Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Miniature Musings - Building for Age of Sigmar


Well, I've let it happen. Pretty much every one of my 40K armies has some kind of backlog but they also can all make playable and at least partially painted armies. I try not to let a gathering of plastic sit too long in an unplayable state even if it's not painted. So having achieved that state some time ago I decided to start expanding my Age of Sigmar forces ...

Yep, that's a big ol' pile of angry dwarfs waiting to be built. They are completely unplayable as nothing is built. I wanted to do this one a certain way so I ordered custom stonework-looking bases for the whole damn army and that meant I couldn't really buy already built or painted units so here they sit ... on the sprues. Now this has all developed this year so they are not too backlogged but I haven't made much progress beyond the "acquisition" stage. That's multiple Start Collecting boxes because they are a hugely better deal than the newer options and some individual unit pickups of Vulkites and Hearthguard. Grombrindal there in the blister pack will be my first Grimwrath Berzerker.

Beyond what's already here I don't need much - maybe a few more Magmadroths if I like how they play (I have 3 at the moment) and probably a few more Berzerkers and Doomseekers down the road to have more options. I want each of those to be unique so it will take a little more effort but I'm not in a rush.

The chaos warriors are in a slightly better state though it may be hard to tell. I talked about restarting this journey a while back and I did follow though on that. I put together a squad of chaos warriors, dusted off some knights I picked up a while back, found a heckuva deal on some painted chaos knights (the red guys up there), finished gathering up marauder parts and at least one of the Warcry warbands which seem to be big players in the AoS chaos books. I have some characters put together as well so while it's not all pretty yet I could play them in a 1000 point game at least - progress!

The big additions here were in the Slaves to Darkness army box that came out last fall that came with the new army book, new daemon prince, new chosen (finally in plastic!), and new "Ogroid Theriadons". That last unit is a pack of 3 ogre/troll/minotaur-looking things and I really like them so I added 3 more to make a nasty unit of 6. I used to field chaos trolls in the old days so I like having a brute squad in my otherwise mostly human-ish force and these are the new heavy hitters. I already had the prior Start Collecting box with warriors, knights, and the lord on karakadrakadrakka thing sitting around from a prior flirtation with these kinds of thoughts. Converting some of my old characters to round bases meant I had a pretty solid force right away so now the big task ahead is to finish building and get the rest of the painting done.

Then there are the Beasts! I've been bouncing these guys around for more than 20 years and I may finally get them onto the table as an actual army soon. In the early to middle years of Warhammer Fantasy "Chaos" armies included everything - warriors, beastmen, daemons,  whatever. Over the years as they expanded the range they split each of those forces off into separate armies which felt very forced at times but that's how it went. These beastmen started off as add-ons to my Chaos army that was mostly chaos warriors. The daemons I had back then eventually became a separate army and ended up used in 40K more than fantasy. The beastmen though just kind of sat. They made good gnolls for D&D but I didn't really care about building them out to be a full Warhammer army. A few years ago I seriously considered making them a "The Herd" army for Kings of War so I picked up a Cygor/Ghorgon to be a potential centerpiece but I ended up just letting them all sit in a box for the next few years. 

This year as the Sigmar interest developed and I started going through boxes and drawers sorting out fantasy parts I realized I had a pretty good amount of them. With the Beasts of Chaos battletome coming out for 3rd edition as well I figured the time was right so I started basing them up and adding up points and I realized I didn't really need to add much. I have enough old figures that are effectively Gors to make the battleline units I need. I have old metal shamans and beastlords so the characters are covered. My old metal dragon ogres are complete and while they aren't as pretty as the newer ones they are still perfectly usable here. The Chaos Warhounds I bought years ago to use as Flesh Hounds in my daemon army when the official models looked bad are still the current model for Warhounds  so why not pull them back into the army they're supposed to be in?

The minotaurs are a pure indulgence on my part - I like minotaurs, I like the current GW models in particular, and I thought an all-minotaur army would be a fun skew list to play so i started buying some. Right now I'm at 6 which will probably be one unit and I also picked up an old metal Doombull I can use to make them Battleline. This is really the only part I have spent money on with this army other than the book and it's probably the most playable of the three. 

Future acquisitions will likely include more of the giant monsters as those would be fun too. More minotaurs obviously. I'd like to get up to 18 of those to be able to throw out 3x 6-bull squads. I know Bestigors and Ungors are major parts of the army but I just don't care about them that much. One day I'm sure I'll want some but for now it's mainly what I have plus Bullgors. 

