Saturday, October 16, 2021

Friday, October 15, 2021

40K Friday - Base Expanders


One of the hazards of miniature wargaming is that different games have different standards for basing the miniatures. Width, length, even number of figures per base can all vary from game to game even within the same historical period. Some look for individual figure removal from a unit to reflect casualties while other just track damage in some way until a threshold for removing the entire unit at once. One particularly annoying aspect is when a particular game decides to change its own standard for base sizes - which has happened quite a bit in 40K. So let's talk about how to handle that.

The first one I can remember is when Terminators went from 25mm to 40mm bases. This was somewhere around 3rd edition. At the time I had just had the one 5-man squad of metal terminators so i just picked up some 40mm bases, glued them on top of those, 25mm base and all, re-flocked them, and went on about my life.  Looking at them now I would probably take a different approach than having each one stand on its own little hill but I'm not going to re-do them at this point as it's not worth it to me.

Over the last 5-6 years though regular marines went from 25mm to 32 mm bases and ork boys have gone from 25mm to 32mm as well. That's several hundred figures impacted for me right there. Now I mostly play at home with family and friends so this is not an urgent thing. Technically the only rule GW has stated on basing is "use the base that came with the model" which is great but when you have a pile of older figures it can get a little weird to mix them in with more recent acquisitions. Warhammer 40,000 is in no way a precise enough game that this kind of thing dramatically unbalances things but something in my head wants to "keep up" and try to maintain most of my armies with the current standard. So ... how can I do that? Do I have to pull models off of bases they've been on for 30 years? Risk breaking them or at least damaging the paint and destroying whatever flocking effort I put into them back then? Well ... no. No I don't. 

What you see at the top of the page are three of the options I've found over the last few years. Lets look at each of them. These are all intended to adapt a 25mm base to 32mm. 

One of my old Snakebite orks will be assisting us with this exercise - let's call him Pete. There you see Pete the Snakebite Ork taking position with one nice solution that is probably the most snug fit around an old 25mm base. It's 3D printed by the seller and it does fit nicely. A few of them were a little rough on the ends where they join together but a little file work settled this pretty quickly. They come in different colors as well if you might want to leave the sides unpainted.

I liked the silver-sided basing with my Grey Knights.
(Definitely need to touch up that one base)

The only downside is that given that snugness they are not tolerant at all of any overhanging base material, particularly crunchy stuff. So if you've had some "free expression" with sand or gravel or even sawdust hardened by time and a varnish coat it can really interfere with the execution here. The only other thing to watch is that it may be slightly taller than some of the 25mm bases so you can get a lip effect where it meets the base - I suggest giving it a second go-round with the flock if this happens.

Here Pete is modeling the wooden ring option for us. This is the most basic option in a way and it is also the least expensive - which is why the rest of my orks will be wearing them soon. It is not a particularly tight fit so it can leave a gap, particularly at the top. There can also be a slight lip effect here too depending on how you're doing the base. There is no slope as you find in most other round bases so if you like that beveled effect these may not be your cup of tea and they won't match if you mix them into a unit with normal GW 32mm bases in that respect. The other trick here is that since you will be liberally applying glue in that gap to secure it to the existing base and it will be moving downwards ... make sure you don't glue it to your table/desk/workbench. No, that totally never happened here - why do you ask?

Finally, Pete is now wearing the extremely fashionable cupholder-style base expander. Honestly these are probably my favorite but they also cost the most. They slip right over an existing base covering it all the way around. You glue your existing base to the floor of this expander - no danger of table-gluing here - and then fill in any gap with glue and flock and you are in business. There is a slight gap at the top but this makes it less picky about any overhanging material than the two-piece option up above. 

Here's a sample of the different options on some Blood Angels. On the left you can see some of the wooden ring options that clearly need a second dose of flock to close those gaps. On the right are the cupholder style bases which I think look really good. 

Now this is strictly a need for the stuff I have already painted and based. If you have unfinished older figures you can buy 32mm bases both slotted and unslotted in big numbers fairly cheap and if you're looking at some classic metal marines or something of similar vintage that is the way I would go and have gone myself. 

Here are some links to the eBay stores for the makers of each of these options. I have nothing to do with any of them other than having bought some of their wares:

Hopefully this will help someone out in some way. It's good to have options.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Lost City - Goodman Games Edition


I picked this one up a while back and thought I ought to discuss it a bit. 

I've run the Goodman Games versions of B1/B2 "Into the Borderlands" and X1 "Isle of Dread" and enjoyed them immensely as did my players. Returning to those old stomping grounds from the beginning of the 80's in the current edition with a group of players where a few of them were around for those early days but most of them were not was a blast. Watching some of them search for a plot - when the secret is there is no plot - was entertaining along the way. GG is doing these right.

The third release was S3 Barrier Peaks but it has a much higher level range so I have not tried to run it yet - one of these days. 

B4 though is a starting adventure so I could fire it up at any time really. I have to admit up front though that while I've owned a copy of the original for decades I've only tried to run it once and it didn't last long. I played in it once before that and it didn't last long then either. It had been a while since I read through it but this book includes the original version and an updated 5E version with some expansion material which makes it easy to compare the classic versus the new. 

Reading through it my old feelings crept back in from way back - I just don't like this adventure all that much. The original felt like half a module as it sketches out a massive underground city but it only details part of a dungeon, a ruined pyramid/temple, only fully details half of that structure, and then gives a page or so of ideas on what's in the rest of the city.

See that map? Fires up some ideas, right? Well, the original module covers the top half of the Step Pyramid in the traditional keyed room with description style, then gives a more basic rundown with monsters and maps for the lower half, the one page of notes on the actual city ... and that's it! The rest of the map is up to the DM. I remember feeling kind of ripped off when I read it way back when that while it's titled "The Lost City" the actual adventure is "The Step Pyramid" plus a page of notes. 

