Monday, December 5, 2022

The New Backup Game


We just recently restarted the Deadlands campaign that I've been running for the past year. Everyone is excited and the new place adds something to it too. So we mapped out a schedule that worked for everyone - tricky heading into the holidays - and then sure enough someone couldn't make it to the next session. With some advance warning we decided to do something else on purpose as we are really trying to ensure 100% attendance as the campaign heats up. 

So then of course the debate begins - what shall we play? Originally I was thinking boardgames ...  or maybe start a Frostgrave campaign to make things easy for whoever could make it. RPG-wise I tosdsed out the usual suspects for one-off type sessions: ICONS, Marvel Heroic, or DCC. I also threw out Stars Without Number as I wanted to try it out. I have ready-to-go-material for most of those but with no consensus as Saturday arrived it was going to be a challenge to run anything coherent so I decided to just see how things felt once we actually got together. Normally I really really prefer to know what I'm going to run at least a few days in advance but I decided to embrace the chaos and just wing it.  Having experience and a decent library of games this should not be all that difficult ... right?

As it turns out it was not, really. We debated for roughly an hour and somehow ended up on Star Wars, specifically d6 Star Wars. No, it had not been discussed in advance, no I had nothing specific prepared, and no I haven't run it in about 5 years. Great! It is easy enough to jump in and make characters and one of my players has extensive experience with it so he could help with character creation while I scrambled around gathering materials. It's tricky when you have a lot of good ideas but they are scattered across three different systems and the associated binders and computer folders. 

I did not want to just run Tatooine Manhunt again though that would have been an easy answer. I didn't want to run Starfall again either though that's another solid campaign starter. So I ended up falling back on an old idea I've discussed before using an old adventure published for another game which I originally converted to Saga edition but which I later converted to FFG's rules about two years ago. Had I converted it to d6? Of course not! So naturally that's what I chose! This was mostly a feel thing as I feel it works really well for Star Wars and figured it was worth the hassle of not having any mechanical details prepped.

These days I don't need a ton to run most games - a starting situation, opposition stats, and an idea of where things could go - even though I prefer some prep time this is really enough to run a fun game. FFG has printed several nice decks of NPC/monster cards that have all the stats on one side and then some notes on traits and gear on the other and it makes winging things really easy. I have some examples of similar things for d6 but not nearly as comprehensive so adaptations were made. One of the strengths of the system is that it's pretty easy to wing it given the difficulty chart, the standardization of weapons in the Star Wars universe, and the way stats and skills work. 

Despite the rust and the lack of planning we pulled something coherent together and ran for a few hours and everyone was happy with it. We started on a ship under attack and the characters fought their way through the ship to the bridge and then to the escape pods, saving crew people and dispatching space pirates along the way. We ended with them gathering their supplies as a new day dawns on an unfamiliar planet. So now this is officially The Backup Game. If anyone misses then the game switches to Star Wars. Considering a whole swarm of escape pods just ejected it will be easy enough to add new players - they can literally fall out of the sky for a while!  

It was a ton of fun and I am looking forward to how good it will be when I have some time to actually prepare!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The 10th Anniversary


Golden Griffon goes to work

Well today marks ten years since the shutdown of City of Heroes. Yes, we have the game back now and have for a few years but it's not quite the same as when it was a going concern. My post last year covers most of my thoughts on this but in the year since I have spent more time on the current version with Homecoming and it is better - they've made a lot of enhancements this year and I've had a ton of fun playing it with my friends. Halloween, especially, was a blast this year. 

A league gangs up on Jack-In-Irons

I'd say the only downside now is going to happen with anything that you do with friends and family over a long period of time: remembering what all was going on back when and occasionally being reminded how much has changed over the years. It's not a negative, just a side effect of sticking around for a long time. It's easy enough, relatively speaking, to keep a video game going, but it's impossible to return to a particular place and time in one's life ... we've had some moments though. 

I'm just glad it's back and still going strong.

Phurious Pharoah takes one for the team here. Witches...

Friday, November 25, 2022

40K Friday - Catching Up


So much new stuff this year and I was out of action for a big chunk of it - I am finally getting back on track. The new workspace is finally usable and the playing space has been ready for a bit. We did get in a round of Battletech last weekend but I have not given it a 40K baptism yet. Still, it feels good to be operational again.

Codexes: Imperial Knights, Chaos Knights, Chaos Marines, Chaos Daemons ... now Imperial Guard ... I skipped Votann as it just isn't doing much for me and the last thing I need right now is to start a brand new 40k army. I thought squats were cool back when, especially in Epic, but it's not like those old models are really compatible with the new incarnation. So for now it's a "no" here on the neo-squats.

