Friday, June 3, 2016

40K Friday - Dark Eldar Progress

It's been a little slow around here as far as 40K goes because it's been the opposite of slow for everything else. If you have kids in school then May is a busy busy month and having multiples, including one graduating high school, makes it even more so. This week marks the end of all that though so hopefully we will have some time to get back to building, painting, and playing.

In the last couple of months all I have added to my eldar forces is a big group of dark eldar warriors. This gives me enough to field 40-50 of them altogether and that should be plenty. These are the older style plastic troops as I intend to use the newer (current) style sets as trueborn.

So the entire dark-kin force consists of:

  • Archon
  • Haemonculus
  • Raider
  • 30 warriors (usable right now anyway)
That's not a great standalone force but it's a decent start for some allies (which is all they have been thus far) and it covers the core of a real army so it's not a bad start. I'd like to add another pair of raiders, then some scourges, and probably a ravager. That would end up being around 1000 points and enough to do some small battles on their own if I felt the need. It's not a super high priority but it's on the agenda for the rest of the year.

My biggest dilemma at this point is the paint scheme. I originally thought I would do something that looked good and fit the background but was simple to paint as this is a secondary force - something like the black and silver or black and purple that was sort of their signature look from 3rd and 4th edition. Now though I kind of want something a little more exotic. I've seen some really nice gloss red paint schemes on dark eldar that look really good and a part of that is that it's so unexpected. 

I have a Blood Angels army on the shelf so I do have a fair amount of red already but ti does look nice. 

I've also seen some really sharp all-white paint schemes for them and that's a color I have not used as a base for an army. 

I always liked the look of white Tau (the whole mecha thing probably) but I don't have a Tau army (and some would say I don't need a Tau army) and I do have a developing army of these guys so maybe that's the way to go?

I kind of like that purple and white combination - maybe a darker purplish color ...

Anyway that's the next chapter of the 2016 eldar story. More to come!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Starting Concepts for a Rifts Campaign

With Savage Worlds Rifts a real thing now I thought I would share the three ways I have started and run a Rifts campaign. It's a post-apocalyptic game, but one where there is some organized technological /magical society and industry (unlike Twilight 2000 and most Gamma World campaigns) and most of the world has been covered at some point so I know it can be tricky trying to decide how to start a game in a way that makes sense.

Option 1: The North America opening - This is how my last campaign started. The idea is to limit the character types and the setting to the core rulebook and let things expand from there. The starting line from my email to the group that last time: Welcome to Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, 2400 A.D. No flying cars, and not much indoor plumbing either.  It was a backwater town with some local problems where the PC's were drawn in and things gradually expanded from there. It's a classic "bullseye" type campaign where you have a fairly high level of detail for the town, some detail on the surrounding area (say a day or two of travel for normal folks), and a general idea of what's outside of that. The main premise here is that it's easier to add things to the game than it is to take things away from the game. It's easier on the GM and it's easier on the players too. Plus it makes no assumptions about where the campaign is going - it's just a starting point and once the party finds their feet it could go anywhere. Maybe they end up headed for Tolkeen. Maybe they become heavily invested in the town and the local NPCs and become local champions and defenders. Maybe they take it over and rule. It's wide open once things get rolling and it's largely player-driven at that point.

Specifics: I liked Arkansas as it was near parts of the Coalition, Texas (and so vampires), the Federation of Magic, and it's not all that far from Florida and Dinosaur Swamp. I prefer an area that's not in the middle of some heavily detailed region or plotline but is close enough that the party could dive into those if they wanted to. Parts of Texas, Iowa, and Pennsylvania would work well here too.

Option 2: The Epic Quest - I used this for my longest-running campaign. The concept goes back to everything from  Jason and the Argonauts to Sinbad to Lord of the Rings. Heroes from all over gather when a call goes out to join an expedition into mysterious territory.  In my case a wealthy patron wanted to travel across half of North America from Arkansas to the ruins of Detroit to retrieve some legendary artifacts. You can read more about it here.  The thing to keep in mind is that just because the Rifts allow instant travel to other places you don't always know where they go or how long they will last. People are still going to travel the hard way and the epic quest is based on doing just that.

This opens things up for the players to bring in almost any character type as a "wandering adventurer" with any motivation from a worthy goal to revenge to a simple payday. It keeps the GM sane though as you're not required to explain why all of these disparate characters are working together - it's built into the concept and it's up to the players to explain why they are joining up! So if you end up with a juicer from Texas, a Triax full conversion borg, a Japanese cyber-samurai, and a Venezuelan anti-monster, that's perfectly fine. Maybe they traveled by ship, maybe they came through a Rift, maybe they want to get home, or maybe they don't remember how they got here - it all works! It gives all of you time to discover the backstory of each character if you want to without having to know everything up front.

