Thursday, October 19, 2017

Villains & Vigilantes 3.0

I first played Villains and Vigilantes about 1983 after the second edition came out the year before. My group had discovered Champions the prior year and jumped into it pretty heavily, so V&V was a big change of pace. It was cool, and we played a short campaign with it, but Champions remained our standard for supers. Next year the TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG was released and that pretty quickly became our "other" superhero game and V&V didn't get much attention after that. I've tried to dust it off and play it a few times over the intervening years but there always seemed to be another option that was more popular when it came time to hit the table.

The game had effectively been dormant for years with nothing more than uploads of the old system to DTRPG and nothing new really coming out. Then last year Jeff Dee, one of the two original authors and the main illustrator,  started talking about a new edition of the game thru an upcoming Kickstarter. Sounds good! So I backed it and followed along and received my PDF and eventually my hard copy of the book as well.

 First up: Jeff Dee - the guy has been active in RPG's since the late 70's early 80's with V&V and some memorable D&D illustrations. I've never met him but from some podcast interviews I've heard he sounds pretty enthusiastic about this new edition of the game and gaming in general. It's always a concern (for me at least) with guys who have been in and out of the industry over the last 30+ years as far as how involved or aware they are of current trends and tastes and events - see the current Frank Mentzer kickstarter for an example of why. After hearing Jeff Dee a couple of times I have no worries about him. He still reads comics, he is aware of other games, and comes across as in-touch and heavily involved in addition to the requisite enthusiasm. So I like the guy, I have good memories of his game, and I'd like to support him

As far as the actual game ... it pains me to say this but my tastes have shifted dramatically and nothing has made that more clear to me than reading through this game. It seems to have been infected by a terrible chart virus, to where I am pretty sure that if you distributed them evenly there is at least one chart for every page in this book. There are a lot of charts.

Also, terminology is very specific to this game. Your "stats" are your Basic Characteristics which are abbreviated BC's throughout the book. You build with Character Points which are "CP's" throughout the book. You're going to see those two terms a lot.

The rules are numbered like a wargame ruleset: 2.0 is Characters, 2.1 is Character Generation, 2.1.2 covers the Character Record Sheet, and covers Birthplace - which has a chart for Place of Birth. This is the same approach that Star Fleet Battles and Advanced Squad Leader use for organizing their rules and those are maximum detail very competitive games - as soon as I noticed this I started to wonder if maybe V&V and I were headed in different directions.

These two things mean you get sentences like "Each BC is worth (1) CP (see". You don't see that a ton in RPG's anymore. Not a deal breaker but not particularly reassuring to find on page 10 of the book.

Random Generation: One of the things V&V was known for when compared to Champions was random character generation and stats based on the player. That's still an option but the main approach is random - but it's not 3d6 like the old system. There's one chart with a list of 5 scores for each of the 4 recommended power levels in the game (basically street level up thru Avengers). There's a second chart that you roll on to determine which stat gets the 1st score listed, then you roll again for the 2nd score and so on. The five BC's are Strength, Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, and Cool. and the chart scores range from 6 - 14 for "normals" to 12 - 20 for the high end.  It's pretty much the 3-18 scale we know from D&D and older V&V with the top end expanded to about 100 to accommodate super-types. The prior edition had Charisma instead of Cool so we're already seeing some changes to the basics of the game.  Straight-up point buy using your CP's to buy BC's is also an option.

Then there is a giant chart that tells you what all of those scores mean in game terms:  carrying capacity, punching damage, your "saves" (a big part of the game system), your initiative, your hit points, and your healing rate.

Saves are a major concept. If you have a 10 in Agility you look at the chart and discover will need a 10 or less to make an Agility save or accomplish an Agility-related task. If you have a 50 you need a 17 or less, and if you have a 90  you need a 24 or less. This is the heart of how you do things in the game. I'm not as big a fan of roll-under systems these days but it's simple and it works and once it's on your character sheet it minimizes the need to look at a chart elsewhere.

"Power" is the endurance mechanic in the game. Add up your 4 non-Cool stats and that's your "Power". As you fire off various superpowers they each have a cost that comes out of this pool

Superpowers are called "Abilities" in this version and are still randomly generated: There are charts of course and you roll 2 Offensive, 2 Defensive, and 2 Miscellaneous abilities. Once you do that you get to choose 4 of the 6 you want to keep - this is to help have a more cohesive concept for a character and mitigate some of the wildness of random rolls. I like it. There is a second axis here in that once you roll up your options and decide which ones to keep you then spend points (CP's) on them as well so you can emphasize one power over another as best fits your concept. This is a nice change from the earlier edition and gives a player some control over an otherwise random character.

You also roll 2 Weaknesses (another chart) and can keep one, both, or none of them depending on how well they mesh with  your concept. You then gain points from the ones you retain depending on their severity.

This is all fairly understandable after a couple of read-throughs and seems decent enough.