Areas of focus for the rest of the year ... well that's the real trick isn't it? After a long break and especially after going through all of my stuff packing and unpacking it and refreshing myself on what I have and what state it is in ... well, I want to work on all of it! From past experience I know that's not a particularly productive approach so I'm going to have to narrow it down a bit. I'm thinking about picking one squad or vehicle at a time and working it into shape and not trying to finish whole armies. This would let me make progress on several fronts and see where I want to go next. Part of my interest in this approach is because of another decision I made.

I decided to dive into Kill Team. The new edition seems quite a bit better than the old one and the concept for the newest sets really appeals to me. Into the Dark is basically sending your troops into a derelict spaceship -so it's a lot like space hulk and I love that game. This is also going to be the new concept in the next set of 40k campaign books with a new way to play that involves smaller armies and boarding actions that will use this same terrain. I figured I might as well jump on in. Plus with it being squad-level actions adding a new force means I only have around 10 models to paint. Many of them tie into armies I already have like Kasrkin for the Guard and Kommandos for the Orks but it also means I can branch out a bit into something different like Kroot without committing to a 2000+ point 40k army. It's a nice combination of something new that still ties in to something familiar.

I will talk into more on specific armies as I dig into them in the future but there's a "where things stand" here and now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Age of Sigmar: Return of the Chaos Warriors


After the move comes the unpacking and as a part of that process I got to spend time with things I had not really  touched in a long time. One of those was my old school Chaos Warrior army that I built from about 3rd edition WHFB through 7th edition. It was one of the few armies that I could say was "finished" back then - though they're never really finished, right - in that I had a decent sized force that was fully painted and didn't really lack anything. 

Since the end of WHFB it's been sitting in a wall-mounted display case in the game room providing occasional armored guards for D&D games and not much else. Putting it back up in the new hobby room gave me a chance to look back through it and beyond realizing how many arms and horse tails I need to re-glue it reminded me how much I liked the whole Chaos Warrior thing and that I've missed not having an active force of big armored elite soldiers to stomp things with on demand.

So ... let's see where things are in Age of Sigmar ... oh look there's a big new army set coming out for Slaves to Darkness - the more dramatic name we have now for the old Chaos Warriors army. I had picked up some of the newer style knights and warriors a few years back but never did anything with them. With the prospect of some new releases, at least one possible player, and an interest in building something completely new, well, it all came together.

So now there is a pile of plastic in one corner of the hobby room and I have built my first unit in the new place. It's just one ten-man unit of chaos warriors but a) I am finally back in business after months of zero building or painting and b) it's an elite army so it will only take a few units to make it playable. Heck, there may only 20-30 of these guys in the army anyway, along with some knights and characters. So it's technically a new army but it's very manageable in terms of avoiding a big backlog.

Meanwhile, the old veterans await the return of The Old World ...

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Andor - A Longer Take


I know it's not been doing well in the ratings but I decided I was hearting enough good things about Andor to take a look and I'm glad I did. There's a proven principle in box office analysis that a sequel movie's opening weekend is heavily impacted by the quality of the prior entry. A good movie can have a bad opening if the previous film was bad, and a bad movie can open well if the prior entry was strong. Word of mouth will have some mitigating effect over future weeks - particularly on a bad entry, which is why you see some movies open strong and then fall off of a cliff thereafter.

I say this because I think this is what is happening to Andor: it's a good show but it follows two series with a mixed reception at best - Book of Boba Fett and Kenobi. Plus it faces the basic question of "who asked for this?" which is something I was asking myself when they first announced this one. Who was out there saying "wow I wish I knew more about this Cassian Andor guy" after watching Rogue One? I love Rogue One but even I never thought we needed a follow prequel series for anything in that movie. I also think that Star Wars fatigue is a real thing and having a near-constant flow of Star Wars shows runs a real risk of making them less special, especially when some of them are just not that good. 

So why is Andor an exception to this? Or, why should it be? Why was I pleasantly surprised?

First up, it is a story about the formation of the Rebellion. Now maybe not everyone cares about that but it's a pretty significant event in  the overall story of Star Wars and 40+ years in it feels like that's something we could spend some time exploring - surely there are some good stories to be told there and some interesting characters to meet along the way. Andor himself gets involved at the lowest level but we also see one of the main agents (who recruits him) and high level subterfuge as Mon Mothma tries to get support from various entities. We also see the lack of cohesion among the various sub-factions such as Saw Gerrera's band and some others that are mentioned. So it's a more complex situation than just "hey we're the rebels" and that could keep things interesting down the road.

Second it's a good look at the Empire taking power. The gradual imposition of restrictions on imperial society. The growing fear and unease among normal citizens. The unfairness of it all shows up in trials and sentencing and the revision of those sentences after the fact. This might be our first good on-screen look at the ISB which was a pretty regular opponent in a lot of early Star Wars RPG campaigns. People are uncertain at best about the Empire as the show begins and it only gets worse as it goes on.

