Friday, July 30, 2021

In Case You Missed It

 I made the punchline to my current "Nightwatch" campaign clear with this satirical cover to a supplement that will never be written.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Nightwatch: The Airom Reconquista

Oh, those lovable, roly-poly weirdo beardo dwarves.  Always delving too deep.  That's what the ladies say about them, anyway.  Over on The Channel we kicked off a second campaign of Patrick Todoroff's "Nightwatch" with an easy mission to cleanse the desert of the plague of nasties that have been, er plaguing it.

Our four heroes have sworn a vow to retake the homeland or die trying, and even pledged the first 60 sp worth of loot to finance the economic rebuilding of the old place once they clear out the squatters.  The names of our heroes (Jonal, Gav, Arthru, and Bob) were swiped from the commentors, and all fit the theme of slow and steady.  They are heavily armored, but a bit plodding as they trudge their way to glory. 

Yeah, we use dollar store plastics for monsters in our games.  We are old-school, and tend to sneer at those who think spending money is the same thing as playing the game. There are more people out there with that mentality than you think.

Two bucks for fifteen miniatures that work great in scale isn't just frugal, it's smart.  Bright and cheery, these reptiles are still fearsome and menacing once you put them into the proper context.

In "Nightwatch" your AI-driven enemies spawn every turn from one of four randomly chosen points.  In my first campaign, I struggled to remember which point was which, so for this go-round, I made it easy.  I whipped up some quick stone circles with ruined tiles that have the spawn number right there on the board.  When you're running solo, every little reminder like this frees up processing power for the rules of the game, and I think the little tiles look smashing on the table, too.


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Who Cares What Non-Wargamers Think About Wargaming?

Karwansaray Publishing recently dropped a link to a low effort "scientific study" that used data collected by said publisher to reveal some surprising things about wargamers.  Did you know competitive people prefer competition games, and cooperative people prefer collaborative games?  You might have thought this, but thanks to the magic of science and with the gracious permission of our technocratice overlords we now have permission to say so - we now have that all important SOURCE to which  we can link.

So dumb.

Anyway, aside from the "no shit sherlock" portion of the "study", we also have the real impetus for conducting this research:

Read between the lines here and you'll find something a little more pernicious than the usual, "this needs more study, so make sure you hit that FUND button!" conclusion.  There is a strong push underway for the entire hobby to shift its focus from wargamers to non-wargamers, and down that path leads only madness.


As usual, the people pushing this new narrative fall into two camps: those who see our robust, healthy, long-lived, fun, and exciting hobby as ripe for conquest, and those who are already in the hobby who stink of a desperate need for approval from outsiders.  So desperate are they for approval from people who want to radically and fundamentally change the hobby that they would burn the village to the ground to prove their worth to these outsiders.

As usual, this strategy - welcoming people who don't wargame to help define what it means to wargame - is being sold as a way to save the hobby.  From what?  Dunno.  We live in a golden age where we are spoiled for choice.  Rules, figures, paints, communities, you name it, we've got more than we can handle already.  It is a fun and exciting time to be a part of this hobby, and it's no wonder more and more people want to be a part of it.  The problem enters in when people who don't participate want to define what it means to participate.

Painting is a part of this hobby, sure.  Collecting is a part of this hobby, sure.  History is a part of this hobby, sure.  Math is a part of this hobby, sure.  Writing is a part of this hobby, sure.  But all of those aspects are buttresses that support the main cathedral of...wait for it...PLAYING THE DAMN GAMES.

You laugh, but people are already asking non-players what the hobby community should do to change the hobby to suit their non-playing desires.  The answer of course is that the hobby should keep on doing what it has always done, and those who don't like it can change themselves or go pound sand.

Because you are a psychopath.

The hobby is fine.  We don't need any johnny-come-latelies and hangers-on to tell us what we should do to cater to their whims.  These locusts will just move on once they've eaten all the seed corn anyway.

Just a warning that too few will heed.  I expect that wargaming will go the way of fantasy books, vidya, comics, TTRPGs, and a host of other hobbies.  The forces arrayed against her are too wealthy, too motivated, and too experienced to be turned back for long.

And you know what?  It's okay.  We built this hobby from nothing once, and we can do it again.  Hell, within the tabletop RPG community the BROSR is actively rebuilding D&D for the second time even as we speak.  (The first was the OSR, which failed to regress hard enough.  This time around we're reclaiming the Gygaxian method of complex games that never turn off.)  All we need to do is protect our tables and our conversations and our local (internet or meat-space) implementation.  We can build our own little redoubts, free from the brain-virus that has infected so much of our culture.  And when Big Mini crumbles, which will take some time but is inevitable, we'll still be here, plugging away in delightful obscurity and thumbing our noses at our would-be conquerors.