The combat system looks like Pathfinder - lots of rules, lots of modifiers. The range modifier table has 14 entries. Size modfiers, mobility modifiers, target defenses, cover, visibility - all of them come into play in their own way. The combat rules are 15 pages long and cover a lot of details. Initiative is roll high. Saves are roll low. Damage is roll high. Task checks are roll low. It's not particularly consistent but it looks a lot like old school D&D which is where the game started way back when. This is where it shows the most.

The last fifth of the book is GM stuff - the law, running adventures, and the setting. It's good - V&V has always had pretty decent info here and this is significantly upgraded from the 80's version.

V&V's "Keep on the Borderlands"

So ... I really want to like this game. It's tricky though, as there is a lot more detail here than I want to deal with most of the time these days. It reads more like "Advanced V&V for V&V fans" than a game that's aimed at new players. One example is the vehicle chart:

I've fuzzed it up but there are 57 entries there, basically size/space/modifiers for potential vehicles. The corresponding table in M&M 3E has six entries. There's a sort of false precision that gets introduced to the game when you have lengthy detailed tables like this - it's a comic book game, not an engineering simulator. You shouldn't be agonizing over precisely which one of 57 levels of vehicle size class is bets for your Catmobile - it's so much simpler to just say "It's a car" and go with the "car" entry, especially considering it's probably not the focus of the game anyway - it's effectively a movement power! Keep it playable and relatively simple and move on! There's a lot of this kind of thing in various powers but I think most of them are manageable - this is probably the worst one.

So I'm torn. It covers more ground than the original and has some tuned-up mechanics but is very much an old-school game in others, probably more than I like.

  • Compared to ICONS, Bash! and Supers it's a lot more complex to create a character and to run a fight for a group of those characters, and is it more fun with all of that extra detail?
  • Compared to M&M the lack of a unified mechanic has me wondering if I want to keep up with all of the sub-systems during a game. 
  • Compared to its old for Champions ... well if I was going to run a more old-school style game for an extended run I would choose Champions mainly because a lot of its rules are still burned into my brain.
All that said I feel like I need to give it a fair shake so I'm going to try and set up a one-shot with some of my players and see how they like it. If I cans string that together I will post a follow up and share some actual-play-based thoughts.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Greatness of the Game of Thrones Dragons

I was talking to a friend the other day about fantasy TV and movies and one of the things that came up was dragons - mainly how poorly done dragons have been in most TV and movies yet they are somehow still cool. The outcome of this was that dragons Game of Thrones has really amped up the presentation of dragons over the last few seasons, to the point that I think it has the best dragons ever presented on film.

Warning: There are many spoilers and many pictures in this post. If you haven't seen seasons 6 & 7 and want  to enjoy them naturally, do not continue. 

Think about the major movies that have used dragons in some important way. I can think of four main movies:

  • Dragonslayer (1981) - Vermithrax is pretty well done and appropriately impressive in size and violent capabilities but is limited by the technology of the time, mainly that its glory shots are all done in stop motion animation. Now I grew up on this kind of thing but my kids just laugh at it and it does detract just a little bit from the spectacle. 
  • Dungeons and Dragons (2000) - This terrible movie, the first with a shot at CGI Dragons, did nothing to make dragons more impressive. After Jurassic Park I know my own hopes were high, and they were dashed pretty quickly. Lots of dragons in the finale, but all of them look terrible.
  • Reign of Fire (2002) - It's not a great movie to me, but the dragons are almost right. I initially thought it was the design here, where they don't have forelimbs, just wings and back legs like a bird, but I think it's that they are too skinny - altogether it just puts it "off" some for me. The D&D'er in me says they're big wyverns, not dragons. 
  • The Hobbit (Desolation of Smaug - 2013) More than a decade after the D&D movie and done by the team that did the Lord of the Rings movies you would think the dragon would be the showpiece of the trilogy. Sadly, you would be wrong. Smaug in these movies looks so cartoony I thought it was some kind of joke in the theater. "Underwhelmed" is the nicest way I can put it. Sure, he thrashes Laketown nicely but the wyrm himself ... sigh. 
Honorable Mentions:
  • Smaug in the animated Rankin-Bass Hobbit movie is really cool. That cat-like face really sells that he's something different than just a big animal and the fire spiraling around him and the screen in many shots almost makes it seem like he can control it. He's just more magical, more of a fantasy creature, then the later movie version we saw. 
  • Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty - so much scarier, meaner, evil looking than a lot of the presentations over the years. 
So Dragons have been ... iffy ... over the years as far as being fearsome magical fantastic beasts, at least in movies and TV. 

 Game of Thrones has completely overcome this and set a new, much higher standard. Daenerys has three dragons who started out as eggs, then hatchlings, then dog-sized, then horse to elephant-sized, and in this last season or two are finally the awesome army-smashing beasts they should be.

The first time we see one in action is Season 5 episode 9, "Dance of Dragons" - The Queen and her companions are trapped in an arena as a rebel faction that dislikes the changes she has been making seize this moment to try and assassinate her. It looks pretty grim - then she closes her eyes and seems to be concentrating and then we get that awesome moment with fire, a roar, and an angry dragon making his entrance ...