Third it's an interesting look at normal life and normal people in the Star Wars universe. We see corporate security in action and some of what their life is like. We see criminal activity. We see a guy looking for a job. We see a guy dealing with his mother's expectations and concern for his career. We see relationships pushed in different directions both through individual actions and because of Imperial crackdowns. We see some prison life. There's a fair amount of people trying to go about their normal daily business as events unfold around them. It's just an interesting element that has not come up a lot in prior Star Wars media.

The downside is that it does move a little slow for a Star Wars show. There is a lot of setup and while the payoffs are solid there is not a ton of action - early on it's a heist, not a space assault. There are no Skywalkers and no lightsabers and no mention of the force at all. It's much more of a thriller than an action movie. 

I loved Rogue One and it had some similarities so if you hated that movie I suspect you will have a hard time liking this show, but if you liked it then you should give this one a look - it's worth your time. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

My Mutants and Masterminds Kickstarter Conundrum


So Green Ronin is running a kickstarter to get a bunch of M&M 3E books back into print. That's a good thing, happy to see it. One complication is that I already own all of the books, including multiple copies of the main rulebook. Well maybe they're putting out something new too as part of this ... (looks through campaign description and stretch goals) ... nope. Wait - they are publishing two new novels -set in the M&M setting I guess? This creates a bit of a conflict for me.

I really want to support this - the game, the company, and the creators have all done a great job and have been doing it for 20 years now. I like the rules, I like the setting, and I like the presentation. I think it's the best all-around supers RPG you can buy.  I figured I was contributing by picking up a copy of everything they cranked out as it was released. I've even bought a few extra copies over the years and handed them out to friends when I was getting ready to run a game. 

Not kidding here- that's the M&M shelf

This kickstarter though ... I was in on the 10th anniversary book ten years ago and it was excellent. It was also something new and significant. It's still one of my favorite RPG books ever. Unfortunately there is nothing like that in this effort. It is all reprints of existing material. Well, except the novels -let's talk about the novels.

They've put out a couple of novels previously. I don't own them. I am truly not that interested in superhero novels. If you were going to take that approach how about a novelization of, say, Centurion's story? Maybe the Terminus Invasion? The birth of the Freedom League? These are all background events of significance in the Freedomverse's history and would probably make for a decent story. Instead we get characters we don't know and it sounds like, at least partially, settings we don't know ... so why are these the only new effort in an M&M kickstarter? What do they have to do with the setting and the game? 

Continuing the questioning, why are we doing novels at all? For a superhero game why are we not doing some comic books? A graphic novel? Champions had a limited series  30+ years ago! City of Heroes had several comic book runs! It's the preferred medium for the genre, the dominant one, and a successful one for over 80 years - doesn't that seem like something worth exploring? Maybe even one worth its own KS initiative!

Tier pricing is a little iffy to me too. At 15$ you get one of the novels and for 25$ you get both. The game books start at 40$ for one and but at 100$ you get the three main ones they want to renew which is the core book, power profiles, and the gadget guide. That's not a terrible deal and that may be where I end up if I jump in. There's no PDF-only option - all the game books are for print and PDF both.

So I'm a little torn here. I know superhero RPGs are a niche of a niche and there are a ton of challenges in making them. I want to help but I'd really like something new to spend money on as the incentive. 

Anyway they're getting close to hitting their goal and if you're at all interested the Deluxe Hero's Handbook is definitely worth picking up if you don't have it. I'll probably post here again when it's over and share what I end up doing.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Translocation Complete


Well the trip is finally complete! It took way too long ... apparently I have a lot of stuff ... but it's finished now and we are fully transported to the new estate. We've integrated Fred the Yard Panther into the routine as well so we are one big happy family including Ranger the bulldog (on patrol up there) and Rockstar the House Tiger.  The new game room is a big step up from what I had before and the painting room might just be able to hold everything I need it to hold. There is still some stuff in boxes but not all that much - should be able to finish that up this month. Overall it's been an amazing refresher on what you can accomplish when you're teamed up with someone and have similar goals and priorities.

The crew comes for a first visit this weekend where we should hammer out our plans for the next few months and into next year. We need to get back on the Deadlands train that was rolling along quite nicely before I complicated things. Paladin Steve has been talking about running the new Dragonlance campaign for 5E so we need to talk through that and who knows what other options might come up?

As things settle down and we develop an actual routine I should be posting here again so stay tuned! 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

DCC's Wizard Van


This is hilarious and awesome - full story here. Excellent work Goodman Games!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Summer Update


Well it has been a while since I posted anything but that up there is not a direct commentary on the blog. That said it feels like it's time for a general update at least. 