Beyond these newer arrivals I still have the half-painted-mostly-built Seraphon army in the miniatures closet from a few years back and also the large pile of Stormcast and Blades of Khorne I acquired through multiple boxed set purchases back in 1st & 2nd edition. 

There are also the 4 daemon armies that are mainly for 40K but work perfectly well in AoS too and those are actually in pretty decent shape - probably the most "done" of any of these forces. It helps that you can play them in both games. 

So yeah, this is a fairly stupid way to get into an army - stumbling into it with half-done units over multiple editions. I would not recommend doing it this way at all. The choose it/buy it/build it/paint it approach, ONE army at a time, is far more sensible. So if you're not already invested in one of these games do it that way, two armies at most so you can play games or teach people on your own. Hopefully I can make enough progress on these to feel it's worth posting about them again later this year. Maybe even play some actual games too ...


Monday, March 20, 2023

Meme-ish Monday


If Gavin Macleod was still with us would anyone be contemplating a "Stubing" series? 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Aaron Allston's Strike Force


This is an updated version of the original Strike Force from 1988 and is the product of a Kickstarter drive in 2016. I made a post about the original over ten years ago and thought very highly of it. With a newer version out there I figured it was high time I looked it over too.

Some straight-up comparisons:

  • The original was a 96 page softcover while this one is a 256 page hardcover. Both are available in PDF.
  • The original was black and white while the newer book has some use of color in layout and illustrations. It's not a Mutants and Masterminds book but it's not B&W either.  
  • The Strike Force campaign kept running so while the original covers the first 6-7 years of the campaign this one includes information on what happened after that from AA's own notes.
So right there if you're interested in how an original superhero campaign progressed, well, there's a lot to explore. For one there was an alien invasion and then a third world war which had the heroes helping to rebuild the war  - here was a man who was not afraid to shake things up! I've preached for a long time that you have to be willing to let your PC's leave a mark on the world and here is a strong example of where that can go. Throughout this campaign there is dimension-hopping, space exploration, alien invasions, alternate earths causing trouble ... a bunch of comic book tropes used and explored and making permanent impacts on the world. This new edition covers another two decades of play so it is definitely worth a look for that. 


There is a big section on the heroes and villains of the campaign. It took up roughly 50 pages in the original and it's around 100 in this one. In many ways this is the least valuable chapter in the book for me as the value in this book is less about Hero System stats and more about how the campaign as a whole worked over time. That said this also includes bios for most of the characters and those can help one make sense of the interplay between characters and the changes over time. For example, one of the early Dr. Doom-ish villains slowly moves away from world domination and by the end is more of a scientific benefactor aiding the heroes and the world in general - not something we see in a lot of superhero stories where some things need to be constant but totally applicable to an ongoing RPG campaign. For the major heroes it shows their Champions character sheet at the beginning of the campaign and then their updated sheet at the end of the campaign which could be interesting for Champions players and GMs.

Other interesting campaign material includes the expected timeline, discussion of major events, how magic works, how technology fits in and has changed over time, secret lands, major organizations, some secret societies, other dimensions, other earths, and alien races and empires. This all fleshes out the big picture side of the campaign with about 50 pages of totally steal-able ideas. The breakdown of magic in particular is a great example of laying the ground work for things by setting some boundaries and some common language while still staying fairly flexible. 


The last big chunk of the book is how Aaron set up a campaign, how he kept it going and kept people happy, and his advice on solving problems that can arise in a campaign. This is where much of the blue-booking discussion and the player archetypes discussion happen which are two of the things Strike Force is most known for. As an example of the contributions of others involved Steve Kenson gives some excellent advice on blue-booking in the age of smart phones and tablets. There is a lot of good, useful information here and the best thing about it is that it comes from actual play experience - not theory!

The only disappointment here is that a) it is a summary in many places of the campaign, not an actual-play recounting of the games and b) many known superheroes and things from other IP universes - like Battlestar Galactica - were used in the campaign, especially early on, and those have to be renamed when mentioned here so it's not always totally clear who was interacting with who (the real who) at times. The good thing is that the raw package of Aaron's notes is available apparently though I have not gone that far myself yet.

So yes, I would recommend this 100% if you've never read the original. While some of these concepts have leaked into RPG guidance in general it's still great to see them all in one place and there are undoubtedly at least a few concepts you will want to take home.