(This is -not- Goodman Games fault - its how the adventure was published originally)

I so wanted to like it - it is one of the most Conan D&D adventures ever published. The party gets separated from their caravan crossing the desert, finds a ruined city, discovers a secret entrance into a large structure, then finds an underground realm inhabited by various masked and possibly crazy people belonging to different factions with different agendas which is ruled by a monster/demon/thing that has set itself up as their god. It's potentially a great "contained sandbox" as it is underground but the players can do whatever they want - join a faction, try to fight the demonic ruling thing, establish their own power base and take over, or just do some exploring - and possibly looting - and move on.  

At least, it would be a great sandbox if there was more there to hang stuff on. I think it over-details the pyramid and then misses out on the rest. You get ten small dungeon levels with pretty much one stair or ladder connecting each level to the next so the level design is not complex. The factional material is interesting - there are 3 old gods of the city whose followers are trying to overthrow the cult of Zargon, the ruling entity of the city - but the space is so constrained that I'm not sure how much alliance-building the typical dungeon crawling party is going to do. 

The big bad guy Zargon lives in a one-room level at the bottom of the pyramid. He's likely too tough for a party to take on even with some help (12HD, AC0, 7 attacks/round 6 of which do 1d8 + one at 3d8) and it's just a weird place to put him. Shouldn't he be in a temple of some kind in the actual city? Maybe on the island? Maybe over by the volcano? You know, closer to the sacrifices he demands? Perhaps not in a 40x40 foot room all by himself?

I really wish the original had made the city the focus and spread the encounters out amongst the rest of the map. Make the pyramid a 3-level dungeon that gets the players up a few levels, ends with a temple to Zargon, and then lets them descend to the city for the rest of the adventure. Even with a fair amount of the city left undefined an encounter table and some specific locations equivalent to a single dungeon level would have made things much more interesting and given the factions room to breathe. Imagine rallying the various factions to take on the cult ending in a fight against his weird form on top of a step pyramid in the city or on that island that would be the cult's big stronghold.  

Now the good thing is that the new super-edition from Goodman Games has a similar take on things. They do not change up the original section with the pyramid other than updating it with 5E stats etc. as that is the mission statement for these books: update what's already there then expand around it:

  • There are encounter tables for the desert the PC's will be wandering prior to entering the temple.
  • The lost city itself gets a keyed encounter map - including a stronghold for each of the three factions plus a big temple to Zargon, and an encounter table!
  • The rest of the underground areas on that map also get some attention including the island, the volcano, various caves in the underground area, and the catacombs under the city itself. 
Beyond this there are new spells, new items, and new monsters as with the other volumes in this series, plus a small set of handouts/illustrations for the players. A nice touch is having all of the maps - and there are quite a few - collected at the end of the book in one big section which ups the playability in a nice way.

The notes suggest that PC's could end up at 6th level or high playing through all of this material and I can see that happening as with all of this material it becomes a mini-campaign all on it's own. The flow might involve some circling back in and out of the city, I think, for the best experience and I would definitely move Zargon out of his hidey-hole in the pyramid down into his temple in the city but there is a lot to work with here - straight-up fights, factional encounters and negotiations (I can see some dedicated bard players going nuts here), and lots of exploration covering wilderness, dungeon, and general "underground spaces" type terrain and locations. 

I loved the idea of the original but thought the execution let it down. This version finally lives up to the potential I saw in the original and I can see it leading to a lot of fun for a new adventuring party. If you want a somewhat different way to start a campaign this is definitely worth a look. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Friday, October 1, 2021

40K Friday - Necrons Necrons Necrons


So this is the swore-I-wasn't-going-to-do-that army I mentioned in an earlier post. Since I went ahead and did it I thought I would try and get it built, painted, and up as a playable army this year, with Halloween as a sort of target date to play a first game ... being creepy undead robots and all. 

My biggest problem with starting a new army is sticking with it long enough to achieve that result because typically I start buying units and they end up in a partly finished state as new codexes come out and I get distracted finishing up "closer to completion" units for other armies. This year I did not want to do that.

The main considerations to achieve that goal are to get everything built, keep the paint scheme fairly simple, and keep the basing fairly simple too. So far ...

  • Everything is built except for 20 out of the 60 warriors that will be the core of the force, a triarch stalker, and a canoptek doomstalker.
  • Everything built is base coated with a silver spray that I like. 
  • Basing materials have been acquired and await usage. 
This is all of the Indomitus stuff plus a few fun extras like a Command Barge and a Doomsday Ark. No old "rod" models here. 

I'm leaning towards a terminator type theme with these guys - shiny silver bodies (maybe with a blue tint), red eyes, sandy desert base with at least one skull on each base and maybe some tufts too. I'd like to put some ruined building bits on them too but they may just be for the bigger models as I don't want to complicate the scheme too much. 

I am not doing the traditional "green glow" thing with this army. It's cool and all but I want them to look different. Of course this means I can't really use any painted mini's I might come across so everything in this army will be done by me, for good or ill. 

Anyway that's the update so far. Once I get a chance to play with the eyes and figure out what I want to do with the guns I'll start cranking them out and sharing the progress in another update.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Babylon 5 Reboot with JMS


Well this is not something I expected to see. Details are here

  • Positive: It looks like JMS is charge
  • Neutral: It looks like they are aiming to re-tell the original story. Is that something we really need? Could we not get a "Next Generation" type new chapter building on the old?
  • Red Flag: It's on the CW.  

So ... wow. Unexpected news I would say is generally good, could be terrible, but also could be spectacular. I rate the original as a top 3 Science Fiction series, maybe the best ever. I hate to see someone messing with it but if that someone is the original creator, well, I have to give it a chance. 