It's been a busier than usual year. The apprentices have finished up the college run and are making their ways out into the world - I suppose I'll have to pick a new title for them at some point. I've officially picked up a new co-pilot. We lost one of the canine companions. Mostly ups with a few downs. The Deadlands campaign has been steady though it has been on pause for a bit because of the annual convention obligations of some of my players and also because the Tower is preparing to translocate!

After ten years at the current location it's time for some new scenery and preparations have been underway for a while now and this kind of thing definitely interferes with keeping a regular schedule and with regular blog updates too as it turns out. Once we are settled at the new site I expect things to pick back up again. Right now minis are being packed, not painted. Dice are being stored not rolled. I've packed 46 boxes of RPG books and boxes and binders alone (U-Haul "small") and I'm not quite finished with that yet. My friends have said several times over the years "man if you ever have to move all this ..." - yes, well, that time has come and no I'm not asking them to help 😀

With it down to just me and my in-house editor and the animal companions there was an opportunity to make some changes ... so we are. 

Things should be settled by late September or early October and getting back to normal. In the mean time this seems like an opportunity to maybe possibly catch up on posting about the Deadlands campaign when my back is tired of packing and lifting and moving things so there might even be some updates here over the next few weeks. 

Anyway there's the news of the day/week/month/year. As always, more to come ...


Friday, May 20, 2022

40K Friday - Chaos Marine Updates


With word that the Traitor Legions are finally getting their 9th edition codex I'm looking forward to dusting off my Iron Warriors for the first time in a while. Alongside this GW announced that the World Eaters are getting their own codex like the Death Guard and the Thousand Sons so that will change things up a bit around here.  

It's good news but I think it's ridiculous that it's taken this long to make any real updates to the CSMs. Sure, armor of contempt, but never addressing the second wound update until over 2 years into the edition is just incredibly stupid. They're putting a White Dwarf update out for the World Eaters to tide us over until their codex comes out - they easily could have done the same thing for Chaos Marines at any time. 

Annoyance aside I am interested in seeing what else the new book holds. We know about armor of contempt, we know they're goin to two wounds, we know they're going to 3 attacks base, rumor is that they get a Doctrine system similar to the loyalists ... I have mixed feelings on that one. 

On the one hand, having a doctrine system will make them feel more like "marines".  That's cool. On the other hand I don't want it to be all that similar as then we get back into chaos marines feeling too much like loyalist marines with spikes and fewer options. So hopefully they do something interesting there. 

My Iron Warriors are pretty much ready to go. I've never had as much of a backlog with these guys as with some of my other armies.

  • I need to paint my Obliterators but that won't take long. 
  • I have a bike unit mostly painted but I'm waiting to see what they do with bikes for chaos before I finish them up.
  • I have a bunch of terminators I was going to allocate to them but like the bikes I'm waiting to see where the new codex takes them. There are rumors about melee weapons all being treated the same and ranged weapons having new limits reflecting the mix available in the current box and that would impact my plans. Termies are good right now and I'm sure I will still want some - it's just a question of loadout, really.

The army itself is mostly marines & havocs with a bunch of Rhinos, 3 Predators, 3 Vindicators, some raptors, some chosen, a unit of spawn, some Helbrutes, various characters including a daemon prince, and a Heldrake.  It's a pretty traditional chaos force, not a lot of daemon engines etc. It's around 6000 points depending on details. Hopefully they come out alright in the transition. 

I am not super excited about the emphasis on cultists in the previews so far. I don't know anyone who gets into chaos marines to build an army of normal humans with some mutations and I kind of think they should really consider moving it to a separate book  if they're going to start expanding it. If genestealer cults can be a faction it seems to me chaos cults could be one as well. Maybe mix in some daemons and maybe even the long-awaited traitor guard to really build out the faction. 

That said I am ready to get the army on the table again - hopefully soon. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The New Marvel RPG - Part I: Dice Mechanics


I was a fan of the TSR Marvel RPG back when it came out. I mean ... it wasn't Champions but we had some fun with it over the next few years.

I did not play the SAGA Marvel game. No experience, no reference, so no opinion on that one other than I know some people really liked it.  

It took a while but I eventually grokked the entirely different approach taken with MWP's Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and I have never had a bad session while running it. 

All of these were innovative in some way - TSR's version had the color chart with different levels of success mapped in. SAGA had the whole card mechanic thing. MWP was a very different take on superheroics and changed the way some of us look at these things. 

Now there is a new Marvel RPG. I've had it for a few weeks now. Read through it a few times, thought through it, haven't played it yet though I hope that will change in the near future. My rough take is that it feels pretty playable but I'm not sure it has the innovation that the other versions had. I think it will take a few posts to work thought the things I want to cover so let's start with the basics. 

The short take: It's sort of like a d20 game but with 3d6 instead of a d20. Add 3d6 together, add modifiers, and compare to a target number. Beat that target number and you succeed, roll under and you failed. 