If you have the original it's a little more complicated. Did you like that book? If you didn't like it then this may not change your opinion. If you did, well, this book is a lot of what was in there, plus more. I have the original and I still bought it in hard copy and I have no regrets.


I see a lot of "GM Advice" products out there now, since PDFs and DTRPG have made it where anyone can run 15 sessions of D&D 5E and call themselves an Expert Gamemaster. This is the opposite of those products - decades of running games distilled into one book. At this point in my gaming career I don't rate most of the advice I see out there as I've been playing longer than many of the advice-givers have been alive. I need a track record to pay any attention to this kind of thing. Take it from me, this guy had one hell of a track record.

If you're actually running a game, or planning to, and would like to see how someone else actually ran a game, this is probably the best written example there is.

Some links:
(these are not affiliate links, I don't do that. They are just here for informational purposes)
There are supposed to be character files for Icons and Savage Worlds as well but I am not sure where to find those.

Friday, March 3, 2023

40K Friday - Arks of Omen


So this is the way 9th will bow out - a series of books that expand the lore and focus on a specific new style of play. I have read Book 1 and I have Book 2 but haven't finished it yet so this discussion will mainly focus on "Abaddon".

First up: it's the usual nicely-produced GW hardcover. They have this figured out and it loks very much like a 9th edition codex style-wise. The grey tone throughout offset by colorful artwork and pictures of miniatures ... it looks exactly like what "9th edition 40k book" should conjure in your head if you've been keeping up with the game. 

That said it is less than 100 pages and was going for 50-60 bucks most places. So it's thinner than a codex and yet costs more. It's about 40 pages of lore and background, 10 pages of pictures, roughly 20 to cover the new Boarding Action rules, then about 20 more for specific boarding action missions. I rarely bring up cost here with 40K because it's just part of the hobby - it's expensive and always has been. For someone who remembers the $22 box of 30 marines and 5 metal minis in a blister pack for 5.95 it's just part of the deal. This one though feels like a boundary-push given the size and scope and that it's supposed to be FIVE (!) books. I am assuming that the lore will progress and also that each one will contain additional rules for Boarding Party games so if you want the full scope of those it will cost 5X what any one army's codex did  -and then we will turn right around into an edition change and it will all be moot anyway. In an earlier edition this would likely have been a one-off softcover supplement book for half of that price but this is where we are now. 

Cost gripes aside I admit I love the Boarding Action idea. I always liked both the Space Hulk game and the concept within the setting and that seems like something that a) would be worth fighting over within the universe of 40K and b) gives an easy excuse for any number of factions to show up for a battle or a campaign regardless of location or temperament. The rules are solid and the missions are interesting enough and with a 500 point limit it does keep the games fast. I was a little disappointed at some of the restrictions, namely the lack of dreadnoughts as this seems like exactly the kind of mission where an armored walker would be desirable. Without them it's goes back to a hero-hammerish approach where characters are the heavy hitters in many cases. Sure, "no vehicles" is the simple approach but I think a few rules tweaks could have made this work well. Maybe add some of the dreadnought-sized monsters in too just to be fair. 

There is more to the whole Arks movement than just these specific books. There is the latest tournament/mission pack and it seems solid enough though I've played zero games with it. The missions mostly look like refinements of the Nephilim missions as do the objectives -the big change for this season is the force org chart:

There was a lot of hubbub when this first came out but that seems to have settled down as people have embraced and begun exploring the possibilities this change offers. Sure, it might be an end-of-the-edition-take-what-you-like-blowout kind of thing but damn it looks fun. That's why we play the game, right?

So it's a mixed bag for me. I like the content but I think it's overpriced, even for GW. That said I'm probably going to buy them all because I'm a sucker for the story, especially the potential for some kind of game-changing lore of significance and the return of The Lion. I know, but that's just where I am right now. 

I'll have an update looking at the Angron book soon, maybe for next Friday.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Star Trek Online Continues


Looking over the blog I realized it's been quite a while since I said anything about STO and that's a shame because I've spent quite a bit of time on it lately. First off, yes - it's still around still adding new material and still fun to play in my opinion. I've been playing it since launch and though I have had a few gaps it is never a game I've "quit" - usually it just gets de-prioritized while I do things like the move last year. 

The game just celebrated it's 13th anniversary so it has been going for quite a while now. The last two years' major storyline has been fighting the Terran Empire from the Mirror Universe and I have to say it's been pretty interesting with some unexpected characters showing up in a big way.


