Thursday, 6 February 2014

The end is nigh!

I have decided it is about time I actually did a campaign, and By Savvy and Steel by Two Hour Wargames seems to be it.

So for now this blog is taking an extended hiatus. I don't know how long for, maybe indefinitely, but I need to put my energy into one thing, and this is it:

So if you like swashbuckling, intrigue, ideas and Two Hour Wargames this is the new place to be!

But from here, au revoir for now!


Friday, 10 January 2014

Life, the Universe and Everything - November to January

OK, so I missed the seemingly obligatory Happy New Year/Christmas post, but aside from that what have I been getting up to?

I think the answer to that must be - procrastinating!

Which reminds me of one of those funny de-motivational posters that get banded about every once in a while, something along the lines of "Procrastination - It's like m*******tion, at first it feels good, but in the end you realised you've just f***ed yourself"

Anyway back on track, I've thought of starting a few things in the recent months, but have not found the energy or wit to actually do anything beyond theorising.

So I thought I'd use this post to see exactly what is stopping me. The main culprits are:

Energy - I mentioned it above, at the end of a work day I just don't feel I can summon the energy to game. However I know this is a falacy as I go and play football (soccer to some of you) one night a week, I just need to knuckle down.

Random tables - another of my favoured procrastination techniques is to decide I need the perfect random tables for story generation.

Accoutrements - I feel whatever paraphenalia I have has to be to hand before I can start, creating a barrier to play right at the start.

Shiny complex - I just cannot settle down enough to one train of thought. One minute it is cyberpunk-y cops, the next it is swashbuckling musketeers. The muse simply cannot remain long enough to overcome the above two problems, and it exacerbates the preparation problem.

So what can I do about them?

I need to accept that the conditions will never be perfect.

I need to realise that the energy is there, and that, if it is anything, it is just a slight evening/post eating slump which I can kick myself out of.

I never will have a random table that gives me exactly the results I want. I need to accept what I have or concoct the tables now so they are available later.

I need to be prepared with the real minimum of equipment ready to hand in a moments notice. If I have to collect things from four places, that is too much.

If I can streamline my gaming and preparation this should mean that the muse can descend and I will be ready for it.

Of the above I feel I know the answers to them apart from the random tables. What should I do there?

At this point I think I will follow this up in my next post, so as not to drag this post out.

Until next time Steve

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Life, the Universe and Everything - October

So, somehow we are at the end of October, and I thought I better check in to confirm that I am still around at least.

So what's happened since last time?

Well, I've tested my skirmish system a little more (not a lot though), and it seems to work. I've still got to write it out properly though if anyone else wants to use it. For the moment this is parked.

I've written a little on a couple of different stories, my distracted tendencies kicking in here. At the moment these are parked.

I've dabbled a little in solo role-playing, and am just gearing myself up to play in a supers game. I'll let you know how it goes, although probably not a full Actual Play report.

I've also gotten to play with my kids a little, a spy-fi game that emulates The Secret Show (very funny!).

This last one uses a version of the Fate RPG, I mentioned before how the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) stole the wind from my sails. Well, thanks to the UK Role-players forum and the associated UKRP Design Collective I'm mindful of trying to write this again now, FAE really isn't an introduction to RP as I envisage it.

I have big plans for Heroic Adventure Game, and intend to release it for free, or maybe the new pay what you want so that I can put the money towards the UKRPDC (this might be tricky because I use elements of John Harper's Danger Patrol which is a non-commercial licence, is 'charity' non-commercial? I will have to check). I may post about the writing and play testing process here, if I have the time.

To top it all I'm considering a commercial venture that I can't reveal anything about at the moment. If it works I will have more money and lots more spare time, but I need the courage to do it and the backing to survive on very little for a long-ish time (around 2 years potentially).

So that's me as at this moment. I continue to follow blogs as before, now on Feedly, which made me aware that I have since followed blogs purely through that site and not 'directly' through Blogger. This is a shame and something I have to put right when I have the time (yeah right!), Followers really are the best method I feel of knowing about the success (or otherwise) of your blog so to deprive people of those when I really am following is not good on my part.

Until next time Steve

Friday, 6 September 2013

Pure and stats

So I promised a break down of stats, and so here they are:


These stats are mostly ripped from Advanced Heroquest, an old out of print Games Workshop boardgame, and renamed. Most people remember Milton Bradley's Heroquest much better, but AHQ was much more detailed, sort of like a Warhammer Fantasy Role-play Lite, and fantastic in my opinion.

Anyway the system uses a table to give hit chance based on Aim and distance, I've modified it a bit and I will knock it up into a document at some point.

Hand to hand is dealt with by comparing the two Fighting skills, if they are even then you need a 7 or more, if the attcker is one higher then 6, if two higher 5 etc. If it's the reverse with the defender's skill being one higher the attacker needs a 8, and so on. The only major rule is the numbers cannot be higher than 10 or lower than 2.

Here's an example:

Bob (Fighting 5) is facing off against Henry (Fighting 7), Bob needs to roll 9 or more to land a blow but rolls 3. With a flash of Replicant pearly whites Henry swings for Bob needing 5 or more, and rolls 10. Bob might regret rushing in!

Damage, now this is something I have tweaked, from AHQ I now compare the Strength and Toughness of the weapon/figure using exactly the same numbers as above (even 7+, 1 greater 6+ etc.), except where the roll is 3 more then the effect is Taken out rather than Down. If the roll is within 3 less then the figure takes a Bravery (morale) test, and more than 3 shrugs it off with no effect whasoever.

NB For those of you who have a good memory you may recall I propose a system (stolen from Savage Worlds) of Up, Down or Out of the fight for figures to avoid bookkeeping.

Here's an example:

Henry hits Bob and now compares his Replicant Strength of 8 against Bob's human average of 5, this could get messy. Henry needs 4 or more, and rolls 2! As this is not 3 less than the target number Bob still needs to make a Bravery check, but he escapes comparatively unhurt, at least for the time being.

