Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The New Star Wars Campaign

 


Well I mentioned something about Star Wars a while back and that did turn into something though not quite what I was thinking at the time. Given our other schedule issues we've restructured things and so for our first non-Deadlands weekend I ended up running the Edge of the Empire Beginner Box ... which I had somehow never run before. 

My thinking was that I wanted to give FFG Star Wars another try but given its very different approach with the dice and all I wanted to try it out with my current group of players before committing to a longer run. So we did exactly that - a tryout! I had 5 players. Two of them used pre-gens from the box, two brought in PC's they had from a prior EotE run, and one had a character from some other campaign. 

It's very railroady as you might expect from a starter adventure and it introduces the major elements of the game system along the way which is what I wanted. I already know we like Star Wars - what I wanted to test out was the system. I haven't managed to run more than about 5 sessions of this one in a row so I really want to see if I can get a sustained campaign going.


I have to say that despite it being about 5 years since I last ran this game it came back very quickly and it felt even easier than before. Maybe I've read and played more games since then or something but I really felt like I grasped it right from the start. The adventure covers skill checks, personal combat, and even some space combat in the finale and all of them ran well which was very encouraging. I used no miniatures and no maps until the very end when I pulled some X-Wing minis off the shelf to show relative positions and add a little flair to things. Some TIE fighters vs. a YT-1300 is a pretty classic moment and afterwards comments were made that it felt very much like Star Wars.

So, test successful! 

Many options were discussed but it was decided afterwards to continue on with some of these same characters in an Edge-style campaign. No definite connections to the Rebellion and no definite force users at this time. We are setting it back before Ep IV in the Rise of the Empire era so that will keep things interesting. 

Definitely more to come.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Interesting Times

 


One of the side effects of the OGL Hubbub has been the explosion of "there are other games like D&D that are not D&D" discussions online. Forums, blogs, YouTube ... I've seen a bunch of them and even though it probably shouldn't it still kind of surprised me. I still assume to some degree that other people are at least somewhat aware that D&D is not a unique thing. We have 45+ years of other RPG's (you know, "it's like D&D but...) and they are easier to find than ever in electronic form, yet so many people seem unaware of them. How?

I get it ... we have a ton of people now who came into the hobby through 5th Edition D&D. It's the only game they've played and it's the one their friends play so it seems like its own thing. I wonder what that percentage is? Say, of all the people who will roll dice for a combat or skill check this month, how many of them would have their minds blown to find out there is a <gasp> Star Wars "like D&D" game? What about Lord of the Rings? Marvel and Marvel-like properties? Is it half? I'm not even saying "played" another game or bought a book or a PDF - I'm just talking about awareness. 

I always thought the big franchises would bring new players in at a significant rate - Star Wars, Star Trek, LOTR, you know the list. When the MCU started being referred to as "The MCU" I thought it had achieved a big enough status to bring new people in there but apparently not. Who knew the hottest ticket for bringing in new RPG players would be ... the oldest RPG ... again. 

Now that the boat has been rocked there seems to be a lot of interest in broadening the horizons of these neo-gamers. I'm still not sure if it's truly new players showing a real interest or grizzled veterans like me desperately hoping we can break some of them away from the Forgotten Realms and into some of the other awesome options out there. Hopefully at least some of the less-involved are discovering that these exist. 

What's the easiest "other" RPG to drag 5E-only gamers into? The easy answer is something very similar to D&D like Pathfinder or one of the OSR games but I think that's misleading because if it's more swords and spells you're going to get asked at some point "why don't we just play D&D"? My best candidate is Star Wars - pretty much everybody knows at least some of it and it can accommodate a wide variety of campaign styles. Maybe the FFG funky dice edition isn't your favorite but there is plenty of support for d6 still out there and it's pretty easy to grasp and there is still material for the d20 versions if you want to go class and level with it. 

I don't know that I have more conclusions than questions here. It's just been an interesting thing to watch. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Meme-ish Monday

 


My life the past few months ...

Monday, January 16, 2023

Mem-ish Monday

 

Considering playing a necromancer in a friend's new Dragonlance campaign - black robes are contributing members of society and all that, right?" So it seemed relevant ...