Gatekeep your hobbies.  Gatekeep your tables.  

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Black Ops: Extraordinary Rendition

Been breaking out the old Black Ops for a bit of the one-two lately.  The African militias work great as disgruntled Americans, and now we can run some domestic, near-future wargaming on the streets of Bloody America.

Rebel Minis makes a fine selection of modern figures, suitable for everything from 1980's banana republic fighting in South America to 2020s banana Republic fighting in North America.

It's a card driven system that works really well.  It feels strange to play a full game of four turns that contains so much back and forth.  In this scenario the cops are escorting a political prisoner from a small backwater airport to a waiting off-site transport vehicle when they are ambushed by Team Red Hat.

Team Red Hat has a slight edge in numbers and motivation, which make up for a lack of training and overall competence.  The above shot was taken moments after the balloon went up - yellow tokens represent noise counters that will surely alert the SWAT Team Leader that it just got real, yo.

And finally, for a last bit of eye candy, a hidden sniper opens up from the hilltop just next to the escape vehicle, to good effect.  The green ship indicates that he was hidden at the time he took his shot.

A fun game, easy to film, and just about the only real world satire you'll see outside of a webcomic these days.  Look for it on the Joy of Wargaming this week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Cha'alt 28

The Blackraven action has shifted to the alien planet of space weirdos some call Cha'alt
And that means it is time for some eye-candy.  Here we see the Cult of the Spicy Wyrm, ambushed by the ragtag band on the right.  For some reason, Cobalt-15 brought the MSB along on the mission to ambush these pilgrims and steal a sacred relic that took the form of a pretty juicy rifle.

Now, in all it's glory, and with the fuchsia skies of the drug-addled planet of mystery, we can play some Planet 28 and figure out how well it works for a long-run narrative campaign. 
The short story is...not great.  It's a fun little skirmish game, but it's really made more for short-run campaigns filled with nameless mooks.  It's a brutal game that is hard on its characters, and the advance system doesn't allow for a whole lot advancement without incurring a whole lot of devolution along the way.  The cost to stay in business just overwhelms any advances you earn along the way.

Or perhaps the game shines when you're running campaigns of 5+ games.  That's possible, but at three games and ready to move on, I can't say for sure.  If you have a few teams going against each other then the drop in team quality over time should be matched by that of your opponents.  Or maybe in a 'race against time' campaign, one where you're struggling to preserve your resources for as long as possible, it could work great.  The core rules are certainly robust and offer a lot of room to play with different team strategies.

But for an episodic throwback to 1980s action-adventure TV where you're looking to bop on through various settings and fun, it just doesn't work out all that well.

Highly recommended for what it is, but what it is just isn't what I'm into at the moment.


Friday, July 9, 2021

Trollopolous Lives!

Things are getting a little crazy over in Trollopolous and her nearby provinces.  The besieging orcish army, leaderless after the capture of their demon-queen, has quit the field, and that only made things worse.

Jeffro's AD&D campaign-by-the-book has kicked into high gear with a week of Braunstein style faction play featuring a number of different factions.  This is an always-on game of D&D in which events are on-going, and most of the factions are run by actual players - even when they don't have a table-session character affiliated with that faction.  Yes, some of the players have characters that are working at cross purposes to each other. 

 It's bretty nutz.

I'm not a participant, just a guy fanning the flames, and here's what I've been able to piece together so far:

  • Chaz The Elf is leading a massive elvish push to secure the city for the King of Elfland
  • Somebody has stirred up the goblins by funding Goblin Lives Matter riots which routinely target the AEI stores (Adventurer Equipment Inc.) for looting and pillaging
  • John Wick, Regent to Prince Elric, has vowed to secure the peace by any means necessary and has declared a curfew for the whole city exempting only the Trollops, the city's most important export
  • Fluid the Druid is working to eco-nuke the whole city from orbit
  • The United Caveman Federation is a federation of peace
  • The Church of Saint Cuthbert has been quiet, but they are Up. To. Something. (And run by an actual, real-world, not-even-kidding Catholic Priest!)  [Edit:  Oops.  Wrong campaign.  That's in the Waterdeep Session Reports.]
  • The queen of Mount Glovermore is an NPC with a faction out in the hinterlands
  • There's something going on in the City of the Dead, but I'm not sure who runs that qurater or if he is even still alive...undead...uh, I'm not sure if he's still kicking
And frankly, I have no idea who to root for in this mess.