Later Bob has the comfort of his PKD Special in his hands and lands a shot on Henry, the powerful weapon has Strength 8, compared to combat Replicant Henry's 8 Toughness, Bob still needs a 7. He rolls the die for 11 as this exceeds 9 (and three more than needed) Henry should be Taken out (see Wounds below though).

Reactions was demonstrated in my last post where I wanted something slightly broken up more than THW, it can also be used in other situations of course.

Bravery this is the morale stat, unsurprisingly, used when Man down, Received fire and Damage is dealt. It can of course be used in other situations as they crop up (green troops?).

Intelligence, Awareness and Social are used in a scenario when they are called for, interrogate a suspect? Social. Spot a suspect in a crowd? Awareness. Inspect a clue? Intelligence. I'm sure you get the picture.

Move, generally this is a stat by exception, everyone is considered to be 1d3 (or 1d6 still to decide) except when indicated. Roll 2d for enhanced moves. You could of course substitute a fixed value quite easily if that is what you want, and then you might need it. Vehicles could move a whole 1d12 for instance.

Wounds, again noted by exception, normally this is absent, but if you have a super tough model that Toughness does not quite model accurately enough, then add Wounds too. This is a Saving throw style stat and generally quite low as it negates a Taken out damage result, instead becoming Down.

Here's an example:

So Henry should be Taken out, but he has Wounds 4 to represent his enahnced physicality, he rolls the die for a 5 and is indeed taken out, much to Bob's relief.

Finally there is Fate, only the player's figures get Fate, and when it is used pick the figure's roll result, this could be Move as well as a stat test. It can also be used to amend an opposed roll too. I know this is powerful but I'm not a big fan of wasted Fate usage due to poor re-rolls.

I said there was a simple version, and here it is:

Combat (Aim, Fighting, Reactions, Bravery)
Physical (Strength, Toughness)
Mental (Intelligence, Awareness)
Social (Social)
Move, Wounds and Fate by exception as before

These are used in exactly the same circumstances as the more involved stats, just absorbed into a larger skill.

My next step is my own (probably Spacejacker's modified) AI tables. I'm also wondering about the 7TV half activating thing, I must admit to forgetting about it in my last playtest and woder if it is a rule worth keeping. It could be replaced by a d6/d12 roll:

1 - 0%
2 - 25%
3&4 - 50%
5 - 75%
6 - 100%

Is this too much complication? Is there a space for Song of Blades and Heroes activation dice/points? Does it matter with very small sides? Actually, it probably does, more so than large sides. Anyway things to ponder, as always!
Until next time Steve

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Convenient Activation and AI system

Following on from my previous post I have found some time to test out a few rules, but bear in  mind these are still very much a work in progress which make sense to me but may well be meaningless to others!

Really they are parts of most of the games I have played, as detailed last time I have stolen piecemeal from THW, The Department/GoalSystem, 7TV/action:engine, and even Spacejacker’s Gunstorm.

Equipment needed
A random determiner for each Group like coloured beads, dice, poker chips, paper tokens, decorated mouse skulls, and a suitable bag, cup, hat, vase, mouth of a lion, to draw them from
Some d12 (will do for d3, d6, or even d2/d4, although they’re not required, aren’t d12 cool?!)
Some figures and terrain (really up to you, I’ve no system for laying these out, although a card draw system would be very good)
Some PEF markers (I use paper mini style ‘tents’ with a ? on them, very cheap!)
Some markers for Hostile and Fleeing status (these need to be small, like the 7mm dice I use, but cool under figure base discs would be good, even in cardboard, or simply bits of paper/card)
Possibly some other things I’ve forgotten here but mention below

For your information I am currently trying to play test these with 15mm figures on Fat Dragon Games street tiles laid out 4x4 (the 1.5 inch tiles shrunk to 60% using Poster mode in Adobe Reader, this give 5x5 squares which are greater than 20mm), I therefore read things in squares rather than inches/cms/Wookie hand spans.

OK, so you lay out your terrain, determine conditions and whatever scenario you have in mind. 5150 New Beginnings is excellent here. Place your figures and however many PEFs you want if you’re not following 5150.

Place in your receptacle a token (in my case coloured d6 in a dice bag) for each unit in play, at the start this is likely to be your force and the PEFs, but this will grow as your game reveals figures.

Draw a coloured die from a bag
If it is PEFs go to the PEF section, otherwise:
Choose half (round up) of the figures from that group (7TV)

Non-player figures
Choose those that are in danger/have an opportunity to fire etc. Basically use common sense, although you could dice off if required (I might use a global Combat Nous/Tactics style number to roll against, if equal or under then follow common sense, otherwise do something else!).
Roll on their current Subroutine table (TDFM)

Player figures
The player is free to choose the actions of his own figures (except when Fleeing themselves) and the opposition will react to these as required.

Each AI figure has a subroutine allocated to them, these are Normal, Hostile, or Fleeing. The subroutine can be picked as the figure is placed as required by the scenario you have in mind, or determined randomly using whatever method you want. For instance in a Blade Runner campaign everyone would start as Normal, until you raid the Replicants’ ‘base’ when everyone starts as Hostile. I don’t want to give too much away as I don’t want to reveal the complete workings of GoalSystem/The Department’s Subroutines (I actually only have The Department so don’t know if this is unique to that interpretation of the GoalSystem or not, but assumed it is not).

I have modified the subroutines from The Department a little too, making move a random 1d3 for Normal and 1d6 for Hostile and Fleeing. I have yet to test these thoroughly but could easily double them to 1d6 and 2d6. For those without access to The Department Spacejacker’s Gunstorm AI table makes an excellent basis for your own Hostile and Fleeing Subroutines, Normal can follow the PEF movement table. I have an idea for subroutine tables of my own which I obviously would post, but playtest, playtest, playtest is required first.