Friday, January 13, 2023

40K Friday - Looking Ahead to the Year Ahead

 


Well it should be an interesting year. The last of the 9th edition codexes are due out soon - that would be the plainclothes edition of the Imperial Guard (I picked up the fancy horse edition already) and the World Eaters standalone book and maybe Space Marines 9E 2.0 though those rumors seem to have gotten fuzzier as time has gone by. 

I have to say I have liked 9th edition. I thought it showed an effort to add a lot of flavor back into the game in individual codexes plus the one-volume set of rules for the Forgeworld units was an incredibly player-friendly move. It really felt like GW was paying attention to what was happening in the game as we went along rather than just pumping out a pre-planned set of new material. It wasn't perfect but it felt like a serious effort was being made.

The irony is that almost as soon as the game is "complete" - in the sense that all factions have a new codex - we are going to reset the whole thing and do it all over again because every indication is that 10th edition is kicking off this summer ... sigh. Wouldn't it be cool if GW spent a year or two cranking out all of the new army books and then spent a full year just doing some campaign books like Vigilus or Charadron or Arks of Omen? A full year where all of the factions had been updated and we just rode with that with some extra optional material and some mission packs? I think it would be damn strong and make a lot of people very happy but business is business I suppose.


Tenth edition of the game ... well there's a mixed-feelings milestone. I started with 1st edition or "RT" as people call it because I had been playing Warhammer fantasy for several years already and thought "fantasy races with sci-fi gear" sounded like a lot of fun - turns out I was right! Heck my kids started playing during 5th edition ... time flies ... especially when they reset the game every 3 years. 

It sounds like we're going to get the remaining daemon primarchs added to the game. It's weird to hear people talk about Angron and Fulgrim like they're these great unknowns when I was playing with them in Epic 30 years ago. Sure, they worked a lot like a greater daemon in those rules but they had their own abilities and their own models and we used them a lot in our battles. It will be cool to finally see them in a bigger scale with modern design capabilities. We've come a long way from when a 40K army was 20-30 guys, a dreadnought, and a landspeeder or a mole mortar. 


I am still happy with 40K. I liked the big reset system-wise with 8th, I have liked most of 9th, and I am looking forward to 10th. Hopefully they keep getting it right most of the time.


For 9th my "new edition new army" was Necrons even if I came to them a bit late. Now they are finally approaching a "done" status - for the first wave at least. It's been a thing for a long time. For 5th I got my marines and orks into usable shape as the boys got interested. With 6th it was refiguring the Chaos Marines and starting up some Dark Angels. For 7th I updated my Eldar and got them into a coherent force. For 8th it was reworking the Blood Angel pieces I had and making them an actual usable army. I also split my Death Guard off into a usable solo force.  Rumors are that the new edition boxed set will feature Marines vs. Tyranids and if that's true then I suppose 'Nids will  be my new army for this edition. 


So yes, it should be fun. Finishing out an edition I liked and starting up with a new one will definitely keep things interesting this year. 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

 


ENWorld's Most-Anticipated RPGs list is out and is a little more interesting to me than last year at least. Let me give them some individual comments:

10 - The Monty Python RPG - this seems incredibly pointless. If it came out in the 80's maybe it would be something but I get MP quotes in damn near every session I run. It permeates players ... at least players of a certain age. I just don't see the point of a medieval fantasy RPG dedicated to it. Maybe one about trying to run a show business troupe, heck even a medieval performing troupe, might be interesting but as-presented this just seems like stuff someone gets because it's a cool book, not because it's a game you're going to play.

9 - Old Gods of Appalachia - What is with Appalachian RPGs lately?" With this and that Savage Worlds take on it that is two more games on it than I can recall seeing before. I lived in Upper East Tennessee for a while and I don't get the attraction as an RPG setting really. I suppose this particular one from Monte Cook is sort of a hillbilly Cthulhu and if you're looking for that, well, here you go. 

8 - Warhammer 40K Imperium Maledictum - I mean they already have Wrath and Glory but this apparently is a game where you do not play Space Marines or Inquisitors but you play normal people in the 40K universe. OK. This should have a PC casualty level somewhere between Call of Cthulhu and a Dungeon Crawl Classics 0-level funnel but honestly I'd rather be playing a character with a gun ... or a chainsword. Apparently this is to W&G as WFRP is to Soulbound - the "gritty normal" game vs. the Big Heroic Action game. That's fine but "most anticipated"? I guess we will see. 

