Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pathfinder Group - Epic Battle with Dragons!

Well, we just got done completing the final session of the summer Pathfinder group's campaign and it ended with a huge dragon battle.  This wasn't particularly surprising, since the group had discovered just prior to my stepping in to Game Master that a Great White Wyrm was working through agents to undermine and manipulate their adventuring agenda.  They had ventured to an island controlled by Dragons and populated by barbarian tribes.  In my previous post I had recounted their initial struggles against the barbarians and other inhabitants, including Ents, a Copper dragon (actually a Gold Dragon in disguise) and a Druid who stayed out of the direct conflicts but assisted the party for a fairly steep price.

Now they traveled farther into the dangerous landscape of the mountainous northern heights of the island.  They meant to confront the three sisters, three dragons working as a doormat for the Great White Wyrm.  Through some treachery, the barbarian elders managed to steer them through the ruins of a temple where many traps would need to be bypassed, which they did fairly well, then into a cavernous area from which there was no escape to confront the three sisters and the Great White Wyrm together.  A four hour battle ensued which shifted back and forth several times though eventually the party was victorious.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Small World Underground

Played a new game at Games Plus recently.  I hadn't played Small World from Days of Wonder, but I had seen it played and it looked like fun.  So when the chance to play Small World Underground came, I asked if it was much like the original and was told that it was but perhaps with a bit more complexity.  The rotating nature of the races and abilities appealed to me.  It creates a game that feels like it is evolving even as you play.  I could imagine quite a few tried at this game without getting bored.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tabletop Roleplaying Games

I'm casting about the Internet for some concensus on what constitutes a tabletop Roleplaying Game.  Here's an introduction put up on YouTube a little over a year ago.  This guy's wit had me chuckling and I wish he did a lot more with the series he started.  Chcek it out and I'll revisit the subject soon with more links to follow, pages to read, articles to absorb, before adding my own thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Hobbit (2001)

My summer Prince Valiant campagn took a break from the usual action this week to play a rousing game of The Hobbit (2001) from Fantasy Flight Games (and others, check the game link for more info).  I have played this only once before some years back and had trouble remembering how it went.  We sure had a lot of fun this time around, though.

The toughest part for some was being able to recite back the lyrics from the poem-songs to win adventure challenges. We had six players and played twice, both games being fairly close for several players. We had so much fun that we've decided that through the coming year we'd break out the other Lord of the Rings games we have and try to play them all before the first Hobbit movie comes out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy G-Day!

August 27th marks the anniversary of the birthday of Gary Gygax, the father of roleplaying games.  I think it is fitting to commemorate this day by finding some time to game or create something for gaming, either written or otherwise artistic.  One thing you could do is check out the details of Gary Con, a convention that takes place early each year to celebrate Gary's gaming legacy.  You could also spread the word about the Gygax Memorial Fund, an organized effort to erect a bronze in Library Park in Lake Geneva, WI, in his honor.  Whatever you do, just keep a good thought for the father of gaming and gamers everywhere.  Game On!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jedi Robot

Taking their cue from Star Wars, student at Stanford University have programmed a robot arm that can both attack and defend with a quasi-lightsabre.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Knights of Badassdom (2011)

Well here's a movie that could be funny and doesn't seem to take itself too seriously.  Looks like a good cast, too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Diagonal Measuring in Tabletop Games

As I fine tune some rules I am going to use in some games for autumn, I have come back around to the question of diagonal measuring and square grid use for miniatures.  Having a wargaming background that stretches back to the early Seventies, I've naturally seen many different systems and ways to use grids and measurements in tabletop games.  My first wargame was Tactics II which was a sort of introductory level wargame with generic red and blue armies fighting over fictitious territory.  It had a square grid, very unusual for wargames that followed which primarily switched to hexagons as a standard.  The switch to hexes appealed to the simulationist mindset that realized diagonal movement on a square grid allowed increased relative movement and range distances over hexes.

Of course, for miniatures wargaming the tabletop was wide open and sans grid, everything measured with rulers and tape measures.  The foibles of each system so open often boiled down to rules about what part of a base was the starting point for measuring.  Some would require measurement from the middle of a unit while others might stipulate measuring movement from the farthest moving corner of a base.  Lines of sight, for command and combat, and lines of fire, for ranged weapons or magic (in fantasy battles), might use the middle of a unit or might allow that any part of a line measured from and to any part of of a base, unobstructed by terrain or obstacles, was fair game.

