Monday, 29 June 2009

My Gaming Weekend - White Box, Uncharted Seas

I got two games in over this weekend, Friday's OD&D and Saturday's Uncharted Seas.

OD&D was in played at the Stourbridge and District Wargamers Club in Amblecote. We'd been talking about playing the original 1974 set as is/as was for a while now so this was the first expedition into my mythicalunderworldmegadungeon "The Netherpit". Players were Dave, Al and Mike.

Without going into tedious detail as to every roll, the players took 7 PCs into The Netherpit. I'd set up my central room to offer access to two One Page Dungeons, my own "Catacombs of the Green Meteorite" and Telecanter's "Coastal Caves". I blocked off the staircase down from "Catacombs" since I had no level 2 defined and typically the party made an immediate bee-line for the stairs and messed about trying to remove the "it's not built yet!" rubble before picking up on the hint and giving up. They then wandered about the Catacombs fighting Zombies and being baffled by ossuary pits bored into the floor and moon-dials (like a sundial but running off reflected moonlight).

Some interesting findings follow...

-Combat wasn't as lethal as I had suspected because they only faced Zombies who were not fierce foes because they always lose initiative. Also my players are hardened grognards who've played before and did all the right moves like picking their grounds for combats, tempting the zombies into rooms where they had two men sited either side of the door and the like. I didn't fudge any rolls and the party only suffered casualties in a climatic fight with a Gray Ooze.

-Telecanter's "Streamlined Starting Equipment" is a god-send when creating seven 1st level characters from scratch.

-It took about 45 minutes before a single dice was rolled and that was a "ruling" not a "rule".

-Rules-mechanics wise I'm not certain that I would have done very much different had I been running 1e, 2e, Basic "Red Box" or any of the modern retroclones. Most rolls outside of combat were generally of the "roll d20 and score under your Attribute" or simple "trap will activate on 1,2 on d6" which are the standbys I've been using for nearly 25 years. The only real difference we noticed was in character generation (hit points mostly) and the one-d6-fits-all approach of combat damage. For someone who has mostly DM'd Red Box and played in 2E I found the transition to be quite seamless. I've always played this way and it seems natural.

-Already house rules have crept in. I tried to make the game as close to 1974 as possible (in effect what we would have ended up with had one of us seen the UK review in Owl and Weasel and bought one of the first 6 imported copies off Messrs. Jackson and Livingstone) but can't divorce myself from the fact that it's not 1974 and we have 35 years of worldwide experience of the game that we can't forget about. I took the attitude that what was printed was merely a collection of stuff that attempted to provide a coherent game for customers but it didn't really match how either Gygax nor Arneson played and wouldn't work without some personal intervention. Deviations from canon - since all weapons do d6, the players gave their Magic-Users swords. Leather armoured Magic-Users seemed to be a reasonable compromise to keep them alive.

-Despite being intended as a one-shot, the players wanted to keep the game going and have a second session at a later date. Dave in particular raved about the lack of complicated rules "getting in the way".

Because I thought the game was a one-shot and time was drawing to a close, I ambushed them with the Gray Ooze that they'd run away from earlier in the evening. I didn't feel too bad about this little piece of DM sadism because it made for a nice climax for the game and because the party had previously dreamt up a plan to deal with the horror. Having found an abandoned camp they'd taken the sleeping furs and blankets from the camp and were going to throw them at the Ooze hoping to distract it while hacking away it. This was a plan I was impressed with and decided that the Ooze, lacking any intelligence, would probably mistake a large rug landing upon it for a potential threat/food-source and concentrate on that rather than the vague heat signatures of the two legged things beyond it.

Unfortunately nobody thought to put the plan into operation and they lost three PCs before taking it down with some jammy damage rolls. Post-game when it became obvious that all concerned wanted another game, I allowed all dead PCs to "Save vs CON" to be resurrected by the Temple to which one PC Cleric (deceased) belonged, one character made it. Another piece of house-ruling that I can see being worked into our games.

The original idea of Friday's game was to play the original since we'd only ever played later incarnations. I had expected a game with some rough edges and then maybe move onto Swords and Wizardry but the original went so smoothly that I think it will stay. Fight On!

Uncharted Seas was played in Birmingham at my FLGS Wayland's Forge. We (myself, Scott, Antony) set up a three way battle with two Dwarf fleets and an Orc fleet battling around a central island. After that resulted in utter defeat for the Orcs, hostilities rather petered out and I conceded to Antony as I had suspected the battle had run it's course and continuation would be somewhat tedious. That seems to be an effect of the damage system - you need to roll a certain number of hits in one go to breach the enemy's defense (i.e. score high enough) but damage to self lowers the number of dice you roll. Ultimately the big ships suffer loss of so many crew and batteries that they find it difficult to hurt each other.

