Monday, 19 January 2009

Combining miniatures and roleplay

When you use miniatures with roleplay game you take something out of the imagination and give it a solid, unchanging form - a battlefield with representations of the heroes and monsters on it that you can see and touch. When they exist only in your head and the heads of other players, they can truly be as as magical and monstrous as anything words can evoke. So why would anyone really wish to try using miniatures and what is effectively a board, for battles?

There are many advantageous to using miniatures to help resolve combat. You can use tactics on the battlefield (great for fighter types) when you can see exactly where everyone, and every terrain feature is. You can quickly resolve issues of who can do what and where - in other words, the positions, facings and obstacles are all very tightly defined. In some way ways, tightly defining these elements would seem to be anathema to the tension and resolution of using dramatic narrative alone - on the surface at least.

A battle from our last game session where the party fought a gigantic python that snaked out of a well and attempted to eat them (the enemy is in the centre of the pic).

One way around this is to try and bring some of the roleplaying narrative elements back into the game again, while still leveraging the strengths using miniatures for resolving combat. To encourage this with my players, I have started offering 5 experience points for describing an action. I vary the amount based on how good and dramatic the description was. This has been having the desired effect - the players pretty much describe everything now! Sometimes the players jump in to help each other out or expand on each other's descriptions. Of course, I describe the actions of the enemies too and the effects of the character's actions on them.

This has proven to be a great way to get some of the roleplaying back into combat that uses miniatures and combines the strengths of both ways of resolving combats.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Healing in an evil campaign

Running a campaign where the party is evil throws up all sorts of problems, many of which are ethical. Evil isn't just diametrically opposed to good, its also extremely destructive. As a DM this is very hard to deal with and design a campaign for such that the characters do not destroy everything in the campaign and its also a challenge to set things up so that the players do not desire to wreck everything in the first place. Evil for its own sake is no good; it needs a purpose. See my previous post about running an evil campaign.

Evil also presents a challenge to the players too. Evil clerics may only cast the reverse of their spells that are reversible. So they are denied the use of all healing spells as a consequence and must instead use the spells which cause harm to their opponents. Bless and light are also not granted to them, they may only curse and create areas of darkness, putrify food and drink not purify it and so on.

Not being able to get instant access to healing causes lots of problems for my gaming group. They run from combats which they think may cause them issues and even flee in the middle of combat (well, fighting withdrawals to more tactically advantageous areas or get most of the party out of the dungeon while the highest level character holds the enemy off - this one happened with a fight against lizard folk in a cave). Its quite surprising for me when I know they can win the encounter but they're not so sure and so try and avoid it.

No healing means they have to return to town and pay the local temple, or get some rest, to recharge their hitpoints. In my game, rest recovers 2 hitpoints per day. It's purposefully slow to reflect that injuries do not heal over night. This means the party does tend to rest for a few days after a heavy encounter that has damaged the party (we have eight characters in the party). The party also stocks up on healing potions in towns, although these are quite hard to find in shops, there's an alchemist in one of the villagers who sells them and the thief can tap the black market and his contacts to get hold of them (an ability he gets at third level as a house rule).

There are some more mundane items that the players can use to help with the healing process too. I allow them to buy and apply bandages to a wound. A bandage can be applied after a battle to a wounded character and will recover one hitpoint, applying multiple bandages per battle has no effect. Bandages cost two gold pieces each. There's also a soothing ointment they can pick up from a shop in one of the villages (Oilly Olly's - he sells oil, acid, oil that burns for longer and such things) which they can apply to their injuries before rest to regain one extra hitpoint during the night.

Healing will always be an issue for an evil party but these extra items help alleviate the problem a little without taking away this weakness so feel free to use them in your own campaigns if you wish. Evil parties are supposed to have these problems but giving players some extra options is something they will like.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

When Gods walked the land

Wouldn't it be fun if you dropped a god into your campaign world with his own agenda and just ran it as a subplot? That's what I'm going to be doing.

In my game-world, Tharg is a kind of Norse god of battle equivalent; the god of war. He's going to pop up somewhere in the lands to the south and start calling those Free People with fire in the their veins to him to form a vast army, and then he's going to attempt to crush the Great Hoarde into dust.

The players will learn about this as rumours in taverns and so on - "a man is gathering an army to him in the deep south!", "there is a rumour that Tharg himself is walking the land, preparing for a Great War" until one day they bump into a man who works for a man who works for someone else who is claims to be working for Tharg himself, bearing a message: Stand beside the God of War and make bloody battle with him against his enemies.

This will be completely and utterly optional. Its likely the party will have too many quests and obligations to do this, but I don't mind if they decide to join his army and swear fealty to him to participate in an epic battle featuring hundreds of thousands of warriors.

If they don't, they will hear how the great war goes as it happens. They learn through rumour whether the great lord of war defeats his equal and opposite in single combat while his huge army battles the great hoard in a valley stained with blood. I'm sure it will add spice to the campaign and will help the players realise they are not the centre of everything that happens...