They call it the "Action Check". One of the 3d6 dice needs to be a different color because it triggers special effects like the Wild Die in d6 Star Wars. They call that one the "Marvel die". Alrighty.

They also call this "d616" because it's a reference. It does help distinguish it from a normal 3d6 roll but we're pushing the "cute" envelope here. 

If the Wild Die - I mean Marvel Die - comes up as a 1 then you count it as a 6 - called a "Fantastic" roll. If this happens when the two normal dice come up 6's then you have the best possible roll in the game, called an Ultimate Fantastic roll.  

If the special die comes up a 1 when the other two dice come up as 1's (so triple 1's here) you do not get the free 6 - your total is "3", and it's a Botch, the worst possible roll in the game. 

I'm not sure how much they will really push the terminology but they do call it out so I'm noting them here. Specifically, a Fantastic success result (so a 6 on the Wild die) is called out as a "Yes and" type of result.  A Fantastic failure result (a 1 on the Wild die) is a "No but" type of outcome. Now the preceding rules section specially says "Fantastic" for a success and "Botch" for a fail, but here we get Fantastic Success and Fantastic Failure. I kind of like those terms better anyway and hey, it's a playtest set of rules so it won't be perfect.  

An "Ultimate Fantastic Success" is an auto-succeed and ignores any "Trouble" - more on that below.

I get the intent here. I'd say the goal is to get a range of results beyond pass/fail without having to do something like add in a bunch of special dice that generate interesting outcomes if you can interpret the runes in a timely fashion. This avoids both sending new players - and I suspect this game is aimed at a wide audience - out to buy a bunch of weird dice and complicating and slowing down play by asking a  GM to interpret a mix of symbols into a fun result. Some powers, especially attack powers, have an effect listed for a normal success and then a stronger effect and/or a bonus effect on a Fantastic Success so there are some places where this is already called out.

That's all fine - Savage Worlds does something similar with Success, Success and a Raise, Failure, and Critical Failure, then it also has Bennies mixed in to play around with that even more. 

So ... a player makes a roll - "Action Check" - to see if they pull something off. Similar to d20 there will be a target number. No, there is not really a standard number for this. There is a chart ... because there are Ranks. 

Ranks are basically Power Level from Mutants and Masterminds. They serve as a guideline and limiter for powers and challenges but are not really part of an assumed progression by all characters and you do not automatically start at 1. 

So first, you have to look at the rank of your character. That gives you the target number for a "Challenging" test. There are 7 levels of difficulty in Marvel Multiverse - Challenging is the middle, the +/- 0 level. Below that are "Routine" for a -2, "Easy" for a -4, and "Trivial" for a -7. Above it are "Difficult" for a +2, "Ridiculous" for a +4, and "Impossible" for a +7 to the base target number. This is of course shown on another chart:

Not a big fan of "Impossible" as a difficulty class. That's a word that literally means "you can't do it". Surely we can find another word to use there. On the other hand I do like "Ridiculous" as a difficulty ... a lot.

Most normal tasks will use this difficulty chart-based number. Sometimes though you are opposed by a living opponent. In those cases each character has a "Defense" number for each Ability as well which is based off of their particular details. A character "attacks" by rolling dice +modifiers to beat an opponents defense. 

So, say a PL10 hero ... I mean a Rank 10 hero, like Spider-Man, for example, wants to do something. Rank 10 gives a TN of 23. Say the GM thinks it's a bit tough to pull off so decides it's "Difficult". Now he needs a 25 ... on 3d6. Tricky.

This brings us to modifiers and here the game goes it's own way again. Every character has ability scores - taken from a point buy system - this is pretty normal. The ability score is a modifier to any action Checks using that ability. Basic human ability is rated "0", they can go as low as -4, and super abilities appear to run on a 1-10 scale. This is one of the 3 main sources of a modifier. The stats are:

  • Might
  • Agility
  • Resilience
  • Vigilance
  • Ego
  • Logic
Yeah it spells "Marvel" but they do acknowledge and own it in the book so I'm OK with it. They represent exactly what you think they do - and yes Ego is mental power just like in Champions.

Here's the sheet for Spider-Man. Im not going to cover all of it today but it's good to have an example.

Each character also has to choose an Archetype, of which there are six: Blaster, Bruiser, Genius, Polymath, Protector, and Striker. At first glance you might want to scream "classes!" but they are not quite that. The main aspect I am concerned with in this post is that they grant another set of modifiers for each ability based on your rank. Spider-Man is classified as a Polymath. Say he's trying to do an Agility-based Action Check. He would get the normal d616, +7 from his Agility, and then another +7 because he is a Rank10 Polymath.  Yes, there is another chart for each Archetype. I don't think this is automatically bad because once the numbers are on your character sheet you won't be consulting that chart again unless you rank up. 