Uncharted Seas Hot Triolism Action

After that game we lent our fleets to other people present (Aidy and Phil from the shop staff and Matt one of the roleplayers at the Stourbridge club) who seemed to have a better game than we did, fighting to the death which came down to a boarding action between Dwarf and Orc flagships with the depopulated Dwarf ship drifting and aflame. Both battles were simply excuses to push lead (well, resin actually) and roll lots of dice to see what happens.

Based upon one play and helping oversee a second I like Uncharted Seas and I don't feel that one player really needs anything more than a single Starter Set (generally 1 Battleship, 3 Cruisers and 6 Frigates). It's probably got the right level of complexity for it's scope (Coop's rule-of-thumb that states that some games are silly ideas to begin with and should remember that when designing their rules) and plays "cleanly". I might buy the undead fleet when it is released, I've always had a thing about raised wrecks crewed by the dead since reading Lone Wolf : Fire On The Water and seeing the ship models that Gary Chalk built to refight the naval battle from that gamebook in White Dwarf and the Magnamund Companion. Then again, both the Orcs and Humans have massive sails with plenty of opportunity for intricate sail heraldry - decisions, decisions...

Death Hulk from Fire On The Water

Original double-page spread from The Magnamund Companion showing Gary Chalk's ships for wargaming the battle from the aforementioned gamebook. Well worth zooming into the see the full-sized images.

Photos and player's impression of the game here on the club board.

Wayland's regular Tim passed through and took two in-game shots here and here.

Spartan Games are working upon a spacecraft game, if it comes out with similar mechanics I think a large order from Stourbridge is something of a no-brainer. These rules and a milieu that appeals to me more than silly fantasy naval? I'm in there and no mistake.

Saturday was also UK Armed Forces Day and on the Sunday three of us strolled down to Himley Hall in Dudley where they had something of a historic military vehicles parade and got to clown about handling a few WW2 weapons, such as a Lee-Enfield, Winchester (heavy beast that) and a US "Grease Gun". Six-year old Jake was obsessed with the .50 cal mounted on a sidecar on an ex-US army Indian. Wish I'd taken the camera. Back home via the local and two pints of India Pale Ale.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Frazetta does Flashman

I had no idea that Frazetta had done any Flashman covers until the following turned up in a Google Images search while searching for other stuff.

Can't say as Flashy looks scared enough though...

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Paint Disaster

No, not one of mine (for a change). A couple of hours ago a street maintenance lorry pulled up outside my house, orange hazard light flashing. A council workman jumped out with and repainted the big, white word "SLOW" that is on the road at the bottom of my drive. I prefer to think of this as being a warning of a concealed junction further up and not a pointed comment made solely for my benefit.

Being a figure painter I watched with some interest as he wielded what appeared to be a square cake-cutter on the end of an aluminium pole. He poured some thick white paint into it and just ran it quickly and with no mean skill over the existing, faded lettering. I was watching, the painter in me thinking "now that is an beautiful opaque white where can I get some from?" and then thought "hang on, how long will that take to dry?"

So he quickly demonstrated a real skill at this and did a great job - then answered my second question by leaping back into the lorry, drove over the new paint and smearing it all up the street...

Monday, 22 June 2009


For RISUS go here.

I was reading the free Rogue Trader handout from Free RPG Day 2009. As I blogged before I suspect the game will be too pricey for me to consider picking up - so then the magic word RISUS floated to the foremost parts of the Coop Conscious...

Campaign Premise

You own a ship. It's big and baroque it has guns, lots of cargo space and an imposing name. You hold a Letter of Marque giving you the rights to explore outside of the borders of the Imperium (or maybe inside the less-well explored and outright forgotten about parts), exploiting what you find for personal gain but don't forget to stick a flag in it and claim it for The Imperium. One of you is the Lord-Captain and the Letter of Marque and Deeds To The Ship are in his name so technically he's in charge but so long you let him go on believing that everything will come out OK in the end.

It's like Star Trek without the Prime Directive but with guns, leather, epaulettes, long flappy coats, goth boots, bionic bits and GRIMDARK!


Build characters from 10 Cliches with no more than 4 allocated to any one Cliche. Players can leave Cliche points unallocated at the start and choose to declare them in play when needed if they can justify it to the GM.

Some examples...

Big Gun Fetishist (4), Experienced Looter (4), Unhinged Madwoman (2)

Steampunk Cyborg (3), Sniper(4), Void Survivalist (3)

Effete Eldar Outcast Mercenary (4), Power Sword Duellist (4), Cultural Snob (1), Wizened Scout of the Spacelanes (1)

Snake Oil Salesman (4), Acquisition Expert (4), Blind Luck With Closing Eyes Tightly and Spraying Laspistol Fire Wildly In Supposed Direction of Unfriendlies (2)

The ship and crew will be declared together as 10 cliches. It's big and imposing so the maximum limit of 4 in a Cliche can be wilfully ignored.