There are a few low-key wildcards out there.  For example, Rhedegar is a blade for hire currently keeping the peace at the Prancing Umber Hulk Inn.  SaruMachoMandalf has made an appearance, but I have no idea what he's up to.  And there are more out there that I'm missing.

There is no central location for information.  Just like the real world.  The Trollopulous News Network is unreliable.  Just like the real world.  And you have to sift through everyone's own personal biases to obtain any information that you can use in your own life.  Just like the real world.

Combine that with a wealth of meme-dumping geniuses and you've got the makings of the the most gripping RPG campaign currently being shared across sociable media.  

For a good time, click the links.  Do your research.  
Where We Go Fun, We Go All In.

Oh, and remember to watch out for Sarn Idh.  He keeps getting away with it.

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Tale As Old as Time

 Brace yourself for a revolution in table-top RPGs.

At last, after forty years of D&D and twenty years of instant and always-on communications, the two have been married to create a style that is a literal game changer:

But it ain't me.  It's Jeffro, the madman that redefined how to approach background research for D&D sessions with his ground-breaking literary analysis - an analysis so profound it was memory holed for five years before the woke crowd trotted out a low-energy goof to spoof Appendix N with a cheap and flaccid imitation.   

Here's the man with the plan himself:

Maybe we didn’t need to adapt seventies style rpg lore to eighties style module conventions. Maybe we needed to adapt ourselves to even more seventies era rpg lore! 1:1 timekeeping with multiple independent domain-level actors is fundamental axiom we have been missing. Here is what you get by implementing this one neat trick.

His latest post also features links to two other campaigns that are doing similar ground-breaking work.  Proof of concept, if you will.

  • Every monster lair you hand over to a real player will necessarily generate a personalized and idiosyncratic encounter locations...
  • When player characters need to interact with a domain level player, the DM does not need to improvise something to fit the type of adventure he is trying to run...
  • There will be so much domain-level information being generated and no way to create fair or useful session reports that you will have no choice but to set up a news feed for your campaign...
  • Similarly, your campaign will immediately begin spontaneously generating SECRETS...

Click here to learn more about this one weird trick and what it can do for your table.  

Once people try this, and decide they like it, you can expect a lot of fascinating discussion on the what, the how and the why.  Jeffro has barely begun to scratch the surface of this fundamental mindset shift.  There is a lot of room for more input, experimentation, and discovery here, people. It reminds me of the earliest days of the OSR, when people were falling all over themselves to discover and reinvent the minutiae of Moldvay-style D&D, but this time it's even bigger than a retreat and reskin of the easy mode of the 1980s.  It's a complete renovation from the ground up.

And finally, as always, when a critical mass of people adopt this style for their own table, you can expect a deluge of smart-boy posts from the Usual Crowds staking a claim to have "always known" about the glories of real-time and always-on gaming:

Or maybe not.  This system of spontaneously generated adventure doesn't lend itself to the subscription model that keeps the grifters in business.  It's inherently a table-directed style that doesn't rely on the imagination of others.  It's a focus on the hobby side of the game rather than the consumer side of the game, and without a clear path to profit the guys with dollar signs in their eyes might just continue to play the role of Baghdad Bob, insisting that there's nothing to see here, that everything is fine in D&D-land, and whatever you do, just ignore those guys laughing riotously and enjoying long-lived, robust, and authentic D&D campaigns over there near the wieght machines.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Good Crop Coming In This Year


I am but a humble meme farmer, tending to my memes.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Thanks for the Meme-eries

 Howzabout some light hearted fun using shortcuts to humor?

This one was somebody else's:

But it inspired me to make this:

Because sometimes it really do feel like this:

Friday, June 4, 2021

A Song of Fords and Shallows

 Mostly eye candy today with some thoughts on "A Song of Drums and Shakos".  It's just a reskin of Andrea Sfiligoi's "Song of..." series, but I'm really glad to have added it to my library.  Having the background and points lists for each army really makes it a snap for a Nappy neophyte like myself to throw a game down and get to rolling.

Here we see a veteran unit of French trying to hold a crossroads following defeat at Tres Verdes.  The Redcoats are in full pursuit, and if this French unit can do enough damage to a squad of British dragoons before they cross the table, they can save a lot of lives.  Unfortunately for the, the British have an equal number of green infantry on the way as well.  The British infantry hope to do enough damage or at least distract the French enough to allow the dragoons to slip past.

The French commander opts to split his forces.  He positions three men in the woods between the two fords with the bulk of his men inside the small hedged farm field.  Here you can see the larger unit of British as they advance in two waves.
Having disrupted the French a bit, it's time for the British Dragoons to begin their race northward...
Refusing to be distracted, the French quickly put down the first two mounted enemy...
To win, the British need to get four horses off the road on the north side of the table.  Here you can see that two of them are off, with a third just about to cross the finish line.
All that remains is for the British squadron leader to make his escape...

