Monday, 29 December 2008

Miniatures and D&D - a few game sessions

So I got asked by a commenter recently if I was still using the Heroscape tiles for combat with Labyrinth Lords and the answer is that yes, I am. They have been a tremendous asset for building outdoor battlescapes. I had inserted a small wilderness adventure to break up all the dungeon crawling that the party were doing and now they've been exploring so much of the wilderness the balance has swung the other way, so they have been a very valuable asset. Last night, we played another session and I took some more photos so you can see how useful they can be...

This is a battle at the edge of the Monrag Swamp, a dangerous place. It is against wild boars, but alas I do not have miniatures for these enemies yet and so had to use my giant rat ones - slightly odd but it kind of worked. The mat underneath is a Lexan water terrain map, ideal for the wet terrain type were simulating. The party lost two characters in this battle; they had no idea that wild boars were 3HD creatures and were not afraid of facing five of them. They deployed badly too and I exploited that weakness - a combination of me going for the front of their wagon (a model they have built themselves!) and the water terrain ending their movement meant they were unable to bring their toughest (fourth level characters) to the front to save their beseiged weaker party members in time.

This is a shot of a battle at the edge of a graveyard. The underlying mat does line up but we set up the battle in haste and its slightly off in the photo. The ruined walls also come from the Heroscape game. This battle went very well for the party; the 4th level cleric rebuked the undead causing most of the skeletons to cower in fear of his dark god. There was an amusing moment where one of the skeletons fumbled (and drawing a card from the critical fumble deck) we discovered he had become blinded; he must have somehow got mud into his empty eye sockets and spent the rest of the battle wandering around like a drunken idiot until its eventual demise.

This last image shows a much smaller battlefield and was a combat that occured because the party had got wind that there was something nasty in a nearby cave and so dug a pit trap then hid and waited for something to fall into it. Something did indeed - a ghoul and the pit trap killed it. So they were resetting their trap, when out of the cave two more ghouls shambled, taking them by surprise. The area on the right is the cave entrance. Notice how the Heroscape hexes stack on top of each other very well, allowing you to create high and low areas with ease. This was a major factor in why I picked the game up to try them out - increased height complicates the battlefield and allows for more tactics in battles. In short, I think it spices up the combats. The party did very well in this encounter; one character got paralysed but the ghouls were quickly cut to ribbons.

The hexes have proved very flexible and are popular within the group so we are going to continue to use these hexes in all outdoor and wilderness encounters . The extra tactical considerations are great for fighter types and also for weapon selection (e.g. weapons can have reach and some weapons can power swing).

Monday, 22 December 2008

Running an evil campaign

Right from the start, Mike wanted his characters to be chaotic. Back then, we used a random dungeon generator from the net, as I had no modules for preparation, and it named the dungeon the something or other of the Malevolent Malice. One of the rooms it generated was clearly a shrine of some sort.

The next session, Ben joined us and rolled some characters up. As Mike had found this shrine, we concluded the session and said that he had cleared out a temple of an old evil god that had been overrun and that his clerics worshipped it and it was the religion of the village they were from. That was how the Malevolent Malice was born and helped to tie together all of the loose disparate parts of what had happened and why his characters were chaotic.

A number of adventures later, which are fairly standard stuff in that the characters had might as well be good and not evil, and I'm reminding them that chaotic characters dont put themselves in harms way to save others, even if they are friends or companions. Theres a discussion about whether their characters should kill everyone in a village, as the characters are evil after all, to get some artefacts back for the High Priestess, that have been stolen. We leave that session with me stating that if they do, karma can be a bitch.

Which left me with a bit of quandary. The characters are all chaotic. Its perfectly reasonable for them to leave a trail of slaughter and destruction wherever they go. In the game sessions we had played, we hadn't played up the evil part of the characters at all. Giving it some thought, I decided, evil is the reverse of the coin and what are the reverse of the usual monster lot they fight? It would be good races such as men and elves and fairy folk. Sure, they can fight evil too (and they will be doign), but its not to get rid of it *because* its evil, it would be because it threatens them in some way. They would fight good *because* it is good. An interesting thought, I think.

The game session last night had the first truly evil act occur in it. They were responsible for the demise of one of the Angels of the West, a protector of the land. In the process, they have made enemies with the Druids that serve them. An evil themed campaign could be quite fun I think. It would really be all about power. They don't know it yet, but they are going to be rubbing out the guardians one by one til the Malevolent Malice is in a position to build an army to take on the Free Peoples. If they are successful, the game world will be a much, much nastier place. Maybe after that, they could roll up some good characters to try and put the mess right. But thats a long way off, the characters vary in level from 1-4 at the moment. This is going to be a very different kind of campaign.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Experimenting with miniatures

Over the past two gamer sessions with Labyrinth Lord, we've been experimenting with using miniatures in the combats as the players expressed an interest in trying this out. I did some extensive looking into what options are out there for the week before and since the adventure the party were about to start was a wilderness based one (the first they have ever done) my focus was on outdoor battles.