The pace of content development is not fast with about one new "big mission" per quarter alongside new ships, new uniforms & gear, various bug fixes, and tweaks to existing content in general. The downside is that if you're "caught up" there is less new to do, but if you're coming in fresh there is a ton of content here and plenty of time to do it given that pace of releases.

Inside the Dyson Sphere - I love that zone

One of the things that became far more prominent after the game had been out for a bit is the regular recruitment of Trek actors to do voice work in the game. From TOS to TNG to DS9 to Discovery many of the actors have contributed to a storyline and it really does add something. Running around fighting alongside J.G. Hertzler's General Martok was a particular bit of fun for me. In the recent terran arc Admiral Janeway is a big presence and you get both the one we know and a Mirror Universe Janeway which is quite a bit of fun. 

With the Terran arc wrapping up now it looks like the Next Big Thing in STO is going to be some kind of Borg ... resurgence? Invasion? It's hard to say just yet but they were the big bads in the early days of the game but they have diminished over the years, powercrept and relegated to older missions that are not played as much outside of some raid-style Task Forces (in STO terms). I'd be happy to see them become terrifying again.  

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Superhero RPG Roundup Part 2 - The Multiverse of Superhero RPGs


Given the opportunity to start a new superhero campaign I dove into the deep end and ran through a bunch of games I own and checked into a few I did not. Part 1 of this covered the Marvel Superhero options as I do love the old warhorse and there are a lot of options out there built around that chassis. 

Beyond that though there are many other games in this genre. I hit most of the big ones in my exploration so I thought I would share some thoughts on each in this post.

  • First up, Mutants and Masterminds: In my mind this is the current standard for superhero RPGs and has been for more than a decade. Third edition is thorough and expansive game system with a unified mechanic that is fairly simple to run in play, options for point-build and random character generation, and supplement books to assist with deeper options in almost any area you can think of - powers, gadgets, locations, running a super team, cosmic campaigns, supernatural campaigns, adventures ... pretty much any area of running a game has extra material available if you want it. It's a great game and one I have run multiple times previously.

    For this campaign it was a strong contender but I decided to try something new. I will run this again, maybe later this year, but for now I chose "new" over familiar.
  • Second, Champions - my first superhero RPG and one that still lives in my head whenever we get to discussing them even 40 years later. It works and works well if you want to have all the details. People fuss about math in this game but once you build your character the math is mostly "do I have enough dice to throw for this attack?" rather than anything particularly complicated. I love it and I have players with some experience with it and the current Champions Complete is the best version of it to be released in years.

    Despite this we will only be playing this game once a month and introducing some new players to Hero system when playing on that schedule is just not the best idea in my opinion. I'd love to run it and I will make an effort to do so but it's not the best choice for this campaign

  • Next up - ICONS - lord knows I have talked about ICONS enough on this blog over the years. It's a great game with a ton of support that plays fast and is very good at letting your players focus on what they are doing in the game rather than how the rules work. Bits of MSH, bits of FATE, elements of M&M ... all combine to make for a really good game that can handle a wide range.

    For this campaign I was very tempted to use ICONS but in the end as mentioned above I decided to try something new. ICONS will be back in the rotation at some point as I have a couple of players that have never tried it but for this one I decided to go in a different direction.

  • Savage Worlds - I am running a Deadlands game now and there is a shiny new Super Powers Companion that just came out so it would make some sense to run a Savage Supers campaign now. The new book is solid  - these things have really evolved since they were basically the powers chapter of Necessary Evil with some additional material added in. They have gotten further and further away from the standard SW approach of "powers cost ongoing power points" which is fine for wizards and mad scientists but does not work well for superheroes with permanent abilities so it's a welcome change - it's basically a point buy system for powers now. It is not as comprehensive as some of the other games but a lot of that is because it's a supplement to a game system and not a self-contained game in itself. I'll have a separate review of this one soon.

    As much as it would make sense to use this option - especially since I was considering a WW2 supers game and I have the Weird War 2 book as well making this really easy to run - I ended up deciding to hold off. My main concern is running two games in Savage Worlds in parallel at different power levels and possibly making one feel "less" than the other. There's also the danger of making them feel too "samey" using the same rules for two different games. I will need something to run after Deadlands and I'd say Savage Supers would be a good fit when that day comes so that's probably where it will come into play.

  • Finally I looked at the Sentinel Comics RPG. I had run one of the starter kit adventures a few years ago and it was cool though some of the concepts were tricky coming in cold. I did the Kickstarter and had the rulebook and the GM kit but had not really dived in with an eye towards running it until now. There's a lot of Marvel Heroic (Cortex) in there but it's not just a clone.