Plenty more to come here I am sure.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Next Year's Campaign - Temple of Elemental Evil 5E


So yes - next year (after Deadlands at least) I expect to dive back into 5th Edition with something big. To me the biggest advantage of 5th is the ease with which a lot of old school stuff translates into it without a lot of recalculating and Goodman Games has been doing it right with this series. In an interview I saw one of the writers on this project mention that if the original version had 17 goblins in a cave the new version has 17 goblins in the same cave. Sure, they will have 5th edition stats but they didn't go through and try to reconfigure it to fit 5E's encounter standards and to me that's a feature - heck that's the right way -  not a bug.

It is a straight-up linear presentation. Starting with the introduction, essays, and interviews - including one by Jon Petersen going through the saga of Gygax and TSR and the temple -and then moves right on into a reprint of T1, then a reprint of T1-4 ... so yes you get Hommlett twice, effectively. This takes up 220+ pages in the first volume and if you do not own a copy of the originals this is as good a version as you could ask for. 

The 5E version starts in Book 1 and then continues into Book 2 with the monster and magic item conversions at the end. 

I have only skimmed it at this point but I know this adventure fairly well and it looks solid. Fleshing out the elemental nodes alone is a big improvement.  I played parts of it in 1st and 2nd, ran some of it in 2nd, ran "Return to" in 3rd, converted it myself and ran a chunk of it in 4th ... it's been a part of every edition in some way for me. 

Now I am not one of those people who will claim this is the best adventure ever made. It does have flaws. It can turn into a grind with 4+ dungeon levels in the main temple. That said the beginning (Village + Moathouse)is a great start to a campaign and the temple itself gives you an epic quest to attempt and a helluva story to tell if you pull it off. Treating the temple itself as more of a death star infiltration at first rather than a frontal assault can be a lot of fun for the players and the DM both. There is the whole mess of the Zuggtmoy/Iuz/Elder Elemental God thing the DM needs to think through as well if you want it to make sense in your head but it's been run many times without that breaking it so maybe that only matters to me. 

I do have a Deadlands campaign to run - more on that later - but I am looking forward to sharing this monster with my current group.

Friday, September 17, 2021

40K Friday - Checking in on Warhammer+


This new service? Product? "Thing" started in late August and I gave my initial impressions here. Now it's been a few weeks  - how is it going?

I admit - I am a little disappointed. New material comes out on Wednesday so we've had the launch plus three release windows and it has been s-l-o-w - much slower than I expected. 

The high point: Angels of Death. This black and white and red CGI series is exactly the kind of thing I want from a Warhammer Animation Studio. It looks right, it sounds right - the voice acting is solid and the music is good too - and the developing story is interesting. The service released with the initial episode and a new chapter has dropped every Wednesday so far. 

Hammer and Bolter is the more traditional animated series with one-off stories from around the 40K universe. It released with 3 episodes and now has ... 3 episodes. Yes, the same 3. It makes no sense but that's where it stands. 

Battlereport is their channel for ... battle reports. There was one 40k battle and one Age of Sigmar battle at release and now we have three 40k batreps and one AoS batrep - yes, the same one.

They have added a new show "Loremasters" which talks about stories and backgrounds in the Warhammer universes. So far we've had one episode discussing Abaddon the Despoiler. 

They've added at least one painting guide. The 40k app has been updated regularly. They've released a beta of the AoS app which I have not tried yet. The vault has had some new material added like extra issues of White Dwarf.

So far it feels slow and underwhelming. Angels of Death is amazing but the rest of it is just ... intermittent. What was the plan here? Was there not enough in the can to sustain a steady release cycle for these other shows?

  • Where is the rest of Hammer and Bolter? I wasn't overwhelmed with the first 3 but I was hoping it would get better. So far we have almost a month of nothing. Great job!

  • It's GAMES F'ING WORKSHOP - How on earth can you not produce a battle report for at least one of your games every week? It's what you do! What a tremendous dropping of the ball.

  • What is the point of "Loremasters"? A game design type explanation from "outside" the universe might be cool, or hey, maybe this kind of stuff would make for a good animated series topic? More show, less tell? Nope! We get 18 minutes of a guy basically reading the Abaddon info from pretty much any of the Chaos Marine Codexes over the years. The first half of it is more about Horus anyway so we get to hear that story again. They intersperse a bunch of art that you've already seen if you're a chaos player but a lot of it is literally showing a man's face as he reads a bunch of well-known lore. It's like an incredibly dull audiobook which should not be something we have with the 40k universe. "Abaddon did this. Then he did this. There was a battle. He won. Then he went somewhere else. Then he destroyed Cadia." - it is incredible to me that they landed on the least interesting way to convey information about some of the biggest events in 40K . It drains all of the life and energy from them. 

  • I'm not giving up on it but I do feel like they are letting the opportunity get away form them. A steady, solid stream of content would make this thing look a lot better. The battle report thing especially seems like a missed opportunity. It's not that expensive to make, you have people on staff already, you have the models and the terrain, and it shows people what they are supposed to do with your game! I don't understand why they don't have one for every single game they currently produce  on there already!

    Anyway check back in a month or so when I touch on this again - hopefully with more positive things to report.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2021

    The New Deadlands Campaign


    So I started a new campaign a week or two back. RPG time has been pretty spotty around here since early 2020 for all the typical reasons but this is my effort to get things back on some kind of regular schedule. I rana lot of D&D 5E and some Pathfinder 2 prior to the pandemic so I wanted to do something different. After some debate I settled on Deadlands - with a shiny new batch of stuff released recently it feels like a good time. 

    We managed to figure out a day and a time that worked for almost everyone and I ended up with 5 players! My goal for the first session was to get characters made and get into some initial trouble with them - and we achieved that! Names and details will show up in future posts but we ended up with a shootist, a huckster, a mad scientist, an Indian shaman, and a Chinese martial artist.  So yeah ... covering a whole lot of the Deadlands character spectrum. 