Armed Trading Vessel (6), Thieving Crew (4)

Other possible spacecraft cliches include Incredibly Lucky Rustbucket, Fastest Hunk Of Junk In The Galaxy, Planetbuster etc.

A large crew is present (the free scenario 'Forsaken Bounty' states a staggering figure of some 100,000 aboard the Sovereign Venture) so players can always build redshirts from 6 Cliches. Since many of these will be one-dimensional, putting them in all one 6-strong Cliche is OK. There is a virtually infinite pool of labour and Cliches available for away missions if required. Players should create and name the character. If this character is going on an away mission instead of a PC, that player can control him otherwise he becomes an NPC. Surviving redshirts should be filed away and can be re-used in later games.

Typical Redshirts could be...

Ratling Bodge-It Mechanic (4), Pickpocket (2)

Alcoholic Shuttle Pilot(6)

Savage Arco-Flagellant(4), Handy Meat Shield(2)


Three=Zero is a little rule I use if an appropiate Cliche isn't available. I assume that if a character (or spacecraft or planet or whatever) has a stated Cliche it means that they rate as above average in the Cliche. Jestero's Cultural Snob(1) doesn't sound impressive but it does note him as being 1 rank more Culturally Snobbish than the average man in the street.

If the GM needs to add a Cliche to a character (or spacecraft or planet or whatever) then set it as 3 but allow those with a relevant Cliche to temporarily add 3 to their Cliche to keep the differential. If arguing with the Fussy Butler-Servitor(4) as to which wine should be served at the Captain's table to accompany the devilled Gyrinx liver, Jestero is up against it with his 1 against the Butler-Servitors 4. If he is trying to convince the man in the street that the port should be passed to the left (man in the street not having a relevant Cliche noted but probably being average in such) then he can temporarily go up to Cultural Snob(4) against the man in the street's Cultural Knowledge(3).

Another good example would be Mustaro using his Snake Oil Salesman(4) to convince the chief of a feral tribe (with no concept of money or indeed private property) that exchanging mining rights to an entire continent for a handful of beads and devotional pictures of the Emperor is a Really Good Idea. In this case, you might well assume that the Chief has even less of a clue than the average man and rule that One=Zero allowing him a single dice in a suitable Cliche and temporarily offsetting Musato's Cliche to 5.

Needing Three=Zero is actually quite rare as most NPCs will be even more sketchily described than PCs with quite wide-ranging Cliches such as Bored Starport Guard(2) which, TWERPS-style, covers just about anything the Bored Starport Guard might ever need to do.


Pumping Cliches must be justified. Spacecraft can redline engines and divert all power to main weapons in Alpha Strikes. Characters can take combat drugs, adjust bionic limbs to work faster and strike harder, weapons put onto full automatic and entire clips emptied into the enemy etc.


Any action described with sufficient flare and vim should earn a temporary 1 point (dice) bonus.Like in Exalted.


To get a better handle upon the concept of 40k's Rogue Trader idea, check out Inquisitor, the original Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader or indeed Fantasy Flight Games' upcoming RPG called Rogue Trader. If you can acquire it(*), the Free RPG Day 2008 pamphlet sampler of Rogue Trader includes a short scenario with three player characters.


RISUS was designed as a comedy game, ROGUE TRADER was not. However, all that camp running about in leather with big boots, firing big guns against a backdrop that is damned silly when you look at it - it shouldn't really be taken that seriously. GW never did...

(*) - EDIT - Yes you can as it's now been posted for d/l -

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Free RPG Day

It was of course free RPG Day on Saturday so I jumped on the train to Birmingham to visit Wayland's Forge my FLGS. There was a table stacked with free swag so not wanting to be greedy I only added a complementary d6 and the Rogue Trader and Dragon Warriors handouts to my purchase of Bloody Picnic.

Rogue Trader looks interesting but the £40 price of the Dark Heresy rulebook (assuming that RT will have similar pricing) puts me off big time especially if it requires another book to play - one of the main reasons why I don't buy modern RPGs. I still haven't recovered from being all excited about a second version of WFRP before realising that it was another incomplete RPG that sells you a book that isn't adequate to play. So while RT looks like a good game - essentially Grimdark Star Trek - I can't imagine I will be buying it especially if it really needs two or three books before you can play properly.

That's a shame because I shied away from Dark Heresy, not only because of the price, but because I thought DH was the wrong place to start with 40K-based RPGs. I can imagine all DH scenarios being a case of "Oh look, heretics. BLAM!". Rogue Trader, in a campaign where just about anything can be beyond the next star system strikes me as a much better and more varied premise for a campaign. The included scenario is not bad, a boarding of a derelict spacecraft/salvage claim gone wrong.