For the GM it puts the "why" on the players and let's you focus on developing the "where". You have a major quest goal that is the long term focus of the campaign but while everyone is traveling there you can have impromptu side adventures. It also puts a definite end point to the campaign when the quest is achieved. After that you can reset the campaign with a new situation and some or all new characters as desired. If you think of your game as having "seasons" like a TV show then this would be a great way to start and finish a coherent storyline or season. It's also a good way to explore another area of the world if you have veteran Rifts players. Maybe North America is something you've all played before and you want to go somewhere different - the quest for the heart of Africa (meet the Egyptian gods? Take on the Four Horsemen?) is a definite change up. The team could outfit in NA in relative peace, then board a ship (or a fleet) which would utilize Rifts Undersea/Coalition Navy for some adventures along the way/ once they land in Africa there's a whole support book plus material online and something besides Coalition Troopers to bash.


  • "Expedition to Africa" as described above
  • "To the End of the World" - NA expedition to Antarctica via South America. Could take a ship down the coast, could take a giant robot over land - either one could be interesting.
  • "Transcontinental Transport" - it doesn't always have to be a one-way  traveling quest. What if someone gets an idea to rebuild a transport network across the continent? Part of the campaign would be talking to locals and working out deals along the way to extend the line, and part of it would be defending what you've already built. This could be a crazy back and forth campaign and could easily accommodate multiple groups of players and characters if you're fortunate enough to have multiple groups. It gives them a chance to change the landscape of the world in a notable way and gives them plenty of diplomacy and combat as well. Keep in mind it doesn't have to go east-west either - maybe Northern Gun wants to ship products to Mexico - or Chile!
  • "Moonshot!" - Mutants in Orbit gave us details about what's going on up on Luna. It's kind of a wasted book if no one goes there, right? Maybe someone on Rifts Earth is convinced that pre-Rifts civilization survives on the moon and thinks humanity's last hope is to establish contact with them and get some help.  This could be a 3-stage quest: First, getting to Florida to what was North America's major spaceport. Second, taking control of the facility and figuring out how to get to space. Third, launching for the moon, landing, and finding out what's there. If all goes well then you might have set up your next campaign: "Red Planet". 

Option 3: Slave Ship - All of the characters begin the game on an Atlantean slaver. First session it comes under attack, the players break out, get to land, and begin exploring the area. There are some similarities to both of the previous options.

  1. Player character choices are wide open. The Splugorth trade and raid across the multiverse, so if it's in a Rifts book (or any Palladium book really) you can justify it showing up here. Bring on your Robotech characters and Ninja Turtles! Characters from prior campaigns could even appear in this one with nothing more than "I passed out in a bar and then I woke up here".
  2. The GM gets to pick the setting - I used this kickoff to explore those shiny new South America books back when they were shiny and new. Want to run around Russia or Australia or Japan for a while? Here's a great way to do it. You can assume your players will be spending a fair amount of time at the beginning just figuring out where they are and what they want to do so you can dive into that area of Rifts earth that interests you but has never made sense to include in your previous games. 
  3.  ...but the players drive the campaign forward - once they have their bearings what do they want to do? Take over? Help the locals against those oppressive jerks from the kingdom next door? Find their way home? Pay back Atlantis for what they have done?  It's totally wide open at this point and it's mainly up to them. Sure, the GM can plant interesting rumors about a pre-Rifts city that's intact up in the mountains, or a powerful magic item hidden in a tomb in the desert, or a really nasty monster that dominates a local region, but the direction of the campaign is all about what the players want to do.  

Specifics: Pick a book! Any non-North America book, or any book that doesn't cover a region you've already played through. Talk to your players in advance about what areas of Rifts Earth they are interested in - veteran players will probably have some ideas. I don't know that I would open this way with a group of players totally new to Rifts but for vets it should be a blast.

So there are 3 ideas to help get a Rifts campaign organized and off the ground. They all worked for me when I tried them out so I believe they can work for other people too. It's hard to predict where a campaign will go most of the time so these are mainly focused on "how do I get started?" After that, hopefully, you won't need much help. If you do try some version of them out, let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


The big announcement over the weekend was Paizo's new game: Starfinder There's more information here. It's more than a year away (August 2017) but I have some early thoughts.

As a player/GM I am interested but not bowled over. A new game from Paizo is a big deal as they are one of the major players in the hobby and with the built-in player base this game will instantly be one of the bigger games in the hobby, but I am not sure I am looking for "D&D in space". Paizo isn't calling it that, but since it's still at least lightly tied to their Pathfinder setting and is supposed to be backwards compatible as far as monsters, I think they will have a hard time escaping that label at least.

