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.