Author Archive


June 11, 2014

“So, why exactly did it take you six months to update us on your progress in the Long Road game thing,” a hypothetical reader might ask.

This is mostly Bill’s fault. I’ve been sucked into Warmachine. I held out for two or so years but I’m not made of stone.

Starting in February or March or so I jumped in the deep end of the pool, acquiring a pretty solid army via eBay. I’ve only played about ten or so games so far (and lost almost all of them) but the rule system seems pretty solid and I have a good time, although I have nearly zero tactical skill.

The faction I chose is Khador, a pretty thinly veiled analogy for the Soviets. Warmachine has a kind of WW1 steampunk with magic aesthetic and I don’t love a lot of the faction designs but Khador’s imperialist aggressor nature speaks to me.

I’ve spent a lot of the last three months painting and crafting. And buying stuff at craft stores and hardware stores, both places whee I feel completely out of my element. Having spent the past couple of years painting the Descent figs (no, I’m not done with that and oh god I have the Reaper Bones2 kickstarter stuff coming in less than six months) I felt I got my painting skills up to very basic standards. I’ve learned a lot more techniques for painting and modeling form various internet places and tried to apply them where I could. Like my playing skills, I have a long way to go but I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out so far.

I chose a deep red/dark gray color scheme for my army as opposed to the candy apple red of the studio scheme, and decided on a winter/snow theme for the basing. I also decided early on that I needed to have an identity for my army, and that the unit needed a nickname like the Bridgeburners or the Bonehunters or the Wild Cards.  I eventually settled on the 58th Infantry Battalion, colloquially known as the Coldbringers.  That decided I wanted a unit badge to put on the models – something distinctive enough but not too complicated as I was going to be slapping this on the shoulderpads of 30mm models. After an attempt at freehanding the badge I decided to print my own water slide decals. Cutting out these very very tiny things with an xacto is rough going but better than painting it on, and from 3 feet away they don’t look terrible.

So enough jibber jabber. Here’s my Warbarbies (so far)



[The Long March] Ages 1-3, inclusive

June 8, 2014

Moth gently reminded me that I hadn’t been updating here regarding our progress on the Long March in about six months. Shameful! We continue onward!

The pace has been slower than originally intended.  What I envisioned as one-shots has become 3-4 shots so it’s taking us about 2 months to get through each Age. I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing; it gives us a chance to poke at the systems in more depth and also to get in touch with the characters.

The other change is that John dropped out, which left us with a substantial hole in the roster of games to be played. We’re filling that in as we go, and I’m hoping to stumble across some games when we go to Origins next week that can be put into the lineup. As noted in the paragraph above we’re not in an all-fired hurry. So far we’ve swapped out Burning Wheel for Torchbearer (easier to jump into for a short run), added in the “basic” version of D&D Next that is coming out later this summer, and Ali is probably going to run Princesses and Palaces at some point.

I’m going to focus on system stuff here. The “in-story” stuff can all be found at the game wiki:  (Eventually. I haven’t put up all the 3rd Age stuff yet)

The  First Age/Chapter 2 was Agon, a game of Greek myth, legend and honor. Ali ran this one. I’d played this at come cons years ago and really liked it but I have to say it didn’t click for us here. I’m not sure if it was the size of the group or the fact that we’ve now seen 13th Age do zone-based combat really really well (no offense to Agon) but the combat piece in particular felt clunky and we didn’t really get the hang of positioning and splitting the dice pool and such, and we ended up just kind of abstracting things toward the end.  I wish I’d written this back closer to when we played so I could give more concrete examples of where the system caused us frustrations; I remember flipping through the book a lot and looking for answers to some questions that came up. Maybe I should have read the text more carefully to internalize it and prepare.

For the Second Age Bill ran Numenera.  The default setting for this game is a post-apocalyptic world, so Bill crashed a moon into the middle of the map. The system here I feel took a backseat to a mystery/puzzle solving bit Bill inserted where we were trying to decipher the strange runes and text we found inside one of the complexes.  The fact that these runes were from a culture with a completely different mindset and the same rune could mean multiple things depending on context really added to the mysterious and alien feeling of the game.   The system itself was okay, but not something I’d rush back to play again. It uses the same stats for expending effort as it does for “hit points” with the result that once you start getting injured it’s hard to succeed at anything and you just get locked into the death spiral. That’s one of my pet peeves in games. I also think it would have been better if it hadn’t been slavishly married to the d20.  Each “step” of difficulty was actually +/- 3 on the die and at least initially that gave me a massive brain disconnect. I feel like moving it to a percentile based system or a dice pool or something might have gotten around that.