When tabletop RPGs came on the scene the defaults for those who used miniatures became hexes for outdoors and squares for indoors.  These dictates seemed to have been guided but the fact that it was generally easier to represent indoor locations on square grids and that the great outdoors didn't need such straight lines for accurate simulation of terrain.  It wasn't until later tabletop RPGs came on the scene that rules about counting movement and range on squares required some additional calculations, every other square essentially counting as double.  This introduced another level of complexity when adjudicating area effects for explosions and spells of some varieties.

My own thinking is that the level of complexity in adding the simulationist touches regarding the diagonal calculations is detrimental to tabletop RPGs.  Combat rules in tabletop RPGs risk overshadowing the RPing that can take place in even the simplest of systems.  With a wargaming background, I am in favor of miniatures being used during gameplay but I also feel that a tabletop RPG should be flexible enough to do without miniatures.  Therefore, rules that key too much on such aspects of combat, particularly which require calculations such as above, promote a mental distancing of players from their player character that is undesirable.  I'm personally looking to simplify such things in rules I use in hopes of maintaining a deeper level of RPing immersion.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

GaryCon IV

Gary Con is an annual event that takes place around March of each year to celebrate tabletop gaming in honor of its namesake Gary Gygax, one of the fathers of roleplaying games, most notably Dungeons & Dragons.  Gary's birthday is coming up Wednesday, July 27th, so I often have him and his legacy in my thoughts at this time of year.  Recently they have announced that the event , coming up on its fourth year, will expand from a three day to a four day event taking place in 2012 from Thursday, March 22nd, through Sunday, March 25th.  This coming Gary Con will be held once again at The Lodge in Lake Geneva (Geneva Ridge, more specifically), WI, birthplace of D&D and hometown to TSR, a company Gary Gygax helped found and that first published D&D in 1974.  From the website . . .

"Gary Con is pleased to announce that Gary Con IV will be moving to a 4 day convention and the dates for Gary Con IV will be Thursday, March 22nd, through Sunday, March 25th, 2012. That' s 4 days of old school gaming in the place where it all began: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Con will be remaining at the Lodge at Geneva Ridge and has again secured a room rate of $79 per night for our attendees. For those that wish to close out Gary Con IV, we have a Sunday late check-out of 3pm at no cost and a 7pm late check-out for a $25 fee. For those in no rush to return to real life, the Lodge has offered a special rate of $49 for guests staying Sunday night.

The hotel will begin taking Gary Con reservations on July 1st, and we anticipate a full house for Gary Con IV so make your reservations early. We'll have some more great news to add soon!"

I've been a regular at Gary Con and hope to run some games at Gary Con IV.  It's going to be lots of fun!

Friday, July 22, 2011

3D or Not 3D: Here's My Answer

A recent article Michael Stroud released through Reuters discusses the state of 3D and how it is being viewed, or not viewed, by the movie-going public. I've had ongoing discussions with folks on message boards and at the local game store and have come to my own conclusion.  Remember, I'm a guy who likes to see the big movies on the big screen, and most times I will shell out for 3D or whatever enhanced production work has been done (more frames per this, better sound for that, etc.). Beowulf (2007) impressed me and made me a disciple.   Avatar (2009) impressed me and made me a evangelist.  Some movies that followed shook my faith.  Then Alice in Wonderland (2010) turned me back around on the subject toward liking the extras.  Now it seems I have, again, seen a string of movies where I simply am not getting any real bang for the extra buck, other than the opening credits of X-Men: First Class (2011).  So, I am swearing it off for any aftermarket treatments or half-measured enhancements unless the full movie is filmed in 3D.  Today I saw Capatin America: The First Avenger (2011).  It was very enjoyable and I liked it best of The Avengers (2012) lead-in movies I've seen so far.  But I saw it the regular way, at the $5 show, and it was just fine as is.  If I had paid an extra three or four bucks, I am sure I still would have enjoyed it but I am also sure that the extra oomph would not have been warranted by the extra expense.  As near as I can tell, the next time I'll likely pay the extra fare will be for the latest remake of The Three Musketeers (2011) this coming autumn.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

COMIC-CON 2011: Meet Victoria Schmidt, Super Fan (Yahoo News)

This is one of the most even-handed treatments of a extreme fan of some genre hobby pursuit I have ever seen. I am quite impressed by the coverage. Even if you are not a costume enthusiast, I think you will enjoy this video . . .