Dragon Warriors looks quite good. I never owned a copy when it was out in the 1980s but the freebie gave you the character creation chapter, a couple of creatures and an encounter. The system looks nice and fast and if this is a proper RPG playable with just one book I may add it to the list of lusted-after items.

As it happens I am back at Waylands this coming Saturday for a game of Uncharted Seas so, since good form demands I buy something while playing there, I might pick it up.

On the afternoon I headed to some friends. It was their son's sixth birthday (the infamous Not-Really-A-Nephew-Nephew) and I had bought him the Black Reach Paint Set. So I spent a couple of hours assembling the models for him, showing him how I put them together and cleaned up the castings, flicked some primer at them and handed them over for him to paint. We had a nice time sitting at the table while he took painstaking care in thinning his paint and slowly slapping red on the Marines. I was impressed that you actually get the Foundation Paint in the set, not the regular stuff but that does mean the bright red Marines he wanted have turned out dark red.

Sunken Cities

When I first read Dragonlance I admit to being massively confused by Xak Tsaroth, the city that sank beneath the Earth. Not into the Earth via being sited on top of a massive landslip, but actually inside it with a roof and everything. How on Earth did that happen?

The concept crops up a lot in fantasy, not simply many strata of compressed matter from the leveling of old areas of the city but another city built on top but allowing for "headroom" underneath - so that the old city is as it was but just with a roof. The Lone Wolf gamebook The Cauldron of Terror does the same thing and drifting away from pure fantasy we have Mega-City One in Judge Dredd where the older New York exists as an inhabited subterraenean world.

I've never understood the practicality of how this works. How do you simply put a roof on an existing settlement and build ontop?

I always thought I was missing something so out of a sense of mischief I did something possibly rash - I asked 4chan.

Actually we got some really good discussion and justification for how this could come about in a plausible environment. Selected highlights follow;

An angry giant took an enormous crap on a city.
Then the crap dried out in the sun and formed a hard, calcified strata over the city. Yeah, I think I can make that work actually...

This suggestion played with the idea that yes, under the city are different strata of detrius from differing ages of the city, but add typical xD&D underground burrowers and some circumstances that allow for the lower strata to vanish...

The same way it works in the real world, City sits around for a long time, something happens, people leave city, dirt etc. slowly piles up around constructions. Or it's a part of the city that slowly gets taken over by.. well trash and dirt and debris from construction, if you go to alot of old european cities you'll be able to find underground ruins, most of them are filled with dirt though, but there are examples of 'houses' that have been excavated several meters below the current surface, where trash and dirt has simply been piled on top of eachother and the city has 'risen' like that.

Now add that there are tons of monsters in D&D that can excavate old underground cities and live in them, and there you go!

The rubbish-filled streets could work if the later construction ontop of it is more solid than the older stuff - say primitive cement or something. Then, as the lower strata rots down, it forms a void under the newer city so the PCs can sneak in, explore the old ruins while still having some headroom.
City is built on unstable ground. Heavy construction deteriorates the quality of the ground. City begins to sink. Eventually abandoned. Mud and dirt floods the city and buries it. Harder layer of soil appears on top. Mud and dirt that flooded the city is drained somehow.
Could just drain through porous rock or be washed away by groundwater, meteoric water or even an underground river. I think a river running through a city - for added effect at right angles to the initial canal/river system - would be pretty cool, but the drainage is probably the most likely answer.

Or we could have the original city pre-dating an Ice Age

I'm trying to work out a method via natural occurence. It's hard to justify a lot of them, but I'd say you definitely have to possibility of a volcanic eruption or even the collapse of an empty volcanic structure the city is built upon. Another thought would be glaciation and isostacy causing the city to sink beneath the waves. It collects debris and after the ice age ends resurfaces buried under shale, limestone, sandstone, etc - marine rocks.
Yeah that might work, once the Ice Age is over and the World warms up, the lower part of the city-engulfing glacier melts (closer to planet's core) but the upper surface remains frozen with rocky build up above it - then you have the surface world, permafrost below it, solid glacier, then a massive cavern and a ruined city on the floor of the cavern.

Exotic air corals...

You could try saying that some sort of land-coral organism ate up the city, starting from the bottom, and avoiding the shady indoors, slowly building up around the buildings. It would grow too fast, and it could be slightly poisonous, I'm thinking rashes and stuff, so that it would be just simpler to leave. In the end, the organism dies after engulfing the city, and within lies a nest of empty buildings and makeshift streets that were closed off to the coral by tunnelling through them and building overhanging roofs and walls.

Staying with wild flights of fantasy

A more fantastic approach: "Swallowed by the earth"; Maybe eaten by a great "beast or creature" which then "sleeps" or is slain. Imagine some of those mountain ranges, for instance, that were supposedly formed by giants struck down or whatever.

