Archive for the ‘RPGs’ Category
Well, that was 2012.
I was going to start this post with some trite observation about how I didn’t do too much gaming this year, but if I actually think about it, it’s not that there was less of it, it’s just that it was harder to track than “go down Workshop every Thursday night like clockwork mate”. The cards of life have been shuffled and re-dealt several times this year, to the point where I think back to January and have hazy recollections of opening a Catacomb Command Barge which I’ve just about managed to undercoat and play one game with during the last twelve months, and for some reason that’s stood as a metaphor for a year in which I have… let’s see…
- started playing ruddy Magic again, although it’s successfully stayed marginal and occasional rather than becoming a dominating force like it used to be
- actually become an active force in a WoW guild, rather than a confused non-participant as I was in the ‘Von joins raid guild’ days
- played most of the Dark Sphere Warmachine league and a couple of tournaments
- re-acquired my Vampire Counts
- painted my entire Cryx collection and promptly sold them
- run a startlingly successful long-term RPG for the first time in ages (the Dark Ages game), and run a startlingly unsuccessful set of new player experiences (the various D&D-ish excursions)
- played a few games of 40K.6 and found it to my liking
- played a few games of WFB.8 and found it not to my liking
- played a few games of LotR SBG and started Hark off on it to boot
- played several new games – Malifaux, Freebooter’s Fate and Epic 40K have all seen some table time this year, and I’ve played quite a few board games which I haven’t blogged about because I have no idea what I want to say about them. I even played some Dreadfleet!
- been on a Geek-Cation with some lovely people and run an enjoyable but ultimately uneventful one-off RPG thing
- done rather less than bugger-all in the Hobby Department, bar painting a handful of warnouns for Warmahordes, a handful of zombies and zombie merchandise, and a few commissions. In my defence, I did pretty well for the first 97 days of Project 365: I’ve just done sod-all since I arrived in London.
Now, I would be a bit rubbish if all this actually doing stuff (or, in the latter case, not doing stuff) didn’t make for a fairly revelatory year. Fortunately, I am not a bit rubbish – at least, not at self-indulgent navel-gazing – and therefore I have some Revelations to share with you, as time’s winged chariot trundles on toward the year’s end.
Those of you who keep up with my increasingly irregular diatribes on the House of Paincakes have no doubt bewailed and bemoaned the recent loss of my RPG mojo (and if you haven’t, I don’t wish to hear about it, so could you just feign a spot of bewailing and bemoaning for the sake of appearances? ta very).
The good news is, I’ve found it again, down the back of a sofa in Wolverhampton. Over half term, the Dark Ages Vampire game received a monumental boot up the arse as I finally got to run a proper RP session of some eight hours. With all respect to the in-house group, whose preferences are clear, valid and informed, two and a half hours of intermittent play is not as rewarding as eight hours of sustained play, and that’s an end to it. The Dark Ages game is everything that I think a good game should be – by turns moving, hilarious, wildly improvised by the minute but excruciatingly planned in the grand scale.
It’s that time of year again, folks. September’s rolled around, and brought with it the start of a new academic year. Since I’m currently employed (for once) that means I’m teaching, and that means a dramatic drop in the levels of free time available. This year may be a particularly bad one, as the current gig’s location is Well Rural and imposes six hours of travelling time as a consequence.
That said, if I’ve worked my little routine out properly, I still have three hours of every weekday to call my own, plus weekends, minus the Saturday mornings I spend writing for the House of Paincakes. Good job, too, ’cause I’m actually quite fired up to play games at the moment.
The in-house RPG group is gradually sliding toward Greg Christopher’s Errant as game of choice, and the proposal of four-hour sessions on a Sunday afternoon has been met with cautious enthusiasm. (The original propsal of six-hour sessions was met with a rather emphatic negative, but four seems to be working as a compromise.) One of the group has rather more board-game, rolling-dice tendencies than is the usual wont of my players or myself, but – ever one to see a challenge and an opportunity where lesser men might see a problem and a ball-ache – I think I can work with this by cracking the miniatures out, and maybe drawing up some of those hex maps that I hear all the cool roleplayers use. I don’t mean running every single session as a game of Talisman or anything like that though. What I mean is using something like Hordes of the Things (on hex terrain to eliminate the mensuration and positioning tensions that emerged when I introduced one of these players to the LotR SBG a while back) to model the English Civil War I was on about last week.
