Friday, January 31, 2014

Mystery minis

Any idea what line or  manufacturer these miniatures are from?  The two big ones are metal, while the smaller, lighter-colored one is plastic.

Several years ago, I received a box of 1/285 and 1/300 vehicles and infantry that included these castings.  They're suitable scale for OGRE or Battletech or MAATAC, but I don't think these minis go with any of those games.  Do they ring a bell with you?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Remember when this was about spaceships?

It's been more than a month since I blogged about gaming with starships; longer since I've actually played a set of rules involving flying things that go pew-pew-pew.

Anyway, here's a Carnivoran Polecat-class supergalactic dreadnought that I just painted.
Not the best photo, but it's something space-related.  I need to try to get some spaceship combat going in the near future.  Don't worry, I'll blog about it when I do

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Trying out Warmachine

I had a chance to play Warmachine last weekend.  For those of you (like me) unfamiliar with this game, it's a skirmish game set in a magical/steampunk world.  You have your warcasters, which throw spells, and your warjacks, which are big and smashy.  There are also rules for regular warrior-types.
Kerstan, who lives nearby, had a few of us over to play Warmachine and loaned me a force to use against Joe, another local gamer.
I'd never played the game before, and I had a good time.  While it took me awhile to pick up the rules, the combat was pretty straightforward.  Spell effects were simple, but taking advantage of the synergies between various spells and models took a little more time.
My game ended with  my caster struck down, but it was a close contest.  If I had rolled a little better on one or two of my attacks on my previous turn, it might have had a different outcome.  After our game, we watched our host play against another gamer, Stephen.  It was fun watching them play, and everyone got a kick out of a misread of the "Lamentation" spell as "Lamination."  Some jokes about the battlefield being coated in plastic, and an entertaining Saturday afternoon.  I will have to play this game again.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Critical hits in OGRE

As originally written, OGRE is a game of attrition: You have to wear down the oncoming cybertank piece-by-piece before it reaches its objective.  Unlike traditional tank games, there's no stopping the looming behemoth with a single shot, at least in the official rules.

And this makes sense: If you can take out the OGRE with a single thought, there's no deciding whether you should spend your attacks on the treads to slow the juggernaut down or use all your shots to target the guns and declaw the beast; it's just an exercise in rolling dice till it'd dead.

Still, in big games with multiple OGREs, a critical hit rule can add some excitement to the game: while it's an all-or-nothing shot at the cybertank, it's not an all-or-nothing roll to end the game.

I've found two different ways to resolve critical hits on OGREs; both are on the SJG website:
  • The Golden BB: Roll three dice to beat a target number based on combined attack strength (the higher the attack strength, the lower the roll needed), if you fail, the OGRE's not affected.  The attack roll gets a bonus against smaller OGREs, a penalty against larger ones.
  • Poor Bloody Infantry: Roll attacks against the OGRE as a whole--but the OGRE has a large defensive strength (double digits for all except the Mark I).  If you do get a hit, you still might have to roll a d6 to see if you knocked out weapons, or movement, or killed it, and there's a chance it's undamaged.
Myself, I'd like to see a combination of the two rules: Attacking units can combine their fire, and the higher their combined attack strength, the likelier they are to score a critical hit.  But even if they do, they still must roll to see if they damaged it permanently or temporarily, or at all. 

That should provide some tough decisions for players: wear down the OGRE a little at a time as usual, or risk everything for a chance to take it out all at once.  Which would you choose?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons & birthdays

So the OSR section of the blogosphere has come to the consensus that today marks the 40th anniversary of when Dungeons & Dragons first hit the market (based on this detailed research from the author of a history of roleplaying games called Playing at the World). 

Sounds good to me. And while a lot of old-school D&D players associate the game with the original white box, for me D&D will always be linked to the first basic set, edited by J. Eric Holmes.  That was my first roleplaying game, and I got it on my birthday, which is also in January.
My parents bought me D&D after hearing me blather on about it for weeks, since I first heard about it from friends.  This version had been out for several years, and it came with dungeon module B2 Keep on the Borderlands and numbered chits instead of dice.  I raided the family's Risk box for six-siders to roll up characters, and soon after, I had my bemused parents and brother at the table, taking them through an adventure for an evening, the first (and only) time we all played D&D together.

That box and that rulebook are long lost--the container was flattened and thrown away, and I cut up my original blue book to place the sample dungeon in a folder with adventures pulled out of various issues of The Dragon--but this version of the game will always be my favorite.  I've since replaced the boxed set with a used earlier printing acquired for ten bucks at a hobby shop (which also contained three original D&D supplements and Swords & Spells) and even found a couple more copies of the blue book in used bookstores.

And after months of thinking about it and weeks of preparation, a couple of weeks ago, I brought to my table a half-dozen players to go through a dungeon I created, going (mostly) with the Holmes rules as written.  Now, the game I got as a birthday present more than thirty years ago is celebrating a milestone of its own. 

Happy 40th, D&D, and here's to many more!