Meanwhile at the edge of the desert...

Say a city on the edge of desert, that over the years became more and more buried with sand, the citizens were not willing to move so they adapted, roofing over open spaces, creating sealed passage ways that kept out the ever present sand. Eventually the sand won out though and all your left with a traverseable city buried beneath the dunes.

Of course that city would then expand upwards and the lower passages could be abandoned and then if some form of evil or vermin moves in the city authorities might order all entrances/exits to the old levels sealed.

Something fell on it but didn't crush of all it...

I would suggest that a city was built underneath a giant rock overhang, and a cataclysmic earthquake brought it down on the city, but at an angle so that portions of the city were covered, and sheltered from the downpour of the rocks(think of the lion king. remember how the pride's den was all fucked up in shape? kind of like that, but on a bigger scale and no homosexual lions). The Earthquake caused a physical rift in the ground, and water from a nearby lake or ocean smashed in and drowned all the survivors, bringing in tons of silt and water, filling in the small places between the rocks, and calcification slowly solidified the rubble into a more permanent, solid structure.

Fast foreward 300 years, and the same spot has been chosen as the spot for a new city, for the same reason the original city was there. Tactical advantage, proximity to trade routes, what have you. Eventually all the water under the giant rock overhang dries up, and the ocean recedes back to it's original location due to the natural order of things. Strange ghosts and drowned undead come out of the ground, adventurers are hired to find out wtf is up.

Some good stuff from 4chan. Who would have though it? Thanks, Anon!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

M:TG Starts To Look Good For The First Time Since The Early Nineties

"ZOMGWTFBBQ! New rules of Magic have ruined it and dumbed it down! I've been playing M:TG competitively for ten years and spent over $15,000 on cards and that's it I'm out! Too simple! It's like the CBeebies version of M:TG! WOTC sux! I'm leaving this game! Screw you guys!"

etc. etc.

Fantastic! Every post I read along this lines is making me more and more likely to rush out and start buying, collecting and trying to get a game of Magic 2010 when it comes out next month. All the ultra-competitive, ultra-argumentative players who can browbeat you into thinking "sod it - let it go, let him have his way it's only a bloody card game..." are leaving the game? A chance to get into the game in Year Zero without needing to source rare cards from the past two decades? I'm in there. Nice move Wizards. Time to get a nice new lever ring binder and a bunch of Ultra Pros.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

More Netherpit Excavation

I've decided to add Telecanter's Coastal Caves to The Netherpit as the second of my Level 1 levels. Originally I wasn't going to add anybody else's stuff to The Netherpit, the megadungeon concept being one of being something personalised by the creator after all, but I have a game coming up a week next Friday, I want to offer the party another Level 1 level and this fits in very nicely indeed.

From my deadskinmask room the party will now be presented with two portals. The eastern one will lead to The Catacombs Of The Green Meteorite and the western one will wend it's way through damp limestone until it drops them in Room #1 of The Coastal Caves.

I don't know how it will fare in the OPD competition but Coastal Caves is my favourite of all the entries that I've bothered to download and read. It feels like a real place and should be interesting to explore. Will it stay in The Netherpit as a permanent feature? I'm not sure as ideally all of the dungeon levels will be my own work but certainly it will there for the first expedition by my players.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Projects On The Workbench

Hayfever is crucifying me today. Let's have a look at the projects I have on the go.

The Netherpit - White Box Circa '74

A week next Friday we will be playing White Box OD&D. I'm the Dungeonmaster. I was thinking of running the party through some of The Netherpit. I have the entrance chambers to the dungeon sorted and also the Catacombs of the Green Meteorite as the first Level 1 of the dungeon. I'm unsure as to whether I will need to bring more to the table so to speak and whether I should be adding another Level 1 One Page Dungeon (to offer choice to the party as to which direction to take) or create a Level 2 Dungeon under the Catacombs in case the players get deeper in during the single session than I expected.

I'm going to play the game straight with minimal house-ruling and let the dice land where they fall. Should there be a TPK half-way through an evening, the beauty of the Megadungeon concept is that the players can create new PCs (or just rename their dead ones) and start another expedition.

It will be interesting to play the White Box, but it is a bit of a nostalgia exercise. Should the Old School dungeon-bashing carry on at Stourbridge I will almost certainly change over to Swords and Wizardry for future games.

Exalted For Newbies

This has gone seriously back-burner. The rules are nice and simple but there are so many crunchy bits to include that it's starting to make my head hurt and I'm struggling to see how a novice player would cope with so much to think about.