Basically, the armchair-improv-theatre stuff would involve approaching and enlisting various Magicians, Paladins, Behemoths and other ‘special units’, which would then – along with the player characters themselves – be represented on a strategic-level hex map and positioned to halt an oncoming enemy force. Players would have to assign themselves, and troops, and significant NPCs/allied monsters, to strategic points, and battles could either be played out as wargames or simulated, Risk-fashion. I’d probably use 28mm scale models for the player characters and the very major NPCs, and 10mm for everything else.
10mm pieces like Kallistra’s are starting to hold an appeal for me anyway, for reasons that will make more sense once I’ve talked about what I did in my last few days of unemployment and what I plan to do with myself in the coming year. See, my newfangled commute takes me through Clapham, and therefore the Clapham Wargames Guild lies on my journey home.
This naturally means a renewed interest in the wargames I have models for. WFB remains popular at the club, and if I can persuade folks to play my preferred 1500 points I’m still cautiously in favour of that (I find the small game size limits some of the really bad craziness of which the game is capable – plus I have to be in bed by about ten on a work night). Some of the gentry are interested in Warmachine and Hordes, which means it’s demo time for me; I also want to get some practice in with the Skorne for the upcoming event calendar.
See, the Beasts from the East are my faction of choice for FQDIII in October; I’ll be one of the many, many people running Magnus and four Renegades if the next Dice and Decks event takes the form that’s being proposed (I’m thinking the Warlord running ‘Team Rocket’ of four Renegades and a Mule, plus Master Tormentor Morghoul running three big stompy Titans and light ‘beasts to go); and since SmogCon 2013 is positioned favourably in time and space (tickets on sale right after my first payday, event located on the way to Hark’s family at the start of half term), it’d be churlish of me not to go. Which has meant that I’ve been forcing myself to paint up the rest of my Skorne…
He’s turned out all right, really, although I’m becoming sicker and sicker of the studio scheme the more times I have to paint it. And that’s the problem, really; I have four Paingivers (which I’ve blatantly, totally phoned in, and which I will not insult your senses by showing to you), a Bronzeback (who should be fun) and a Razor Worm left to do, at the very least.
Basically, I’m sort of sick of painting anything but the most occasional model. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just drybrush, ink, detail, DONE stuff in like I used to, but unfortunately I still don’t like looking at obviously-phoned-in stuff, and it’s putting me off adding new toys to any of my existing armies.
10mm may well offer me a way out. 10mm fantasy in particular; Warmaster, Hordes of the Things and Hordes and Heroes all offer a quick and cheerful infantry painting experience (they’re so tiny that there’s not much point in making an effort!) coupled with the odd ‘big’ individual piece that I can paint ‘properly’. These being individuals, I shouldn’t get sick of them – right?
On the subject of small scales, I also have models for Dystopian Wars (thanks, Mr. Frontline!) sitting around waiting to have something done with them. On the subject of models lying around, there’s also the LaCroix family for Malifaux, who I painted up and then failed to do anything with since Pathfinder last year; and then there are my Iron Kingdoms RPG models gathering dust waiting for the rules to release later this month; and a few odds and sods from Mantic which came free for attending Live and Let Fly and which I might as well do something with at some stage.
There’s also the small matter of Return to Ravnica (the next Magic expansion) coming out this month and having some interesting duel decks that I want to play around with, and also the looming Mists of Pandaria release (although the intermittent and aggravating Internet connection in the Castle von Von mean that’s less and less likely to see the love). And I want to build a Blood Bowl team at some point. See? Loads to do, and rather limited time in which to do it, which is where this announcement comes in.
Over the next six months, I’ll have enough time to play some games, but maybe not enough to blog about doing so, and frankly I know which one I’d rather be doing. Lexington claims to be similarly busy with work and women and affairs related thereto, and Hark… well, not wanting to destroy the mystery too much, but Hark dictates her blog posts to me (she haaaates typing, you see), and so if I don’t have time to blog, neither does she, if you see what I mean.Point is, the update ‘schedule’ is going to be ‘as and when’ rather than ‘weekly’, or indeed anything with pretended regularity, although I’ll be keeping up appearances on the House of Paincakes as usual.