    For various reasons this collection of unconnected souls finds themselves on a train station platform in Andover Kansas in 1879. It's a dusty, tiny outpost in the middle of nowhere with a small general store, a blacksmith, and a hotel that seems much larger than needed - probably due to a burst of hopeful optimism on the owners part.

    As our heroes and some others mill about on the platform a kid rushes down the one real street in the town, raising a cloud of dust, waving his arms, and shouting. "The Clampett gang! The Clampett gang is coming!"

    Yes, they are back again. A good opening is a good opening.

    As the rest of the waiting passengers look for a place to hide the five strangers step forward to assess the danger. A gunshot rings out and a bullet slams into the unfortunate huckster obvious professional gambler which helps speed the assessment right along. The shootist, gambler, and mad scientist inventor stay on the platform, readying weapons and aided by a wall of flame that conceals their position. The martial artist moves up onto the roof while the medicine man moves around to one side of the station - both are thinking "ambush".

    As the gang approaches shots continue to ring out along with curses and exclamations like "they done shot granny!" and "Uncle Jed - noooo!" and soon only Big Jethro and Dirty Jane Hathaway the well-known knife-fighter are left. No one among the station defenders is hit in the ongoing exchange and Jethro is the last to go down before any further harm is done. 

    The defiant ones exchange nods and discuss the fight and the other waiting passengers come out of hiding and thank them. Checking the bodies it is clear the Clampetts have been dead for some time so it's clear evidence of the rumored "walking dead" right here in Andover Station. The station agent mentions no one has seen them for months and word was that they had met their maker in a dust-up with the Rogers gang. "Maybe they did - but it looks like it didn't take."

    Soon enough the train pulls into the station and everyone boards, eager to get to their next stop.

    This was only the first part of the first session but I think it's long enough for one post. The goal here was to get everyone together, try out abilities and to shake off any rules-rust and it did exactly that. 

    Wednesday, September 8, 2021

    How it Started versus How it's Going


    Barking Alien had a great post about those games we started with and which ones we still play. It's been awhile since I've gone down this road but let's see ...

    I started with Holmes Basic D&D. Still have my copy though it is in rough shape from major use. This was 1979-1980. It was pretty much just D&D for the next few years though I did start writing up my own game with Jedi and Cylons and things in there too. Lots of graph paper was consumed as I dove into AD&D and the new Basic Set and then the new Expert Set and Dragon magazine. 

    By the summer of 1982 I added Traveller. That was the second game I really dove into. So many cool things - character generation, ship construction, star system generation - so much in those 3 little books.  

    I had been aware of the other TSR games for some time but had not acquired any of them. Later that year I had picked up Star Frontiers and it was not all that much like Traveller but it had its own attractions - the maps! The counters! An interesting take on actions and combat and races and gear - I really liked playing it. 

    During 1983 things really exploded as I added Gamma World, Star Trek (FASA), Top Secret, Boot Hill, and Champions. 

    The 80's were a great time for RPG's as by the end of the decade I had jumped into Marvel and DC supers games, Twilight 2000, Star Wars, Warhammer Fantasy, Ninja Turtles, Runequest, GURPS, Mechwarrior, and Shadowrun. There were new editions of various games in there as well plus starting up a miniatures hobby with Warhammer, 40K, and Battletech.

    Out of those first few let's see ... I do still play and run D&D. Not that same version but I have run Labyrinth Lord (briefly) in the last 3 years. I'd like to do more as it does feel different than "normal" D&D now but schedules are such a constraint we are lucky to keep one game going steadily these days. 

    Traveller is one I have taken off the shelf and considered but I haven't run it in at least ten years. Another one I would love to run but it just gets squeezed out every time.

    I haven't run Star Frontiers since the 80's but I do still have everything and I do still love a lot of things about that system and setting. Nowadays it mainly serves as a source of inspiration for a potential Star Wars campaign - the adventures in particular. 

    As far as the batch from 1983 ... 

    • Gamma World is another of the want-to's but I haven't run it in ... 20 years at least? I really should put together a short run at least.
    • Star Trek - I haven't run FASA Trek since maybe the 90's but I still have all of that material ... and the LUG Trek stuff ... and Decipher Trek ... and I just picked up the Klingon book for Modiphius Trek. So the systems have rotated over the decades but the setting is definitely still a player. Just have to convince at least two of my players to give it a shot. 
    • Top Secret - another box unused since the 80's. I did do the kickstarter a few years ago for a new version from the original creator but it is not a good game. These days when I get the itch for a spy game I'd say Spycraft comes to mind the most but it's just not a genre my guys care a whole lot about. Odds are this will keep gathering dust on the shelf. 
    • Boot Hill was a lot of fun back when but has since been rendered obsolete by Deadlands. Considering we had the most fun with Boot Hill crossing it over with D&D anyway this was not really a surprise. I usually hate "tech" analogies when it comes to RPGs but this is the best case for one that I can think of - everything we wanted to do in Boot Hill can be done easier, faster, and better in Deadlands ... any version of Deadlands. 
    • Then there is Champions ... so good and yet so long since I've actually run a game with it. I still love the system even if it's been bumped aside by M&M a lot over the last 20 years when a superhero game is discussed among the crew. I would still like to run it again so I picked up the lean and mean version and then earlier this year I grabbed the full double-textbook version. It may take a little while but it's on my radar and it will happen eventually.

    So most of those early games are not major players for me these days. The oldest thing I've run aside from a D&D game with some regularity these last few years is probably d6 Star Wars and that will continue - it almost became the new game I'm running now. 

    BA asks a good question about how people play only one game and for so long and I admit I have no idea. I love the bubbling concoction that is RPG design where new and innovative things emerge and change the way we look at things. D&D is a nice constant in some ways but there are so many other things to do out there that I cannot imagine sticking to one game only and ignoring everything else.  