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Prince Valiant: The Storytelling Continues . . .

I've been mulling over the in-game machinations of our weekly campaign using Prince Valiant: The Storytelling Game over these past three weeks and I have to say I like where it has been heading.  Mostly I have been the main storyteller but I have made sure to pick up on cues from the other players and take the game in directions they have opened through their roleplaying.  We skipped over the one-page rules and went with the basic game where everyone begins as a Knight.  I made up some player character cards with crests and Arthurian names to give a head start to the game but have otherwise taking the lead of the players and developed a story that they wished to follow.  I have, of course, added many details to the framework we have created and threw in plenty of potential antagonists, but for the most part I have allowed their actions to dictate which bad guys (or girls) came to the fore and which others became allies or neutral parties to be used as NPCs or henchmen of the Knightly band.

We had three players the first week, as two of the semi-regulars were both MIA.  One joined us in week two but the full slate of five players were on hand for the third week.  Summer can be a tough season to keep a full group week after week and the sporadic turnout was fully anticipated, hence the use of a simple system that lends itself to malleable gameplay.

We used a passive in media res launch point for the campaign in that the players were meant to begin as Knights and we decided that the campaign would begin just after their knighthood kicked in.  This came by way of outstanding behavior during a Hun attack on the town and castle where they served as guards.  Naturally, they (Sir Dristan, Sir Joffrey, and Sir Gaenor) wished to celebrate their new status and accepted the invitation of a local tavern owner to have a night on the house.  The Sickly Boar, named as a vague homage to the Vulgar Unicorn but in-game as an subtle insult to the previous owner, was crowded that evening and two muscular pig farmers were told by the tavern keeper to give up their table for the illustrious knights.  Of course, this didn't set well with the farmers and they immediately developed a grudge against the knights.  After some judicious carousing, two of the knights (Dristan and Gaenor) returned to the castle and their regular digs while Sir Joffrey opted to go across town to an inn for the night.  Naturally, the pig farmers were lying in wait for the knights and simply lucked out that one was on his own.  Joffrey did, however, make short work of them.

The next day the first task set by Queen Alyta (ahh-LEE-tah) for the new knights was to trail the surviving Huns and ensure that they were suitably subdued by losing in the attack and that they were in no way planning to return any time soon.  Recon, only, unless sterner measures were needed and warranted given they were a force of only three.  Although a few days old, they picked up the trail and made up some time by hustling on their riding steeds (and only wearing their medium armor and lightly encumbered otherwise).  Although they closed in on the retreating Huns, when they came to a bridge-crossing of a stream with steep banks, they found that the bridge had been disabled, but not completely destroyed, a rush job obviously.

Continuing further upstream in hopes of crossing at a known ford to rediscover the trail on the far side, they found the ford guarded by Sir Victor, a knight errant currently with no allegiance to any lord or lady.  He offered combat as an alternative to paying a toll and the challenge was accepted.  Armed combat on foot ensued and Sir Victor was victorious in his bout versus Sir Dristan.  Would they get across the water to catch up to the Huns and complete their mission?  More next time . . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Cooperative Dungeon Collection (01 - 04)

The Cooperative Dungeon project which began with an idea from Rene "Trainz" Mongrain and the EN World community, with the assistance of Creative Mountain Games and many others, has surpassed the fifty thousand downloads milestone (downloads of CD1 through CD4, collectively).  I'd like to thank everyone involved in the projects, the artists, writers, editors, proofers and purchasers, along with the EN World and gaming communities at large, for making the projects possible and being so supportive of the final products.

All of the individual adventures, statted for the ERA 3.5 system, have been run and played by many of you but for those who still haven't had the opportunity, here is a rundown of the adventures . . .

Cooperative Dungeon 01 (14th-Level) - Terror and Blasphemy The marilith, Blasphemy, has spent many years building up her complex and gathering minions to her aid. It is up to a strong group of adventurers to remove her from this plane, permanently, either for the good of all or in an effort to replace her as a rising evil force for others to fear.