We’re currently in the middle of the Third Age, which is being run by Kevin. For this we’re going back to the classics: Basic/Expert D&D. The red and blue books from the early 1980s. It’s a fun nostalgia trip for those of us who played back then, but I fear it’s all weird nonsense to those who didn’t.  When we were making characters, Jonathan asked why all the attributes were in the “wrong order” (Strength, Int, Wisdom, Dex, Con, Cha) rather than being grouped logically like in 3/4e (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha). The only answer we could give was “it’s the order that Gary thought of them. Now shut up and roll your 3d6 to generate your random stats!” Armor Classes going down instead of up, THAC0, wanting high rolls for some things and low for others, alignment languages…man, this game is nuts. Also brutal. Two Cure Light Wounds spells per day does not get the job done! 4e has made us soft.

So that’s where we are. One or two more sessions of Basic and then I inflict Rolemaster on the group!

[The Long March] Chapter 1: Sorcerer (and a bit of Chapter 2: Agon)

December 24, 2013

I’ve been busy and haven’t gotten around to writing things up lately, but the Great 13 One Shots Experiment has not died on the vine! We’ve finished off the first chapter (Sorcerer and Sword) and have done character creation for the second (Agon). Due to holidays and grown-up schedules and such it’s slower than I’d hoped, but so it goes.

I’ll discuss the systems and play below. The summary of the story is over at the Book of the Long March site. (more…)

The First Transport Is Away!

October 9, 2013

Tonight was the first session of the “campaign” I discussed in my last post. It’s a series of 13 one-shots, building up the world for an eventual 13th Age campaign.  Possibly the most ambitious gaming endeavor I’ve ever been a part of.

(obligatory wiki/site is here: The Book of the Long March)

Fortunately I’m not doing this alone.  I have the crew from our previous 4e/13th Age game, and we’ll be rotating through the GM’s chair. Everybody put in games they want to run and we’ve got a vague sense of how this is all going to work. One session for each Age, with the first being the rise of the Dragon Kingdom/Empire and the Dawn of the First Age. (more…)

13 First Dates

August 4, 2013

A word about why I’m reading Dungeon World.  I had an idea that I proposed to my local group (the same bunch from my 4e/13th Age campaign) – we would do a series of one-shots of systems we’ve wanted to try out for a while, rotating who GMs, using those to build a world history for an eventual main campaign. Kind of a longer-running variant of a lexicon game.

I have a handful of systems I want to try out for this. Dungeon World, Burning Wheel/Torchbearer, Sorcerer & Sword, and of course my beloved Rolemaster (or a d20-ish mashup of it that may be more palatable to the group). Others have thrown in 3.5 or Pathfinder, Sons of Liberty, Falkenstein, Agon, old school BECMI D&D, and who knows what else is to come.

The eventual goal is a 13th Age campaign with a fleshed out history, with legends epics of the past and different Icons for each age, all fleshed out by the group. We may well end up with a very different picture than the established Icons and “modern” setting of the 13th Age core book (the presence of Sons of Liberty and Falkenstein in the lineup suggests rather more steam-power than canonical) .  We may well have a one-shot for each Age (I’m planning on kicking things off with a 0th Age Sorcerer & Sword session around the fall of the Wizard King). And if we do one game a month (one session for character creation and basic grasp of the rules, one for play) we may well be looking at a full year.  It’s exciting, challenging, ambitious, and likely to end in calamity. We’ll see where it goes.

A Whole New World

August 4, 2013

A quiet day with tacos, hot wings, the Shaw Bros. and a pile of rpgs to read. Pretty perfect.

On the last note, I’m currently reading Dungeon World and I think I’m missing what makes people fall in love with the game. The Moves seem to be regular D&D-esque class abilities, the triggers are just explicit statements of how the abilities are to be used, the DM moves seem like basic techniques. Maybe once again I’ve been blessed with outstanding gaming groups where this kind of play is the norm and not completely revolutionary. I can’t even imagine what most groups must be like if that’s the case.

I do like the resolution mechanic of 10+ being a success and 7-9 partial. That bit I may want to steal. And the Bonds that connect the PCs together. Fronts seem like a good way to organize and do larger picture prep – I feel like I do a lot of this already but not in a structured way.  The directive to “begin and end with the fiction” is a good one, and one I could bear to keep in mind more often. So there are very nice bits in here without question.

If you’ve read or played Dungeon World or any of the other Apocalypse World hacks, what makes it sing for you?

Gentlemen, to evil!