    Monday, September 6, 2021

    The Deadlands Companion


    The Deadlands Weird West Companion is a ... slim ... hardcover that's largely extra stuff for Deadlands Adventure Edition. Short take: This is a -very- optional book.

    We open with a two-page spread that covers the publication history of the Deadlands game. I like this and I think more long-lived RPG's should include this kind of thing. 

    Then we get to player stuff - more powers for harrowed, U.S. Marshals, metal mages (mad scientists who have become aware that their devices are working because of magic), voodooists (new arcane background),  and witches. It's all nice to have and brings some character types from earlier editions up to date but honestly I've never had anyone play any of those last 3 so this is probably the kind of book they belong in.

    Next up is a chapter on Relics and this, surprisingly, is almost the longest chapter in the book! Deadlands doesn't do magic items the way D&D does but they do exist in the setting. They tend to be one-off, unique items tied to a person or event. So-and-so's pistols ... famous outlaw's boots ... somebody's coup stick - this is the kind of magic item in this section. There is typically a paragraph or two of background, a note on what power it holds, and a note on any taint it holds - yes, some of them have downsides. I've never thought of this as an item-focused game but if your players have some interest it could be fun and it does let a GM tie things in to some of the legends of the setting in a direct way. 

    One thing I was surprised to see is an entire chapter that breaks down what happened in each of the four servitor campaigns. Now this was covered in a big-picture way in the main rulebook but here they have decided to give a summary of what happened and then they go into a rather lengthy breakdown of every core plot point in each of the four campaign books. I was really scratching my head at this as I don't know why anyone would need this level of detail if they are not running those campaigns! They are still available on DTRPG so one could certainly acquire and run them without much difficulty. It's sort of a timeline of the last 5 years of the setting but we already get a broader timeline and breakdown in the main book so this adds ... what? It's not wrong it's just a weird duplication of effort that has me wondering what the benefit is supposed to be.

    There is a nice chapter on the hunting grounds which could be *extremely* useful depending on where your campaign takes you. It's similar to notes on planar travel in a D&D game: you may not need it early in your game and you may only need it once in a campaign but it's really handy to have if your game goes there. This section covers what it looks like, what lives there, how things work, and even includes some ideas on adventures that involve the hunting grounds. 

    The next-to-last chapter has stats for NPCs both historical (Wyatt Earp, Seth Bullock) and Deadlands - specific (Ronan Lynch, Lacy O'Malley). This is handy stuff when you're running a game as if you want a more personalized statblock for your town marshal then maybe you clone Bat Masterson instead of using the generic law dog stats. This is all specific people - no generic stats or monsters here. 

    Damn straight my Notice is a d12 ...

    The last section is an old adventure from Shadis magazine (KODT! Joe Genero!) that hasn't been republished since then and it reads decently enough. It has some nice ties to other parts of the setting so I'd say it's worth working in.

    Overall for me this book is director's cut material. There's nothing here you need to run a Deadlands campaign but if you're digging in and having a good time there are things in here that could be useful. I'd say the NPC's, the relics, and the hunting grounds chapters are all good examples of "expansion" type material. I would still say you want the main book first, some dice and cards and bennies, a GM screen if you like them, maybe an adventure ... then consider getting this book. 

    Saturday, September 4, 2021

    Monday, August 30, 2021

    Deadlands: Adventure Edition


    Deadlands! It's hard to believe it's been around for 25+ years now. Those bright orange covers are just as electric sitting on my shelf today as they were back then and the concept is still just awesome. Just to review:

    • There was original Deadlands with the rulebook and "The Weird West" as the setting expansion that really dug into the world.
    • Then there was a revised edition that split things into a more traditional player's book  and GM's book.
    • There was a GURPS conversion and some supplements for that - back when damn near everything ended up with a GURPS conversion.
    • When the boom hit in the early 2000's there was a d20 version with pretty extensive support. 
    • Finally, after Savage Worlds had been out for a few years, there was Deadlands Reloaded which gave us a nice big one-volume full color hardback version of the game. There had been a conversion document to tide us over but this was a full-on update of the game and the presentation that brought it back to life. 
    So right there we have 5 different versions of the game where the mechanics have changed every time but the setting has remained the same - other than timeline updates - and that's a good thing because the setting is a damn strong one for playing an RPG. 

    Now Pinnacle has released a new version of Deadlands with both a rules update to match all of the changes over the last 15 years, especially the new Adventure Edition of Savage Worlds. I figured I ought to look it over and share some thoughts. 

    First up let me say this: If you're interested in the game but either haven't ever played it before or sold off your stuff years ago this is really all you need to worry about - the new core book for Deadlands pictured up top. It's a great entry point - or re-entry point. It does a thorough job of talking about rules tweaks for Savage Worlds, it does a strong job of covering the setting and the history and why things are the way they are, and it also does a really good job of explaining what the game is about. That last one is something not every game does well or even tries to do at all and I think this book covers it well.

    I'm not going to do page counts and go chapter by chapter - let's take a larger view:
    • Right up front we get a general setting overview and then we dive into character details. In the original book there was a selection of character archetypes (like in Shadowrun 1st-2nd-3rd edition) and we get something similar here though we do not get full-page color illustrations of them with all game stats listed out. It's more conceptual here but it works and there are more of them. There are new Edges and Hindrances here as well as you would expect in a Savage Setting book. After that it goes into gear which covers all kinds of old west and mad science options. It's pretty familiar if you've played the game before and it is necessary so this is good. 
    • There is a really nice section on Life in the Weird West which is sort of a grab-bag of details that really flesh out the world. Travel options and times. Money - because it's not just dollar bills you know? How ghost rock works. The law and marshals vs. sheriffs vs. judges. It's just a very handy section that helps glue the setting together.
    • The big rule section covers western type things like high noon gunfight duels, hangings, and cattle stampedes as well as all of the archetype special rules for the arcane backgrounds and the not-so-arcane backgrounds like Texas Rangers. 
    • The latter third or so of the book is all GM stuff - Monsters, NPC's, GM details on all of the arcane backgrounds and ghost rock etc. and a bunch more information on locations within  the setting. 
    It's a solid, solid presentation of a really fun setting and it's the best looking version of Deadlands as well. Pinnacle has gotten really good at presentation and I would say this is their best effort to date.  