With thirty encounter areas, and many traps, this adventure is big enough to be run over several sessions. Although designed as a 14th-level adventure, many of the encounters and tactics used by the creatures within border on the VERY difficult side. Experienced DMs might want to be prepared to give their players a break if they begin to complain, cry, or whimper...

Cooperative Dungeon 02 (7th-Level) - Halls of Anarchy The Silver Coin Guild has a much darker side that goes well beyond the usual purview of thievery. Children have gone missing. Rescuing them and putting an end to this rising evil is not going to be an easy task.

Make sure your players have some extra characters in reserve for this deadly 7th-level trek.

Warning: Has the potential to contain mature themes...

Cooperative Dungeon 03 (5th-Level) - Crypt of Damnation This crypt is both the former home to the cult of a dark god and a place of lost knowledge.

The history of the crypt is convoluted, and many who once used this crypt to house their dead have gradually died out or moved on, leaving behind only the uneasily slumbering corpses, and worse, to protect their unholy places from un-sacrilege. Since the last cultist passed, the tomb has remained sealed for the most part, though some have found ways to venture within.

Who will brave the interior of this deathtrap next?

Cooperative Dungeon 04 (3rd-Level) - Tomb of Chaos This very challenging adventure uncovers a burial place of dark secrets and corrupted use.

Once the tomb of the ancient king Toth Nekamek, lord of a quasi-Egyptian realm who lived several thousand years earlier, its great halls and secret chambers have been violated by unspeakable evil. The outer rooms dedicated to the worship of the jackal-god Chacal, have been desecrated and now house those with nefarious intent but that is only the tip of the pyramid. Deep within must surely lie the secrets and treasures of a forgotten empire, along with their vigilant guardians.

Can those who enter ever hope to come back out alive?

I hope everyone has the chance to enjoy the adventures, in their currently statted system or as conversions.  Did I mention they are and always have been FREE?  Thanks, again, to everyone who made these possible!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fresh Garage Sale Finds

I got out garage saling a bit over the last few weekends and picked up some useful items and a few secondhand games.  I didn't blog much toward the end of last garage saling season though I did pick up a few more useful items.  Often when I find an incomplete Scrabble game, I'll grab it for a quarter or so since I can convert the tiles to minis' bases and such.  This year was no exception . . .

. . . chief among the finds was a complete Secrets of the Deep (1991) game.  It's almost a shame that I found this one complete because it is tempting to resell it as is to fund further garage saling.  However, I am just as tempted to cannibalize the treasure chests from this one.  They have six each of three sizes of chests.  The play money might be handy for some other usage and the plastic divers and dolphins could also be used for some other gaming purpose.  I'm seeing French versions on ebay, and English versions offered for a decent price and, though the copy I have has one blown box lid corner, I think it could fetch twenty of thirty doubloons (U.S.).

And the board for Secrets of the deep was kind of cool, too, with a built in spinner.

The Tip the Ship (1994) game was found incomplete but the pirate cardboard flat minis are nice and there are some clear plastic stands for them that have some mileage yet to go.

There was also a game called The Secret Door (1991) that looked interesting so I grabbed it with the other two just to check it out.  I knew it was incomplete, some counters missing, but I enjoy checking out many different games and it really didn't cost much thrown in with the rest.

Most weeks my garage saling has been confined to just poking my head into one or two in passing while out for a walk or off to the grocery store, but among the miscellaneaous finds there were . . .

. . . a clean sushi cutting board for fifty cents, a small stone box for less than a buck, a small (dice?) bag for a quarter, and three (two pictured here) glass five-inch-by-five-inch "pillar holders" that I immediately thought would make good bases for HotT strongholds.  I built one with a clear Christmas ornament and built another using some plant stakes I grabbed for fifty cents from another sale.