July 7, 2013

This summer I’m running a game of the late lamented Marvel Heroic RPG. But with villains. It’s an angle on supers that I haven’t done and I think allows for more sandboxing than the usually responsive hero mode.

John and I whipped up a Pathways system based on the Smallville RPG, and out first session was to follow the flowchart and make the relationship map. It was a lot of fun, and it created a lot of interesting twists the players hadn’t considered, but we should have talked more about themes and directions before setting off into it. And we made some assumptions/mistakes – we left out the step from Smallville that everybody defines their connection to all the other PCs. I’d said (but perhaps not very clearly) that I’d wanted the group to be an already established crew. It turned out very much not that way and the first two sessions have almost entirely been trying to get the PCs together.

I also wouldn’t recommend this kind of approach to a GM who has a firm story that s/he wants to tell in mind. I went into the session with only the vaguest notion of an overall plot for the game, and have since completely discarded that.  Too much good stuff on the paper to just ignore it (and why ask the players to do all that if you’re not going to use it?).

Regarding MHR itself, I still really like it but I feel like I don’t fully get it. I have no idea if I’m managing my Doom Pool correctly. I don’t have a good sense of what’s an appropriate opposition level for my group. I feel that the differences between Assets/Resources/Complications are fuzzy at best. It’s hard to explain but it feels like a better game in theory than in practice to me.  I’ll keep keeping on – this game has 4 or 5 more sessions theoretically – and see how I feel at the end, or if I can explain the problem I’m having with it any better.

Also, note to self: 4-5 players, max. Always. I love my friends dearly and love that they have interest in things I want to run but 7 person games are going to drive me to drink.


Planning Ahead

November 30, 2012

I’m beginning to toss around thoughts on my next game after my current one (D&D 4e converted to 13th Age) wraps. I’m pretty firmly settled on some kind of historical fiction. I’ve never really done that before but I work better either in a licensed setting or when stealing someone else’s intellectual property.  I’m a better synthesizer than I am a wholesale creator; I know this about myself and it’s where I have more fun. And history gives me that. (more…)

13 Deadly Venoms

September 22, 2012

It’s been a few weeks since I went on and on about 13th Age

So early in the playtesting there was a Monk class in the core rulebook. There were rules up to about level 5 Rob and Jonathan decided to pull it out because they felt it wasn’t ready for prime time. It will be included in the Kickstartered (and awesomely overfunded) 13 True Ways supplement due out next year.

But here’s the problem: I’m switching my campaign over from 4e to 13th Age, and I have a Monk in the party. Because my characters were about to enter the Epic tier, we converted over at 8th level.  And as I noted above, the draft stuff only went as high as lvl 5, and even that wasn’t complete (it is a beta document after all).

Which meant it was up to me to homebrew some extra stuff. I present it here in case anyone else finds themselves in the same boat, wanting to run an epic tier monk and not willing to wait until 13 True Ways drops to satisfy that itch. It’s not a full-on expansion to bring the class up to full options, but it’s one Epic tier Talent and a 7th level Form, and a handful of feats. It was all I needed for my campaign at present but I may make some other things up later.

Feel free to swipe,  but if you do please add a homebrew talent, feat or form of your own here.

(and no, I won’t post the partial Monk stuff from the earlier playtest.)


Terraclips: Adventures in the Third Dimension

September 9, 2012

A confession: I’ve always loved looking at miniatures dioramas and terrain. I don’t play any tactical miniatures games (partly due to cost and partly because I completely lack any tactical sense), so I’ve always just admired from afar. But I always admired the setups at cons, and the first time I saw some Dwarven Forge stuff I needed new pants. But I knew that was more of an investment than I really wanted to sink into a hobby (pay no attention to the sagging bookshelf of games I haven’t ever played!!). And I’m just not crafty enough to do papercrafting.

Recently I came across some the sets of Terraclips at a local store and fell in love all over again. Configurable heavy cardboard terrain. They had a set of Buildings, Streets and Sewers out, and 3 Dungeon based sets dropping in late August (some really awesome pictures and info here). I liked the first 3 sets but didn’t love them – I thought the usefulness of streets and sewers to my personal game was limited, and the buildings were all wooden inn-like structures. But the “Vaults of Ruin” set from the new Dungeon Rise line really caught my eye. The “Dungeon Essentials” had a lot of the basics but was heavy on traps and such. The “Prison of the Forsaken” was full of torturey goodness but seemed a little specific. but Vaults had lots of crumbling walls and archways and I could see using it either for dungeons or as an outdoor ruined temple or a dozen other things. To my eye it had the greatest versatility, so I started there.  I ordered a set from my Friendly Local Game Shop, and here’s what I got. (more…)

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