    Now there is a nice fancy boxed set with a lot of cool stuff in it - that's it up there - but you don't need anything in it to run the game. It's a lot of themed nice to have stuff and I ended up getting it but it's all bonus - nothing essential.  

    One thing is that the timeline has advanced and there are several reasons for this. The original game started in 1876 and the new version sets the time to 1884. The big change is that the Civil War, which was ongoing in all prior editions of the game, is now said to have ended in 1871. There is an in-setting explanation for this retcon and yes, some people in-setting do know that it changed so it's not just hand-waved away. The larger reason for the change is that having the Confederacy as an active part of your RPG setting nowadays is going to bring some negative attention, especially when you've already messed with the historical timeline. I'm not sure I would have handled it the same way they did but I can understand why they did it.

    The other impact of the timeline jump is that it is now assumed that all four of the big servitor plot point campaigns were completed - The Flood, Good Intentions, Stone and a Hard Place, and Last Sons. I suppose it makes sense but if you were running or intending to run any of those you're going to have to reconcile the "when" of things a bit here. I am still going to use them and I'll just be setting things back a bit and starting my games in 1879 or so. 

    So I love this setting, I love how Pinnacle has handle it over the years, and I am a big fan of Savage Worlds and have been since it came out. That said I have two issues ...

    One, I saw an online discussion wondering if this update took too much of the conflict out of the setting. The Civil War is over. The four big Servitors have been thwarted. Pinnacle is taking a different approach with this version and focusing on smaller scale local problems with their campaigns making for less metaplot and making it more about your group of PC's cleaning up a town or a region. Is that what people want? Most D&D type games seem to focus on publishing big time epic save the world adventures for full campaigns. I don't hate the idea of scaling it back and I think a western game is the right setting for saving the town - or the ranch - whether it's from the greedy land baron or a pack of werewolves. That said there is a bit of feeling like maybe the big story already happened on some level.

    My biggest annoyance, and it is a small one in the larger scheme of things, is the "Twilight Legion". Yet another in the growing line of "retconned organizations that hand out missions to player characters in a setting that doesn't need them". It's been creeping in since at least The Flood and now it's a full-blown default assumption that your players will inevitably join the secret organization that's been fighting a secret war in secret since medieval/ancient/the dawn of time(s). We played in this world for a decade or two before this became a thing - why do we need this now?

    The argument is usually that it's an easy hook for new GMs and new players. Sure. Let's just have someone tell them what to do. Since when is that how RPG's work? For a Trek game sure, it's fine. For a western? With zombies? Does the GM not have any ideas here? Do the players not have any?

    I would say it's just an optional thing discussed in the book but I've seen two of the new adventures published for this edition and they both assume that the party is working for the Twilight Legion. With one of them you might as well be part of MI6 - "Hello 007. 003 went to Malta last month and has not reported in since arriving. We need you to go and see what has happened to him" - it's pretty much a cowboy version of that!

    It's heavy handed and it's lazy. Star Trek gets away with that because it's built in. In Star Wars the Jedi Council might ask some Jedi to investigate something like a trade dispute. You are creating characters or a whole party that is tied to an organization. In Deadlands we usually end up with a gunfighter, a huckster, a mad scientist, and some other random character type. If you create a Ranger or a member of The Agency then you have some baggage and strings but you knew that going in. Assuming at the start of every published adventure that the party is a member of the legion and is obligated in some way to do as they are told is just ... lazy. No need for interesting hooks. No need to write up different reasons for different characters to want to get involved. No need to invoke family connections or contacts or rumors or Hero-style hunteds. No need to get creative here at all. 

    Sure, a good GM can (and likely will) come up with an alternate approach. My point is that you shouldn't have to by default. There should be a little more effort in the kickoff than "mission received". 

    Now I don't want my rant to drive anyone away from this game. For one you can work around it and also, if you don't run the published adventures then it really doesn't matter. I usually try to work them in when I can but I'm not sure about these right now. 

    To reiterate: this is a great setting with excellent support and a tight very playable set of rules. I've found that it's very difficult not to have a good time with this game. If I can get one going again soon I will be posting it up here on the blog. 


    Saturday, August 28, 2021

    Friday, August 27, 2021

    40K Friday - Warhammer+


    I did go ahead and sign up for this. I've been subscribed to the 40K app since it came out so I went from spending 3$ a month for that to 6$ a month for that plus some shows and it doesn't bother me at all. I spend a great deal of my free time thinking about, building, painting, playing, and watching 40K stuff and do some side work in Age of Sigmar at times too so this is just an extension of that. I've watched most of what's available at this point so I thought I would share. 

    But first ... there has been a lot of complaining online about this, threats of boycotts and such. GW had a talk with some of the people making videos online a while back and some of them joined up, some of them quit. This stirred up some people and had them slagging GW as doing bad corporate behavior, treating fans badly and then it turned into the usual piling on about increasing prices as well. 

    I don't care about any of that. 

    Some of the videos were cool, sure - but you don't own it. Trying to make money making videos of something you don't own ... there's your sketchy behavior. We've seen this with CBS/Paramount and Star Trek fan films already so  it should not have surprised anyone. 

    As far as prices ... I started buying Warhammer miniatures in the mid-80's ... before 40K was a thing. I could give you a bunch of "back in my day 30 marines cost $22" stories but there's not much of a point. Prices go up, GW prices doubly so. No one is making anyone play this game - it is completely optional and a luxury. Just part of the deal.