Even here he's say elephant-sized. Big enough to ride but not humongous. It also demonstrates that they can be hurt by weapons, at least a little. He gets hit by several spears and clearly feels them but they don't really seem to slow him down. It's a great scene and marks the emergence of the dragons as an actual, not just a theoretical, threat.

The next time we see them in a glory segment is in Season 6, episode 9 "Battle of the Bastards". Everyone remembers the other big fight in this episode but the dragons get a nice sequence here where everyone learns that wooden ships are not a great weapon against fire-breathing opponents,

This is the kind of stuff we didn't see as much in the early seasons of the show. It's the kind of thing that makes it a fantasy show and not an alternate medieval history series.

The next big scene for them is in  "Spoils of War", Season 7 episode 4 where we learn that supply trains and foot armies are vulnerable to even a single dragon - oh, and a screaming horde of barbarians.

It's just spectacular.

They're huge, they're terrifying, they're nearly invincible ...

Even a hero can have a hard time facing one down:

The whole thing is just really well-done.

Sadly, they are not invulnerable, and about the time they start fighting, you know they're going to get hurt. Mortal opponents and weapons seem to be painful but not all that dangerous to them. Then, they had up north for the first confrontation with the Night King in a sort of Black Hawk Down scenario.

The white walkers have been really well done here too. Also - flaming swords! In combat! Plus an undead polar bear attack! It's a great episode. So much more fantasy than most other shows or even movies ever get too. Easily the best look and best story and characters since Lord of the Rings.

Surrounded and facing the ultimate bad-guy-lich-thing of the setting, what do you hope for?

Air Support!

Look, fire breath works just as well on the undead as it does on the living! All 3 dragons are in full action here, flying and flaming. Unfortunately for our heroes, the Night King knows about dragons and is not without a means to deal with them.

It's a shocking moment as the dracos have been unstoppable so far on the show,  It's sad, amazing, and one of the highest and lowest points on the entire series to date.

Even more amazing, you know it's not going to end there. I mean, he animates the dead, you know?

To conclude: Game of Thrones is an amazing show and has only gotten better over time. These last few seasons, the last two in particular, have really turned it into an epic fantasy show with dragons, undead, giants, magic weapons, and barbarian hordes fighting knights ... it's just the most fantasy thing on TV now or ... really ever. It's just spectacular. The dragons are at the heart of it, awesome and inspiring - as they should be.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The New Campaign or "What do you do with an entire Saturday Free?"

Lately my group had been in a low spot as far as RPG activity - schedule changes and conflicts meant we had not been able to gather for a few weeks for Star Wars or anything else. I'm still getting in 40K time with Blaster but RPG time had really died off. I'm not part of the cult of "The Busy" that loves to go on and on about how they don't have time to do anything and wear it like a badge of honor - I actually do get annoyed when everything else gets in the way of fun time - but it's something we all deal with at some point.

Miraculously the schedule wheels aligned and we discovered that I, Blaster, and Paladin Steve all had Saturday free of all obligations. We realized we would easily have a nice 10-12 hour window. Naturally we started figuring out what we could do. Now we don't lack for campaigns around here - see sidebar at the left - but each of those is tied to a certain group of players. Still ...

  • I looked at Mutants and Masterminds but none of my college players were free and I didn't want to split the campaign or spend a bunch of time making new M&M characters. 
  • I considered trying out the new V&V game but I didn't want to burn this rare opportunity on a new game. 
  • Considered Champions for about 30 seconds - again, do not want to start a new system and campaign and make characters in a fairly complex system.
  • Marvel Heroic was on the table but I really wanted to do something different given a big block of time like this.
  • We talked Runequest briefly - I just wasn't feeling it and wasn't sure I had the right material for an extended session anyway. That's something I need to revisit.
  • 3rd place went to Savage Rifts. Dave wasn't available or we probably would have done Deadlands and I like Savage Worlds so this seemed like an option but I want more players for the Rifts kickoff.
  • I really really dug into my ICONS material. It plays fast, it's a lot of fun, and just generally fits our style. Plus it has been quite a while since we played it. In the end I went a different direction - ICONS is a great game for smaller windows so I decided to save it for one of those - but I do at least have an outline now for an extended ICONS run using a mix of published stuff and homebrew fun. ICONS was the runner-up /Plan B
  • I started looking at D&D 5th edition and getting that going again but the unavailable Dave was a pretty big part of that group too and had never played through Keep on the Borderlands which is what we are doing there. So what to do?

Well, what the heck - let's start a separate 5E game! Instead of old school sheets/roll up your stats/play in Greyhawk we will go new school modern sheets/point buy/run it in the Forgotten Realms. I've read thru most of the new 5E adventure books and I really liked Storm King's Thunder so let's do that! Why do I like it?