You can check out the strongholds over on the MF WARS blog linked to the left.  I also found a good knife set for three dollars and a couple of other things I will mention down the line when I reveal how they have been used.  Some good finds, some already put to use, and I hope I have continued luck this year while garage saling.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Dwarf Photos from The Hobbit Movies

So far we have been treated to photos of Oin and Gloin, Nori, Ori, and Dori, as well as Fili and Kili.  Bifur, Bofur and Bombur have also been recently been revealed.  The latest addition is a photo of Balin and Dwalin.  There's also been a photo of  Thorin Oakenshield and elsewhere an interview with Richard Armitage who will play Thorin.  There is a cast photo of the Dwarves and our favorite burglar, all out of costume, to be seen here.  Not that we would expect anything less, but the photos of the Dwarves in costume are already impressing everyone who sees them, from what I have been reading around the Intrawebs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

12 Sided Die with Hit Locations

I picked up a new die earlier this week.  It's been around for a while but I kept forgetting to grab one.  It's a 12 sided die with hit locations on it.  Made by Kaplow!, it is available at many stores including Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL, but you can snag one on ebay if you don't live in the region. The sides include Head, Stomach, Chest, Full Body, Right Hand, Left Hand, Right Arm, Left Arm, Right Foot, Left Foot, Right Leg, and Left Leg.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL

I just want to give a quick shout out to Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL, for being the quintessential friendly local game store (FLGS) and my closet gaming location outside of home. The staff are knowledgeable and patient, the stock is vast, the game room is huge, and I always have fun there. Twice a year they have an auction so you can recycle some of your own stuff locally. Through EN World, Buzz organizes a gameday three times a year that we all started ten years ago (our 30th gameday comes up this Fall!). I currently run a couple of RPG camapigns and am in a Hordes of the Things miniatures campaign there which I will continue to blog about in coming weeks. There are some other stores in the region and some are quite good but hands down Games Plus is tops in the area, probably one of the top ten or even top five stores in the country.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dwarves Photos from the New Hobbit Movie

Having seen Pan's Labyrinth (2006), I would have loved to see what Guillermo del Toro would have done with the Hobbit movies.  Yes, MOVIES (plural).  They are covering The Hobbit and other events leading up to The Lord of the Rings with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (2013).  However, I am even more pleased that Peter Jackson is back at the directorial helm.  His work on The Lord of the Rings movies was unparalleled in the fantasy film genre.

Well, to follow what's going on with the production you can probably do no better than to start with Peter Jackson's Facebook page.  But there have also been some photos released over the last couple of week of the various Dwarf characters.  I'll update more as I discover additional news around the web.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Discworld Disc-ography

If you are a Terry Pratchett fan, and a fan of Pratchett's Discworld series, as many gamers are, you might want to grab a one page PDF rundown of the novels and related publications from The L-Space Web put together by Krzysztof K. Kietsman (thanks to Joe Mucchiello, Head Honcho at Throwing Dice Games for putting the link up at EN World).  My own introduction to this series came when a friend suggested I read Guards! Guards!, the first of the Watch Novels.  I have since read many of the books and plan to read many more, perhaps all of them, someday.  If you don't take the fantasy genre of fiction too seriously, you can find hours and hours of enjoyment in them also.

D&D Documentary

There's a new Dungeons & Dragons documentary film in the works.  The filmmakers plan to complete it by 2013, in time for the fortieth anniversary (according to the linked Examiner article by Michael Tresca).  When the game came on the scene in 1974 there were a lot of skeptics about its viability.  Who would want to play a single character when you could play an entire army or, at least, a patrol of skirmishers trying to turn the tide of a great battle in your side's favor?  The success of the tabletop RPG style of play, I should say styles of play, has proven out over the years as compelling and fun, enjoyed by young and old, men and women, worldwide.  I wish the filmmakers, Anthony Savini & Andrew Pascal, all the same success in the making of this film and hope it becomes the definitive, balanced documentary the article predicts it will be.  Keep an eye on the Facebook page for the film for further details.  It does bode well that they are gamers.  They've got plenty of time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Tricky Trap Thread

I started what I am calling "The Tricky Trap Thread" over on EN World.  It's probably not what you would think just by the subject line, so please go over, check out the opening post, response following the guidelines (please), then read on through the thread (making sure not to jump in to respond to any other posts until we have reached a certain quota as described in the opening post).  I think it is proving to be very challenging and will yield some very interesting fruit on a number of levels before all is posted and done.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

EN World Chicago Gameday 29!

Well, we're ten years plus into playing at these great gamedays, we do three per year, and it just keeps being a blast.  Here's a link to some morning slot pictures and more will be added  later.  I'll discuss some of the fun, added to this blog post when I return tonight or early tomorrow.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lord of the Winds?

Before it falls too far into the past and the details are as such less fresh in my mind, I wanted to write something in these pages regarding The Lord of the Rings experience from this summer and how I was almost completely blown away, literally.