PEF movement
This is simplified quite dramatically from THW, first select the closest half as before, rounding up). For each PEF roll 1d12 and move it 3 squares according to this table:


Any score greater than 8 means stay still, on an 11 or 12 the PEF splits, immediately roll again for both (this can be reduced to 12 only if you don’t want a profusion of PEFs). If a PEF comes in contact with a door, or a corner etc. which would reveal LOS I stop them. On their next activation I roll for direction again and if it is vaguely in the right direction I will move them out of the building (3 squares still if out of LOS) or into LOS if around a corner and not revealed already.

I’m sure that’s not clear so here’s an example: Imagine a 5x5 room with a door in the middle of the left hand wall. For this example the PEF starts in the bottom left corner. This turn I roll 8 so move the PEF upwards so that it stands in front of the door even though this is only 2 squares movement (if necessary randomly determine wall/obstruction direction). Next activation I roll 5, as the action is not directly outside from here I move the PEF out into the street and down 2 squares as this puts it on a corner where if it moved 3 it would reveal itself. Now the next turn I roll 7 and move it 1 square into the road where it is revealed as crowd of 1d6-1 people.

OK, so that’s the Active AI sorted, what about Reactive AI, this is where my version of THW steps in, the following reactions are used:

In sight
Return fire
Man down

The In sight reaction is only needed where the enemy is in Hostile or Fleeing mode (and only where the Fleeing figure is an ‘enemy’). This starts getting into my own system, but is basically d12 blackjack i.e. both sides roll 1d12 highest roll under the figure’s Reactions/Combat stat activates first. Example:

Detective Bob Reactions 7, Replicant Mike Reactions 6 (5 is human average), Bob rolls 8 and Mike 2. Mike goes first as despite his lower roll it is under his Reactions stat while Bob’s roll exceeds his. If both fail, they stand agog at each other, if equal they react at the same time.

Return fire is handled by a Bravery/Combat stat, Mike fires at Bob (Bravery 5) but thankfully misses, Bob rolls 1 and is free to react returning fire. Mike (Bravery 6) is missed and gets to react rolling an 8, this puts him in Fleeing subroutine and he immediately rolls on that table scarpering off to the nearest cover.

Finally, the Man down test is also made against Bravery. Unfortunate Mike (Bravery 6) is next to Replicant sympathiser Susie when she is gunned down and Taken out (removed from the board) by the determined Bob and his PKD Special. Mike rolls 7 and decides once again that discretion is the better of valour, or maybe he cares not for humanity, and finds himself on the Fleeing subroutine, breaking cover for the safety of the board edge.

Unfortunately as he breaks cover he is in LOS, this time Bob rolls 6 and Mike 4, Bob reacts first and plugs Mike so he is Down (laid on his side/down), looks like Bob’s earned his bounty.

I think next time I will outline my system’s stats, of which there is a detailed and simple configuration, plus how they all work, then its on to my own AI tables.

Any comments of course welcomed!

Until next time Steve

Friday, 16 August 2013

Activation is what you need

So before I went on holiday I packed up my 'travelling kit', but ending up using none of it!

I'm a bit disheartened by this, but I am keen to do some of my own gaming soon. What I've recently 'discovered,' which is actually just shown a little interest in, is Song of Blade and Heroes.

This appears to have a possible activation method, I now need to sit down and compare them all and pick the one which seems best. Ideally it would also incorporate some sort of AI system.

THW - this is a blackjack method, roll equal or under REP, highest success activates first. No real AI, although the reaction system is good at that, i.e. reactions to events not instigating them.

Song of Blades and Heroes - this seems to have a system whereby you gamble a number of dice against a Quality rating for each miniature, if you score two failures the turn passes to the next player. This seems to have very positive reviews but still no AI method (that I am aware of).

Random draw - somewhat inspired by Spacejacker's Gunstorm, I currently draw a coloured d6 from a dice bag. I have the vision of rolling it to control the group's actions but not thought this through fully. This could be my ideal but not sure?!

Turn by turn - the usual I go, you go method. Simple, and does get every unit moving on the board. No AI here. In 7TVs action:engine you only activate 1/2 of the available troops, I will have to tinker with that to see how it goes, as someone reviewed it as 'tactical' which I'm not sure it is, except on a meta level, but again something to throw in the mix.

The Department - each figure has a 'status', either Normal, Fleeing or Hostile, which determines what they do by the roll of a die. Not exactly an activation method but reasonable AI. This could be a good addition to any of the above.

I like much of all of them, I worry that an individual figure basis will mean that the 'centre' will move but periphery not. There needs to be someway to select a random unit without the need for masses of cards, but I can't place my finger on it and need to try out all of the above. I'll let you know how I get on!

Until next time Steve

Friday, 2 August 2013

Life, the Universe and Everything - April to July!

OK, so in my last post I said life had seriously steam rollered me and my spare time, which it really has.

I am now emerging just as things get hectic for the summer, school holidays, which mean family holidays etc.

So what have I achieved?

Obviously not a lot. However spurred on by my own postings I have written a pretty thorough skeleton guide to a role-playing with kids document. If I had the time I'd love to get it written up, however as always I've not.

I also got to game with my kids, I tried out a few games and found a definite favourite, and that was Fate. I messed around with the ladder and seriously cut back on the Fate 3 rules (could almost say they are Fate 2.5) but the kids had great fun with a wacky spy-fi adventure, and a game I named 'The Queen's Musketeers'.

Not had time to return it yet but seriously intend to.

Looking at my last catch up post Steinhoff seems to have wandered off somewhere. I'm not sure I'll get to him soon either!

Also very recently I've had a large-ish order (for me anyway) arrive from Ground Zero Games of 15mm near future urban-ites, and actually printed off some Fat Dragon Games road tiles (need to base these still). Just need to settle on a system.

So, what are my plans (long term as well as August)? In no particular order:

Write a novel
I have approximately 14 books/book series planned and would love for one of them to take off even slightly. Mostly children books, but some harder stuff in there too. Not really done anything on these though.

Write a kids RPG
The week I finished my skeleton write up I discovered Fate Accelerated Edition! I feel my guide would be a great way to introduce kids to role-playing and have designed quite a bit just for first time kids, which I think FAE lacks, but still, my sails went slack I can tell you. Safe to say this is on a back burner for a while.