Sturmlanding Auf Black Reach

I've nearly painted the entire Space Marine force from Assault on Black Reach. Last night I did a load of groundworking and discovered that having put the backpacks for the Commander and heavy weapon trooper somewhere safe (to be painted off the model), I can't remember where that is. Arse. Will have to keep my eyes on eBay for something suitable, perhaps some crappily painted plastic models that I can cannibalise for the packs. Or see if the Space Rangers backpacks can be grafted on - after all I have 30 of the things squirreled away for future projects. NB - A sprue of 5 plastic backpacks Buy It Now'd on the 'bay while formatting this post.

Crimson Fists Space Fascists Chapter House, Ulster branch.

See? Resemblance tis uncanny...

A couple of the Orks are painted but realistically I've no interest in them at all. I think I will just assemble everything that is currently unassembled and leave it at that.

I've realised that I'm not interested in expanding the 40K stuff beyond this box set and ultimately may pass it on to the Not-Really-A-Nephew-Nephew. The plan here is to put on a game for him and his cousin so I need to sort out some terrain as well.

Terrain-wise I have the Games Workshop Moonscape set and will mix with the old stand-by of cloth off-cuts sprinkled with lichen and plastic aquarium plants.

Nobody really plays this at Stourbridge, there is some interest in AT-43 that might end up filling the sort of niche that 40K would occupy in the life of a wargames club.

Uncharted Seas

I'm missing a potential maiden voyage for the Dwarf fleet this Friday as I am already booked up to go out to dinner. As it happens I still haven't read the rules away.

Bizarre Screen-Scraping

A circuitously insane drub from the unsuitable 1990s with the sound shebang peacefulness on the sprue after J3?

WTF? Some weird screen-scraping blog that has taken one of my blog entries, machine-translated from English to Something Else and then back to English.. Christ only knows why.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Encyclopedia Dramatica on 40K

Probably the best single introduction to the game evah!

What I Did At Games Expo

Games Expo is a general gaming show (board, role, war, CCG etc.) that's now in it's third year at the Clarendon Suite in Edgbaston, Birmingham. The intention of the guys that organised it, Richard Denning and Kevin Townsend has been to create a British version of the big Essen show. It's more boardgamegeek than theminiaturespage. What this means in the real world therefore is that it's not purely a shopping trip and there are actually people still there after half-past-ten in the morning...

The Clarendon Suite is in a slightly awkward location in that it's central without being very convenient for Birmingham's train stations and while it's on a major thoroughfare (the Hagley Road, a major route into the city) it's not blessed with parking. So I bus-ed it in which created it's own problems (of which moar later...)

I met some of the Stourbridge crew there and spent two days wandering around, visiting the bar, chin-wagging and looking at stuff. So what did we do?

Snow Tails - German-style (but actually Scottish-designed) game of racing dog sleds. There was a big promotion push on this and Steve picked it up, we swept clean a table in the bar and set it up. Even after one game I think I prefer this to Formula De, an interesting game mechanic and the modular "Scalextric track" arrangement means that I think the game will stay fresh longer than Formula De without the need to keep buying new tracks.

Risk Express - A game of this in the bar in which I finished joint last with Darth Phil despite it being my game and having thought everyone else present how to play! It appears that my championing of this fun little filler game has sold another four copies at Stourbridge. Scott conquered the whole of Asia which I've never seen anyone do before.

Classic Battletech - Despite already having the previous set, I cracked and picked up the newer version for £25 because it comes with 24 plastic Mechs. They are a bit toy-like, but the four I've painted up paint up OK despite the usual army man problem of being very shallow mouldings. The older version had foamcore stand-ups in plastic clip bases but couldn't really be mixed with proper miniatures as they were quite a bit smaller. I'll probably sort out a carrying case for painted Mechs and merge both sets into one box since I think the rules are identical anyway. I don't plan on expanding CB, just sticking to the one box and the 3050 A.D. setting which should be good enough for many, many games. I have no interest in the background of the game, metaplots, official factions, aerospace, armour etc. etc. as far as I am concerned Battletech is "Giant Robots (with 12 year old Japanese Schoolgirl Pilots) Kicking The Shit Out Of One Another" and that is pretty much where the scope of the game should start and end.

Space Rangers - A complete box from the early 1990s with everything still on the sprue for £3? Bargain, snapped up on sight. I've got some of these from EM4Miniatures where they sell them at £2.50 for 5, make very good Space Marine proxies, especially as the three optional heavy weapons are all blatantly designed to be thematically identical to "codex/official" Space Marine heavy weapons. You can build very cheap Devastator squads from these figures and they paint up very nicely. A bit static in pose but nice and chunky.

One of my Space Rangers painted up as a Crimson Fists Space Fascist

Uncharted Seas - As illustrated in previous blog post.