  • It has an option to start at 1st level or at 5th level. We ended up going with 1st but I like that they presented the option.
  • I like giants in D&D. They can be just big bags of hit points if that's all you want or they can be as interesting and complex as any fantasy race/
  • Its not a linear, world-saving plot. It's a regional issue. It makes a fair amount of sense. They included a flow chart! Yes, a visual layout of how the different parts of the adventure relate to each other! In a published adventure this kind of thing is tremendously helpful when trying to actually run the damn thing.
  • Big chunks of it are optional. See that map up there? All of those red pins represent a location that is discussed in the adventure. It may only be a paragraph noting some interesting geographical feature, an organization, a monster, or some NPC's tied to that place but it means the entire region has things to do, things to explore, and people and groups to interact with that may not have anything to do with the main plot of the adventure. Even within the main plotline there are optional pieces. It's really flexible, far more so than most other published adventures by design and I like that. 
  • I like the area. The northern end of the Sword Coast, or "The Savage Frontier" is one of my favorite areas of this setting and the prospect of running a campaign here looks like a lot of fun.
So that's what we did and ended up going from 1st to 3rd in this one session. It was tricky with just a few days prep but then again it is D&D and I've been doing that for a pretty long time.

The other new wrinkle was that Paladin Steve's 10 year old has been wanting to play and has gotten his feet wet with some Pathfinder games at home and so we had an eager new player joining us in this one. More on this and the particulars of the session later. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Inevitable Star Trek Discovery Post

So, Sunday night we got new Star Trek! That's a good thing right? In the past that's mostly been true I would say. This time? Well ...

Short version: I liked it more than I expected but not enough to sign up for their service.

There's a lot of mixed good and bad in this show, even in the first episode so I'll try to break it down like that:

  • The look of the thing:
    • It does seem like a post-Enterprise show, an evolution of that as far as the bridge and the uniforms and the ships. That's cool.
    • Good lord has the JJ Abrams approach been smeared over that in huge buckets. There was so much lens flare that Apprentice Blaster and I were laughing out loud in the first few minutes once they were on the ship! It's either an over-the-top joke or someone really took offense to the criticism of it from the movies. 
  • The cast and crew:
    • Michelle Yeoh as the captain is the single best thing about the show. With her billed as "special guest star" I'm pretty sure she's making her exit rather quickly but in this first episode ... I'd be a lot more interested in watching more if I knew she was the captain for the duration.
    • The first officer -  she neck pinches her captain and tries to fire on the Klingons? And everyone is OK with it? This is after she kills the first Klingon anyone has met in a century?How did she get to be a first officer? I know she had what she thought was good information but if she was also supposed to have been raised on Vulcan ... I'm just not sure that the character makes sense.
  • The story:
    • I think there's a lot of potential there. A reawakening Klingon Empire led by a sort of fundamentalist charismatic leader should make for an interesting antagonist. I also didn't hate the new look of the Klingons as much as I had expected too based on the previews. 
    • Once again, "formerly well-known hostile race hasn't been heard from in 100 years so who knows what they might do" - yeah we've seen that before. Can't do first contact with the Klngons because they did that in Enterprise. This is where doing a post-Voyager show would open up a lot of story options compared to another prequel series. 

So I don't think it's a disaster. It does make an interesting contrast with TNG as a relaunch of a once-popular show years after the last run. Especially since I've been watching that series again with Blaster on Blu-Ray. There is a lot more of the high-minded Federation in that pilot and early shows but here they do at least acknowledge that the Federation doesn't fire first.

Despite this cautiously positive first impression I'm not going to be seeing the rest of it, at least not for quite a while. Yes - now we get to the unavoidable "method of delivery" debate. I understand what they're doing - if you want to really launch a new service then you need a high profile flagship show to do it with and they've chosen Star Trek for that role. It's perfectly logical and understandable.

That doesn't mean I have to go along with it.

It's not even really a financial call. It's what, $7 a month? I spend more than that on lunch on a weekday.

Star Trek has always been on free over the air TV. The original airings and the re-runs have always been pretty freely available. If they were moving it to another delivery channel because they wanted more creative freedom - say HBO - then I could understand that and even get on board with it.

But I've seen nothing about that.

All I have seen are comments about using it to promote CBS All-Access. That's great for the people who own Trek, potentially, but does it make the show better in any way?

I can't see how.

I'm not angry about it. I've seen the flamewars on social media where super-invested fans take it as a personal affront. That's not me at this point. I'm looking at it as "that's fine, you go do your thing over there and I'm going to go do my thing over here and maybe every once in a while I'll check in and see what you're doing.

Also, I'll be watching The Orville. Because while Blaster and I were dying during the pilot even my wife was laughing, and she is not a Trek fan at all! So I have 5 more seasons of TNG to watch with my kid, then we'll probably go back and watch DS9 as well, plus we have a Trek parody show that's current, and then maybe I'll check in again on Discovery.

Friday, September 22, 2017

40K Friday - Daemons!

In addition to the chaos marine deluge I mentioned last time I also decided to start building up my chaos daemons. I'm not just looking at them as summoned reinforcements for the marines - I decided to make them a full army as well.

The first rush was Khorne - a trio of Bloodthirsters, an outrider detachment of flesh hounds, and a battalion of Bloodletters + Skulltaker + Heralds + Bloodcrushers.