This same chart also covers Defense at each Rank for that Archetype, and that number is modified by the characters Ability. Again, it's noted on the character sheet so you don't have to consult a chart every time you roll or get punched.

The third modifier is circumstantial stuff: It's dark. It's raining. It's alien tech. That kind of thing. There is no table for these it's left up to the GM. 

The last wrinkle to the dice system is "Edge" and "Trouble". 

  • Edge lets you reroll one die and take the better result. Yes you can have multiple "edges" and you can use them all on one roll as you see fit.
  • Trouble forces you to reroll one die and take the worse result. Yes you can have multiple "troubles" and could be forced to keep rerolling one or both dice. 
This is pretty much advantage and disadvantage from D&D 5th edition adapted for this dice system. I would say it is totally appropriate for a superhero game and fits in well. My only real question is when do you use this approach vs. using modifiers to the TN as described above. Would "It's raining" be worth a +4 to the TN, or would it be better as one or two steps of Trouble? This is where playing the game for a while would probably help a lot. 

Did someone say "Fantastic"?

The only overall mandated use of either that is mentioned is that for a Fantastic Success the default assumption is an Edge. So if you can't come up with anything more appropriate to the act then the player gets a reroll for their next action. I'd say a default on a botch to "Trouble" makes sense as well. 

I tend to think these should be a token or a point that one could spend at any time, like a Savage Worlds benny, and not tied to "the next action" but that's just me and is another thing some actual playing time would aid. 

The numbers are calibrated to give a hero of a given Rank about a 50/50 chance on a Challenging task. He has a +14 to a 3d6 roll using Agility , and his own Agility Defense is a 25. Average result on 3d6 is a 10.5 but since you can only roll either a 10 or an 11 he's right at 50%. If you look over the sample characters Modifiers and add 10.5 you will be right up against their Defenses, barring adjustments from specific Powers. 

I'm not sure I like the Difficulty chart by Rank. If, say, climbing this brick wall is a "Challenging" task then why is the target number a 15 for a Rank 1 character but a 23 for a Rank 10 character?  Theoretically, a higher rank makes you better at everything ... so then why do we have to up the difficulty for the higher rank as well? I'm sure the math is being worked to keep things in a certain range but this is scaling the world based on the character's power, something I am generally against in an RPG and it seems particularly egregious in a superhero RPG. D&D 5E manages to not do it this way. Savage Worlds, Shadowrun, Hero System ... all can have high-powered characters in a mostly normal world and none of them take this approach. It's my least favorite part of this game so far. 

Just as an example, let's say Iron Man decides to punch Captain America. Both of them are Rank 15. Melee attacks are Might vs. Agility. Stark has a Might modifier of +11. Cap has an Agility Defense of 24. Success is greater than or equal to so Tony needs to roll a 13 or better on 3d6 to do damage.

Say Cap returns the favor. he has a Might modifier of +13 while Tony has an Agility Defense of 28. Cap is going to need a 15 or better to tag Shellhead. 

While I'm not going into the full combat system here there would be a damage roll if either succeeded. Armor and shields absorb damage in this game so some of it would be mitigated and then the remainder would come off of their Health total. More on combat in a future post. 

So wow, a whole post on dice mechanics. It seems like a lot but this is where the chrome is in this game. This is the system for everything. You don't have skills and you don't have feats or advantages or disadvantages - everything you do is tied to a stat, an "Ability" and 1 out of 6 times you're going to get a bonus and 1 out of 6 times you're going to get a negative consequence of some kind. Once in 216 times you're going to be awesome and once in 216 rolls you're going to absolutely fail. I'm guessing that handing out Edge and Trouble all through a session is going to liven up play considerably. Knowing your odds of success will help tremendously in deciding when to use an Edge, and how screwed you are with a Trouble. 

More to come on this later in the week. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

40K Friday - A Bunch of Horus Heresy


Well, it looks like Horus Heresy is becoming GW's 3rd big game. I mean sure, they have the skirmish games like Kill Team and War Cry, and side games like Blood Bowl and Necromunda, but the effort they are putting into this launch is an order of magnitude higher in my eyes. 

That's not a small effort by any measure - and that's just for the launch.

Now I've never cared all that much about playing HH games outside of Epic back in the old days but I am very happy about this upsurge for reasons I will explain below but one of the negatives in my eyes was that it was pretty much marine on marine fights and despite having plenty of marine armies it just never really pushed my buttons. Well, they're fixing that and they're going to offer support even for discontinued models so it feels to me like they're handling this in a really good way. 

That said, even if I don't think I'll be playing HH anytime soon, why am I pumped up about this release?

Because it secures the future of regular marines in 40K. 