Write my skirmish rules
These are currently a hodge podge of various rulesets, THW's reaction system mostly with The Department/Goalsystem and possibly some Gunstorm, all mixed with Advanced Heroquest and it's d12 based system. It needs serious thought though and is something I hope to blog about in the future.

Actually game myself!
Of course I should also be trying to game myself, especially as I distilled my system, as detailed what seems like a lifetime ago now.

I have a number of possible games here too, Steinhoff (a Conan-esque Risus comedy game), Risus Redshirts (a Star Trek redshirts comedy game with added random death table), a detective style game and/or a patrol cop game, plus whatever else pops into my head.

Game with my kids
I need to get them together and have some fun, whatever form it is in. Ultimately, this one will be the trump card in the coming weeks, but if I can steer them I might be able to pick up on the Queen's Musketeers, Secret Show or something else currently unforseen.

Of course that mention of unforseen also applies to a great deal of many other things. I just need to focus.

I'm away on holiday next week which means I should be able to have a go at a solo game (gf allowing!) or tinker with my skirmish rules (on a theoretical level)

Until next time Steve

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Gaming with kids - part three

Hey, it's still here! Real life has just been absolutely terrible recently, but only in the extent it has eaten into my spare time, I'm perfectly fine. I have had this post unfinished for quite awhile, and even thought I'd lost it, but here it is, found and finally posted!

I apologise if it's a little rushed and disjointed as I justed wanted it out there after all this time.

I'll update you all later on on my current aims and projects, as always new ones and old ones and nothing finished!

So the next topic is in my opinion the biggest, and that is setting.

When you talk to kids I find that they are more excited about, 'being musketeers like D'Artagnan,' or, 'being wizards at Hogwarts,' than they are at say, 'let's play Dungeons & Dragons or Fate!'

I believe if you can enthuse your kids at the start, as long as you handle it correctly, you are onto a winner before a die is cast.

But how do you get your kids enthused in a proposed game?

Well, here are my tips:

We've all done it, how many Star Wars hacks are there? Probably about the same number as RPG systems.

There are some advantages and pitfalls here, the advantages are that the kids don't have to be told what an AT-ST is, but the disadvantages come when they meet with Luke or Leia, or even want to be Luke or Leia.

This is not ideal as it can limit the breadth of the story, your kids know what happens to the characters in the end, so it is best to try and steer them to wanting their own character.

And of course one of the best words to use is 'like', do you want to play a Jedi like Luke, or do you want to be a super-spy like James Bond? That one word if used properly can lead them to wanting their own character, especially if  they are cooler, better equipped and more skilled, but remain tied in with the inspiration.

If that doesn't work, and it is sometimes best not to push too hard, then you can try and work around a period of unknown time. So maybe you play the time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, or that and Return of the Jedi?

Better still create an entirely new time that your kids will know nothing about, there's plenty of scope in the Clone Wars, or beyond episode 6 or before episode 1.

Take Hogwarts, it is possible to play in a time in the future. Maybe there is somebody that they don't like, just maybe that person is somebody that has the potential to be another Voldemort? Can they stop him before he fulfills that dark legacy? Do they even know that he has turned to dark magic?

Whatever you decide, there should be an angle you can use that keeps them separate from the canon, but allows you to use the same richly crafted world (or universe) that your kids already love.

OK, so want to game with your kids and you'd love to take them on a swashbucking epic, or an anthropomorphic fantasy adventure, but how?

The secret here is to find transferrable inspiration. Why do you want to do that? What goal do you want them to attain? What inspired YOU?

I find with kids there is no harm in revealing the campaign goal, this is somewhat related to my fun topic last time, they know they have to defeat the evil Skullitor (see what I did there?) so they can stay on track themselves.

Kids are very goal minded, for instance ask mine to put on their shoes as quickly as possible and they'll skip as many steps as they feel they can get away with, like putting on socks.

We know Luke has to defeat the Emporer as soon as we learn of him, but it is the getting there that is important, the grandiose adventure. So feel free to reveal as much as you feel able.

If they can see that goal, defeat the hideously evil bad guy (or girl), they may well get enthused too.

Pictures are a great help too. Nowadays a simple search on Google can reveal pretty much what you are after in a few seconds. Use this resource to its maximum, when you see a cool picture, like simian martial artists, that just clicks, grab it and show your kids when you are ready.

I'm not going to pretend this will always succeed, but just once in a while you will show them something and they will say 'cool!' to which you say, 'would you like to play a game where you're a monkey battling battling evil forces using their amazing martial arts skills?' and every once in a while you'll get a positive response.

There are other methods of course, reading a book to them, watching films or TV is great, and possibly the best way. They'll appreciate the time you spend with them, you'll watch something that's probably surprisingly good and you'll learn about the world at the same time.

Take for instance a show I watched with my kids called The Secret Show. It's a spoof spy-fi comedy cartoon sadly no longer aired or available on DVD (apart from a few episodes). It's ripe for gaming, there's a formulaic plot that's usually bizarre, like exploding bogeys. There are recurrent characters and you can push the two stars off to one side and subsititute your own kids, a winner! Actually if you ever get a chance, definitely watch it.

Know your topic!
Finally, whatever setting you choose you need to be aware of what may come up, especially in an established setting that your kids know really well, I'd never run Hogwarts for example, I've just not seen enough of the films or read the books, but The Princess Bride or Star Wars? Sure I'd run those.

Making it up as you go along
OK, so this is an additonal finally, but as solo players this should be second nature to most of us, and playing with your kids is a real opportunity to lead them from within while retaining GM-ing duties to some extent and surprising yourself. In my opinion there is also a case for a GM character in a pre-planned adventure too. I believe Meddling Kids RPG goes down this approach.

If you've gamed with kids what lessons did you learn, what went well or badly?

Until next time Steve

Friday, 21 June 2013

Reader alternatives

So, this isn't quite the post I promised. Real Life has really intruded recently so I've not got the chance to finish up my last article (it's nearly done so I could just push the button, but I like to make things as good as possible).

