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. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Rule Hero > Rule Zero

 The problem with Rule Zero:

Is not that it isn't true, it's that it guards an army of lies.

How many planks can you remove from AD&D before you're not really playing AD&D any more?

No one talks about this.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Lake Sambee Post Mortem

Sometimes the best way to not to fight at all. 

Today we're talking about some painful lessons learned from a game of 2 x 2 NapoleonicsIt has taken me an embarrassingly long time to get a handle on how to work this ruleset.

In the Battle of Lake Sambee, an overwhelming force of Albans are invading the Tenebran Nation, looking to return the city of Grandepoint to the Alban fold.  Or to return the Grandepoint silver mines to Alban control.  Tomato, tomahto.  

Here's the general run of things.  As you can see, the Albans brought a large force up between the lake in the center a small farm on the north.  The Tenebrans, led by a very skilled general, took command of a large hill whose flanks were secured by heavy woods to the north, and swamps and light woods to the south.  A very defensible position.

Undaunted, the Albans used cannons to secure the farm on their left flank, and tasked a smaller blocking force in the south to secure their right.

Thanks in large part to my n00bishness, the Alban attack failed spectacularly.

The Alban right fell apart so quickly it put pressure on the center to make a move on the hill before they were really prepared.  That main attack had to break off units to reinforce the right, costing them even more momentum.

In retrospect, the Albans should have brought all their artillery - six to the Tenebran two - forward to long range and pounded away at that hill for as many turns as it took to scramble the lines, and then sent in the horses.  They had time, but pushed forward too fast.  Or, since the win conditions relate to the number of stands destroyed, they should have hung back and used everything they could to destroy that Tenebran southern flanking force before turning their attention to the hill.

Or perhaps the Alban artillery should have gone full Grande Battery, set up at 8-inch range, and just pounded that hill into rubble. Turns out a Napoleonic approach to Napoleonic wargames is a winner! Who knew? Part of it is on the nature of things. 

This comes up in later episodes, but is worth a blog post. After determining the terrain, setting up the physical space and the units, and getting everything ready to go...sometimes its obvious the smart play for one general is to refuse battle. The Albans should have backed off and waited a few days to come at the Tenebrans from a position of - if not advantage, at least less of a disadvantage. Particularly so, given that this is part of a much larger campaign where no general can afford to make a 'throw away' attack.

Calling it quits without firing a shot would mean all the set up was for naught!  Like so many generals before me, I had to learn the hard way that a poorly conceived attack is a far larger waste.  And that is a hard lesson learned on my part.

But we're getting there.  Always learning, and always improving, that's part of the Joy of Wargaming.

If you want to watch the whole battle, you can find it here:

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Chainmail's 50th Anniversary - A Video

This makes for a good watch. A lovely little glimpse into the wargaming world of the midwest in the late 1960s. Out of this culture, and countless others littered across the anglosphers, was spun the tabletop RPG community. It's a quick watch at just over 22 minutes, and includes some fairly candid recollections from Jeff Perren - the other author of Chainmail.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Primordial D&D

 Been thinking about this a lot.

Ever since watching this movie.

Which is great.  A must-watch for anyone interested in learning more about the evolution of tabletop wargaming and/or role-playing games. It's a deep dive into the roots of the hobby, and surprisingly even-handed.  But I can't shake the feeling it doesn't go back quite far enough.  This is no slight on the film, just a bit of wistful musing about the movie might have looked like had it been made by Brits as eager to discuss Featherstone and Bath as the film-makers are to discuss Arneson and Gygax.

Spoilers: the right answer is - no one invented fantasy campaigning, and everyone did.

Expect to see more on this subject when time permits.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Fantasy Campaigning Dun Rite

Using a Reaper Bones wood sprite figure as an evil personification of the deep woods and wilds are inimical to human life?  That's unpossible!

That's what happens in this latest episode of "The Joy of Wargaming" wherein four intrepid heroes wade into the wilds to put paid to a bunch of forces of night.  Including the little bugger shown above.  This is the second in a series of seven games of Nightwatch, a great little solo game that smacks of 'tower defense' style video games.  It works well, and the complexity and challenge really ramp up with each successive game.  Highly recommended.