    So what about the service? 

    • The 40K app is the same app it has been - there were no major changes for the launch. It's very nice having the rules and FAQs and codexes all in one place. For research and theorymongering it's handy. For army building ... I still like Battlescribe better.
    • There is not a new Sigmar app yet. It's supposed to be coming but the Azyr app that's been out for a few years now works pretty well. We will have to wait and see how this goes. 
    •  "Battlreport" - right now there is one for 40k and one for Sigmar. Each one is about an hour long. The 40k one was competently done with some nice informational graphics as the game was going on. There are YouTube channels I would still rank higher for entertainment value but it was their first effort. I would expect to see a lot more of this.
    • "Hamer and Bolter" - there are 3 episodes of this right now and I have very mixed feelings. They are about 20 minutes long and cover very different parts of the 40k universe. The stories are OK but nothing really knocked my socks off. My biggest issue is that all 3 are in that limited-motion anime-style that honestly just looks cheap to me. I see people defending it as a "style choice" and sure ... maybe it was ... but it still looks weak.  Hopefully they will consider changing up the "style" moving forward too. 
    • "Angels of Death" - the best part of it so far. It's a Blood Angels story with an incredibly cool black and white ... and red ... color palette. It's CGI but it's done in a visually interesting way. It too is only about 20 minutes long but it has by far the most promise in my eyes and I am very much looking forward to more. 
    • There are some other videos - painting guides, how to play videos for each of their games, but a lot of them are out on YouTube for free already so it's not really adding a ton of value here. 
    • The Vault - this is a repository of books and magazines that I expect to become more interesting over the next year or two. Right now it has the fluff sections from the Gathering Storm books, some other campaign books, last year's White Dwarfs, and all of their "Warhammer Visions" magazines. If they fill in a lot of the older material it could be a lot of fun.
    • The miniature - if you subscribe for a year you  get to pick a 40K mini or a Sigmar mini as a bonus. I picked that nifty Vindicare assassin pictured up there. It's a nice bonus but honestly I would not subscribe just to get a miniature - if you really want one they will be on eBay next year one they start going out. 

    So - overall take? I'd say it's an interesting experiment with a lot of potential down the road but with limited material right now. If you're into either of their major games I'd say give it a try but if you don't care about the app or the videos it's safe to wait a while and see where it goes. 

    Saturday, August 21, 2021

    Friday, August 20, 2021

    40K Friday - Dreadnought Decisions


    I picked up a Leviathan Siege Dreadnought earlier this year - that's the monster in the picture up there - and this has lead to a conundrum: I'm not sure which army to put it in. It's a Forgeworld unit which means they're a little pricier than regular 40K so I'm not looking to pick up a half-dozen anytime soon -AND- they cost you a Command Point for each one you include in your army so I probably don't want multiples in an army anyway unless I have a particularly cunning plan. 

    Now Contemptor Dreadnoughts are all the rage right now because of the variety of weapons they can include - the current meta-winner is putting two "twin volkite culverin" for a ridiculous number of shots and the chance for a bunch of mortal wounds. I love Contemptors and I do have a half-dozen or so of them scattered across several armies, loyalist and traitor alike. 

    That said Leviathans are still bigger and still very cool and pack weapons you don't get on the Contemptor class.  The issue right now is having only one of them and having roughly ten armies it could join. Some of them are right-out from the start though:

    • While it would be hilarious to paint one up to match my Rogue Trader Howling Griffons I just don't think that's the smartest use of the beast as I so not put them on the table all that often. Plus I use my two old metal dreads as Contemptors anyway so the "exotic dreadnought" box is already checked. 
    • My Dark Angels have a lot of other options and I just don't like adding it here. Plus there is a very cool DA-specific Leviathan that I'd rather hunt down for them anyway.
    • The Blood Angels on my shelf have a bunch of dreadnoughts already including a Relic Contemptor  with quad lascannons and cyclone launcher. It may happen someday but right now I don't feel like it adds that much to my force.
    • Imperial Fists: This is an all-Terminator force that has zero dreadnoughts right now. If I'm going to add some to it I'm not going to start with a Leviathan. 
    • The "White Marines" which are a separate force I picked up as a whole that are painted a lot like White Scars but not as White Scars. This is not one I'm looking to expand right now so ... no.
    Yeah, I have too many power armor armies, I know. But let's talk about where the big dread makes sense:

    Death Guard Leviathan

    • Crimson Fists! I've been adding dreadnoughts to this army over the last few years as a particular area of focus. The only current types it does not have are a Leviathan and a Deredeo. Putting a big punchy dread in here would fit just fine.
    • Black Templars! I've allocated a pair of Ironclads here and a regular dread or two but I do really like the idea of a big monster that could shoot and fight in melee to accompany the crusader squads into combat.
    • Death Guard! You don't see them on the table a lot for DG but they do look good in the color scheme. It would add another tough unit to an army with a lot of hard targets already. Only conflict here is that I'm working on a pair of relic Contemptors for this force so it becomes a question of CP cost.
    • World Eaters! I have two Helbrutes in this army so there is room for more but I also have a Maulerfiend and a pair of Defilers I like to take here with a Lord Discordant so I feel like the Leviathan could get lost or force me to reallocate some of this stuff.
    • Iron Warriors! I have 4 Helbrutes here so in that sense I am over-nautted but I have not put anything else in here that's particularly exotic. The rest of the heavy stuff is normal tanks so there is room for another fun unit. 
    One of the reasons for this post is that I would like to get it painted and on the table so I need to commit at some point and while pondering a thought occurred to me. Loyalists have the Redemptor Dreadnought - the newer Primaris dread that is much bigger than the traditional dreads and is a very popular choice right now. More specifically my Crimson Fists have two of them, Blood Angels have one, and my Dark Angels have one ... but it's not an option for Chaos. There's not a comparable big dread for Chaos - other than the Leviathan.