I also was looking to expand my Slaanesh force beyond Keeper + Daemonettes + Seekers but that's proving tougher to do. Mainly because I got sidetracked by Tzeentch options and ended up expanding my horrors and screamers first. I actually had more Tzeentch stuff than Slaanesh, so I picked up a metal Fateweaver and made it into a real force.

Nurgle is still an aftethought. I have a unit of plaguebearers and a beast and an old Great Unclean One that I am using as a daemon prince but that's about it.

Expansion-wise my biggest obstacle is that I have a bunch of old metal stuff and it's way more expensive to build out those 14 metal daemonettes to say 20 or 25 than it is to just buy 10 of the plastic ones. I finished out my metal bloodletter units and my metal horrors but it does slow things down.

Force-wise I then decided I needed more shooting and some heavier units in general. Lesser daemons and heralds just aren't taken as enough of a threat - I needed something besides the greater daemons. So, I added three Soul Grinders. Right now I think one of them will be for the Tzeentch force and two will go into the Khorne army. That puts the red-colored army up over 3000 points and the blue/pink army up over 2000 so that's a pretty solid start. Next project is to finish out Slaanesh acquisitions and then decide if I want to make Nurgle an equal partner in all of this.

Actual-play-wise I have not yet used them in a fight but I hope to rectify that this weekend.

  • I know Fateweaver is overcosted but I like what he can do and I'm not taking Magnus in a daemon army. If I just really hate him in play he can always be demoted to a regular Lord of Change.
  • I see very little chatter about soul grinders online. They are one of the daemons' few sources of long range firepower and one of the other fairly tough melee units as well after greater daemons and daemon princes. They do have a split role in a game that favors specialists but I would argue that they are good at both roles, unlike a fair number of generalists. regardless, I'll be trying them out for myself.
  • Most of my troops units are on the smaller side and they tend to get bonuses for having 20+ models. That will be an experiment for the future. I'll be happier adding on to them after getting in a few games first. 
Next week: Death Guard!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Imperial Injury Assessment

Stay vigilant, Guardsman!
What should you do if you are shot? While the superiority of Imperial tactics ensures that battlefield injuries are rare, you may, through carelessness, find yourself shot on the battlefield. In this case, it is absolutely imperative that you do not waste your medic’s valuable time or distract your fellow guardsmen with exhortations of fear or panic. 99% of battlefield injuries do not require immediate medical attention* – if you find yourself shot, consult the following flowchart to seek other courses of action before wasting the valuable time of your betters.
There you have it Guardsman – there’s no need to make a fuss. Following this procedure could save your life!**
* In 98% of cases this is due to immediate death.** Or, at the very least, some time.

Appropriated from here because I really liked it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Comic Catch-Up

Last year I felt like I had let my superhero/comic book interests drop off too much so I resolved to dig back in this year. I've never been a guy with a bunch of subs at the local comic shop but I've made some effort to keep up with what was going on. The electronic age has made that much easier with the online option but I had let even that go. No longer!

One thing I wanted to do was read all of Astro City, from the beginning, in order. I've liked everything I've seen from the line so via the nice collected editions out there in the world I have been catching up. Slowly, but catching up. I like it enough that I want books in my hand, not pixels, and I've been very happy with this. If you haven't read them then I'd say take a look at the first volume, "Life in the Big City" and that will give you a pretty good idea of what it's about.

Second, I decided to dive into current DC with "Rebirth". I'm just getting started so I'll have more to say down the road but it seemed like a good place to jump onboard.

Finally with Marvel I've been looking at classic stuff - mainly Avengers and Iron Man - but my next round is the Dan Abnett Hercules book from a year or two back. I've heard good things about it and hopefully I can add to them in the near future.

Monday, September 18, 2017

RPG Update

Around here RPG time has been somewhat difficult to come by but over the summer I have managed to run some 5th edition and some FFG Star Wars. I like the FFG game enough, though I am still thinking other systems might be better for certain types of Star Wars games I want to run. My players seem to like it so that counts for a lot. Deadlands and M&M have gone on hold for now.

The list of reasons is varied: high school football games, moving Apprentice Twilight off to college, con prep, medical issues for some players, Apprentice Blaster getting his first job,  hurricane impacts on player families - we've covered a lot of unusual ground this year alongside the usual stuff. Everyone is still interested, but getting 3-4 of us together has been a challenge.

In the meantime I've been filling in some things I missed in Pathfinder, 5th edition,  and M&M. The expectation is that I will get to use them at some point in a real game - hopefully sooner rather than later.

I have not finished reading Starfinder yet - I'll have at least one post on that when I am though.

I've picked up some boardgames as well and I may have something to say about those if I can get some playing time in with them.

Anyway the blog is a little slow but I will pick things up the rest of this month.