For the roll out of the Blue Ray extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, the powers that be decided to run the extended editions of the movies on the big screens at select AMC Theaters.  One such location was on the Streets of Woodfield, down the road some distance from my home in Mount Prospect, IL.  They ran the three films, one each, on three consecutive Tuesdays in June, and only one showing for each at 7pm.  Peter Jackson's (exclusive) introduction for the Fellowship of the Rings included a mention of the Blue Ray editions but he was quick to point out that while he would appreciate any purchases of it, the best way to see the films was on the big screen and of the extended editions.  For Return of the King, enjoyed mentioning that seeing six thousand Riders of Rohan, if the full number only briefly, was going to be one of the big treats, and it was.  In fact, I think the Battle of Pelennor Fields was about the greatest film footage I have ever witnessed, particularly this time around.  Awesome is the only word!

I was in attendance for the Fellowship of the Rings and Return of the King but was thwarted in my efforts to see The Two Towers due to a tornado.  It happened to hit during the time I would have been in watching the film, and I would have been many more miles away from where it hit if I had gone, but the weather leading up to it convinced me not to go.  There was a great deal of storm damage, particularly near the post office, and mostly in the form of broken trees. Some ten thousand plus residents were left without power and even three days later half were still waiting for service.  A few years ago we had a big storm, though no tornado, blow through that knocked out our building but we were spared this go around.  That time, we didn't have restoration of service for five days.  I had fortunately not been shopping for food for a few weeks so very little was lost.  They also upgraded much of the infrastructure at that time or this year might have been far worse.

All in all, the other two movies were well worth watching on the big screen and I hope they do something similar during the lead up to the release of the Hobbit move(s).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dragon Strike (1993)

Recently one of my regular groups had the chance to dust off the classic Dragon Strike game.  We had a lot of fun with the simplicity of the characters and a good laugh at the video which could actually confuse newer players as to the proper playing of the game.  While a board game, it has at its core a spirit akin to TSR’s D&D of the day, some RPGing elements, as well as the mechanics of many good mini skirmish games.  Certainly, it has all the basics of the above.

Like the video, the box can be a bit deceiving in that there are no mounted characters or monsters.  It evokes the feel of a cool combat game, though, so perhaps the details aren't all that important.  The name, at least, lets you in on one of the core mechanics; a dragon is going to strike any group during an adventure if the players dawdle.

There are a good amount of components, rather impressive, really, but it should be remembered that this game was released in part in answer to the success of HeroQuest, so much of the accoutrements will be familiar to anyone who played that game or its expansions.  The mechanics differ significantly but the underlying play experience is quite similar.  There are obstacle counters, pits doors, traps, etc., as well as three dice, an eight-sided, a ten-sided, and a twelve-sided die.  I picked up five additional sets from Games Plus where we play so that everyone could have their own set and gameplay would be quickened.

The miniatures are simple without much detail but there are a good many of them.  The secondhand game I picked up was complete but the minis had been painted with varying degrees of success so I soaked them in Simple Green over night then stripped away the paint with an old toothbrush.  There are six characters, only five of which come into play, and lots of monsters including a dragon, of course, the evil mage, and many others.  Incidentally, I found out that American Science and Surplus had a ton of sprues of the original Dragon Strike miniatures, just the grey and the green, though, so I bought a ton of them for pennies on the dollar to fill out a number of factions for some mass combat games I was running at various gamedays and conventions.  It’s my understanding that they still have dozens of them, though only a handful in the store, so if you want more than they have on hand talk to the manager and I am sure they can arrange to get you plenty more.

There are a number of card decks, the treasure and trap decks which the players will draw from during the course of adventures, and spells cards for the evil mage as well as for the player character spell casters.  There are sneak attack cards for the thieves and reference cards for all of the characters to help them choose their actions during play.  Each monster also has a card with its stats and information on how it operates.

The character cards are larger with a photo of each as seen in the video, very Eighties though the game came out in 1993.  On the reverse side are the stats and other information.

There are some clips that come with the game that allow you to stand up the character cards and other clips to put on the side and slide up or down to keep track of hit points.