Anyway, I have pootled along with Google's Reader aware there must be alternatives, and just tried out InoReader, but it's driving me mad! It's just not as good, I can't see the most recent posts at all. I've also read some use a Reader plug-in to get their data so they are probably not going to work come 1st July.

So blogging community what have you made the switch over to, and what is as similar to Reader as possible?

Any help appreciated!

Until next time Steve

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Gaming with kids - part two

Following on from my previous observations about role-playing with your kids, this post is all about fun.

This I believe should be a major part of kid orientated games.

But what makes fun? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure, however my wholly inaccurate list is:

This nebulous concept is as good as useless, but almost sums up the whole 'fun' ethos. For my part this involves keeping the story going, putting on voices for NPCs (which serves me no embarrassment whatsoever for kids, different for adults), sound effects (whether made personally or music files) and making all the die rolls as exciting as I can make them. I have even tried a campaign theme tune (not had much opportunity to really put this to test, but it seems to have worked for the second session I did).

Avoid obfuscation
Adult players struggle with a convoluted plot, kids? Keep things simple, black and white works best, until that one time you really need it, and then BAM! it has the resonance you really wanted.

Almost part of the above, but kids sometimes need a helping hand. However, unlike with adults you can be pretty blatant about it, 'why don't you talk to that merchant?' and not suffer backlash, kids need focus, one clear goal followed by another.

This will be provided by the noises you make should you follow the atmosphere advice, but this also incorporates comedy characters who are almost there for no other reason. My kids love R2-D2 and C3PO, they laugh at the derided Jar-Jar Binks and the antics of The Clone Wars Battle Droids. As much as you may personally detest these elements George knew what he was doing.

Set pieces
You know when you are in the cinema and the good guys do something incredibly cool, or you see the massive scale of the enemy ship or the space battle, the moments that make you smile. These are the moments that your kids want to experience, they want to see the sweeping vista, hold power, enact things they never can, RPGs allow this happen so we should allow them to see and do them.

I love props, I love the ology books that allow you to see and touch spy documents, or spell components, or ancient mysteries. We can provide these too, with modern technology 'realistic' looking documents are only a matter of time (and FontSpace!), we can raid toy boxes and cupboards, and all of those other things you have collected along life's journey. Need a map? Grab an out of date OS map for next to nothing, need to search a suitcase for clues? Well who's to tell you what to do!

Two of my favourite and most simple props are poker chips and dice. In my Danger Patrol game white chips represent Plot Points (Fate Points, Luck Points, call them what you will) and Blue, Red and Black represent levels of injury, very simple and a tactile wy of knowing how a character is doing.

For my kids I also ordered a set of polyhedrals in their favourite colour, they are their dice, and it's nice to know they know where they are at all times (well almost). This was one of the reasons I chose Danger Patrol too, as it utilises all of the dice except the d20, one day I will buy them multiple d6 too but we are enjoying are gaming (when we can) so see no point at present.

This will be the point where I lose people I think, but I find my kids love miniatures. I have allowed them to choose rennaisance/piratical minis and spy-fi/sci-fi ones at present, and they are extremely happy with them. I have yet to paint them but that does not seem to phase them at all. Chuck in some terrain, cardboard, resin or whatever you have and they will respond to the action, in my experience more than when I did a pure 'talk-y' session. And if your first thought is that that seems expensive my kids are equally happy with paper miniatures.

I am planning a post on paper miniatures very soon, so stay tuned for that.

However all of the above is blown away by far by the most important element - setting, which is why I will discuss that in my next post.

Until next time Steve

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Gaming with kids - part one

I thought I would share my thoughts and experiences of gaming with children, that is having players as children, not using them as some sort of miniature.

I'll start off by looking at rules, not specific ones, just a few general guidelines and what to look for from my experience.

I think there are two camps here, one is that with a competent GM the rules make no difference whatsoever. The second camp says that the rules should be simple enough to enable children to understand and play them.

I can see both viewpoints, in the past I have been a great GURPS fan (since I was about 15, give or take). I could easily give my kids a GURPS character and run them through an adventure. I'm sure they'd have a blast but I'm not sure they'd understand all the nuances of a rules heavy game (paticularly the maths which advances quite quickly in Secondary Schools here in the UK).

From the above it is probably clear that I fall into the second camp, that easier rules are better for kids. This may also be aligned with my move towards simpler systems, I'd say not, but you may see a natural bias.

To justify this decision I have the following comments.

First, character creation, a simple character is usually simpler to create (not always though!).

Children in my experience often suffer from analysis paralysis, give them too many choices and they find it really difficult to pick one option. On the other hand you want children to be able to express their ideas and so I find a simple list of skills, templates or archetypes (which includes classes) is often the way to go.

However simple character can also suffer from this paralysis, let's look at Risus.

Risus characters look very simple, usually 4 clichés arranged in the 'classic countdown', lets take Steinhoff as an example:

Northern barbarian of Kodran the Colourful's tribe exiled for flatulence [4]
Wine, women and song [3]
Outdoorsman [2]
Smart ass [1]

Now clearly I've made him as a comic character, but look at the variety of clichés. The first is extremely verbose, and the third and forth simple one/two word phrases.

It is the whole freeform nature of Risus characters that is difficult for those new to role-playing to grasp immediately in any meaningful way. This is why having a small skill list, or relying on an archetype, I believe is the ideal.

As my comparison I suggest Danger Patrol. I'll use the standard rules for now, players should choose a Style and a Role. This gives special abilities and the character's 'peak skill' which is represented with a d12 (all target numbers are 4). Players can then assign the other polyhedral dice to the remaining 7 Roles (that is d10, 2d8, 3d6 and a d4). This is simple enough to be done by anyone but still leaves room for player differentiation.

My second set of observations are on mechanics.

It doesn't always follow that a simple character means simple game mechanics, and I believe that mechanics need to be understandable, for example if everyone knows a static target number then they know whether they are succesful or not, and they can judge the probabilities better.