Friday, September 1, 2017

40K Friday Returns! 8th Edition Update

8th edition has been going really well here. We've played 1000, 1500, and 2000 point battles. Apprentice Red has played a little bit with his Orks. Apprentice Blaster is focusing exclusively on his Space Wolves. Apprentice Who has joined the fray with a new Tyranid army. One of Blaster's friends has joined in as well with a new Tau army too. I've built some ruins for a new city board - haven't painted them yet but I've built them!

I'm going with  a new policy on this edition as well: I'm getting all of the codices as they come out. We play most of the armies anyway in our little group so why not? I have Space Marines and Chaos Marines already and I'll be adding Grey Knights in the next week. It's not cheap but this has really turned into our main (if not only) miniatures game so why not go all-in?

Army-wise for myself it's been chaos chaos chaos! Mainly Iron Warriors but with a healthy side order of Khorne daemons and World Eaters. In June I was scattershooting all over the 40k universe, picking up a unit here and a unit there for a bunch of different armies - Chaos, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Orks, Eldar. I decided this was just going to lead to a bunch of half-finished armies competing  for playing time so I went with a variant of my "Year of the Eldar" approach. The second half of 2017 is the "Year of Chaos" where I am finally making my Iron Warriors into a full-on massive force and getting the daemons into usable forces as well. Getting the CSM codex really helped solidify

Iron Warriors

  • HQ's are pretty much set at a daemon prince, termie lord, termie sorcerer, warpsmith, dark apostle, and an exalted champion
  • Troops are a bunch of CSMs and about 30 cultists if I want to sink that low. Seriously, I play CSM's for the marines, not cultists. I'm still experimenting with the CSM squads. 
    • Five of them wit ha heavy bolter in a ruin is cheap and contributes even at range. A lascannon or missile launcher improves the contribution but also ups the cost, 
    • Ten of them with double or triple plasma or flamers in a rhino turns into an actual threat to many units. I'm still not settled on what  I like better.
  • Elites are termies and helbrutes for the most part. Possessed were effective when I put ten of them in a rhino and rushed it up the board. Berzerkers will likely be included in a different way.
  • Fast Attack is limited to spawn for me right now but they have been very effective bullet sponges leading a charge and can do some real damage in close combat if they survive to reach it. Also, being able to take them in units of one can lead to some formation shenanigans if you're so inclined. They're great for blocking out deep strike zones too.
  • Heavy Support is kind of the IW's thing so I am going in pretty heavy here.
    • I have 3 predators and they have done great work and I think they are very effective in this edition. I have not tried out the triple-shot strategem yet but I will!
    • I have also added 3 vindicators. I have not done much with them yet but I will and I'll be trying out their triple-shot stratagem too.
    • I have added a land raider - finally the basic land raider is a strong player again!
    • Havoc Squads - effective but best off in cover. I like autocannons and I like missile launchers. I use the predators for lascannons so I look for other options for my havocs. 
    • Obliterators - they were terrible in the index but the codex seems to have made them much stronger. I need to try out this new version.
  • Dedicated transports: My Rhinos have gotten quite the workout this edition and I love them. The workhorse APC from the early parts of the game is fast, tough, and just really useful this edition. Rush them forward and pop smoke and the squad inside is almost certainly safe untiil next turn. Use them as cover. Run them into the enemy to soak up overwatch. Put guns on them! The chaos Rhino can carry two combi-bolters and a havoc launcher for 85 points! That turns them into a Razorback effectively, while still retaining the ten-man capacity. They're just handy to have on the table.
Expansion: I don't really _need_ anything but I am looking at maulerfiends and maybe some raptors just to have some of everything in this army. 

World Eaters

This is a fairly new addition to the force. I started picking up more berzerkers and while trying to decide how to integrate them into the army I realized I could just make a separate World Eaters detachment to include whenever I felt like it. This is mainly driven by the WE's being able to take Berzerkers as troops. The core force right now is Kharn, a dark apostle, and an exalted Champion accompanying a trio of 8-man berzerker squads in rhinos. That's around 1000 points and makes for a nice add-on force.

Expansion : I'm already considering expanding it into a full army on it's own - land raider, helbrutes, daemon princes, more berzerkers. We will see.


I mainly focused on Khorne daemons as they work well with a more shooty Iron Warriors marine army. Right now it's built on two detachments:

  • An outrider detahcment of 3 flesh hound units led by Karanak 
  • A battalion detachment of 3 bloodletter squads led by Skulltaker
Pretty basic right? I also have a unit of bloodcrushers I can add in, and the specific unit sizes above can be varied somewhat, but the sauce is in the other HQ choices. A herald on a juggernaut, a pair of khorne daemon princes and up to three bloodthirsters. Taking the thirsters as a separate supreme command detachment and I am pushing 3000 points.

Expansion: Well I am still building this one but I think a skull cannon or two would give it a little shooting and some more heralds would make it more playable at lower point levels. Plus it can always use more bloodletters.

