April 27, 2015

Majestic Wilderlands - Marcus the Training Pell

We begin where we left off, about to get into a fight with "the glasstaff" as well as Herone (connected to the dragon Pan Calderax, which can't be good for us) and at least one other. We've sent a hapless courier inside, he got caught and is now either being tortured or beaten or otherwise violently interrogated.

The Paladin Marcus can't really dig that. Presumably others can't either.

So . . . here we go.

April 26, 2015

Violent Resolution - Never Tell Me the Odds Part 2

In the previous post, I noted that roleplaying combat can vary from storytelling to a pure tactical exercise, but that in all cases it is important that both the player and the GM have a reasonable idea of how skillful their character actually is. In short, and to invert the title of the post: you have to know the odds – even in a basically dramatic system.

Beat-Downs, Mechanics Style

Part I of this post dealt with D&D, Savage Worlds, and Night’s Black Agents. All use “roll vs. a fixed target,” and don’t encourage much active participation on the part of the defender. This article will discuss the two remaining systems (of the five on which I’ve chosen to focus), both of which do feature active defenses on the part of the target: Fate and GURPS.

Almost Certain to Succeed

More than once as we look at game mechanics, the concept of “almost certain to succeed” will appear. Somewhat arbitrarily, if a task has a 90% chance of success or better, the player will usually feel pretty confident in attempting the feat. As a result, the 90% breakpoint, as well as the 50% probability point where you will succeed as often as you fail, will be used to look at the influence of mechanics on success.

April 23, 2015

Hurt Locker: Weapons of Alien Menace

I'm stealing +Christopher R. Rice's name for gear and tools entries. 'Cause it's awesome, and that's key.

The Alien Menace game is on hiatus, but one day I'll get back to it. When that is I do not know, but I swear I should be able to start it up again, and I need to play GURPS again. It was also a really fun campaign idea, even if I did trap myself a bit.

But forget that, let's talk weapons.

The XM8-Derived Primary weapon

I like weapons, and for the game, I wanted to have a slightly-futuristic feel to it. There seems to be a good argument that the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge is frankly the wrong tool for the job the way that many of the countries want to use it. Fashionably-short barrels which cut enough velocity from the usually 4g projectile that the terminal effects drop off pretty hard, pretty fast.

However, no one can really deny that a short, handy, accurate weapon is a good thing.

So, I decided that my future space commandos would sport a bullpup version of the XM8 rifle. The XM8 has a lot of the things I'd want in a platform: piston driven, modular, etc. I also love bullpup rifles, the look, the feel, and the way you can get a ridiculously short weapon with a long barrel for accuracy and velocity. If you look at the old Bushmaster M17S, you'll find the overall length of the weapon is 760mm, while the barrel is about 550mm. The variants of the full-sized M16 (A1, A2, A4) are 985-1010mm, but the barrel is 510mm. So 40mm more barrel, but 250mm less length.


April 21, 2015

Violent Resolution - Never Tell Me the Odds 1

Roleplaying combat can be about telling stories through the medium of action and physicality. It can be a pure tactical exercise, driven by achieving the best outcome (say, “crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women”) at the least cost. It can also just be fun fantasy wish-fulfillment, where you get to act out the role of your favorite Chop Socky star seen through the lens of a paper avatar.

One thing that is important for all of those things is that both the player and the GM have a reasonable idea of how skillful their character actually is.

In short, and to invert the title of the post: you have to know the odds – even in a basically dramatic system.

Part I of this post will deal with three systems that use “roll vs. a fixed target,” and don’t encourage much active participation on the part of the defender. Part II will discuss the two remaining systems (of the five of which I’ve chosen to focus), which feature active defenses on the part of the target.

What Happened to “Never tell me the odds?”

Ultimately, when it comes time to exercise your right to fight, you need to know how good you are – or at least how good your character thinks he is. Your tactics, not to mention your confidence in the outcome (or in dramatic terms, the tension caused by an unknown result) will probably depend on what you can pull off.

This isn’t just about gaming, either. If you’ve been training in Tae Kwon Leap for twenty years, you’re going to know pretty much what you can do. Whether it’s a quick kick to the knee, a jab to the solar plexus, a (jumping!) boot to the head, or a complicated arm lock and throw, the serious practitioner of applied violence will know what she can and can’t do. If they’re really serious about it and have made an effort (or had effort thrust upon them) to obtain a degree from a branch of the school of hard knocks, they will probably have a fairly good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and what works particularly well for them, and what doesn’t.

But that visceral knowledge of skill isn’t necessarily present when what you have on your paper is Level 7 Thief (D&D), Judo-16 (GURPS), or perhaps Fighting d4 (Savage Worlds). That leaves you reliant on math and a feel for the resolution mechanics.