We've heard doom and gloom about the always-right-over-the-hill-of-the-next-codex-or-next-edition elimination of "normal" marines in favor of Primaris for a few years now. This seems very unlikely now as I am 100% sure there will be rules for everything in HH to use them in normal 40K. GW is not going to make a whole new/redone range of space marines and then block customers from using them in 40K.  So Rhinos. Spartans, Sicarans, Cataphractii Terminators, Contemptor dreads, and normal marines will be a part of the game for a long time. 

Now that doesn't mean that I think nothing will change. I suspect the upcoming 9th Edition MkII marine codex may have some notable changes. The big change I think would come with 10th edition in a few years and I suspect they will just make it "marines", dropping the Primaris distinction altogether game-wise. They may not keep all of the units for Firstborn Marines - bikers for example - in the main codex but 10th is a milestone that will matter to them and it will also run through the 40th anniversary of the game. We could see Firstborn in a separate codex altogether but I think the more likely outcome is dropping the distinction and then putting out a Horus Heresy codex for normal 40K that includes all of those units left out of the standard codex. We will see.

They are keeping things interesting at least.

Friday, April 8, 2022

40K Friday - Warhammer Plus ... 8 Months In


So I've talked about the service at launch and a month or so in but I haven't said much since - so how is it?

The short version? It's ... disappointing.

There is some really cool stuff here but they are so slow to release material that it feels like something is out of balance when it comes to price or content  - it just feels like there are problems in the pipeline somewhere. 

Animations are supposed to the big draw here, right? Well ...

  • Angels of Death is very cool, the "most" 40K thing on the service. There are ten episodes adding up to 190 minutes of space marines doing space marine stuff. It took the over 3 months to get all of that out, so it was not even an every week kind of release schedule, but the end result is good.
  • Hammer and Bolter has also made it to ten episodes. Now it took 7 months to get there and considering they launched with 3 episodes ready to watch it has been roughly one new 20-minute show per month. Seriously. That's terrible. What they have produced has been mostly interesting, at least. These are stand-alone stories and the subject matter has varied from orks to chaos marines to eldar to adeptus mechanicus and more so this is the not-marine area of content. I am still not a fan of the animation style but I can deal with it for now. It's just really slow to release. 
  • Oh look - they put Astartes up on the service ... all 13 minutes of it. Yeah, I'm not giving credit for something that was produced and freely available on YouTube before Warhammer Plus went live.
  • They have a 5 minute video of the armoring of a space marine.This is listed with the other animations as if it's a comparable work. It's not. This is effectively a videogame cutscene or a videocard rendering benchmark.
  • The Exodite - alright, it looked like we were getting a tau-focused show with some serious animation and we did ... for an episode or two. Then it became much more about the eldar ... then it ended! yes, apparently 3 ten-minute "episodes" are the complete series. It took 5 weeks to get the 2nd and 3rd episodes out. It looks pretty but there's no depth to it at all. This really just adds up to one episode of a show, not a complete series. 

They have battle reports too. In 8 months they've managed to put out 8 40k batreps, 3 Kill Team batreps, 5 Sigmar batreps, and 1 Warcry batrep. So, 17 battle reports showing people how the game  is played on a service that touts weekly content updates. That's roughly one every two weeks so far. That still seems light for the company that makes these games, makes these minis, and has staff devoted to making and testing and painting these things. There are YouTube channels with strong production values that release more frequently than that. 

There is an internal talk show that discusses their other shows, sort of like "Talking Dead" was with Walking Dead. I've never been super excited about these kinds of shows because I have a)friends and b) the internet where I can talk about them myself ... interactively. They've managed 4 episodes of this and if it's your cup of tea that's great but I would never pay for this kind of content. 

Beyond these we have:

  • Loremasters - there are 15 episodes of this now. It's the same thing I discussed in September. It's a guy reading well-travelled lore from other sources - there is nothing new here - mixed with slow pans and zooms of artwork you've seen many times before. I suppose it's something you could listen to while painting but even then if you've read, for example, any of the Gotrek books, you're not going to learn anything new about Gotrek in his episode of Loremasters. It's 18 minutes of summary ... like the Cliff's Notes version of an abridged audio book. 
  • 24 episodes of "Citadel Colour Masterclass" - it's a painting tutorial. Each one focuses on a specific subject - faces, ork flesh, grey knight armor - and it's totally fine but there are many, many painting tutorials out there on YouTube and the rest of the internet. I would never pay for this - considering the nature of the business, this should be something they put out on their YT channel and their web page for free. They do have videos like this on the Warhammer YT channel but it looks like they are different videos. Regardless, there are a lot of good painters out there who are happy to show off techniques for free. This is a nice extra but it's not a reason to subscribe. 
  • They have a "Learn to Play" series of videos for each of the games they make. Excellent! They should! Many game companies do this now - and no one should ever pay for them. Again, there are many free resources out there on the internet that can show you how to play Game X. 
  • Finally there are trailers. They have a trailers section for shows they have produced, are producing, and will be releasing in the future. They also release these on the YouTube channel so it's not as if they are exclusive or anything but I think it's symptomatic of this company's, and this service's problems - they think trailers are content. They're not - they are advertisements for what should be your real content. But when you don't have enough content you start announcing trailers as if they were the real show. 