I'll see if I can put up some battle reports and talk about what I am thinking with the rest of my armies next week. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Day 31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

  • The new 40K RPG will be something to watch. Different company, different approach, different era altogether I suspect. A new system gives me hope that this might be a more playable and fun entry to our library.
  • The Expanse RPG might be interesting but I haven't read the books or watched much of the show. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Traveller and other harder sci-fi RPG's. I'm wondering if Starfinder might have sucked most of the air out of this room by then though.
  • FFG's Star Wars is taking a turn with the first of what I suspect will be a series by publishing Dawn of Rebellion - an era book, not a "campaign type" book. I'd like to see more of that.
  • I'll be interested in seeing where D&D 5E goes next. With a first big rules supplement scheduled for later this year and a pretty diverse set of adventure modules in print what's next?
  • Mutant Crawl Classics! What comes next beyond some more adventures? 
  • Starfinder: does it sustain the incredible momentum it has right now? Or does it slow down once people actually start playing?
  • The new Star Trek RPG: how does it do? Big hit? Medium hit? One year on what will it look like?

Non-RPG Bonus Anticipation: 40K 8th edition will continue strong and that new codexes will enhance the game without breaking it - fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Day 30: What is an RPG genre mashup that you would most like to see?

Don't we already have just about all of these? At least that we're likely to see published since a Star Wars - Star Trek official crossover is unlikely at best? Between Shadowrun, Torg, and Rifts haven't we had them for 25+ years now? Deadlands, Numenera ... how much is left here? Superhero games tend to do this inherently and we have tons of those.

I'm struggling to come up with something original here that's a mashup.

How about this though as a game I'd like too see whether it's a mashup or not?:

How about a Kaiju RPG? Something where you play as a Kaiju - you get the Kaiju's point of view? You have some kind of motivation for doing what you do - smashing cities, roasting tanks, eating nuclear power plants. You have goals to accomplish and these pesky humans and maybe other kaiju are standing in the way. Maybe you're eating, maybe you're doing this stuff to reproduce, maybe you're trying to protect the planet - but they just do not understand and they cannot be allowed to stand in the way.

I'm sure we could come up with a basic mission structure:

  1. Emerge
  2. Replenish
  3. Discovery by humanity
  4. Initial Opposition
  5. Begin Agenda
  6. Heavy opposition
  7. Rivals!
  8. Final goal + climactic battle
  9. Resolution
The trick is to make all of these interesting and applicable to most characters. I could see using a fairly simple system similar to FATE, Apocalypse World, or ICONS. I could also see going more complex and building up some sub-systems for battling the human military, spawning offspring, battling other Kaiju, developing a cult following among humans, all kinds of little things that show up in these kinds of movies. Maybe the whole framework of defending earth against various threats from pollution to alien invaders would serve as the core conflict.

"Stand by wave motion gun and RELEASE THE KRAKEN!"

To make it a mashup once you have the basic system figured out then it's time to take it into space with *COSMIC KAIJU*! Now you're not just defending the earth - you're going into space, perhaps allied with humanity and their space fleets, to stop alien threats before they invade! Imagine Star Blazers/Yamato or Robotech/Macross  with Kaiju as a part of the fleet!

...or maybe the fleet and the kaiju are running from something ...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Day 29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

As of today I have been a part of about 30 Kickstarters and about 20 of those have been related to tabletop RPG's. I have received the promised rewards on every single one of them other than the most recent ones and even on those I may have a PDF already while we wait for books to print.

Most of them have been fun and interesting. the M&M 10th anniversary run was cool and the RQ2 KS turned up a lot of old material and released it as PDFs.

There are two that stand out however:

Spirit of '77 had a tone that stood out right from the beginning. The concept, the video updates, and the follow-up and delivery were all top notch. That was a really great job.

The other one is a company, not one particular KS. Pinnacle, the Savage Worlds guys, has done a consistently excellent job with Kickstarters. I've been a part of Weird Wars Rome, Deadlands: Stone and a Hard Place, Deadlands: Good Intentions, and Rifts Savage Worlds and every one of them has come thru with everything promised, no surprises, and pretty much on time. I like their game, I like their settings, and I like the way they handle their business. For a smaller company they have a damned impressive track record and I'm interested in anything and everything they do in the future.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Day 28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

  1. Star Wars (movies and shows)
  2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger movies
  4. The Tick (animated series)
  5. Star Trek (shows and movies)
  6. Lord of the Rings (movies)

I am under no illusion that this is unique to us. I suspect a lot of other groups have similar lists, particularly those of a similar age. A lot of it is influenced by what we're playing so the order may reshuffle but these are pretty consistently the set of things that turn up. You'd be surprised how many "bad feelings" are found in a D&D game or how That Still Only Counts as One even in a superhero game. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Day 27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

I think I've covered this before so I'll keep it short:

  • I need a good game. For me this is basically a game I like, one that starts the wheels turning just by flipping through it. It might be the setting, the concept, the mechanics, or even the art, but something about it has to inspire me.
  • I need some players. Interest and availability are the two key elements here. Experience isn't super-important - I can teach you the game if you're interested and can show up regularly and I can provide dice, character sheets, and books for the game.
  • I need time. This is often the hardest thing to come by. It's not really a tool but it is a necessity.
Anything else is gravy. You'll probably want some pencils and paper. You'll probably want some kind of character sheet. You'll probably want some kind of dice or cards or coins to flip. That said there are workarounds for all of these - a smartphone can replace all of them, and can probably keep a copy of the game rules available as well. A tablet or a laptop can do the same. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Day 26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Sometimes I wonder if these questions get divided up among multiple people - "OK you write days 1-20, you do 11-20, and I'll do 21-31" and if some of those people don't have much actual experience running or playing these games. At a minimum some of them have language issues - like this one! An RPG doesn't "provide" anything! Maybe they meant which RPG company provides the most useful resources? Maybe they meant which game has the best support? Would this mean only "official" resources or would third party or player-generated stuff count here too? I'm not sure but I'll see if I can come up with something coherent below.