Gnoll what I'm talkin about

In my recent session of old-school Dungeons & Dragons, the adventurers came across a wounded gnoll.  I have a ton of prepainted minis that I'm using for the game (mostly from Heroscape), including orcs, goblins, and bugbears, but digging through the container, I couldn't find an actual gnoll. 

I proxied him with no problem, but I was on the lookout for a gnoll mini when I hit the game stores last weekend.  Reaper has a gnoll mini in its Bones line, but that figure was huge even compared to other heroic 28-30mm minis, so I passed on it.  Later, when I  came across these Mage Knight gnolls on eBay for a cheap price, I went ahead and grabbed them.  It was a good deal--and after all, that wounded gnoll may have friends.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Back to the Blue Book: part 3

After retreating from a group of elves that outnumbered them, the adventurers travelled through several web-filled rooms, eventually encountering and dispatching a large spider. 
Soon after, they entered another chamber filled with cobwebs, a room which also held an oversized arachnid. 
The eight-legged beast fell upon the group.  Rolling for its target randomly, the arachnid fell upon Abe's thief.  The bite of these creatures does just one point of damage, but that was the apprentice's total hit points!  With the thief brought to 0 hp, I house ruled that he was unconscious, but not dead.  Still, large spiders have weak venom (save at +2), so I told the player to roll a d20. 

Abe failed the save, and so the thief succumbed to the spider venom.  The party vacated the dungeon at this point, hoping to bring their companion back to health, but he died from the poison as they were discussing whether to undergo a quest from the priest in exchange for helping their friend.

I told Abe to roll up another character, which took about 60 seconds.  This time around, he had much better stats--two 16s and a 14--but once again rolled a 1 for hit points.  However, his 16 constitution let him add another hp to his total, for a whopping two hit points.  So the party gained a second cleric, named Yellow after the way the miniature was painted.

Returning to the dungeon, the party heard a noise behind a door.  Entering the room, they found a wounded gnoll.  In Holmes, all elves speak the language of the hyena-men, so Chris's character was able to converse with the injured creature.  He said he was wounded by a group of gnomes to the southwest, and offered to lead the party there (along with the handful of coins in his possession) in exchange for mercy.

As the gnoll led the adventurers south down a long hallway, they heard beautiful music coming from behind them.  Three of the characters failed their saves and were enchanted to walk toward the source of the heavenly notes.  The rest of the party followed them, and saw a tall, winged woman gesturing to join her.  The quick-thinking elf threw a sleep spell that silenced the music but also dropped the three party members.  Luckily, the winged woman-bird creature was alone, so the adventurers dispatched their foe (who was wearing a diamond filigree necklace) and woke their companions.

The captive gnoll took advantage of the battle and was nowhere to be found.  The adventurers headed back down the corridor the way the gnoll had been leading them, when they came across two men wearing armor and black cloaks.  Thanks to a decent reaction roll, the party was able to parley with the strangers, who told them of gnomes to the southwest and goblins to the east.  They also knew about the witch, who they said liked having others do her work.

At that point, one of the players had to leave, so I handwaived the journey out of the dungeon and told them the jewelry was worth 1,100 gold pieces.  The players were happy with their initial forays, and I was happy I managed to keep track of everything I needed to as the dungeon master (which I had been worried about going into the session).  To give you an idea of what the players explored, here's the map John drew during their time underground:
We'll see what the adventurers can add to this when I host another game sometime in February.  I hope everyone can make it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Back to the Blue Book: part 2

After years of absence, and months of flirting with the idea, I had six gamers at my house to play Dungeons & Dragons using the rules I started with, the Holmes basic set. 

There was Mark (the Painted Thumb), whom I know from Lone Star Historical Miniatures; John, also from LSHM; his friend Abe; Chris, the DM and author of the Hill Cantons; Coach K, who's run some great movie-based games at GuadaComaCon; and Rickey, who played HotT for the first time at Millenniumcon and placed third in the tournament.

In going old-school, I decided I wanted to use my own design, not something that had already been published for the game.  I decided to go with the tried-and-true "dungeons beneath a wizard's tower" approach.  I came up with a name (the tower of the sorcerer Nossira Kam), but ended up not telling the players, since it didn't really matter.  The important thing was that there was a dungeon filled with loot!

Over the course of a few weeks, I mapped out the first three levels of the dungeon, and while I had monsters picked for each map, I had only detailed the first level (which took longer than I thought it would).  The second level  had the monsters placed, but no treasures, dungeon dressing or other details.  The third didn't even have the monsters located.  I hoped my players wouldn't find any stairs going down!
I had planned on having the players roll up characters right before starting, like we did back in the day, but a few people were anxious to get started and had already generated their PCs.  No big deal, and the others quickly rolled the dice and filled out their character sheets.  They ended up with the following group, all first level:
  • Arconus, a cleric (John)
  • Crescentius, a fighter (Mark)
  • Fred, a fighter (Coach K)
  • Colnis, a fighter (Rickey)
  • Jane, a thief (Abe)
  • Evaro IV, an elf (Chris)
I gave them the option of either buying their equipment from the list in the book one item at a time or choosing an equipment pack as compiled by Zenopus Archives.  Once they had their gear, they descended into the dungeon.  The open book (with a quill in an inkwell) at the bottom of the steps puzzled them for a few minutes, as they debated whether to sign it.  Several of them did leave their mark, with no obvious ill effects, and they decided to stick to left turns.  The first room they encountered had a skeleton on the floor; when they entered it stood and attacked.  The group easily defeated it, finding an iron key around its neck.