The other part of the Warhammer Plus subscription service is the Vault and this is something I think could have some real value but it weirdly implemented right now. This web site allows you to access issues of older White Dwarf magazines and the "lore" parts of older codexes and game supplements - stuff from prior editions. This could be really cool but it's presented as  PDFs that can't really be downloaded separately, say into a reader program of some kind. They also have all of the game-specific material cut out which is jarring to those of us who were around in those days. It's a weirdly insecure policy, as if they're afraid someone might try to (gasp!) play one of those old versions of the game if they left the stats from Curse of the Wulfen or Warzone Valedor in there. I have mixed feelings about it right now but I think it could turn into a really cool repository of old Warhammer lore someday.  

The 40k app still has problems - I see bugs brought up almost every day in various online groups. I trust Battlescribe far more than do the 40k app, even after this much time. I have no idea what state the Sigmar app is in as I haven't touched it in months. 

Overall I have very mixed feelings on Warhammer Plus. Part of me says hey, it's only 6$ a month and if you're using one of the apps then all of the rest is a bonus. The problem is that there are free alternatives to everything it offers - many of which are better than what GW is offering. There are many battle reports, painting guides, lore channels, and even army builders out there. Even the vault material is out there in physical from, albeit for a price. The only thing that is truly exclusive to this service is the animation content and I feel like that was over-promised and under-delivered. It's been slow to release and when it is released there have been multi-week gaps between episodes which damages interest in the story - well, where there is one. I'm going to ride out the rest of my first year but at the end of that time I'm going to have to think about whether I want to keep supporting something that feels this lackluster. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Star Trek Adventures Starter Set


I got this a while back and I felt like I really should post about it. While I have some quibbles with the rules themselves this is a really good starter set. It contains the expected basics for something like this: intro rules, intro adventure, pregen characters, a ship sheet, some map sheets, tokens, and dice.

The most recent starter box type products I have used are the Starter Kits for the various Star Wars games from FFG/whoever is doing it now. Those have similar contents - clearly an influence here and I have had good experiences running the Rebel set and the Jedi set for my players. I thought this would be an easy way to start my crew with the new STA game if the opportunity arises and I was pleasantly surprised as I read through this one.

First up the rules booklet is more thorough than I would have expected. It gives a solid presentation of the main rules, covers combat in a separate section, and the starship rules are in a separate section as well. You could certainly run the game with what is presented here. The only major mechanical element missing is character advancement - not really unexpected in a starter set.

The pregens are fine and representative of what you would find in a typical federation bridge crew. The ship is a Galaxy class so it should be familiar and fans will have a feel for what it can do under normal circumstances. 

The dice in this set are the same ones they sell separately.

The adventure is surprisingly good. There are three parts here and the first starts off fairly mundane - scan stuff. Beam over and check systems on another ship. Some basic combat. But that's alright here as this is very much a "learning the system" situation. It made me think about some of the old D&D Basic Sets in that way, although it is assumed a GM is running the game - it is not programmed self-instruction. This section is still decent as it introduces a mystery involving an old antagonist - one that is not over-used.

The second section involves further exploration of the mystery and brings in some familiar races. This time it expands to planetary exploration and action. 

The third section has a ton of potential as it brings in some major lore nuggets, space combat, and puts the PC's into position to make some major choices that could have a significant impact on the setting - much more so than a typical starter adventure.  This is not low-level characters in a starter dungeon type material - it's big time Trek and actually made we want to run this to see what my crew would do.

So yes, if you are considering checking out the game this is an excellent starting point and even if you already have the big core book a) the adventure is good and b) the small rulebook would be a handy player reference at the table. You could easily run this with a newly generated crew instead of the pregens and with experienced players that's probably the best option as we all know no one likes pre-gens. At 20-25$ most places it's a great way to start your campaign.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Ten years ago today ...


... my kids were mangling the Moathouse garrison on a spring break run.

I could probably do a lot of posts like this at this point. I suppose that's a good thing as I'm still at it but I'm also feeling the passage of time a bit these days as the last of them wrap up school and prepare to head out on their own - mixed emotions for sure. 

The same week we also had one of our early Marvel Heroic runs with Breakout from the main book. An awesome game cut down prematurely but we have good memories and I still break it out (Yeah I went there) from time to time. Plus now we have the latest general Cortex book in print and we're also waiting to see what the newest Marvel RPG turns out to be. Amazon is showing "April 19th" for the playtest release - hopefully it will be interesting at least.