I can promise a list build and report post for FQD, as usual, and something about Errant once we’ve played it for a bit. If I try a brand new game I’ll try to say something intelligent about it. No more than that will be promised; if you’re desperate for a weekly drip-feed, try the House of Paincakes, Saturday lunchtime.
I’m beginning to realise that I’ve made a terrible mistake.
As much as I like the idea of historical, very low-fantasy D&D (or B&B in my case) as an idea, it’s not really the representative of the D&D practice that it needs to be.
No, of course I’m not killing and re-starting the campaign. What do you take me for? I’m going to fantasy-and-mythology this thing up, following certain principles laid out previously and making the effort, as suggested by learned scholars of the form, to employ a canon with which I can boast some familiarity as the bedrock of a personal vision.
Not that I’m actually going for Malory’s Arthur, ho no. I want to set my sights a bit earlier than that; an Arthur who could conceivably pull his ‘once and future king’ shtick in Elizabeth’s England would I feel be more plausible if rooted some thousand years prior to his return. That sites him firmly in the sixth century from whence his legend (probably) derives, before Geoffrey of Monmouth got his mitts on it and started conflating all over the shop, setting the old standards with which we’re (hopefully) all familiar. That said, there are elements of Monmouth and of Malory in there where I’ve felt they can be safely reinterpreted and add a sense of grand narrative and mythic resonance to a rather loose collection of Arthuriana.
In accordance with the accepted principles of setting revelation (short version: don’t tell people about your setting, show people the mechanical tools that are used to explore it and trust ‘em to get the rest, especially if you’re basing yourself on existing sources), I want to see how much of my workings-out I can get across without sinking to scads of descriptive text. Mechanically, I’m thinking about something generically D&Dish, having the general shape of OD&D about it since that’s the last thing I read.
However, I have done the workings-out, there is a version of the Arthuriad that I’ve engineered to justify all this, and those of you who are interested in that process of thinking-out-loud will find it tucked away at the end of the post.
ARTHUR, overlord of Wales, Cornwall and the North (L). Undead Half-Elf Fighter (10). STR 15, DEX 11, CON 13, INT 11, WIS 8, CHA 16. Excalibur is a longsword which can harm fiendish or otherworldly beings. Excalibur’s scabbard makes the bearer immune to physical damage while carried.
MORDRED (R). Shown for reference; dead for a thousand years. Elf (Fighter 4) if resurrected somehow, though.
MERLIN. Magic-User (11). AC2, HD 8. INT 16, WIS 17, CHA 9. Unable to leave the confines of his tree-prison unless Nimue is persuaded to release him or killed. Fiendish heritage means he can be turned, rebuked and otherwise cleric’d at as if undead.
NIMUE. Elf (Magic-User 4). STR 7, DEX 10, CON 8, INT 14, WIS 8, CHA 14. Predictably powerful Charm Person spell, as Dryad.
MORGAUSE, MORGANA and ELAINE (Elf Magic User – 6, 8 and 4 respectively). MORGAUSE has the highest CHA, MORGANA INT and ELAINE WIS. Their magic is of a subtle and beguiling kind, chiefly concerned with baffling the mind and foretelling the future. That said, Morgana is not averse to taking a more direct hand in events through summonations and omens, where necessary.
So far, so mythical. Now to bring it into the 1590s.
From the frozen waters
The king will rise again
With two suns in the sky
See the gleaming spires of the citadel
The king and queen will dwell
In our hearts…
1485 – A Welshman takes the throne of England. The Warlock of Oxford, aged three, begins his persecution of the Drake family, which will last for three generations.
1594 – the Irish (customarily ahead of the game in matters related to elves and elvendom) become restless. The Old English are driven back to Ulster, but the Irish cannot take the fortified towns. (Historically speaking, the Earl of Essex would land in Ulster at the head of seventeen thousand men in 1599. In this fantasy they will be required elsewhere.)
1599 – Septimus Drake encounters three travellers on the road to Oxford, where he is putting the Warlock to trial at last. At the trial the Warlock declares that a thousand years of exile are ended and the King is to rise again. Iron gates under Alderley Edge swing open. The Long Man hauls open his door. Mists enshroud the western coast. The Once and Future King rides out.