So, here take D&D, just for the record I have not played D&D since the 80s. D&D characters are fundamentally very simple, basically revolving around a single class (this ignores the added complications introduced later). I would never run D&D for my kids, Armour Classes, To hit modifiers, the whole panoply of thief rolls etc. either fail to make sense or are just complicated.

I can run fast and loose and spit out target numbers, sure, but why should I? Why not start with fast and loose in the first place? Will my kids grok the system whan I am spitting out 'you need a 12 to hit' and moments later 'give me a roll against 67%'? Ultimately I believe this means a simple core that varies little.

This is somewhere that games like Fudge could excel, the whole no numbers required aspect could be an incredible selling point but it seems to have never met this potential and is being overtaken by Fate.

I love Fate, it is very clever, but 3 seems to be adding unecessary complication and stunt based rule twists which seem to serve as things that get forgotten (at least to me).

Maybe at some point I could mould Fudge/Fate into a truly starter friendly version (yeah, like I have that time!).

This again is one of the reasons I picked Danger Patrol. Broken down to its core there exists a static target number of 4. In my adapted version I do away with the whole Danger mechanic, relying solely on the 8 Roles and a new, much simplified, damage mechanic borrowed from Fate 3/Cartoon Action Hour 2.

My next installment will look at that all important factor - fun!

Until next time Steve

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Card based dungeon delving

OK, so I wanted something simple to use for my dungeon delving with Steinhoff/Risus. In fact I didn't really want any choice either so you won't find any multiple exits or t-junctions here just a linear passage from entry to objective or dead end.

It is not very original as it references Ricardo's Fantalonia blog and the THW blog.

OK, you start with a shuffled pack of cards Jokers left in, but one Ace pulled out for now.

Roll 1d6 and put this to one side, this is an indication of the possible size of the dungeon.

Take the d6+2 cards and then add the Ace to the bottom, so if I rolled 3 I would take five cards and the Ace, this is the Dungeon Hand.

Now deal out the top card, if it is a numbered black suit it is a Corridor. Roll another 1d6 and if this exceeds the card's value you need to determine an event. Use whatever system you want for this event. If it is equal to the card value you have encountered a trap. Lower and it is nothing.

If however it was a numbered red card it is a Room, roll another d6 and if it is lower than the card value you have an event, equal is a trap as before and in excess nothing.

If it is a Joker then you have reached a Dead end and cannot continue. This dungeon reveals nothing.

If it is a picture card then you have encountered Stairs, take another d6 cards and put add them at the top of the Dungeon Hand. So I would take another 3 cards, the die remains static.

The picture cards have separate values of Jack 3, Queen 4 and King 5. Black and red as before, so a black King would need a 6 for an event etc.

Finally, you are after Aces, anytime you turn over an Ace you have reached the dungeon's objective, again determined however you  want.

For my part I am using the tables from the Risus Companion for the events and objective, The Random Bad Thing and Adventure Matrix to be precise.

As an added option when you roll the event die, if you get an even number then it is a combat or physical encounter, and if it is odd a mental or social one.

OK, so after the jump is a worked example, using my above options.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Life, the Universe and Everything - March

So what has this month brought?

Not a great deal!

I have gamed a little with my kids, and moved the story on slightly, but restricted time meant not as far as predicted.

I hope to get them back to this, especially as it is the school Easter break from Friday and I have some time off too. In fact ideally I would like to finish this adventure and get them onto another one, I may also try and get them to pick a sci-fi mini too for far future tomfoolery.

I just haven't had the time, energy or inclination to get role-playing this last month, however I did idly come up with a possible, and very simple, dungeon delving card based system.

As I blog from work I will let you know if it works in a couple of weeks, with a post scheduled for next week to show it briefly in action. It is very simple but seems appropriate for a Risus based game.

My aim for the remainder of this and next month is to have some fun! With that in mind I am embarking on a Risus swords & sorcery/dungeon delving adventure with Steinhoff. I am all set I just need the energy from somewhere.

Until next time Steve

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Dungeon Delving

I thought I’d have a go at an RPG dungeon crawl (no time for my miniatures rules yet!), however I just cannot take them seriously so I thought, I know what I’ll use Risus!

Of course none of this fits in the three examples I gave in my last post, but that’s just the way my mind works unfortunately!

I’m going to rely on a ton of random tables, some of which I bashed together for another game, and some available online, I’ll try to post which I use as I go but I’m no means infallible. So without further ado, here’s my character:

Steinhoff the barbarian

Northern barbarian of Kodran the Colourful's tribe banished for flatulence [4]
Wine, women and song [3]
Outdoorsman [2]
Smartass [1]

From the Megaversal Omnigroovy Background machine:

You aren't of this Earth
A new religion or philosophy caught your attention
You took some lessons

A little re-arranging and:

Part of the Northern barbarian tribe of Kodran the Colourful, no-one really knows where I came from, but I was taken in and dubbed Steinhoff. They taught me everything I needed to know about barbarianhood but I wanted to know more, so I secretly took lessons from the tribe's sage. The sage opened me to new experiences and I soon learned of liberal-ism. It was this philosophy, and that maybe you should just let go when you feel the urge, rather than wait until the traditional post drinking game when the element of danger is increased, that caused my downfall. I was feeling bold one day and let out a rip-snorter in front of Kodran, my confidence was misplaced and it only brought me untold shame amongst the warriors, exiled, I now roam the lands looking for mercenary work. With my trusty broadsword, a song in my heart, an eye for the ladies, an unslakable thirst and a dragon-shaped birthmark upon my buttocks, perhaps now I can try and trace my origin.

I start in the City of Doomed Mystery, and my initial goal is from The Adventure Matrix - Ordinary goal: Impress the girl (I decided Steinhoff was too new for a girl, so it is someone else hiring people to impress the girl).