    For example you're only going to be rolling 3 dice in your pool - a power, a quality, and your status dice which is a new concept that sort of replaces the solo/buddy/team element in MHR.  This status is determined by a Green/Yellow/Red system which has two tracks. One is your health - as your character takes damage they begin "Green" then move into Yellow at a certain point and then finally into Red as they take more and more damage. There is also the Scene Tracker which replaces the Doom Pool from MHR with a fixed countdown by round that moves through a G/Y/R sequence to show things escalating automatically - no die manipulation necessary. So your status die is determined by the current "color" (some may progress upward d6-d8-d10, some downward, and some may be steady) and also some of your powers are gated by this as well - the biggest bangs are only available when things turn red, for example. 

    This is a great concept that really anchors certain tropes into the mechanics. There are a lot of changes like this where things that were somewhat abstract in MHR become more defined and set and I would say more intuitively playable. I'll do a longer review later but there is so much clever stuff in here that I had to give it a go so it will be our system for this next campaign.

So, more to come on all of this. More in-depth reviews of some of these books and some session summaries as well. So far 2023 is a pretty good year here. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Follow Up - Some Old-School Marvel Resources


As a follow up to yesterday's post here are some links to some great support sites:

 First up is the granddaddy of them all Classic Marvel Forever. This site has been around for years and was the one-stop shop for all things MSH including PDFs of the original books. The obvious links are gone these days but I suspect they are still reachable with some creativity. Beyond that there is a ton of extra material from character profiles (including DC!), organizations, house rules, and just a lot of interesting material if you're actually running a campaign.

Another solid one is FASERIP.com which is a site I was previously unaware of but does have a ton of material as well. The Links section in particular is a gold mine for characters and character generators and all kinds of useful materials. The site's author has also created their own MSH retroclone which apparently takes the FASERIP rules I mentioned in yesterdays post and adds a bunch more stuff. I have not checked it out myself but I will at some point. Until then here's a link to the FASERIPopedia in case you want to take a look.

Finally there is MSH Gamer which is another great, modern site with character writeups, rules, links - it's just a great site and is definitely worth a look if you're interested in MSH.

Finally a personal note - MSH has gotten some flack over the years about the color chart and how people don't like charts and how it may seem like a kids' game etc. I'd like to point out that one of the goals of many more recent RPG designs is to achieve something beyond basic pass/fail results with their base mechanic. From Savage Worlds success/raise mechanic, One-Roll Engine's height/width mechanic, FFG's funky dice results for several of their games, various dice pool games, and others, have all tried to implement a simple mechanic that gives something more than a simple made it/didn't make it result. 

Well ... here's a game that had -three- possible levels of success plus failure on -every- roll with guidelines on what those different levels could mean while covering a power level that ranged from Aunt May to Thor and Hulk and beyond ... and it's from 1984. So before you dismiss it as "the kid's superhero RPG" or an introductory superhero game, take another look. There's a reason people still discuss it and use it today beyond "nostalgia". There is a serious, robust, time-tested game system here that is as capable as anything newer on the market. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Superhero RPG Roundup Part 1 - Marvel-ish


I went down the rabbit hole these past few weeks to figure out which supers game I was going to run for the group. As is typical for me I went way overboard but it was a good excuse to see if there was anything new out there and also to take a second look at some of the more recent acquisitions I might have skimmed and dismissed.

One of the options I was considering was some version of the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes system. One, because I have fond memories of it. Two, because it's pretty easy to grasp and jump in and start throwing cars at bad guys. Three because there have been several efforts over the last ten years to retroclone it and so make it more available to people. Inevitably these do-overs include some rules changes just like the D&D retroclones do so the question usually is "do you like the changes?" because you presumably already like the underlying system or you wouldn't be looking at them. I do like the original so I started pulling up "4 Color" system games to see what was out there.

The oldest one I am aware of is the Four Color System from Seraphim Games. It is pretty much a straight distillation of the old rules, both basic and advanced, without any major additions. The downside is that it renames every.single.part. of the game and changes the colors of the results table, including using red and yellow for different levels of success than they were originally. So it's not FASERIP here, it would be MCBFIAW ... however you want to pronounce that. This really hurts the familiarity advantage for those of us who played the old one. I assume this is a product of it's time and an effort to avoid any taint of copyright infringement but to me personally it was pretty damaging. If you're not worried about carrying over the old familiar then it's a solid choice for a baseline MSH game.