My findings included printing out battle maps from PDF's, paper and card based maps that are pre-printed, battle maps that you can write on with marker pens and then erase afterwards and finally interlocking hex tiles from a game called Heroscape. I settled on this option and ordered the game, then pilfered the pieces from it. I particularly liked the Heroscape solution because the hexes also stack on top of each other to give height which then creates extra tactical considerations involving higher ground.

I picked up some trees from eBay too for obstacles then hunted around to find whatever miniatures I still had from back when I was at school and found very, very few, a real rag tag odd bunch - mostly hero types - and decided I needed to look at getting some more. Miniatures have sure got expensive. I don't remember them being this expensive. So I ended up buying some counter packs which work out much, much cheaper, for enemies and getting a dozen wolves and six frogs. The wolves were for an encounter in a forest and the giant frogs for one in a swamp.

The first gaming session went ok but we had some trouble adjusting what was once entirely in our heads into a more rigid and well defined ruleset (mostly house rules) and I was left unsure, but the second session went much better and we started to flow with it and become more inventive with the descriptions of what was going on and solutions to problems. So the second session became more like how we used to play; but everyone could see where everything ones. I also played to one of this style of handling combat's strengths - larger, more epic fights.

Here is the setup from the battle to take of the Frogman King and his Fishmen, which the party decided to do for a bunch of witches in the swamp so they could stay the night in their house...

As you can see, the counters are for the enemies and there is a lot of them. We wouldnt have been able to track that many enemies without using miniatures, so it definitely has its place and I think we'll continue to use them. The party won the fight - in an amusing moment, the Frogman King was knocked backwards off his lofty pedestal by a slight bullet and ended up in the water with an almighty splash - although it was a pretty close fight for them.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The evolution of the desktop

Been a while since I did a tech related post but I spotted an interesting news story that I thought I would share with you... a new OS called Good OS that lets users boot into a web browser and run pretty much every day tasks without loading up windows.

I see this as being the logical next step.

The desktop paradigm made sense when we all used floppy disks to move data from point to point and we needed big bulky programs on our machines to get stuff done. Now, however, we can get a hell of a lot of that same stuff done using a web browser (and often free) online services. So the desktop has reached out and embraced the web; but how long before we no longer need the desktop with its multi gigabytes of garbage, I wonder, and just have a thin layor that takes us straight to the web. Of course, you have to nail privacy and security issues, but say you do and you may well be looking at the future of computing. I already use the web for my email, documents and so forth. Now if only my dev tools ran online... ;-)

Continuous initiative example

About my Continuous Initiative house rule post, a commenter asked...

I'm intrigued, but having a really difficult time envisioning how this works. Can you post an example?

So I figured why not, lets post an example of how this works and how it benefits lightly armoured characters using three household fantasy characters - Gandalf, Gimli and erm Jeffry.

My scanner is currently out of commission so I cant show you the chart I drew, but imagine the below list of 'phases' draw into a sort of square with arrows connecting them to show a clockwise direction and you will have what I used in the game session.

Anyway, here is a quick example, between three combatants.

Gandalf the grey has no armour (G) and for some reason has forgotten his magic staff today and is instead using a dagger (G). This puts him in the GOLD category.

Gimli the Dwarf is wearing chainmail (S) and wielding a handaxe (S). This puts him in the SILVER category.

Jeffry the Uruk Hai is wearing platemail (ST) and wielding a scimitar (B). Steel is the lowest band he is in, as it is the closest to copper, so it determines that his initiative band is STEEL.

Recalling that the phase order is:

Combat would go like this...
G = Gandalf can act
S = Gimli can act
B = No one, skip it
St = Jeffry can act
C = No one, skip it
G = Gandalf
S = Gimli
B =
G = Gandalf [so fast he acted twice before Jeffry could act!]
St = Jeffry
S = Gimli
C =
G = Gandalf
B =
S = Gimli [now even Gimli has got an extra action in over Jeffry!]
G = Gandalf [and not to be outdone, so does Gandalf!]
B =
S = Gimli [three!]
G = Gandalf [three!]
St = Jeffry
C =
B =
G = Gandalf
S = Gimli
St = Jeffry
[Start sequence again.]

Towards the end there, the benefits of continuous initiative really come into play for both Gandalf and Gimli. That's if they've survived that long into the combat, of course, as light armour means they can be hit easily as per the normal rules. Also, remember that two opportunities to hit a highly armoured low AC character are not the same as two opportunities to hit a lightly armoured one, in the first case two hits are unlikely whereas in the second, two hits are very likely.