Tools used:
Names courtesy of the Everyone Everywhere List (Viking)
Last cliché courtesy of the Risus Companion (The Last #@!% Cliché Table)
Background courtesy of the Risus Companion (The Megaversal Omnigroovy Background Machine)
Adventure premise courtesy of the Risus Companion (The Adventure Matrix)

Until next time Steve

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Shiny new toy

OK, I just had to post this:

Of course, check out the rest of the brilliant website, it's been so long since I looked at it.

And while you're at it go see Christopher Mills who mentioned it in one of this blogs, he's got so many it's hard which to link to, but I'll choose:

This almost completely changes my view of what game I personally run next!

For your information I was (am?) oscillating between a Risus Star Trek parody, a New Hope City detective (background of 5150) and now a Danger Patrol inspired romp!

Oi, internet, stop showing me things!

Until next time Steve

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Life, the Universe and Everything - February

So, as expected not much to report this month. After resurfacing from January, spending time with my family and catching up with other things has taken its toll.

However, I am now the proud owner of the Original and Voyages Rory's Story Cubes! I have to say I do like them, I have already used them a little, both as an aid to role-playing and as a story generation tool with the kids.

You may have noticed the reference to role-playing in there, and I have actually found the time for a small game with my kids.

We used my Danger Patrol hack for musketeer based action. They are Queen's Musketeers, ladies tasked with the protection of the Queen (historical heresy I know, but do I and they care? Of course not!). Anyway they received a message to meet a stranger in a local inn and were immediately assailed by the Cardinal's Guards. The eldest ran for it, generating some crowds and more guards, while the youngest decided to shoot first and ask questions later! Probably something to do with her miniature holding a pistol.

Anyway a quick scramble to the meeting was made, whereupon they met a young musketter by the name of D'Artangan, who aksed them to dine for a while (Story Cubes in action). He asked them to deliver a message from the Queen to 'The Man with the Purple Feather' in Geneva, along with an innocuous passphrase.

Unfortunately at this stage it was bed time and we haven't managed to get back to it since, despite repeated attempts by them both, but at times where it has not been possible. This isn't quite the end of this adventure!

I've also just finished rationalising all the things I have ever printed out, which was quite a task really. How much can one man need?

So I consider this month a small success, but I sincerely hope with everything now settled there will be many more to come.

Spacejacker kindly commented on my last post about FUBARs 'automatic overwatch' where a unit fails to activate, this is another idea to throw into the mix. Certainly makes more sense than the THW freeze, and a definite consideration. This is another thing that has slid this month, again hopefully better news soon!

Until next time Steve

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Life, the Universe and Everything - January

Yes, this is for January, flu-like symptoms struck me low over the month end, so here it is now.

January is the busiest time of year for me at work, which has left me with little time to properly concentrate on role-playing, despite my recent postings, as most of which have been 'on hold'.

This means that Febraury may be incredibly quiet while I catch up and try to get time to play, this hasn't been helped by a virus, hence the latest of this post.

On a plus side I've agreed with my partner that I get a monthly 'Geek fund'. In the past it's been a case by case basis and it's pretty hard to justify a lot of my expenditure, now it's possibly a little less, but I have free reign and a new streamlined purpose.

I've also managed to enthuse my kids, and I am waiting for the time when we are all free to test out my DP hack (very imminent!).

On the additional plans front I am looking for pirate ship deckplans as the girls have both chosen pirate-y girls and love Pirates of the Caribbean, the trouble is there are so many!

I am currently looking at 0 hrs Ships, Lord Zsezes Pirate/Ghost ship, and GameScapes Pirate Islands. I have of course the Ron Shirtz tiles free from Ye Olde Inn, THE best resource for the Milton Bradley boardgame Heroquest, but I need ships large and small to attack and defend, so if I've missed something terrific let me know.

I am also going to try and find time to try out my solo dungeon delving/minis rules. Really it should be a case of bringing everything together, and as I do so I'll try and release documents to support the whole lot. Not sure where to host them, or where to get the time to bring them together, but I really hope to.

The biggest problem I currently face with them is activation rolls. I don't know if they will add or subtract from the game, I'd like variable initiative but wholesale freezes I'm not sure about, something to ponder on and try out.

As always I have things in the pipeline that I hope to reveal this month, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Until next time Steve

Monday, 21 January 2013

Mods and Rockers

So here's where I'll detail the changes to my RPG rules.

I'll start with Fate 2.0, which is my heavier system.

First up is the Fate Ladder, I don't like Average and Epic. So take them out and add in Very Good (before Great if you're wondering). Mediocre and below is pushed up one to 0 (if you use the numbers), it meaning Average after all.

Next up the damage mechanics and here despite my misgivings over the complexity of Fate 3 I am going to steal Consequences.

I guess you could say these are the same as FU's Conditions, but I'll stick with the Fate nomenclature.

My new damage track looks like:

1 Minor Consequence

2-3 Major Consequence

4-5 Severe Consequence

6 Extreme Consequence

7 Taken out

I'll stick with 3 Consequences to also take someone out too.

Finally, I want to add in Damage Dice, this system uses the Simple weapons and armour rules. Start with your weapon rating then deduct the armour rating for a positive or negative amount, or 0.

If positive roll the positive number of dice counting and adding blanks and + results to the damage/margin of success.

If negative the opposite, roll the neagtive number of dice and deduct 1 margin of success for each blank or - result.

Here's an example:

Mario faces Luigi, both armed with swords (WR 2) and Mario in heavy armour (AR 3), Luigi in no armour (AR 0).

Mario hits with a margin of success of 1 he now rolls 2 (WR - AR) Fudge dice for + - adding 1 additional margin of success. On my chart this is a Major Consequence.

Luigi now hits with margin of success of 3 he has to roll (2-3) 1 'armour' dice getting Blank and thereby reducing damage by 1 to 2 and another Major Consequence.

I like this because it adds a random element to damage that is missing from Fate 2.0 as written but still favours skilled opponents.

Next up Danger Patrol beta for the kids

First I want to keep the very simple 8 'Classes' modified for the genre (Agent, Commando etc.), and the die split.

