Friday, October 12, 2012

40K Friday - The Big Yellow Hammer Drops!

Over the holiday weekend we played a big game of 40K Sixth edition where I took on Apprentice Red and Apprentice Blaster. There's a bit of a story to it, so bear with me for a paragraph or two.

First, it's difficult to surprise boys who live in the same house when it comes to gaming stuff as they are all over anything that comes into the house. It's also difficult to prep without them knowing that something is up, especially when it comes to a miniatures game where there's painting and gluing and just a lot of activity to get something new ready to go. So I did something new - I bought someone else's painted army. I've picked up a few painted vehicles and things for the boys to help them get farther along in their army construction, but I haven't done it for any of my armies thus far. Also, I don't always play with a fully painted army but it is my preference when possible. Finally, scanning the electrons of ebay and the local scene, "painted" is often the same or less cost as "new on sprue" which means it doesn't cost anything extra and it saves a great deal of time - as long as it fits in with what you already have. So, I found an army I liked, one I had contemplated running in the past, and I bought it.

Next, having acquired the weapon, I set a time for the match roughly two weeks out - then I started trash talking them.If you have teenage boys you probably know how it is, but listening to the kids opine on everything under the sun, and 40K in particular, given their limited experience (in everything) can get a little old. I normally try to stay out of their expert discussions and declarations - or at most try to point out that they may not have considered all of the information -  but this time was different. This time I told them when, how many points, and that I was going to crush them both. I also told them they'd be facing space marines, but I didn't get into specifics. They immediately responded with counter-talk, asking what they would get if they won. The game was on.

So the army came and I worked up my list in secret. It's a Deathwing terminator army painted up as Imperial Fists. I think of it as pre-heresy Fists for those of you into 40K lore, since they were the hammer unit during the great crusade, I think it's reasonable to assume that would look something like a Deathwing army. Even though it's "more marines" it's different from the armies I already have so it should be fun. Also, technically it's  a "Doublewing" army as the rest of it is Ravenwing bikes and speeders but the Termies are the focus of the army.

There were some trash-talk flare-ups as the days went by so when the day came everyone was fired up and ready to go. Lady Blacksteel and Apprentice Twilight were out for most of the day so it was just the boys and our dice. As I pulled terminator after terminator out of the box there was some discussion on the opposing sideline but if anything the trash talk increased - "Those don't scare me" was uttered at least twice. Heh.

One thing I am not really liking about 6th edition is the terrain setup section of the rules. We've done it a few times now and this kind of table is the result - lots of stuff clustered near one edge with a big no-man's land in the middle. We're probably going to go with a narrative approach or a "both setup then roll for side choice" approach to avoid this. It didn't matter a ton to me because my bikes and speeders are pretty fast and most of my army is going to deep strike in anyway, but it looks bad.

On the near end Red's Necrons are all clustered up, while Blaster's Space Wolves are at the other end. There are roughly two objectives on the Apprentice half, two on my half, and one towards the middle.

Those Borg cubes are the objective markers. I plan to park and shoot the two Predators, one bike squadron will destroy the monolith (melta-melta-multi-melta) the other will head for the Land Raider (full of Wolfguard BTW) and the speeders (Typhoons & Multi-meltas) will go wherever they can do the most good.

Waiting aboard the battle-barge...

End of Turn 1 - they have blown up the near Predator but I've landed 3 squads near objectives and I have a plan.

End of Apprentice Turn 2 - they have shot up a few termies but one of the Necron wraiths (center, near the monolith) ate a Krak missile when they charged and croaked before he could get into melee.

End of Deathwing Turn 2 - The wraiths are dead from Thunderhammer disease, one bike squadron has been shot up good but the other has destroyed the monolith! There is a pretty hairy firefight going on around that lower objective so I dropped two more squads in near it. There are Long Fangs sitting in that bunker in the upper right, happily blasting away with missile launchers, while a squad of Grey Hunters sits on an objective at the far top right as the Land Raider and the Dreadnought advance.

There are a lot of Necrons in that ruin but I believe we can handle it.

Death of a monolith

End of Apprentice Turn 3 - The Deathwing Command Squad led by Belial, Master of the Deathwing, meets the Wolf Guard, led by Logan Grimnar! Shots are fired and the fight is on!

