Friday, February 13, 2015

40K Friday - Progress Report - Marines Marines Marines - and Harlequin news

The Eldar are on hold for a bit while I build out more of the marine armies but I am going to have to get that new Harlie codex at some point. I have 30+ of the originals running around here and now with some actual support it could be a lot of fun to play them solo. Meanwhile ...

  • The Dark Angel vehicles are all base coated and just need some detailing and clear coating to be finished. I decided after sitting on them for a year I really needed to get them table-ready.
Insignia not glued on, but that's the general idea

  • The chaos marines have been getting more playing time than painting time. I am also building a second force of Iron Warriors now (mostly from existing chaos marines) for Apprentice Who and I to share as my Nurgle Space Hulk force is just about complete. 
Couple of tac squads, helbrute, heldrake, probably some havocs, led by a lord and a warpsmith
  • The Blood Angels are coming together. I have the new codex, the cards, and all of the elements I need for the force I have envisioned except for one more drop pod. The main work now is building and painting them though quite a few are already painted. The main force is this:
    • Dante + Death Company jumping around the board (hammer unit)
    • Two small assault squads with all-melta, likely deep striking in (tank-killers)
    • Two tac squads with heavy flamer, flamer, and combi-flamer drop-podding in on Turn 1(enemy objective takers and loota-killers)
    • One Multi-Melta/heavy flamer dread drop-podding in (wild card to be used as needed)
    • Devastator squad in the backfield (objective holders who can contribute to mid-field battle)

Depending on point levels there might be some scouts, small tac squads or another devastator squad or some terminators in here as well. HQ's were going to be a pair of sanguinary priests joining the tac squads but if I do I have to drop the squad down to 9 men to fit everyone into the pod and that means I lose a flamer. I may be OK with that but I haven't decided yet.  

I really like the Blood Angels' vehicular options - Baal Predator, fast vindicators - but for this force I don't really need any so that may be part of a later expansion of the boys in red.

Next time: More progress then the February Big Battle Report

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Combining City of Heroes and Necessary Evil - Why Not the Rogue Isles?

Z3-R0 at the beginning of his career in crime
One obvious question that might occur to some people is this: If you're running a Necessary Evil game and want to set it in the City of Heroes world, why not use the City of Villains home area? Why not use the Rogue Isles? That's a good question.

For one, the campaign is all about juxtaposition and if I have villains running around the "villain homeland" it loses some of that feel. I need them to be reminded that they are "fighting the good fight" whether they like it or not.

Second, the Rogue Isles are a dump and no one cares about them compared to the attention given to Paragon City. What are the big landmarks in the Isles? There's not much. The interesting, memorable stuff is over in the big city where people actually want to live.

Thirdly, Paragon is where the money and the power is. If you're interested in taking control of things, then you need to go to the center of things, and that is not the Rogue Isles.

Boss Thunder out for a stroll
Also, my players and I spent a lot more time hero-side than villain-side so it is far more familiar. That matters. For a group that played more villainous characters when the game was active I can see it becoming the focus of a campaign but for us it just does not make sense.

In-game I intend to justify it by saying the Isles were blasted by the V'Sori early and often. Much like before, it's a somewhat anarchic zone that is monitored but not occupied. We may take a trip there during one of our missions, but it's never going to be the focus of the whole campaign.

No, there's really very little mercy here
"But what about Arachnos and Lord Recluse?" I hear you saying. To which I reply "yes - what about them?" Perhaps that's something that needs to be investigated. Perhaps our villains protagonists will investigate that. We will just have to see.

Astro-Ranger suspects this might be an old Arachnos base ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Combining City of Heroes and Necessary Evil - the Content

Well, that's certainly still relevant

So now that I have a framework for how I think I can run this, I need to decide on the meat of each session. Since it's still "Necessary Evil", regardless of setting, I'm going to start with that.

The core plot unfolds in 11 adventures. Originally it was 10, but the explorers edition added an 11th which is good because the original finale was not good and I was planning on changing it anyway. With the reset to Paragon City I plan on changing it even more. For those familiar with the adventure, Star City has a sort of plot of its own tied to its history, and it ties in to the original finale. I'm planning to drop that whole element anyway, rendering that particular plot point meaningless. My players also finished the first 3 plot points back in 2010 when we started this and we're keeping those adventures with a little bit of a retcon to reset them in Paragon City. So I have 7 core plotline adventures. These are pretty much usable as-is with simple changes to names, locations, and some NPC's to reflect the new setting. There's only one other major setting discrepancy and I'll talk about that below.

Iconic characters like ... Fusionette!
Fleshing out the main plot are a bunch of other adventures that form the meat of the campaign. Given my plan I need to build out 5 of these into "main" adventures, and pick out 12 of the remainders as "B plots" for the campaign. That will use most of what is provided but it does leave me some room to skip the entries that don't fit as well.

Finally I have to think about working in the flavor of City of Heroes. I think there should be some kind of touch point to Paragon City in each session. CoH had a lot of landmarks, like statues and islands and buildings and those could play a part. There are a lot of good and evil organizations and those should have a role. There are also specific heroes and villains that show up in the game and those make it feel like home too. My initial thinking is that each session should involve a group, a location, and an individual character in addition to whatever A & B plots are happening. Frostfire was a big adventure run at the lower levels in the game. One session will probably deal with Frostfire, the Outcasts, and the Hollows. If I can find a plot point that would tie into them nicely, so much the better. The Hollows zone was also tied into the Trolls and the Circle of Thorns and might lead into something with those groups in either the prior session or the next session. Officer Wincott was a normal cop in the zone and he might show up too. Laying out a web of these kinds of connections is the real challenge here in my eyes.

