid, imagination-driven rules of MHR.  I suppose it makes sense--there were a couple of moments in the M&M game where a player attempted what would be considered in MHR terms a "stunt" only to be told there would be some sort of penalty.  In addition, as I mentioned previously, there was at least one, if not two, high attack bonus/low damage PC's who couldn't seem to affect the villain in the piece.  Unintentional, but informative.

Even more surprising was the announcement from one of my players what he'd like to jump to the other group for schedule reasons.  That means having five on each side, which is a very good number.  It also means I have two players who know the game (my daughter and I have done some playing of MHR on the side) and the switching player's PC is a nice, solid jack-of-all-trades PC with lots of solid options.

More to come...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Robot Duplicate Disaster!

My regular gaming group got back together Friday to once again play the Ultimate Posse with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  I'll freely admit I lifted much of the adventure from "The Protean Plot" by Green Ronin Games.

The game began with a bit of a transition scene where the team was contacted by the Ferret, who had escaped the demonic invaders.  He was able to tell them that the home dimension of the demons was Stygia, which Abrasax said he would research.

Suddenly, the Posse gets a call from the police chief that a group of metahumans is breaking into Genesis Technologies (home of Lancelot, a rival "hero").  The group of metahumans is the Multipower Gang, and the Posse (wondering where Lancelot might be) heads over and mixes it up with the power-shifting thieves.  The Multipower Gang proves to be a bit of a challenge for the group, stressing out Dr. Mind and injuring others, and right before they are overcome one of the Gang attacked the group with an area gas cloud which makes many of the group feel woozy.  But ulimately (see what I did there) the heroes prevail and head home.

That night the heroes all have a dream that they are breaking into Genesis Technologies to steal their new armor, codenamed "Galahad."  When they wake up in the various homes, many of them get together and discover they have all had the dream.  What's worse, now the police have surrounded the headquarters, and with them is the missing Lancelot...

Watcher's Note: I had the players roleplay out the theft, which they thought was because they were under the control of the gas cloud, which is fine, but not exactly true.

The group breaks down into disagreement about what to do.  Dr. Mind is at his home with his family, and is laying low.  Abrasax, the Ferret, Mr. Eternity, and Union Galactic all want to flee and try to get back their good name.  Samkhara, on the other hand, wants to surrender to the police and make their case to the authorities.  She heads out to talk to the police chief (who arrests her) and the other four make their escape.  Lancelot pursues, but Abrasax, the Ferret, and Mr. Eternity defeat him.  Union Galactic has headed off on his own, determined not to get caught.

While in police custody, Samkhara pleads her innocence, but the door opens and another Samkhara enters, claiming she's an imposter!  Meanwhile, the fleeing members of the Posse are similarly approached by their counterparts, while Dr. Mind, who had decided to go support Samkhara, is attacked outside the police station by a second Dr. Mind.


The real Ultimate Posse awaken to find themselves captured by none other than their old foe/rejected paramour Interface!  She monologues for a while about how they were teleported here by nanites in the gas cloud, and how her robot duplicates have taken their places.  The robots fully believe themselves to be the real Posse, but obey her orders to steal the new Galahad armor (which they did).  Plus, in revenge for Mr. Eternity's rejection of her offer to join her in ruling the world, she has branded them as villains!

Well, the Posse isn't going to have any of that.  Abrasax busts lose, Dr. Mind goes insubstantial, and the Ferret uses his mental-link with his Ferret to turn off the machine holding them.  Combat ensues.  Afterward the Posse heads out to intercept their robot duplicates, which is where we pick up the action again...

While Samkhara struggles to defeat her robot duplicate (since her mental powers will have limited effect on it, plus she was rolling terribly), Dr. Mind easily dispatches the robot who spent last night with his family.  Elsewhere the Ferret, Mr. Eternity, and Abrasax decide to not go with the "everyone pick their dance partner" tactic and instead team up and take out each of them, one at a time.  In a surprising twist, Union Galactic actually manages to talk his own robot duplicate into not attacking, citing their mutual anxiety regarding the return of the alien race that held him in captivity for over 100 years.  (This was a bit of great "emotional stresssing out" using the MHR rules.)  Will two robots now be living with the Posse?

The session ends with the Posse's reputation restored, Lancelot swearing revenge, and the gaming group enjoying a pretty genre-classic adventure.

After, there was a little discussion among the group that I'll write up in a later post.  Until then, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Second round of dungeon tiles and the second Bones figure

I made another round of simple Hirst Arts/Taskboard floor tiles for my "when am I ever going to use this?" modular dungeon.

It doesn't look like much since it is virtually identical to the previous batch, but when you put the two together, you can get this...

A 40' by 50' room.  Or you can make something a little more interesting like this...

Also included in that picture is the second of my Reaper Bones set that I have painted up, a harpy.

I'm continuing to make progress on a project that doesn't really seem to have a specific goals.  But I'm enjoying the work, and every now and then think about a fantasy game again.

Editor's note: to the one who will ask--I did file this post while on vacation.  I took the photos in advance and loaded them up in a draft.  So don't worry--I'm relaxing!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

First modular dungeon pieces

So in my last post I mentioned I was putting together some simple pieces to use as a modular dungeon made from Hirst Arts and Taskboard.  Here are the pieces, having been sprayed with black primer.

Now I paint the pieces using cheap house paint purchased at a local hardware store.  After the paint dries, I hit it with a coat of matte sealant, just to help prevent chipping.

Then, because I'm ridiculously anal sometimes, I cut pieces of foam sheets, the kind you can buy very inexpensively at a craft store, into small pads that will do under each floor tile section so the taskboard doesn't flake away.  Each foam pad is cut slightly smaller than the tile so it doesn't stick out.

Here's a final photo of my first batch of floor tiles, just enough to make a classic 30' by 30' room!

Friday, August 2, 2013

A little side project

I hop around a great deal from project to project.  One I've been thinking about for a while is doing yet another modular dungeon using Hirst Arts bricks and Taskboard bases.  Unlike some my previous one, I thought I would not encumber myself with walls, which both limit the use of tiles but also block player's views.  I don't really have a plan here, I thought I would just build it up and see where it goes.

Over at Strange Vistas