Not a big fan of Reaper figures - the Bones were cheap, but the ones I got didn't take paint well, are squishy on the table, and the sculpts are mediocre at best.  Phasing those out when my next Alternative Armies shipment arrives, and replacing them with some proper metal alloy beasts. They look better, feel better, and play better.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Of Interest: Wisdom from an Angry God

"Gaming, at its core, is a hobby which seeks neither mediation or approval from Johnny-come-latelies."

Heavens to betsy, I do believe I have come down with a terrible case of the vapors.
This one is pretty complicated.  Basically, there is an in-authentic and ham-handed movement being orchestrated to remove the influence of Western Civilization from the gaming scene and replace it with the pink slime skinsuit.  Friend of the blog, Jeffro Johnson, wrote a phenomenally influential collection of blog posts for the OSR that turned into a fascinating study of the works listed in Appendix N, and how they relate to our culture.  The Johnny-come-latelies who spent three years saying Appendix N doesn't matter, watching with horror the burgeoning reclamation of the gaming space, have launched a counter-offensive whereby they hope to shift the meaning of Appendix N from "the books that built tabletop gaming" into a label with no more meaning than "books some rando likes"

This review from the good guys at DMR Books goes into things in more detail, and thoroughly demolishes one of those astro-turfed project in fine style:
So give Bebergal’s book a pass. Go big instead. Put your time and money into reading the works of Appendix N (find the old editions), the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide. Form your own conclusions. Jeffro Johnson’s Appendix N is far better company on this adventure. Johnson shows there is more treasure to bring up from his passionate, engaging delve... Bebergal, though, just stumbles into the first pit trap on level one. He needs to roll a new character, hope for a better wisdom stat, and try a whole lot harder.

As said above, there is a lot more to the story, and this review covers it all extremely well.

Go read it here

2x2 Napoleonics : A Bit of Eye Candy

 More black powder gaming using a neat little trick for roads and streams...

Simple yarn.  It's just the right scale for 2mm figures, and you can nudge it all about to make just the right curves.  Placed down on a fleece battlemat and it works a treat.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

From Two-Deep to Three

It's not often that I work in 2D painting, but for a special project like this...

A friend asked me to find and paint him up a few Hawaiian Warriors. Always happy to share my love of the hobby - and always happy for an excuse to craft that won't lead to more clutter around the house, I was more than happy to oblige.  He's no wargamer, so instead of building a game that would never be played, I made a shadowbox that can be hung and enjoyed.
A new experience for me, and one I was glad to do.  Learned a lot about his culture, and stretched my legs into a new era of warfare.  Look for a full report on the wargame Tribal, over on the Joy of Wargaming early in May.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Who/Whom Shall be the Whole of the Law

 At dawn on the third day, look to the east.

The sun rises, and the shadows flee.

As for me and my house, we serve the Lord.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Not Even Joking

Inspired by a deeply cogent comment left at "The Joy of Wargaming":  Tabletop role playing games, properly played, ARE wargames.

Let me take my troll face off and address your comment with more sincerity.  When RPGs branched out from the wargame hobby, they left a lot of money on the table.  Some solid scholarship is being done today to work back to that fork in the hobby road and see what happens if we take the path less travelled.  I am gearing up to run another solo campaign in this same style, but using a more Classic Gygaxian approach.  Not just the same campaign but with orcs.  We're talking about something much deeper.  An exploration of how Silvestri's work might help us understand how Chainmail can be used not as an addendum to RPGs, but as a foundational framework.

Exciting stuff, but we have to be patient.  Our forefathers left us very few guidestones, and what we have are occluded by years of overgrowth.  It will take some time to clear the vines and get a better look at the road.  

There is a deep and abiding power lurking in those time-shrouded woods.  This is no slight against today's gaming culture, merely a recognition that much of what we think we know about the Time Before just isn't so.  The only way to sort the history from the revisionist history is to go back and walk that ground ourselves.