I will then let them choose a Description, but it can be pretty much anything. So a Robotic Detective and a Princess Agent are equally valid. The Description will act like an Aspect in Fate, so granting a re-roll (or probably complete success, this is for my girls after all), or possibly an additional die, a little bit hazy here for the moment.

Gear/Equipment will operate the same as Danger Patrol Pocket, another die to roll when it is applicable, taking the highest result.

As I am changing it to a more traditional RPG format I am only looking for one success per roll, on a 4+ as usual. I'm not looking for taking Danger Dice and trying to hit as many times as possible in one roll.

I am currently undecided but could add the FU failure scale for 1 to 3 die results it would be an interesting addition, it also may help to alleviate the Yes/No 'cliff face' while helping the narrative, as it does in FU.

I want, and need with the girls, to use minis too so I will borrow from Fate 3 and operate in Zones. Allowing a character to move one Zone per turn and two if they don't act. This can be a bit arbitrary and is fine with me, but roughly:

Quarterdeck, foc'sle, small room, alleyway say, one zone.

Main deck, market square, large room two zones, maybe more.

Of course by throwing out the Danger mechanic I am also doing away with the Danger Meter. This means I could stat up opponents so they operate as 'normal' NPCs, but could also 'do an FU' and turn it into rolling defensively (i.e. do I defend?) I'll wait and see, but this is no big deal.

It also means I need a new damage system, so why not use 3 Conditions/Consequences here too? Well, there's no good reason! So that's in.

FU, simple, elegant system it is requires no fiddling, except as with Fate a 'skill list'. I have got so used to Danger Patrol that I now use those 8 Archetypes/Classes/Skills (as modified for genre) for pretty much everything, including the skill levels in Fate (1 Very good, 1 Good, 2 Fair, 3 Mediocre, 1 Poor). For FU it is descriptor, Skill, Skill, Flawed skill with rounding out with Subplots, Goals and Quotes.

Is that it? As far as I recall now. I'll let you know how they play out as and when I get to them.

Until next time Steve

Friday, 18 January 2013

Game for a laugh

To start I am pondering activation rolls for my minis rules. Good idea or not? I can't decide so I thought I'd throw it open to my readers.

On the one hand it adds an element of randomness, a realism of people being frozen/green.

On the other, one character running round while everyone stands still is a bit silly?

So the mini rules are going to be the biggest challenge, everything else is going to be pretty much as written (yeah right!), but what are my choices?

Light RPG

I have a wealth of light games, as I get older the heavier styles just don't do it for me anymore, so this is a very tough category. Of course my definition of light is probably very different to other peoples, but well, this is my blog right?

Winner: FU, or the Free, Universal RPG. This is probably no surprise at all, it is elegant, narrative, and light enough to have the rules written on the back of your hand.

Hanging on: Risus, this is probably just because of the Compendium, one of the best products I have ever bought. If I need something funny this will be coming out.

Also rans: Car Wars (would use something similar for gamebooks though), Cosmic Patrol, Danger Patrol (all versions), Mythic (as the RPG), Barbarians of Lemuria and Honor + Intrigue.

Heavier game

Again somewhat abitrary, but hey.

Winner: Fate 2.0

I have never been happy with Fate 3, just too many rules, what with stunts, refresh, scene aspects etc. It all just seems too much. So the stripped down 2.0 version it is. I will modify the damage mechanic to make it simpler though. On another level it means I will still be able to use my Fudge dice!

Also rans: Fudge (Fate is cleaner), Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2, Savage Worlds, Icons, D6/Mini6, GURPS, Pendragon and everything else!

Kids RPG

Something simple, with funky dice, well:

Winner: Danger Patrol (Beta)

It just had to be. I will pare it down though, replace the damage mechanics again and probably some others things too.

Also rans: FU (too light for kids), Risus (although see above re funny games), DP Pocket Edition (needed those funky dice!) and all the above!

So now the games in my arsenal are:

Free, Universal RPG

Fate 2.0 modified

Danger Patrol beta heavily modified

Risus for humourous games

Advanced Heroquest for minis games and dungeon crawls, heavily modified

FU/Mythic combination for solo-ing

I think that's a neat list of distilled gaming.

Until next time Steve

Monday, 14 January 2013

Mini choices

So I have unsurprisingly decided that I will use the Advanced Heroquest rules as the basis for my miniatures games. It uses d12s and has an elegant vs style of play, where effectively Defender skill-Attacker skill+7 gives your 'to hit' chance on a d12.

This is much simpler than it sounds! Basically evenly matched opponents have a 50/50 chance and 'to hit' goes up or down by one for each point of difference.

Damage wise I am going to dump the standard AHQ rules and import something similar to 5150 with Savage Worlds thrown in for good measure.

I'm going to use a damage chart. Along the top the difference in Strength and Toughness, down the side the numbers 1 to 12. Roll a d12, read across to the relevant column et voila, Unhurt, Knocked down or Taken out (or per SW Up, Down or Off the table).

I'm thinking of allowing Wounds to be taken in exchange for Taken out, for those miniatures that have them. However I have been reading some interesting posts on Danjou's Hand blog about random HP and thought I could simply replace it with a 'Saving throw' style mechanic. Hmm, food for thought.

So unfortunately this is still work in progress, but a step forward!

OK, what else? Well I'm going to use PEF-style rules, they are too good to pass up, with a little twist so that they can apply to any game setting (hopefully!).

I'm going to try and use the three statuses of The Department, these seem simple and make sense (well I will try and make them simple anyway).

I'm also going to go for card based exploration. I can make appropriate cards for the Advanced Heroquest interlocking pieces with the excellent Heroscribe program, which I want to share with the small AHQ community somewhere. I can also draw up some cards for my other mapping products and games like Urban 5150 style games, my village maps from Cities of Mystery, and well just about anything else.

Before I jump down that route completely however I will use a standard playing card pack(s) and key the results, this should give me an idea of how well it works before I make up my own cards.

Finally I need to consider activation. This plays a large part in THW's games, but does complicate it a bit, do I want that hassle?

So there you have it a bit to mull over, but definitely not to procrastinate about.

Until next time Steve