The best resources to have from a GM point of view:

  • A game you like - probably a book or a PDF
  • At least 3 interested and available players
  • A place to play
  • A regular opening on the schedule

That's all I need to run a good game and I've been known to run without one or two of those things. I suspect this question is aimed at "gaming stuff" like splatbooks, screens, mini's, dice, etc.  We can do better than that though, as I don't really think of that stuff as all that "useful" when running a game. 

  • A game with a solid forum where ideas and problems can be discussed has a leg up on others. Mutants and Masterminds, FFG Star Wars, and Pathfinder all benefit from this. I find a good forum particularly helpful with more mechanically complex games like PF and M&M. 
    • Paizo's Pathfinder forum is also extremely useful when running one of their adventure paths as a ton of player-generated material starts showing up as soon as the first volume is released - maps, player handouts, plot outlines, character portraits - all kinds of good stuff for actually running a game shows up in these. FFG's Star Wars forums provide a similar service for their adventures too. 
    • Green Ronin's M&M forum is a treasure trove of famous character writeups from well-known superheroes to things like folk heroes, video games, and D&D conversions. You could probably run an entire Marvel Universe campaign in M&M 2nd or 3rd edition without ever needing to write up your own stats. That's some useful material.

  • Something I need to run a lot of games is NPC and monster/enemy stats in an easily usable form. It's not something that is always available.
    • D&D 4E had the online monster maker which meant I could pull up any monster they had released in an instant, and I could also modify it on the fly with a few clicks of the mouse - that was incredibly useful for that game. 
    • FFG Star Wars makes 3 decks of cards that have complete stats and gear and some notes on different types of NPCs from stormtroopers to criminals to rebel officers. I suspect I could run an entire campaign using these  and nothing else for friends and foes alike. They are extremely useful, much like the templates from d6 Star Wars.
    • Pathfinder came out with some books - the NPC Codex and the Monster Codex -  that have pregenerated stats and gear for character types and monster types at every level of the game. That's a start but having them locked in a big hardback book doesn't really help me during the game because I probably need more than one of them at a time. HeroLab to the rescue! If you pick up the add-on for those books for HeroLab you can pull up whatever characters or monsters you need and save them as an "encounter" within HL. That way you can set it up and save it ahead of time or you can do it on the fly and wing it as you see fit. It's an odd fusion of formats as the codexes provide a big bunch of NPC data, but it takes HeroLab to make it useful in my opinion. 
    • M&M has been very good at providing these from the Instant Superheroes book of second edition to utilizing HeroLab as well. Many of their books have a HeroLab support option.
  • An aid to help players get up and running is another useful resource and Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics has a few of them:

  • Another card option: condition cards. I think Pathfinder's official set was the first one I saw but there are player-created versions for M&M and D&D 5E and I notice they are one of the first scheduled products for Starfinder. Any game that uses something like "conditions" as a mechanic usually has a whole set of them and no one memorizes what all of them do. This is a simple, inexpensive, easily-implemented way to solve that. 
  • HeroLab deserves a mention of its own - beyond just generating characters it has tools for running encounters during a game. The more stat-heavy your game of choice, the more useful this is.
  • The Pathfinder Combat Manager is something I've discussed before but if you are running that game and haven't checked it out you should probably take a look. It's what makes that game usable to me in spite of the detail and size of the Pathfinder Mechanics Universe. 
So looking at all of that I'd say "useful resources" for me covers things that make actual play of the game easier, and that more complex games benefit from these kinds of things even more. Books that add more features for player characters are not really "useful" to me as a GM. Supplements that add more sub-systems to a game are not necessarily useful in that sense either. The Items I have listed above are the things I have found that make starting a game and/or keeping a game moving that much easier and so are quite "useful". To sum up:
  • Resources where I can discuss or help prep outside of game time are useful for any game but are especially helpful with the more complicated games.
  • Online systems or resources I can use for prep or during the actual game are really nice, especially for more complex games.
  • Cards are a really useful thing even for simpler games. I like having NPC info or monster villian info right there, I like having rules tidbits like conditions easily at hand, and I like being able to toss someone a card with say an important piece of gear on it. The cards serve as both a reminder of the mechanics and an indicator of who has the item or who is suffering from the condition. I'd like to see more card type products for RPGs anywhere it makes sense.