End of Deathwing Turn 3 - Belial is down! That'll teach me to challenge a Chapter Master with a mere Company Master! In the meantime the other termies smack each other around, the Necron Scarabs bog the bikes down, and ferocious Necron shooting has thinned out another termie squad (Rapid Fire - it's New and Improved!). They blew up the other predator too, so this hasn't been a great turn for Yellow but I'm not in a terrible position.

End of game - On turn 4 the speeders blow up the Land Raider and the Dreadnought, Deathwing reinforcements charge into the Command Squad fight and kill every Wolf Guard but Logan. One battered termie squad charges into the scarab fight, kills them all, and free the bikes. The long fangs die to massed Cyclone Missile fire. Then on Turn 5 the last unit of Necron warriors at the bottom there breaks and runs leaving the Imperial Fists in control of the two middle objectives and the Apprentices concede.


  • A 2500 point games takes some time, especially when you're still new to the rules. This was about a 6-hour event though it must be said we took a lot of breaks between turns.
  • I was always an Assault Cannon guy before when it came to Terminator armament choices - no longer! Having 6 Cyclone launchers on the board was nasty, especially when it was backed up with 3 Typhoons - that's 18 missile shots a turn - lots of frag templates were piled on those Necron warriors and they had a hard time with it.
  • I was worried about having too much melta (both bike squadrons including both attack bikes and all 3 speeders) but with a monolith and a land raider on the table it was a game-changer. 
  • There is definitely a momentum thing with this army - teleporting in and not being able to assault means that you get to spend a turn weathering the storm, but when you do hit you hit hard. They boys were very cocky on turns 1-2 then 3 calmed them down then on 4 as I was smashing space wolves they got very quiet. I think this is a win-it-in-the-later-turns-army though more games will give me more insight into this.
  • Speeders can last quite a while when there are tanks and terminators on the board to worry about.
The boys eventually recovered from their morale failure and talked about the next game. Blaster thinks he might want some bikes for his wolves, and that he needs to get his Thunderwolf Cavalry finished up. Red wants some more Necron vehicles and to roll better. I'm thinking we will probably try some smaller point games next.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back to D&D: Noble Houses of Impiltur

With the D&D game firing back up this weekend I thought I would share something I emailed to my players a few months back in an attempt to hook them into the world a little bit more- after all, it's hard to reclaim a legacy if you don't know what that legacy is! Please note that all of this is (to use some good English phrasing) Dreadfully Non-Canon when it comes to the published Realms material...

Some of you have asked for some background on the situation or the noble houses in Impiltur to tie your characters into the setting a little more tightly. I had a rough sketch worked out but it was pretty bare bones and was a little too warhammer/game of thrones than I would like, so I've gone with another inspiration this time and I'm just going to pretend that earlier version didn't happen. If you're interested, take a look below and see what you like and we can retcon any decisions made previously. There aren't any numbers here and no hard rules - I just want each one to have its own flavor. Every house has some fighters and paladins and clerics and wizards, but the stuff below is what they are known for.

Noble Houses of Impiltur

House Orlanth: Leaders & Adventurers – In D&D terms, most sons of Orlanth are Fighters, Paladins, or Warlords with a fair number of Bards. Favored gods are Torm and the Red Knight with occasional bows to Akadi the air god. The best at warfare, strategy, and tactics and have the most men under arms of any house of the realm. Big on questing, with small bands of knights and retainers heading off on new quests every season, many of them to reclaim or restore the lost areas within Impiltur itself with a goal of strengthening the realm. They have interests all over the realm and tend to be most aware of the realm as a whole. Willing to work with every house but Lhankor is very different to them and the house they understand the least. Also known for the best tournaments in the land.
Favors Martial and Divine.
Signature Skills: Athletics, Diplomacy

House Humakt: Guardians of the Realm – Most are Slayers, Knights, or Avengers with a fair number of Warpriests. Favored gods are Kelemvor and Tempus. Most knowledgeable about Orcus and the undead and have been very active in the past in stopping those forces all over the Bloodstone Lands. Makeup is similar to Orlanth but grimmer and with less celebrating. Very suspicious of House Zoran, but not as antagonistic as might be expected. Many outposts set up as watchtowers over places of evil and their quests tend to be recovering and storing evil artifacts to keep them out of enemy hands. Tend to be most aware of rising threats to the realm. Often work with Yelmalio to team up against a threat.
Favors Martial and Divine. If you want a unit to hold a pass to the last man, a unit of House Humakt is your best bet.
Signature Skills: Intimidate, Dungeoneering