To find out how this fight ends, check out the full battle play over on "The Joy of Wargaming"!

Oooo, what a bait and switch.  Have I no shame?  Apparently not.

Friday, May 14, 2021

More Campaigning for the Best Campaigns

 Got another big blog for you fans of old school tabletop RPGs.  This time around we're taking a look at a longish game of ACKS, Autarch's excellent Adventurer, Conqueror, King.

This is another one of those new-old campaigns that takes advantage of certain lost secrets to present a style of gaming that fell to the wayside early in the hobby.  A constantly changing roster of active PCs.  Faction play.  Real time.

BDubs and Dragons is up to seventeen sessions as I type this, making now a good time to jump on board.  There's enough to help you kill a slow day at work, but not so much as to feel intimidating.

Written by one of my favorite Twitter follows, it features a rotating cast of characters, many of whom are inspired by notorious internetizens.

The Dawn Age Pervert.

The Dude but he's a cleric.


You know, all the usual internet types.

He usually starts off each post with some little gem of observation about the game in general, what he tried that worked, and how he rolled with the punches thrown by his spastic and unpredictable - and all the more fun for it - players.

Here's a taste, gotta click for the rest:

Is prep a waste of time? I haven't ran my game for three weeks and spent some of that time preparing for the players to go off to a new dungeon. I thought about making a bespoke dungeon but instead chose a one pager I had lying around and will re-purpose its monsters and mise en scene as needed. This is because there's not a huge chance the players will go there any time soon. Why spend an hour or two drawing it up?
I also drew up the treasure map the players found last session, using my kids' crayons. The players never asked about it.

I also ran a two week mass combat military campaign with my dad which echoed into the region and the players hooks and options. Worldbuilding through wargaming! But this didn't come into play much this session either.

Games that cross the boundary into other games?  Are you allowed to to that? 

Honeybadger BDubs don't care.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cleanup On Aisle Linkage

 Clearing out the chaff from the wheat of my link list this week, and it occurred to me that some blogs need more than a quiet pointer.

Around here, we believe that ACTUAL PLAY >> game theory, and today I've got one of the better AD&D session report blogs for you.  A lot of things are churning in the depths of the tabletop world, memes and ideas percolating their way up into the mainstream.  Within a few years, these thoughts and ideas will be commonplace and Johnny-come-latelies will be crawling out of the woodwork to sell you advice on "this great new playstyle that I just kinda thought up".

If you want to get ahead of the curve, you should be reading Waterdeep Session Reports.  It's already a long-running campaign featuring 21 sessions of thick and rich AD&D goodness, and one that incorporates a lot of the old ideas that have been rediscovered now that the serious thinkers have moved on from the OSR and turned their gaze upwards toward the heights of rules as written AD&D.  Even the OSRIC guys, bless their hearts, quailed before that challenge and produced a simplified and half-measures version of Gygax's masterpiece.

No spoilers - the Waterdeep Sessions are experimental, and go in some really interesting directions.  The best I can offer you right now is the promise of a campaign that is intricate and steadily grows from the ordinary into something very, very different.  Solid recommend!

Edit to add:  This madman has a second blog where he posts a "town cryer" style update on all the doings that are afoot in Waterdeep.  THE WATERDEEP WAZOO.  No spoilers, lots of extra bits, but a must-visit for his players, and a must-visit for anyone who wants to stay up to date on the campaign.  Good stuff, Maynard.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Hintervale: Gondor Calls for Aid

Will you answer?

In all seriousness, I need your help.  My latest project for The Joy of Wargaming can't go anywhere without you.  Check it out.

Help a brother out.
Let me know what you think the best option is here, would ya?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Now That's What I'm Talking About!

Bradford Walker steals a march on me by laying out in detail some thoughts that have only been drifting, half-gestated through my mind lately:

RPGs are a wargame derivative.

It's time to explain why this is so, and in so doing expose what the appeal of the medium is and why most RPGs utterly fail because they refuse to exploit that appeal and thus play to the medium's strengths.

Read the whole thing here.

Play the right way and you will experience something no other medium can achieve: supreme visceral virtual experience.

He delves into that murky skein that separates player from character, and why leaving that skein in place, acknowledging it, and working within the boundaries it creates can provide for a much richer and more meaningful gaming experience. 

Then go buy his book, it's space opera done right:

Friday, April 23, 2021

Song of Drums and Shakos - First Runthrough

 It works!