    Redemptor Dreadnought

    So this has helped me narrow things down. I was really leaning towards making him a Black Templar but I could just put a Redemptor there and put the Lev into one of my Chaos Marine forces. Right now I'm leaning towards DG or Iron Warriors. 

    And that's where it stands right now - down to the last few choices. Hopefully  I will figure it out this week and get this particular project started.  

    Saturday, August 14, 2021

    Friday, August 13, 2021

    40K Friday - 40K, Change, and The New Ork Codex


    No I don't have a copy of it yet but there have been much sharing of the contents of the limited edition book that some people do have already. So we know how it's going to work.

    Stepping back a bit there are 3 main ways an army changes in 40K

    • The biggest overall change comes from a new edition. This resets everything from movement to terrain to combat rules to army structure. From 3rd to 7th edition the basic setup was an HQ unit + two troops. 8th edition changed that up by introducing a variety of options for building your force and it also introduced Command Points as a currency to spend on everything from more exotic force structures prior to the game to unit upgrades outside the normal point cost to dice re-rolls during the game. 9th kept both of these concepts but changed up both how CP's are acquired and the exact elements of each of the force organization options. 
    • The other area that can change up an army is a new codex. This is the book that covers what your army is, what it can do, and how it does it. Unit capabilities, point costs, psychic powers, special rules for the force, special rules for smaller groups within that force - there are a lot of elements to an army and the codes pretty much defines all of them.
    • The final channels of change in 40K are the annual Chapter Approved book and the bi-annual FAQ updates and the post-release codex FAQ. 
      • Chapter Approved comes out once a year and lately has been updates to the matched play missions and the secondary objectives - these are both new to 9th edition.
      • GW adopted a new FAQ policy a few years ago where they put out updates in the spring and in the fall to adjust any out-of-balance units or rules and to adjust points costs. This works quite a bit better than the old "random" approach or the old "never" approach - neither of which was something you could count on.
      • They have also stated a policy of releasing an update about a month after a new codex comes out to address any big balance issues or errors in the book. This is a really nice approach that helps keep things clear with the newer releases. 

    For Orks, while 9th edition has been out for over a year and people have mostly adjusted to that change we are now in the "new codex" phase and like most of the 9th edition books it is an extensive re-working of how the army works. Not so much in the units themselves - though there are a lot of new ones here - but in how the weapons work, how the leaders work, and how morale works in particular. I thought I would hit the highs and lows in general today:
    • Downside: You can only take 9 mek gunz in an army now instead of 18. I don't care personally as I have never run them but some people are understandably upset. 
    • Upside: Many guns are "Dakka" weapons now and get more shots than they had before. These tend to be the mainstay ork weapons like shootas and big shootas and the warbiker guns so it has a big impact across the army. This divides the gun into two ratings. At half maximum range or more the gun has the same number of shots as before.  At less than half the gun has 50% more shots. In general this is great as the closer you get (or they get) the meaner your shooting gets.  This is generally better than the old Dakka rule of an extra shot on a to-hit roll of 6 - it's more reliable at least and let's you plan around having that higher rate of fire.
    • Downside: Many ork guns that went to Dakka used to be Assault. This let you move with an extra d6" and still shoot with a -1. Dakka guns can no longer fire if you advance and in a melee-focused army that definitely slows you down. 
    • Upside: Orks are Toughness 5. That's a major change. It seems like it's been discounted in some quarters because this particular change came out first but it is definitely a big change. It is nothing but a positive and it demonstrates GW's willingness to "mess with the numbers" in this edition - finally! For most armies, most of the the shots you fire and the punches you throw are at Strength 4 or less. Putting all of those weapons at a 5+ to wound is a significant boost. There are a fair number of S5 attacks out there too, from heavy bolters to heavy flamers, and putting those to a 4+ to wound is also helpful. This is all good.

    • Downside: Ork morale has drastically changed. For most of the last 20 years Orks could ignore leadership in large mobs because the effective leadership number = the number of boyz in the mob. In a game where leadership capped at 10 and ork boy mobs capped at 30 - and were often fielded as 30 - morale was only an issue for small bands and even then mainly after significant casualties. 

      That is no longer the case. 

      The old "mob rule" rule is gone and now orks take morale checks just like everyone else. That means with a leadership of 7, killing as few as 5 boys puts your mob in danger on a 3+. If that check is failed then you will lose 1/6 of your boyz on average. That would take a 30-boy mob down to 20 in one turn from light casualties. The only benefit orks now have is that they can ignore the "below half strength" modifier on those checks if they are near another ork unit that  is not below half strength. Sure, that helps, but it is a dramatic change from how orks have handled morale for a long time. Also, this change somewhat offsets the T5 boost - You will take fewer casualties from say a volley of boltgun fire, but you have a much higher chance of failing a morale test if you do take any casualties. 

      Now there is the generic once a game "autopass morale for 2 CP" stratagem that everyone has and there is an ork-specific strat that allows passing morale for some mortal wound damage on the unit as the leaders knock out the cowards and it can be used multiple times but it i still taking boyz off of the board so it may not always be a great choice.

      This morale change is 100% negative and is already forcing players to look at different approaches. I'm seeing a lot more MSU lists with ten-boy squads instead of massed 30 boy squads. I think there is still a place for big squads - strats hit a little harder, Da Jump is a bigger deal on bigger mobs as is Warpath ... but I think it will be interesting to look at popular ork lists in six months or a year and see how they compare to end-of-8th-edition-codex lists.

    For me I'll have to learn to live with these changes over the rest of the year. My normal ork force is a bunch of goff boyz on foot or in battlewagons with deff dread and 'naut support so there are definite impacts here. I have no big take on the beast snagga boyz yet ... I'll probably try using my skarboyz as beast boyz at first. Part of the fun of a new codex and new edition, right?