There is also a 4C Expanded by a different author which takes a lot of the same concepts but breaks some things as well - for me at least. Instead of FASERIP your primary attributes are Might, Agility, Stamina, Strength, Intellect, Vision, and Ego ... so "MASSIVE" which is better than the prior version so points for that. The biggest problem for me though is this:

I mean, the colors are still wrong here AND we're dropping the glorious majesty of the full table for this abbreviated version that only shows the break points! Instead of column shifts you'd have row shifts and who wants that? More seriously the biggest objection some people have to the MSH rules is that they ran off of a chart. This still runs off of a chart, just a smaller one, so what is the benefit here?

Outside of these changes it also adds a point-buy option for character generation alongside the expected random tables. The general approach and tone are different though - it clearly wants to be a universal system and I believe a later version 2.0 really embraces this. Here though it still shows with optional rules for more "realistic" results, a lot more detail in skills, and a 25 page gear chapter. MSH was always about broad strokes to me so breaking down five different types of swords plus blowguns and chakrams ... it feels out of place in this system given the game's origins. It does have a nice section of NPCs, minor opposition, animals, and fantasy creatures and that's a nice inclusion. Overall it is comprehensive but it just goes in a direction I was not looking for in my MSH type game.  

The next entry is literally named FASERIP and has been out since 2016. As you can guess from the name it addresses one of my concerns with 4C by using a lot of the same terminology though it does change the rank names and it changes the Results table but it changes it to Bronze/Silver/Gold as the levels of success which while different is also incredibly intuitive - excellent choice here if you feel like you have to change it up. In the authors own words:

The rules of this game are not an exact replica of the rules of the game that it is emulating. While the majority of them are the same there are some differences. The main differences are that this game uses a different list of super powers and that it has a different method of generating characters. However, in play, the game retains the feel of the original game that it is emulating

The changes mentioned as far as creation is that the random generation options are mixed with some point buy options to allow players more control over how their heroes end up. It looks decent enough to me. Overall I like this one a lot and it is a complete supers game with examples, stock NPCs, and some alternate settings. It's laid out by someone who had a clue and remarkably it is free!

Next up was this one. That's a lot of title. "ZENITH COMICS PRESENTS: MIGHTY SUPER HEROES THE ROLE PLAYING GAME BETA-PLAYTEST EDITION" ... yeah. Sure. Great.

First up it's not pretty - it's a beta version and there's not a lot of layout flair and no art. That's fine. They do keep most of the rank names and the chart colors from the original - hallelujah! Task resolution does differ a bit though. From the rulebook:

When making a FEAT you take the Rank of your Ability (also called its Intensity) and compare it to the Rank of the opposing Ability (or Power, or item), and apply the difference as either a positive or negative (expressed as +/-CS) on the Universal Table, starting at the Column called Shift 0 (SH0).

So it's not the linear chart we are used to but something slightly different:

It assumes there will always be an opposing value which is quite different than the original game. 

Character generation is random with an option for modelling one after a known hero -  this boils down to make it up and let your GM look at it. 

The game adds a new stat "Dynamic" which is Charisma by another name. OK.

It also adds Callings, which is described as "why you do this" and can be tagged ala FATE to gain column shift bonuses by the hero or negatives or other trouble by the GM. Cool. The game also adds Weaknesses which are exactly what they sound like with potential negative mechanical impacts. It's a short list right now so maybe updates will solidify this section. There are also Contacts, another limited section, and Quirks, both positive and negative. Quirks are more like Hero or GURPS advantages and disadvantages so now it has that as well. 

There is an extensive Powers section as you might expect and it looks to be pretty well thought out with specific tasks, difficulties, and optional adjustments for each one.

There is some other innovative stuff here. Minion rules, a Villain Karma pool for the GM, and I like the idea of trying to innovate within the MSH framework in some ways.

I'm still not sure about that new approach to task resolution. Given that it expects an opposing value for every task, which effectively translates into column shifts, but there is also a table of column shift modifiers, I think it could get tricky adjudicating some situations. I think I like the approach the earlier system took and that some other similar retroclones take as well but it's not broken or bad in my eyes - just not the exact flavor I want.  