Exploration continued--another skeleton (with a brass key), a warning scrawled on a wall ("Beware of the Witch!") near a normal-looking frog, stirges, miscellaneous junk--until Chris's elf found a secret door.  They opened it and traced a wire leading from the hidden portal to a conventional door.  As they entered the second room, they encountered a group of four elves, who asked the adventurers their business (I rolled on the reaction table and the result was "uncertain").  As the group responded, another quartet of elves came in from a different door to back up the first set.  Rolling again got a hostile response (but not an attack), so the eight elves told the characters to leave.  The players wisely decided to retreat.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Calling in a nuke

I picked up this "Nuke Blast Marker, Small" from Litko Game Accessories on clearance at a local game store.  It will come in handy to mark the detonation point of cruise missiles in games of OGRE/GEV.
This plastic marker pretty much covers a single hex on the OGRE and GEV maps.  Perfect, because in the game, a cruise missile destroys the entire hex it detonates in, and destroys or damages other units (and even terrain) according to the distance from the blast.  So when one of these weapons goes off, I can place the blast marker and count the hexes to see what else gets vaporized.
Since this token is assembled from flat components, just like the 3-D units that come in the OGRE Designer's Edition, it fits right in with elements from the game.  One thing, though: OGREs are tough, and while a near-miss will knock one around a bit and do some damage, it takes a direct hit from a cruise missile to take out the cybertank for sure.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Back to the Blue Book: part 1

For years I've been thinking about how great it would be to run a game of D&D.  And not just your generic, rules-lite adventure based loosely on the d20 system, but old-school, by-the-book Dungeons & Dragons, using the rules that got me started in this hobby: the Holmes basic set. 
I got the game as a birthday gift when I was in junior high.  I only ran a couple of games with the Holmes book, mainly involving my younger brother, before acquiring the various Advanced D&D rulebooks and getting involved in games with my friends using those rules.  The blue book lay dormant beneath a pile of old comic books.  I eventually took scissors to it (sacrilege!) so I could add the sample dungeon to a folder containing adventures pulled from the pages of The Dragon magazine.  I went on to other games, then drifted away from the hobby after college, other than playing fan-created designs for the AD&D computer game Unlimited Adventures.

But after years away from tabletop gaming, followed by more years of lurking on Dragonsfoot and reading about the Old School Renaissance, I  slowly got back into the RPG groove.  I joined a tabletop campaign in the Hill Cantons and started posting on various old-school forums.  But I hadn't actually sat behind the DM screen in probably thirty years.  Holmes was on my mind. 

I was reading the message boards devoted to the blue book on Dragonsfoot and Original D&D Discussion.  I scoured the Zenopus Archives for more knowledge on my favorite flavor of D&D.

I'd been obsessing over minutia and putting a microscope to the wording in the Holmes rulebook.  I'd even developed brand-new wandering monster charts for a set of rules I hadn't played in decades.  For months I'd been mentioning to fellow gamers that I wanted to run a game using that old blue book.  Over the past few weeks, I'd even drawn maps of three dungeon levels and written up encounters for the complex.

Finally, I put my money where my mouth is and announced that I would be running a game on Saturday.  I told them up front this would be an old-school dungeon crawl: stats rolled 3d6 in order, starting at first level, combat goes by order of your Dexterity score.

I emailed several people, hoping I'd get two or three--four if I was lucky--to show up.  Six people came to play. 

With half a dozen players sitting at my table, I had one question for myself: Would they have any fun?

Friday, January 10, 2014

HotT AAR: Space Invaders vs. Tyranids

My inaugural game for my Space Invaders army for Hordes of the Things was against a brand-new HotT player last week.  He brought a case full of Tyranids he uses for Warhammer 40,000, and I provided some stands for him to base his army. 
I ended up defending, so I got to use my stronghold.  I get a kick out of that little model of the arcade game.
I helped him come up with a force that included a Magician General (Hive Tyrant), Artillery (some kind of big, shooty 'Nid), two Knights (big critters with long claws), six Blades (Genestealers) and one Horde (Tyranids).
The game took quite awhile to finish, as his knights tore through my hordes of Space Invaders, and they reappeared at my stronghold.  The knights eventually made it to my base, but the Invaders kept repelling the onslaughts.
I tried to get my Airboat General (the saucer) to take on the enemy Magician General (with a little help from my Sneakers), but I was unable to defeat it. Eventually, my stronghold fell to an unsupported element of Knights.
The game went down to the wire, ensuring a good time for both the veteran and the rookie.  I gave him the spare bases he was using, so he could permanently, affix his minis to the stands.  I think we have a new HotT convert!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

As the planet completes another revolution about its primary star, we here at Super Galactic Dreadnought wish everyone a Happy New Year.  May you have a harmonious and prosperous 2014 that includes lots of gaming with your preferred rules and miniatures.