Faultline ... err "Overbrook" Dam - infested with Vahzilok
Another example: There is a non-core plot point involving a dam. I like it, so I plan to use it. In the original adventure it's Hoover Dam, so it involves a trip to Vegas and while that's very comic-bookish involving the landmark and all, it felt a little odd in a campaign that is so heavily focused on a single city. Fortunately, Paragon City has its own dam which was the location of a popular task force. Revisiting it during an alien occupation invokes both a familiar location and allows for some ties back to that original task force. The primary enemy there was the Vazhilok, a sort of zombie group. The primary allies were Longbow, a Shield-like organization. It involved a running fight into, through, and on top of the dam itself. This gives me some nice ties back into Paragon City lore and some ideas on how to expand it into the focus of an entire session. There were also some ties to the Clockwork and the Circle of Thorns in those missions so now I have some potential links to other sessions if I want to focus on any of those groups.

Battle atop the dam!
So flavoring and tweaking the preset adventures, then adding in some additional material for additional flavor is he plan. There are also some plot complications to resolve as well. The biggest one is that Atlantis plays a large role in Necessary Evil but there is no Atlantis in City of Heroes. This was a conscious design choice from what I have read and there were no plans to develop Atlantis or an underwater city of any kind. Solutions:

  • Just add in the NE version of Atlantis. I'm still toying with this but it really seems like the easy way out. I'm of two minds on the concept too:
    • Adding in something new that significant to the setting detracts from the effort to make it feel like Paragon City and shouldn't be done. 
    • Think of it as an "expansion" for the original game - new zone, new race, new other character options - all of these things are pretty common elements in an MMO expansion, so why not take advantage of it?
  • Find one entity to replace Atlantis - maybe the lost magical city of Oranbega can serve as a less-watery stand-in? How about the Shadowshard? Maybe Cimerora? Croatoa? I really just need a lost city that's difficult to access and has magical elements to fill in.   
  • Part-out the Atlantean story elements to other areas instead of trying to go for a one-to-one replacement. 

Honestly my initial reaction was the second bullet, but after taking a break for a few days and coming back to it, I'm leaning more towards the first one. Most comic book settings have some kind of Atlantis, so it's not like it's a genre violation. Also, characterizing it as an MMORPG expansion is really starting to appeal to me, especially since I'm using a no-longer-active MMORPG as the setting. I need to make some more notes but it has a lot of potential and requires a lot less ret-conning effort to the adventure.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Combining City of Heroes and Necessary Evil - the Framework

Once I decided to combine these two things, I took a look at what I had to work with and how I wanted to integrate them:

  • Necessary Evil has 11 adventures that form the main plot, plus 20-odd more written adventures, plus a random adventure generator which is pretty solid. There is plenty of material here for a year-long campaign - it's more a question of what I'm going to leave out than what I need to add in. I'd be doing that even if I ran it in the original setting.
  • NE has its own setting and its own lore and some of the reveals in the adventure are very much tied to that setting. Changing the setting means changing those elements in some way or leaving them out entirely.
  • Paragon City has extensive lore, numerous characters, and a lot of enemy and friendly groups that players interact with during the game. On a basic level there is some reassignment that needs to be done but my players may want to know what happened to certain groups or teams or characters during and after the invasion, so I have to think beyond just renaming NE's NPC 's with City of Heroes names and re-write how the whole invasion went at a high level. This will give me some guidance when stuff like this comes up on the fly. I've been working on this the most over the past couple of weeks and I'm pretty happy with where it's going.

Speaking of Faultline Dam ...
I was originally thinking it would be a simple "repaint" (e.g. there's a mission involving a dam, well I'll just recast it at the Faultline Dam and we're good!) but there's so much more background available with COH that I want to do a lot more. Attempting to run this on a fixed schedule though means that adding anything in might require eliminating something to make room. With roughly 30 NE adventures and planning to run 12 sessions for the whole campaign (once a month for 2015) I'm looking at 2-3 of those per session before I make any changes. Now these are not lengthy dungeon-crawl type adventures, and Savage Worlds plays pretty fast anyway, so for now I'm going to schedule it out like this:

  • I'm keeping 10 of the original 11 core plot adventures. There's one I didn't like. Now my players have already done the first 3 back when we started this game years ago. So really I have 7 original core plotline items left. 
  • I like about 18 of the "other" NE adventures and think I can adapt them to Paragon City fairly easily.
  • Assuming I can fit in roughly 3 "plots" per session then this leaves me about 11 slots to work in something specifically tied to City of Heroes - about one per session. 
If I can pace this out correctly, that means I run a core plot item once every other session, an "other" plot item every session, sometimes more than one, and one Paragon-specific item per session too.  Now that's all fine as a mathematical exercise, but things rarely flow that neatly in play. Players get interested in a particular character/group/plotline, somebody misses a session, we have to cancel one somewhere, distractions mean we get less done than hoped for - there are a lot of variables. Heck, I don't have a great feel for how much we can get done in a "normal" session just yet so this is all just estimating for now. 

Atlas Park - head-on!
The other main consideration in planing is to make sure each session is self-contained - an episodic campaign rather than a normal serial-type campaign. By the end of session A, we should have completed X,Y, & Z. Playing only once a month I don't want to have to track combat states with a 3-4 week gap in between. This also helps deal with player schedule hiccups, among other things, and it feels more like a comic book anyway. 

Note: Thankfully in a supers game or any mission-based campaign it is possible to do this kind of planning as they tend to be more closely directed and/or more reactive so the GM has a lot of control over when and how things show up. If I was running a sandbox game or a mega dungeon I wouldn't be trying to manage it this way, namely a fixed-time type of campaign.

Now, with a framework for the campaign sketched out, I can start planning what goes into each session. More on that next time!