For the Dragon Master, as the game facilitator is called, there is a DM screen, a rule book, an adventure book, and a map book.  Some of the same clips used to keep track of player hit points can be used to keep track of monster hit points along the edge of the DM screen.  Since the spell cards act as the other manner in which bookkeeping is handled, there’s no need in this game for paper or pencils unless you wish to make notes on the maps for various things.

There are two two-sided map boards to represent the four different environments in which adventures can take place.  There are a castle map, a cavern location, an outdoor environment, and a city map, too.  If you find a secondhand set of this game, even if incomplete but still containing the map boards, you might want to pick it up just for the kitschy battle maps.

There are over a dozen different scenarios from which to choose, that can take place in the various locations, depending on the number of players and the level of difficulty at which the DM wishes to challenge the players. We cherry picked a handful of them starting off with easy ones and progressing through to the toughest.

The maps are kinda cool, illustrated in three dimension, though they all include some features which actually come into play and others that are to be ignore, serving only to give some character to the locations.  They are divided into one-inch squares to facilitate ease of movement.  The maps in the map book show the DM where the monsters are and they are added to the boards when the player characters come into line of sight.

Along the side is a timer track that lets the players and DM know how long the adventure is meant to take and when the Dragon will Strike happens if the adventurers take too long on their various quests.
All in all it is a fun and fast-paced game suitable for beginning players of the genre.  The level of complexity is low so it is unlikely to challenge seasoned players of similar RPGs or board games but can be a good way to pass an evening and steep yourselves in nostalgia.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pathfinder Group - Called Up from the Dugout

So it appears a group of regular players at the local game store, Games Plus, needed a replacement GM and I was asked to step in.  They've been playing Pathfinder for the last few years, having converted their 3.5 Eberron game over after giving 4E a short run for its money.  Their GM to this point for some time is moving out of state and one of the players is familiar with my GMing style, and thought I would be a good fit.  The group which has been continuous at Games Plus for nearly thirty years is known as Flame World, as homage to an early campaign, I believe.

They have a dozen plus people in the group, any six or eight of which might be available on any given week to play, so there are some logistical things to keep in mind when running such a game.  Although I had not run any PF directly in the past, I have the core book PDF, access to the PFSRD website, and have downloaded some monster cards and other bits to assist me in keeping the current campaign going.  Although they were fine with me switching system and settings if I felt that I needed to do so, I decided to maintain the system and transition from the setting.  They were often away from the main areas in the setting anyway, currently off on an island mission that really could be anywhere, so that shouldn't be too jarring.  Certainly keeping the system made sense, since they have all invested in the core book as well as in numerous supplements.  Since I run games with my laptop handy and could use some landscape oriented inserts for one of my GM screens, it seemed like the way to go, though I also wanted to give them a chuckle with what I might put on the players' side of the screen.

For the players' side insert, I snagged some images from the PF core book and added some appropriate text, "Flame-World" subtitled "The TPKening" just for a laugh.  I cut up the landscape alphabetized skills charts and rearranged them into more useful groupings for my own GMing style.  The campaign currently is about tenth level (I asked those who were lagging to raise their characters to that level to put all of the PCs on the same footing and to make encounter design going forward somewhat simpler for myself.  They've recently discovered that the agents of a Ancient White Dragon having been sending them on quests to secure items for their master that the Wyrm intends to use against the party.  Now on its islend, they have located where its lair but have several other foes to defeat before they can even hope to get close and destroy this evil menace.  It's already shaping up to be a good campaign and I'll blog more about it in coming weeks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prince Valiant The Storytelling Game (1989)

One of my weekly groups was between other large roleplaying game campaigns and we’d been playing board games and card games for a little while as we determined our next move.  There are a few different roleplaying game systems I have tried in small doses, or merely read, that I wished I could have given a more extensive forum for play.  Since summer time tends to cause random absenteeism among gamers, myself included, I thought about which games might lend themselves to smaller numbers of players who might come and go from week to week.  The episodic, low-prep, Prince Valiant seemed like a good fit.