The War On Terror - I didn't play this but there was a another big promotion push on this and Ash picked it up. As a fan of 16-bit classic Cannon Fodder I quite like to see anti-war satire in gaming form, sadly I'm not surprised at the controversy this has caused but then we only have to look at the Brasseye controversy from a few years back to see the general lack of thought and intelligence amongst the general public.

Warmachine - While not a miniatures snob, I'm baffled that for two years running the Warmachine tournament allowed unpainted figures. Surely Privateer must want to show off their game in it's best light and a room of painted armies would do that. I fully understand why Games Workshop insist on painted figures in their tournaments and events. Organised games like this are your public face and should be there to sell more stuff - send interested bystanders off to the Privateer stand and strip the figure racks dreaming of what their painted armies will look like. 'Twas like this last year to.

Retrogaming - Had a quick blast on the Sega 32X version of Virtua Racing (one of my favourite games) but the digital controls aren't a patch on the analogue ones on the Sega Ages version released on the PS2. Had a chat to the guys who'd set up various retro machines for free play (I am a passionate retrogamer), nice to see that the Crazy Taxi Dreamcast setup was never empty once in the times when I passed through this area of the Expo. SAAAAAY-GAAAAAH!!!!

3E - Not that I bought any but the sheer amount of reduced 3E/3.5E stuff that dealers are still weighed down by defies belief. I know a few people have stuck with this edition but it can't please the retail chain when huge amounts of their stock become worthless overnight simply because the publishers need a new version out to appease shareholders. Also, why are my peers at Stourbridge playing a 4E campaign at the shop when every single one of them slags off the system and philosophy behind it?

Beer - Theakston's Dark in the bar which I expected to be a mild but is actually a stout, a bit reminiscent of the chocolate stout that one my local real ale boozers had in recently. Sadly ruined by the fashionable barbarian practise of chilling it. Note to landlords/barmen - when Americans mock British beer for being warm they are (rightly) mocking tepid lager, not bitter, mild or stout. Stop being such a bunch of fucking ignorant philistines. Would you chill red wine? Room temperature or GTFO.

Dice - I loves me my dice. 100 mixed d10 courtesy of eBay in the week wasn't enough to sate the lust so I did the traditional "pint glass of dice" from EM4Miniatures for £3. Mostly reject dice but did get me a lot of very nice brown-spotted black 16mm d6s and the Single Ugliest d20 I Have Ever Seen which has immediately wormed it's way into my affections and will become d20 of choice from this point forth.

Quail at it's hideous vile beauty

Sadly my dice collection is now so large that it no longer fits in it's entirety within the dedicated fishing tackle box so I can't take the lot to every game like I used to and have had to cull the less desirable ones (mostly tatty or bastard sized D6) into a reserve team box. Yes, I do take circa 300 dice to Stourbridge in order to use 1d6 for games of Hordes of the Things. I mean, I might need to change d6 halfway through the game. It happens sometimes.

Parking Ticket - Long stay car park at Stourbridge bus station that I was sure was free on Sundays (like the others in the borough). £50. Wankers.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Uncharted Seas

I'd seen Uncharted Seas (or as I call it Neo-Man-O-War) being played a couple of times at Stourbridge and there seemed to be many fleets being constructed at the club so it's not overly surprising that when walking around Games Expo 2009 with some of these clubmembers I got convinced to wave some money about and pick up a fleet.

Being of a practical mindset, I went for the Iron Dwarves Starter Fleet as it looked easiest to paint and also, significantly, by far the cheapest. It only took an evening to clean everything up and paint it so this is probably the quickest wargames project I've ever put together.

Painted as simply as possible - everything is a one part casting and resin so just dipped in some washing up liquid water to degrease, cleaned with an old toothbrush under the cold tap, dried off, lightly primed with GW Skull White spray then painted up with flat colours of GW Mechrite Red (Foundation Paint) and Revell Ochre and a couple of bits of detail in GW Brazen Brass, Revell Aluminium and a sandy coloured acrylic that I think was Coat D'Armes and therefore probably the very old GW formula.

Nice bright colours so that the next coat of my prefered Miracle Dip - Wilkinsons Quick Drying Satin Interior Varnish (Dark Oak) (just like Army Painter but available in my local hardware/household store and much, much cheaper) didn't dull everything down too much. GW Brettonian waterslide transfer on the big boy (after the Miracle Dip so you take advantage of the glossy finish and don't risk the Dip obscuring the thing) and then a couple of coats of Revell Matt varnish (acrylic). I tried the Revell on this project as the WHSmiths branded varnish I used to use seems to be either no longer produced or just not available locally anymore. It seems to be exactly the same stuff anyway, brush on, a bit milky when wet, dries nice and matt very quickly indeed.

The runes on the ships were taken from a list of Anglo-Saxon runes and the rune on the battleship is PeorĂ° which the list describes as meaning "game". Seemed highly appropriate when I saw it on the list, even though I suspect game is being used here in the hunting sense - rabbit, pheasant, deer etc.