7 - The Walking Dead Universe RPG - Um, sure, OK. A licensed zombie apocalypse game after the show has dropped way off of the pop culture radar and I'm not sure if the comics are still going either. What's the draw here? There are many zombie apoc games out there already and  this one will likely die when the license inevitably expires. What's the attraction here? I watched the show for a few seasons and I don't think there's anything unique about it compared to pretty much any other zombie setting that would make for a more compelling game.  People do seem to like Free league's system so maybe that's the draw here. 

6 - Shadow of the Weird Wizard - this is an adaptation to a new, more family-friendly setting of Shadow of the Demon Lord. It's probably fine. The system is decent but we don't know much about the setting yet beyond some basic fantasy stuff. I suppose this is a new entry in the "if you want to play a D&D type game without actually playing D&D" family of RPGs. 


5 - Mothership - this has been around a while and won new game awards in 2019 but they ran a Kickstarter for a new version so I guess that makes it a new game again? I like the idea of "Aliens" for an adventure but I'm not sure how excited I would be for it as a campaign. Look at the body count for those movies ... are we rolling up a new character for each new adventure? Again the DCC 0-level character funnel comes to mind. What's the pitch: "well you managed to survive that horrific and violent encounter - how about another one?" What does character advancement look like? Getting a better artificial limb to replace the on the aliens gnawed off in the last adventure?  I'm sure there are people who will eat it up but it seems really limited in scope to me. Interesting, but limited. 

4 - Household - Yeah this one is pretty niche. It sounds like an interesting concept at first but then I think of how my players probably do not care about playing tiny faeries in an old house with an 1800s political structure and I'm out. That said I know there are people who will eat this up.

3 - 13th Age 2nd Edition - Ah, the next entry in the "if you want to play a D&D type game without actually playing D&D" family of RPGs. I thought the original had some interesting ideas but we've played exactly zero sessions of it in my GMing time. Ten years is certainly enough time between new editions so no issues there. I get this one being at #3.

2 - Dragonbane - another Free League entry and yet another entry in the "if you want to play a D&D type game without actually playing D&D" family of RPGs. I'm sure it's fine too as it has a pretty extensive history but I'm just not that big a fan of Free League's system and have no lack of D&D type RPGs so I'll be passing on this one. 

1 - Pendragon 6th Edition - yeah ... yeah, this one is completely worthy. It's an amazing game and while fantasy it is definitely not like D&D. I do question how much they would change from prior versions of Pendragon, but getting a new version in print is good. 


So there is this year's list. No must-haves on there for me but its more interesting than last year. Things I might pick up: Mothership, 13th Age 2E, Pendragon. The others I could be talked into playing by an enthusiastic GM - like most games, really - but right now are not jumping out at me. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The First 2023 RPG Challenge - Scheduling!

 


Similar to last year I don't have a lot of hard, set goals for this year. Last year was interrupted by the big move but this year should be steady - I do not need to do that again! - and is mainly about getting back in a rhythm in my mind. 

Assuming I can keep the Deadlands game on track then that is the RPG priority for the year - until we wrap it up. I've done pretty well maintaining focus on it and not trying to work in side games or getting distracted with the "next" game on the roadmap. That said given some recent schedule complications I am changing my approach for '23 ...

For several years now my approach to scheduling has been to keep it very short-term: Sometime during this session, we pause and schedule the next session. That's it - no advance planning, just a conversation while everyone consults their phone calendars. Occasionally we scout out a whole month and plan two sessions, but the basic goal is to set the next gathering date. This has worked pretty well but trying to get the train rolling again post-move we have hit a lot of blockers. November & December are always challenging but now even January has been bad. Combine this with my own (and the group's) desire to have everyone present for each session and we would not be playing at all for Q1 2023. That's just not viable.


So I talked to the crew and pointed out the complications we've been having and now we are going back to a fixed schedule like we have used previously. I'm aiming for two sessions of Deadlands and then 1 each of a couple of other games which I am still in the process of determining - I'd like to work in a Superhero game on a regular basis and then maybe a Star Wars or one of several other options. It's all TBD for now. 

Of course this also means we have to let go of the Full Attendance mandate so people are going to miss some sessions. It's not great but we are hardly the only group to encounter it and it's not like this is the first time it's come up.