That’s not always easy.

April 20, 2015

Majestic Wilderlands: Fosco Chubbs Summons Popcorn

We pick up immediately after a fireball and a command to cease fighting.

They ask which of us in charge, and we muddle. We decide that the paladin has the most moral authority, Keyar the arrow-happy elf is the most decisive, and Carmina tries to keep us from getting killed a lot.

They tell us the town is under their control, but they don't want to fight us. That's a nice change, really.

The Bishop of Tain says that they're in charge, on behalf of Dracolindes and Mitra.

We're pretty much being dictated to, so we go with it. We're told in a week a forest of orcs will come to Tain, after the column of smoke signals a ready victim.

We come to an agreement that the Twilight Company is in control of the town, but that they're going to leave and the Bishop will be allowed to rearm and reassert normal order in Tain.

We think that quitting the fight here is by and large a good idea, and if that means getting our noses rubbed in it by an NPC mercenary company, so be it.

We try and figure out how we're going to untie this knot.

April 19, 2015

Apropos of Nothing: Return of Wonder Woman

If you've been wondering what I've been up to for the last week or so, basically working on my daughter's combination outfit for Comic Con (two-ish weeks!) and an Ancient Greek History night that her school is putting on.
She wanted this w/o the cresst

So the last time I put this down was I think April 7, where I was talking about her helmet, which I worked out a pattern for. Well, since then, I finished that one, found it too small, and made it again, with a modified look my daughter requested.

Then I set to work on the torso armor, made from a linothorax pattern.

I'll answer any questions people have on how I did it, but highlighting a few things.

  • It's all sheetstock cardboard, sometimes more than one layer glued together.
  • I used craft sand glued to the cardboard to provide texture that didn't look like cardboard.
  • Krylon "hammered metal" finish spraypaint is awesome stuff
  • The hockey tape I used for a lot of the edge binding is very different in taking both sand and paint. Plan accordingly.
Torso armor based on this image
  • There are about 100 scales on the abdomen
  • I'm very proud of how I managed to embed the D-rings for closure of the bits into the cardboard. There's a picture of that below.
  • I used a template to spray the star on each skirt strip. Gotta watch out because it tends to drip
  • Greaves and bracers and a sword are next

  • Sorry to take a break from RPG content, but the convergence of her interests and mine was too good to pass up. And the gratitude was pretty breathtaking, so wouldn't pass up on this for anything.

Lots of pictures after the break.

April 17, 2015

Appreciating Swords and Wizardy

Today is Swords and Wizardry appreciation day, and since I've been involved in a S&W campaign for a bit thanks to the kind invitation of +Erik Tenkar, I thought I'd throw my own thoughts into the ring.

I came to S&W after being reintroduced to playing D&D through a short tour in a Pathfinder campaign. Pathfinder was cool, though as you got into higher levels, you really needed to up your game in terms of system mastery.

S&W is the other side of that coin. The rules start simple and stay that way. The ascending AC system provides a mostly unifying mechanic that's easy to understand. There's just enough structure to adjudicate fights, and plenty of room to improvise outside of that.

The biggest thing I've grown to enjoy with S&W is, of course, playing with the group. Erik, +Peter V. Dell'Orto+Tim Shorts+Joe D and Reece, to name a few. We spend a bunch of time each game, sometimes as much as an hour, just shooting the breeze, largely because we only play monthly, so there's usually a bunch to catch up on. Also, both the D&D5 game that +Rob Conley runs and Erik's game is basically cheek-to-jowl with really excellent content creators.

I've learned a ton about small-encounter design from Tim. S&W in general has taught me the joy that is a simple and flexible mechanic, a trait that I hope Peter and I have properly exploited in the upcoming issue of Gothridge Manor.

S&W has reconnected me with the broader world of D&D and its flavors. It's also given me a great opportunity to not fight the system, and settle into gaming mechanic and roles that I did not get to groove on when playing GURPS. Things like not having any active defenses; it's not my favorite way to play, but I'll tell you what: it's fast as heck.

Likewise, running adventures and dungeon crawls as a resource management challenge, rather than a tactical one. Different way to play it, but still a lot of fun.

I'm very much looking forward to the new S&W layout by +Stacy Dellorfano and her team. The prior work she's done on her zine was top notch, truly amazing stuff, as I noted in my Firing Squad interview with her. So I bet the new book will look fantastic. I've got a paper printout of a PDF now, and I will eagerly add it to my hardback collection when it comes out.

So . . . how many potions of Extra Healing does the vendor outside the dungeon have today? I'm going delving.