I haven't read the rules yet but I noticed that despite being called "Uncharted Seas" the book contains, well, a sea chart...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Games Expo/GURPS Lensman

Games Expo in Birmingham this weekend. It's a good weekend, I went last year and intend to be there all weekend this weekend.

Sometimes things are meant to be. I got in last night from a evening at my slotcar club and put my laptop on before retiring to discover that not only was a watched eBay auction for a copy of GURPS Lensman ending in 15 minutes but that eBay had emailed me a bunch of voucher codes, one of which was for £3 off a purchase in, yes, the Toys and Games section. So I quickly bid on it and won it despite a late bid from someone else.

I read the Lensman series last year having hunted down assorted second-hand paperbacks off eBay. It was a good read, horribly dated but a fantastic piece of space opera archaeology - amazing to see how much modern pop culture has it's origins here. Clearly massively influential upon Star Wars (and that's putting it politely) and the work that invented outright the idea of far future naval combat amidst the stars. And, of course, where the modern view of Green Lantern comes from.

I'm always loath to recommend books to people as all too often they end up hating them. Before the big budget films came out I never recommended The Lord of The Rings to anyone on the grounds that if they were in my peer group and would enjoy it - they would already have read it and done so. Having not made the effort to read it before suggested that they weren't the sort of person who would enjoy it. But Lensman comes recommended if you accept that you are reading it out of curiosity not so much for it's own merits. Fans of Star Wars and Green Lantern should definitely read it though just to see where everything was birthed.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!

At bloody last -

Unfortunately she's been hung for a lamb rather than a sheep, pushed out over the expenses scandal which to my mind pales into significance compared to the privacy-invading, heavy-handed stamping upon of the civil liberties of the Briton, disregard for the rule of law and the mechanism of justice and kow-towing to the demands of a clearly out of control police force who lack all sense of proportion and reasonableness for which she should have been sacked in the first place. Britain's future is looking a bit more free and democratic today than it did yesterday.

I like to think that the novel approach of mocking her through the medium of OD&D monster statistics helped in it's own little way. :)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Exalted, Or I Hand In My OSR Membership Card

This arrived from eBay today. A nice glossy booklet with a quickstart set of rules for Exalted Second Edition and a scenario "Return To The Tomb of 5 Corners". Originally this was a freebie, I had to pay 99p off the 'Bay but that's cool.

But-but-but; I hear you splutter, this is the antithesis of Old School Play! PCs croak only when dramatic necessity requires it, PCs start as mega-high-level demigods in the first play session and it's by those Gods of Railroading (and tedious pretensions), the frilly-cuffed, goth hipsters from White Wolf! What are you playing at?

It's simple. For a couple of years now I've promised my old gaming mate and his wife an RPG of some description. She had never heard of the concept of a tabletop RPG until we had this "lets play again" conversation despite being a big fan of modern fantasy trilogies and console JRPGs. Normally I would have reached for WFRP and if not that then probably my new Swords and Wizardry Lulu acquisition. I fancy getting into Trail of Cthulhu but can't see that working with a new player especially one who borrowed my entire HPL library and decided that she didn't like him. :(

Anyway Exalted looked good - there's a free PDF of the two versions of this scenario (for both editions*) and I downloaded it and decided it would work well for a novice for a number of reasons

1 - It only uses d10s avoiding the problem that I find afflicts all newbies - give them multiple dice and they will always confuse the d8 with the d10 and the d12 with the d20.

2 - It's a relatively simple core mechanism (several d10s, each 7+ is a success with a 10 being two successes) so I can say to novices - just roll n dice and tell me how many successes you get.

3 - High Level Shenanigans might make it an easier sell than a game of low level OD&D where the party gets confronted with kobolds and giant centipedes and a high chance of dropping dead in the first melee round. WFRP isn't quite as bad, but it's low fantasy is generally only attractive to someone who has already tired of high fantasy - saying "You're a ratcatcher, you're an ex-lockkeeper off the canals, you're a runaway altar boy and you're a manual labourer. Oh and you all met in an alleyway full of shit and mutant corpses" isn't going to excite people who think fantasy = high fantasy and were expecting to play a blatant Sephiroth clone.

4 - I think novice players will feel at home and less lost at the start of the game if there is a clearly-marked out plot route to follow.

5 - Shortly after downloading the 1st edition version of this scenario I managed to get the original 1st edition hardback for 99p off eBay (still waiting for that to drop through the letterbox as well...)

So while I love all things OD&D when it comes down to it I believe that Exalted 1st Edition or the cut-down 2nd Edition is going to serve me better for that all important first game.

Also, I like mumblers...

(*) First edition version here, Second edition version here.