House Issaries: Explorers & Traders – Typical leaders of the house are Rogues, Bards, or Sorcerers. Favored gods are, Waukeen and Tymora with a nod to Istishia the water god. Mainly concentrated in the cities of the realm (especially New Sarshel) with connections in all of the ports of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Quests for this house tend to be trading expeditions and attempts to discover something new or rediscover something lost. Tend to be most aware of what's going on in other lands. Often work with Lhankor to research old legends, prophecies, or maps. They also have fought many pirates and creatures from beneath the sea and are quite knowledgeable about the undersea races. Dragons are also a familiar foe to them, on both land and sea. Also, they throw the best parties.
Favors Martial and Arcane.
Signature Skills: Bluff, Streetwise

House Lhankor: Sages & Mages – House leaders tend to be Wizards, Warlocks, Invokers, Swordmages, or Bladesingers. Favored gods are Oghma and Gond. This is a smaller house but one that is respected by all others for their knowledge and their magical might. Tend to be most aware of planar activities, prophecies, and legends. Quests are often undertaken to recover lost knowledge or to locate a rare magical item or artifact.
Favors Arcane and Divine with some Psionic.
Signature Skills: Arcana, History

House Yelmalio: Justice, Honor, and the Light - House leaders tend to be Clerics, Paladins, and Invokers. Favored gods are Amaunator and Bahamut. A widespread house that takes a very active role in the everyday running of the realm, sometimes to the annoyance of the other houses. Members are staunch foes of the undead, dragons, demons, and humanoids that threaten the realm – they will fight any evil. Very distrustful of House Zoran. Quests are typically to track down a wanted criminal or renegade, or to wipe out a den of evil. They have also been sending expeditions into Vaasa, the land of the old witch-king, to explore for new threats and to spread the worship of their gods. If you need someone to lead a glorious charge into battle against long odds then a unit from House Yelmalio is an excellent choice - and odds are that they would have volunteered anyway,
Favors Divine.
Signature Skills: Insight, Religion

House Chalanna: The Forest House – Sons of Chauntea tend to be Rangers and Druids. Favored gods include Chauntea and Mielikki. This is a more rural house that tends to view natural cycles and traditions as best. The authority on the forested areas of the realm and the creatures that live in them and the hunting of all types of creatures. They also have extensive knowledge of healing, both natural and magical. Tend to be most aware of the state of nature in the realm and the balance or anything that has disturbed it. Much like Orlanth their quests and their focus tend to be inside the realm, restoring damaged places and helping the natural recovery of things.
Favors Martial and Primal.
Signature Skills: Heal, Nature

House Zoran: House of Shadows – Fighters, Rogues, Rangers. this house is not afraid to use methods other than open conflict to preserve the realm. While somewhat disliked by the other houses, they have always done their duty when called upon. Their quests tend to be to eliminate hidden threats, capture and interrogate enemies, and to stop evil before it can take root. Most knowledgeable about the Underdark and the Shadowfell. Also tend to be aware of criminal activity and underground threats. Mainly concentrated in the coastal cities (mainly Lyrabar) but are rumored to have agents everywhere.
Favors Martial, Arcane, and Shadow.
Signature Skills: Stealth, Thievery

Bonus House:

Clan Stormbull (Dwarves): Berserkers against evil – this clan claims Clanggeddin Silverbeard as their patron and takes a special interest in the fight against evil chaos on the surface of the world. They tend to be closely associated with House Orlanth and have fought beside them many times. Dwelling in the Earthspur mountains they know that their fates are tied to that of Impiltur and see it as an obligation to help their neighbors whenever possible. With their natural skill, the aid of their war god, and the power of the spirits of the land they succeed more often than not.
Favors Martial, Divine, Primal
Signature Skills: Endurance, Intimidate

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interesting Superhero Concepts - Hexmaster

This is the Hexmaster M.A.D. Mk I from Adventurer's Club #3. I think he's supposed to be the Hero Games mascot from the early years. I don't think he's anything special to look at. In fact he looks kind of like the Nest Leader from Viper's Nest.

Even his stats aren't all that impressive - note that at full strength his Force Field won't stop an average roll from one of his own attack powers from stunning him on a halfway decent roll. Oh and yes, the hex on his chest gives him some of his powers and so does the one he is standing on.