(Following recommendations from a player, I’ve come to think of the narrative as being akin to a Doctor Who serial in its structure. So far we’ve had Part One, bumbling around the world encountering its basic elements and waiting for the plot to start, which it does. You might also call it the conventional three-act story if you were more literary in your inclinations, but I definitely started with the brief that “we all like Who so do something like that.”)
Part 2 – The Civil War comes forty years early, and is fought with high magic. The undead ‘knights’ lead a rabble of Welsh, Cornish and Cumbrian soldiery against Elizabeth’s armies amassed to the South and East.
Part 3 – The Act of Union unifies England and Lyonesse (symbolically represented by the brief marriage of Arthur to the dying Elizabeth – extended reign through magic?) with James’ angry demonological/Protestant sympathies confined to the northern reaches. England gradually becomes a client state of Lyonesse, a bulwark against the emergent occult powers of Europe and, ultimately, the influx from Cappadocia (of which more later).
Any conflict between Elizabeth’s England and Morgana’s Lyonesse is likely to be brutal and one-sided unless powerful Clerics and Paladins begin to emerge among the English (cf. Hordes of the Things, in which Magicians are effectively long-ranged espionage and artillery while Clerics and Paladins disrupt them – if the game reaches the stage where large battles and the outcome thereof are of interest to the players I see no harm in teaching the rudiments of HoTT to resolve the same, especially since one or two players have an interest in earning a sort of wargamer’s merit badge as it is). Therefore:
JOHN WHITGIFT, Archbishop of Canterbury (Cleric – level will depend on whether we take the Alexandrian approach to what characters can do, suggesting 5 tops, or the older D&D approach in which case he’s 10 because he has a temple).
A High Churchman, a Calvinist, inclined to overstep his authority in suppressing heretical elements and fond of a grand entrance.
ROBERT DEVEREUX, Earl of Essex (Paladin – level 3). STR 12, DEX 9, CON 14, INT 11, WIS 13, CHA 17.
Among Elizabeth’s favourites, and her most ambitious commanders; regularly disobeys his mistress in hounding defeated enemies. Possessed of a lively mind, a quick blade, and a glorious temperament, though not quite Cecil’s match for savvy.
ROBERT CECIL, Secretary of State. (No PC class level?)
In constant dispute with Essex, his chief rival at court; the Earl’s flamboyance and growing disregard for his Queen (as opposed to his nation) aggravate the Secretary, who wants things to proceed in a quiet and orderly fashion as they are ordered to.
In the event of war Whitgift’s predeterminist slant and theological elitism will favour the establishment of the Knights Palatine – it is necessary that this war be fought or the Lord would not have bade them fight it, and Calvinism lends one to a belief that some are more saved than others. Essex, as an exceptional figure committed to England’s best interests as he sees them, is a hothead but a loyal one – a flamboyant and overeager Paladin but a Paladin nonetheless. In mechanical terms he barely qualifies for the class as (though Whitgift would have my head for saying this) he’s damage control rather than appointed from birth.
A few more thoughts. Alignment in this game is likely to be as much political as spiritual or mechanical. The old-D&D division of Lawful and Chaotic will be useful in distinguishing between the Otherworlders (elves, undead, persons of fiendish ancestry et hoc genus omne) and the, ahm, Worlders for mechanical purposes, particularly if Clerics are explicitly aligned with Worldliness and thus have inherent disruptive powers over the Otherworldly. I suspect I’ll keep the two-word descriptor of alignment but make one word a mechanical/supernal function (i.e. Worldly or Otherworldly) and one word a political expression (Lyonesse, English, Cappadocian, Drow, Prussian).
I also intend to fold in a Loyalty score a la OD&D to indicate the character’s commitment to their political allegiances (it helps to have a metric and mechanic for these things, both for tracking purposes and to reinforce the role of having character statistics for the players). It follows a similar breakdown to stats – 9-12 Loyalty is average, with brackets for negative and positive Morale modifiers for higher and lower loyalties, 3 or less indicating ‘will desert at first opportunity’ and 19 or above indicating cast-iron devotion of the sort only displayed by the ensorcelled or the undead.
Under this system Merlin (for example) might have an alignment expressed as Otherworldly English 7. If you’re interested in why Merlin might have such an alignment, I’m afraid you’ll have to endure a failed genre author revising and retelling a myth which has been better done by better writers beforehand. If you hate that sort of thing, skip straight to the comments section and tell me I don’t understand OD&D or something.