As a long time gamer I have also seen this before. Mixing tech and D&D goes back to Gamma World and Boot Hill and the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide in the 70's. We played around with some of that way back when. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is a well-known example too and was usually a pretty good time even after playing through it more than once. Starfinder seems to be a pretty close in concept to Dragonstar which was a d20 boom RPG from FFG that took all the elements of 3rd edition D&D and expanded them into space, including an empire ruled by dragons. We played a little bit of that and having wizards and elves running around with spaceships and robots using 3E mechanics was a little weird - but fun - even for a veteran of Shadowrun and Rifts.

People seem to be getting worked up over the mechanics assuming that it will either be straight-up Pathfinder as we know it or that it's a sneaky way to create a Pathfinder 2E without alienating the current player base. This aspect of the new game does interest me as so much of PF was constrained by legacy concerns. While I assume the base mechanic will still be "roll a d20 + mods, higher is better" the skills, feats, and class designs could be radically different. Seeing how they approach an alternate version of their core game will be interesting.

From a business perspective it does make a lot of sense. They are heavily dependent on Pathfinder as a universe or IP even with an RPG line, a miniatures line, and a card game line spreading things out a bit. Creating what is effectively a separate universe for a new game line potentially doubles their prospects even beyond the announced RPG. There's no reason we couldn't see a Starfinder card game or a miniatures line down the road too. Having a fantasy line and a sci-fi line that share some concepts and mechanics makes them look a little bit like Games Workshop in the late 80's and that worked out pretty well for them.

The potential downside is that there really hasn't been a dominant science fiction (and by that I mean spaceships, planets, robots, and lasers) rpg in a long time - really ever. Traveller was the big one for a time in the late 70's and early 80's because it was the only game out there. Star Frontiers, Star Trek, Space Opera, and Star Wars all popped up in the 80's to fragment things. Dragonstar was well supported for a year or two but was never one of the "big" games. Rifts does some of the same things but is a post-apocalyptic game largely focused on one damaged planet and even it is not as popular as it was years ago. I see two mitigating factors: 1) Having it tied in some way both mechanically and in setting to a game as popular as Pathfinder is a plus as D&D even at the height of its popularity never tried a direct connection like this and 2) The field is pretty open right now with FFG's Star Wars games the most popular from what I've seen. Star Wars is a very specific campaign compared to science fiction/science fantasy in general and there is an audience who has little to no interest in playing that game. Paizo is excellent at supporting material so in short order there will be a nice universe of adventures and supplements to focus on a campaign on different styles of play. I would bet that there will be cyberpunk, transhuman, and psionic supplements out fairly early in the game's life.

Best case scenario: it takes everything Shadowrun did well and adds the best of Traveller and Star Wars on top of that. That's probably aiming too high but it would be a great thing to see.

Worst case scenario: it takes enough resources to create and manage that it damages the main PF game, splits the player base, but is not successful enough to stand on it's own and fails a year or two out of the gate crippling Paizo and PF. I can't see the team at Paizo failing at this level but it is the worst case.

Personally I am interested but it's not an instant "awesome!" in the way that say Savage Rifts was.  I'm sure I'll pick up the initial core book when it arrives but I'm not planning any campaigns just yet. I'm not sure my players and I are looking for this game. The Iron Gods Adventure Path we plan to play at some point is probably enough to cover that for us, and if we want a more "pure" SF game I think Star Wars or Star Trek or Traveller will be on the list.

This is the kind of thing I worry about when the kitchen sink DM gets carried away ...

I am sure this game will spend the next two years shaking up the hobby during the build-up and the initial release and will definitely be worth following during that time.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Batman vs. Captain America in the Age of Apocalypse

You know, we're not quite halfway through 2016 and the comic book movies have been pretty good:

  • X-Men: Apocalypse is good and pretty thorough in covering that story. Serious stuff, action scenes, and enough humor to keep it lively.
  • Civil War was great, a really well-done treatment of one of the better comic book stories of the last 20 years. 
  • Deadpool was a revelation - a) he was a good choice for a movie and b) someone at Fox is up for something good beyond just the X-Men series. 
  • Batman vs. Superman - well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad.
Now granted it is interesting that the "good ones" IMO are all Marvel-based while our problem child is once again the DC movie. I don't think it's the source material - I think it is based completely on how the studios have handled making the movies. Marvel has had a few missteps along the way too - remember the Hulk movies? Spiderman has had some trouble at Sony though we can hope that's over now, and the Fantastic Four haven't been handled well at Fox either. 

But 3 out of 4 is still something to be happy about if you like these kinds of things.