Alright after working my way through multiple FASERIP based games I can tell you this one was my favorite. It has all of the signature traits of the original - the rank names and structure is almost the same, the task resolution is the same, and the color chart is the same - off to a good start. They've taken "Intensity" from the advanced rules set and just incorporated it into the game as "Difficulty". The idea here is that if there is a difficulty rating you compare your relevant ability to that difficulty and if it is higher you still just need a green, if they are equal you need a yellow, and if it is higher you need a red (and if it is much higher you just can't do it). I think this works better than what Zenith is trying to do as it is just easier to grasp in my opinion. 

One significant addition here is the new stat "Resolve" - for social encounters. As damage is to Health, Stress is to Resolve. This opens up some space for characters to be mechanically better (or worse) than others in non-combat situations and I think it's a big gain for the game as there are some actual mechanics around it now.

The other big addition is the Profiles system. These are lifted pretty directly from the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system (Cortex these days) and effectively replace the old Karma system:

I loved these in MHR once I figured them out and my players did too. Seeing them here really made me think about the impact they had on play and how it could work in this system and I am very much looking forward to trying them out when I get the chance. There are guidelines on how often each level can be earned and then a nice list of ways it can be spent much like the old system - everything from improving the results of a roll to shaking off stun to bringing in a contact to avoiding death ... for a time.

Character creation has two approaches right now - Narrative (or "just pick") and Random (with tables) and there are plans to add an archetype system as well. It looks fine for now and MSH never had a real point-based system anyway. The approach they have taken here is to put the character creation rules with all the power lists, talents, profiles, etc. in a separate book as you mostly use it during character creation. The main book for the game is all about running things so it can be a lot lighter than trying to put it all in to one. Makes sense to me.  Of course there is a GM chapter with advice on running the game and some options rules too so things might not be completely sorted out yet.

 So anyway there's a rundown of my journey through Marvel Retroclones. Lots of things to think about but I did find a clear favorite. More on those other systems I explored will be coming along presently.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Planning the Third Game


It has been quite a while since I've been in this position and I'm happy enough with it to write another post about it. So Deadlands is on 1st and 4th weekends and is back on track. 2nd weekends are Star Wars and that's humming right along too. So now the question is what to run on 3rd weekends ...

My inclination is to some kind of supers game. Running a regular ongoing superhero game has long been an elusive dream. I would likely choose Mutants & Masterminds but some noise was made that adding it to the rotation might be too much mechanically for everyone to keep straight.  Eh, maybe, but I think M&M plays pretty easily once you get going. It's not like I don't have other options but M&M is my "main", my general purpose superhero RPG, and I tend to think of the others as more niche options. If M&M is too much then I have to assume Champions is not even a question. I'm looking over Absolute Power (the Silver Age Sentinels second edition) but I'm not interested in running it just yet. ICONS could work maybe, maybe do a longer form Marvel Heroic campaign than I have been ... maybe give Godlike/Wild Talents the extended tryout it has deserved for years. I have ordered the latest superpowers book for Savage Worlds so that may get a look too.  I'm still not sure yet but I will figure something out.

The other note here was that one of my players pointed out I wasn't running a D&D game (Yay!) so maybe I should look at doing a fantasy campaign (Boo!). Now I don't hate fantasy but it has always been a blocker in that there had to be a D&D type campaign  going and then anything else was shoehorned in around it. I told him that if I did it would not be that kind of system or setting. I might consider Warhammer FRP, or maybe Sigmar, but clearly Fantasy Hero is not a good idea and I'm really not feeling Runequest or Pendragon right now. This is a "maybe" but I'm not really leaning this way.

Other candidates/mentions/requests:

  • Savage Rifts - well sure but I think one Savage Worlds campaign at a time is enough. This is a strong candidate for the "when we finish Deadlands" slot.
  • Cyberpunk/Shadowrun - one of my players is running a cyberpunk type game right now and I don't want to step on his toes. Definitely an interest down the road though.
  • Star Trek - I'm running Star Wars already and I think another SF franchise that uses yet another system is probably more than we need. 
  • Stars Without Number - I'd probably run this over Traveller and I like the idea more than another fantasy game but I'm not sure I like it better than Superheroes.

There are some long shots in the mix too like a MechWarrior campaign or Mekton or the 40K RPG or a Weird War II run and the possible triple shot of running three different Savage Worlds games in parallel at some point but for now I think those are unlikely.

Anyway, here's to thinking out loud online - more to come. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

40K Friday - The Coming Thing


I've been working on RPG stuff more lately than miniatures. A big chunk of the Necrons are done so the urgency is a little less at the moment. The hot topics right now are boarding actions, Arks of omen, and 10th edition so ...