It's one of the regular challenges when managing an RPG campaign, especially as the adult players get busier. I've tried various approaches before, including pretty much this same thing, and they worked well for a while but I also had some built-in players at home back then which made the Agile thing work and I do not anymore, so, time for a new plan.

I did think at one point having a backup game for when everyone couldn't show would solve the issue but right now I would end up running the "backup" game more than my primary game for the next few months so that wasn't going to work.

Committing to every weekend is optimistic but it's an offer, not a promise. I will have conflicts and have to cancel occasionally but doing this means that theoretically we can run something every week regardless of who is available and I think that getting that momentum going will improve all of our games. Plus it may allow me to rotate through some short runs in systems I might not otherwise get to run and expose my guys to something they want to explore further without taking away from the Deadlands campaign.

Dating myself here, oof ...

So anyway there's the first dilemma of the year. Hopefully this sorts out and I'll have some decent stories to tell here down the road. 



Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Story of the Year So Far - the OGL Thing

 


Well WOTC has managed to stir up a whole lot of people without really trying. Details can be found here.

I see the OGL as nothing but a great thing that gave us tons of material for D&D and far more, including Mutants and Masterminds among others. The idea that Wizards might undo it -pretty much out of nowhere- is disturbing. It is especially disturbing since it has been stated repeatedly and emphatically by the architect of the document and the company itself that it could not do so.

Now what I suspect, and where some later rumors seem to point, is that this is more like the GSL - if you want to publish new material for One D&D then you have to agree to this new license which voids your right to publish under the old license. That would make more sense business-wise and legality-wise and it avoids a whole lot of negative blowback from business partners and customers. I really hope that this is the case.

If this was ten years ago I would assume this would meet the same reception as the GSL did - mass non-adoption. Why would anyone cut themselves out of the wide OGL opportunities out there for a narrowly-focused option to publish for one game. I'm a little less sold on that this time as there is a new factor - some people think you need a screen to play D&D and those people are numerous enough to have an impact.

For the record, my stance is that you do not need a screen or an internet connection to play D&D . You never have, you never will, and you never should. 

That said if you want to use some kind of application to play it you should be able to, sure. There have been various programs or apps around from the earliest days to generate characters or track combat and that's fine. As a DM I've used Combat Manager to run Pathfinder and Hero Lab to run combat for M&M. In my case they were just tools to make running my game easier - I never required a player to use one.


All the chatter around One D&D now though ... this feels like they are aiming for a subscription model. Whether it's strictly tied to an optional tool or becomes the primary way of releasing material I am not sure but I am not a fan of it and the day I have to pay a subscription to access rules for D&D is the day I will stop playing it ... lord knows I have enough material on the shelves already. 

I'm sure it's part of the corporate push to generate more revenue and  I get that. Hasbro has discussed "monetizing the D&D brand more" and that often means we're going to start charging you for things that may have been free or unlicensed before and we're going to start charging more for things we've been doing. Hey, we all need to eat but that's rarely been a phrase that leads to a better product and a happier customer base in my experience. So once we started hearing that, once the One D&D talk started up, well, it put me on notice that its going to change and probably not for the better.

This has also been accompanied of course by all the talk that "it's not an edition change - call of it will be backwards-compatible" - I mean, sure. Compatibility across editions has been a variable quality over the years and maybe there will be zero conversion needed to run Princes of the Apocalypse  in One D&D but if it's not an edition change why are you publishing a new Players Handbook? That's a pretty strong signal, right? We're not just changing the cover art, right? So despite the disclaimers it looks like a new edition to me. 

So we have a new edition of the rules coming, a new licensing agreement to publish alongside those rules, and probably some additional changes we have yet to see. For myself, my main question is "are you going to keep printing books with all of the content for the current version of the game?" No "online exclusive" supplements or other way of making the paper version limited in some way? If that's the case then there's some hope for the future. Beyond that if you kill off future third party publishing, well, that's not good. If you retroactively interfere with existing third party publishing ... well now we're getting into a much more actively hostile approach and that's going to be a problem. OGL interference would potentially affect a bunch of games and publishers I like and I can't support that. Pathfinder, M&M, Labyrinth Lord, Star Without Number - I believe all of these have some tie to the OGL and that's just the first 4 I thought of - there are many more. 