What is interesting is the concept: M.A.D. stands for "Man Android Decoy". They are robots who don't know they are robots who are released into the world to carry out grand schemes to provide cover for what their creator is really planning. They monologue, recruit agents and supervillains, and generally carry on all of the classic master villain activities. Then when they are knocked unconscious or brought to zero body they explode! Knowing the background take a look at that statblock again - a wide variety of attacks, charges on everything, some odd weaknesses - he can blast away for a while and then BAM!

Of course with some gentle leading the players will probably assume it was a robotic decoy and the real villain somehow got away - which is partially true. Then he shows up again a few months or years later, they think "ah-ha we have him this time" and he explodes again - how does he keep doing that?

Then of course to double-fake them you spring the real villain on them, or maybe a non-robotic wannabe, who doesn't explode but who clearly has no firsthand knowledge of their earlier encounters - he read about them and was inspired. It's a work of such subversive genius that it deserves a home in every supers campaign, regardless of system!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Old School Champions - Adventurers Club #3

"Hi, I'm the Slug, and I'm called that because I wear a s50's space helmet and carry an ankh (Which makes about as much sense as a lot of actual comic book characters if you think about it)
Another Tuesday, another review of an Adventurer's Club - this time it's #3 from the spring of 1984.

  • Up front we have some news type articles - Champions III and Justice Inc. are the main topics
  • Foxbat's letters column is still somewhat entertaining even decades later
  • First big article: The Art of the DNPC - this is a nice 4-page article on handling DNPC's in a campaign covering Types, Disadvantages, Skills, and Powers. There's an interesting point of view here that DNPC disads should be viewed from their impact on the player character, not the DNPC itself, and it did have some wheels turning in my head. Another funny thing is that nowadays this article is probably as long as a typical blog post, but 4 pages out of a 50 page magazine had to have been a pretty big deal back then. 
  • Covert Action this month is about mission panning, DNPC's, and the Private Investigator package deal. 
  • Teamwork is a 2-page article on how to get heroes to work more as a team than a collection of individuals and has notes on two approaches: the near-invincible supermenace that forces a team-up and the villain team that uses code words and coordinated attacks to beat down the heroes. This is another Aaron Allston article and some specific maneuvers and code words show up in the Strike Force supplement that came along a few years later.
I believe that's "The Monster" and a DNPC...
  • The middle 12 pages of the book is "Terror in the Treasures" which is a lot like some of the Action Scenes adventures for ICONS by Vigilance Press in that it's an adventure situation rather than a full-blown adventure with clues and a plot. Basically a group of villains from the Enemies books is going to try and steal some artifacts from a museum and presumably the heroes will try to stop them. Where it shines is not so much in the plot (simple) or characters (off the shelf) but in the details on the museum itself. Freed of the need to describe the opposition the writer spends a couple of pages detailing the layout and the physical stats of the museum and the objects inside, and you get nice hexmaps of both the main building and the surrounding area. The other innovation here is that museum artifacts are not especially sturdy, and given the amount of collateral damage that super battles tend to inflict, there's is opportunity here to reign in some of the reckless abandon of combat, forcing the players to think a little more about what they are doing. The main object of the robbery could be interesting too, so there is enough difference from a generic "stop the robbery" evening here to keep it fun.
As much map as any DM really needs for this kind of thing
  • There is an article on some different types of agents, from ninjas to zombies, along with stats - useful
  • Rules Questions are answered - this was always a popular feature in gaming magazines and appears to be so here as well.
  • The villain-of-the-quarter is the "Hexmaster M.A.D. Mk I" - it's interesting enough for a separate post, look for that later.
  • Another multi-page article is the Combat Rating System, which attempts to measure offensive, defensive, and mobility powers with a series of calculations to help GM's better balance their combat encounters. Look it's CR and EL 16 years before 3rd Edition D&D! Part of me thinks this is either somewhat redundant in a point-based system or it's an indication that balance remains elusive, even in the most comprehensive point-based system of all. It' written by George Mac Donald so it probably works and at the time it might have been a big deal but looking back I think "It's Supers" and just want to move on.
  • Finally there are reviews of Stormhaven for MS&PE (it's good!) and something called Supergame which sounds like an early attempt at a universal system (it's not!).
Speaking of Smurfs I have to say that Hank Azaria in that live action movie was just about the most spot-on translation of a cartoon character to live action that I can recall
 The big attraction here is clearly the adventure, and that seems to be the theme with each issue, but there is other worthwhile material here, at least for the time. Even now it's interesting to read the thinking of the designers and writers in these early years of the system as they explore the possibilities of the game.