Prince Valiant The Storytelling Game was published in 1989 by Chaosium Inc., designed by Greg Stafford with William Dunn and Lynn Willis.  It (mostly) used illustrations by Hal Foster, who created the Prince Valiant (in the Days of King Arthur) comic strip in 1937 which continues to be syndicated with other artists at the helm by King Features.  The game employs a simple coin flip mechanic that manifests in a number of useful ways.  Heads is good and Tails is not.  It's also good to be flipping multiple coins, to get positive modifiers to your flipping, and sometimes to get more Heads than an opponent in opposed situations. Within a little over one hundred pages, the rulebook includes a one-page version of the rules, a basic game, an advanced game, and some optional rules, as well as a pile of scenarios for adventure and character sheets, some ready for play and others blank.  In the simple forms of the game, one player acts as the Storyteller and facilitates the adventures.  In the advanced rules, any and all players at the table can have their turns running the game, even during the very same adventure, everyone adding to the story as it develops.

One major change, and some might cringe at this, was to substitute dice for the coins, a one, two, or three being Tails and four, five, or six being Heads.  What can I say?  We like rolling dice.  To that end I brought along plenty of six-siders and some dice cups from Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest Pirates Dice game I picked up on the cheap when the Gamers' Paradise Chicagoland chain of game stores was going out of business a couple of years ago.  As some might recall, after they decided to close down they moved all of their stock to just three stores and in their last two months they began discounting their stock, beginning at 10% off, then 20%, and kept increasing the discount until they were at 90% off in their last week. This game, with its dented box, was one of a number of things I grabbed in the last couple of weeks.

Rather than beginning with the one-page rules, I opted to start the group all as Knights in the basic game.  I took some of the blank character sheets and added some of the starting information to a dozen of them including names, class (everyone begins as a Knight), two of their six starting skills (Arms and Riding are possessed by all Knights), beginning equipment, and 800 Fame points.  I gave them names beginning with the twelve first letters of the alphabet to avoid a stymied player from being Bob the Knight or Sir Osis, to help preserve some sense of a serious setting.  For some games those sort of naming conventions can be fun but I prefer the jokes to be part of extemporaneous table talk rather than ingrained in the characters.  I also added some clip art as crests for the Knights, suggesting that the players choose something that would symbolize the type of Knight they might be trying to conceptualize.

The players divide seven points between the two possible attributes of Brawn, which covers most physical exploits, and Presence, which covers non-physical areas.  They chose an additional four skills and divided nine points between their total six skills.  Their gear included a sword, a lance, a dagger, a standard horse, medium armor, fine clothes (as befits a Knight), and 5 gold pieces.  This is all standard character creation and outfitting as per the basic rules. Since this game wasn't to include large battles (at least for now), I did suggest that players not choose the Battle skill which replaces the Arms skill when characters are involved in Mass Combat.

We began with the back-story being that the three characters had been knighted, starting them with the standard 800 Fame for such, 500 for beginning characters plus 300 more for being knighted.  Prior to the start of our campaign, the Knights had helped stave off a Hun attack on their town and castle, gaining their knighthood as reward, each previously being part of the castle guard.  Of course, they wanted to celebrate right away, so off to the Sickly Boar Tavern for drinks and carousing.  The tavern keeper felt compelled to treat them to a night of free drinks because of their part in saving the town, and they enjoyed themselves, though with temperance since they also had a mission the next day to track the retreating Huns and ensure they were not going to rally and return.  A couple of local toughs, pig farmers, were asked to give up their table for the illustrious Knights, which they did begrudgingly.  After the evening's festivities, two of the Knights returned straight away to the castle though one opted to check out a local inn rather than retire to his usual room in the castle.  Along the way, he was waylaid by the pig farmers who had been lying in wait hoping to catch one or more of the Knights unaware.  The brawl that ensued was little challenge for the Knight and he finished them in short order then secured lodgings and slept fitfully.  The next day the three Knights retrieved their horses and were off to track the Huns and this is where we left off for the session. We'll pick it back up this week and I look forward to seeing how they handle themselves against more serious opponents.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth!

Good times in Mount Prospect, IL, for fireworks on the fourth.  The works were cancelled last Thursday due to high winds so they folded them into tonight's display.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

EN World's Chicago Gameday 29

There's still plenty of seats for next Saturday's (July 9th, 2011) EN World Chicago Gameday 29.  Follow the link to Buzz's homesite for all of the info and a link to the sign up thread.  It's mostly roleplaying games but a vast assortment of them in two slots (plus the breakfast slot for those early risers).  Held at Games Plus game store three times a year for the last ten plus years, this excellent event can be an all day affair or you can simply sign up for the early or later slot to get a little weekend gaming in your schedule.