An edition change is a good time for people to try other games. A licensing re-work is a good time for publishers to explore other options. With a movie coming out soon there is more D&D chatter online and there are already posts about it being targeted with negative takes on this whole situation. It seems like this would be a time to try to get people excited rather than make controversial moves but you never know what some people are thinking.

Hopefully all of this gets worked out soon and without leaving a crater on the industry.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The New Year's Eve Post for 2022

 


Well the end of '22 finds me in a very different place then the end of '21 ... literally. Somewhere along the way I decided to see how much change I could pack into one year and the answer is "a whole lot".

  • All of the Apprentices are now out on their own. It's a massive change for all of us but it's part of the deal and how things are supposed to go. 
  • I changed jobs, leaving a place I had been for more than a decade for something new. It was time and it has certainly been worth it so far. 
  • As that was developing I also ended up moving from a house I had been in for ten years to a new (old) house with more room more land and more interesting terrain. There was the whole looking part, the getting-ready-to-move part, then the actual-moving part, then the unpacking-after-the-move part and trying to get the new routine figured out. It's been challenging but so far so good. One of the reasons for the move was ...
  • I made things official and permanent with The Relationship and getting back into the groove of "couple" rather than "individual" has been a big part of this year too. She's amazing and it's very cool to have a smart, capable, person right *there* as we go through life.
So, yeah, had a lot going on this year - mostly positive and mostly self-chosen (or self-inflicted) but still a lot. Next year should be a lot quieter and should involve a lot of building on what we did this year. 

Fred the Yard Panther on patrol

Looking back at this time last year I can safely say I was not planning all of this. I figured it was probably the last "everyone at home" holiday season but beyond that ... no. 

RPG-wise I mostly ran Deadlands. I ran one session of D&D as a sendoff to the game room at the old house and then one session of d6 Star Wars here after other plans fell through. I usually have a more diverse array of games over the course of a year but with everything else going on it just did not happen in 2022. 



In saying farewell to the old place I thought about the number of hours spent in that room with friends and family and it is eye-opening. If you figure two 4-hour sessions a week. 50 weeks a year for ten years (that's a rough guess between RPGs, miniatures, and boardgames)  it means I spent 4000 hours in that room around a table. That's probably on the light side and it doesn't count the time spent building and painting miniatures in an adjoining room which would add at least a couple thousand more hours on to that. It's one way I spend time both with friends and family and also in solo concentration attempting to accomplish various goals. It's a significant chunk of my time and that's probably why I spend time pondering things here. 

I also mentioned 40K last year and while I have yet to play a game in the new place I have started building and painting again. I clear-coated some of those Necrons earlier today and will do some more tomorrow. I also decided to dive back into Age of Sigmar as I unpacked things and I'll talk about that more here next year. 

As far as the next historical game, well, the rules for Victory at Sea arrived today and I'll start reading them a bit later and over the rest of the holiday weekend. No I did nothing really with Flames of War this year. or Kings of War, or Bolt Action, or Armada, but with the new place and a more regular schedule I have hopes of touching at least some of these next year.



Blaster and I did manage to play another round of C&C Ancients this year and we are just about to wrap up the first campaign of Rome vs. Carthage which we started, um, as described in this post. Yeah it's been awhile. To celebrate I picked up the Revolutionary War version of the game to go along with the other 5 or 6 expansions for the Ancient version. Hopefully we can finish it before he starts bringing me grandkids.



One other thing that did hold over from last year is Battletech - yes Battletech! We played multiple games earlier in the year at the old house and we have played multiple sessions at the new place as well. It's been fun dragging old friends into playing it with many comments along the lines of "I haven't played this in 20 years". I expect this will continue at its intermittent pace next year as well as several of them have now bought the current boxed set and started painting mini's. I'm still calling that a win.



So for now my gaming year wraps up with a session of d6 Star Wars that kicked off a campaign, the next-to-last scenario in the C&C Ancients book, and building & painting my Necrons, Chaos Warriors, and Fyreslayers with a pile of rulebooks and settings waiting to be read into the new year. Moving means going through your stuff and for me it reminded me about some things I had let go dormant and rekindled interest in some old options while inspiring some looks at some new ones.

It's been another good year. More to come.