I was afraid it wouldn't.  My experiments with Flying Lead weren't a lot of fun.  They power of modern weapons meant that the games bogged down into two static lines blazing away at each other with little motion or forward progress.
Needs more flags
Fortunately, the Napoleonics version of the game requires two full actions - on the same turn! - to reload a firearm.  That means that my first game included a lot more maneuver and a lot more charging into the bayonets of the enemy than my abortive attempts at modern wargaming.

Note also, this is my first foray into proper Napoleonics.  Though I have dabbled with the French Counter-Revolution to get my feet wet, this remains my first real game of proper Napoleonics with Brits versus French on the road from Tres Verdes.  It was a grand adventure that really came down to the last turn, and I'm looking forward to re-fighting the scenario with a few tweaks to make it even more interesting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

2mm Gamers Rise Up!

Is something of a 2 mm Renaissance is in the air these days? Or maybe it's just observer bias - that I notice more 2mm projects because I myself am working on 2mm projects. Whatever the case, if you're interested in 2 mm projects have I got a doozy for you.

Nik Harwood brings it with a LOT of great shots in his gallery.  Go check it out.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Shots From the Long Hunt

Four heroes wade into the stinking mire of the great swamp.

Follow the full action here.  This was the fourth mission in a "Nightwatch" campaign, a solo wargame that uses tower-defense style design to keep the player on his toes.  Waves of enemies every round force some difficult choices as each mission requires the player to accomplish a few tasks.  In this case three relics must be destroyed, but in others the characters must search four points for an item and escape, or even defend three points from the hordes.  It makes for a complex tangle of challenges.

With two new hirelings manning the oars, our dauntless heroes venture to find and destroy the remains of three unholy abominations whose power lingers over this dank land.  Here, our intrepid wizard takes a moment to scatter the bones of one of the dead nightmares.

Jumped by two giant frog men - literally - the wizard skeedaddles, leaving the hired help to clean up the frog mess.  

In this scenario, the terrain items are the only dry ground.  Movement between them requires pushing through the shallows at half speed for our heroes.  Not so for the frog men, who leap across the gaps, nor for the tentacled thing which pursues them through the mire.  They never got a clear look at the watcher in the muck, but they did get an all too close look at the thing's giant pseudopods.

They also got a first look at the most dangerous of the Crimson Wyrm's minions - scaly lizard men toting assault rifles who loved to hang back and unload from a distance.  Here, our brave wizard cuts them off with a wall of fire that obscures line of sight, and forces the lizards to take the long way around.  That detour means wading through the waters, and buys our heroes time to deal with the hordes of smaller and weaker lizard men that have them surrounded.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Shots Fired!

Related to yesterday's post regarding people who have been playing AD&D wrong for decades - a club of which I was a solid member of for decades myself - Jeffro offers up a little look at what we've all been doing wrong for lo these many years:
Why this rule is there exactly is not immediately obvious. If you experimented with it at all, you would understand that this simple and strange sounding idea is one of the best ideas in gaming history BAR NONE. If you were also familiar with just what precisely Dave Arneson did with Blackmoor, you would realize that this rule was the key that allowed him to manage as massive and complex of a campaign as he in fact did.

But this story does not end there.

Read the whole post for a better idea of what happens when you implement one weird and obscure little rule.

Be warned: Jeffro isn't taking any prisoners when it comes to advocating this new-old style of D&D campaign.  Before you raise your hackles, consider the adage, "When experience speaks let theory be silent."  There are ramifications to the rule he advocates for that are not immediately obvious, and it solves a great many problems that were dealt with by an ever-increasing list of houserules.  Or, perhaps "solves" is the wrong word - it prevents those problems from arising in the first place.

For a great example of this rule in play, check out Peter Del'Orto's long running GURPS Dungeon campaign, Felltower.  It's good stuff.

Give it a shot in your own campaign, you won't regret it.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Not the Flex You Think It Is

Continuing thoughts about Rule Zero and yesterday's post about Theseus' RPG.

Item #1:

If you only ever used a third of a game, have you ever really played the game?  You might have been playing something, but was it really the game you say it is?  How much of a game can you carve out and still be said to be playing the game?

Take baseball. So you don't use the infield fly rule, fine.  But what if you use a big rubber ball that you kick instead of hit with a bat?  What if you run the bases counter-clockwise and use a cricket wicket on the pitcher's mound to stop the runners?  There are limits to these things, and everyone knows it.

From the chatter around the internet, RPGs do not.  The suggesting that the game can be improved by working within the limits imposed by the rules is met with outright hostility from many quarters.

A very strange thing.

Fortunately, there are a few players out there in the reality based community who believe in the games they play.