The rumors are flying now about tenth. It's pretty clearly coming in June of this year based on past releases and multiple rumors from multiple sources. This makes it hard to get too excited about spending money and time on further 9th edition codexes. The Imperial Guard book is the last one I will pick up as I just can't justify the World Eaters book when it will be out of date in 4-5 months and I might not even play them in that time. The new edition is supposed to be a big reset rules-wise, like 8th was, with some kind of index-like approach like 8th as well so this isn't a case where codexes will roll over into the new edition until replaced by an update. At the moment it sounds like they will be unusable in tenth so ... yeah. 

Arks of Omen is in a weird place. It's mainly for 9th rules-wise but it's the big edition change-over storyline so I still want to get it for the fluff as much as or more than the rules. Knowing where the story is going is still interesting after all these years and so makes this a little more palatable then dead-on-arrival codexes at the end of an edition. I did start digging into Kill Team so I have the spaceship terrain for boarding actions - I should really paint that stuff up.

The starter box is rumored to be Marines vs. Tyranids which would be just fine by me. Tyranids are one of the few long-time armies I do not have so I'd say they will be my new army for tenth. Rumors disagree now on whether they're going to be presented as Blood Angels or Dark Angels but I doubt they're going to put any chapter-specific details into the starter box marines this time so it's more about what the art will show than anything else. 

There are more and more rumors that the Dark Angels Primarch is coming back. I'm pretty OK with this as it will give us a second example of what GW thinks a marine primarch should look like in the modern game and it will liven up the fluff situation with two of them back and potentially being rivals on some level. Time to get those lingering Dark Angels finished up!

The big one for me is the recently-popping up rumor that 10th will see the end of the Primaris/Firstborn distinction - they will just be "marines". This opens up so many possibilities within marine armies that it will be a lot of fun just exploring the options if true. Hellblasters in drop pods, Aggressors in Land Raiders, Assault Intercessors jumping out of Rhinos, Bladeguard in Stormravens ... lots of cool options added to the toolkit. Plus the elimination of some character redundancies like Primaris techmarine vs. Techmarine and the like, and let's not even think about all of the Space Marine Captain datasheets that could be excised. 

So while it's always tricky at the end of an edition I like what I'm seeing so far both now and for the future.  

More to come.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

What's Going On in February


In recent weeks I've managed to run two sessions of FFG Star Wars and two sessions of Deadlands. It feels good to be back on track. The Deadlands campaign has now hit 19 sessions and this weekend will be the first "real" session of the new Star Wars campaign. 

For Deadlands I am running "The Flood" and it has gone pretty well even with some player turnover. I had 6 players at one point and we've lost two of those but added one new so we are still running with 5. This means we've had a ton of consistency and in a somewhat more "plotted " campaign that means a lot. Since it is a published run with a definite end I expect we will finish this one up later this year. The players have been really good about respecting "niches" and some of them have created some very memorable personalities. Lately they've been getting into some fun stuff like blowing up an ironclad and participating in the Shan Fan Kumite martial arts tournament. I really do need to put those session summaries together ...

For Star Wars I used the Edge of the Empire Beginner Game - which I had somehow never run, despite owning it for years -  to test out the system with my current group of players. It went over quite well even though the dice are hard to find right now. At the end of that run (which stretched over two sessions because we get sidetracked a lot and were learning a new system) we have a party with some experience and a ship of their own which had traveled to Bothawui - because that's where one of them is from. There will be some party shuffling as some of the characters were pre-gens and I expect those to be altered or outright replaced before we begin but we decided to continue onward from this point instead of starting completely new. I was fine with this as it gives them some grounding in the universe and a potential known adversary for Obligation purposes in Teemo the Hutt if they want to use him.

These guys look more and more like Traveller Aslan to me - anyone else see that?

The challenge here is that we decided to stay with mainly an Edge of the Empire type campaign where most of the campaign ideas I had written up in the past were more rebel-centric or set in the Clone Wars era and Jedi-centric. Right now we have no force users and the preference was to start right around the end of the republic. So, sketchy parts of galactic society right as the empire takes off ... yeah I have nothing written up specifically for that. So a big part of the RPG think-time these past couple of weeks has been how to start things off, where things could go down the road, and what places and groups are significant in this time period. I've spent more time on Wookiepedia this week than I have maybe ever and I have to admit it's been fun. I'll post more on the campaign planning later.

So yes it's been a pretty active January and February and it feels like we are finally rolling consistently again and everyone is invested in keeping it that way. It's a good place to be.